December Writing Challenge Wrap-Up: Week 3

I won’t sugarcoat it—this was a challenging week to find focus amidst a rapidly churning news cycle and a lot of demands for time and attention. In that respect, the Writing Challenge has been a welcome refuge for many of us in the office (whether literally or metaphorically). Like a lot of folks, I didn’t get to write as much as I wanted, but the words of comfort, hope, insight, and positivity were just what we needed. Thank you to everyone who contributed both as lead writers and in the comments.

Keeping an Active Mind

Regardless of where you live, you’ve probably had to deal with some limitation to how you move about—from simply not coming into your typical office space, to restrictions on travel, to full-on lockdown in the home. This results in a particular kind of strain on our minds, and THWACK MVP Tom Iannelli provides a unique perspective on it in his lead article for Day 12.

From: mlotter

I remember this conversation like it was yesterday with my 97-year-old Grandpa. Two years before he passed.

Grandson: Why are you enrolled and taking classes at the community college?

Grandpa: I have a better question for you...

Grandson: What’s that?

Grandpa: Why are you not taking classes with me?

Grandson: I’m done with school, I graduated 15 years ago.

Grandpa: Let me explain something to you, do not be content or allow your mind and body to become idle. Always search new knowledge. This will keep your mind and body young.

From: EBeach

I miss the conversations around the office that would help me keep an active mind. I would walk by someone’s desk or hear over the cube wall something that is of interest. That would spark up a conversation and I would most likely learn something new or have a great technical discussion. My wife is all but technical, great at English though so helps with me writing non-technical emails to the company. With that said though I have been missing those technical conversations around the office. I try to keep meetings to a minimum since our days have become full with virtual meetings, trying to find time for these random discussions have been proven difficult in these new times, finding another source has become a necessity. Blogs here I come, when I have time, I just search for random things to keep fresh and an active mind.

From: Rick Schroeder (rschroeder)

As soon as I entered college, I realized I’d LOVE to become a professional student. I imagined taking most every class offered in all curricula, perhaps graduating with a B.A. in Elective Studies.

After four years of classes ranging through all ranges of Electronics, Geology, Philosophy, Auto Shop, Orchestra, Choir, Marketing, Business Law, Cost Accounting for Engineers, Greek History, Weight Training, Archery, First Aid, Industrial Safety, OSHA, Calculus, Astronomy, Chemistry . . . I realized I was right: I’d LOVE to become a professional student! And little did I realize that a good life requires a good brain that’s exercised and kept in shape by learning and problem solving. I honestly can’t recall the last day I didn’t learn something new. It’s what keeps me alive and engaged. I worry about retiring and becoming one of those people who seem to be just waiting to die. Afraid to spend money, keeping a dark house, never traveling. Perhaps they want to provide an inheritance for their kids or grandchildren. Or maybe give a surprise grant to their high school for $2M or more (I’ve read about that happening in my community more than once!). As for me, staying active in THWACK, in the back yard, in the boat, in my professional life, in campgrounds and wilderness, and in the lives of my children—keeping that mental stimulation going will most likely keep me going mentally until I’m unable to progress physically. And who knows? Maybe at that time there’ll be even more mental stimulation through physical hardware that hooks a brain up to the internet! Heaven help us for the viruses and hackers. And heaven help the hackers & virus writers once we have the ability—and incentives—to better identify and deal with them.

Quarantine Cuisine

Hang around with Destiny Bertucci—product manager, former Head Geek, and SolarWinds employee No. 13—for even a minute and you’ll quickly realize she doesn’t do ANYTHING halfway. So when she offered to be the lead writer for today’s prompt, I knew it was going to be an extravaganza. As you can see, her post did not disappoint.

From: tphelps01

@Dez, I do think you nailed the ice cliff! Awesome job! Great pics!

