Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Bye bye 2nd Decade

So today we celebrate the last day of the end of the second decade of the 21st century. To celebrate this momentous occasion, I took a day off from my hectic office routine, went to a coffee shop overlooking the Marina Bay Sands and am writing this special blog post to reflect on it. This is what I am staring at - right this moment:

So here I am, continuing on my tradition of reflecting on the year before and giving you ideas for resolutions for the next year.  2019 was a year of awakening for me. I sort of realized that work can't be the focus of my life. I need to slow down and smell the coffee (figuratively). I should pause every now and then and look back and celebrate my successes (however small or insignificant they are) and focus on "acknowledging" happiness whenever it happens. Mid-life crisis continues to bother me. Aging is a continuous process and staying healthy now takes priority. As for my resolutions - I managed to read yet another 12 books in the year, and managed to get a bit more fitter - fastest 5K, longest run, did my first spartan race and exercised a bunch of muscle groups in my body that I didn't even know existed!

As for the decade, this one has been by far the most revolutionary decade in my personal life. A lot of major events happened this decade. If you are in my age group, I guess it has been your case as well (statistically the decade between the late 20s to late 30s is the one in which a lot of "changes" happen for most of us anyway - till we more or less "settle" down).

Thank you so much for being a part of my journey. I wish you a very happy 2020 and I hope your next decade is amazing!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Annular Solar Eclipse

So I finally got to see a Solar Eclipse. Not a total, but an annular (ring). Weather gave way and I managed to catch the exact fleeting moment (less than 2 minutes) when the "ring of fire" appeared. Singapore was expected to have a cloudy weather with chances of thunderstorm, but luckily, clouds cleared long enough for all of us to experience this amazing natural phenomenon.

At the end of the second decade of the 20th Century, we (as a human race) are more or less accustomed to everything of entertainment value (concerts, movies, sports events etc.) to happen flawlessly. We hardly see any natural phenomenon, so the concept of "chance" or the possibility of not being able to see it has become very remote. So while we started seeing the solar eclipse almost right since the partial eclipse began (at around 11:30 AM local time), I was not sure whether the clouds would cooperate and let us see the maximum eclipse (at around 01:22 PM local time). Luckily everything went smoothly and the clouds decided to cover the sun only after the maximum eclipse was over.

I had purchased a "Solar Viewer", the prices of which were obviously jacked up for the event and for a change I managed to see the eclipse (through the viewer) without getting affected by mobile phones, cameras etc. Just a pure experience without any social media or photo taking frenzy.

The last time I saw something of this sorts was the Lunar Eclipse in 2017 over Europe. But it was a partial eclipse, and I could not wait to see the maximum because I had meetings the next day morning and had to go sleep. I am glad I could see this solar eclipse completely and without much hassle. I am not sure if I will ever see another one.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The CC Mystery

After having spent more than 15 years in the work place and sending more than a hundred thousand emails, I believe I have more or less figured out the CC mystery in emails. Before I actually explain it to you, I think we all need a history lesson:

CC stands for carbon copy. It comes from the days when letters were hand-written or type-written and if multiple copies were required we put something called as a "carbon paper" behind the original letter to "copy" text over to sheets of paper behind the main paper. As a courtesy, the original paper would have a CC: line at the bottom indicating who else received the letter other than the person to whom it was addressed to. I saw my dad write business letters at home sometimes and the carbon paper happens to be a memory of my childhood. Since I started working, emails had already taken over as a means of corporate communication. So I never really had the pleasure of writing hand-written or type-written business letters. For the kids amongst us, this is how the carbon papers looked like:

Carbon Paper

Anyway, CCs in email began as an innocuous relic of the past for me. But now they have taken monstrous, political, and psychological forms of harassment. So here is a brief guide to interpreting CCs in your email.

  • If you receive an email with no CC:

The sender is your friend, colleague or a business partner that trusts you can do your job. They are getting things done on their side, and do not care about letting anyone else know about it

  • If you receive an email with your boss in CC:

The sender thinks you are incapable of responding without nudging your boss. The sender thinks that you are scared of your boss, or worst they are playing power games. In either case, ignore such emails till - either they follow-up or your boss wakes up from his slumber and happens to read that email - or even better - the sender calls your boss and complains that you have not responded yet

  • If you receive an email with the sender's boss in CC:

The sender needs to show their boss that they are working diligently, are keeping the boss "informed", or are worried that if they don't mark the boss, the boss won't know that they are working on. Respond immediately to such emails (if you can) and praise the sender incessantly for the job they are doing. They might score a raise, a promotion or a pat on the back (if the boss happens to read the email). You will make someone's day and they will be thankful to you for that.

  • If you receive an email with random people in CC:

The sender likes to "inform" and "keep in the loop" a lot of people who have nothing better to do. Or worst still it is a politically charged organization where multiple people's ego needs to be stroked and kept happy.

Anyway, jokes apart, I think too much email is the number one cause of anxiety and distraction for me. Coupled with instant messengers, emails are responsible for a lot of lost productivity. As we complete 2 decades in the 21st century, I firmly believe that it is easiest to work on shared documents and work collaboratively, and if you need to get things done, just call the person and talk!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Bowl of Shame

Losing weight and trying to be fit has been a long journey for me. I became somewhat  serious in 2012 and saw some significant weight loss that year. Subsequently I tried to maintain a healthy diet and caught up on some exercising consistently for a few years. My best year in terms of weight was 2015 after which I started slacking. Last 2 years have been terrible and I am almost back to where I started off. My entire weight chart now looks like a bowl, a bowl of shame!

My weight loss story is just like a million other stories you have heard before. People diet, lose weight and then gain back with a vengeance much more than they had lost. The problem really is - weight loss is a journey - not a destination. You should never really stop controlling what you eat unless you are blessed with a crazy awesome metabolism. And you never stop exercising and you never cave-in to temptation (other than the occasional celebration).

I can blame my age (slowing metabolism), my travel (have to eat whatever I get at the destination), my stress (eat comfort food), but the problem remains - I have no self-control. It reminds me of this witty meme that I came across on Reddit a while ago:

I need to lose weight. I know how to lose weight, but I don't wanna do the things that I need to do to lose the weight, but I still wanna lose weight.
You get me? - Anonymous meme read on Reddit
So if you are setting resolutions for the new year for weight loss, please note that they should be your resolutions for "rest of my life".

Sunday, December 1, 2019

U2 - The Joshua Tree Tour

And it finally happened. I managed to see my most favorite band of all times live in concert. Two hours of absolutely electrifying music with amazing performances by Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. They did what they do best!

I was so looking forward to this concert and so afraid that I might not be able to attend that when it actually happened, it was so surreal for me. Getting concert tickets in Singapore for hot bands is not easy. Tickets get sold out within a matter of minutes once they are open for booking online. And since U2 is the highest grossing band of all times, I had my doubts that I would be even able to book the tickets. To err on the side of caution, I actually became a paid member of the U2 fan-club just because they were offering ticket booking a day early for the fan-club members.

So here I am, a day later, reliving the experience of a lifetime! Grew up with U2, so the band has been the biggest influence on my musical taste. It's amazing that they have been around for 40+ years and still have such a massive fan following. I am glad that they finally decided to come to Asia to perform live. I know that they will also perform in India, in Mumbai, on the grounds of my Engineering college, the place where I sort of heard them first and fell in love with.