What to do on a birthday during a lockdown?

Me with birthday ballons

I was lucky to have my big 40th birthday last year, I still have the cards up funny enough. I know others who had their 40th birthday in doors.

But one year later under Covid19 lockdown, I’m considering my options. My partner suggested a mass video call which I could cast to my TV. I could buy one of those going cheap cakes or get a nice takeaway from somewhere special. Also been thinking about ordering a very nice steak from the northern quarter butchers and having that with some lovely eggs. Talking of the northern quarter, I would pay some serious money to sit in a coffee shop right now. I’m not the only one…

Talking of coffee, I finally caved in and started having coffee at home after a nice Airbnb left me a bag a while back. Just in the mornings before work.

And the last leap Airbnb, made me a superhost again?!

Airbnb superhost

So weird, because no one is going anywhere right now. I don’t think I could accept anyone if they did actually book my spare room anyway. Maybe I should block out my calendar but theres little point right now.

Anyway back to the point, what to do on my birthday in lockdown.

I’m open to suggestions…?

Living in the age of Covid-19?

My partner asked me how I was doing on the phone. She remarked how I was managing with the changes well and I mentioned a quote I heard recently.

I won’t/can’t take credit but it speaks volume about right now… The quote came from the head of R&D which he was reminded of via the chief scientist.

“Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.

Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Be safe and stay connected…

Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (April 2020)

After truth

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed by looking at the amount of infected people with Covid19 or the huge amount of scams cashing in on our Covid19 fears.

To quote Buckminster Fuller “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

You are seeing aspects of this happening with people rising to the challenge of 3D printing valves and open-sourcing the results.


Your living room has an agenda

Ian thinks: Christopher Wylie covers the natural progress of linked data, surveillance, iot, smart cities, data ethics and echo bubbles in a short diatribe. Taken from ANTIDOTE 2019

Doughnut Economics explained by Kate Raworth

Ian thinks: Kate made the link between human needs and the environmental demands to support life on earth, in such a engaging and simple to understand way. This is the kind of connected thinking which will drive forward much needed changes.

Hacktivists: From Anonymous to Luzsac to Occupy

Ian thinks: Great documentary about hacks, hackers, hacktivists and their political interests. Free to watch in full on youtube

Throwing out data ethics with the bath water in the age of Covid-19?

Ian thinks: Great examples of where data ethics has been squeezed or sidelined during a more immediate threat. Something we should all be aware of.

Summary of Open hardware fighting Covid-19

Ian thinks: There is so much about open hardware hackers doing incredible things to battle Covid-19. This short video sums up so many great projects in one go and gives some great advice for those wanting to help.

The local global revolution which was waiting for its moment

Ian thinks: Helena and Douglas discuss the importance of localism or decentralised, can serve and solve the problems of people. Douglas’s monologue about Covid-19 and how our current media is warping our perception is so apt.

The status-quo is over, the world after Covid-19

Ian thinks: I started to do a similar post but Vice beat me to the punch with this vast (USA focused) post highlighting the opportunities and questions we should have post Covid-19.

Stealing card details in a flash

Ian thinks: As our contact-less cards limits raise to 45 pounds per transaction. Fascinating to see with great convenience comes great opportunity for those who want to prosper quickly.

Nothing spreads faster than disinformation on the internet

Ian thinks: There is a formula for mis/disinformation (fake news if you must) and its been exploited to the max. This documentary highlights the problem stopping on news we all have heard including . Don’t have HBO, here is a Guardian review

Staying safe and staying humanly connected

Ian thinks: I couldn’t help but end this Covid-19 heavy newsletter with a positive video from Vox showing how we are staying safe and connected during this world wide pandemic. Very touching…

We were overdue a pandemic, public health is absolutely critical

There has been many signs of the current pandemic which is upon us now, in retrospect. Bill gates talk from TED is a popular one people mention. But there has been many more including this one, Fowl plague from how we get to next.

One of the questions in the FAQ is spot on.

At this very moment the USA has surpassed China with the most amount of people infected. It doesn’t take a lot to see the problem of a pandemic with no public health care system.

USA tops the Covid19 chart with most infected

Has a case has been made for universal health care providing a better defense against pandemics, as people are less likely to stay away from medical treatment over fears of the costs involved?

