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Writing Challenge Day 1: Connecting in a Disconnected World

Level 18

PREFACE:

To kick off this year’s Writing Challenge, I’ll address one of the most obvious, persistent, and pervasive issues we face: we’re not together. Not as coworkers; nor as friends; and not even as families beyond those who are living in our particular “COVID bubble” (which, sadly, is now a thing we say).

I chose the topic not only because it’s an unavoidable reality, but also to highlight the theme of the Writing Challenge this year: “Accentuate the Positive.”

You see, it would be easy to focus on what’s wrong. It would be equally easy to focus on how to mitigate, “hack,” or get around the problem. But neither of those approaches is the aim in this challenge. The trick this month is for us to find the silver lining—the nugget of goodness hidden behind the obvious difficulties—and to amplify it. By accentuating the positive in each writing prompt, I hope to chart a path through the problems we face and emerge stronger and better for it.

With all of that laid out, here is my contribution to the 2020 December Writing Challenge:

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It’s ironic how getting what we thought we wanted taught us how much we needed things we thought we were better off without.

Bored by idle chitchat, we wished everyone would focus on topics of global importance.

Uncomfortable with social gatherings, we craved solitude.

Overwhelmed by family obligations, we prayed for a convenient, guilt-free excuse. Distracted by constant interruptions, we bargained and even begged for work-from-home options... and so on.

It barely requires explanation the way in which those desires have been fulfilled, and the horrible, almost ironic, price we paid (and continue to pay) for it.

In the irony and horror, it’s easy to miss what was gained: unanticipated perspectives and unforeseen appreciations:

Asking “How are you?” and truly wanting to know;
...and actively listening for (and to) the response.

Making space in our day for “idle chit chat”—unassuming conversation about unimportant things;
...and cherishing the chance to put aside the burdensome weight of the world and lose ourselves in a moment of mundanity.

Reconnecting with nature and the physical world, far from crowds and spectacles;
...and rediscovering the simple miracles which continue to occur all around us.

Becoming reacquainted with quiet and solitude—either in our homes or in our heads;
...and relearning every thought need not be spoken aloud, nor every second filled with sound.

Praying without the hustle and bustle and pomp of the sanctuary and the service;
...and looking for (and even forward to) moments to connect to the Divinity both around us and inside us.

Maybe you haven’t found all of these, but I’m ready to bet you’ve experienced at least some. Now, nobody—least of all me—is implying those small sparks of light are worth the darkness currently in the world. But if you’ve experienced them, then failing to acknowledge them would make it all much sadder. Wasteful. Even tragic.

I’m inviting you to put down your mouse, close your screen, sit back for a moment, and see if (and how) those things have changed you. And then share with us in the comments below.

27 Comments
Level 14

Since March I've lived life on both sides of the river. Each side is marked by long and short duration stays. The "normal" side is hardly normal, an office often barren of my colleagues and empty parking spaces. Yet despite all of this there is a welcome and peaceful quiet that I have come to appreciate. Gone are the drive by "can you do me a favor" moments, conversations I do have in person are genuine and real given the circumstances of this era in history.

At home, it has been a special time. My wife worked in a before and after school program and suddenly was not working. No matter, when I worked remote, we had lunch together every day something that had only happened a handful of time in my career. We would take a walk when I finished for the day. Most of all, it made me appreciate what I do have and what I can do. Interesting.... yes! Scary.... of course! Strangely I wouldn't change it. I am a better person for the experience.

 

Level 9

Of the few good things to come from this for me is a return to full time WFH.  I changed positions in the last year and my previous full time WFH time was reduced to a single day per week.  The new company was hesitant on full time remote employees for FUD reasons involving productivity and inability to manage remote staff.  Fortunately as a result of this mandatory shift not only are we not seeing the feared productivity drops, we have less staff doing more work and doing it in a timely and communicative fashion.  Even the Sr management is seeing the benefits and enjoying this experience of WFH.  This is something that has changed the culture of my organization for the better. 

MVP
MVP

@adatole - Good one.

Well there is always 2 sides of a coin. 

With respect to work i am doing just fine, i have much more time on my plate now and i can spend additional hours. 

I do not go out, i hardly meet people, no commute, i find time for myself, cycling for an hr on daily basis.

Its kinda me myself and my desk.

Worst part is i haven't seen my family in months.

There is not much that can be done for now, but then you feel weird at times hmm and that's how life is and sometimes we gotta accept it the way it is.

