Five Months Without Golf

I am a weekend golfer. Too bad I’m not a great player but I really like to play. And that passion was interrupted by the eternal quarantine decreed when there were only five hundred and eighteen infected people in the country. Wouldn’t it have been more efficient to track down those little more than five hundred guys than to lock up forty-five million for so long?

Stop! This is a note about golf, not about politics nor public health.

I have just spent five months without playing, without practicing and almost the same time without stepping on the grass. I confess that, out of nostalgia, in a few days during the quarantine I grabbed a short club and tested the grip. Not to mention trying a swing because I don’t have the space in the apartment. I even tried swinging a club on the balcony but soon realized that the result would be one out of two possibilities: it would destroy the balcony roof or, much worse, it would destroy my club. So, no! The only contact with golf during all that quarantine time was a short, fleeting practice of putting on the carpet in my bedroom. Well, and some instructional videos too but I don’t take those into account because I didn’t move my body while watching them.

But, finally, the day came!

With the release of individual sports in the city of Buenos Aires this August 17, 2020, I signed up to go to the driving range to practice. I took the turn for the first available time, at 8 in the morning, I called by phone, entered the internet page, downloaded an application, that is, completed all the steps that were never necessary to throw some balls in a driving range. Amazing, isn´t it? How can it be that we have made it so complicated?

Fifteen minutes before my turn I was almost reaching the driving lot when I realized that there were several players more anxious than I was and therefore there was already a long line of cars to enter the parking lot that was still closed. Closed? Don’t those employees understand that there is a repressed, and very repressed, demand that wants to go to practice? Why haven’t they come earlier?

When I finally managed to get in and park the Peugeot, change my shoes and get the bag of clubs out of the trunk, I had to get in another line, now to pay and receive the basket of balls. Well, to make it short, I managed to get to the cat flap, which was not the same one in the reservation, about twenty past eight. Punctuality? No, not even mention that!

I am one of those people in whom golf awakens an enormous fascination from the physical and from the mental sides. That’s why I try to focus on my swing every time I go to practice. I started with a short club, a pitch, and a short backswing to come into play as well. I confess that the first results soon led me to question whether that was the best day to return to golf. For me, bad swings awaken a mental process of attention to emotions and techniques before and during each stroke.

From the bottom up, I thought first of my feet. Were they separated by a distance similar to my shoulder width? Did I feel the weight more on my knuckles than on my heels? To be a little more sophisticated, I took care of standing in the stance feeling more weight on the inside of my right foot to be able to come back from the backswing easier.

Things started to improve a bit.

So I took care of my knees so as not to have tension in that part of the body and to have the proper flexion. Then I went to the hip. The hip area had to be relaxed, feeling the flexion at the height of the femur heads. My back, which has caused me so much suffering throughout my life due to herniated discs, should be straight to allow me to turn. The truth is that I cannot turn if my back is bent forward.

Well, the balls started to fly. Not exactly in the direction I wanted but they started to take flight, which is not little.

I moved on to the arms and the grip. I’m a fan of the left arm stretched out throughout the swing. Therefore, the right arm has to be relaxed to accompany. That is not achieved if the right hand grip is too tight. How are the fingers of the right hand? Yes, with a soft grip on the club. And the fingers of the left hand? They carry the club with a firm grip but without tension. It is difficult to explain but golfers surely know that feeling. I then concentrated on rotating my shoulders and reaching the limit of the backswing before unloading.

Wow! Nice flight with long distance and good direction.

Ready? Not! You have to be able to repeat that wonderful shot.

The replay attempt, well, it was just an attempt. I had to start over from my feet but I don’t want to bore you all over again. I added attention to the weight transfer. For one side and for the other. On the backswing the weight is felt on the right foot and then the weight is transferred to the left foot in the finish. The hands feel the club all the time. The eyes look at the ball to keep your head in position throughout the sweep. I almost forgot that, before starting the swing, you have to breathe and get the air out of the bottom of your stomach!

Ready! Yes now! A nice shot! With long distance and very good direction.

Now I can repeat the good shots with all the balls that I have left in the basket of one hundred. I calculated the subtraction and saw that it has costed me ninety-six balls to recover my swing. Well, at least I have four balls to practice well.

A Day in the Future

Not long ago, I taught a course on the Business Opportunities of the Industrial Revolution 4.0 and I also gave some short talks on the same topic. As all those events were in person, of course they took place before the quarantine, so it is very possible that it has been longer ago than I can realize.