The case for universal health care was made in the years following the Spanish flu in 1918, when more people died at the hands of avian influenza than in both world wars combined. This event made it abundantly clear that, in the midst of a pandemic, it doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, insulated by health insurance or not: Everyone was at risk unless society was treated as a whole. This is, I believe, the strongest possible argument for universal health care; by definition ideas of individualism disintegrate in a pandemic scenario.

When I mention public health that extends to sick leave too as Vox’s video also explains so well.

Talking of Bill Gates, just this week TED did a follow up interview.

#covid19 has affected the way I see TV & Films

 Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Where’s your social distancing guys?

It didn’t take long for the impact of Covid-19 to totally affect the way I see films and TVs. I can’t help but think every time a character touches another character or even comes within a couple of meters.

Where’s your physical distancing!!!

Jamie King’s monologue about Covid-19

https://stealthisshow.com/s05e08/

It was interesting listening to the most recent stealthisshow. Jamie King’s podcast is always a good listen and his monologue is right on point. Here is the text copy of the part I felt was most important.

…Of course, we also have the internet to thank for actually being able to continue distributing the show so far the internet’s continuing working just fine even if Reddit seems to be under duress and normally streaming services have had to downgrade themselves. BitTorrent also seems to be working great. And that’s the main thing making this lockdown less weird than it would otherwise be to continued functioning of the Internet because it just enables large part of everyday life to go on.

I wonder how much Covid-19 will contribute to a future rise in teleworking. teleconferencing repopulation of rural areas by people who no longer see cities as desirable and can manage to work as a distance. How much more of the world’s everyday functions will now in other words be swallowed by the internet.

Specifically, I find myself wondering as governments prepare for unprecedented bailouts of business and showing. Just how critical things really are even ordinary individuals, whether the future of money might well make a shift online too and just how weird it is that Satoshi Nakamoto had a vision in 2008 of a currency that could survive a moment exactly like this.

In any case the show must go on and steal this show will go on. But while the crisis continues, I think it’s important to direct the show’s focus towards the role decentralized technologies peer-to-peer collaboration, online and organization, etc etc can help us survive and even prosper. In the context of crisis and whatever comes next.

So the next interview I’m gonna do is with Gotana who’s project of using meshing Wi-Fi notes to create survivable. Bitcoin infrastructure looks to me increasingly crucial. I’ll also be posting that to make world the podcast. I’ve started looking at the ideas politics and technology of building a new sustainable livable human habitat for our future.

You can check that out at make world.io during these uncertain times. I’d love to connect with listeners more than ever…

Government says stay in doors, how I make it work

Working from home
Me on my Dell XPS with that hinge camera

As the UK tonight goes into police lockdown, I reflect on staying in my flat.

I have been working at home since last week Tuesday, a few days after most of my colleagues at BBC R&D. Like most of the country/world who could work from home, we work from home in the middle of Covid-19 pandemic.

For a lot of people working from home is very challenging, for a number of reasons including having kids, job which requires access to specialist equipment, trying to separate work and personal life for a long time. Theres also the mental, social and physical health sides of this all.

So I thought I’d share how I’m managing with staying at home most of the time. Of course take from it what you think is useful.

Work wise

I now switched to my natural working time of 1030-11am till 7pm. I do get up and do all the things I usually do when going to work including getting dressed, having breakfast, playing podcasts, etc. Where usually I am in a rush for the door, I now relax playing a few podcasts in a row and across my flat.

Physically working I switch between using my standing desk in my bedroom and the sofa in the living room. I also have my dinner table but haven’t used that yet.

I take breaks when ever I want rather than a lunch break as such. It makes sense to me but I’m sure others will disagree

I’m using my Dell XPS 13 to the maximum memory wise (if I could add another 16gig to it I would, but it tops out at 16gig). Because of that I have to keep opening and closing the virtual windows 10 machine to check email. This is actually quite good because I’m answering emails then closing it while I do other things like writing gdocs, a lot of zoom calls.

Media beyond the news

Talking about media, I am currently playing podcasts as theres lots of podcasters recording from their homes, just like the mainstream media. At some point I will start listening to some of the audiobooks I have saved.