 

Level 11

There have been a lot of pros and cons to all of this.  Some of my positives are

  • I am very lucky to be able to work from home
  • my company has been very awesome with us working from home and providing us with many things so that we can 
  • I get to see the outdoors all day long
  • I do get dressed everyday but I can wear much more comfortable clothes
  • I am in charge of the thermostat and lighting,
  • I was able to care for my very sick cat
  • I walk to make sure I stay active and I get to socially distance chat with my neighbors and have learned a lot more about them

A future positive is that I won't have to get up early to clear my driveway of snow and I will get to decide when I want to clear the snow.  

Level 12

Connecting in a Disconnected World is not just from a technical aspect. I find being disconnected from human contact is the largest challenges companies face. I get more requests from end users regarding emotional daily struggles from working from home than technical ones.

Sure, everyone can connect without issues from the technical side, but the technical side now influences and controls our psychological side. Video conferencing software has taken over for psychical human contact.

But is this enough for everyone?

No, a simple hello as you pass someone in the hall or while you’re waiting for your next coffee to brew in the breakroom is missed from our daily lives.

Will we become so socially disconnected that we won’t be able to interact in a physically connected society?

Yes, I find that the younger workers were already glued to their cell phones, iPads, and laptops just waiting for that next email to appear in their inboxes. After COVID, I feel it will be worse.

Will technology rule and take over our lives?

Yes, technology has taken place for human contact.  

What is to come of the next generation that hasn’t had physical contact or have been socialized with others?

They won’t have the necessary social skills to interact with others with personal contact.

The positives of this are:

I get to work from home and be with my aging dog.

I have the equipment that I need.

I  have a rotating schedule.

I stay active throughout the day.

I get to be outside as little or as much as I want to.

It all works for me but it is not for everyone. 

 

The transition to working from home was not difficult as I am always working from home.   I live in Florida and my home office is in Atlanta.   I think one of the best parts is the connection with family.  Although some feel lonely and distant since we can not all be together, its amazing how much more we all talk and check in.  Now more than ever.   I lost my brother earlier this year due to the complications of Covid-19 yet my family has kept its spirits high, remembering we have a life to lead and good to do.   My Brother lived, he served, he worshiped, and loved.   All of those should be celebrated not mourned.  

I believe this year has brought to light a new understanding for some to not look so inward but more outward and upward.   I encourage you to keep you eyes looking to heaven, and continue to do the good the world needs.  Be political, be technical, be prepared, be thankful, but be good about it. Enjoy the time you have now, because we may never have time like this again.

Community Manager
Community Manager

While many of my more surface-level relationships have faded over the 9+ months of social distancing, Covid has brought a unique opportunity for me to revive some of the connections that I forgot to tend to during the busy day-to-day of pre-Covid life. 

Having moved around the country a bit, I have a couple friend groups from different states. Before Covid, none of us ever took the time for a phone call (#millennials), let alone a video chat, so relationships would naturally fall on the backburner every time I moved away. Now that Zoom has become a way of life, it's much easier to hop on and have a virtual chat, game night, or happy hour with friends who are near or far.

In the early days of Covid, in response to the abrupt shock of feeling so disconnected, I started a virtual book club that was open to all of my friends, regardless of where they live. We've been meeting every month for the past 8 months and this month, one of the book club members suggested we have a virtual happy hour after our book club -- I realized in that moment that somehow, amid a world that feels like it's falling apart, this group has brought together new connections & friendships that would never have happened if we were not all forced to expand our ways of connecting with each other. Also, selfishly, I love that my groups are coming together and can't wait to plan an epic girls trip once traveling is back on the table. 💃

To echo your statement, Leon, these newfound connections do not outweigh the darkness we're currently in... but it does make the journey a bit more bearable. 

Level 11

Spending time at home through the pandemic, whether as "on call" or WFH has allowed me to do some things I might not have done otherwise. Since my wife is WFH full-time, I get to see her more. The usual dinnertime "How was your day" comes more stream-of-consciousness, since she doesn't have to wait to share funny things that arise. During one call she took, spending 90 minutes with someone who had trouble telling the difference between a Google search and her employer's website, I kept sympathizing in ways she could see while on the call, including at one point writing and holding up a sign that read "PATIENCE OF JOB". Without our respective commutes, we have also gone out for more walks together. It's the most I've been out walking since I left my old commute-by-foot job four years ago.

The flexibility of time at home also allowed me to play more with my smoking (no, not tobacco -- more like Franklin BBQ) hobby ... and for my wife to start getting curious and looking up videos on the subject. This culminated in the newest addition to our place: one quarter-inch thick steel offset smoker we are both happy to have.

