Sunday, November 22, 2020

The irony of hindsight

 So 17/Nov/2020 we quietly celebrated the first anniversary of the discovery of COVID-19 on WhatsApp. I think that date is disputed and based on this article by SCMP. WHO declared its existence to the world only on 31/Dec/2019. As I look back, I find it ironic that I took a day off on 31st December of 2019 to celebrate the end of a decade and the start of a new one! We had no clue of how bad this pandemic is going to be all the way till Feb 2020!

As we prepare to look forward to the last month of 2020, I do not see hope in things improving any faster. Outbreaks continue, lock-downs are common place and travel, tourism and a host of other related activities are a distant memory. While we all await the vaccine with bated breath, my pessimistic mind says, it ain't gonna happen so soon. And then distributing the vaccines across the globe is going to be another "unprecedented" logistics nightmare!

I remember reading articles and thinking about "Vision 2020" and "How will the world be in 2020" a few decades ago. No where did we talk about locking ourselves in our homes, wearing masks, avoiding people and working our a$$ off from home. But here we are in 2020 now, and that is the new normal.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Continue reading books

Books haven't been my go to source for entertainment ever. Almost 3 years ago, I tried to build a "book reading" habit into my daily routine before I sleep, and I have managed to keep it that way now for a while. Yesterday I managed to finish my 12th book of this year and I am happy to say that I managed to stretch my resolution of reading a book a month to the third year. I hope to keep this resolution (forever?).

Of course, sometimes I read really small books and sometimes I get stuck in super big ones. Overall, I just manage. I have realized that I am not a fan of fictional books, but they are the fastest to read. In non-fiction, I am not particularly fond of "self-help" books. I think I mainly love reading business books, and recently have taken special liking for history. Managed to read 2 books about India's history this year and the 3rd book is on its way in the postal mail as I write this blog post.

I don't manage to retain everything I read in a book, but well, bits and pieces and some novel ideas do stick in the back of my brain for most books. If you are consuming all your information these days from news sites and social media, I implore you to read books of topics you like. And if you are a voracious reader, I admire you!

The US elections that just went by, seem to me like one of the most divisive elections I have ever seen (in my lifetime). It could be because of social media, or just that anything that happens in the USA gets a lot more media coverage than anything happening anywhere else. Anyway, reading all the caustic news occasionally, has strengthened my resolve to read more books I like and not get unnecessarily bothered by political  happenings on the other side of the planet.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle

After we are done (whenever that is) with COVID-19 and the US Elections, we still have to come back to the looming problem of Climate Change. It may be on the back burner now, but it is just a matter of time before it raises its ugly head again. While I am no scientist, I do believe that we all can contribute to reducing our (human race's) impact on the fragile ecology (or whatever is left of it now).
 
I think the age-old saying of Reduce - Reuse - Recycle needs to be somehow changed to emphasize on the fact that we need to reduce a lot more than we have to reuse and we have to reduce and reuse a hell-lot-more than we have to recycle. Only then, we have any hope of saving the planet. My not-so-clever brain came up with this inverted pyramid to depict that:
 

 
Rather than simply engaging in green washing, think about your environmental impact in everything you do. For e.g. by now, I hope you have read that plastic bags are environmentally more friendly (if you reuse them) than cotton bags (reuse 45 times than reuse 7100 times to have the same life-cycle effect). Anyway, let's revisit the terms Reduce - Reuse - Recycle again:

 Reduce

Buy less. Use less paper, plastic, food. Use less electricity. Use less water. Walk where you can drive your car. Take public transport wherever you can. Don't waste stuff. Every action you do, think of your environmental impact. Remember, the world has to last even after you are gone. So reduce the irreversible change that you are inadvertently causing.

Reuse

Reuse plastics, reuse paper, reuse clothes, reuse utensils. Reuse whatever you can. Be stingy for the environment. It is not about how much you can afford anymore (most of us are rich enough to afford quite a bit of luxury and be wasteful). It is all about the environment now.

Recycle

If you can't reuse, then remember that most countries now have recycling programs. If you try you can find out how you can recycle your stuff. Make sure you segregate at source so that items put for recycling are really recycled.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Constantly Distracted

I feel constantly overwhelmed by too much work-email always in my inbox and too many instant messages. It's like this leak that constantly fills up a bucket in your house. However hard you try to empty the bucket, it fills in again.

I am sure many of you experience the same. To add to it, if I go away from my laptop, the constant instant messaging and new email from work on the phone adds to the stress! There really is no work-life balance. The entire life is "worklife". I wonder how other people manage this distraction? I have stayed away from social media for a long while now. This definitely has helped to reduce my other distractions.

I miss the good old days (more than a decade ago). Where you left your work in office when you left for the day. Work from home was limited to the days when you had to bring your work laptop home to do some work. And I needed approvals to get a laptop! Life was easy. There were no "Smartphones". All that could pester you were SMS and most of the times they were never work related.

