Saturday, March 21, 2020

14 Days Of Partial Lockdown (And Counting)

Today will be the 4th day of the partial lockdown imposed by the Malaysian government since 18 March 2020, in order to stem the nationwide spread of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.

The past 3 days have been rather uneventful. Aside from being stuck in home and watching shelves in supermarkets emptying with a mixture of bemusement and mild annoyance, nothing much seems to have changed.

Of course, that's because I lead a relatively uneventful life to begin with. I'm not really missing out on anything I do on a daily basis that I really can't live without. 

All in all, life goes on...

Work from bed

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

* * *

The biggest change, of course, is work.

I'm forced to work from home (not that I'm complaining).

Or rather, I'm prohibited from going into office - now, this is slightly tricky, because my line of work involves some degree of face-to-face meeting.

But difficult times call for contingency measures. Circumstances change every passing day. Adaptability is critical.

Perhaps the most frustrating part is projects and events being cancelled or suspended indefinitely. Months of work down the drain in a snap of a finger. Plans after plans being made redundant as conditions worsen and restrictions tighten.

Work is truly a whirlwind...

* * *

The second other change is the social media toxicity.

That's the inevitable consequence of people being stuck at home and having more free time on their hands.

And predictably 80-90% of talk revolves around the Covid-19 pandemic - or more specifically, the endless stream of complaints and criticisms.

"Why is the government doing this?"

"Why is the government doing nothing?

"Why is the government changing plans?"

The pandemic is unprecedented. It's natural for governments to struggle, to make mistakes, to err at the side of caution.

Amazingly, there's a sudden surge of 'experts'. You know what? If you're so smart, why not submit your action plan to government? Why not form a special task force of like-minded experts? Why not volunteer to help the front-line?

Oh wait, you're special, we need to keep your brain safe and fingers sharp to keep continue saving the world through social media...

Here's the brutal truth about humanity - we're more toxic than any virus can be.

* * *

In The Matrix, Agent Smith delivers this chilling revelation:
"Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment, but humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus."

Stop hoarding. Stop whining. Stop spreading toxicity.

Keep calm. Keep working. Keep faith in humanity.

Hopefully, on 1 April - at the time of my next writing - the sun will shine brightly again.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Keep Calm And Don't Spread Hate Like A Coronavirus

Since the start of 2020, the Covid-19 viral infection has cast a pall of fear all over the world.

The Hubei province of China is in lock-down. Italy has followed suit. New cases and deaths are rising at an alarming rate in South Korea and Iran. Elsewhere, governments remain vigilant. Companies are drastically cutting down on international travel and conferences. Those in recent contact with infected patients prudently resort to self-quarantine.

The root cause of the disease remains unknown. No vaccine has been discovered. Some experts fear that symptoms only develop days after infection, hence increasing the risk of unsuspecting carriers passing on the virus. Fake news continually exacerbate public panic.

Worse of all, the disease has stoked the ugly side of humanity...

Keep calm and self-quarantine

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

* * *

Some people that I know of have been tested as positive, or under quarantine pending results.

I feel their pain and suffering. I wish them all a safe recovery.

It is natural for rumours of them being infected to spread around like wildfire in private chat groups. Some have expressed concern and sympathy.

But to my utmost horror and disgust, the word 'karma' has been bandied about. Some have welcomed such rumours with glee.

Seriously, how sick is that?

It's fine to dislike other people. It's fine to feel vindicated when karmic justice is served in a narrow sense. It's fine to revel in our enemies' defeat.

But to wish ill will upon a person?

I'm sorry, that just crosses the line. People catching virulent diseases has nothing to do with 'karma'. It's one thing to wish for someone to get caught and punished for a wrongdoing they committed (karma). It's quite another to wish for that someone and his whole family to catch cancer (curse).

Sickening, absolutely sickening...

* * *

In The Dark Knight, the Joker delivers this chilling monologue to Batman:
"You see, their morals, their code, it's a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble... When the chips are down, these... these civilized people, they'll eat each other."

I want to believe the Joker is wrong. I want to believe in the ultimate good in humanity. I want to believe that humans will stand for each other in the face of a common adversity.

But this Covid-19 phenomenon has cut deeply into my faith.

