Corona diary 01

Updated: 02/04/2020.

My view and experience with this Corona craziness. I wrote already on Corona virus in general, and Idiot’s Corona virus survival guide, but these are more personal notes. Will keep it updated, for as long as I can (no writing outside the box). My better half, special other etc. will be referred to as SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed). The post is now titled 01, in case I live long enough to write a lot of such drivel. πŸ™‚ Continued in Corona diary 02.

Contents:

  1. Day one
  2. Spread in Europe
  3. Laughing in Serbia
  4. TV rage
  5. The tension rises
  6. It’s on the news!
  7. 48 hours after the TV announcement
  8. Official Corona day 3 – and government decisions review
  9. Anxiety and depression
  10. First day off – and on working remotely
  11. Day 5 – a new dawn
  12. Day 6 – THE GOOD NEWS!
  13. First week’s end – Sunday morning
  14. Corona jokes
  15. Stealing


1. Day one

Start of January 2020. Some rumours are heard about the outbreak of a new kind of virus, called Corona, in China. SWMBO’s friend works there, is on a leave to Serbia. Calling other friends and colleagues from China to hear what it’s all about, how serious it is.

The information boils down to: it’s not much more dangerous than an “ordinary” flu, though more likely to attack the lungs. But it spreads a lot more quickly, so those needing hospitalization (elderly, those with low immunity etc.) can get in trouble in case the spread is wider.


2. Spread in Europe

Half of February 2020. Italy seems to be hit rather badly and the virus seems to be spread around the world. In China it’s turned out to be very serious and drastic measures had been taken to contain it and have the hospitals be able to help those who need hospitalization.


3. Laughing in Serbia

February the 26th 2020: Serbian doctor from the ruling party, with the president standing behind him, is making jokes on television about how the virus is ridiculous, advising women to go shopping to Italy, because no one wants to go there, so there must be some great discounts. Some journalists are laughing. The president standing behind is laughing.

People are starting to make Corona-related jokes. I thought it would be a good idea for Corona beer to make use of all the free marketing. πŸ™‚

Thanks to the info from China, I’m hoping that they are just trying to prevent people from getting to a state of panic. However, from the information I could gather, no measures are being taken yet. Which is nothing unusual for Serbia. Measures taken went from: “it’s nothing” to “let’s hope it’s nothing”.


4. TV rage

Beginning of March 2020: President said, with a straight face, on the television, how “no one had said the virus was ridiculous, the newspapers are lying”. I’m not making this up. Unfortunately.

People are still making jokes about the virus. SWMBO said it would probably be a good idea to stock some food, disinfectant, and face masks. I agreed. However, she said she wanted to wait for her next pay to go shopping. I said she should do it now, using some of my savings, but didn’t insist, nor do it myself.


5. The tension rises

During the week from March the 9th 2020: news reports are getting more serious. Reports are coming of people being diagnosed sick with the Corona virus in Serbia.

SWMBO goes shopping only to find out there is no alcohol, disinfectant, flu medicine etc. Flour is also gone from the (super)markets.

At the IT day-job company, everyone is still joking. My conclusion is that measures should be taken any hour – because you can only take them too early, or too late.

Near the end of the week, reading the reports, I decide to call my mother and tell her to send me a list of all the needed supplies, stay away from people and that I’m expecting a curfew to be enforced within the next 7 days. As I will later find out, step-dad thought it is a silly idea so they didn’t do it.

Decided to close my bike repair shop until further ado – just finish up the 10 bikes that had already been taken in.

As of Friday, people at the day-job are still joking about the Corona virus.

Went shopping for supplies with SWMBO. She disinfected the supermarket cart handle, insisted we disinfect our hands as we went out of the supermarket, then again at home. Suppose it makes sense.


6. It’s on the news!

Sunday, 15th of March 2020, 8 PM: the president gives a speech on the television – announcing that the shit is about to hit the fan, with all the standard melodramatics (ending the speech with “Long live Serbia!” – LOL). Schools are closed. People are advised to stay at home, reduce any contact etc.

On Monday, it is announced that from the next day, people over the age of 65 won’t be allowed to go to the street. Public offices are closed – all the documents are declared to be legit until this shit passes. All the debts to public companies by customers/citizens are said, here’s the fun part, to be suggested to the companies to keep frozen. So it’s not enforced. Serbia. Typical. Public transport is cut in half – suppose they want more people crowded in those buses?!

Prime minister says on the TV that people should be more disciplined, or curfew will be enforced.

A friend who works at the TV (will call him Scorsese) said they’ve been sent home from work. We had made some wheel building tutorial videos in English, for the BikeGremlin English YouTube channel. Said he’d now have a lot of time to edit them and will email me the finished versions for publishing.

