WFH Chronicles – 2020 – April

Taking an intern out to lunch in 2020 suddenly became much harder to do, luckily, I already got it done prior to the WFH shift.

After a month now of WFH, it’s official, I can’t love it.  I don’t think anyone would classify me as outgoing and gregarious, but I do like the separation of work and home, and find in-person whiteboarding far more collaborative and energizing than trying to work out architecture with Confluence diagrams and PowerPoint. 

For the first two weeks of WFH, I had no place to work in my house.  I’ve never liked working from home and thus have no office at home.  That left me, like many others, trying to find a quiet space in the house to have meetings for eight+ hours each day on Zoom.  I also have a college freshman trying to do online school from home, and our house doesn’t have many isolated places.  As a music percussion major, we now have a marimba in our living room which takes out 2/3 of the house when he’s playing it.  My Zoom meeting participants have gotten used to light marimba in the background of many of my meetings in the afternoons.

Without a great setup, I was stuck at the dining room table, or my wife’s studio in the mornings until she wanted it back.  I finally created a standing desk out of an old table (but very nice teak table from the 70s), with a footstool one of the kids built in shop class in high school, and two large books.  The books are Volume 2 of a Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (who knows where volume 1 went) and the 98th edition of the Handbook for Chemistry and Physics.  I’m assuming it’s better than the 97th edition but how would anyone tell?  These two books add about seven inches of height for me.

The best part about my new setup is it’s in a room we call the playroom, a four-season porch added to the back of the house circa 1954.  It’s the playroom because it started out has a place where toddlers could play and be well contained without any noise filtering to the rest of the house.  It continued that way through high school housing the many gaming consoles and late night tv sessions.  But the room looks out on the backyard which is just starting to revive from winter, and has many birds that have appeared with the start of spring. 

I now can observe our cherry tree, and see a pair of purple finches, who have created a nest in the neighbor’s arbor vitae.  They seem to like to sit in the cherry tree and take in their domain.  There’s also some of the many neighborhood rabbits and squirrels that traverse the yard throughout the day.  I’m getting to know their habits.

But the bird watching has now become a hobby/obsession.  As you can see from my setup, I have a bird watching guide and a pair of binoculars, not for creeping on neighbors, but for checking out the birds that come through.  Besides the finches, so far there’s plenty of cardinals and robins, but also a yellow-bellied flycatcher (at least I think it was).  With the sparrows and black capped chickadees, you might find me stepping away from my Zoom meeting to grab the binoculars to get a better look.  I also have a digital camera ready but have found the telephoto isn’t strong enough and taking pictures of birds is tough.  An iPhone just doesn’t cut it either.

A sad DIY standing desk

You’ll also see a 2.5kg soft weight, I’ve found that I get fidgety standing for most meetings all day long, and a light weight to toss around keeps me occupied and better able to focus, while possibly providing some health benefits.

Final item in the picture is a serious digital metronome, I’m sharing the space with the snare drum as it’s still the most sonically isolated area of the house, and if you’ve ever heard a snare drum in practice, they are loud!

It seems we’ll be at this for some time so my unexpected outcome is intimate knowledge of my backyard and a minor ornithological obsession.