My favorite thing that I have made during this time was a Chicago Deep Dish pizza. It was fantastic each time that I made it. I bought a KitchenAid Fruit and Vegetable Strainer and made a ton of applesauce from the apples off my small tree—it made the job so easy! I dropped a bunch of it off at my bro’s house for his family and we all agree that it is the Best Applesauce Ever. I have recently bought an indoor grill and need to try that out. @Dez I could use seafood for that

From: lbeavs

@Dez your tart and cake look worthy of a Paul Hollywood handshake!! When quarantine kicked off I also threw myself into baking but was fortunate as our flour shortage didn’t take full effect until my baking bug had passed I really enjoy baking and the science that comes with it, and like everyone was also binging food shows...we started Master Chef Junior and as we worked our way through the seasons I was totally smitten with Kristina Tosi: enter the Milkbar cookbooks. It was a blast working through her sweet treats. We took a bit of a hiatus from baking but now that we’re in the midst of the holiday season, we’re back to our baking lineup! I’m looking to follow Ina’s lead and make some Linzer cookies this weekend. Thanks for such a fun post, Dez—now I want cake for breakfast!!

From: mjperkins

Wow, @Dez, those are some really great-looking treats you created. They make me hungry and remind me how I’m diabetic all at the same time! I’ll probably show my wife this post—she’s a big baking show fan—and post any fun comments. I have been interested in cooking for years, though usually more dabbling then anything really serious. As I posted elsewhere during this month’s challenge, during the coronavirus away time I have become rather serious about smoking, i.e., low and slow outdoor cooking. I have played some with chicken and turkey on the offset smoker, so now I need to find time to do my first brisket on the new play toy.

Am I on Mute? Being Heard While Remote

In today’s lead post, Kathleen captures the tension between the urge many of us have to observe things quietly from the sidelines, and the very real business (and career) imperative to make our work (and our voices) heard.

From: gfsutherland

@kwalker awesome examples. Personally, had zoom been a thing when I was in school the voice changer would definitely been used by me! It is really an art form when you can insert yourself deftly into a conversation online, easier with video because you can see people and read the room. Tips and tricks:

  1. I mute myself because I am usually typing during a meeting... nobody wants to hear that!
  2. When on camera .... watch the back lighting. I was on a call in my family room (basement) and the light from the basement window caused a senior exec to comment that I had a halo about my head... (I had a good laugh along with about 20 others) ....
  3. If you are the organizer of the meeting.... start early and terminate quickly to avoid the “hot mike” syndrome!

From: ednelgmot

I feel like I’ve learned more and installed more conferencing software applications than actual technology applications this year. Every vendor has their preferred and even internally, depending on who you work with could use skype or teams. Each has their quirks and you have to be present in order to make sure you’re in the meeting and involved.

If i had a nickel for every time I heard “Oh sorry, I was on mute” since last March, we could fund an enterprise license!

From: Mark Roberts (m_roberts)

It is strange how I have ended up spending way more time on Teams, WebEx, and many other platforms for meetings than I ever spent in meetings of any kind when in the office. Is this due to the need to schedule meetings, as you can’t just ‘pop by’ for a chat. I haven’t quite worked it out yet but reducing the number of calls and meetings I get drawn in to is something I must improve, as it is affecting my true work output.

Sweatpants Are Now Business Attire

While the prompt itself is sure to elicit a smirk, if not a chuckle (especially the “Pants, or nah?” subtitle), THWACK MVP Jake Muszynski’s message of acceptance (both for ourselves and for others is eclipsed by an incredible insight near the end: (regardless of how you choose to dress) .”..Make sure it’s not something that’s part of a bigger problem. And make sure the people you see in the little window are doing OK, too. Some of us aren’t doing OK. And it’s good to reach to others, both if you need to, and if you think they might need it. We’re all going through stuff.”

From: Kaellanon

I was in jeans and a t-shirt during work from home. Back to business casual now. I did find it important to actually get dressed, fix my hair, etc. during the work from home phase. It helps me to be in the right mindset for going to work.

From: Mark Roberts (m_roberts)

I have always been someone who will do smart casual when at work, working with colleagues, but in my role of going to client sites I could never go in anything other than business attire, whether that is suited or trousers/shirt etc. Now am working from home, when I know I have client calls, I will always put my video on and be wearing a shirt. The days, I know I won’t be in client calls, the trusty SolarWinds hoodie works just nicely—no sweatpants though! I have standards

From: jeremymayfield

It has been a bit of a shock. Men not shaving, VPs in t-shirts. Tomorrow we have a call with the CIO, which we’ll be on camera for. That means cleaning the office tonight, shaving in the morning, and wearing business attire, at least from the waist up. I have been wearing shorts, I live in Florida. I usually wear jeans though, gives me some sense of normalcy since if I ever do go back to an office, it will likely be “uh, Khakis.”

