Day 6 – Monday 23rd March 2020

My space for working at home, definitely not adhering to the clear desk policy! (photo: James Kemp)

Today was my first day back at work after almost a fortnight off sick. One of the things I read this morning was the NwSpk guide to remote working. Someone had suggested that we run a virtual workshop. While I’ve lost count of the number of workshops I’ve run over the decades I’ve always shied away from online workshops. They’re much harder to get engagement from people and need a lot more preparation than face to face ones. As a result of that guide, and a medium article, I’m more confident that I could probably pull it off.

School at Home

The other feature of the day was helping Lucy do some schoolwork from home. Alexander has already been at it for almost a week, but he’s in Y9 and is used to just getting on with it. Lucy is only in Y3 and isn’t really used to homework. The first hurdle was that her tablet seems to have disappeared, she used it yesterday morning but it was nowhere to be seen this morning. It has to be somewhere in the house, we haven’t been anywhere because of the self isolation we’ve been following.

So after we’d looked on and under both sofas, in and under the beds and on all the likely surfaces I gave up and set up reading eggs on my personal laptop. A big chunk of this was done while I was in hold to the department IT help desk, because my password change hadn’t properly synced and I couldn’t login initially.

Lucy spent a couple of hours happily doing Reading Eggs and made it to level 120, although I’m not sure what level she started at. After lunch (packet pasta, which she complained about sharing it with Tracy) Lucy switched to Mathletics. When I checked in with her she was competing in live arithmetic with kids from around the world (mostly UK, but also Canadian, UAE and Irish kids). Her class had a scoreboard on the home page, and she was on 1,138 points, a mere 8 points ahead of the second ranked kid. So I guess she’ll need to do some tomorrow!

At twenty past three Lucy called me down from where I’d been hiding so that I could work. When I got there she asked me if I knew what time it was. When I told her that it was twenty past three she then informed me that she thought school hours were over.


The basic concept of Celestia is moving your pawn in a cardboard airship between the cities, and surviving the hazards to get to the end. (photo: James Kemp)

After a very lovely dinner of Chicken Parmigiana courtesy of the Pinch of Nom cookbook we played Celestia. It’s a 2-6 player game we got for Christmas in 2018. It works really nicely as a collective push your luck mechanism with individual scoring. The aim is to get as far along the path as possible without going down with the airship. If you land it as the last player inside you get treasure. All the treasure cards are slightly different values, and the average value goes up the further along the track you get.


The various updates must have broken something in my Apache web server configuration. Most of my websites were showing an internal server error (500). I needed to edit the site config files to make them work, despite them working fine until a couple of days ago without any changes.

The edit I made was in the Directory section, where instead of the full file path on the server I replaced it with the relative path from the domain root. No idea why that was necessary, but it seems to have fixed the problems.

The other technology fix I was at was trying to work out why my wife’s Lenovo Yoga 300 is so glacially slow. It’s been disappointing since we got it. So this evening I made a live USB for Ubuntu 18.04.4 and fired it up. Not surprisingly it was pretty responsive and the touch screen also worked fine. So I think the machine might be getting reformated shortly from Windows 10 to Ubuntu.

The next fix is to get Alexander’s laptop to open PDF and PowerPoint files from his school OneDrive. At the moment if he tries to open one it spawns hundreds of tabs in his browser.

Cancelling Holidays

The most depressing thing this evening though was not Boris Johnson announcing that we’re all on lockdown, everything is closed and we can only go out in dire need, or to exercise once a day. It was cancelling our planned family holiday to Denmark and Sweden in May. I cancelled the Airbnb I’d booked and Tracy moved the easyJet flights to October in the hope that we will still be able to go then. We also cancelled the hotel. Hopefully we’ll get a refund on it all, but we won’t know for sure for a few days. It was all booked a few months back, before Christmas for most of it. So we should be okay.

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