Guys at the day-job made jokes about me suggesting minimal contact, no hand shakes etc. Couple of hours later, after another news report, one of them (will call him Preacher, for his strong religious beliefs) asked how to make disinfectant. I explained that the 95% ethyl alcohol we use for cleaning, in one litre bottles, can be poured into a 3 dl cup, then have the bottle filled up with water and he’s set. By the end of the day, he had sprayed all the handles of all the doors, windows and cupboards with it. Including my bicycle’s handlebars. πŸ™‚

Got some cleaning alcohol from the bike shop and brought it home. SWMBO took her temperature. Said she feels weak. It was OK. We then had the first argument. My choice to finish the bikes I had taken in, and give them back to the customers (give ’em the bike, take the money, wash my hands) is seen as greatly irresponsible since “I’m not living alone!” The fact I still have to go to my day-job and shopping is not seen as already risky enough – I should prevent all other contact. My point was that it makes no sense to keep the bikes hostage, since this will probably last until the next spring. And while the bikes are already in, it makes no sense to not at least fix them – I’m handing them out later anyway. SWMBO is really scared and worried.


7. 48 hours after the TV announcement

Tuesday, 16th of March 2020: people at the day-job are getting a bit worried. We haven’t got any masks, or gloves, yet work with client computers and go to their premises. Tension is building up. We fix only government stuff, so in the time of crisis, it is out of question to stop working, of course. But we’re far from properly equipped.

After work, at 4 PM, I need to hand over two finished bicycles, start working on another one (full service takes about 4 hours of work) and, at 6 PM go shopping to get supplies for my mother. So it’s a “packed” day: rear hub overhaul, truing the rear wheel. With handing over the two bikes, I’m expecting this to be a realistic goal. In case it goes surprisingly quickly, I might also overhaul the headset bearings. Then, at 6, I’m going hunting. πŸ™‚

Called SWMBO from work. She’s a bit less upset now. Insists on going shopping for my mom with me today, since “we are living together anyway, what difference does it make”. Think that’s nonsense, but also think it’s more important to keep her calm and take her mind off the problem, since there isn’t really much we can do about it.

Just got an email from Scorsese – sending the first two videos completely edited and ready for publishing. Take a little good with the bad, make the most of it, you only live once… πŸ™‚
(how to build a bicycle wheel – videos)

The prime minister just announced that “tomorrow we will probably enforce more drastic measures”. Official report on the number of confirmed infections is 65. I suppose the real number of confirmed infections is about 10 times greater. And I expect the number of people who are infected, but have no idea (like I could be as I’m writing this drivel) is probably about 5 times greater than that.

Mother called, saying this seems to be very serious. She saw a video made by some local YouTubers (in Serbian), that explains the problem more clearly and with more accurate information than all the news and official reports in the previous weeks/months. Asking about on-line shopping options to prevent me from going to the store. πŸ™‚

More tension at the company, emergency meetings are being held and priorities are being shifted by the hour.

National assembly has just decided and pronounced: people mustn’t come closer than 2 meters of each other in public, and only one person per 4 square meters. Will see what pedestrian traffic lights look like on the way from work. πŸ™‚

Evening update: of course quill stem was stuck. So just managed to finish the wheel. Fewer people in the street today than usual. Both car traffic and pedestrians. About 1/3 of the ordinary. And most are keeping distance, even at the traffic lights I was at. Got the supplies to mom’s house. SWMBO had agreed to wait in the car while I was shopping, thankfully. And used the situation of low traffic jam and police most probably occupied with other stuff to drive as fast as she likes – she drives very well. πŸ™‚

At 8PM more drastic measures were proclaimed: curfew from 8 PM until 5 AM.

Had a long talk about the bike shop with SWMBO. Got 3 more bikes to finish for 2 clients. She’s still reasonably worried, but not panicking any more. Didn’t like my remark that because of the day-job and doing the necessary shopping, I am most likely to catch the virus, if I haven’t already. Insisting on more positive thinking. Of course, I think that optimists are just poorly informed pessimists. But didn’t want to push it – not the discussion.


8. Official Corona day 3 – and government decisions review

As expected, many people have been discussing and criticizing the government decisions made these days. This monkey’s opinion on them:

I was pleasantly surprised that our government has made the tough decision to close schools, public services (apart from hospitals etc.) and introduce a curfew. The talk how pronouncing a state of emergency is unlawful etc. is bullshit. My greatest fear is whether the measures are still too mild and taken a few weeks too late – we’ll see about that in the following weeks. And this comes from a monkey who doesn’t think highly of his government, to say the least.

The measure I don’t support is the reduction of public transport (busses etc.). You want as little people as possible stuck together, so this measure is counter-productive in my opinion.

The things we do at the day-job are important for the communication infrastructure to stay up. However, because it still involves some field work, not everything can be done remotely, I am expecting us to get ill rather sooner, than later.

Since I had moved to the position, I urged for making documentation and manuals for anything that it can be made fro. As well as for having redundant (fail-over) servers and backups for everything, preferably in separate remote locations. This was always accepted as a “nice-to-have”, “a-great-idea”, but I was never given any time to do it, much less any extra men. There was always some more important, daily chore that was urgent.

Looking back at it now, I did put out about one manual per month, on average. Mostly done by staying overtime for a few days a week (without expecting to be paid, since this wasn’t considered a priority), so I can sit at peace and write, writing 2-3 manuals in several such days, then going back to business as usual, until the next month. Most often during the winter, when my bike shop wasn’t too busy (it often was, even then, so not every week, nor every month could I afford this).

