Monday, March 23, 2020

And the nerds will inherit the Earth?

I'm seeing a lot of posts about people having a hard time with SARS-CoV-2 (CoVid-19) guidelines though it is pretty much SOP for nerds like me. Following the guidelines ought to be fairly straight forward with tech available to us in 2020. For instance:

Avoid crowds

I tend to avoid people like most who lean toward the introverted. I also have a package drop off box at my gate so deliveries they do not even need to come to my door (with alerts and so I can find where the left them) and a Ring doorbell so I can talk to delivery people if need be but can't get to the door. I also have cameras and sensors that let me see if the thing coming through the gate is a delivery, visitor, wild life or loose livestock and can track them up the driveway but that might be overkill for city folk. But with a long enough driveway it can give time to put on gear if needed too.

Work from home if you can.

I've worked from home since 2013 and off and on long before that doing tech work for every kind of company from start ups to government agencies. Even the places that "did not want me to work from home", almost all expected me to use a laptop so I could work from home "off hours". Don't even get me started on why at least 1/3 of people should be working from home most if not all the time. In short there is no technical reason people that sit at a computer all day can't work from home.

Note musicians are live streaming from homes using online services like or Facebook so they can earn money and you can still see them perform and support them. Even newscasters are starting to work from home. We need to start asking why go to an office instead of why not and make the world better for everyone. Especially all the people that need to get past all that unnecessary traffic.

Limit trips

See Avoid crowds

I mainly get stuff online. Did you know Sams ships most stuff for the same price as in store? Often way cheaper than Amazon too for food items. The nearest HEB is a 15 minute drive from my gate, much less a Sams so for the stuff I get local I tend to do in batches. And since there is no point in running out for just a couple things I keep 2 to 4 weeks of supplies on hand generally replenished around 50% used or as needed or happen to be out for something else. Efficiency is the key word here. 

Plan ahead.

As people discover the advantages of delivery, the delivery systems are being stressed. HEB curbside pickup much less delivery is booked up weeks into the future. Amazon announced it is blocking all shipments of nonessential products to its warehouses. So plan for what you will need and try to order with plenty of lead time.

Get outside to avoid feeling cooped up but avoid getting close to people.

Kind of depressing to think of people living in homes that depress them but I have pets and other animals to take care of plus other outdoor stuff needing done. I'm letting my garden go wild this year because I just do not have the time for it but if you don't have a garden (plot or pot) why not start now. Seriously if you are local and need a workout I have lots of rocks, limbs and junk that needs moved about. And getting chased by pissed off wildlife or loose livestock is a great motivator.

Keep yourself occupied

Unclear how anyone can get bored these days between free online learning and streaming services being added daily. I have more projects than time plus animals to take care of. If Facebook is not eating enough of your time you could always get on But it can be a bigger time sink than Facebook so be sure to surface once and a while to let people know you are OK.

Wash hands well.

Seriously we have to tell people this? 

I wash my hands a LOT and thoroughly. I have pets and wildlife tends to drop by on top dirty chores so just makes sense given the places and amount of fur I've seen. Unless you live in a sterile environment you should too.

Monitor your temperature to know if you are getting sick / safe to be around.

I monitor my health to what some may see as an excessive degree to find patterns and head off getting sick. But working in IT has taught me you can only spot a pattern with enough data and everything you monitor (this includes you) deviates from the norm / average so just comparing a reading to an average is only useful on the macro level. As in if your temp is 100 then there is little doubt you are sick. But if you temp is 99.0 you might be sick or well depending on YOUR average. You could have a fever and be contagious at 98.0 if your normal (average) is 97.0. You need to know YOUR baseline on YOUR equipment. 

Avoid touching surfaces and your face if you do. 

See wash hands well.
Thanks to home automation my home is mostly hands free. Mainly to save time and make life easier, not just because I assume pretty much every open surface has germs (and fur on it (see above)). Does have the added benefit though that I'm touching a lot less stuff.

Stay home if you are sick

This should be common sense and not even an issue if you work from home. But if your company mindset is stuck in the 1900s or your job is not mainly using a computer or phone all day it might be tough. Hopefully one positive we’ll see from this will be companies finally waking up to unnecessary waste and risk (both to employees and the company bottom line) of the 1900s office model and work from home will become the default.

Remember to check on friends and family.

This does not mean pop by. Call, Skype or just check in on social media.

A quick note on baselines and monitoring

People in IT generally get the importance of monitoring for spotting issues. This is why surveillance systems tend toward overkill on data capture as well. Because looking for a pattern, much less a trend in limited data too often leads to the wrong conclusions.

The current CoVid-19 guidelines include taking you temperature twice a day. At first this might seem excessive but here is the deal.

  • 98.6 is a generalized average for humans. But actual people vary a fair bit from that. I remember the first physical I had to have for a job the doctor tried 3 thermometers on me before finally deciding I was fine other than being on the low end of the spectrum. 
  • Then you add to that people's temp varies over the day and thermometers are not near as accurate as most people assume. Take your temp 2 or 3 times in 5 minutes and see for yourself. 

So knowing YOUR normal range with YOUR thermometer is critical to knowing if you actually have a fever. Those with allergies probably already know this as often a fever it the main difference between a bad allergy day and having a cold or the flu.

Personally I use MyNetDiary to log all kinds of health data including how I feel, pills I take, food I eat and even how much water I drink cause when I feel like crap I want to know why. And hopefully how I can work out how to avoid it happening again or at least plan to deal. This can be very useful sorting allergies and controlling weight as well. Being able to see the data in charts really helps in seeing patterns and bad data too.

Note there are lots of online tracking services I like MyNetDiary because it support custom things like temperature. Note they hide these in the diabetes section for some reason I've never sorted. You will notice above I even track the room temperature at the time I take my temperature just to ensure if there is any variance discovered later that might be accounted for by the room temp. Like I said there really is no such thing as too much data. You can always filter or delete later but you can not go back and get data you did not think mattered at the time.

For easy of use it is hard to beat the Withings Thermo Sadly Withings does not show charts for temperature. But then last I checked transcribing into a service like MyNetDiary was the only way to get a chart of your temperature. Maybe after this outbreak that will change.