Level 10

Interesting times indeed. I'm enjoying being able to work from home and see the family each day. Never would imagine I would have this opportunity and I hope some of it continues on even after the fact.

I do lose the personal interaction with some co-workers (not all of them haha) and try to remember we have tools to assist with this.

Remembering to be social and asking the, how are you / what's new questions. Didn't realize how easy it is to forget these when most interaction is done remotely.

Saving time on commuting, less $ on gas and wear and tear on the car. extra time with the family and sometimes last minute work calls.

Reason to invest in a nice desk and chair for working from home that can be used for gaming now too! 

 

MVP
MVP

My first thought when reading this was the increased quality time spent with family. With my children off school and needing to support them in keeping occupied and maintain the engagement in learning, meant I myself was spending more time with them in these activities. Where help previously was more sporadic, where homework guidance was needed from time to time, being off school for several weeks resulted in me being a teacher, seeing more of the work they were being set by school and being able to have conversations that lasted an hour or more because of the subject exposure.

 

Level 9

Working in the k-12 space our jobs changed overnight. My life was flipped upside down. Having to support students and staff 100% from home when we only had to deal with our isolated bubble within the school. The flip side to that is, now my personnel life turned into a bubble with the family. 

From the work side it was a very hard first 6 months getting the technology in place for staff and students, but once we worked out the processes and got in a flow, we started to feel some normalcy. Our landscape is always changing in technology and in Education, we just took that approach and got the job done.

At home in our new bubble, things could not have been better. Our family of six that normally feels stretched thin with all of the extracurricular activates, found ourselves just enjoying time together as a family like never before.  Our family has made a few commitments to each make time each week for each other to keep some of that alive. For us COVID was exactly what we needed to drive our bond deeper. 

Level 10

Covid was an odd thing here in South Carolina. We didn't have as much lock down as other parts of the country and what we did have didn't last as long. It still had it's effect on all of us though.

My wife lost her job because we no longer had child care and her employer couldn't do work from home.

I had to switch to work from home and set up a temp office in our spare/storage room.

Churches closed, stores cut hours, restaurants went under.

But in all this there were blessings:

My wife got the federal unemployment benefit which actually ended up paying more than twice as much as her part time job.

I got to spend more time at home with my family.

We saved money on gas, fast food, and extra shopping.

Church was online, but we grew closer to each other through isolation.

 

While Covid was a mad and terrifying thing, it did not come near us and for that I thank God.

Level 11

Being in IT I feel we are luckier then most. Moving to WFH was very easy especially since we already did it once a week. For others I can understand that the move can be very difficult while for some that move is impossible and now their life's are in danger everyday. This new life has shown how important family is and the time that you spend with them. I have also spent this time analyzing my current situation as well as what is important. I have been able to make some adjustments to our way of life and life it to the fullest. 

I hate using the phone. I really like talking to a person face-to-face. In a WFH situation I have to use the phone a lot more and my comfort level with it is getting better. This isn't to say that once I get on the phone with someone I won't talk to them for hours, but it is or was the start of the call I couldn't get over. Now with everyone doing video calls, I am ALL OVER THAT! I love seeing folks and talking. Not that it makes up my whole day, but there is a lot more of it.

My wife comes from a really large family and so I purchased a Zoom yearly subscription so we can host calls at the drop of a hat. We were doing calls every Sunday for a few months, now it is every other one. It lasts about 2 hours and I have it set up for her on the TV with a web cam on a tripod, ring light, and green screen. Every call is a different background.

With my family I see my Dad and Step Mom the other weekends and we play games and get dinner. We each have food delivered about the same time - they eat late we eat early. It lasts about 4 hours. The games we play are EXIT games where we all work together to solve the riddles. We purchased all the games online and had copies sent to them in NJ. We used to talk for hours on the phone at least once a month. Now we get to see them. I do really need to get them some better lighting equipment at some point.

We missed out on a few things that I hope will return next year. The Minnesota SWUG and Ren Faire being a big one. Annual visits from our Niece and "the girls", and playing Bocce Ball every Tuesday night! I mean I didn't even groom or prep the court this year.