Well, looking at it now: too little, too late. We still depend on only one person for certain tasks, without proper documentation. While this Corona virus puts things into perspective – showing what’s really crucial and what really is a “nice-to-have”. Of course, I’m a rather disciplined, organized person, so am likely to be quite biased when it comes to these things. Maybe it will all be fine and the previously taken course of action was the more reasonable one, even though I don’t think so. Even this stupid website has two separate hosting servers, on two different continents and two remote backup copies. My thinking is always: hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Wasn’t expecting a virus outbreak (which shows how short-sighted I am), but a car accident can kill anyone, any day.

Discipline, good detailed procedures, making any person be replaceable relatively quickly by another with as little previous training as possible. Surely it won’t be as good, but it will do in an emergency – that’s how I think a company should be organized – if it plans to survive any larger crisis.

Morning, Wednesday, 18th of March 2020: ride to work was meditative. Practically no cars and no people in the streets. I do like to come in earlier, avoid the rush and have enough time to think and meditate while cycling to work, and upon arriving at the office. But this morning: it’s an introvert’s paradise. πŸ™‚

Waiting now for the colleagues to arrive and see if we’ll get organized in shifts, so as few of us are stuck together as possible. At breakfast break I’ll probably jump to the nearby market, to get some fruit, vegetables and coffee – running low on that and quite addicted I must admit (2 to 3 a day, with a headache if I miss the morning one – say no to drugs!).

Set an alarm on my phone to ring every day at 7 PM – labeled as “Curfew” – in case I loose the sense of time while out, or working at the bike shop, so I can come home by 8 PM – the official curfew time. My ID would probably get me out of trouble even if caught, but think I should be setting an example of how it should be done, not how it shouldn’t.

Things like bicycle repair shops, florist shops etc. are still working. Generally most other small service businesses. They are “taking precautions” (some wear gloves, disinfect stuff more often), but working. I understand that it’s a problem for people who have no other way to make money. It would probably be wise for the government to announce that all the electric and other bills will be covered from the budget and enforce a total shut-down. In a week it will probably be too late. This is the time for solidarity and fight for survival, money and free market is just a capitalist way of arranging the (unjust and highly unequal) distribution of goods.

Of course, the businesses, especially the small ones that offer direct customer service will be fucked. If they close now, no one will even say “thank you”, and they will be loosing money. Yet, it is the most responsible thing that can be done right now.

Hoping I’m a pessimist, but I expect that both myself and many other people are already infected without knowing it. Yet few are acting accordingly. Assume you are infected and behave as if that were the case.

Morning meeting aftermath: management misunderstood an order, didn’t bother to double check (probably in fear of looking hesitant/indecisive/disobedient), so yesterday after noon they sent two guys to a high-contagion risk area for no reason at all. They had stayed until 11 PM.

Introducing shifts, to reduce the number of people stuck together is being discussed and I’ve made a proposal, based on the skills and knowledge of all the guys (and their home locations), so that each “team” has at least most things covered. With a note that within a week’s time we might be down to one team of healthy men at best – so that plans will probably have to be altered on the fly. Inter-city public transport is reduced and will most probably be shut down completely, so that’s another thing to consider.

Afternoon update: I’ve spent most of the day writing user manuals, published on the intranet (had made a WordPress website for the instructions and manuals) – in order to prevent the needed field work and contact. It’s been pushed further up on the priority list. It just takes a deadly virus outbreak for the people to accept my ideas. πŸ™‚

About a month ago, I had been relieved of the managerial duties – management just informed a younger colleague (let’s call him Messi, for being a football virtuoso) to take care of the organizations and attend the meetings instead of me – both of us have no idea how and why up to this date. For me it was a relief – I had accepted the position because I thought it irresponsible not to, since both the colleagues and the managers (and me) thought I’m competent enough and among the senior, more experienced people, hence the least bad option for that responsibility. Today, Messi has informed me that from now on we are to take on the organizing together, each getting to organize one half of the team.

Too bad, I had actually enjoyed being relieved of having to organize stuff and tell people what to do, and, especially, hate the meetings with the higher management – total waste of time, as I had told them on several occasions. It was nice while it lasted – hoping to be relieved again once/if this is over.

Called SWMBO – suggested it would probably be a good idea to fill up the car’s fuel tank, just in case. Fuel is rather expensive in Serbia, especially compared to our pays, but I think it’s still a good idea to “go wild” now. πŸ™‚ She said she’ll stop at the petrol station on the way home.

News and talks: people are getting outraged with all the Serbs who had went to work abroad, now coming back to the country. Saying how it’s irresponsible, “they should be banned just like all the foreigners”, “their home is abroad, this is just where they were born…” The president said “we’d like to prevent them from returning, but it’s unconstitutional so we’re weighing our options”.

I heard stories from Italy: people who get sick badly are sent to the hospitals and, if they die, they die alone, in pain, stuck in overcrowded hospitals, without saying goodbye to their loved ones. For that matter, with all the isolation measures, one might argue that it really doesn’t make much difference whether you get sick abroad, or back home.


