Weekly Head Voices #192: COVID-19 part 2.

A scene from Stilbaai, my number one favourite new vacation destination, taken on the morning after the lockdown had been announced. We were extremely fortunate to spend our last day of freedom in a place like this.

Greetings, fellow humans!

It’s 16:15 (UTC+2) on Sunday afternoon as I sit here writing this.

The post seems to be mostly planned out, with fragments of text strewn around the editor window right below this sentence.

With sheer luck, I’ve managed to find music that interacts well with my current mood trajectory (finding the right music seems like a truly hard problem), and at this moment I’m still hopeful that I might also have found one whole pomodoro to work with here.

We are living through some of the most surrealistic times I have ever experienced.

For friends, for other curious observers and for posterity I think it’s now an even better idea than usual to write down at least some of my observations.

On that note, the older I get, the more clearly I see how the idea of a unified “I” going through life is nothing more than an illusion, albeit seemingly well-made.

In 2014 I wrote about us being patterns continuously shifting in the sands of the universe.

Back then, at least if I can go by my writing, it was a dawning realisation. Now it has become Captain Obvious territory.


In this post, I look back at the period of time from Wednesday March 25 to Sunday April 11.

Lockdown extension.

The South African national lockdown started at midnhight on Thursday, March 26 and would continue for three weeks until April 16.

Of course this virus wasn’t magically going to give up and go home after exactly three weeks.

Just like everyone else, we were only buying time, and I’m super happy that we started when we did.

We know much more now than we knew then. In three weeks more, we’ll know even more.

Whatever the case may be, I’ve never before seen the whole of South Africa work together this well.

There is certaintly some dissent, but by and large the measures seem to be working, and the curve looks like it is flattening for us.

(There will of course be those, as there always are, who will claim that it was all much ado about nothing…)

Although we sort of saw it coming, it was still quite something hearing on Friday evening, April 10, that the national lockdown would be extended to April 30.


On March 30, I “joined” the twitter #masks4all campaign by doing my little bit to try and convince people everywhere that if all of us started wearing home-made (the good stuff is for the healthcare workers yo!) masks as a rule, it would contribute substantially to preventing the virus from spreading.

I find this extra important, because it could play a really important role, together with physical distancing, hand-washing and more, in how we end the lockdown safely and get our already-less-than-robust economy back up and running.

At the start it felt like no-one was listening, and I was getting anxious.


It really did not help that the official line of the Western Cape Health Department on March 29 was warning against masks and gloves. (I’ve archived the statement in case anyone loses it.)

The point that many people were utterly missing at that point but that is hopefully now embarrassingly obvious, is that the mask is not there to protect the wearer, it’s there to help protect everyone else from being infected by the wearer.

Fast-forward a week or so (an eternity in COVID-19 time) to April 10, and South Africa’s very own and very respected health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize started tweeting the new official line that the department of health now also recommends that everyone wears cloth masks:

See the great #masks4all.co for more information.

My (microscopic little) work here is done.

Work, exercise and the future, in captivity.

Remote work.

In the previous WHV, I might have mentioned remote work once or twice.

Well, since then it feels like I’ve spent at least three and a half years working remotely, hard.

I underestimated the amount of automatic, implicit, in-person communication that happens when you’re at the office.

All of that currently has to happen via various video meetings, instant messenging, emails, and then many more instant messages during the rest of the day.

In its new form, all of this communication takes quite an amount of time and energy. It feels like I can only bunker down late morning to start on the actual work.

(Microsoft Teams is our tool for all of this. Whilst it’s not perfect, it has been serving us quite well.)

In spite of the feeling that communication is taking up significantly more time and energy, my perception is that, over-all, we engineers get a lot more done in this new configuration.

Furthermore, I am hopeful that continued practice will reduce the perceived additional communication effort.


It’s not allowed to leave the house even for exercise, and so my running has taken quite a hit.

I have had to resort to running circles around the house for half an hour at a time, which, in spite of me usually really enjoying the monotony of road-running, is quite a challenge.

On the other hand, there are people who are stuck in apartments and then run 42km on the balcony, and there’s even the South African Eddie Mouton who ran 160km in his yard.

The elliptical trainer which we bought on July 31 of 2007 (it’s the FINNLO crosstrainer 3252), and for the almost 13 years since then has been nothing more than an overpriced clothing and towel hanger, has seen more actual exercise use in the past weeks than during its whole lifetime up to now.

One great upshot of all of this is that we more often train together, or at least close enough for a high-five now and then.

The future.

As I alluded to in the previous WHV #191, and especially as the lockdown has now been extended, giving us even more time to practise and build habits, I would really like to know how much of what we learn and experience now is going to stick in the post-covid-19-era?

Noticing how we have to pay much more attention to how exactly we communicate, realising how much work can actually be fit into a day without too many interruptions, and seeing how quickly nature uses this time to recover from our normally incessant onslaught, all lead me to think that we should not stop analysing and discussing the changes that COVID-19 has brought.

Do you think we’ll just flip back to the old normal as soon as we (hopefully) get through this, or do you think we can look forward to a slightly upgraded humanity?

That’s all folks!

Because this post had already grown substantially larger than I had intended, I just removed two whole subsections, the beefiest one about Niklas Luhmann and his amazing Zettelkästen / external brain.

Do not fear, they’ll probably make an appearance in a subsequent WHV, or perhaps even separate posts.

As some of you might have read previously on this blog, the struggle in my head between these longer form mish-mash-life-snapshot WHV posts on the one hand and more topic-focused shorter posts on the other has been going on for years, and will hopefully continue for years more.

(I say hopefully, because that means I might still be posting as well.)

This specific thought is still developing, but I might be starting an experiment where I do try to write some shorter, more focused posts.

I will keep you up to date!

Ok reader, whoever and wherever you are, I wish you the very best that humanity has to offer!