What matters for this note is that I was reviewing the material that I developed for the course and the talks, all very much focused on the new technologies that are shaping our lives today, and will continue to deepen their influences on our behavior, our businesses , our human relationships and even in the way one thinks and solves problems.

I spent many hours reviewing and updating the content that I developed, visualizing in my mind the changes that are coming. I went to sleep thinking about how interesting the subject is, how many people are there today, all over the world, studying and implementing things with Artificial Intelligence, 3D Printing, Augmented Reality, Blockchain, Autonomous Vehicles and the Internet of Things.

I woke up when the alarm clock rang. There was something strange because I always use my iPhone as an alarm clock that plays soft music to help me start the day. Well, no! This time the alarm clock rang with another tone and, as soon as I woke up, it spoke to me to wish me a good day and gave me a report of how many hours I had slept, how was the weather outside and what was the expected temperature for the day. I was about to put on my slippers when, automatically, the window glasses gradually increased their transparency to let me see a beautiful sunrise and, at the same time, give me time for my eyes to get used to the light outside.

Since I love breakfast, I started to make my way to the kitchen. I noticed that the floor of the house was changed. It was clearer and completely clean. I could see in a corner of the room that a small robot vacuum cleaner was about to complete its work in almost absolute silence. When I got to the table, which was already impeccably set, I realized that the fruit machine had already peeled the kiwi that I had to eat, according to my programmed diet. The coffee machine was already inviting me with a rich aroma that mixed with the aroma of toast and scrambled eggs that automatically came out of the kitchen.

My assistant told me the main news of the day and projected the images of them on a well-concealed screen on the dining room wall. It is worth clarifying that my assistant was not a person but a small cylinder on the table that could listen to my breathing and measure my blood pressure while telling me what was happening in the world and also in the colonies of the moon. When she finished her story, I asked her for a bit of silence so that I could digest not only the delicious breakfast but the whole situation, unexpected to me, of being immersed in such a technological world. She promptly complied with my request, and what was a television screen turned to a wall with a modern art painting.

Too bad the silence did not last long! My thought was interrupted by a sudden pain in a tooth. Of course, my assistant, with her artificial intelligence developed with Deep Learning technology, analyzed the image of my body and hand movement in fractions of a second and concluded that I needed a root canal and a new crown. The incredible thing is that she didn’t tell me that way. She told me directly that she had just scheduled an appointment with the dentist and that I had to be in his office in forty minutes. I didn’t dare ask her about the quarantine because I was sure it was over. Probably the quarantine was just the day before, luckily.

The dentist put on the augmented reality goggles and, without moving from his desk, commanded the appliances of the dental chair to make a mold of my diseased tooth. In less than a second I felt a small prick in the gum and I no longer felt anything in the region. A short time more and I heard a cutting noise and a quick root canal job. But there was no one near me, everything was done by the dentist sitting on his chair. Then an assistant walked into the office with a small box in which the prosthesis of my tooth was already ready, the crown, freshly made to perfection by a 3D printer with ultra resistant resins. Due to the position of my head, I could not see if the assistant was human or not, but at that time it would not make much difference to me. I know she walked and spoke like a human, but that was no longer a guarantee of anything.

In a few minutes, the treatment was finished and the dentist told me the price. I replied that I would pay in cash but he did not understand me, he said he did not know what I was talking about and asked me to look at a small device and simply say the price he had said. I understood that the algorithms, using the security of blockchain technology, had identified me through my eye and proceeded to transfer the value from mine to his account.

I didn’t have to touch anything in the elevator and soon I was at the door of the building. In no more than three seconds, my car picked me up and I was extremely happy to see that Diana was already in the passenger seat. I got into the driver’s seat, as usual, gave her a kiss and realized that there was no steering wheel nor pedals. It was not surprising to me when she asked me about the treatment and confessed that my assistant had already warned her and also confirmed the appointment we had together, that she had to delay fifteen minutes because of the unforeseen dental treatment. I did not ask her how she had managed to change the appointment time because I could already imagine the answer: the assistant!

The car dropped us off at the door of an office building and told me that it was going to look for a place to park and wait. No, Diana didn’t say that to me, the car did. I hugged her and said: “If this is all a dream, better keep dreaming”.

Taller than the virus

It looks like quarantine is ending soon!