I have a feeling this is just going to get worst before it gets any better. While I have been actively trying not to check emails on weekends and after office hours, it does not seem to help much. The more I think about this problem I realize that along with time, "attention" is my most important asset. I have to work towards constantly guarding it.

While 2021 is still far away to make resolutions, I hope I can really practice mindfulness and go on an attention diet.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Time

Sorry for disappearing for almost a month. Life changed suddenly (like it always does) and I am in the midst of that change. I will probably write about what I have "been through" in a subsequent blog post once I am through this.

If there is one thing that I feel we all have equal access to (regardless of race, wealth, color) is - time. Every human being on the planet gets 24 hours a day. Irrespective of how rich you are, you can't trade time and everyone is equally wealthy in terms of the number of minutes you have in a day.

We are obsessed with money, but if you are a middle-aged salaried man like me - you need to guard the finite resource - time - by trading away money to do things that take too much of your time. To value your time, you need to have an index cost to each hour of your time so that you can do a cost-benefit analysis of your "time" much more easily.

I know it sounds simple but this "cost-benefit" analysis can get really complex. There are some things we do with our time that are genuinely required. For e.g. spending time with family is priceless. Working out, eating, sleeping, daily ablutions are a required (mandatory) use of time. So then, this analysis is something we need to seriously do about the discretionary time (browsing, socializing, entertaining) that we spend. Or the chores (cooking, cleaning, paying bills) that seem to occupy all of your weekends. I know I have written about time-boxing before, so I am sort of repeating myself.

Anyway, this brings me to my last argument on this topic. As much as possible try to do the following two things with your chores:

  • Automate
  • Outsource

 If repetitive things can be automated (auto-investment, auto-bill-payment for e.g.) then do it! Save time on non-value added activities. If you can outsource boring, non-value added chores (filing taxes, washing, cleaning (to maids/ robots/ consultants)) then do it. Only DIY if you enjoy (entertainment) or have a health benefit (cleaning 1 hour is your workout of the week!) or it is really worth it (for you).

Sunday, September 6, 2020

I wear Speedos

As a few of you know, I enjoy swimming. I have been practicing it for more than a decade now. While I don't swim any better than before, over the years, I have spent a lot on swimming accessories and this blog post is my experience speaking.

First of all, my typical swimming gear is - Cap, Ear Plugs, Goggles, Swimming Shirt and Jammers. I have tried a few brands for each one of them and more or less settled on specific choices for each one. Today, I shall talk only about the Swimming Jammers. They look something like the picture below:

Over the years, I have tried a lot of brands like - Arena, TYR etc. Somehow none of them have lasted me more than a year with an average of 1-2 times a week swimming frequency. Maybe it was just my bad luck. The 2 times that I bought a Speedo Jammer, it sort of outlasted my expectations. My last one gave way after at least 220 km of swimming over a period of 4+ years. Mind you, I started tracking on my Garmin, at least a year after I bought the jammers.


I am amazed that they lasted so long. Chlorinated water is corrosive, and I don't expect anything to last that long. Hence this post commemorating them! I also notice that over the years, there has been significant progress in the material used and they seem to repel water better and last longer.

Anyway, since this has been a boring post, here are 2 videos for you to enjoy. First - a song named "Despacito" which was a viral sensation and has had more than 6.9B views (as of this writing).


And its parody by Mikey Bustos titled "I wear Speedos" which I think is a very nice and funny parody though slightly on the PG13+ side. Every time I say "Speedo" now, I can't help but thinking about this song.


P.S. - He ain't wearing jammers in the parody video. Jammers are longer and look more like cycling shorts than swimming attire.

 


Sunday, August 30, 2020

The Korean Tourism Commercial

 If you are an advertiser showing videos on YouTube in the 6-10 seconds before the actual video starts, your life is tough. First of all, you are interrupting someone's binge watching and that someone is more interested in looking at the countdown to "skip" your advertisement, than looking at it. If you are able to attract attention when the odds are against you, then I really think you are awesome at your game. I came across this random video about Korean tourism while binge watching YouTube and for some reason, I find it so addictive that I never skipped the commercial.

The ultimate compliment though is that, I actively searched for the commercial and also the song, the artist, the lyrics etc. etc. Now before I proceed, I want you to experience the commercial:


Now that the commercial is out of the way, I did some research on the song it is called "Tiger is coming". It is sung by this Korean band called "Leenalchi". The lyrics translated by a YouTube comment go like this:

A tiger is coming down, a tiger is coming
A beast is coming down
through the deep valley in the pine woods

His body is freckled,
His tail is stuffed
which is longer than a grown man's fathom.

Making the high hills shiver,
his front leg is like a quiver,
his hind paw is like a jar,
Both ears are ripped ajar.