9. Anxiety and depression

Time is a demon. On a long enough time scale, everyone’s chances of survival are zero, eventually. Curfew makes that a bit more evident. I’m “burning time” writing this, even though there’s limited time I can work on bikes this afternoon – by 7 PM I should be packing, closing up and going home.

This situation made me realize even more clearly how much fixing the bicycles is meditative. Gets my mind away from the bad things I can’t change. I haven’t mentioned this, wasn’t planned initially, but since this is a personal diary, and writing things down, just like fixing bikes, helps me process stuff and understand them better – I’m divorced and have a son that will, hopefully, turn 6 this year (let’s call him Luke – lucidly effectively making me a Sith lord πŸ™‚ ).

We would usually go cycling, especially on the weekends. Or construct cities on a mat with drawn roads and with Lego cubes, when the weather was too bad for cycling, even if we don’t tell any adults that we’re doing it. Well, last weekend, as well as the following weekends, seeing him is out of the question. Both him and his mother – and grandparents, are very likely to stay non-infected if the contact is limited – since they live in the suburbs/the country, working from home, remotely.

They got all the needed supplies in time, and it’s safe for them to go out when the weather is nice. But since it is reasonable to assume that I’m either infected already, or will be rather soon, any physical contact is out of question. Trying to make the best of it, today we had a Viber Lego city construction consultation session. πŸ™‚ Since I had made the call at the end of my work, from the office, he asked: “why are you in the office, don’t you know there’s a dangerous virus spread?!” πŸ™‚

Wanted to hug him, almost made me cry. Had to explain that I have to stay at work until the virus is gone, in order to keep everyone safe. Sure, for an average man, making another clone is less than a five minute job, but I really got attached to the little man. Already miss the bike rides, hopefully more than he does. But, at least with audio & video connection available, we’ll make the best of it.

Writing about this is not as easy as I had anticipated. I hope fixing bikes will go more smoothly. Timer alarm is set to warn me at 7 PM, garage laptop is loaded with good music (songs like those you see when you click on the “Trending” button in YouTube – just completely different/opposite!), and, most importantly, there’s beer in the fridge (since all mechanics are alcoholics – seeing one still sober past noon is a clear sign of unprofessionalism and utter incompetence). πŸ™‚

Evening update: on the way home from the garage, I saw some people sitting in some cafes.Thought how risky that is. Got notified of the new day-job work schedule. They had finally decided to have just half of the people covering one whole week – working first shift, then being on call duty until the morning and the weekend. Then, have the other half of the people do the same for the next week. I said that although such setup requires fewer cars for transport and field work, it brings a risk of having people more exhausted – which leads to susceptibility to any flu, not just the Corona virus. My proposal was to have the other half “covering” the late afternoon, and the night/weekend on call duty.


10. First day off – and on working remotely

Due to the reorganization, I’m not working today. Planning to go do some exercise out in the sun with SWMBO, then go fetch some petrol in a canister for the step-dad’s motor cultivator. Still have one bicycle to fix, and two wheels to build. Then – I’d have enough time to work on new website articles, which I’m looking forward to.

Some companies are “bragging” how they are prepared for working remotely and have introduced that – “business as usual“. The thing is: this has only begun (my personal, non-expert opinion). Corona virus spreads very, very rapidly and, from what I could gather, you can catch it even after you’ve had it once already. And I expect it to mutate – with the huge number of people infected, at least one in a million mutations could be for the worse (more deadly, more contagious, longer incubation period etc.).

It affects all the small business owners especially – the one who work directly with customers. But this includes: garbage men, plumbers, mechanics, IT technicians for work that can’t be done remotely, doctors, dentists, nurses. So the supply chain, the infrastructure are at risk. Once those people are decimated because of ilness, or have to close the shops for precaution, their money will no longer be earned. Taxes they pay (more than the rich in percentage of income) and shopping they do will be gone. This will, gradually, cascade and hit many of the businesses. Of course, as with any crisis, I’m sure that some small percent of people, especially the most wealthy, will surely find a way to make a profit. But for the “mere mortals”, especially those with any kind of moral/ethical constraints, don’t be fooled that you won’t be affected. Just wait to see how much.

Business related – sent an email to Amazon, asking for my checks to be stalled, since I can’t cash any checks. Even more so now. Put the funds back into the account until I figure out what to do with them. Mentioned the Corona breakout as another reason for allowing direct bank transfer, instead of checks. I expect being ignored, but I did what was up to me – asked. Now is definitely not the time to support your local bike shops by going to the shop and buying.

Used the sunny morning to go out training with SWMBO. It’s nice outside – not too many people, sun, not much cars, not much noise – like my city was some 30 years ago. πŸ™‚

Scorsese sent yet another edited and finished video on building bicycle wheels – measurement and spoke length calculation. Over the weekend, SWMBO helped me make some Unior tool reviews, so will publish those videos today, or tomorrow. And get down to writing some more posts for the website. But first I must get the fuel to step-dad. Got two 5 litre petrol canisters, so as one gets emptied, I can take it for refueling, while he still has another full one. His back is not very good, so 10 litre ones are out of question.

After a relatively nice morning (got to make breakfast and lunch for a change, after a very long time), I went to the bike shop to finish the bicycles. To be pleasantly surprised by a heating pipe drip, that had accumulated over the night and the morning… and the day had started so nicely. πŸ™‚

Nice and clean - dripping pipe, automated floor cleaning systemβ„’
Nice and clean – dripping pipe, automated floor cleaning systemβ„’
Leaking valve
Leaking valve – the culprit


The building is from the 70s, there are no more such valves to be found. Besides – where does one find a plumber in Serbia now a days? πŸ™‚

Tightening the valve seems to have worked, will be keeping an eye on the situation (placed a bucket below just in case). If it continues, then I’d have to call the heating company to drain all the water out of the heating system, before attempting to unscrew the valve and put some plumbers tape (Amazon affiliate link).

Plumbers PTFE tape
Plumbers PTFE tape – click on the image to shop on Amazon (affiliate link)


But, for now, no dripping – “so far so good”, just like the situation with the Corona virus in Serbia for now.

19th of March 2020, evening: president has announced that intercity public transport is being shut down completely from tomorrow at noon. All the border crossings are being closed for everyone, except transport lorries. Ensuring us that there is enough fuel, oil, flour etc, that we shouldn’t worry. Well, he/they also said in the last month:

  • The virus exists only on Facebook (this was said by a doctor, from the ruling party, in front of the president, both laughing).
  • The funniest virus in human history!
  • Now is the time to go shopping in Milano (Italy).
  • We have enough gloves and masks.
  • We have enough respirators.

Said that curfew will be extended – didn’t specify from which time to which time. Suspense… drama… πŸ™‚

Based on the information I got today, many people got fired. Mostly from places that offer direct customer service – like shops and bakeries. SWMBO rents a flat and her tenants informed her they got fired – both the husband and wife, with two kids. She said they needn’t pay any rent until further ado, just cover the bills if that’s possible.

Got inspired to publish a Corona Virus survival guide today. πŸ™‚ It is a work in progress.


11. Day 5 – a new dawn

Friday, 20th of March 2020: Woke up early enough to see the beautiful dawn – should have taken a photo. Laughing at myself, since the first thing on my mind was not my son, not the job, colleagues, or to hug the SWMBO, but: “is the damn thing in the garage still dripping?!” πŸ™‚ Humans are funny.

Got to the garage – ti still is. Before calling the heating company, I felt it necessary to make contingency plans for the day-job, since I don’t think Messi is up to it (with all due respect – think he’s a good fellow and will prove it in these hard times). So I created a text for him to read on the morning meeting with the upper management (that is still being held in person?!?). Put it nicely into words that the idiots can understand:

How we have just about 6 men who know how to fix most stuff, and even at that, for most stuff there aren’t more than 2 guys that know how it’s done – with not enough manuals for the others to figure it out. So if more than 2 guys get sick – we’d have no one to fix problems in our region’s communication infrastructure. Hence, it is crucial to have people go do field work only when there are no backup systems operational. Because, doing otherwise, might mean that there’s no one left to fix stuff once there are no backups operational.

That took about 30 minutes to think up and write down. And about 5 minutes to explain why it is important. Then, at 8 AM – it was the time to call the heating company. Good old Serbian efficiency. πŸ™‚

Heating company said to first arrange with the building maintenance company when they are coming, so the heating company will come one hour earlier to let the water out of the system.

OK, calling the maintenance company. They said to first let them know when the heating company is coming to release the water out of the system, and then let them know. Catch 22 book comes to mind. πŸ™‚

The term is introduced by the character Doc Daneeka, an army psychiatrist who invokes “Catch-22” to explain why any pilot requesting mental evaluation for insanityβ€”hoping to be found not sane enough to fly and thereby escape dangerous missionsβ€”demonstrates his own sanity in creating the request and thus cannot be declared insane.

“You mean there’s a catch?”

“Sure there’s a catch,” Doc Daneeka replied. “Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn’t really crazy.”

Anyway, I did manage to use my super-human negotiation skills to manage the “procedure following professionals” to act like (semi)sane people and am to wait until noon for the building maintenance company to come and fix the damn leak, with the heating company arriving an hour earlier to let the water out of the system. The solution was to note me as falsely declaring myself to be the building manager. Will now quote a guest professor from Germany, after he had finally realised how things work here: “Serbia – anything can be done here, but none of it can be done according to the rules!” πŸ™‚

Then I went on preparing contingency plans for the company, since I understood after talking to Messi that no one has done it. How and what to prepare – from the needed tools, equipment and computers. So that the least competent person can go and get the job done, in the middle of the night, with minimum instructions/communication needed – since some of the more competent might end up in a hospital sooner, or later. Really feeling the urge to go to the day-job and get it all done, since the feedback from colleagues is chaotic (as expected) and the management seems to be clueless (my personal, subjective opinion). Depending on how the day unravels and the feedback, I might just go and do it – hoping it’s a minimal cross-infection risk that is acceptable considering the severity of the situation. But wouldn’t do it without an approval from the “higher ups” – wouldn’t bee in their shoes (not even under the “normal” circumstances), some tough calls will need to be made in the following months. Just like in a football match – the quality of the plan is not as crucial, as it is crucial that everyone sticks to one, same, common plan.