Been watching a lot of films and may start watching more TV shows but generally its audio in the morning and videos in the evening.

I have also ignoring most of the news media because I hate that news cycle and there is so much good stuff out there. For example Mydata just upload their videos, the Singularity University did a summit about Covid19, There was a activitypub conference with videos on peertube. This is just in the last few weeks.

I had also planned to do some training by watching and listening from Linkedin learning and other sources.

I’m very happy I opted for the 1gig bit hyperoptic fibre link, its paid for its self massively over the years and being able to share my media with friends is fantastic. I’m also considering using my icecast server to maybe put up a live web broadcast every weekend as its been a while since I did a mix.

The Manchester futurists which I’m a part of are considering podcasting while events are not allowed. So look out for those. I did float the idea of techgrumps again but no dice yet.

I’m also considering getting more into gaming as I’m not much of a gamer, but do have a Xbox 360 and Playstation one classic. I actually do have a steam account but never used it so theres something I might explore. I’m also looking for a good gaming site for casual gaming which can be played together with my partner or friends, but is respectful of my data? Any ideas do drop a comment…

Staying in shape

I’m lucky to have a communal garden so can sit outside with minimal risk to myself and others. Its also where I’m going to start doing the diabolo now its getting warmer (thankfully). I have been outside a few times, mainly to get food, post letters and go riding in the pennies on the scooter. I am planning to do some more serious walking for shopping and exercise.

Been wondering if now is a good time to order those Rollerblades to go with my skateboard?

Staying connected

I don’t live with my partner but we are talking everyday. Its good and we find new and good ways to do things together over the phone and videochat.

I have always been in regular contact with my parents but also connecting with my sister more. Been thinking about the massive family I have and I should reach out to them more too.

I’m also making a very conscious decision to everyday get in touch with people I haven’t spoken to in a long time. Think about it, everybody is at home and likely will be very happy to hear from an old friend. Its not like they are out or on holiday. So far its been great and I expect it brings delight to others too.

Keeping my mind in gear

I have a large task list of things to do, not only because of covid-19 but generally. So I can slowly work my way through that while at home. Some of it is computer based, some internet based, some hardware and some physical DIY type things. Been thinking I should physically take up the art of motorcycle maintenance with my scooter.

Taking a look at the list, there is always something I could be doing and I ordered that raspberry pi 4 before this became a pandemic.

I’m taking time out to practice self-care, relax and sleep longer than usual which is helping a lot with my mental health. I’m avoiding the news cycle as mentioned previously but also avoiding lots of the facebook nonsense as I don’t need to use it now volleyball is off for the foreseeable future.

The status quo is gone and its not coming back

Flattern the curve of health careI tooted/tweeted a few days ago…

We live in incredible times…
#COVID19uk

There is a lot of panic & uncertainty at the moment with the global pandemic of Covid-19.  But there is also a number of opportunities which are fundamentally changing our society, some good and some bad. To me its clear the status quo is gone, there is no way we can go back to the way we use to live (just like world wars). Simple things like our use of remote working is going to shape culture, society, human existence going forward; that is clear!

There’s been more chatter about universal basic income, but with a stronger emphases considering the huge numbers of people on low income, in the gig economy and self employed; hit hard trying to manage with the chaos. This could be the trigger for it to happen, at least in the short term.

Physical distancing and self isolation has forced those who scoffed at virtual connections into rethinking their position. People are understanding physical distancing is similar to a long distance relationship and similar lessons apply with social distancing. We are learning a lot more about each other, likely more than we do in the workplace. The idea of bring your authentic self to work applies even more when someone is looking through a webcam into your living room; mess, pets, family members and all.

Videoconf-whoopsie

The uptake of video conferencing has been huge and our reliance on the internet has been truly cemented with groups of people who used it ad-hoc finally embracing it out of necessity. Its actually become the number one way and this could have positive effects for the environment.

Online food delivery has really come into its own. On top of this contactless payments has really come into their own with cash being rejected for health reasons (yes I am very aware of the problems with cashless services however its a powerful counter point looking at the public health angle). Maybe this might finally convince America about the merits of a public health system? Ok thats not going to happen but now would be a very good time for it. Especially with so many americans just one pay cheque from poverty.

