Today I Learn… I make a point of learning something new everyday. This is what I learn each day

1, Sep 30, 2018

My thought on Severance by Ling Ma

Filed under: Book — admin @ 3:32 pm

Severance by Ling Ma is for sure not a pleasant read, at least not for me. It makes readers heavy-hearted.

Candace Chen, the protagonist of the novel, 5-year New Yorker, first generation American, both parents dead, millennial work-bee, found herself pregnant without any intention of letting her boyfriend know. The boyfriend is leaving New York. Then Shen Fever shrouds New York apocalyptically like a real doomsday. People drop dead like flies. Nothing is more depressing than this! Candace joins a group of survivors headed by Bob.

The book shifts back and forth from memories of her parents to pre-Shen Fever life, and to present life after Shen Fever.

The book is saturated with memories of her life in China and her parents. But she wants to tell you that she had an unhappy childhood because of her mother. Through her memories of her mother, she basically accused her of being an abusive parent. No loving memory of a dead mom, even though her mother keeps coming back to her in her dream, urging her to escape the Facility before the baby is born. (pp. 185-190)

She is dead against looking back at one’s past. “It’s too depressing, too soul-crushingly sad, to reminisce. The past is a black hole, cut into the present day like a wound, and if you come too close, you can get sucked in. You have to keep moving.” (p. 120)

Bob’s Facility is like a religious cult. “The Facility means more to Bob than just a place to live. It is the manifestation of his shoddy ideology. He dictates and enforces the rules, rules that only he fully knows and understands. He sees us as subjects, to reward or to punish.” Bob imposes on Candace solitary confinement after he learned that Candace intended to leave his cult. The book shows how easily people surrender themselves to the arbitrary dictator like Bob!

The book also throws some light on the life of millennial in New York. They impress me as shameless, purposeless, free yet rootless, smoker, heavy-drinker, and irresponsible.

The book also provides a glimpse of globalization of capitalism. Work, no matter where you are, is tedious, jarring, mechanical, senseless, and dehumanized. Those who succumb to Shen Fever perform repetitive tasks until they drop dead, as if describing people on the modern assembly line, doing repetitive work until they drop dead.

Jonathan, Candace’s begone boyfriend seems to be the author’s voice, “If you are an individual employed by a corporation or an institution, … then the odds are leveraged against you. The larger party always wins. It can’t see you, but it can crush you… I’ve never worked a full-time job again,.. I work enough to get by, doing part-time or freelance gigs. Most of all, I want my time and my efforts to be my own.” (p.137) “I don’t want to hustle 24/7 just to make rent.” (p.200)

In many ways, the book is a good example of show and not tell.

Lastly, let me tackle the meaning of the name of the book–Severance. It comes from severance package or severance payout that a company gives to its laid-off employees. It could means “action of ending a connection or relationship” or “the state of being separated or cut off.”

In this book, it means many things:
(1) Candace’s parents separating from the land of their birth and culture when they moved to America(p.188)
(2) Candace separation from her past and boyfriend, from herself, and finally from the prison-like Bob’s Facility.
(3) Symbolically, it could mean soul and feeling being separated from numb bodies in modern city. (pp.136-7)

1, Sep 14, 2018

My birthday, the day after, and the truth

Filed under: children — admin @ 7:57 pm

Yesterday was my birthday. Some friends sent me their birthday wishes, which was very heart-warming. I mean it would be a lie if I acted like I didn’t care. I was disappointed that my children were not among them. Oh well, my bad. I didn’t raise them well. My explanation.

Today my children sent me their belated birthday wishes and profuse apologies. I was going to tell them what I truly think. The other adult told me not to continue. I asked my children if they wanted me to tell the truth. Of course truth is better of the two. So I proceeded.

I want to be honest with my children. I am sure my children want me to open up with them. After all, what our relationship would be if I cannot even tell the truth to my children? They know it would be detrimental to my health if I bottle up emotions.

I want my children to remember this incident, not the forgotten birthday, but to always open up what they have in mind, to always tell the truth to your loved ones. In the long run, truth always win. Don’t dismiss it like “Oh well, I don’t care” unless they truly don’t care.

For me, I do care, especially when none of my relatives in China remember my birthday, even though I am always the first one to shout out “Happy birthday” to them.

1, Sep 13, 2018

The Less said, the better, at office

Filed under: work — admin @ 8:05 pm

Sometimes certain phrase is pegged in my brain and refuses to go away. Today that phrase is show-and-tell. I think of the picture of my daughter doing show-and-tell at kindergarten. That always brought back my years at China Daily when I learned to show and not tell.

I learned that writers should always show and not tell. Don’t act like you know best. Always assume readers are smarter than you. Because language can both conceal and reveal our inner self. For a long time I developed a deep-seated aversion to show and tell.

When I was at KCCC, I witnessed a colleague performing daily show-and-tell. Every time she did some work, she must make it known to all. This adult version of show and tell reinforced my previous dislike.

Let us leave show-and-tell to where it belongs — kindergarten. Office is adult world. Do your job. The less said, the better, at office.

1, Sep 11, 2018

Trust, the heart and soul of the hiring manager

Filed under: Daughter,work — admin @ 10:35 pm

Once again, I shared this with my daughter as she started working for a new company.

I have heard of many factors that help people get the job. I think one key element involves trust, a leap of faith in opening your door to a stranger. My son involves in all hiring in his company. He knows very well the risk involved. People are the most complicated entities. You never know what is really going on behind their smiling faces.

When I look back, trust always played the key role. When I applied for my first IT job in 1990s, the hiring manager said, “If you can get a PhD and make the switch from humanities to computer programming, I have no doubt you can do anything.”

The second time I made a career change I took a course and passed the certification exam. The job I applied required three years experience. The hiring manager said, “If you can become certified without any work experience, you can certainly do the job.”

In both cases, I had not a single day of experience. Still, I got the job. Because of the trust that the hiring managers had in me.

It’s a good feeling that people trust you. That’s why I have tried my best not to let people down.

1, Sep 6, 2018

However you spend your time at office, it is your time, your life, do it right

Filed under: Daughter,work — admin @ 8:29 pm

This is what I wrote to my daughter today.

There are all kinds of birds in the forest. At my previous work place, we had some people who have a shockingly negative attitude at work. They complain a lot, gossip profusely, blame others for their own mistakes, and desire to do as less as possible. One of a co-worker is even very manipulative and controlling, acting like a boss over me. They truly create a negative work environment. I say “they” because there were at a time three of them like this. Be prepared.

I remember one definition of happiness is how much control we have over our time. It is true that we want to be able to have total control of our time. Too bad not many people have this.

My attitude is this, however we spend our time, it is our time, our life and we want to make sure we do it right by not wasting time, by proving our worth of the pay, by treating others with due respect, and by leaving a solid footprint wherever we go.

1, Sep 3, 2018

One advice on how to stay focused and productive

Filed under: Daughter,Life,Time management — admin @ 1:05 pm

This is what I wrote to my daughter today.

It is better to use different devices for working and consumption.

e.g. use your expensive laptop to learn, to create, and to work; use your iPhone to consume content (read articles, social media fun, and other nonproductive activities).

If you mix up those two activities in one device, it is far too easy to get sidetracked and become non-productive.

Never use the same screen for production and consumption. Watch yourself against reading unrelated stuff and becoming non-productive when you are supposed to be productive.

Most importantly, set a timer when you are on iPhone.
Always remember it is your time and your life that you must keep an eye on.

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