Taking a 15 minute break from work to talk about the MCO and some small things yesterday.
So the MCO started in the middle of the week last week, aka Wednesday, 18 March, 2020. Calling the first few days utter chaos is a massive understatement – we were only told to stay home but that we could go out for groceries and it wasn’t a holiday but no clear guidelines about how interstate travel would be handled and well…
Basically the first 2 – 3 days of the MCO saw a compliance rate (according to the government) of 60%, driven no doubt by confusion and panic. For the most part, quite a few restaurants that could afford to stay closed, did. Those that could not, remove their chairs to ensure people could not sit down to eat but only takeaway. This included the coffee shop restaurants near my home. But not all of them were open – there were only a few stalls that took the risk to continue operating.
So when I ventured out then to get some tapau (packed) food, the road was quiet but not too quiet – it reminded me of the streets during the recent Chinese New Year and Christmas holidays when people went travelling. Life goes on albeit with a soft kind of change, I thought.
Fast forward to yesterday.
My family and I stayed home over the weekend, and I managed to get my mom to stop her daily quick runs outside to get the weekly newspaper thanks to the Star opening up their e-paper so she could get her daily fix without navigating their website. On Monday though I needed to get groceries, so I went out to Tesco.
It was quiet. So, very, very quiet.
I was actually quite amazed when I stepped out from the front door on the way to my car. I had never heard the street so quiet before, even with the same amount of cars. It took me till today to realise why.
The highway was silent.
I never noticed before, but the highway less than a km away was actually really quiet, with nary a car on the road. Before this, there would be a low, below the threshold of conscious thought kind of hum that never quite went away. Yesterday though, it was conspicuously missing. I admit I was very confused when I stepped out of the house, wondering what was so different about it.
So I did a grocery run and for the most part, both the mall’s parking and most other parts of the lower ground floor was empty, except for the produce section for some reason. Got almost everything I wanted and then came home. It rained later in the evening, bringing blessed comfort from the hot sun.
A day later, aka today, I realised that I’ve actually never heard this area this quiet before. I grew up in this neighbourhood, in this taman that’s maybe about 10km wide? Maybe more, maybe less, but I’ve never actually heard… silence like this. It’s kinda nice, and a bit unnerving for a city girl like me.
And now I get what it would sound like if there’s a zombie outbreak.
I figured I could either rant about the uselessness of my govt’s communication skills, or I could write something that I’d been meaning to anyway while being under Malaysia’s MCO (aka the Movement Control Order). The MCO is not quite as harsh as a quarantine or lockdown, but it does mean that anyone who isn’t working in a country-essential service capacity is to stay home and basically drive each other mad instead of your colleagues and more importantly, the health system.
I work as a copywriter for an Australian company in my dayjob, following Melbourne hours. My team is essentially a remote team, though now we’re going to be working from home instead of the office. There are a few benefits to this:
No commute (some of my colleagues regularly drive 40 minutes or more to work when there’s no traffic)
Relaxed dress code (the company who pays our salary has a fairly strict business wear policy)
And for my cigarette colleagues, no need to go 16 floors down for a quick break
However, the thing about working from home is that it’s very easy to get distracted. So here’s what I do to make things easier:
Setting up a morning work routine
My alarm is still set to my pre-MCO wake up time. This is because my working hours haven’t changed. The only thing that has changed is that I can now snooze a bit longer before I head to “work.”
Things I do as part of my regular routine including showering, brush teeth, and (this part is an MCO bit) grab my office laptop out of the bag. I’m actually quite lucky that the office gave me a new laptop that has a USB-C port. My second monitor, keyboard, and mouse all go through a USB-C hub, so I don’t have to unplug 400 different cables to use my home monitor and peripherals, I just need to unplug 4 – headphones, charger, microphone and the USB hub.
Doing this gets my mind ready for “work”, so when the laptop finally boots up, I’m ready to start the day.
Keep breaks regular
I try to keep my routine as similar as I can with when I was going to the office – this means taking toilet breaks every hour or so because I make sure to stay hydrated, and I take longer breaks (5 minutes minimum) when switching between brain heavy tasks. It’s very similar to what I do in the office… except I no longer feel the need to time myself because I don’t want to be seen as lazy for taking a long toilet break (leftover from my callcenter days).
I also try to take my meals around the same time I usually do in the office, so this means having a bun or biscuit or something at 7.30am (basically something more than a cup of coffee) and possibly lunch at 11pm (though mom gets confused because to her that’s late breakfast).
Recording by hand
Not like that.
I began keeping a bullet journal to track my tasks in December, and it’s a system that’s worked for me pretty well since then. Writing things down help a lot, and they give me a sense of “what’s next” so I stop feeling lost.
I also have a habit of drafting brief paragraphs in a throwaway notebook, so I brought both of these back from the office. It fools my brain into thinking that it’s work mode, so… I seem to have stayed productive at least.
