Subject: four questions, May 3
Date: 5/04/2020 01:42:42 PM To: planworld Bcc:

  1. What did I do today?

Coffee, yogurt, granola and banana for video brunch with friends. Did the laundry, and went to the garden, where we thinned out our kale plants, and harvested more snap peas and spinach from one of the neighboring beds than we know what to do with. Had a late dinner of grilled cheese (and fresh spinach) and quinoa chickpea salad.

A pile of cleaned spinach.Two bowls of snap peas.

  1. What did I enjoy?

Seeing friendly faces. Pulling snap peas from the community garden. Watching videos on WhatsApp of Jamie's 16 month old nephew -- who lives a short bike ride / infinitely far away.

  1. What did I find difficult?

Writing letters to the Berkeley administration and still getting pretty upset over the lack of respect in this institution that I care about.

  1. What has changed?

The tedious task of cleaning has taken on a different meaning. It has higher stakes; I'm cleaning everything more frequently; it feels more satisfying and regular even as it's also more time-consuming.

Subject: four questions, April 21
Date: 4/21/2020 11:53:02 PM Cc: planworld Bcc:

  1. What did I do today?

Emails, a Zoom call on local transit advocacy, more emails. Looked at New York Times recipes for simple delicious-looking things. Cooked eggs and homefries lunch, and picked up dinner (and tomorrow's dinner) at the one-man soul-food place down the street. Talked with Jamie and watched TV.

  1. What did I enjoy?

Empanadas, beer-battered french fries, fried plaintains from Boricua Soul. Deep frying is amazing.

  1. What did I find difficult?

I feel at a loss about what my role is, or even exactly what I want it to be. How can I help? Is what I'm doing useful or not? What do I want to be doing? Why am I not better at what I'm trying to do and why am I choosing those things to try to do?

  1. What has changed?

My mood is so unpredictable. Each day still feels a little random, though I'm on slightly steadier footing. But even within days, my mood can be dramatically different from morning to night. I think I just have to accept that this is how it is for now, and not read to much into feeling aimless or into feeling refreshed. This too shall pass, and all that.

Oh, and I have less hair now. I kinda like it. I think I missed feeling a little weird.

Me, pretty much bald, smiling about it. Labels: diary, covid, 4qs

Subject: four questions, April 16
Date: 4/16/2020 11:48:01 PM Bcc: planworld,

Answering the same four questions to record the sense of these unusual times.

  1. What did I do today?

Woke up, but was slow to get out of bed (looked at the news) and didn't grind the coffee until just before the noon teleconference (Web privacy). I had breakfast and got dressed and ready before the afternoon webinar (COVID-19, contact tracing and privacy). Made a diagram of when Durham political officials made different orders and when Google mobility data shows more isolation. Made two lunches because the first lunch was so delicious (grilled cheese with spinach and avocado; hashbrowns and fried eggs). Took a long walk along the American Tobacco Trail and past Forest Hills Park and Orchard Park and talked to a friend on the phone, which apparently works even when wearing a mask. Attended a Bike Durham meeting (Zoom) and the tail end of WordHack (Twitch). Popcorn and cookies for dinner.

  1. What did I enjoy?

The weather was just right for a nice walk, and the birds and flowers are both out in force and easily take up my granular attention.

  1. What did I find difficult?

Even when the news doesn't overwhelm me with a sense of doom, it's often enough of a distraction that I don't get to the things on my list that I wanted to do (writing a letter, reviewing a pull request, emailing my notes on contact tracing), when there are meetings and meals and such in between. I'm frustrated.

  1. What has changed?

I attend webinars now, voluntarily. I don't even roll my eyes at the prospect (maybe I do a little afterwards), I'm just happy to have the information and see people. Webinars aren't the most engaging way to communicate, but I'm also coming to realize that they're not the least.

Being far away (from friends or events) is less of a comparative disadvantage. When I'm visiting New York, I always try to attend WordHack and I always lament that the city I live in doesn't have this robust tech-poetry-art scene, but now it actually seems possible that I get some of the same engagement with crazy ideas without actually being in the largest city in the country. Attending the Princeton talk this afternoon was similar -- those are often streamed for people who aren't there in person, but it feels like you're getting less of the experience if you're one of the few remote attendees. And video hangouts with friends in California and New York or family in the midwest let me stay in touch with groups of people who seem suddenly more open to that when they can't just hang out with folks nearby. I'm optimistic that work opportunities are considering that too: I wasn't going to fly to IETF or TPAC anyway (for money/time/carbon reasons), but making those large meetings virtual makes them more accessible to me despite my lack of large corporate backing. There may be jobs of interest that weren't open to remote employees last year that may be open to them this year. It's like that dream of the Internet being the end to the importance of distance, except slightly realistic.

Subject: four questions, April 15
Date: 4/15/2020 11:53:00 PM Cc: Ben Werdmüller Bcc:

Answers to four questions, as suggested by Ben Werd for keeping a concrete record of life during an exceptional time.