The Growing Pandemic Family

I know I should focus on some of the other thoughts Liz puts forward here, but BAAAAAAYYYYBEEEEEEEEEZZZZ!!!! We are all so excited for the newest Head Geeklette. Congratulations to Liz and Asa.

From: jeremymayfield

My wife is a teacher, so I have most of the house to myself. My 19 yr. old is well around. Between some studies and gaming she sleeps, a lot. The 2 dogs are active but are used to my routine now. I am really nervous for when I start traveling or am not at home every day. We have three cats as well and My mom stays with us. My wife’s parents will come down to Florida with us for a few months as well each winter. So the house is often full, but they respect my privacy. I installed French doors on my office, so I have the ability to close everyone out. When I do close them, it’s amazing how quiet everyone gets. I only have a single-story home so although I have lots of bedrooms, there is no basement, no upstairs for people to go to get away from me. I am static. My office could move, I mean it is a laptop, but I like my quad monitor setup and power stand-up sit-down desk.

My family grows and contracts with the seasons, but the office stays the same. One day the Covid thing will be past us, and it will be on to the next thing. I mean, we still have all the other diseases, and things which kill us, those Murd3r hornets, and things, I sometimes wonder if we are in an Austin Powers movie. If so, someone needs to tell Dr Evil he doesn’t get to win. Time to change the script.

From: EBeach

First foremost, congrats. During these times having a little animal friend is a great thing. We got a rescue 5 years ago and spending more time at home with her has been rewarding. If I have a stressful day there is nothing like taking a break on the couch and him jumping in my lap.

From: tphelps01

Congrats @lbeavs! Those are both awesome pictures!

I have two cats with very different personalities and they both are enjoying me being home. I work out early before work. My workout area is in my basement and they both usually have to come down and be by me during that time. While I work, Bobbi is always by my side, usually sleeping. I have learned that when she wants attention to give it to her—it is much easier than trying to ignore her and having to deal with her clawing and/or yelling at me until she gets the attention. My other cat moves around the house all day. She doesn’t need much attention and I love watching her play while I work. Anyway, they give me some interaction so I can make it through a day without going absolutely nuts. Too much alone time can do that!

Pets on Zoom

“What is it with pets and video calls?” begins Pete Di Stefano in the post for Day 17. And it’s not a stretch to note how many of the writing prompts this year (and even more of the comments) are somewhat pet centric. Nevertheless, Pete’s analysis of the way pets have not only helped many of us cope day-to-day with the stress of the pandemic, but also helped us learn more about our coworkers, is spot-on.

From: ednelgmot

Kind of funny, my kids say my wife went ‘Covid-crazy’. She has had a long standing “I will never ____” list which included having a pet (dog, cat, the like...). This was supported in part to my allergies. She out of the blue suggested adopting a dog over the summer, which has turned out so much better than we ever imagined. Our little Yorkie has fit right in with our family and frequently joins in on calls.

From: jeremymayfield

This is funny, my pets are famous for being on camera at the worst times. I had a call with the CIO today and two times two different Cats, then the gods got loud. I didn’t feel so bad when said, wait, I need to pause to let my dog out. HA. My wife calls them the fur babies. I call them expensive, but I would have it any other way. Total animals, 5, 3 cats, 2 dogs, total children 1. Bet I don’t have to tell you which ones are easier to train...

From: Radioteacher

Pets just make you feel better!

Finding Friendship

Faria is one of those coworkers who seems to always have something to share, something to teach, and time to listen. In the final post for this week, she taught me two things—about the Antakshari game and about considering my friendship with myself. It’s a great set of ideas to ponder as we head into the weekend.

From: Radioteacher

The wife and I are building a new house in a new neighborhood. Because of the equity in the old home I was able to bump up to a much more expensive home. While it is under construction, I am meeting my future neighbors. Mehmet and his family has the property to the South. He is a data scientist that was born in Turkey. Nilesh and his family live on the property to the North. He is a developer that works for IBM and was born in India. This part of the subdivision has only one way in and out and just long two streets and only seven homes are left to complete the build out. The little area of 90 or so homes is a melting pot of CPAs, engineers and tech professionals. So in just a few houses near me we have Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Jewish religions represented. They or their forefathers were born in Turkey, India, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Sicily, or Vietnam and they all now live in Texas. I guess they all came in search for a Fiber GB connection to the internet and not much snow. Welcome to Texas!!

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