In completely different vein, we are fortunate enough to not have needed the US stimulus funds. So we gave it all away to various charities. We also have spent time and money making things for family members to assist in their efforts on the frontlines of the pandemic response. This historically bad event does present unique opportunities for philanthropy and charity. So many are in need of food, funds to stay in their homes, and even if they can stay in their homes paying for utilities. For those of us saving money because the commute, expensive coffees, and eating out for lunch and dinner are all gone - the present circumstance gives us unique opportunities to help others in need. Making monetary donations to your food banks, public radio and TV stations, local theaters, homeless shelters, etc. can go a long way. We have been giving more than usual to all of these organizations.

It is too easy to overlook that many of them have missed out on the huge gathering fund raisers that helped keep them going. If you can't have your booth at the Iowa State Fair because it got cancelled or hold your annual Mardi Gras Gala because gatherings are forbidden, then your operating funds are dramatically reduced.

My wife and I a very grateful that for now we have the means to pay it forward.

When COVID-19 sent most of our company's 650 IT Department specialists (System Admins, Biomed Techs, Apps Analysts, Security Analysts, Network Analysts, Database Admins, etc.) home for isolation at the end of February 2020, we wondered how we'd get the job done.  We were each accustomed to dropping by someone's cube without warning to ask a question, tell a joke, share a bit of candy, take a break and ask how they & their family are doing.  Or just smile & wave.

That was gone, but the work still needed.  And we made it work!

MS Teams became an even bigger part of life.  Link & Skype remained on the way out as we moved deeper into Teams, and Zoom started to be a thing.  And even though Zoom had poor reliability and rotten security at the start, it became the generic alternative to GoToMeetings and the rest of the bunch of remote meeting apps.

We each found that the parking problems we'd formerly groused about at work had gone.  Well, of course--we now parked in our own garages & driveways at home.  The face time we'd enjoyed was gone, however.  And so was the serendipity of hearing something going on in the cube across the way, where you might listen to a complaint and realize you could fix it immediately.  Or realize you'd just caused it!  Gone are those opportunities.

But it was replaced with dedication to sharing the knowledge with the right target audiences, at the right time.

Some of us were furloughed initially, with hopes of being called back up in a month or two.  Others were permanently released then, or after three months of watching $80M/month in corporate revenue being lost due to COVID-19 keeping customers at home, away from our business.

One day in late May we saw 900 doctors, nurses, IT Professionals, managers, directors, custodial staff, and more--lose their jobs permanently.  I was in that group.  And I wasn't ashamed--I was in good company.  People of all positions, all ages, and all degrees of corporate longevity were treated equally to an apologetic meeting, each with their manager and director, each being explained they were needed, but that the money wasn't there to keep them on.

Working in a hospital system, and seeing health care professionals and those who support them, being let go yourself . . . it's hard.

Some of us retired.  Some looked for other opportunities and were forced to move away.  Some saw their way into depression and worse--helped by being disconnected, each into their own COVID bubble for safety's sake.  

Each day I look for 100% remote Network positions where I can provide a great time my knowledge as an SME for L1, L2, L3 networking and Solarwinds Monitoring solutions.  Luckily, I stay connected with friends and family and former coworkers via cell or text or social media.  And my wife's job has stayed in place, so health coverage for our family simply shifted from my employer to hers.  

And yet, it hasn't been all negative.  Me, personally . . . why, I built a new 250' driveway loop that connected my existing driveway to the highway in a second spot, so I have an island of trees that it goes around.  It enables me to back our 5th wheel camper back up the hill, right next to the house.  The fifth wheel camper, and its pickup truck, I bought the week before COVID send us home.  The driveway I finished the day before I lost my job.  So, camping & home improvements, renting skid steers and hauling 300 cubic yards of Class 5 gravel for a parking pad extension on the hill for our camper.  Moving a shed.  Cutting a LOT of trees down, and sawing them up to fireplace length & stacking for drying.  Some wonderful extended camping adventures, including a 16-day trip to Tennessee as we extended our fall leaf color enjoyment--arriving back after missing 14" of snowfall at home, just in time for a nice thaw in which I could winterize the camper and put it in storage.  And this winter I'm working on in-home projects when the weather outside's a bit too cold (at least until the water hardens up thick--then I'll be spending some time ice fishing on Minnesota's frozen lakes).

One unusual observation: I haven't been sick at all, in any way, since moving to work at home last February.  It's been a pleasure not being sick even once in the last nine months (especially when I'd probably have been sick at least three times for a week or more in that time). I chalk it up to either a mold problem in my office, or sharing office space with coworkers who were bringing their children's colds with them to work.  Or both.  

And now December is upon us.  The dark of winter can tend to increase that feeling of hopelessness and loss and disappointment of being unemployed.  This is when friends & family help make the time and the dark bearable. 