The news from Europe and the United States is “good” now that the pandemic is no longer showing its scary numbers. The quotation marks are there because the contagion and death data are never good, even if they are small. Here in Argentina, the provinces are already in almost normal life while the metropolitan area of ​​Buenos Aires is still in lockdown but a little more flexible. At last, the nightmare seems to coming to an end!

Could it be that we should be so optimistic? That is the question I ask myself every day when the local numbers are published. Just as quarantine begins to relax, the number of infections spikes. Coincidence or consequence?

There are many versions, depending on who answers the question.

Beyond the fact that the president said on May 9 that the curve had flattened and the subsequent numbers did not confirm it, there are people who say that there was an initial error in the strategy, something like an original sin. What they say is that the quarantine in Argentina started too early, when it was not yet necessary, because of the government’s fear of knowing that the health system was not ready. So it seems like it never ends. It is the longest quarantine in the world and it has gone from quarantine to eighty days and it will be one hundred before it ends.

Well, I’m not a specialist in the subject, so I don’t know if that version is correct. I only mention it for someone to investigate and confirm or not.

What does seem irreversible to me is that the quarantine is almost over. If it is not by law it will be due to financial need and also to tha fact that people can not stand it any longer. Look what happened on Monday in Buenos Aires with running. On the first day, thousands of people gathered, surely many do not dedicate themselves to running and they never did that in life. But there was a huge demand, the demand to leave home. Surely today, three days later, there are still people whose muscles ache from Monday’s activity, because it was the first time they ever ran in life.

From reading so much about the Corona Virus in these many days of confinement, I am happy because, as Michael Porter would say, I have a competitive advantage. This virus is, among all other known viruses, a large virus because it measures a maximum of 160 nanometers. Exactly! Measured in meters it would be 0.00000016. The good thing about that is that the virus, when thrown into the air by a sneeze, cough, or just the voice of an infected person, falls to the ground by gravity.

The competitive advantage is that I am tall, that is, with shoes and thick winter stockings, I am above the meter and ninety. I am above the mouths and noses of most people. In fact, I see the hair of many people form above and see parts of their hair that the owner cannot see in the mirror. I take air where very few people can shed viruses, where the air is purer and less polluted.

Ok, then! For my side, the closure is over!

In time: just in case, I put on a face mask. That Chinese worm is big but light, so let us not take a chance that a small breeze makes it visit new altitudes!

What I take away from the quarentine

Some say that we are prisoners at home. Others say that we are safe at home. Beyond the differences of opinions, the truth is that we have been at home for a long time and that our trips, if any, are short and to the shops in the blocks near our homes.

I remember that in the distant month of last March, I filled the tank of the car. Never has a tank of gas lasted so long! My poor Peugeot, hidden in the underground garage, was only exposed to sunlight twice in those many days of social isolation. It was when the need to buy heavier products such as water and wine bottles synchronized with a discount-announcing email from my favorite supermarket located nearby.

The year 2020 surely already has the world record for hours spent indoors. I don’t think I have ever spent as much time indoors as this year. And we are not yet halfway through the year! And we are not yet at the end of the pandemic! Yes, clearly the second exclamation is stronger than the first one. Not to mention the record of hand washing!

But, well. All that time at home, all that new dynamic in one’s life has consequences. I am not going to focus on the bad ones like the desire to kick the walls or the door, nor that the refrigerator is unpolite for not answering when I speak to it. Let’s talk about what we have learned, observed in our behavior, confirmed for some reason.

A first observation is that open television is no longer necessary. I think most people can live without it. It may be that many people, along with the record for hours spent at home, also broke the record for hours spent in front of the TV. It is not my case, but I think it is that of many. Along the same lines, I think it is absolutely confirmed that a good and fast domestic connection to the Internet is a basic necessity. With it, you can watch series and movies whenever you want. You can’t live without it!

Also along the same lines, many realized for the first time and others only confirmed their concepts that e-commerce is an irreversible trend. Many people have just made their first purchases from supermarkets or other items online and were delighted with the result. For my part, I had to buy cartridges for the printer, acrylics for my hobby, a microphone for my course recordings and some other things. I know people who bought many books in Kindle or similar format, because they had time to read them, as well as many movies downloaded on YouTube in addition to the hours they spent watching Netflix content.

