Mon 30 Mar 2020: shortage of socks

Back to work for another week of onerous commuting between bedroom and lounge. I stayed indoors all day as I was waiting for a grocery delivery from Ocado and also for the dreaded Hermes to arrive to pick up a crappy wireless access point I was returning to Amazon that was “broken as designed”. While Ocado, as usual, both promised and delivered within a one hour time slot, Hermes just said “some time between 8 and 8”.

Chatting with the Ocado delivery driver, it turns out that despite it being basically impossible to book a delivery slot, he’s actually less busy than normal. He still leaves the depot with a full van as normal, but he makes fewer deliveries as the few people who are able to place orders are placing much bigger orders than normal, which means his full van serves fewer customers than normal. I’m sure things will return to relative normality over the coming weeks, just like the idiotic panic buying in the supermarkets appears to have stopped. This unexpected effect, incidentally, explains far more why Tesco are limiting the number of items in an online purchase than do theories about making sure that there’s “enough for everybody”. But anyway, at least I now have essentials like pickled lemons and licquorice allsorts back in stock.

In other shopping news, there appers to have been a run on socks. Many of mine are beginning to get an unreasonable number of holes so I placed an order online for ten pairs at the end of last week, only to get a refund this morning as they could only supply two pairs. Ah well, with all this staying at home it’s not like I need lots of socks anyway. I’ve not worn shoes all day.

Which brings me on to a new problem I’ve discovered with working at home. Lack of shoes meant that I ran over my own toes with the chair I was sitting on at the time. Ouch! Thankfully I didn’t go all the way over and I don’t think I’ve broken anything. It would be rather embarrassing to have to go to A&E because of something like that.

And finally, as promised in the last installment – the script for downloading Operavision content. It does, of course, have all kinds of assumptions about my own preferences baked in, and no documentation, tests, or error checking. For something that is such a trivial wrapper around other utilities I really don’t care about software quality.

Sat 28 Mar 2020: booze, ballet, and opera

Instead of my usual Saturday jaunt to rugby or the theatre, I was waiting at home for a wine delivery. Normally I’d schedule those for during the week and work a single day at home to take delivery, but people have been panic-buying even booze, it seems, (not me, I ordered because I had run out of red) and my delivery took nearly ten days to arrive instead of the normal 2 or 3. I got a message yesterday telling me to expect my delivery, hence why I was waiting at home for the delivery instead of, well, sitting around at home not waiting for a delivery.

While waiting I watched the Royal Ballet’s version of Peter and the Wolf. They, like several other theatre companies, have started putting content online, mostly as a hook to get people to sign up for specialist streaming services.

After my boozes had arrived but before I cracked open a bottle, I got a message from the food bank asking for someone with a car to deliver a package to an address about a mile and a half away. Now that I’m back from that I fancy some opera. I’ve written a small script to download the video from Youtube along with subtitles, and will share it once I’m sure it actually works.

Thu 26 Mar 2020: toasted buns and an apocalypse

Last night I watched the excellent Threads. It’s a great film, nicely apocalyptic, and in its utter horribleness serves to remind us that things could be so much worse.

I got another request through from the foodbank for people to do deliveries. This time it came during a pause in my normal work, so I answered to say that yes, I could do one. They generally deliver in the early afternoon so I took a late lunch break to go up the road to their church, pick up my package, and deliver it to a nearby house. They’d had so much stuff donated that morning from local shops that there was more than they could cope with, so us volunteers got some unseasonably early hot cross buns for ourselves, which I toasted when I got home.

I’m also beginning to put a dent in the backlog of TV documentaries that I’ve not watched and in the evenings am working through the BBC’s Civilisations. I think once I’ve finished that I’ll re-visit the original.

Wed 25 Mar 2020: first call for volunteers

My mother has seen sense and cancelled her hospital appointment in London, so won’t be travelling for hours on public transport. As my cousin the doctor pointed out, her appointment was important, but not urgent, and so could be put off for a bit.

I mentioned a few days ago signing up on a list of volunteers that my local MP was putting together. I’ve not heard anything back, but there has apparently been a vast number of people come forward so I’m not really surprised. I also signed up with a local church. They’re one of those weird happy-clappy Pentecostalist places, normally I wouldn’t have anything to do with them, but right now I can put aside my deep distaste for their liturgical practices and their uncritical theology. Anyway, they’ve been running a food bank for ages and are well known in the local community for it. Their food bank is high quality with fresh ingredients, not just distributing tins of rubbish. They put out a call for more people to do deliveries for them as people might not be able to go to their premises, and also to do things like picking up prescriptions. This afternoon I got the first requests come through for workers, on their Whatsapp group. I was working at the time and didn’t respond to my phone buzzing at me for a bit, and by the time I did other people had already stepped up. That’s fine by me, if other people can be more flexible than me about their availability I’m still there to pick up the slack when they can’t.