Our encroachment on nature urgently needs to change but we may have left it too late. Its clear the impact we made on the environment is biting back longer and harder. There are many who have suggested we are due a pandemic but are we ready for more of them one after another? Its also worth saying they will stick around and adapt/morph, so we really need to change our outlook. This could be bring us together more like a common foe (think Watchman) but you would have thought the environment destruction of our planet would have done that already? Flying has already facing a massive backlash but in the face of Covid-19, expect even more changes, if the airlines haven’t gone bust.

The  role of public service health and public service broadcasts has been very clear throughout but also the lack of resourcing them. Flatten the curve is a key message which people are getting their head around. Not just in the UK but across the world. Talking of public service broadcasting, this initiative: culture in quarantine, is pretty amazing and extremely quick for the BBC. There’s certainly some links to the digital public space.

The sheer amount of misinformation has forced the GAFFAs to do something but they are playing catch up on the trusted space to the public service broadcasters. Of course private companies have been throwing what they can to support people remotely working with lots of deals, even if the deals can convince/trap people in the long run? The calls for the end of public service broadcasting have gone strangely silent

John Oliver presents from a short staffed studio with no audience

Its absolutely fascinating to see the mainstream media shows adapt to the pandemic by using the exact technology bloggers, podcasters and videobloggers have been using for over a decade. We are watching news reporters from their homes and once we get over the first shock, it becomes the norm.

Its also around the time of crisis when data ethics is dashed to the wind. Its also when you see new laws sneaked in under the radar. Sometimes the crisis is a cover for what was always wanted.

However its been so impressive to see the local community driven support networks which have sprung up. DotEveryone’s Cassie’s recent posts is a good read looking at the tension for these networks, as theres a long way to go. (thanks Laura and GJB for the links). Douglas Rushkoff is right on the money with his conversation with Helena Norberg-Hodge, who talks about localfutures. All this nicely intersects with open source culture.

The term Stay Safe, Stay Connected is being used so much more than ever. It might be a halo effect but people are more concerned about each other than a month ago.But its perfect…

Stay safe, stay connected!

 

Lets cut the rubbish and talk about outbreaks in real terms

I’m hearing and seeing too much rubbish about the Coronavirus/Covid-19., including at the spa recently. I feel this is a good balanced talk about outbreaks, and there will be more.

Global health expert Alanna Shaikh talks about the current status of the 2019 coronavirus outbreak and what this can teach us about the epidemics yet to come. Alanna Shaikh is a global health consultant and executive coach who specializes in individual, organizational and systemic resilience.

This is something for many people who are reading too much stuff, guessing by the figures and filling in the blanks. Alanna makes too many good points about so many aspects of the current outbreak.

Step back and do the right thing, wash those hands and take some responsibility for your health care. Outbreaks will happen and its always just a matter of time. But that is not a reason to throw your arms up, blame different countries and bulk buy all the toilet roll you can get your hands on.

Cancelling flights to South Korea and Japan

expedia accept changes or not

I recently was able to cancel my flights to South Korea and Japan answering the question I prompted about flying to the far east during the Cornoavirus outbreak. My parents will be happy as they were worried. They weren’t the only ones but myself and my partner talked about it a lot. A point she made stuck with me, will a lot of the attractions, places and experiences in South Korea and Japan be mainly shutdown? The idea of going to a mainly dead rollercoaster park in Japan sounds great but will it actually be open? I noticed a tweet from Brian Suda about the Japanese government stopping large public events to stop the spread of the virus.

Japan has banned large gatherings, so this Sumo Tournament is being played to an empty arena.
Japan has banned large gatherings, so this Sumo Tournament is being played to an empty arena.

We were still going up till the point when Lufthansa changed our flights out again. There was a big change and I got a email asking me to confirm the change. I needed to read through the changes so didn’t click ok I’m good with this still a day later. In between a while bunch of new deaths happened in Italy and Flybe went under. People started taking things a lot more seriously as it was clear the incubation period of the Cornoavirus was something of a nightmare with people not showing signs of infection for 3-7 days. I was keeping an eye on the British FCO site, but noticed Lufthansa changed their policy.

