Friday, July 31, 2020

Pandemic Atlanta Lockdown - Week 20

I am a GitHub Arctic Code Vault Contributor.
I have named my project, Sintra (Self-adaptive Inter-domain Network Transfers for Radiology). Sintra is a romantic and historic town in Portugal that I love. It is touristic and quite close to Lisboa, well-connected by train and bus. I used to name a few of my projects with Portuguese town names during my PhD: Sendim, Óbidos, and Évora were those 3 towns. Now, Sintra becomes the 4th Portuguese town which name my project after. Interestingly, all those 3 projects were implemented during my stay in INESC-ID Lisboa, Portugal. This is the first time outside Portugal. But that doesn't matter anyway. I name my project whatever I want, and that makes me happy. :P

My initial plan for the work-from-home/lockdown era was to "somehow survive" it, as many of my plans came to a virtual halt. I was assuming it to last only a few weeks, maybe until May 2020. But now I come to the realization that the pandemic is here to stay, perhaps even for the whole of 2021. I cannot be in a "survival mode" for a year to come.

Seeking entertainment from my friend in class, 2012
The forced separation of families due to the pandemic and the associated travel restrictions has left many of us home alone. However, replacing that with the shallow online communications (such as Twitter) is counter-productive in the long run. Now we are looking at the scale of years, rather than weeks! Even if most people don't really care about you on Twitter (I am referring to social media as "twitter" as it is the only social medium I use), the "likes," "retweets," and supporting comments from random Twitter people can be reassuring when there is no actual human interaction for months.

An economic depression is inevitable. It will cripple the developed world. Globalization, especially working in foreign countries, will become challenging. Already nations are adopting "citizens first" approach, closing their borders to foreign employees. We received an email, informing a pay cut of 5%. This comes in addition to the removal of the annual 3% cost-of-living increment of the salary. That is sad news this week. Depending on how I will see it, 2021 can be either a challenging or a difficult year. I must prepare to fight it, rather than taken by the waves in a survival mode.

Regardless of all these, companies do not stop sending me random emails, congratulating me for being a loyal customer, which I clearly am not.
I also aim to be better prepared to fight this uncertainty that waits for me in mid-2021. In the meantime, focus and optimize for the pandemic life, in a positive manner.
You know your perception of time is messed up when you go, "oh, I miss those good old days," when you refer to 2020 early January, literally just half a year ago. Crazy days, indeed. Cheers for August!

Monday, July 27, 2020

Pandemic Atlanta Lockdown - Week 19

Allatoona Lake
As typical for 2020, no good news to share. But no bad news either. Just yet another boring week of uncertainty. This week was less productive. There were some blocking issues at work that I was trying to figure out. Besides, the pandemic, travel restrictions, and on-going lock-down with no end in sight indeed take a heavy toll on happiness, although I try my best to focus on work and remain somewhat positive. However, it is mostly an up-and-down pendulum.

Most positive messages that are shared in social media and elsewhere for COVID19 aim at those who live in their home country with their family, as in, "Although you are forced to stay home, you are with your family. Don't worry, you are at least safe in your country." But many of us have been involuntarily separated by the travel restrictions and the deadly pandemic. Besides, as most nations tighten their immigration, it is not very clear about the future in our host countries. One thing for sure is, COVID19 has crippled globalization and normalcy bias for the foreseeable future. It will leave a permanent scar on humanity, as I see it.

Twitter is the only social medium that I use actively. I use it to communicate with my fellow humans. Although I also have a LinkedIn, I use it more like a CV, rather than a social medium. I don't use other social media. This made my Twitter use to increase, as it also has now become my major communication medium with fellow humans.

