bookmark_borderBFF

Once, we met Patrick on a busy Paris metro train in a very unexpected way. He, his wife and daughter, and his parents were travelling from Canada to visit his brother. Priscilla and I had flown in from London the evening before to celebrate my birthday. Neither Patrick, nor I knew that the other would be in the city at the same time.

We were in two different carriages, so we all got off at the next station for us to meet. Patrick said that they had missed an earlier train, and I told them that Priscilla and I had taken the wrong train and were coming back round on that one. If not for those mishaps, we would not have run into each other. I don’t know what to call this other than fate.

Patrick and I have been friends since we studied at the same school in Mauritius and, before Paris, had not seen each other for more than ten years. Yet, it took us but five minutes to express our pleasure of reuniting, to hear what had happened in each other’s life, and to finally say our goodbyes. I think here is what makes male friendship special. Little is needed to reconnect us even after a long time, and there is this ingrained belief that we will always come together again.

bookmark_borderWOW

My sleep pattern is wrecked. I go to bed at around 2 a.m. most days, except when my body crashes and forces me to an early sleep. I then have a very good rest, but only to recover for more 2 a.m. bedtimes. In short, it swings from one extreme to the other.

Now, my employer plans to have us back in offices in October. Undoubtedly, this will be difficult for many of us who will have to swap from-bed-to-zoom-in-10-minutes for early pre-COVID wake-up alarms and hour-long commutes to actual offices. Add the equally tedious return journeys, busy roads, and crowded public transport, and it goes from a difficult to a depressing outlook.

My colleagues and I are lucky, though. In 2019 we started the company’s new Way of Working (WOW) that allows employees to work remotely for up to three days of each week, with the condition that those days not be fixed. As software developers, my team need fewer face-to-face meetings than other client-facing teams in the company and have, therefore, been able to relax this rule. Now that almost two years of ‘COVID Way of Working’ prove that people can be productive working from home, it will be interesting to see how WOW evolves.

bookmark_borderOld new friends

I was added to an alumni WhatsApp group, and I got to talk to my old high-school (or college) friends again. It is interesting to see that after 27 years, the same cliques exist, the same people monopolise the conversation, and there are the same quiet ones.

There’s also the dichotomy between the friends who live in Mauritius and those who are abroad. The first group talk about looking for a way out, and the second, a mind to return to Mauritius. The first group also appear to give a lot of importance to financial stability while the second wish for quiet and enjoyment. Of course, many more are content with their situations and express no desire for change.

I am not sure what to make of it, but it is an intriguing observation.

bookmark_borderWhat’s in a name?

Many years ago Ms Jiang asked us for our names, went away for a few days, and came back with the Chinese equivalents. For a long time I wondered how she managed to do that, given that the names on our official documents are approximate English transliterations of the Chinese originals at best. I even suspected that she had just made up new ones for us.

After some research, I can confirm that the family (or clan) name is actually XiĆ³ng. It means ‘bear’ and is derived from a folk hero’s name. Exactly what charming Ms Jiang told us in that Mandarin class. She also said that my Chinese given name means ‘Prosperous Flower’. I want to believe that my memory fails me on this one.

My surname, like those of many Sino-Mauritians, has three parts: a botched anglicisation of the above and my father’s given name in two words. Which gives me a full name with seven parts: J E F H Y T Y, where ‘J E’ is my Christian name, ‘F H’ is my Chinese given name transliterated from Hakka, the first ‘Y’ is the family name, and ‘T Y’ is my father’s given name. Filling official paper forms with these small boxes for letters is always fun.

bookmark_borderUS$ 0.68, postage included

If you don’t know what AliExpress (https://www.aliexpress.com) is, wherever you’re buying your stuff from, you’re probably paying too much. The best way to describe it is with an example.

USB LEDs

The gimmicks in this picture are USB LEDs that light up when they are inserted into a USB connector. They turn any USB power source into a lamp. I bought them from AliExpress in a pack of 5 for US$ 0.68, postage included. Ridiculously cheap.

bookmark_borderUndoing Facebook

My Facebook account is now reduced to a groupie boosting Like-counts on my wife’s posts, but even this strange marital responsibility and my occasional anti-anti-China taunts are becoming less effective motivators for me to log into the social network.

I can’t deactivate the account outright because I know that there will be that one need for Facebook when it is least expected — like, an asteroid is hurtling towards Earth, and the only way to secure a passage to Mars is with a Facebook login. So I leave the account active but slowly undo the Timeline. The concept is simple: I ruthlessly eliminate old posts that have lost their appeal until only the bare minimum is left.

But recently when a post is deleted, Facebook moves it into a recycle bin. And for it to be gone completely, there is a hurdle of manually emptying the bin. I suspect that Facebook does this in order to retain the precious user creations that underpin its business model. Or perhaps users asked for a way to recover deleted posts. Regardless of their justification, Facebook is malign enough for me to remain sceptical.

bookmark_borderRemember to touch base

A few months ago, picking up an old-new notebook from my stock of pillaged office stationery, I was surprised by my own handwritten quotation on the first page.

Remember to touch base. Base is where you were before you became lost.

I copied it onto a Post-It that is now stuck on my monitor, but I didn’t look for the source until today.

It in fact comes from ‘The Rules of Life’ by Richard Templar. I read that book in 2004 during a phase of self-improvement although I don’t remember being impressed.

Maybe it was prescient that I wrote this particular rule down back then only for me to find it now when the advice seems much needed. Coincidentally, last week whilst rummaging through boxes in the attic, I held the book in my hands, considering whether to read it again before putting it back.

bookmark_border2Blowhards

Back in the days before Facebook, Twitter, and Tik Tok destroyed our ability to remain focused for more than 15 seconds and to consume long-form content, blogs were kings, and to me 2Blowhards was the mightiest of them. Thoughtful and inspiring posts — mostly about arts — and the authors’ no-nonsense writing were a pleasure to read, but what stood out was their trademark ‘Dear Blowhards’ that started (almost) every post.

I lost the link to 2Blowhards after it was ‘frozen in amber’ in 2010, and for almost a decade my searches with the mis-remembered keywords ‘Dear Friends’ were vain. Only a few days ago, I found the link that was in my old blog on the Wayback Machine. At last!

bookmark_borderBack to blogging?

Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going. — Jim Ryun

Today’s web wander took me to the Wayback Machine and my old blog posts. Luckily there was nothing that shouldn’t be forever archived and that I have to worry about.

The few posts I have published since 2013 pale in comparison with how many there were until around 2009 when updates to the blog became less regular.

Before the slump I managed to enjoy writing without embarrassing myself. So I am tempted to restart the habit but also realise that my life is much less exciting these days, even after discounting COVID-19 making most our lives bland.

One archived post links to a written piece that I submitted to alt.writing in 1999. I don’t remember that at all, and if I didn’t know the author, it would impress me. I don’t think it received any critique, but since it doesn’t feel like my writing, and I expect less of myself, it might actually be decent.