Once I saw this I was straight on the phone to Lufthansa who were very helpful saying I could get a complete refund, then directed me to Expedia where I had booked my flights. After 2hrs 20mins waiting on the line for Expedia. A couple of call backs I finally got the verbal confirmation that my whole holiday would be cancelled and I would get a full refund.

The next day my partner did similar and after long calls and having to call back the next day was told the same. However within a day she got a confirmation email and told the money will be refunded in 5-7 days.

Days later I still haven’t received my conformation email or any refund (expect that not to come quickly). So I called up again today, this time after getting cut off (but it taking only 50mins on hold) I got verbal conformation again. But even at the moment of writing this, there is still no email.

I did notice they now (in the last day) have a form to do it without calling up… I’ll be filling this one in too.

I’m sure its all fine but I’ll fill the form because 3 times is a charm?

Although we are keeping an eye on the worldmeter for the virus, as we may take advantage of one of those very cheap flights to somewhere with minimal infection?

Update 11/March at 22:17

Expedia refund

I finally got my email from Expedia… Took a long time but finally I can relax.

Airbnb’s extenuating circumstances policy

airbnb and the coronavirus

As the coronavirus contuses to cause large disruptions across the world. I now have more of a answer to my airbnb question, should i have hosted a chinese person in my airbnb?

Come in a bit late is Airbnb’s extenuating circumstances policy.

What does this policy mean?

Eligible reservations can be cancelled without charges, including:

  • Guests who are travelling to or from severely affected areas (for a list of areas affected and covered by this policy, check below)
  • Hosts who are hosting in or welcoming guests from severely affected areas (for a list of areas affected and covered by this policy, check below)
  • Anyone who can’t complete their trip due to official travel restrictions, medical or disease control duties, flight or ground transport cancellation initiated by the provider due to COVID-19, or suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19

What happens when a reservation that falls under our extenuating circumstances policy is cancelled?

  • The guest will receive a full refund (including any fees)

  • Hosts won’t incur any cancellation fees

  • Airbnb will refund all fees

  • Hosts can accept new reservations for those dates

  • Superhost status will not be affected

Well at least we are now clear… I guess? However I certainly expect a lot of prejudice behavior coming from the policy change. How would anyone know any difference to be honest?

Should I have hosted a Chinese person in my airbnb?

Airbnb and the Coronavirus outbreak

Recently I hosted a person from mainland China in my Airbnb. Its certainly not the first time and unlikely the last. They were nice, quiet and respectful of the rules.

But I was talking to a few people and they asked me if I had thought about the Coronavirus (COVID-19)? I laughed it off but honestly I did think for a bit before accepting the booking. The thinking wasn’t long especially because I wasn’t happy to ask the question and somewhat discriminate on the grounds of nationality (this is also against Airbnb’s policy)

Talking to others, they felt I wasn’t taking it seriously. Although I will say more people die of the flu and TB than COVID-19! The frenzy in the press is getting insane.

So I had another look at the policy and noticed a addition for the Coronavirus outbreak

The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency. Affected hosts and guests can find info on our Extenuating circumstances policy for coronavirus page.

This is something which seems to have taken the Airbnb community groups and others by storm

Looking deeper into the new policy I found this part…

For reservations with guests travelling from mainland China to destinations outside of mainland China

The extenuating circumstances policy applies to any reservations booked on or before 1 February 2020, with check-in date of 1 April 2020 or earlier. This applies for guests travelling from mainland China with reservations outside of mainland China, or hosts outside of mainland China with guests travelling from mainland China.

Other scenarios that require documentation

Regardless of reservation date, the extenuating circumstances policy applies to reservations of all global hosts or guests who must change or cancel travel:

  • In order to comply with disease control restrictions implemented by relevant governmental or health authorities;
  • In order to perform medical or disease control duties in connection with the COVID-19 outbreak;
  • As a result of flight or ground transport cancellations initiated by an airline or ground transport provider due to the COVID-19 outbreak;
  • In the event that they are diagnosed or suspected of being infected with COVID-19 by a medical or health authority.

We ask that all community members be mindful of respect, inclusion, and our nondiscrimination policy when interacting with other members of our community.

So I think I did the right thing. Its not right to discriminate on the location. My guest was fine! However for those worried, you know what I’ll be doing if anything negative happens to my health (ha!)