These days I frequently listened to some great Guzheng covers, as I stay home. They are nice to hear. No idea how time passes. But it goes on. We are in the midsummer, and that is good. All my hope is, this pandemic does not ruin our 2021. Hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst (?). I see these weekly posts as a tracker on time and a record for my future reference on how I felt during the deadly pandemic. Beyond that, I do not really see anything interesting out of it, at least from how I see this currently. These posts also mark the end of the week, together with the weekly virtual coffee hours that we have every Friday 3 - 4:30 p.m via Zoom.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Pandemic Atlanta Lockdown - Week 18

Our weekly remote coffee hour, with our alter-egos
The time is relatively going quick for such a boring period. COVID19 has forced us all to work remotely. That means, we can work from random locations. However, COVID19 also has forced us to stay indoors to avoid exposure. As such, we are in a weird block of time where weekends and weekdays do not have much difference. However, I make sure not to work on weekends and rather focus on the other tasks (such as cleaning the apartment, practicing Portuguese, and making myself cocktails). We also have that Friday 3 - 4:30 pm weekly coffee hours, which makes a beautiful shift from the workweek to the weekend amid this pandemic.

I associate memories with the songs. That means, when I listen to a song later, I recall the times that I listened to them for the first time. Unfortunately, that means, I am going to have bad memories associated with all the songs that I first listened to in 2020. I still hope that 2020 can end in a positive note. Only time will tell, and time is indeed running out for 2020.

There is some positive news on vaccine progress. Hope things come out well soon. Apart from that, we are moving on with our new "boring" normal.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Pandemic Atlanta Lockdown - Week 17

2020 is the year that shakes the normalcy bias in all of us. On a positive note, it might prepare us for future dangers, such as climate change that rapidly submerge the island nations. It also can make working from home and remote work a norm. Countries such as Estonia and Barbados are proposing a nomad work visa, which is a good thing. On a negative note, the pandemic saw nations vilifying each other, rather than trying to tackle it together. It shows that politics before humanity. Sad situation. The blame was aptly put on the foreigners. Even foreign students with valid visas have been asked to leave the country unless they have in-person classes. This has made us all realize that next year we might have to leave as some of our visas are expiring and extending may not be possible. The days are up and down - and mostly down.

I was under the assumption that as the pandemic spreads across all the nations, countries will choose to open their borders as closing the borders to every nation will be infeasible. But, as the virus spread to different nations at different time frames everyone chose to close the borders to each other, fearing the re-introduction of the virus. Sri Lanka seems to have its second wave now. The USA also has faced an increase in the number of cases since the reopening. Consequently, Atlanta has reverted to its phase-I. How long will this go? No one knows. It seems more and more likely that we will need to live with COVID-19 as a reality, just like another regular virus. It can even be another on-going long-term pandemic such as the HIV AIDS pandemic.

A photo thread on making of banana liquor from Everclear:

A photo thread on my life in Portugal:

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Pandemic Atlanta Lockdown - Week 16

This was a long weekend week. I almost forgot it! Anyway, when a long weekend comes, we still try to compress the whole week of meetings and work into 4 days, and as such the difference becomes less.

I also got the notification that OTM/CoopIS 2020 has been canceled. I was planning to submit a paper there, after our successful presentations there for CoopIS 2015 and 2016. This is quite sad. This is the first conference canceled due to COVID-19 that I encountered so far. All the other conferences managed to go virtual.

Unfortunately, we have to cancel OTM and hence CoopIS 2020
Dear Pradeeban Kathiravelu,

As PC chairs for the CoopIS conference we regret to let you know that the conference will not run finally during this year.

Taking it from the whole set of conference organisers: "As you might appreciate some of the people on whose effort we must rely for organising a complex quality event just could not free the time for this as they had to cope with, in some cases, absolute family survival. Also voluntary work understandably is in very short supply these days."

It seems to have been a hard decision from the organising committee, where a set of circumstances (including family-related ones) have provoked the final decision, and we are sorry that you had already invested your time on preparing a paper for it.

We hope to be able to resume next year.

On July 13th, I received another email from easychair:

Cancellation of CoopIS conference edition in 2020
OTM 2020

Sorry if you have already receive a previous communication from us. This communication is meant to be for those authors that have submitted their contributions in the last week.

Unfortunately, the organising committee of the OTM series of conferences has decided to cancel the conference series, something that is beyond the control of us as PC chairs. We have tried to communicate it in as many places as possible (including the website, which is currently down), and we are sorry that you have been working on your submissions these days. We have not been able to cancel the easychair installation either.

Regards, and apologies for the inconveniences,

So it seems there were some unfortunate creative differences between the conference organization due to COVID19. Hope things will get better soon.