Anger Management

“I was angry with my friend
I told my wrath, my wrath did end
I was angry with my foe
I told it not, my wrath did grow”
– William Blake

I got angry with someone last week – really angry. And I’m not the type of person to lose my temper… but the stress of having to run with multiple clients and the lack of sleep just got the better of me. I’ve barely had any time off these past two weeks, often only leaving work after 10pm. Even though I knew it was going to be crazy, it was still a shock to the system.

Up till now I have been fairly fortunate in that I’ve always had a strong team. I knew I could count on them to get things done… but I guess that luck has run out. The hardest part with being a manager isn’t so much the difficulty of the work – but rather the people management. Now that I am no longer the one doing the work, it is so much more difficult to keep things under control.

I realise that coaching and helping under-performing teams is part of my job, but boy it is an enormous task. I am not a micro-manager so having to check up on someone frequently is not ideal. While I understand there is a learning curve, I also expect there to be a degree of critical thinking which is unfortunately lacking in many people. I think that part makes me upset the most. Really wish there’s more sense in this world.

Freedom of (hate) speech

It’s taken me a while to write this, mainly because I was worried I’d be fired for expressing a dissident view. But then I remembered a quote by Edmund Burke that encouraged me to be brave and to fight for rational thought. In case you’re unfamiliar with the story, the gist of it is that someone made an insensitive post on Facebook that likened black people to monkeys. It received a lot of back lash, the general consensus was that her comment was racist and many people called for some form of punishment including criminal proceedings.

I am not debating whether or not her post was racist and offensive, because I believe that to be irrelevant. I am a strong advocate of free speech, regardless of its propensity to cause offense. Being offended should not deter people from expressing themselves, irrespective of how valid those views are. Offense is a subjective thing, and if we use that as a yard stick for measuring the appropriateness of speech, then nobody would be allowed to say anything as it may offend one person or another.

Instead, we should use harm as the basis of measurement, not counting intangibles such as hurt feelings. In other words, if words lead to bodily harm (such as verbal bullying causing suicide) then that should be punishable. However, if the only consequence was a bruised ego or a flare of indignation, then that should not be cause for reciprocal hatred, death threats or a call for legal action.

I can’t imagine how one unknown individual’s brisk comment could be cause for any sort of harm, even psychological harm. The back lash on the other hand is a different story, as reports claim Penny had to be hospitalised due to the severity of the reactions to her post. It’s the difference between one person casting a stone and a thousand each throwing one. The power of the mob outweighs any individual and the scary bit is that it is near impossible to tell who dealt the final, devastating blow. This is dangerous as responsibility is so dispersed that people are even more inclined to be purposefully malicious.

The bottom line is that we all say mean and hurtful things. Many of us will make inappropriate jokes that borders on racism, sexism, etc. And we should be free to make them without censorship so long as no significant harm comes from it.

Review: Dataclysm

Dataclysm is a book by Christian Rudder, one of the founders of OkCupid. It “reveals and explains how people flirt, fight, love, and hate through Facebook, Google, OkCupid, and Twitter”. I came across it via the OkCupid blog: OkTrends. It is mighty interesting – go have a gander if you have time. Unfortunately what is published on OkTrends is the most interesting things spoken about in the book. I thought it would have a lot more trend analysis, instead, a good proportion of the book is about the author’s anecdotes which are neither interesting nor insightful.

The book portends to be about big data, but all the data it uses come from social media sites or OkC. He could have branched out more and extended his research to include more data from Google and other aggregators that paint a more meaningful picture than FB or Twitter. It brushes past statistics and proper data analytics. It hinges on correlations drawn to suit Rudder’s personal ideals. Dataclysm tries to be like Freakanomics but falls remarkably short.

It is a fairly easy read, albeit quite informal at times. Rudder incorporates useful graphs which make interpretations a lot easier. Overall, I give it a 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Farewell 2015

It’s kind of fitting that the first post of 2016 (and of my new blog) is to bid farewell to 2015. To say last year was pretty awful would be an understatement. I was encumbered with various health issues as a result of stress, wrote off my car, and became increasingly disheartened with my job. Nevertheless, among the horribleness that was 2015 lied a few gem moments and memories that I would carry with me forever. Below is a slideshow I created with my favourites of 2015.

It’s not always greener on the other side

…especially when you’ve been sent to a desert town where the only form of “green” is in the shape of purchased palm trees. I suppose that’s the only connection the locals have to a tropical paradise. I don’t understand why people choose to live in Phoenix. It’s hot, dry, and a catalyst for an eczema breakout. The only benefit is not having to shovel snow every morning during the winter months – but the drawback is the scorching 40+ degrees heat from May to October… At least there are very few homeless folks loitering around because even the laziest of humans can’t withstand Phoenix summers.

My three month stint in Arizona was rough. The hours were tedious (leaving at 9pm on most nights). Americans definitely work harder than we do back home. Their busy reason spans from January to March, whereas in Cape Town, I really only worked overtime in January and then it’s back to normal.

There wasn’t much to do entertainment wise during the rare occasions where I wasn’t chained to my laptop. At least Phoenix has a team in every major sporting category, and I got to see quite a few games during my time there.

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Basketball intermissions are just too entertaining.

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LA Angels vs Chicago White Sox… what a snooze fest. Baseball is more boring than cricket!

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Ice hockey!!! Canucks vs Coyotes

This Dalai Lama Visa thing…

First off, can I point out that it’s easy to say the right thing when you’re not the one facing the consequences. But when you’re the one running the country, it’s not smart to piss off one of your major trading partners for the sake of one individual who thinks he’s god. Foreign policy has never been about doing the right thing or fighting for the underdog. It’s about doing what is in our best interest. How will granting the Dalai Lama a visa benefit SA in tangible terms? It doesn’t take a rocket science to figure out why Zuma is refusing to give the Dalai Lama a Visa. Tutu can play the saint all day long, he has nothing to lose, only favours to gain. It’s a different story when you have to answer to why your country suddenly lost a big portion of its bilateral trade with one of the foremost economic powerhouses in the world.

Let’s talk about the Dalai Lama now, who’s really just a guy born at the right place and the right time. I don’t believe in any of this divine being nonsense so to me, he has very little claim to Tibet. If you look at the average Tibetan youngster, they use phones, listen to music, browse the internet and play games. They don’t want to become monks and lead nomadic lives the way their ancestors did. They want what the modern world has to offer – gaining independence takes away all of that and puts them right back to the stone age.

Tibet is extremely poor because of its geo-location. Farming is hard, transportation is treacherous…there’s very little going for it other than their yaks. Having said that, the Chinese government has given Tibet roads, an airport, jobs, food, water & electricity, etc. The BASIC needs. Sure, freedom of speech is important, but I don’t think it is more important than food and water. Give a really poor man a choice between Facebook or a good meal, I bet he’ll choose the latter every single time.

The point is, having China’s influence and its resources meant Tibet is no longer this extreme, horrible place. There are about 150k refugees out of a population of 6m. Compare that to the 50 m Afghan refugees or the 2.5 m Iraqi refugees that fled their country because of the US invasion, China doesn’t look too bad all of a sudden.

The independent Tibet dreamed by the Dalai Lama would be a theocracy where religion governs life. That, coupled with its harsh environment would make Tibet backward and isolated. I can’t imagine how the quality of life could increase without China’s hand in this.
My point is SA need to calm their socks about this Visa thing. People get denied Visas all the time. Losing billions of trade is the more concerning issue.