  1. What did you do today?

Woke up, late -- forgot to set the little alarm clock. Looked at my phone, but didn't stress too much about it. Ground the coffee (the grinder a gift from Haley and Eric), boiled the water (the new electric kettle a gift from Jamie), made coffee (I think Brooks first introduced me to the Aeropress) and ate the last piece of oatmeal cake (Mom's recipe, out of Granddad's old recipe box and baked in one of his casserole dishes). Read emails and RSS feeds and wrote out my small list for the day. Showered and dressed: important steps, I'm finding. Caught up on emails about contact tracing protocols and then had a short videoconference with Deirdre -- possible teaching options, commiserating about the strange fluctuations in moods from day to day, UC Berkeley's financial challenges. Had leftover rajma masala, with spinach and broccoli, for lunch. Called Granddad briefly. Sat on a cushion on the bedroom floor and listened to a short guided meditation on loving kindness. Sent emails and social media posts advocating for local "slow streets" so that it'll be easier and safer to walk and bike at a safe distance during the pandemic. Picked up the compost bin. Got bundled up in coat, scarf and facemask and walked to pick up a burrito and then to Orchard Park to see how the garden plot was doing. Walked home and watched TV on the couch with Jamie, read the news on my phone again but didn't stress too much about it.

a moist peace of oatmeal cake, with almond topping.a handful of kale seedlings in a row, with scattered weeds, rocks and wood.

  1. What did you enjoy?

That oatmeal cake. Baking a comforting cake for myself has been such a highlight of the last couple days. Seeing the community garden plots. TV on the couch with Jamie.

  1. What did you find difficult?

Granddad sounds lonely and pessimistic, but tells me that we just need to be good to each other. It's sad to keep telling him that I'm not able to visit, not allowed to visit, and won't be able to any time soon.

  1. What has changed?

From yesterday, I'm feeling so much less hopeless, so much less angry in the sense of raging at a cloud of unfairness and stewing in that unfairness and how unfair it is. I don't know what caused that different reaction from yesterday morning, it just feels like a random choice is made for me each day. From before the March primary, life feels less packed with urgent reaction, anger and mistrust, but I'm also now less certain of what to do or what life will be like next month or next year; less urgent but more aimless. I feel like there's still so many things to do, but I'm less sure of what or how I should contribute. Since a couple of weeks ago, maybe I'm also less scared, less unsteady on my feet. Jamie's work situation seems much less actively dangerous; social distancing measures have been implemented and mostly accepted; I wear a mask whenever I go outside and spend less time worrying about whether I should be doing something differently.

Subject: Re: First flights of 2020
Date: 1/23/2020 06:52:00 PM To: Tantek Bcc:

Hi Tantek,

Thanks for posting about personal logging of environmental impacts and different mitigations. I’m thinking now about how I can post on my own site not just the actions I’m trying to follow in terms of my own behavior and my advocacy but also a running counter of some of my activities and their carbon emissions (this IndieWeb environmental impact page is a great resource).

I don’t know that air travel is singled out inaccurately for its climate change impacts. While aviation as a category has lower impact than many other categories, that seems to primarily be because it is currently accessible only to the rich. For individuals who do fly, each flight emits large amounts of greenhouse gases. This study from Wynes and Nicholas* suggests that avoiding a single, roundtrip trans-Atlantic flight has a much bigger impact (approximately double) than switching from an omnivorous to plant-based diet for one year. Those authors also reviewed how often reducing air travel was suggested as a mitigation (in corpora of high school science textbooks and government-produced guides) and found that it was recommended far less often than other actions that had less substantial impact on carbon emissions.

Maybe the frequency of that advice is changing, especially as we see Europeans shifting some travel to trains (over “flygskam” or based on Greta Thunberg’s widely publicized example). I agree that guilt, shame and self-harm aren’t useful ways to make these decisions and I’ve certainly experienced the feeling of freezing up because of my guilt and the enormity of the problem in ways that were unproductive or counterproductive. For me, reviewing comparative data has been meaningful and actionable, both in changing my diet and in changing my travel decisions.

Collectively, I hope we can talk more about how to shift Web standards meetings (and tech and academic conferences more generally) into remote communications or regional satellite meetings. I’ve been inspired by Jacob’s pledge and Eliot’s I-D ("We gotta stop meeting like this.") and it seems like a fruitful area for the Web and the Internet to contribute solutions, rather than adding to the harm. I’d like to take the train to a TPAC/US-East meeting in DC this October, where room-size videoconferencing is set up for nearby attendees to communicate with the “main” conference in Vancouver. What do you think?


  • Wynes, Seth, and Kimberly A. Nicholas. “The Climate Mitigation Gap: Education and Government Recommendations Miss the Most Effective Individual Actions.” Environmental Research Letters 12, no. 7 (July 2017): 074024.