Let’s talk about the body. In a very disciplined way, I have been maintaining the routine of exercising every other day. Of course it helps that, before the invisible worm arrived from China, I already had a mat, a rubber band and a gym cloth band at home. I also had a habit of going to the gym twice a week for Pilates classes. Well, what remains for me of the pandemic is that I don’t need the gym out there. That means, I don’t need, after the isolation is lifted, to go to the gym and pay a fee to do what I can do on my own. I was able to confirm that I can maintain the discipline and dedication of keeping my body fit frequently and regularly.

Another lesson that the pandemic leaves us is the Zoom. Or, more generally, non-personal meetings. I realized that it is easier to speak to a person on line and with a time limit of 40 minutes than to try to schedule a visit. I also realized that it is easier and more agile to keep in touch with your friends and relatives through a regular remote meeting than otherwise. Many people, and myself included, will continue with quick online meetings after social isolation is lifted.

Along the same lines as Zoom, it is also important to talk about education. Many students at different levels from school to universities tried online classes for the first time because they were not allowed to move to educational establishments. And, in most cases, the experience was very positive. You can develop at your own pace and with less pressure from the group or the teacher. Remote education is here to stay. I risk saying that it will be, in the not too distant future, an important part of the learning process, complemented by face-to-face meetings with teachers and colleagues. Another prediction that I risk mentioning is that, since distance education allows and enables the individual rhythm of learning, it is possible that the structure of years and age-groups that we have today is obsolete in the future. In other words, we can see young eleven, thirteen and fifteen-year-old students in the same classes, for example, because some developed faster than others.

What is said about education also applies to business training. Synchronous or asynchronous classes of courses for companies are going to be transferred to the digital world. The instructors are going to charge less for each course because they will not be face-to-face courses and, on the other hand, we will be able to teach the same course in more companies since the presence will not be required. It is a good solution mainly for post-pandemic times when training budgets are going to be very low.

There is also the kitchen. Of course, there must be many people who can’t stand the desire to go eat in a restaurant. I truly miss the smell of the grill that is one block from my house! But, there are also many who realized that you can do delicious things at home. There are many recipes with good illustrative videos on YouTube that help transform a normal person into a Cordón Bleu chef. I always say that cooking is an act of love because you give yourself when you are preparing a meal and you have great satisfaction when your product achieves praise from your diners. That pleasure, exactly that pleasure, many discovered during the quarantine. For my part, I already knew it before isolation but I confess that I was able to practice and improve knowledge during these times.

Also, we realized that there are things that cannot be replaced. I am a weekend golfer and I miss walking on the court and playing with friends. Not that I’m a great player but I like golfing. And there is no way to replace that pleasure. At one point in my quarantine I thought about practicing my swing, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that I could break the ceiling in the living room or, even worse, break one of my clubs. So the bag is waiting for me near the door, praying that the quarantine will end soon.

The hairdresser cannot be replaced either. It is not that my hair touches my shoulders as I write this note but it already has a length that is much more than it usually has. I do not dare to try the haircutting machine, although I have already watched instructional videos about how to do it.

Finally, from this pandemic I still have no antibodies. Yes, I am left with the doubt that if it is good or bad that I do not have the antibodies. Due to the isolation, I did not expose myself to the virus, which seems good but, since I am optimistic, I think that I would have defeated the worm quickly and would be immune to go out and would be now ready to go play golf.

Forgiving corruption

Unfortunately, corruption is epidemic in Latin America. And not only corruption in the management of public things but also among private people. In the latter, there are abundant examples of difficult-to-understand companies, difficult-to-explain business activities, and even unjustifiable professional careers.

But, undoubtedly, the great figures of corruption are in public management. And in this particular, Argentine society is getting very close to forgiving those who robbed it outrageously.

Everyone was angry when they saw the over-billed public works that were never finished, the bags with millions of dollars that Lopez threw above the gate of the false convent, the sudden fortune of Lázaro Baez who went from a bank teller to the biggest businessman in the country in seconds, the empty hotels of Cristina that billed ghost tourists to launder money, the purchase of media companies by Cristobal Lopez with the money that should be delivered to the state, the six million dollars bills that were found in the safe of Florencia Kirchner without her ever having worked in her life, the five hundred million dollars of Santa Cruz that disappeared and many other examples of an extensive list of millionaire robberies, always taking the state as a victim, which is, in essence, the money that belongs to all the people.