And Thwack makes me smile now and again, and in today's isolated times, a smile is gold.  Thank you all for that.

Keep me in mind if you find you have need for a remote network person who'll get your Solarwinds on track!

 

Swift Packets!

Rick Schroeder

In the Little Red House

In the Saginaw Wood

Community Manager
Community Manager

Once we were asked to work from home, I make every effort to use my camera on calls.  It's a small gesture in staying connected while (silently) encouraging others to do the same.  Like Leon said earlier, when I ask people now "How is it going?" I'm actually interested.  It doesn't include the accompanying chin-point that I used to give people when passing in the halls.  I really, really want to know how you are doing.

Everyone is handling this sense of isolation differently and those that are excelling have found ways to flourish by embracing parts of themselves they may not have known existed prior.  For me, that's at least one good thing that has come from 2020.

Level 7

Having been deemed essential, and in the field mostly, I find myself often alone in buildings doing server work and edge device maintenance. I make every effort to stay positive and engaged with my counterparts and customers through facetime or zoom as much as possible and when ever necessary break out the gallows humor. On a side note I was recently working UPS detail in a large building of 20 floors, completely empty, going around the office in the dark I noticed all the calendars were still on March, it was a chilling feeling almost like walking through the exclusion zone. I pulled my mask a little bit closer and got back to my battery detail.

Level 11

Since the new normal, i've had 9 months of WFH.  This has come with both good and bad, good is that I am home a lot more than previously, as I work in another country to what I live.  Bad is, that i'm also home a lot more.  It's a double edged sword.  WFH sounds brilliant, but with 3 little ones around, it's often a juggling act, especially when they've been unable to attend school.

If anything this has proven to many businesses, that having a presence in the office, or even the building isn't really required all that much, as people can and will work just as hard when in a different location.  Although this was proven in many studies of motivation (Maslow etc), perhaps now businesses will realise they are the ones that need to adapt and change.

Will we ever return to what was before, i'm not sure we will, and the way we as a parasitic life form will continue to push the envelope, I suspect the new norm, will become our future.  We need to change as an entity to ensure the continued existence of our species, and the planet as a whole.  However whilst we're being driven by political forces with agendas suiting their own needs, we will not, and cannot maintain our existence.

Great opening @adatole!

For the denizens of Castle Marsh (family nickname for my home, while I am an Englishman, my home is not actually a castle!), 2020 has been a year of celebration and disappointment. 

On the plus side, it was my wife and I's 10th wedding anniversary, and her 40th birthday (we don't talk about the number, apparently!).

On the negative side, all the celebrations we had planned had to be cancelled. This included a "his and her's" blacksmithing weekend, where we would have forged a new set of Damascus steel wedding bands (@kmsigma would have been jelly!), as well as a four day break to Centre Parc's Winter Wonderland in Longleat Forrest.

That said, I'm a optimist. Nobody in my family has contracted COVID, we're all healthy, and Santa already has a list of what the kids want (I have been reliably informed that his elves have already fulfilled their requests, after Santa confirmed them on the Good List..). My company has had two prosperous years on the bounce, COVID be darned!

Stay safe and healthy this festive season, all, and wear a mask! 😷

MVP
MVP

Wise words as usual, we have adapted and changed to suit our environment and the situation we find ourselves in.

I appreciate the moments and take nothing for granted and find joy in the less complex parts of life.

You are right about the idle chit chat, is there such a thing as idle chit chat anymore? It is all valuable now.

I have a new appreciation of silence. Maybe life was too busy?

Level 13

It's lovely to sit back and reflect on the positives that have come out of this year. One of the best things to come out of this tumultuous year has been perspective for me. With the many challenges continuing to stack throughout the year, I found myself comparing them to one another... like yeah this was bad, but is it as bad as a global pandemic? nah... I find myself looking for the silver lining in every situation where I may not have done before. I have been forced to get to know myself better by being alone A LOT. I have had the opportunity to have some truly emotionally challenging conversations with my son, which teach me as much as they do him. I have acquired more patience and understanding for myself as well as for others. I can only hope that I can hold on to this perspective and continue to use it to put more good into the world. We can all use more good.  

Level 18

Hey @Radioteacher I just noticed your keyboard. Please note my current setup:

PXL_20201202_182712633.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My question is how you're connecting it to modern PC equipment. Mine is the Sun 5c with a mini-DIN connector. I have carried this around with me for years as I love, Love, LOVE the responsiveness. Not super clacky like the IBM AT  keyboards, but still enough play to let me know I'm typing. BUT... I couldn't use it for the longest time.