On the bright side, I now know how despicable some people I know can be. I don't need such negativity in my life. I better stay away from them like a plague.

In time, this wretched Covid-19 plague too will pass.

Till then, let us keep calm, stay positive, and spread the love...

Sunday, March 1, 2020

You Are Not A Dog, Do Not Reward Yourself With Food

Earlier this week, I posted that quote on Facebook - to the confusion and consternation of many.

Some people got it, some didn't, some thought they did but actually didn't.

To be fair, the line is rather cryptic, vague and open to many interpretations.

I came across it on Quora, when someone (named) quoted someone else (unnamed) quoting it. Sorry, it's not that I wish to steal ownership, but I really don't know who to attribute to quote to!

So what the hell does the quote actually mean?!?

The perfect lunch break

* * *

"You are not a dog. Do not reward yourself with food."

The original anonymous quoter (hello, spell check? how can this not be an actual word? well, IT NOW IS!) was a health and wellness guru. So the quoter was intending the quote to be a health advice - that we shouldn't binge on food as a reward because that would lead to obesity and early death.

That's as good advice as any. Which everyone should subscribe to. Don't overeat!

For me, I see another angle to the quote - productivity.

I happen to know of many people - including close family and friends - who are foodies. They absolutely love food. They eat to live, not live to eat.

Whatever. Their body, their choice, their life.

But when it comes to work, I strongly object to food being a source of motivation.

Now, I'm not talking about monthly team lunches or bosses treating us to a nice dinner after a long week of work. Major celebrations are fine. Go wild, go crazy!

Instead, what I'm referring to is our personal habit of fixing a 'good meal' as a milestone goal.

* * *

Let's pick a simple and common example: long lunches

A lot of my former colleagues enjoy taking long lunches. Not every day, but 2-3 times per week.

I absolutely do not see any sense in such indulgence.

Lunch is right in the middle of your work day (or one-third, counting night, for some of us). Unless you're going to be work-free for the rest of the day (or chilling off at some semi-work function, like a conference), there is no reason to have such a long break.

This is purely anecdotal, but here's my observation on long-lunchers (yes, another word I just made):
  • They are restless
  • They are easily stressed
  • They frequently take breaks to chat, snack, etc
  • They struggle to meet deadlines
  • They work overtime, and then bitch about their workload, colleagues and bosses (while being oblivious to the simple fact that they would have been able to finish their work and leave early had they not taken breaks and LONG LUNCHES!)

To be fair, they are probably aware of their shortcomings, and are genuinely attempting to overcome them with all sorts of 'fixes' (including long lunches).

But here's why ascribing 'long lunches' as a reward do not work:
  • It's distracting - the image of your favourite meal keeps forming at the forefront of your mind, and your eyes just keeps staring at the clock and willing it to tick faster (not to mention the intricate planning involved - messaging your friends to discuss on options, seek reviews, vote, etc.) 
  • It disrupts your work flow - our minds do not have a 'on/off' button, and even computers take time shutting down and turning on
  • It trips you up into making mistakes - you're rushing against an arbitrary timer set by your stomach, instead of working within the capacity of your brain
  • It will upset you greatly if you actually miss it - maybe some last-minute work came in, or maybe you couldn't finish your work because you were distracted (see point 1)
  • It makes you slack off thereafter - lunch was OHMAIGAWD SO GOOODDD... I CAN"T MOOOVVVEEE.... CAN'T THINKKK... CAN'T WOORRRKKK...
Who are the foodies? (no prizes for guessing)

* * *

So what should be best reward for completing your work?

Go home early and spend time with the kids.

Get on to the next task so that you can finish off all urgent work by Friday to free your weekends.

Ask for more work so that you can exceed your target and get a higher bonus.

Having a good meal - like long lunches - is just a cheap reward. It's a temporal kick. It's an unhealthy addiction, like taking a smoke.

And above all, eating makes you fat... and UGLY!

So next time you think about rewarding yourself with food for a job well done - please DON'T!

You are a human. You have self-control. You can motivate yourself through sheer willpower ALONE.

Eat to eat, work to work. Don't mix work with food, don't mix food with work.

Once again, repeat after me: