Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Throwback #3: Catfish makes me miss my office

I was looking through my blogposts today and when I saw this post about catfish that I posted just 3 weeks ago. I have been having it quite often for lunch back in office--I can almost taste it right now--and it's making me miss my office so much. 

I miss the drive to the office. I am a person who don't mind the traffic congestion, as long as I am not rushing to the office for a meeting. It is a time for myself that I really value.

I miss the good mornings when I walk into the office. 

I miss the setting up at my table to start the day. 

I miss the lunches I have with my colleagues when most of the time we don't know what to eat.

I miss the coffee and the tea and the snacks.

I miss chatting with my cubicle neighbours. 

I miss packing up at the end of the day to return home. 

I miss feeling wonderful reaching home and spending the time doing a lot of family and me-stuff. 

Now that I'm staying at home, I appreciate the office more.


Monday, March 30, 2020

The Xiaomi Dreame V9P Wireless Vacuum Cleaner

My Dreame has arrived! But I'm not using it much yet. I'll wait for the weekend.

I'm very happy with it. It's easy to fit, easy to use and it's cordless.

I'm now getting it charged up and ready for use!


Sunday, March 29, 2020

Let's not hoard

There was a news article on Friday implying that there will be stricter controls in our movement control order, and there we go, panic buying happens again.

I tried to go to the supermarket yesterday morning but cars were lining up to enter. I gave up and turned back. 

I only need milk, fruits and bread. But I didn't want to be in the crowd. 

This morning, my hubby went out to 7-11 and managed to get some milk and bread. 

Good enough. It will last us for another week.

Stay safe everyone. We don't have to eat a lot or even eat all the time. Be ok with what we already have. 


Saturday, March 28, 2020

A Good Saturday

I have never appreciated a Saturday like how I appreciated today. 

It was so refreshing that it's a I-do-not-need-to work-at-home day. I spent most of the time in the kitchen though, and enjoying it. 

I am no cook and I prepare the simplest of things, nothing fancy and certainly nothing gourmet. It's as long as I get something edible and tasty on the table. 

It is a good day. I'm so sad that it's almost over. 

And by the way, that's not my kitchen up there. It would be a kitchen I'd love to have though. Isn't it gorgeous?


Friday, March 27, 2020

MCO Day 10, WFH Day 8

Believe it or not we have gone through 10 days of restricted movement and 8 days of working from home. 

I am exhausted. 

Working from home during this MCO period has been non-stop for me. The moment I start work at 9:00 in the morning, it's a non-stop day until at least 7:30 in the evening, and on some days up to 10:30 at night. There is literally no break in between because lunch breaks are cooking time and that has become work too.

I am exhausted.

The nice thing though is I just received a text message from a colleague appreciating what I have been doing at work. His encouragement and nice words certainly brightened up my evening. Thanks Krishnan. That meant a lot. 

I am encouraged.

That actually brought me to tears because it has been quite an emotional week. My son returned from the US and we are worried about his health and our health. And I have been praying for a friend who had contracted the Covid-19 virus and I received news that he has passed away this morning. RIP my brother James Wong.

I am downcast.

But why so downcast O my soul, put your trust in the Lord, by day He commands His steadfast love and by night His song is with me*. I will trust and depend on Him fully, my God and my Abba Father. And it's a good thing that it's now Friday and the weekend.

I will re-charge. 

* Psalm 42:5a, 8a

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Our current craze over vacuum cleaners

My friend Melissa and I started a conversation today about vacuum cleaners. 

I haven't done much research on it but I do know I needed one. 

I got to know about the Dyson vacuum cleaners couple of years ago and even seen it being used in dramas. I wished I had one but with the price range between RM2000 and RM5000, it's not something I can part money for. 

But Melissa did her homework and told me about Xiaomi's Dreame vacuum cleaners that are comparable to Dyson's ones. 

And so off I went to Lazada to check it out and I found this:

I had planned to go to Giant--the only nearby store that is opened right now--to the electrical section, to get an ordinary vacuum cleaner.

But since the Xiaomi model is a Dyson equivalent, I happily dished out RM650 for one. 

This is the result of working from home and needing better tools to clean the house. 


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

A long dark ride

I went to the airport yesterday night to pick up my son returning from the US. I was told that some tollgates were closed and when I checked Waze, I could see congestions at several points and so I decided to take the no-toll route.

