Welcome to 2022! It’s a relief to turn the page on 2021 and finally look forward to some exciting prospects and new adventures. While I have some specific milestones, the timeline remains unclear due to the continued COVID pandemic.

We are now in a significant surge with the US reporting several days of 500,000+ new cases. The new omicron virus variant is highly contagious but fortunately not as dangerous as the previous delta variant, which took a heavy toll last year. New studies indicate that omicron doesn’t infect the lungs, so hospitalizations are not expected to rise in proportion to the infection rate. This week South Africa (where omicron was first detected) reported that new infections are on the decline, so researchers in the US are expecting a similar fast climb (and fall) of infections with the peak hitting in the next 1-2 weeks.

Of course this has thrown my company’s return to office plans into question. We were expected to be on site starting January 10, but shortly before our December break they announced that this had “softened” in light of omicron and that we should follow the guidance of our managers. And since my boss was on vacation, I haven’t received any update. But I would be surprised if this date still holds given the rapid spread, and if for some reason it remains firm I’ll give immediate notice since I don’t plan to return to San Diego. And even if I were planning to relocate to San Diego and continue working, I wouldn’t be comfortable right now staying in AirBnBs, apartment hunting, furniture shopping, etc. and this would be an excessive ask from my company.

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Oh Happy Day! COVID-19 Vaccine First Dose

Yesterday I received my first COVID vaccine shot. I was amazed at how quickly it all came to pass after months and months of waiting. In Florida last week there was talk of possibly expanding eligibility to ages 55+, just days after it was lowered to 60. But on Friday, the state announced eligibility is now 50+ starting on Monday.

To seize the opportunity, I quickly registered on county vaccination sites and set up online accounts at pharmacies and grocery stores. Florida has a patchwork of vaccination paths, which makes it confusing and inefficient. The county-administered sites run on a first-come-first-served basis, while the retail outlets require appointments scheduled directly on their sites. With no centralization, there’s huge potential for overlap, especially for motivated vaccine seekers like me.

So at dawn Monday I had two computers and my phone ready to get in the Publix and CVS appointment queues which opened at 7 AM. I waited as patiently as I could as I watched the availability decrease steadily: 92%… 76%… 48% then to 30% quite rapidly. Suddenly, about 45 minutes after the hour my screen moved from “On Hold” to “Register Now” and I speedily seized the first available slot for Wednesday afternoon at a local Publix supermarket.

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5:30 AM: I just got back from dropping Paul off at the Sarasota airport, an early wake up for both of us especially since the time changed overnight to daylight savings time so we effectively lost an hour. He’s headed through Dallas on his way to Las Vegas for his second Pfizer coronavirus vaccine shot but the weather looks troubling at DFW.

We just haven’t had much luck with that airport lately. On our return flight from Palm Springs a thunderstorm diverted us to Austin which delayed our arrival by many hours. It was my second diversion at that airport — a few years prior when flying from Querétaro, Mexico storms diverted us to Houston which was a huge pain since we were an international arrival which complicated the security.

But hopefully things will be just fine for Paul today, I’m thrilled he is getting his second shot which means he will soon be free to interact more socially and travel more. Things are looking up, many experts are saying that things will begin to feel much more different in the next 45 days or so as vaccine injections continue to ramp up.

Continue reading “Heritage”

One Year Later…

A beautiful morning in Florida, even here in tropical climates there is seasonal change, however small compared to the northern/southern extremes. The sun feels stronger, warmer, the sky a lighter blue than the thicker, deeper sky of winter. The windows are open, I have a vase filled with a generous bouquet of daffodils. I’ve always welcomed spring, time for rebirth and newness.

It’s been a year since the COVID-19 pandemic uprooted our lives. On March 11 2020 the World Health Organization declared it a global pandemic. At work I was in a weeks of uncertainty about working remotely, there was a company-wide email from the CEO a few days earlier about this, some team managers interpreted this as an immediate directive, other teams (like mine) met to discuss options and preferences.

All of us were thinking this would be a matter of weeks or a couple of months; we all expected to be back in the office by May. We quickly threw together shared “checkout” spreadsheets for office items taken home (monitors, chairs, docking stations…), work schedules since some parents now had to balance their children’s at-home school, and guidelines on remote tools (like chat), meeting protocols and daily team standup meetings.

In any case, March 12 2020 was the last day in the office for everyone at Illumina — worldwide. I packed my bags for the bike ride home with as many of my personal items that would fit in my backpack. I made a trip by car the next morning to get my electronics and belongings from by bike locker (shoes, belts, workout clothes).

It was all very sudden and a bit surreal — in January there were scattered news reports of a new virus in Asia of the SARS and Ebola strains. But those past epidemics, while severe in localities where it struck, didn’t travel. Soon there were reports of cases in France, a surge in Italy, next Iran. But the “problem” seemed so far away — until it wasn’t. Soon there were cases in the Pacific Northwest as it spread like wildfire through retirement homes and the first U.S. death was reported in Seattle. It was upon us, and it felt different.

Continue reading “One Year Later…”