I talk with my colleagues a lot online, but I didn’t realise how much I relied on face-to-face communication until the second day of working from home. When you’re in the same area, it’s easier to holler/call/reach out literally to have questions answered, but when you’re working from home, it’s definitely not quite the same.
So I am trying to reach out to my colleagues casually outside of just talking about tasks, and in the process I’m learning patience because I really can’t expect them to reply to me immediately (and vice versa!).
Since everyone is doing it, I thought might as well right?
And in true last minute fashion, here’s my quick entry about the last decade. Figured it would be easier to go by my photos and to write the impressions down… Looking back it’s been one heck of a wild ride.
2010: Of vanity and body
Took a gap year of full time work. Thinking back, I also had my first (recorded) anxiety attack here relating to careers. Lost my grandmother in December. Felt like it was the fresh start in some ways.
Sony Ericssion K810i Prolink Glee UW2 (my second laptop I bought myself!)
2011: Stabilising career, missing photos
After the gap year, this was “reorienting” myself. I began a new career as a “Social Media Specialist.” Health-wise, looking through my entries, it was also the same year I was diagnosed with episodic asthma, in which shortness of breath can be triggered by specific allergies.
Upgraded to the Xperia Pro because I needed to do more things on the go and the K810i was no longer cutting it. Desktop PC and laptop. The latter was used when I went out during Nanowrimo to write on the go. It was wonderful (also I was a huge fan of Ubuntu Linux then!).
2012: The travelling begins!
They say that whatever you are doing in the first 12 hours/first day of the new year is what you will be doing for the rest of the year. My family had a trip up to Genting the night before to catch the fireworks, but it was too cloudy and so it was cancelled hahaha.
In Feb I went for the first ever overseas travel trip without my parents (yes it’s laughable it took this long). Went with Neon, Priest and Windy to Japan, thank you so much for being patient with me, girls. I learnt a lot about asking for permissions, boundaries and things I should have learnt long before were it not for overprotective families.
Friends/colleagues-wise, it was the beginning of the “business shutdown” or “Sau Kong” tradition for me, where my colleagues (and ex-colleagues) would have an informal dinner to celebrate surviving another year before CNY.
I also attended quite a few client-related work events this year – I think this was when I was beginning to feel the fake-ness in advertising very strongly. Also this year could be known as the year I began amassing a small BPAL trove. I also ran a small name card contest and ended up paying the five people who joined money anyway, because their namecard designs were really good. I’m still using the winner’s version after all these years.
Another first: I was bridesmaid to a friend (aka NOT a blood family member, so that was nice). Also this was the year the company sent me for First Aid training. Besides the actual techniques, I remember tweeting about what a misogynistic POS the fireman “chief” was. This was also the year I dyed my hair purple I think.
A lot of interesting things happened in 2012, but if I don’t wrap up this section we’re never going to get through, so moving on…
CM Quickfire Pro (Cherry MX Blue), my very first mech keyboard – don’t use it as much because I now need a fully backlit keyboard but I rotate it with other keyboards in my collection ASUS Transformer Pad (it lasted only 18 months and died after warranty ran out cibai) A LOT of IEMs (in-ear headphones)
2013: More travelling, settling down
It didn’t feel like it, but looking back at my 2013 photos there were a lot of things happening. There was my second trip to Japan, which included the first time I ever slept in an airport (I’ll only do it in Japan and no other countries) and a lot more exploration.
I also continued my gaming journey by getting a 3DS I named Sachiko. FE: Awakening turned out to be my gateway drug, and I love it so till today. I was also into Ingress A LOT this year. Though more of the fun of claiming portals and not so much the rest of the gaming mechanics. There was also a breakup during this year – we both knew it was coming, just… didn’t want to let go which led to a lot of issues.
For the first time in forever, I caught my very first fish on a family trip. It was really my first, as before this during family trips I rarely landed any. Though I caught the fish on the gills and it was painful for both fish and me. I’m sorry fish!
Politically this was my second time voting and wow was it a mess. Not a mess that 2018 would be but still kinda mess.
ASUS Transformer Book Pebble Watch
2014: Same old, some new
I… didn’t realise how many devices I upgraded in this particular year till I started going through my photos. This was also the year that Google Photos introduced auto-gif/making moving photos out of a burst of photos. Since my phones could do an auto burst capture, my 2014 is filled with photos of that happening.
Most of the devices bought were to either cover deficients in devices I already owned (Miband for the step counter because Pebble’s didn’t have a good one, Nexus 7 and the Logitech to replace the Asus for on-the-go writing…).
I fell in love twice this year – once with a man who would eventually become my husband, and the second with life again. Both were very tentative in the beginning, but I didn’t realise until then just how I felt. Creatively, it was the first time I tried Inktober and that was a fun experience. Though I didn’t last as long as I’d have liked hahaha.
