Five memorable urls from season one of COVID (aka the last 12 months)
March 11th was “COVID Day One” for a lot of people, or at least when it crossed over from “Is this going to be a big deal?” to “this is a big deal” for America. While much of Silicon Valley was already curtailing travel and starting to work from home, Zeitgeist watchers are noticing a perfect NBA storm disrupting their season. Tom Hanks is diagnosed as positive, the WHO declares a global pandemic and he, who shall not be named, implements a travel ban (actually a good idea) as a starting point for “this is not just the flu”.
As I read Maya Kosoff’s essay ‘Lost Year’ as part of Medium’s Pandemic Reflections, I thought about my own past 12 months. Because of my love for what we call the World Wide Web, I’ll make my own memories about Five Links.
The COVID tracking project
The COVID Tracking Project, an oasis in a desert with misinformation, started very ad hoc, but has always been authoritative and reliable in understanding the spread of the disease. Good data helped put so much into perspective: that this thing was going wild, that it was affecting disproportionately high-risk communities and regions, and that the spread outside of vaccines could be * managed * through safety practices.
As the numbers got bigger and we were almost at the milestones, I stopped focusing on the quantitative and switched to the qualitative, namely how to emotionally support my family and my community. The COVID tracking project will no longer be updated on its first anniversary (March 7th, 2021), but it was one of the URLs that defined my first COVID year.
When Casey Newton & I were zoomed in
This whole WFH thing was a bit silly early on and was fun in the tech industry. People got used to a life of video conferencing (remember when dogs and babies jumped into the frame was new!) And along with my friend CaseyThere were two weeks in which we ran Zoom Happy Hours with guests and fun and surprises at 5 p.m.
One memorable happy hour included a zoom bombing where a troll took control of the screen and showed really graphic porn videos for leaving the link to the event public. As a result, Zoom changed a number of meeting defaults to prevent this type of misconduct, and I turned down all message requests to discuss our experience. My mantra is “check your first page of google results” and I wasn’t sure my over-the-crease vanity search should produce evergreen tail images.
Now, a year later, it’s clear why virtual event platforms, room collecting like clubhouse and other social apps are booming. We are primates and we need to be together!
Raising a child during COVID
This is my own post from last April on what lessons my daughter should learn and what not to over-learn from this past year. We have been very fortunate to have the resources and to find ourselves in a personal situation that supports the flexibility to work from home with relative ease. And while I know that this has protected our family from certain hardships, I am not pretending that it is an impervious shield against socio-emotional stress. If a quarter of their school-age life has been locked down, it would be crazy to assume there are no effects. Therefore, we focus on resilience, express our feelings and be kind to one another. And being very excited when she can respond to the desire to see and hug her friends without flinching and stopping by herself.
The K-shaped recovery
“The stock market is not the economy.” I heard this a lot in 2020 as I tried to balance the overall growth in public markets and hypergrowth in technology versus the pandemic reality for so many Americans. I have to say things like “I’ve never ordered that much gold belly!” while others lost paychecks and family members. My friend Nikhil summarized so many of my thoughts in his essay A Widening Gap.
A growing gap. A gap between the “haves” and the “have nots”, between those with disposable income and those who have no work. There is an unbroken gap between fact and fiction, between those who have access to the truth and those who are fed. A gap that has certainly been exacerbated by the pandemic, but also by the forces of technology, media and politics not only in the last four years but in the last decade.
It will take considerable technology, media, and government work to reverse this course. There is no easy solution that this will be The next big thing in 2021; Instead, it will take years.
What I love about Nikhil’s blog post was that it’s not just about finding our way out of this dynamic, it’s also about empathy, caring, and even sacrifice. “Do Things That Don’t Scale” is classic startup advice, and I see the beginnings of what it takes to reverse this dynamic of inequality as well. Beyond structural change, we would make so much progress if we only cared for a handful of other people in a way beyond our immediate circles. That’s why I love nonprofits like Human Utility.
My virtual drinking friends
For years when people asked what my hobbies were, I shrugged. There were activities that I enjoyed (movies! Friends! Work!) But nothing that I would call a “hobby”. Perhaps I had been overly influenced by the people around me who, when they were chasing something, did so with a focus that consisted of “jogging” “full marathons on every continent” and “cooking” “I spend the summer in France as a Apprentice confectioner. “If a hobby is something you have spent too much time and money on, then my only hobby has been therapy!
But I got tired of not having an answer and started telling people that my hobbies were coffee and notebooks (the kind of paper notes). These were honest answers as I both love to research, buy, and consume, but there’s only so far to go with notebooks, and on the coffee front, I cared more about good beans than absolutely experimenting with every method of preparation, what that meant Subreddits were a bit too much for me.
Fast forward to early 2020 and the whiplash we all experienced by stopping travel, closing restaurants and working, playing and living around the clock. We have all introduced new coping mechanisms and found new aspects in our relationships. Some even used the time to rethink where they work or move to new cities. Me? I was interested in whiskey.
Before I share more, I want to acknowledge that alcohol as a “hobby” can be uncomfortable for many people. People close to me have dealt with various addictions, including alcohol, and many others have removed it from their lifestyle for the sake of health, mental clarity, and other benefits. Fortunately, I’m not prone to overconsumption and my interest has been as much in the history, business, and people of the mind as in actual consumption (I’m basically a 1 to 4 ounce guy – for reference an average 750ml bottle is roughly 25 ounces).
I used to be curious about whiskey, buy a bottle every now and then, try different bourbons in a bar, and so on. But about a year ago, I joined a local Bay Area whiskey group that I loved to learn from, share with, and do virtual tastings from. It’s fun to have a space that’s not about technology, not about politics, and just about guys and gals with passion. Many thanks also to Caroline and my daughter, who gave up some space in the basement for my “hobby”.
Ok, so these are five links that were important to me in the first 12 months of COVID. We hope that all graphics continue to go in the right direction and that we can soon help and celebrate each other personally!
Notes and more
The first two months of 2021 are over! I’ve tried to be very deliberate and greet my family and friends with statements like “Welcome the third Thursday of February” (or something similar). 2020 was such a strange blurring of speed and slowness that this year I’m trying to become more aware. Probably as a coping tactic!
📦 Things i enjoy
Etta + Billie soaps. SmartSweets sugar-free gummy bears. Taylor Swift’s new additions.
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