December Writing Challenge Wrap-Up: Week 2

This was our first full week of posts, and the experiences and observations everyone shared have been moving, insightful, and thought-provoking. I could not be more proud to be part of this community.

Tonight in Pandemic Viewing...

In what must be the largest collection of words I have ever seen from the hands of my esteemed boss, Jenne catalogues with amazing detail and precision the stories, series, and themes that captured her and her family’s imagination since February. If you read this post—to say nothing of the many recommendations in the comments below it—and you still don’t know what to watch, it’s your own fault.

From: acmtix

A great reference list. Thanks. I will definitely check some of the series and movies you have mentioned. My own particular favourites recently are listed here also:

Mortal A Norwegian modern take on the second coming of Thor. Not the Marvel version.

Who can forget “I am Legend” and its Krippin virus?

Ash vs. The Evil Dead—The Series... Hail to the King Baby!

NeXt—About a rogue AI that improves itself and kills everyone else.

Loved Raised by Wolves. Made the hairs on my arms stand up.

Enjoyed the Dark Crystal series too. Reminded me of being terrified of the Skexis as a child.

I’m currently watching Vikings all the series again and The Mandalorian.

Other stuff I’d recommend. Dark Tourist. Star Trek Discovery. Lore and finally Helstrom.

From: Chrystal Taylor (ChrystalT)

I don’t generally watch much tv or even movies these days. Most of my time goes to video games.

However, I have been doing some serious nostalgia watching.

my Nostalgia watching this year: Charmed (original series), Glee, and Gilmore Girls

I also finally got to watch Hamilton this year, and a few other musicals I hadn’t seen over the years like Jersey Boys thanks to Disney+.

for newer stuff this year: The Witcher, The Mandalorian (not caught up on S2 yet because the boy decided we need to re-watch S1 first!), The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Brooklyn 99 (Can’t recommend enough), and Superstore (if you have EVER worked retail, it is a recommended watch).

I am sure I left off things, and I do watch the occasional cliché holiday romance movie for good feelings.

From: janobi

I’m terrible in these things, as I don’t really watch anything that is “hot” or recommended. I find that I watch them much later than they’ve been released, and realise why I didn’t watch it when it was released. Normally because it’s not my thing.

I’m a kid of the 80s, so grew up watching John Hughes films, and other 80s classics. Times seemed much simpler then, and I wanted nothing more than to attend a US College and be part of a frat. You later found out in life, that the movies are not real life and it kinda spoils everything for you.

Today’s times feel very much like I’m starring in “The Exorcist” but atm, I don’t know if I’m the priest or the girl possessed atm.

Easy Home IT Upgrades

My fellow Head Geek Sascha Giese begins with what may be the most truthful formula for calculating bandwidth ever. His simple (and humorously phrased) solutions to Wi-Fi and network woes which followed were echoed across the comment section. The range of situations and solutions presented threw into stark clarity how often we, as IT pros, are asked to fix this particular issue for our friends and family. Also, networking is hard.

From: mesverrum

I have to second the suggestion to move as much as you can to hard wired connections. I’ve known many people who burned through every kind of gimmick and wonder cure to fix their Wi-Fi when all they really needed to do was shoot an ethernet line across their attic and into the tv/Xbox. Suddenly performance is great on the tv itself and having reduced contention improved the airwaves for all the rest of their devices. The biggest lesson I took from my wireless certifications was “try not to use wireless.”

From: mlotter

We live in a rural area and can only get wireless point-to-point internet service. That limits us on what we can get at home. Compared to the fast 10GB we have at work. With that said, the best thing I did was install a few google home Wi-Fi pucks to my house. On only a 35mb service from the provider my kids can play PS5 online while I’m on a WebEx and my wife watches Netflix.

From: Seashore

Something we always (I hope) think about at work is dividing network traffic in several VLAN’s and WLAN’s. So less secure devices and traffic don’t mix up with our most important stuff. But how many thinks about that at home? And at home we have to many cheap things, IOT, that to seldom gets updated.

I created separate VLAN’s and WLAN’s for Guests, IOT devices needing internet, Cameras and devices not permitted to internet and of course the “production VLAN.” (I use Unify devices for all network stuff. 4 WLANs seem to be max per AP so that’s why there are no more... AND all that can have wire has wire of course ;-))

Expensive? How long is a rope...?

Working from home we all have sensitive information, but security is not the same as at work. We above all, the IT geeks, should have this set up correct even at home. Have you?