Looking through my photos, it feels like 2014 was a very innocent year. Where there was still that clear line between online and offline, in the sense that the circles hadn’t melted together yet. Before the toxicity of GG and various other stupidities.
Also cutting this section short because I’m in May and there are STILL photos OMG self.
Miband (the original) Nexus 7 (second-hand) Sony Xperia Z1 Compact Logitech K480 Bluetooth wireless keyboard
2015: Alive outside, dead inside
I hit a slump here. My photos reminded me a lot of things happened here, but at the same time, there is a lot of “dead” feelings here too. This was when I started looking for a way out, because I felt like I was running on repeat aimlessly. The funny thing is that creatively, this was one of the best times, as I was writing and submitting stories everywhere. When it came to lucky draws, I would generally win something substantial (like a new phone or device) so I… really didn’t have much to complain about.
Every time I think back to this year, and the trips I took, bittersweet memories fill me. This year I took my parents to Taipei, and it was the first and last time I footed most of the bill for my mom and dad. I am very glad I got to treat my dad to at least one overseas trip, and to show him that I could do this for them (he passed away the year after).
No change, same like the year before. Only thing I did was change the casings.
2016: New Start
Jumped into advertising because I wanted to go back to pure copywriting. This was also the beginning of my second podcasting kick – I had an hour long commute either way and podcasts were the best way to pass the time. I put on weight despite walking almost every day, because I was eating badly.
My dad passed away in February. The family took it, on the surface, well, but each of us mourned horribly in our own ways. I suppressed my feelings a lot during that time, and so my job became one from starting with fresh promise to one of insane disappointment to everyone involved. I think I fell into depression but didn’t want to admit it to myself.
I’m still unpacking lessons from this year, because there were a lot of things I could have done better about. I also bought my first property, but decided not to move in and rent it out instead as I didn’t want to leave mom on her own.
I met a lot of people here and reassessed quite a few friendships here. Some I tried to maintain but slipped away, and others well… I finally cut off.
OnePlus 2 – I inherited my dad’s phone as mine was showing signs of age AND the waterproof cover came off.
2017: We cheat people!
Heard this at the beginning of the year. Someone who I admired but soon came to learn was actually an abusive, insecure leader said this to us creatives. Specifically, what she said was “We work in an industry of lies. We CHEAT people!” Looking back, I can’t deny that she was right, advertising is an industry of lies. What made me pissed off and angry was the hypocrisy – especially for an agency that utilised a lot of “influencers” trying to make brands seem authentic.
I was lucky enough to find a new job as I was heading to Singapore for a talk. They paid me well and I gained breathing room, financially. I also had to adjust to waking up early as my new job began from 6am to 3pm. Due to this, I finally bought a new car (previous cars were hand-me-downs).
I travelled to Bali on a company trip and fell in love with the island. This trip also marked the first time I was sharing rooms with people whom I consider as strictly colleagues, and not friends.
Looking back, it would seem that this was also the beginning of my stationery addiction – I bought cheap notebooks and pens from Taobao via ezbuy.
Samsung Galaxy Note FE (because the OP2 was getting too slow for my needs)
2018: Things coming together
Career-wise, it felt like things were finally stabilising in 2018. I felt like I was in a much safer and growing place. The team also expanded, which meant that all of us could breathe easier because it was not just one person handling the load. I was reminded again why I love writing and began dipping my feet again into writing for myself.
Junior, the family dog, started showing signs of age and frequently could not find his way back to the house. I should have been more sensitive at this stage but I was very much still in my own land.
Also began a monthly Tai-tai thing! This was also the year I began upgrading a lot of my devices.
HP ENVY x360 – A new laptop because my desktop was showing signs of age and I wanted something portable D-LINK AC1200 – WiFi signal in the house was getting stupid slow and we could confirm it was definitely a router issue TP-LINK AC1900 – Used this to replace the older WiFi dongle I had on the desktop BEFORE I got the new laptop TWS Q18 and the KZ ZST Hybrid – to replace the dying Mi headphones in the office (yes those are TWO in-ear Bluetooth headsets)
2019: Where we are
Looking back, I feel kind of proud that I managed to survive the 2010s. This year was a very eventful one – I was hospitalised, underwent my first op, got a new phone, got married, and am now writing here. I also did a podcast series, attempted to lose weight and travelled to Vietnam for a team meeting.
On a fun note, you could also say this was the same year I stepped deeply into the Samsung ecosystem (see why below).
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 – replacing the FE Galaxy Watch Active – replacing my Pebble which was dying from buttons and notifications Galaxy Buds – better connectivity and sound quality with the phone
I’m kind of glad that we survived the 2010s. Here’s to surviving the next 10!
Edited: Yes, I understand that I am now posting this in October, which means this is two months late, but eh, I’m just happy I got this done. Haven’t been feeling this in a while.
