Week 66 — Sanity in Lockdown

An Unofficial Personal Reflection on Rules as Code

After a guest post last week, I am doing a shorter than normal post this week as I’m sure you have noticed with the post being published on a Saturday instead of Friday. After 12 (?) weeks in lockdown and with Ottawa going into phase 2 of reopening, semblances of regular life are returning even if Ontario’s daily case count is still high. For example, this week day care centres re-opened and more stores are being allowed to open back up. While life will not return to normal until there is a vaccine (and its open for debate whether the old normal should ever return), it seems like people are ready to have a more normal routine in their lives.

As a parent of a young toddler (now 21 months old), the past 12 weeks has been tough. I’ve been juggling a full time work schedule, volunteer commitments and being a father. I know the pace isn’t sustainable but I’ve taken steps to help with self care including using household chores as a way to create a barrier between work and home while keeping the house running, buying a few things I’ve wanted for awhile such as a backyard gazebo and rollerblades and maximizing nap time and bed time for self care. It’s been tough for my partner. She doesn’t have to work full time (but is still being paid) but its no easier to get zero respite outside of the times I play with our daughter for an hour here or there.

So it brings me to the main topic of this week’s post which is maintaining sanity in lockdown. Every situation is different but here are 3 things that have helped me as the parent of a toddler, full time public servant and taking on my share of the unpaid but important labour of keeping the house clean and running.

Tip 1: Don’t sweat the small stuff

Being stuck in a house with the same 2 people day in and out for weeks on end chances are you will get on each other’s nerves. The worst habits of the people you live with start to become larger problems when there is no escape. Suddenly, dishes in random parts of the house or the clutter they create become much larger problems than they used to be when there was opportunity to get out of the house and less chance for the bad habits to manifest and to fester into problems.

So the first tip is don’t sweat the small stuff. You are going to get on each other’s nerves so remember to be empathic, pick your battles and if something is really bugging you speak up before it becomes a big battle. Chances are the person doesn’t even realize the problem nor how it is impacting you so a polite chat about the issue can often solve the problem before it becomes a big fight.

Tip 2: Find Ways To Help

Let me be clear. All aspects of the house including the children, chores, cooking etc. are not the responsibility of a specific parent. The duties of the house, both direct and indirect should be split between both parents. With that being said, we have chores we like, chores we hate and chores which make watching paint dry seem like a good way to spend an afternoon. Do some introspection and figure out what you like to do (or at least don’t mind doing) and compare that with what your partner likes doing. Find a way to split chores which allows both of you to do what you like doing (or at least don’t mind doing). If you run into something that both of you do not like doing, then find a way to split the task. At the end of the day, make sure you are pulling your weight.

Tip 3: Accept That We Live in Exceptional Times

It’s a global pandemic that hasn’t happened in 100 years. This is not normal. Anyone who is telling you that a “new normal” is starting is either saying it as a figure of speech or if they are literal, stop listening because this will never be normal. In the context of living with a partner, this means understanding that just like you are going through complex feelings and emotions so are they. This means that to do lists may overflow with items or that certain household tasks won’t get done. This is the time to practice forgiveness and flexibility. As long as no one’s health, safety or life is in danger then everything can wait. This is the time to be empathic and to understand that it is ok to not be perfect. Your floors might be dirty, you might have a lot of unwashed dishes or maybe garbages are overflowing but that is ok. You are living through a pandemic and more recently through a large scale protest against systematic racism while either being unemployed or expected to still work regular (or more) hours. So really it is ok to be overwhelmed, to let a few things slip and to not be perfect whether that means not being the perfect roomate, perfect parent, perfect employee or any other measurement of perfection. Allow yourself the vulnerability to fail, to be less than perfect and be the best you can given the circumstances. Despite what self help, leadership, business and other books tell us, we don’t all have to wake up early, drink bullet coffee, think of 100 ideas before 7am, work 2 side gigs, excel at our job, be perfect parents and be everything for everyone. More power to you if you can pull this off but for the rest of us, we’ll be doing our best to thrive under the conditions we set for ourselves based on what our own needs are and we will be proud about it.

AI Demonstrator Projects (Regulatory Metadata, Regulatory Evaluation Platform, Rules as Code and Machine Readable Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement)

Regulatory Metadata: Work continues to establish the technical infrastructure for regulatory metadata. This includes securing cloud access, determining data repository requirements and confirming funding for the project.

Regulatory Evaluation Platform: Work continues in researching best practices about how to perform a “peer review” of an AI system. Initial research has uncovered a lot of interesting information which has led to even more questions around when is the right time to do an algorithm impact assessment, how to fit the peer review into the AI development process and how to ensure proper documentation is created throughout the life of the project to support the peer review. This is the first formal peer review of an AI system in the Government of Canada so the specifics are not known. Instead, the main purpose of this project is to figure out what might work in terms of a peer review, try it out with the Regulatory Evaluation Platform and then make recommendations on a process, governance and approach for future AI projects.

Rules as Code: A project charter for the next phase of the project is set. Internal discussions are ongoing to establish roles and responsibilities for a project that will involve applying a “Better Rules” process to a regulation which will start the drafting process this fall.

Machine Readable Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement: We held a kick-off meeting to discuss potential ways to make the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement and more broadly Parts I and II of the Canada Gazette machine readable. The initial discussions have been focused on figuring out how to build a data pipeline of content from point of submission into a repository and whether or not the process of publication and maintenance of the data can be automated.

Week 66 is done. Thank you for sticking around to the end of the weeknotes. Have a great week!

Working on public sector innovation one problem at a time. Found biking and hiking on weekends. Father of young baby… what is sleep?