Separation Anxiety

Olivia offers a compelling story about her growing-together-ness with Remy, her COVID puppy, and then details the solid work she’s done to prepare Remy (and the household) for a post-COVID world where she might have to work somewhere other than the kitchen table.

From: jeremymayfield

@OliviaP awesome writeup. I have 2 dogs, and they are now used to me or someone being home all the time and have for years now. My Wife in the classroom and me probably going to start traveling again, the pressure falls on my daughter and Mom (who stays with us) to ensure they get their TLC. Crate training is a wonderful thing. Both of my dogs were pound puppies, and I did the crate, but now, I got them a baby couch. I used this and an old throw blanket and they no longer need a crate. it’s been years though.

My Pups: I sometimes feel the separation anxiety is harder on the human than the pet. We also get used to their comfort and constant attention. They make us laugh and bring joy to our homes. Change is hard on everyone. So sometimes we add additional furry critters in to keep the dogs in check.

Enter the Cats: They all get along and are all rescues. The cats actually keep the dogs entertained when I cannot, which also helps when you are away.

From: jscobbie

All great advice, I used to train dogs for police and personal protection, and I basically do all that with my own dog. Although being full time WFH with Covid has made the 4-legged members of this household happier than anything I’ve ever done!

From: Rick Schroeder (rschroeder)

I’ve been separated from pets for nearly 20 years, and I miss ‘em! In a few years my wife will retire, and then perhaps the pets will return. Maybe we’ll be those people in an RV with a little dog sitting on the arm rest between the front seats of the vehicle. There are LOTS of those out there, and quite a few full-time RV’ers have video blogs about their educations in traveling. With pets.

My New Hobby: Lessons Learned

Beyond the fascinating journey Kevin takes us on, you have to appreciate a blog post with a table of contents. (Or at least *I* appreciate it. There’s a reason Kevin and I are friends.)

From: mcam

that looks like great fun. I have a friend who has made that sitting workbench, before that he made the mallet and use the “three tool method” to make the workbench. Prior to that he and I made a hand cart with large wooden wheels

all of which seem to start out with—I didn’t know what I was doing, but........


Nice write up @KMSigma. For me the only new thing/hobby that changed/that i picked up during COVID is -> “cycling”

From: gfsutherland

@KMSigma I am impressed.... That is a very nice piece of work! Great job!

It is extremely important to have a hobby, especially to counter the stresses in our work lives. Mine has been updating my house since I moved to Maine 18 months ago. (see earlier writing challenge post photos of my bar area). I have a small workshop now and my garage is used as an annex. Always something to keep me busy.

I Didn’t Think I’d Ever Need __________

I am fascinated by Adam’s journey from “I’ve never been very good at planning” to “I plan my days using kanbans;” and equally engaged by all the stories of how we reacted and changed (and in many cases grew as both people and IT pros) in response to the shifts in life (and availability) over the last year.

From: EBeach

The food situation got scary for a while. My boy has a bunch of food allergies and his choices are limited. Once the regular everyday food was used up people started going to the specialty food and we had no options. It is completely understood, and I wasn’t mad just more shocked. Maybe people found a new product that they enjoyed through all this, tried some new things. This whole process has a domino effect that we still have not seen the end to.

From: tphelps01

Nice article! Who would have thought that a toilet paper panic would make lines to get into Costco wrap around the building? We’ve experienced so many, but I wonder what other weird things will we see and go through before this is all over?


I have never planned anything in my life for myself, for me most things are on the fly (be it my carrier/shopping/playing/going out etc....).

Whenever i did try to plan i have messed it up (specifically for myself), i always take things the way it comes.

But when it comes to my family i always do plan and sometimes it gets onto my nerves, i always double check if everything is sorted, if everything is calculated, i don’t take risks especially when it comes to my kid or wife. I always make sure every single thing is in place and there are no surprises mid-way, and this definitely takes a toll on me (anxiety issues)

As i said before i never plan anything for myself and maybe that’s the reason why i overthink and want everything to be perfect when it comes to my family. Same is the case when it comes to my work, i always double check on things the client is asking for and try to make sure that i don’t mess up anywhere and deliver things on time as expected.

What Day Is It?

THWACK MVP Mark Roberts explores the all-too-common (these days) sensation of time slipping away, of not knowing from one moment to the next when it is. And what’s more, not being sure if “what day is it” even matters any more. What’s wonderful about Mark’s analysis is the way he offers a few concrete things to do to help provide temporal anchors in the day and the flow of days, to help us all feel more grounded.

