Sunday, April 26, 2020

Corona, The Work From Home Multimedia Experience

I've now worked from home for three weeks. During this period Japan and Okinawa predictably went from "I'm sure somebody is taking care of it" to "Oh wait, this is actually really bad!".

We're on semi-voluntary lockdown and telework until the end of May at this point. It's not that Okinawa has so very many cases yet, but it's increasing far too rapidly for the rather limited hospital resources to cope if it continues. And Okinawa is home to some of the oldest people in the world, who would be very vulnerable if they got infected.

An empty shopping mall in Osaka, from last time I visited. We were going back to Osaka again over Golden Week. That idea has been well and truly scuppered.

I save almost 3 hours every day from my commute. We still get up at the same time as before, so now I can go on a long morning run everyday. It feels great!

On the other hand, I no longer have car-time for my podcasts, so I'm running with earphones instead. It would be fine if my earphones — got for free with my phone — didn't kind of suck. I've got a pair of bone-conduction headphones on the way.

Sunset beach in Chatan, last year. This year the whole place is closed.

Surprise: I'm more productive at home.
It's quiet; I have fewer meetings, interruptions and random requests; a standing desk and a nice, big second screen helps a lot.

But also, we've long had access to Microsofts online collaboration tools, including Teams. This situation has forced us to actually start using them, and relying on them for collaboration and information sharing. We're now getting up to speed and they really help improve our workflow a lot

Teams is really surprisingly good. And — major surprise! — they even have an app for Linux. Sure, it's mostly the website wrapped into an Electron app, but everything works fine, including phone and video calls. Microsoft has a  tendency to have two or three confusingly similar tools for everything; a document describing when to use what would be helpful.

Cafe 21 in Shinsaibashi, Osaka. We're teleworking but we're not allowed to work from just anywhere. It's work from home or not at all, basically; channeling your inner hipster from a neighbourhood cafe is a no-go.

Anyway, we're all getting fairly used to meet over Zoom, talk about issues in Teams channels and chats, track tasks in Planner and so on. There's even a modestly active social channel for the IT department; we'll see how that one evolves.

I'm pretty sure we will continue to use these tools after this is all over. It's a lot more efficient to raise minor issues over chat than through email, and it's very convenient to meet without having to traipse across half the campus.

I drink coffee without my co-workers. But I do drink much better coffee, now that I have access to our own kitchen with a proper grinder, beans and so on. 

I'm productive, but I'm also bored. I do miss meeting other people at work, walking around campus, running in the beautiful hilly area over lunch and having coffee breaks with a view.

Two kinds of home-made gyoza, with fried goya and shiso leaves. 

On the other hand, I have time to cook! I'm made most of our dinners and half of the lunches over the past three weeks and I've enjoyed every second of it. As we stay at home and cook by ourselves we're eating way healthier than we used to. I've lost a bit of weight and I feel a lot better overall.

As a side effect we're spending a lot less money. The car sits idle most days, and we're not eating out, going to cafes or anything like that. Good for us; a disaster for the economy. So we do try to spend a bit of that money, on takeout, coffee beans and so on from shops we like.

It's never not time to bake cinnamon rolls! And now I have enough time in the evenings to do so whenever I like.

Restrictions are voluntary,
but people and businesses mostly do understand the situation and at least sort-of follow the recommendations. Except Pachinko parlors. The Osaka mayor tried to shame them into closing by naming them, but a few still stay open, with a flood of gamblers looking for a place to play. If you ever needed proof gambling is an addiction here you go.

Oh, and the Japanese Olympic committee president, Yoshiro Mori, has stated that there will not be a second delay of the Olympic games due to the pandemic, because "The prime minister has determined that one year is sufficient."  I'm happy somebody is keeping their crystal ball well polished...

The fishing pier in Suma, in western Kobe. It was damaged in a typhoon two years ago, and never re-opened. It would be a shame if they let it rot; it's a fun place to visit even if you're not into fishing. For now it's a nice illustration of loneliness.

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