The drive there was uneventful but never have I driven over so many road bumps, never have I used the high beam so many times and never have I driven so slowly before.

I had to because at most parts of the road, there weren't any street lights and there weren't any other cars on the road. It's just me and I had to give extra attention to driving in the dark to make sure I don't drive off the road. 

As I reach Sepang, there was a police block with a huge tent and many police officers. I told the officer where I was going and showed him my son's flight itinerary and he promptly wish me well to carry on. They were polite and very courteous about it unlike what I've heard from my colleagues. Probably those officers must have been so frustrated with numerous stupid excuses for being out of the house. 

My son's arrival and pick-up has never been so quick. There are so few travellers now that it only took him 40 minutes from touchdown to being seated in my car. And that included getting a health check and filling up a form.

On the way back, I didn't want to risk using the dark unlit roads again and decided to use the highway, which turned out to be better. There were no road blocks and the tolls were opened. 

And it was surreal to drive on an empty road in the dark of night. At one point, I wasn't even sure which lane I needed to be in on an extremely familiar road. 

Good that we are all now safe at home. And the 14 days of self-quarantine starts. I pray and hope we will all be fine. 


Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Trying out Netflix but I can't cast it

I found out that Netflix has a new plan called Mobile for only RM17. I have used Netflix before and it cost RM35 for Basic, RM45 Standard and RM55 Premium a month. 

But now with the Mobile plan, it's only half the price of Basic but I can't cast it to the TV. And that's the only difference between Mobile and Basic. Other than that, it's exactly the same. 

My hubby wasn't keen on it and since I watch most of my shows on my Tablet anyway, I thought it would be worth a try. 

So I'm subscribing it for a month. Yeah, looks like I'm back to watching TV. 



Monday, March 23, 2020

MCO Day 6, WFH Day 4: changed my work settings

I told myself that I will not use the sofa when I started working from home last week but by the time is was Friday evening, I was exhausted.

One of the reasons I thought could probably be that the chair that I was using is not ergonomically designed and not ideal for long-hour use.

And the thing is, all this while whenever I worked at home, I'm always on the sofa. 

So that was what I did today: worked on my sofa.

And I'm happy. 

However, it's only Monday. I'll have to see if I feel the same on Friday.


Sunday, March 22, 2020

Human against machines

We've been watching a lot of YouTube videos especially in these few days being at home though it's my hubby who has control over it and he kept putting on the Covid-19 updates and his science and travel stuff. 

It was all meh for me until he started watching this:

AlphaGo - The Movie (Full Documentary)

Even though this happened back in 2016, the documentary was just posted by DeepMind a week ago in YouTube on 13 Mar 2020.

I don't know how to play Go but watching how the world champion Lee Sedol from South Korea played against AlphaGo was indeed very captivating. 

There were five games played over five days and most have expected Lee Sedol to win all games, or at worst four. Go is a game with too many moves and they felt that a computer programme will not be able to play it well, yet.

But Lee Sedol lost. He only won one game and that game was termed to be a masterpiece and probably the most famous game in the history of Go.

When watching the documentary, I got emotional when he won that one game, the 4th game. As much as I wanted technology to progress and become smart so that it can assist us, I didn't want it to win. 

I want us to win. 

You'd notice I used the word "us". It was the exact same sentiment in the tournament on that day. When Lee Sedol won, the other Go professional players also felt like they themselves have won. It was like a victory for mankind against machines. 

Though the DeepMind team who created AlphaGo did say that it was a victory for mankind as well since it was dreamt up and developed and created by people. 

But what will artificial intelligence or AI mean for us when it becomes better and smarter than us? What happens when it becomes creative and writes itself? The experts have commented that AI is still very nascent at this point of time but technology is progressing so fast that it will catch up in no time.

The documentary movie is a long one at one and a half hours but it's worth a watch. Quite a lot of Korean is being spoken too and so do switch on Captions for the English subtitles.


Saturday, March 21, 2020

Are you covered in data and speed?

With us all at home, are you covered in data usage and speed?

Those working from home with Zoom and Microsoft Teams, do check your data usage. It might be massive. 

Those free at home and watching movies and accessing YouTube, you may be maxing out your data usage as well.

To share, we at U Mobile offer Unlimited Data in very affordable plans and much more. Check it out in https://www.u.com.my/.