Despite all the anger over the assaults, Argentines are on track to choose Cristina Kirchner again to be the one who controls the state. With humor, the phrase comparing his victory in the election with “re-hiring an employee you fired because he stole from you” circulated on WhatsApp. But her triumph will be far from being funny for the country. To give Cristina votes is to give her the means to stop and eliminate the causes of corruption against her, that is, to confer forgiveness for theft. Does anyone doubt that Cristina will not press justice to close all the cases against her? How long will it take for all the judges to become new Oyarbides?

And not to mention that the candidate is Alberto because he is not the leader of the political arm that supports him at the moment and, therefore, has to lower his head when the boss rules. In his interviews with journalists, it is clear that he has no idea what measures to take in the government, just saying that you have to encourage consumption but without saying how. What Alberto does make clear is that we must review the cases against Cristina and release her collaborators imprisoned for corruption.

What happens when a society forgives corruption? What message will be given to all politicians and public employees of all levels? A Cristina forgiven by the voters, will she steal less or more? And, if she steals again, can voters be surprised? They are not even going to have the right to be angry, much less to say that they did not know that she was stealing. Other politicians, such as governors or mayors, will they fight corruption in their districts? How would they do it if, ultimately, corruption is forgiven? Is a person who lived the traumatic experience of being a victim of an assault going to vote who assaulted everyone? And, if you vote it, will you be able to cry out for justice to arrest the thief who assaulted you?

No matter the ideology, corruption must not be tolerated.

What do people think when they are in a scanner?

There was the sciatic nerve causing him that terrible, unbearable pain in the lower back. The pain is excruciating, disturbing and paralyzing. Yes, paralyzing. It stiffens the muscles around the nerve so much that the poor person can not move freely even when the brain wants to get moving. It is a protection the body has to avoid the sudden and devastating pain caused when the bones pinch the sciatic nerve.

The suffering person searches desperately for medical help. In his suffering, with his mobility reduced, his face showing the pain in every move and his eyes pleading for mercy, the person goes to see a specialist doctor hoping to get a quick fix because he does not feel he can go on living like that. 

However, the doctor is not going to solve the problem immediately. The doctor will show sympathy and understanding by prescribing a strong pain reliever but will not go further beyond that without more data. Most often, the doctor will ask for a magnetic resonance analysis of the affected area. 

And there goes the poor suffering person to the scanner. For those who are going for the first time, the big, awkward-shaped machine looks threatening. In addition to the cursed, maltreating back pain that is causing him to have the worst moments of his life, he gets asked whether he suffers from claustrophobia, whether he is sensitive to weird noises and he is given a panic button, just in case. And all of that wearing an uncomfortable, completely inelegant, sterilized gown with nothing underneath in a room that is so cold that could easily be transformed in the cage of a polar bear. A nurse will help the poor patient to accommodate him in the bed of the scanner always with slow and careful movements because of the back pain or, in case the pain reliever has already achieved the strategical objective, because of the fear of having the pain back. 

When he is in the exact position in the bed of the scanner and has been given the instructions of do not move, follow the instructions for breathing when you hear them and here is the panic button, the nurse leaves and the patient realizes that his is now alone in the arctic room. A lone crusader battling against that gigantic machine that all of a sudden starts making noise of movement but he does not see it moving. What the heck is going on? Where are the moving parts? And, surprisingly, the bed starts moving carrying his body inside a narrow tunnel. A tunnel that is just a little wider than a human body. In this moment, he realizes that he is not staring to the ceiling as he was a few seconds behind but looking to a clear, whitish wall of the tube and he is trapped inside, caged like a big dog in a small traveling case but, unlike the dog, he can not see outside and he hears the terrible noise of things circling him, invisible attackers that will be ready to hit him anytime. In this moment, there are only to ways to go. The first one is the noble way: he can relax, control his thoughts, think that what he is doing there is for a good reason, that actually there are no risks and the tunnel is just a harmless piece of pipe. He can close his eyes and remember good moments, live his dreams, give wings to his imagination and let it fly. Enjoy the picture that he, and only he, can see in his mind. Travel through his past remembrances and build new, wonderful moments that are yet to come. He can dream in a way that he will not hear the noise and the claustrophobia in the tunnel will be completely ignored as the wall close to his nose will not be seen even though it is there. The enjoyable dream will only be interrupted, almost at the end of the procedure, by the instructions to hold the breath and breathe normal again. Yes, he has achieved it and has survived. Both have survived, he and the monstrous machine he was ready to battle against. 

The second way is the panic button.