|Jack Ganssle's Blog
This is Jack's outlet for thoughts about designing and programming embedded systems. It's a complement to my bi-weekly newsletter The Embedded Muse. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm an old-timer engineer who still finds the field endlessly fascinating (bio).
|For novel ideas about building embedded systems (both hardware and firmware), join the 40,000+ engineers who subscribe to The Embedded Muse, a free biweekly newsletter. The Muse has no hype and no vendor PR. Click here to subscribe.
Life in the Time of Coronavirus
March 23, 2020
Gabriel García Márquez's great novel Love in the Time of Cholera inspired the title of this post.
Much has been written about Covid-19 though I'm having trouble finding much basic science about the virus. It's apparently an RNA virus comprising 30k base pairs, which is pretty fascinating. I have nothing to add other than personal observations.
Marybeth and I are mostly hunkered down at home in Finksburg, Maryland. As of this writing the governor has not imposed a stay-at-home order, but many businesses are closed. We did go out for a new battery for the tractor this morning as I have a huge load of logs I'm breaking down for firewood. If we'd been ordered home I would have let the tractor stand idle, but absent that it's hard to know how much of life to suspend.
Grocery shelves here are bare. We visited our local shop late last week and there was no meat (exactly none), no paper products and nearly no vegetables and fruit. (I don't eat fruit as an orange, say, is messy. A cookie is the perfect food as you can eat it while working without making the keyboard sticky).
I have been sporadically going to the boat, which is currently on land in Pasadena, where we're doing a big refit. This time of year there's nobody there so I feel this is social distancing. But the season will start up soon and I remain unsure how to deal with this going forward. Some Maryland marinas are closing so I anticipate not much of a sailing season, hardly a tragedy but disappointing. This will be a blow to the State's economy as the Chesapeake Bay is one of Maryland's big attractions. (If you've never had a Maryland crab feast, you've missed one of life's great delights. There are four ingredients: blue crabs, Old Bay seasoning, beer and friends).
One of our kids is working from his home and doing well. The other two are now out of work; one, in San Diego, is under California's lock-down order.
We're both in the vulnerable over-65 age range but are reasonably healthy and I think that we'll be fine as we're taking suggested precautions. I've canceled all of my travel (I was supposed to be in Europe this week, and just three weeks ago we returned from Australia). My daughter told me today she could get a round trip ticket from Louisiana to visit us for $35(!), but I cautioned her against it.
Interlude: While writing this Marybeth snagged me as our governor was giving a presser. He just closed all non-essential businesses. I think that's a good idea as social distancing does strike me as the most powerful weapon we have to use against this virus. He also indicated that, though he won't issue a shelter-in-pace order, he's requiring/requesting/demanding (it isn't clear to me) that we all stay home starting at 5:00 this (Monday) evening. Again, not unreasonable. So we ran out, got some cash (always have cash on hand in an emergency), got some groceries for my parents who are in their 90s, and delivered those to them in their locked-down assisted living facility. I had a box of surgical masks for woodworking which we dropped off at Carroll County hospital.
We're staying home for the duration. I know how fortunate we are to be able to afford this. So many can't. I'm so thankful for those who are working to keep us fed, to tend to the sick, those who keep the power on, and so many more. I dislike the word "hero" as it gets applied to far too many today, but keeping the country going, often a great personal risk, is pretty heroic.
There's plenty to do here. I have numerous projects and am studying biochemistry. Our stack of unread books is high. Marybeth is always happily occupied with her many crafting projects. Netflix stopped working for us last night, presumably from high demand, but that's hardly a hardship!
When it comes to the politics of all this I remain ticked off. Not being a Trump fan (and I also couldn't stand Hillary) I'm unimpressed with the fed's response. As I write this Congress is debating a massive response measuring in the trillions of dollars. Those sorts of numbers terrify me as I have long felt the nation's debt is a looming disaster that will destroy my children's future. The fact that we ran a trillion-dollar deficit in a booming economy last year is, to me somewhere between insane and suicidal. However, I'm not smart enough to know if this virus bailout is wise, a mistake, too big or too small.
Anecdotal tales suggest that many are helping each other. People are delivering food to the elderly. We planned to donate blood but all of the local Red Cross facilities are completely booked for at least the next ten days. People seem to be stepping up.
Will this emergency be bad… or will it be a catastrophe? I have no idea. But it seems wise to listen to the advice we're getting. Wash your hands. Stay home if you can. Keep two meters of distance if you can't. Help others if possible.
And be kind.
How are you faring?
Feel free to email me with comments.
Back to Jack's blog index page.