It seems to me that people are either taking this too casually, or are panicking. Reason has left the building, for the most part.

Now I’m off to fix another bike. πŸ™‚ Leaving the wheel building, as the most meditative of all the bicycle mechanics jobs, for last – a cherry on top. I take great pride in my wheel building skill (patting myself on the back now). πŸ™‚

Got a call from Mess, to consult about duty for the next week. I volunteered and suggested who I’d place to be a “backup” – as well as who I would not send to any field work under any circumstances (the more competent, as well as the older/ill colleagues who could die if infected). He agreed. I joked over the phone with the “backup colleague” that the two of us are almost like one good expert. πŸ™‚

Also suggested to the colleagues to include some porno magazines to the tools/spare parts contingency stockpile – they should serve like wearing the helmets served to the Kamikaze: just for lifting the spirits. πŸ™‚ Yes, it’s a 100% male collective, no women were harmed in the making of the contingency plan – though some men might, if the wives find out about all the contingency stockpile contents. πŸ™‚

11 o’clock update – heating company guy came – had no keys to the heating compartment. I said I’ll get the key – he can go to his next task and come back as soon as he is finished (said it will be 15 minutes). Called the building maintenance, who, of course, said that the heating company has the keys, they are not allowed to have them. Started calling the neighbours to see if anyone has the key, when a woman came to take some trailer from that room, so she apparently had the key (and it turned out that the room can be open from the inside of the building without a key. Hacked the lock until the heating company guy comes back.

Finished the last bicycle in the mean time. Well, turned out the frame had irreparable damage (as in not worth fixing, compared to the price of a new bicycle, even more so compared to 2nd hand bike prices – bike shops are still working). Which inspired me to make a melodramatic paraphrase of the “Tears in the rain” monologue from the end of the Bladerunner (the first, original, only one worth watching).

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe! Italian standard bottom brackets screwed into aluminium frames with british standard bottom bracket shells. People riding completely cross chained and trying to backpedal. Dot brake fluid put into mineral oil brake systems… All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain…

On the bright side – preparations at the day-job seem to be going quite well. Senior colleague and a good friend, call him Gandalf, had called me for consulting over creating some extra domain names in case new computers need to be added to the network on the fly – which was very good forward thinking I wasn’t 100% certain should be done, though had also considered it. Well, it certainly won’t do much harm (we think very much alike), we’ll note and delete the unused ones when/if the virus mess passes. We both expect the other colleagues to pleasantly surprise us in the following days. During the short of a year long period I had managed our team, Gandalf and I talked a lot. The goal was to make every team member as self sufficient and independent as possible (weren’t expecting this, by no means – which shows we are both a bit short sighted). Trying to encourage each colleague to excel at what they can do and learn at least one more extra skill/task. Some 6 months in, I had commented how a colleague has pleasantly surprised me. To which Gandalf replied: “but, we have been working towards helping the people to keep pleasantly surprising us.” Wise man – can’t figure why he seems to enjoy spending the time with me. πŸ™‚

I’d also add that Gandalf is among the wisest men I’ve ever met. During a hike in the mountains, a few of us were discussing what the greatest risk to humanity would be. Some bet on nuclear disasters, some on large scale wars, others on a meteor hitting the Earth, while Gandalf had said that he’s betting on a nasty virus as a “game changer”.

In the mean time – our government went from joking about “the funniest virus”, and suggesting to women to “go shopping in Milano”, to speaking harshly about all the tourists and people working abroad why they have to come back to Serbia now, to “spread the contagion”. People are generally pissed at the folks coming home from abroad – sort of blaming them for the contagion spread. TV is a powerful tool for the ruling class.

Netflix and YouTube have reduced the streaming quality, to prevent the Internet from collapsing because of too much bandwidth used in total – everyone is at home and going on line apparently. The end is nigh!

Afternoon update: leak in the garage is, hopefully, fixed. Will be more certain tomorrow (leaving the bucket to collect any drip just in case). Just realized how stuck in my ways I am. Got one more wheel to finish. I didn’t have a proper workbench when I was starting, so got used to building wheels sitting on the floor with my legs crossed. What started as an adaptation out of a necessity, ended up as a habit. Now, with the floor wet and drying, I find it more difficult to work while standing at the bench.

Bicycle wheel building on the floor :)
Bicycle wheel building on the floor πŸ™‚


I’m not a doctor, nor a Yoga master, but find this position a lot more comfortable and less stressful on the back/spine (unlike some of my countrymen and politicians, I’ve still got one πŸ™‚ ).

Evening update: first Corona virus victim in Serbia (publicly announced). Some drama with the prime minister during this evening’s TV announcement – during the journalist questions (missed it, had a lot of work today, but heard the news). Starting tomorrow, all the public transport is stopped, only private cars and taxis will be allowed. From Sunday, all the shopping malls, restaurants and cafes are on a lock-down, only delivery is allowed.

Prime minister pleaded the employers to not fire people. But I didn’t hear any government funding for covering at least parts of the pays and fixed costs (rents, bills etc.).