August… feels like a fever.
A fever that’s still happening in September, but that is a story for another day. I’m still not completely back to normal, and considering what happened in July, that’s kind of understandable. Money wise though, things are fairly stable, which is a blessing in disguise. Overall, things seem to have settled into a much more predictable tempo, which is nice.
One of the things I have been trying to push myself to do is to play with the stationery I’ve been accumulating over the last few months. My favourite pens in August were the Pentel Dual Hybrid Metallics, along with the black notebook I bought from Popular not too long ago. There’s something mesmerising about watching the ink turn from red to shiny green or blue to gold while writing.
I have also been trying to push myself to use the arsenal I have been accumulating since I started this journey. The gorgeous tape here is from a series called Sword which Neko helped me get from this year’s Doujima in Singapore. It’s gorgeous and there’s so much of it, but it is so very pretty! Unlike a lot of washi tape though, it’s actually a bit fragile, so I use it for things I am pretty sure I don’t want to move.
Stepping into inks
Thanks to Kakei’s suggestions, I began investigating a way to reuse my fountain pen cartridges while being able to play with inks from ink bottles (which, as we all know, is a deep rabbit hole). This journey made me realise a few things:
Sharp needles are very hard to find I was looking for syringes and online people were recommending mainly pharmacies (only if you are US-based or in a country where self-medication and injection is not looked down upon as it is here). Turns out Guardian and Watsons, the two biggest chains in Malaysia, don’t stock both the needles and the barrel. If they do, it’s only the barrel, which is more for feeding kids/pets.
The bear and I suspected this could be because Malaysia had a war on drugs years ago, and having easy access to those needles was probably a bad idea. In the end I found what I wanted in Daiso, of all places. They have a variety of blunt needles that fit my needs, plus made me feel safer.
A little bit goes a long way Everything in perspective, but a little bit of fountain pen ink can go a long way. I think my cartridges all need less than 2ml (and I think even that is grossly overestimating their capacity) BUT they last me for weeks, even with daily writing. To be fair, I do tend to switch between different pens because of ink colours, but they don’t dry out (which was my biggest worry).
Stickerrific sells sample sizes Of a number of inks. I got two of them and now I am planning to get the full size of the Kyo-Iro ink: No 3, Flaming Red of Fushimi. This ink was a bit thin when I was using it in the Monami Olika, but when I switched over to the Kakuno it performed admirably.
The Soft Snow of Ohara is a very calming greyish-blue, but it’s not quite to my taste. A bit of research reveals that actually reveals that the Flaming Red of Fushimi is kinda dry, while Soft Snow of Ohara is a bit wet, both of which would explain their behaviour in the Olikas.
The husband’s family attended Nirvana’s Enlightenment Day, which is similar (if not the same, I can’t tell because it’s all very Chinese-speaking/writing based) to the Buddhist holiday “Ulambana.” It is a day to pray for your family’s ancestors to gain enlightenment and reach Nirvana (so like the Catholic version of escaping Purgatory, as I understand it).
The festival coincides with the Hungry Ghost Month, so as usual, the practices may seem to have blended into each other. Which also means it’s…
This year it kind of snuck up on me and the husband unawares. I was asking our respective moms if they wanted us to buy mooncakes, but both of them were “no, no need, no one will eat it.” Mooncakes are delicious, but they can also get very cloying very fast, and the husband and me don’t usually take more than one.
Mooncake packaging on the other hand, as you can see, was absolutely beautiful. If I could get just the packaging without the mooncake why yes I would.
I got myself a new phone! There were several reasons for this, part of it being I needed a new one (not urgently, but it was getting to be from a “nice to have” to a “I should start looking at replacement features I want” and then they announced the Note 10 with plenty of features.
I was actually planning to wait but when the husband and I saw the pre-orders we thought it was worth it. Mainly because unlike the previous pre-orders, I would actually use the majority of the items. If you pre-ordered the Note 10, you get a wireless charging battery and the Galaxy buds.
I have not regretted my decision. There’s a ton of small features within the Note 10 that makes it quite worthwhile to upgrade from my Note FE, including colourful off-screen memo (it used to be only in white on black), to better camera features and upgrades, and a speedier processor. Battery life is also superior to my FE and it seems that the fingerprint sensor, even though it is now under glass instead of a dedicated button, is much more reliable than the FE’s.
The stylus upgrades were also quite fun, especially with the selfie function. I just need to remember to press the button to trigger the Air Gestures, otherwise I’d keep thinking it was faulty. :p Overall I think if you’re coming from Note 8 and below, it’s a worthwhile upgrade.
Now that I’ve written all that, it seems that August wasn’t as empty as I felt it was. And I left out the bit about reorganising my desk, but that’s something I think I’ll write about in the next entry. Onwards to September!