If you'd like to post a comment without logging in, click in the "Name" box under "Or sign up with Disqus" and click on "I'd rather post as a guest."
Recent blog postings:
- A Canticle for Leibowitz - One of my favorite books.
- A 72123 beats per minute heart rate - Is it possible?
- Networking Did Not Start With The IoT! - Despite what the marketing folks claim
- In-Circuit Emulators - Does anyone remember ICEs?
- My GP-8E Computer - About my first (working!) computer
- Humility - On The Death of Expertise and what this means for engineering
- On Checklists - Relying on memory is a fool's errand. Effective people use checklists.
- Why Does Software Cost So Much? - An exploration of this nagging question.
- Is the Future All Linux and Raspberry Pi? - Will we stop slinging bits and diddling registers?
- Will Coronavirus Spell the End of Open Offices - How can we continue to work in these sorts of conditions?
- Problems in Ramping Up Ventilator Production - It's not as easy as some think.
- Lessons from a Failure - what we can learn when a car wash goes wrong.
- Life in the Time of Coronavirus - how are you faring?
- Superintelligence - A review of Nick Bostrom's book on AI.
- A Lack of Forethought - Y2K redux
- How Projects Get Out of Control - Think requirements churn is only for software?
- 2019's Most Important Lesson. The 737 Max disasters should teach us one lesson.
- On Retiring - It's not quite that time, but slowing down makes sense. For me.
- On Discipline - The one thing I think many teams need...
- Data Seems to Have No Value - At least, that's the way people treat it.
- Apollo 11 and Navigation - In 1969 the astronauts used a sextant. Some of us still do.
- Definitions Part 2 - More fun definitions of embedded systems terms.
- Definitions - A list of (funny) definitions of embedded systems terms.
- On Meta-Politics - Where has thoughtful discourse gone?
- Millennials and Tools - It seems that many millennials are unable to fix anything.
- Crappy Tech Journalism - The trade press is suffering from so much cost-cutting that it does a poor job of educating engineers.
- Tech and Us - I worry that our technology is more than our human nature can manage.
- On Cataracts - Cataract surgery isn't as awful as it sounds.
- Can AI Replace Firmware - A thought: instead of writing code, is the future training AIs?
- Customer non-Support - How to tick off your customers in one easy lesson.
- Learn to Code in 3 Weeks! - Firmware is not simply about coding.
- We Shoot For The Moon - a new and interesting book about the Apollo moon program.
- On Expert Witness Work - Expert work is fascinating but can be quite the hassle.
- Married To The Team - Working in a team is a lot like marriage.
- Will We Ever Get Quantum Computers - Despite the hype, some feel quantum computing may never be practical.
- Apollo 11, The Movie - A review of a great new movie.
- Goto Considered Necessary - Edsger Dijkstra recants on his seminal paper
- GPS Will Fail - In April GPS will have its own Y2K problem. Unbelievable.
- LIDAR in Cars - Really? - Maybe there are better ideas.
- Why Did You Become an Engineer? - This is the best career ever.
- Software Process Improvement for Firmware - What goes on in an SPI audit?
- 50 Years of Ham Radio - 2019 marks 50 years of ham radio for me.
- Medical Device Lawsuits - They're on the rise, and firmware is part of the problem.
- A retrospective on 2018 - My marketing data for 2018, including web traffic and TEM information.
- Remembering Circuit Theory - Electronics is fun, and reviewing a textbook is pretty interesting.
- R vs D - Too many of us conflate research and development
- Engineer or Scientist? - Which are you? John Q. Public has a hard time telling the difference.
- A New, Low-Tech, Use for Computers - I never would have imagined this use for computers.
- NASA's Lost Software Engineering Lessons - Lessons learned, lessons lost.
- The Cost of Firmware - A Scary Story! - A hallowean story to terrify.
- A Review of First Man, the Movie - The book was great. The movie? Nope.
- A Review of The Overstory - One of the most remarkable novels I've read in a long time.
- What I Learned About Successful Consulting - Lessons learned about successful consulting.
- Low Power Mischief - Ultra-low power systems are trickier to design than most realize.
- Thoughts on Firmware Seminars - Better Firmware Faster resonates with a lot of people.
- On Evil - The Internet has brought the worst out in many.
- My Toothbrush has Modes - What! A lousy toothbrush has a UI?
- Review of SUNBURST and LUMINARY: An Apollo Memoir - A good book about the LM's code.
- Fun With Transmission Lines - Generating a step with no electronics.
- On N-Version Programming - Can we improve reliability through redundancy? Maybe not.
- On USB v. Bench Scopes - USB scopes are nice, but I'll stick with bench models.