Heard of an, in my opinion, still funny and clever way of naming the virus, it is… wait for it… “KUNG-FLU”. πŸ™‚


12. Day 6 – THE GOOD NEWS!

21st of March 2020: as the title says: looked at the world statistics this morning and realized – our carbon emission has dropped significantly!

… πŸ™‚ … got you, didn’t I? πŸ™‚ Most Linkedin posts have been about staying positive, agile – so that’s one good thing from all this Shitstormβ„’ (I’ve decided to use this term for the Corona virus outbreak and all its consequences).

Anyway, this morning I got a diarrhoea. Think/hope it’s because I ate too much pasta last night, coming home relatively late and very hungry. Will see how it goes during the day. Found a very educational article on Corona virus. Might be worth reading to anyone who still hasn’t taken it seriously. Googled Corona symptoms and, no, being shit-scared does not constitute one. πŸ™‚

As far as I know, yesterday there were still queues at the petrol station – many people are worried it will run out. Based on the experience from the past decades: if one thing was constant for each shitstorm, it was the lack of fuel. And I had forgotten to fill up my motorcycle.

Motorbiking - Yamaha FZS600 Fazer
Motorbiking – Yamaha FZS600 Fazer


The fuel tank is about 1/2 empty (to bring out the pessimist πŸ™‚ ). Got oil for the oil change, should get a spare filter as well. The other fluids are covered – either good for several more years, or have them in stock.

Got one more wheel to build and then I’ve finished practically all of the bike-shop work. And have to see if the heating pipe is still leaking. Oh, and the Bicycle wheel building video series is finished. Not too bad I hope.

Heat pipes are no longer leaking! Woohoo! Took just a dozen phone calls and a few hours of waiting and explaining. Do you still sleep well at night, the “efficient Germans”!? πŸ™‚

Clocked the time it took me to build a wheel:

  • Rim and spoke preparation (lubrication) – under 5 minutes
  • Lacing – 15 minutes (have no lacing stand)
  • Starting to turn all the spokes in equally – 15 minutes (they were 1 mm too short, so had to back off each one by 2 full turns after screwing it in initially)
  • Taking out the slack – 5 minutes
  • Truing, stress relieving and tension measurement – 25 minutes

Just over an hour. Rather too slow I’d say. Will never get rich building wheels – but I do enjoy it. πŸ™‚

Some nice wheels :)
Some nice wheels πŸ™‚


Used the rest of the lovely morning for some training with SWMBO. Yesterday’s been a ghost town, today there are a bit more people in the street. Afterwards, got a call from my tenant that their job is probably be shut down – told him that he needn’t pay any rent until the Shitstormβ„’ has passed – probably in about a year at minimum.

SWMBO had closed her makeup studio weeks ago, but today she got informed from her backup job – on-line English tutoring – managers that they will be rated on a monthly basis and 10% of the lowest rated teachers (rated by students) will get fired. Month after month most probably. The beauty of capitalism. We’re obviously not “agile and mobile” enough. πŸ™‚

We aren’t going to be travelling anywhere, nor spending money on things apart from food and bills, so for now we should still be fine. Oh, and my “normal” websites make some money as well – as long as Google AdSense works – we’ll see for how long. πŸ™‚

Luke said today that it’s not safe to leave the house until the virus is dead, but that I should come over and stay with them. Again, had to explain that I have to go to work, to help fight the virus, that I’m taking precautions to not get infected, but I still might – and coming over gives a risk of infecting him, his mother and his grandparents – which we must not do. We’ll go cycling as soon as the virus is done away with. New word I taught him today was “Hippodrome” – since “we” were building a race track for the horses, and a stable.

Evening update: the president was as melodramatic as usual in his evening addressing on the TV (don’t have a TV, but can catch a YouTube stream of that). Today I was on time for that. Starts at 6 PM now. Long story short: the Chinese are giving us help. And people are not disciplined enough, so the curfew is prolonged to 12 hours: from 5 PM to 5 AM as of tomorrow. From Tuesday “if it turns out to be necessary” (and I’m sure it will be), it’s 24 hour curfew. Didn’t specify under which conditions people will be allowed to go out (like – really sick, in need of food supplies etc.) – we’ll have to see.

Either way, about an hour after that, a t 7 PM, I saw all the local businesses that I follow (mostly bicycle repair shops) posting how they will shorten work hours on Monday (closing at 4 PM – which is an hour before the curfew – you have to close by that time to clean up and get home) and closing completely on Tuesday (when the 24 hour curfew is to be expected anyway). Saying: “we are giving an example, calling on other private businesses to do the same”. While just a few days ago they were complaining on my suggestions to close up – “who’s going to pay our bills”. Probably a government written statement and an order, made to sound like free will, for psychological reason, to urge the population to stay at home. They are all sharing the same picture and literally the same text. I had thought for a moment it was arranged for local bicycle shops, among themselves, but then I Googled and saw other businesses doing it as well. Think they should have done it at least one week ago, if not sooner (my shop closing might have been too late as well).

Guys at the day-job had two interventions this evening (Saturday). Noting it all for Monday morning report – when my shift and call duty starts.

