As a writer, right now I have, only one Subject. Which doesn’t mean I’m the only writer worth reading about the Subject (yes, I do have some remaining tattered shreds of humility).

Nor, it occurred to me, is the Subject the only subject that can provide insights into the Subject.

To that end, as I imagine you’re finding yourself with more reading time on your hands than usual, allow me to recommend Lynne Olson’s marvelous Citizens of London.

Even without its relevance, this book would belong on your reading shortlist. It’s history few of us know anything about — how three Americans — Edward R. Murrow, Averell Harriman, and John Gilbert Winant helped save England before the United States joined the war against the Axis powers.

As we chafe at the self-imposed restrictions on our now-on-hold daily routines, it should be required reading: Citizens of London, as it relates the previously untold joint biography of Murrow, Harriman, and Winant, also tells the story of the Blitz in stark, unblinking terms.

Understanding the day-to-day stoicism, courage, and resilience with which the British dealt with two solid months of daily bombings should quell any sense we have of daily aggravation.

We find ourselves shopping on-line from the comfort of our homes. Our inconvenience is shortages brought about mostly because of shoppers who expect shortages. The British crowded into air raid shelters, wondering if this would be the time a German bomb turned their shelter into a mass tomb. And, it found them dealing with very real, painful, severe and constant shortages of food and basic commodities.

If, though, fiction is more to your liking than biography, and you’d like to read about the Subject without reading about it as daily … or hourly, or up-to-the-minute-breaking … news, get hold of the incomparable Connie Willis’s World War II duology, Blackout and All Clear. While not historically accurate in detail, Willis paints a vivid picture of Great Britain in World War II, and especially the Blitz, through the lens of time-traveling historians who find themselves caught up in it all.

If you don’t regularly read science fiction reader don’t be put off. The science-fictional elements don’t dominate the story. The everyday heroism of so-called “ordinary” people does.

Speaking only for myself, reading and thinking about the Blitz gives me something to aspire to.

Parallels between the Blitz and our current government-encouraged, self-imposed quarantines and isolation are, of course, inexact. Especially, the Blitz caused the British to crowd in together. They might have wished for a protective solution that let them isolate themselves, just as we wish for one that would let us congregate.

I will, by the way, allow you some escapism as you wait things out (no, don’t thank me!). While I’m touting Connie Willis, that means you should save The Doomsday Book — a grim and unrelenting telling of the bubonic plague — for more cheerful times.

Instead, seek out her utterly delightful To Say Nothing of the Dog. It’s about a time traveling historian’s (of course!) search for Jerome K Jerome, author of Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog),

Which is, if anything, even more delightful than Willis’s book about it.

Add it to your list.

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Those of us who write have, I think, a responsibility to make sure we rely on trustworthy sources of information; also to monitor ourselves to make sure the trustworthy sources we rely on aren’t limited to trustworthy sources who reliably tell us what we want to read (or hear).

Last week, while using the Subject as a springboard for writing about risk management, I highlighted a source of reliably untrustworthy information. Several subscribers objected to my bringing politics into KJR.

Interestingly, these same subscribers did not complain when I used the Democratic primaries as a springboard for writing about sexism in the workplace, even though I was less than kind in my comments about some of the candidates.

In any event, it’s fair to say that identifying trustworthy sources of information about the Subject is probably more useful than trying to list the near-endless sources of misinformation. Hint: if a source endorses bleach cocktails or homemade hydroxychloroquine, it’s untrustworthy.

Better to rely on the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Yes, the CDC’s early attempts at establishing a testing program were pretty ragged. No, that doesn’t disqualify it as a source of reliable information.

One more: while I’m sometimes less than complimentary regarding McKinsey & Company, its COVID-19 Executive Briefing for business management is quite good.

And, of course, there’s Snopes.

My all-time favorite editing gaffe garbled a column I wrote about Y2K.

What I wrote: “The money saved dwarfed that spent on remediation.”

What InfoWorld printed: “The money saved the dwarfs that spent on remediation.”

I felt like Thorin Oakenshield with a corrupted database.

Speaking of Y2K, my recent column on COVID-19 and what you should do about it (“When Corona isn’t just a beer,” 3/2/2020) included a reminder of the KJR Risk/Response Dictum: Successful prevention is indistinguishable from absence of risk. I used the global, effective response to the H1N1 virus as an example.

Several correspondents reminisced with me about another, even better example: Global IT’s astonishingly effective response to the Y2K bug, and the ensuing certainty among the ignorati that it was all a hoax.

Y2K’s outcome was, in fact, a case study in what David Brin calls self-preventing prophecy. In the case of Y2K the problem of using two digits to represent the year in date fields, with the 19 prefix assumed, was indisputably real. The potential impact should the world fail to correct the problem was, in the aggregate, unknown and probably unknowable. Concerns ranged from the mundane — employees and customers who, according to HR and CRM systems, would have had negative ages — to the alarming but unlikely possibility of computer-controlled elevators plummeting down their shafts.

For a more in-depth account, read “The Lessons of Y2K, 20 Years Later,” Zachary Loeb, Washington Post, 12/30/2019.

Pre-COVID-19 we knew the overall risk of a viral pandemic soon enough to be worth investing in advance preparedness was high. Which virus, exactly when, exactly how contagious and exactly how virulent? Of course not. The Y2K problem was definitive. COVID-19? The lack of in-advance specifics made, for some decision-makers, the fourth risk response (hope) attractive.

About all we know about the risk of future pandemics is that it’s increasing. That isn’t in any doubt because (1) a pandemic only needs one sick person to get things started; (2) every year, Earth has more persons who could become that one sick person; and (3) every year, more and more people travel to more and more destinations, and “more and more” means a higher likelihood that the one sick person could cross borders to spread their disease more widely.

But never mind all that. Observing the global response to COVID-19, we in IT should be busily patting ourselves on the back again … washing our hands before and after we do, of course.

We deserve the back-patting because if it weren’t for IT, and specifically if it weren’t for our investments in: electronic mail; internal chat; file sharing technology; web conferencing systems; secure remote access to business applications; along with, I hope, broadly available training in their use, coupled with, at this stage of our evolution, peer pressure to master at least the basics coupled with peer knowledge-sharing to provide informal support … if the world of commerce hadn’t embraced these technologies and the idea of remote workers they support, your company’s Business Continuity Plan, sub-section Pandemic Response Plan, would be pretty much worthless.

And right now, if it weren’t for these business innovations that quietly took hold over the past decade or so, the current pandemic’s impact on the world economy would be quite a lot worse.

It’s only ten years ago that I wrote “10 sure-fire ways to kill telecommuting” for InfoWorld (3/30/2009). Some readers got the joke. Even those who thought I was serious recognized that telecommuting was far from universally accepted among business leaders and managers.

Among evolutionary theorists, this sort of thing is called a “preadaptation.” It means a species develops some heritable trait or behavior because natural selection favored it for an entirely different reason. Sometime in the distant future the species makes use of it in some entirely different way that gains an entirely different advantage.

For example, fish developed swim bladders to control their buoyancy. Long, long afterward the swim bladders they had as fish evolved into the lungs they needed as amphibians.

Likewise what we used to call telecommuting and now call remote work. Organizations didn’t embrace it because it would make them more resilient in the face of a global pandemic. They embraced the practice because it reduced the cost of business infrastructure, gained access to a broader pool of talent, and let companies construct project teams out of a broader array of employees.

The moral of this story: You can’t predict all the ways a new technology might create value. So don’t let your governance committees stifle experimentation. You never know when an experiment might turn out to be a preadaptation.

What you do know: If you prevent the experiments then they won’t.