Friday, March 20, 2020

Work From Home Day 3

It's the third day working from home and I'm already exhausted. Why is it that I feel so much more tired working from home compared to in the office?

I kept to my hours just like in the office. I don't even have to drive or get stuck in traffic.

So why am I more tired? 

Is it because it's warmer at home? I don't walk as much as in the office? I don't have colleagues to talk to and laugh with? 

I really have no idea.


Thursday, March 19, 2020

Cooking at Home when Working from Home

This is one of the best things I have bought: a pressure cooker. 

And I don't believe I have had it since 2016. It still feels so new to me. Probably because I don't use it as much as I should. 

But with the current work-from-home arrangements, this is coming in handy. I wanted to make a simple lunch today and decided I'd just make chicken porridge. 

To got the chicken out of the freezer at 8:00am, pop everything into the pressure cooker at 11:45am, which is just rice, water and chicken, and cook it for 13 minutes. 

I was only able to break from work after 12:30pm and the pressure cooker was already on warm setting for 26 minutes. 

And here's my simple chicken porridge. 

For those who seldom cook may feel that it's a very difficult thing to do. I'd refer you then to what I have posted before, to what Michael Pollan said in a Coursera lecture I have attended.

He said that cooking isn't so complicated if we don't make it so. All you need to have in your home are these few basic ingredients: olive oil, onions, garlic, lemons, sugar, and salt. And as an Asian, adding soy sauce and oyster sauce would complete the list. 

And I had thought that the more ingredients I put in, the more complete the dish. Now I think differently. It was then that I made the yummiest stewed lamb shank with only 2 ingredients, lamb and onions. 

We can cook. We don't have to make it complicated. 


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Work From Home Day 1

For someone who does not prefer to work from home but having no choice about it, Work From Home Day 1 went on surprisingly quite well.

I was wondering where in my house should I work in. I refused to use the sofa, which I usually do when I do some work at home sometimes, and thought the table behind my sofa would be perfect. 

It was good except I am not used to sitting on that chair for hours on end. I realised I had to get up and walk around once in awhile.

Our team had a virtual meeting that lasted for two hours, all because we didn't have anyone chasing us out of the meeting room that we would have booked for one and a half hours!

Therefore, I made a point to have a time keeper for our next meeting.

So what did I do to make it work for me? 

1. Dress for work. I am a notch more casual than what I would usually wear to work but at least I dressed up.

2. Don't work from bed or from the sofa. I set it up with a table and chair as close as what I have in my office. My only problem is that I am sharing the space with my husband. We kept invading each other's space in the sounds that we make and the TV he watches. It's learning to be patient and not snap at each other so readily. 

3. Maintain my normal hours of work. This is most important. I can be someone who would work late into the hours if I get into the zone. At least when I'm in the office, I leave when it's time to leave. There will always be more work tomorrow. But when I'm working at home, there's no "leaving". But if I keep to the hours, I will tell myself to stop. 

4. Follow my calendar closely and record what I do from hour to hour. I am a go-with-the-flow kind of person and I need to make sure I don't go down a rabbit hole and forget to come back up. At least when I'm at work, my team will walk over and start discussing with me pulling me out of my hole if I'm ever in one. 

5. Have frequent check-ins with the team. We have no problems communicating in the office since my team and I sit in a row and we'd just start talking to each other without any barriers. But now we don't see each other any more. So we use Microsoft Teams to chat just like we do in the office but then we don't say as much, since texts are always short. But we did have a team video conference meeting that almost felt like we were all in the same room.

So this is Day 1. I just shut down my computer, took a shower and got into my pajamas. 

So far so good. Now onto Day 2.


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Getting ready to work from home

Our government gave a Movement Control Order to restrict our movement in the coming two weeks. 

With that, we still have a day today at the office to get ourselves ready: for our core functions to work in office and non-core functions to work from home. Since we are an essential services organisation, we can still operate in this period of restriction, but we are keeping it skeleton with just the core functions in the office. 

It was indeed a busy day getting communication out to staff, and getting logistics and equipment ready. 

We were also busy testing out our tele-conferencing tool as well. Not preferred, but not a choice. 

And for the first time in our lives, we need to have enough necessities stocked up at home in these coming 2 weeks.

I have been stocking up bit by bit in the last month. I had realised then that if it did turn into a panic buying, which did, it will be troublesome if not too late.