In the evening, made our home Saturday night party. Used a blacklight that was sourced earlier for some art work by SWMBO. Was a nice party – just with not many people. πŸ™‚ Italians do it better (the first song is performed by CORONA – “This is the rhythm of the night…”, which sounds like “disease the rhythm…” when sung πŸ™‚ ).

On TV, they said people should go to their balconies and clap for the medical workers, every evening at 8 PM. And, of course, that is what everyone is doing.


13. First week’s end – Sunday morning

Sunday, 22nd of March 2020: Gosh, this thing is long (“that’s what she said!” πŸ™‚ ). Will probably limit the amount of things I document here. And break the “diary” up into weekly sections.

Weather forecast for today is normal, average day for the UK readers, and for the Spanish and Serbian ones – cold and rainy, shitty day. Tried to configure Civilization VI for plaing on-line simultaneously on two LAN computers with SWMBO. Turns out I need more “hacking knowledge”, or two legit copies of the game. Too bad – that’s one game we both really enjoy. I don’t mind reading and writing posts for my websites all day. In fact, got so many ideas on my mind that I’d be fine if locked in alone, with a computer, for a couple of weeks and just writing the articles. However, SWMBO might get a bit claustrophobic and depressed if I do that. While she dislikes walking outside in the “bad weather”. Guess I’ll be loosing a lot of Monopoly games these days (don’t really like the Monopoly – colour me communist πŸ™‚ ).

Will get a bit more realistic view of the situation on Monday, at work, when I personally see how things are unravelling, but for now it looks as if this is going to last for at least until the autumn. Hope and unfounded optimism are not my cup of tea, but I would say that we just might avoid the Italian and Spanish scenarios – at the cost of many people grunting how strict and undemocratic the government measures are. Of course, I do think that our government sucks, won’t even begin to go into that now, but these measures are not too strict – I only hope they are not too little, too late. Unlike the Germans, Serbs are not disciplined enough, so without a curfew, we will hang out together, too closely. And our health care system is fucked up even under the normal circumstances.

Serbian health care - under the normal circumstances
Serbian health care – under the normal circumstances


In addition to the poorly equipped hospitals, many (most?) of our health workers went to work in Germany (and other EU countries and the US). Nurses here are paid under 500 euros per month. Doctors get about 700 euros. Of course, many are corrupt so take a few more monthly pays in bribe alone (so you don’t have to wait a year for an urgent treatment), but that’s another matter.

Ghost town recording, from yesterday morning:


A very good article written allegedly by a doctor, on how Corona virus affects even the (relatively) young. Sounds very, very, dangerous.

Managed to make Civ VI running – so it won’t be just the Monopoly. Woohoo. πŸ™‚ Did some indoors, at home training with SWMBO. “Women’s” aerobic excercise is no joke! πŸ™‚

Government has announced that people with pets can go out and take them for a walk, after the 5 PM curfew, from 8 PM to 9 PM, “within 200 metres from their address”. Noting how lack of social distances is costing Italy thousands of dead. Serbian Orthodox church was like: “hold my beer!” The problem is “God” will probably not choose who else they get to infect.


14. Corona jokes

If you can’t laugh, what can you do? These are some running Corona jokes.

The 8 o’clock clap joke:
“I come out from my mistress at about 5 minutes before 8. Start rushing home and, suddenly, everyone is on their balconies, clapping! How did she manage to brag about it so quickly?!”

Corona virus origins:
“It must have been invented and planted by women: most of the victims are male, all the football matches are cancelled and we have to stay at home.”

Prejudice and Italian heavy death toll:
“It is nowadays more scary to say ‘buongiorno’ than ‘allahu akbar’! “

Toilet paper shortage:
“Why is everyone buying so much toilet paper? Because, when one person sneezes, ten people shit themselves!”

People over 65 are forbidden from going out these days:
“What is called a 64 year old pensioner in Serbia?
– Barely legal!”

Dressing and masks:
“Government said it would be fine to go shopping wearing a surgical mask and gloves.
But when I entered a store, I was shocked and felt really awkward – everyone else also wore shoes, trousers, jackets…”

On viruses:
“AIDS – a deadly virus that can make it dangerous for people to be intimate.
Flu virus: ‘hold my beer!’ “

One of my favourite memes these days:

Global crisis and collapse of infrastructure
It is very bad for the few months.
– And what happens after that?
Then you get used to it!


15. Stealing

While this may sound shocking to many “western” people, intellectual property is a bit of a moot point in Serbia. During the 90’s crisis, unauthorized photocopies and software copies were the only way to get books and software. Nothing worked. University professors urged us to photocopy books they had written and published, to study for the exams.

In the light of the total market crush in this Shitstormβ„’, I consider it irresponsible to spend any money on things that are not crucial. While I don’t think it will truly harm anyone if people don’t buy what they wouldn’t anyway. And with this isolation – not many things you can do out of one’s home. Hence, I consider it perfectly morally (ethically) acceptable to get pirate copies of e-books, computer games and software – especially for spending the time productively, by learning new skills. However, it does pose a great risk of getting a computer virus/hack, which is the last thing one wants these days – who’s going to come and fix it? Not everything can be done remotely.

Continued in Corona diary 02.

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