Tue 24 Mar 2020: playing online Go

What I would normally consider grotesquely unacceptable infringements of civil liberties are coming in. However, one of the legitimate functions of a liberal government is the prevention of the spread of disease, as that is not something that individuals can do. Provided that the restrictions are time-limited I can tolerate them.

On a more personal note, I was planning on going to the pub to play Go against a friend. Obviously we couldn’t do that in person, so decided to play online. For a great many games, online play works just fine for the game itself, but is terribly lacking for the social side of gaming. Thankfully, there is Google Hangouts, a simple (if rather basic) video calling application that Just Works and doesn’t require any extra software beyond a modern web browser. As a result we had a good time.

Sun 22 Mar 2020: stubborn parents (again)

Good news, it appears that the hoarders are giving up. I went out to get a few things from the local independent shops – which have never had any “supply issues” – and noticed as I walked past that Tesco looked pretty normal. So I went in to pick up a few other things. the shelves weren’t as full as normal, but nothing I wanted was sold out except fresh coriander.

One of my cousins, who is a doctor currently suffering from plague, contacted me to say she was concerned about my mother keeping a scheduled hospital appointment at the end of next week, and asked me to try to dissuade her. I at least got her to promise to talk to the heart nurse who has been visiting her regularly and to Cousin Doctor Emma, and I’ll badger her later in the week.

Another cousin lost her husband a couple of weeks back. I was planning on going to the funeral next week in Stockport, but that has been cut back to just the most immediate family, with a memorial service hopefully in the autumn for the wider family and friends.

Sat 21 Mar 2020: smiting Nazis via video-conference

Today was my monthly RPG session. Normally we gather in Cambridge, it being a convenient place where three of the group live, with three of us travelling and one remote using Google Hangouts. Today, with one of us being sick (not with the plague) and the rest of us being responsible adults we decided to have a go at being all remote. It worked! To my surprise, seven people video conferencing over residential interweb was fairly reliable. Video got a bit blocky especially when people were moving around a lot, one person’s connection cut out a few times, and there were the usual conference call problems of people talking over each other, but with a bit of self-discipline it was … adequate.

The session was a lot shorter than normal, about 3½ hours instead of the normal 5-ish, as we spent a lot less time on anecdotes that were only vaguely related to the game. I do not approve of this sort of efficiency. The social side of playing is just as important as the game itself. Also, our host is a good cook who is working on a soup cookbook, and we have yet to figure out how to deliver soup over IP so missed out on his excellent lunch.

Fri 20 Mar 2020: virtual pub quiz conundrums

I have foolishly volunteered to run a virtual pub quiz to keep people entertained, and am now struggling to think of questions that don’t have easily Google-able answers and are reasonably clean. Damnit.

Yet again on my lunchtime wanderings I saw that the supermarket shelves are being stripped bare of fresh produce, but that just a few yards away in independent shops everything is fine. Why?!?!?!? I picked up some veggies in Roberts Greengrocers, so the only things I want right now are mushrooms (he doesn’t stock them) and cream.

Update: I have decided to not care about anyone petty enough to cheat in a quiz with no prizes.

Thu 19 Mar 2020: cricket season postponed

This morning I got up earlier to go for a walk before starting work. I had no intention of going in but as I passed Tesco I noticed mammoth queues inside. What are these people buying? They are presumably not eating more than normal, and anecdotally fresh veggies and bread are flying off the shelves, so it seems to me that a lot of it is just going to go to waste as it rots before people can eat it. Surely people don’t have that much freezer space? The cake shop near the station tempted me in and I panic-bought some gingerbread men – surely not having gingerbread men is grounds for panicking?

A productive morning later and I again went for a walk around lunch time, again in a different direction to earlier in the week. I’ve almost run out of cream for my coffee, so popped into Co-op on Green Lane. The dairy section was practically empty and I ended up with the vastly inferior Elmlea. I might be able to stomach it for a bit, but if not I’ll just have to get up at oh-dark-thirty one day to beat the ravening hordes. Co-op’s veggie section was practically empty too, but Presidential Foods, an independent grocer a few doors down, had at least some stuff. People can’t be that desperate if they’re only emptying the more salubrious shops, which makes me wonder, again, why they’re doing it at all.

Back to work for the afternoon and again, got quite a bit done.

Alas, although not unexpectedly, the ECB has postponed the cricket season. I took up umpiring last summer and was looking forward to my second season. I hope that at least some cricket is possible this year. And the rugby seasons – both union and league – have also been postponed. There’s not much league available to watch online, but in union the league puts full match footage on their website after broadcast, so I might have to watch older matches to get my fix. And the US Major League Rugby competition seems to have not stopped yet, and they put their matches on Youtube.

I normally listen to podcasts on my journeys to and from work. An hour each way, and listening at 1.5 x normal speed means that in normal times I consume about 3 hours of content a day, which is enough to keep on top of new episodes of all the podcasts I listen to, as well as working my way through lecture series that I download. But without the commute I’m building up a backlog. Need to make more time in the day for that.