However, I did not buy any perishables. So when I went to the supermarket at the mall where my office is situated this afternoon, I'm quite surprised it was still quite well stocked. I have heard of panic buying in many other supermarkets in the last 2 days. Probably this one is not in a housing area and hence lower in density and demand.

I am glad I managed to get some bananas and vegetables and raw chicken. 

I don't have a lot but I think I am all set for the next 14 days working from home.

The challenge now is getting the hang of working from home. I never like the idea. I very much prefer work in the office, rest and leisure at home. 

But life has certainly taken an unexpected turn. 


Monday, March 16, 2020

On leave but at work

I took the day off today to destress but why do I always end up working anyway?


Sunday, March 15, 2020

Virtual church from home

We did not go to church today, at least not physically. 

But virtually.

I am not used to it. It is so difficult not to be distracted. 

But it looks like this will be a norm for a while until it all comes back to normal.

Quickly I hope but it doesn't look very promising. 

So we all do need to do our part and practice social distancing to slow down the spread and not overwhelm our healthcare capacity.


Saturday, March 14, 2020

How would you define "wasting time"?

I didn't feel like doing anything today. I didn't want to read any books or do any work. 

I just wanted to laze.

I know, I know...sloth is one of the seven deadly sins.

But I felt so tired after a long week that I don't feel like doing anything serious today. 

So I didn't.

And by the end of the day, as expected, I felt so guilty.

And as it is with my modus operandi, solving  problems through intellectual thinking and research, I went looking for books. 

Talk about irony.

These are what I found:

In Praise of Wasting Time
by Alan Lightman

This book is written by Alan Lightman, an M.I.T professor who says that half our waking minds must be designated and saved for quiet reflection. 

But what is more important I think is what "wasting time" mean in the first place. 

To Lightman, it refers to non-goal oriented uses of time but this book reviewer said that the chapter extolling the virtue of all forms of play is chock-full of goal-oriented activities.

So in the end our mindset is still set on achieving things. 

Can't we just watch a music video on YouTube and not gain anything from it other than to be entertained? 

Can't we watch reruns of Gossip Girl in Netflix just for the drama of it?

Wasting Time on the Internet
by Kenneth Goldsmith

The title and cover of this book look so simple it may beguile you to think it's an unworthy publication that does not deserve your attention. 

But instead it's the work of Kenneth Goldsmith, a poet and conceptual artist who teaches a creative writing course in University of Pennsylvania called "Wasting Time on the Internet", which the 256-page book is obviously named after.

He said that while theorists may claim that the Internet is making us dumber, when his students wasted time together, something magical happened: they became more creative with each other. 

In our digital world, we are reading and socializing differently. We do it in the Internet. We build communities we may never see or even realize we are a part of. We talk to strangers in YouTube, in Instagram, in Twitter. We connect, we create.

So can we say that we are not wasting time but expanding our mind in platforms and areas we will never have had access to if not for the Internet?

So can I go back to watching my cat videos now?


Friday, March 13, 2020

Act Today or People Will Die

I have been following the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus ever since I saw the signs that were put up in Incheon Airport when I return from Seoul back then on 1st Jan 2020.

Its spread has been devastating and scary. And it has now reached the shores of so many countries that some may become worse than Hubei province if not contained well.

I have been watching it on YouTube and reading articles but this long article from Medium.com is now a must read: - Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now.

The article concludes that the one thing that we must do now is social distancing. It will be tough to lockdown countries and companies, businesses and religious gatherings. But it must be done. Even a day of lockdown will slow down the spread quite substantially. 

I pray with all my heart that it will be contained soon, after which we will still have to face another huge problem of its aftermath.


Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Is catfish safe to eat?

I have been having fried catfish for lunch quite frequently lately. However, I have been having the feeling that catfish may not be so safe to eat.

This was when I found this article quite interesting. 

My biggest worry is the fact that catfish are bottom-feeders. But the article pointed out that when it comes to bottom-feeders, so are lobsters. Well, that's true.

Some say that catfish has a lot of the unfavourable Omega-6 fat. But I'm reading mixed reports on whether it is good or bad. I still don't know. 

But what is indeed more worrying is the level of toxins in the forms of mercury and PCB especially in farmed fish, which I am sure where the ones I ate came from.

So, I probably won't eat it as much now. 

Photo source: Rasa.my

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Wonderful Things of the World #12: Dark Chocolate

I buy this and keep it in my drawer for when I need a sugar fix, and since I don't want to take too much sugar, this will be the next best thing.