Brandishing his sickle claws,
'Charrrr!'

He splashes grass roots and pebbles.
Opening his crimson jaws,
'Worirung!' he rumbles.

Like the sky falls and
the ground settles down,
The turtle hides his head and
on the ground bows down. 

Of-course I am no Korean, and I have not "verified" this from any Korean. It's just a random YouTube comment by this person.

If you wish to see their live performance of the same song, you should check this video out:


The dance is performed by this group called "Ambiguous Dance Company". You can see a lot of their videos on YouTube. Finally to top it off, I find another commercial by the same group quite nice and catchy as well:


Anyway, hats-off to the complete campaign! Everything is amazingly choreographed (literally and figuratively).

Thursday, August 13, 2020

How to get rid of your dandruff in a week?

 If this sounds like a click bait article, I am sorry. I thought I share something I found out a couple of years ago and it seems to have worked for me till today.

Now before you proceed, here are some disclaimers:

  • I am not a doctor or a dermatologist or even remotely associated with the medical profession
  • People on the internet can write anything they want, and you should not trust them
  • This is my personal experience, and everyone's experience can be totally different
  • I am not being paid to write this blog post (or any other) so this just my honest opinion

Okay, with that list out of the way - let me tell you my story. As a school going kid, and subsequently through out my life, besides my weight and my looks the other thing I was always embarrassed about was my dandruff problem. I have had dandruff in my hair for as far back as I recall. I tried a lot of remedies - medical, Ayurvedic or advertised. Nothing really ever worked for me. Anti-dandruff shampoo was always a part of my grooming arsenal, and it just managed to sometimes reduce it, but I never really got rid of it. I tried crazy remedies like egg, beer, yogurt, shampoos with ZPTO on my head and other than the awkward smell, it didn't impact much.

Selsun 2.5% Suspension
 

A few years ago, someone advised me to use the Selsun 2.5% suspension shampoo to wash my hair everyday for a week and then subsequently alternate days for a month. The shampoo contains Selenium Sulfide. And it is apparently not available over the counter in USA. However, I can get it in a pharmacy in Singapore without a prescription.

My dandruff has completely disappeared ever since. I switched to using their Selsun Blue version once a week subsequently, and it dandruff has not recurred again. I am not "absolutely" sure if its really the shampoo or my diet, or my horoscope, or climate change, or just the fact that I am dangerously close to my 4th decade on this planet, and apparently dandruff is not an old person problem.

So all the best!

Sunday, August 9, 2020

From Bed to Desk (and back)

 It has been more than 4.5 months since I started working from home. Initially what was a novelty has now become mundane. This means the excitement of the false sense of "more time" (because of no travel and no commuting) is now gone. What was perceived to be more time initially for the first few weeks has been now quickly taken over by "more work" and procrastination. Now to be fair, in the initial few weeks of the pandemic, I did get a daily routine going on exercise, mental enrichment and education. However, now that's all gone.

My days now start with work right off the bed and working all the way to the wee hours of the night when I get exhausted and drop back into the bed. Many a times lunch and dinner is hurriedly gobbled while taking a work call.

I hope and pray that this is not the case for you, and I wish that things change for the better for me fast! Late to bed and early to rise makes Girish unhealthy, irritable and annoyed.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Philanthropy and the wisdom of Bill Gates

Growing up (especially during my Engineering days and the early part of my career), I was a big believer in the Open Source Software philosophy. In the late 90s and early 2000s the biggest perceived enemy of Open Source was Microsoft and by association Bill Gates. I was not very fond of him as a starry eyed under-graduate student.

Post my MBA, I wanted to work for an Open Source software company and change the world. Given the circumstances, that never happened and I went into (or rather continued) in commercial closed-source software.

Anyway, over the last decade, I have been passively following (online), listening and reading about Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation and my opinion about him has changed leaps and bounds. I have come to respect and admire him for the work he is doing globally on things that most Governments and Corporations are turning a blind eye towards. I feel like, he stepped away from the corporate world at the right time, and decided to change the world.

He has shot to prominence in this pandemic. One of the reasons being - his ominous TED talk in April 2015 where he spoke about such a pandemic coming in our lifetime and the deadly consequences of it.



Flash forward to 2020, with all the negativity and uncertainty around us it's refreshing to hear Bill Gates' views on the potentially positive outcomes we might have "after" this pandemic, on the world order.



If we stop being so toxic with each other on social media and so divisive about all our ideas (us vs. them thinking) we can sit back and look at the last 100 years of human progress and see that humanity has stepped up to any challenge always and worked to solve it together. For e.g. we have not had a catastrophic world war after 1945, we managed to not annihilate the planet through a nuclear war, we almost eradicated a lot of common diseases and infant mortality has been all time low. Now, if we put all our creative brains together and work towards solving problems of today - climate change, COVID-19 etc. we can leave this world a better place for future generations.