From: Kaellanon

I think my kids kept me grounded when I was working from home. Every day is a different form of madness. Fighting, playing, screaming, singing, and imagining loudly around the house and yard are all good ways to keep each day different and interesting. Kids don’t do bored well and will drag you into their entertainments whether you want to or not. They were (and are) the best way to keep me moving forward and avoid stagnation in a stagnating world.

From: dhaldeman

Excellent points. There have been weeks, even before COVID, that I would have to pause to figure out what day it is. I have even had weeks where there was only one day, Monday. The rest of the week would breakdown to Monday #2, Monday #3, Monday #4 and so on. The positive about this situation is that, thankfully, it did not happen all the time. A week of the Mondays is definitely a cause for taking some much-needed time off.

From: mjperkins

While sometimes days seem to meld together, it has not been due to COVID, but just too much going on at times. In my hopefully only temporary ‘normal,’ I have continued to have enough things to remind me of what day it is. Monday morning is the conference call with my program manager and her team. Wednesday morning is my team’s weekly conference call. The trash and recycling have to be put out for collection Thursday morning. Most important, however, is the climax of the week: Shabbat, which sets a rhythm for each week. Fridays, if I am at the office, I have to be sure to reach home before Shabbat begins (i.e., before sundown). This time of year, that might affect other days’ schedules, making me work extra hours earlier in the week. Shopping gets planned and food gets purchased or defrosted so it will be ready for Shabbat. It all forces me to be cognizant of what day it is.

Connecting With My Community

Wrapping up the week, Chris McManus explores one of the things we may have lost touch with in all of this—not only the connection to community but the interactions those connections naturally and organically enabled. Not one to simply identify a problem without offering solutions (he *is* one of our top product marketing managers, after all!) Chris explores some things he and his family have done to re-connect and offers suggestions on how we all can adopt and adapt those practices as well.

From: gfsutherland

Great observations and suggestions Chris. In the early days when things were really locked down, Deb and I would host alternating, socially distant cocktail hours in my driveway with my sister and her husband who live about a ½ mile away. We’d sit in the driveway on lawn chairs and enjoy an adult beverage. As we had only been in the house for a little less than a year, my neighbors would smile and wave or even stop by to chat as they took their COVID walks or daily dog walks. Welcome to the neighborhood!

We do twice a week huddles for the IT Team as a whole and I do two different sessions for groups Development and Support. I always start the meeting with something related to “Funny Covid Moments” and ask for contributions. It’s been interesting and at times hilarious.

We are social beings, we need to interact.... Sometimes we have to go beyond out comfort zones and remember, we all have the chance to brighten someone’s day!

From: Kaellanon

As an introvert by nature the whole prospect of being a part of and seeking out communities is somewhat strange to me. I am fine alone. I like to be by myself. Most forms of social interaction are learned for me, not natural.

That said, participating in communities is a necessary part of life and (unless you want to be a hermit) must be done. I had to learn to enjoy it and find people who share my interests or professional goals to build relationships with. These days most people around me have no idea that I am constantly on edge in a crowd and would rather be at home in front of my Xbox.

Covid actually made me more involved in my work community as we held daily Teams meetings to discuss things and stay abreast of what was going on. My extended family is spread all over the country, so we stay in touch over the phone anyway. It was good to have more time with my immediate family though.

From: Chrystal Taylor (ChrystalT)

Great points and suggestions so far. If anyone needs ideas on remote gaming with friends/family, I did a write-up of my experience earlier this year.

For work community, I try and remember to compliment and lift up wherever I can, and our weekly happy hours are always a ride with topics ranging from what makes a Disney princess to the latest shenanigans our kids (or chickens!) are up to. We aim for levity where we can in our regular chat groups, and have had several virtual contests (costume, pumpkin decorating, etc.) which have been fun.

For family community, we quickly set up regular happy hours and all join when we can. I have done socially distant dining with my dad which was fun and interesting. It involved my dad buying us dinner and each sitting in our own cars and eating in the parking lot of the restaurant. We chatted through the windows across the parking space between, then switched to a virtual meeting so we didn’t have to yell.

My brother and I game together regularly, at least until he lost his house and its contents to fire earlier this year. Luckily no one was injured (or even home), and eventually they will replace what they are able to. For now, we still are able to do some gaming with him on his phone. We tested (successfully) running Jackbox that way through a shared screen in discord. We have an advantage over him because he can only use have the screen for the game, but he still managed to win a few rounds.

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