Monday, March 09, 2020

It's the simple things that make us happy

7-11 is currently giving away Hello Kitty Career Plates if you collect enough stickers when you make your purchases there.

I didn't buy anything from 7-11 but I was given one by someone. 

On first look, the first thing I asked was what in the world is a career plate?

I flipped over the package and ahhh...plastic plates that feature different careers.

Being a Human Resource practitioner, I started quipping--I know what a Career Plan is but a Career Plate?!

I opened mine and I got the sailor one. My colleague exclaimed that she likes it.

She opened hers and got the e-gamer one, and I told her I like it. 

I asked her, shall we swap? 

She quickly took hers and handed it to me. 

Haha...really, the little things that make us happy.


Sunday, March 08, 2020

Don't be a Small Breath Ghost 小氣鬼

The Chinese language is truly a very pictorial language.

The word of the day for me is 小氣, siu2hei3 in Cantonese and xiao3qi4 in Mandarin.

Literally 小 means small and 氣 means gas, air, breath or anger. And 小氣 means narrow-minded. 

Sigh...it's just someone being very 小氣 today which was so frustrating. 

It makes me wonder why people do not look at the bigger picture but fret over the smallest of things.


Saturday, March 07, 2020

What to do when I banned TV? Webtoons!!!

Now that I have limited my TV to only when I am on my stationary bike, on days like today when I do not feel like reading anything serious, I have found webtoons to be a nice thing to get into, and be engulfed in good art and great stories.

Fine, you may say this is mainly for kids but I must say some of the art is so good that I am beginning to wish I could draw like that. 

The plots and stories are quite riveting as well. Not too complicated. But interesting enough to keep you reading. 

There are several platforms out there for blooming webtoonists to venture into. From what I have read, they are open for anyone to publish their work freely and free of charge. 

When you have gained your ground and attracted a good number of fans, you can be invited to be their feature artist and earn a monthly fee of about $2000 and then more from contributions from readers and fans. 

And even if you do not become a feature artist and get paid monthly, you may still receive funds from your fans through Patreon.

Alas, I couldn't even draw a straight line or a decent looking circle.

Here are a few styles of webcomics in webtoons.com. Which would you pick?

I prefer the ones closer to reality and if I were to pick just one, it would be this:

How about you?


Friday, March 06, 2020

A poem on the craziness of English pronunciation

I found this long but amusing poem today. Can you say it all in the right pronunciation? 

The Chaos by Gerard Nolst Trenité (1922)
Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation’s OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Fe0ffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation (think of Psyche!)
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!

Were you able to read it all without any problems? 

English I can say could be the most complicated language with so many borrowed words.

There are 587 words in the poem. And I fared about 98.6%. 

Okay, I am a perfectionist. I'm sorry but it irks me that I can't say it all properly.

How about you?

Check out the pronunciation here:


Thursday, March 05, 2020

It's all a dream

I had so much discussion and talk about cheap air fares these days that I had a weird dream last night.

I dreamt I boarded a plane and found that I was in business class, with bigger and posh seats.

But the weird part is that the plane windows were glass windows from end to end, and they were all down. We were flying across the sea, and we were asked to look out the plane and search for a missing person in the sea.

I know. Ridiculous. 

But a dream is a dream is a dream.


Wednesday, March 04, 2020

We bought an oximeter

I have a hypochondriac with me and with the COVID-19 outbreak, we bought an oximeter.

We have been watching too many YouTube videos and found out that this might be a good thing to have; to show that at least our blood is well oxygenated. 

Our oxygen saturation is safely at 98 to 99 percent and our pulse bar graph is strong and even. 

Hopefully it stays that way day in day out.


Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Book Review: How To Take Smart Notes

How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking - for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers
by Sönke Ahrens

I have spoken a lot about Sönke Ahrens's How to Take Smart Notes. It is a rare book that have changed the way I read and think.

Its title may sound mundane but mundane it is not. 

Ahrens wrote the book when he found it "too painful to watch others taking notes in the same unproductive ways" he used to take notes himself.

For me, it all started when I was required to sign up for an international HR conference with so many number of sessions that I kinda freaked out.

But I suddenly started thinking - could I listen to these talks and still get the most of out of it? How then can I take better notes? And make the notes work for me?