I finally splurged and got this adapter, and I've been so happy with it (and the keyboard) since then.

https://www.vpi.us/usb-to-ps2-sun/usb-sun-adapter-1535

MVP
MVP

The changes have been large and mostly not all good.  I haven't missed a single day of work because the type of work I do is considered "essential services."  In the early days when lockdowns first started I even carried around in my car a letter that said it was ok for me to be driving around to and from work.  The number of my companies employees working from home went from less than 10% to over 70%.  The big drawback to this is the few of us that work in the building everyday, due to working on networks not attached to the internet, have more to do now since so many can't touch anything from home.  I got my first virus test this week.  I've learned a lot about masks.  The biggest concern I've had is worrying about accidentally infecting my parents.  I still go visit them often as I'm pretty much totally in a bubble minus the people I work with (also in a bubble) and going to the grocery store (probably the biggest risk).

I'm ready to be first in line to get vaccinated minus the oldest and sickest first.  Totally done with this virus and mask wearing for which the only research I've read actually says don't work unless they're N95 and even then aren't 100%.  I have some 3M N95 masks and they aren't fun to wear.

MVP
MVP

It has been interesting working from home - but I now appreciate some things more.

The drive home used to be a good decompress that I no longer have, even though I hated the drive.

But the other part is that its really hard to disconnect and almost becomes "Living at Work" so you can't ever escape. Which makes learning to disconnect is even more important. 

 

Level 10

Since this all changed I have been working from home and have learned to appreciate the extra time that is allows to spend with my immediate family even if these are almost the only people I've seen for large portions of time. When we were all in lockdown I learned to appreciate being able to go outdoors for a simple walk with the children and that they even choose to do this over going places such as soft plays. When we got more freedom back, work places opened up and shops opened their doors the bonus was the paths in the local nature reserve were quieter and gives the kids even more space and freedom to run around and explore.

Almost 9 month on and when I ask what the kids want they want to do, they will often reply 'go for a walk'. On the same paths in the same nature reserve but they will always find somewhere new to explore or a new game to play or a new conversation to have while walking.

Level 8

This has been a unique challenge for me.  I've worked from home for 2-3 years now, for a company I've worked for for almost 18 years.  Many of my coworkers were people I had work in person with over the years.  Also, my wife also worked from home for the same company, so we shared an office.  Really, not much different than working in an office with coworkers.

Then, I was furloughed in April, laid off in July.  My wife was not.

I'm back to work again, 100% WFH.  So, now I'm learning to interact with people I've never met before, and my wife and I had to seperate ourselves, since it's not as convenient for the two of us to share an office.  So, now I'm truly WFH with no real personal interaction throughout the day.  It's been an adjustment, but thankfully, at least being used to WFH has made the transition easier, but it's still a sort of disconnection from coworkers that I'm learning to adapt to.

Level 9

I've enjoyed the cutdown of fluff from idle chit chat. It's no longer idle since now the chit chat becomes a genuine reaching out, as we would actively make time for it. I found when I'm overwhelmed, I can message someone for a quick mental "recess" and they'll share that they appreciate it as well.

For connecting in a disconnected world, it's also been interesting that I've started to connect with some college mates who I haven't talked to in a long time, which grew as more and more peers were added to our "sanity check" video chats. Never would I have imagined this scenario that would bring us all back together, but I've been thankful being able to spend virtual time with old friends.

About the Author
In my sordid career, I have been an actor, bug exterminator and wild-animal remover (nothing crazy like pumas or wildebeasts. Just skunks and raccoons.), electrician, carpenter, stage-combat instructor, American Sign Language interpreter, and Sunday school teacher. Oh, and I work with computers. Since 1989 (when you got a free copy of Windows 286 on twelve 5¼” floppies when you bought a copy of Excel 1.0) I have worked as a classroom instructor, courseware designer, desktop support tech, server support engineer, and software distribution expert. Then about 14 years ago I got involved with systems monitoring. I've worked with a wide range of tools: Tivoli, Nagios, Patrol, ZenOss, OpenView, SiteScope, and of course SolarWinds. I've designed solutions for companies that were extremely modest (~10 systems) to those that were mind-bogglingly large (250,000 systems in 5,000 locations). During that time, I've had to chance to learn about monitoring all types of systems – routers, switches, load-balancers, and SAN fabric as well as windows, linux, and unix servers running on physical and virtual platforms.