It was then that I came across Ahrens's book. And again I must say, it has changed a lot of how I now read and think.

How do you take notes?

For me, when I read books, I highlight them in my Kindle and add notes when I have questions and thoughts about it. However, I almost never get back to the highlights or the notes. 

I once remembered one particular item that I needed to refer to. But I couldn't find it. Kindle do not collate all the notes into one place to enable search. I need to know which book first, which I don't. I never found it.

And when I take notes during live talks and especially during sermons preached in church, I would take down notes usually word for word, in phrases. But again, I don't use the notes or refer to them at all.

So why do I take notes to begin with?

It is suppose to help me pay better attention and remember what I read or listen to. But in the end, I don't remember much.

This is where Niklas Luhmann's Zettelkasten comes into play. 

Zettelkasten is a German word that means slip-box or card index. Ahrens calls is the "gold standard " in taking notes and keeping them organised in an output-orientated way.

What is most important in this note taking method is that you elaborate what you read or listened in your own words by writing in the cards. 

One idea one card. 

Elaborating is important. You do not copy and paste. Elaborating it in your own words will show you whether you understand what you have read or listened to.

You can either use physical A6 sized cards, the Zettelkasten PC software, or like me, the Trello app.

Written notes are placed into two boxes:
1. Fleeting Notes - ideas that you thought of yourself 
2. Literature Notes - your elaboration, references included. 

After a day a two, you are to look into these two boxes and convert, link, combine, or rewrite them to be placed in the Permanent Notes box.

Notes are numbered and indexed.

This is done to help you build a latticework of thinking and ideas of your brain. 

Our mental latticework is the breadth and depth of all our elaborated thinking. It helps us link our past knowledge with new learning. With it, we will continually learn as we space the retrieval of our ideas at different times. We will vary our ideas as we look at it in different contexts. And we will benefit from it as we remember necessary things by chance.

All because we have done more elaborated thinking than before.

And as Luhmann has said, "One cannot think without writing."

I used to say that my phone is my extended brain. Now I say that both my phone and my Slip Box are my extended brains. The phone as the processor and the Slip Box holds my thoughts.

It is as simple as that. It boils down to whether you would put effort into making it work for you.


Monday, March 02, 2020

Book Review: The Culture Code

I know I'm suppose to write a review on the note taking book I have read. I know there are some of you who are waiting for it. 

But I haven't found the time yet! That book is so rich and packed with good stuff that I will need time to get back to the notes I have taken to write a fair review.

Moreover, I have not really figured out the numbering system yet, if ever.

In the meantime, this is the second book I read using the Slip Box notetaking method and I was enjoying reading and notetaking so much that I finished the book last night and slept at 3am as a result.

The Slip Box really works. I finished the book at about 2:40am but my brain was so busy thinking and connecting ideas that I had to force myself to think about other things in order to fall asleep.

Well, I did take a cup of tea during dinner, without thinking, that caused my insomnia. And of course I took notes of the connections and ideas before I slept at 3.

Anyway, I was looking for a book to fill my brain with some language and thinking in the line of a company culture to help me get a deck done up for work. 

Which was when I found this...

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups
by Daniel Coyle

...and it is an excellent read.

The book is segregated into 3 sections with the first about creating a safe environment in an organization, then about being open and vulnerable with each other so that change can happen and finally gathering together to focus and work on a common purpose and direction.

I learnt that it is not about putting together a group of people with good individual skills to perform, it is not about sitting together to merely come up with a mission statement, it is not about strategizing and coming up action plans to implement them.

It is about using subtle patterns of small behaviours to build a safe environment, it is about giving and receiving honest but sincere feedback, it is about being tough but caring to drive results.

The book is packed with so many good stories that I can really identify with and learn from.

And it's good that my Slip Box is now full of stuff to work on.


Sunday, March 01, 2020

Wonderful Things of the World #12: Ramen

I haven't eaten ramen in a long time since I'm watching my diet but this Samyang Hot Chicken Ramen is my current favourite.

While ramen might have originated from China with its lamian or pulled noodles, instant noodles was apparently invented by Momofuku Ando of Nissin Foods in 1958.

I used to love Maggi Instant Noodle Asam Laksa. Still do. Just that I couldn't find that in the store today and so I bought a pack of Samyang instead.

Let me go to another store tomorrow to get me a pack of the asam laksa one. Yumm...