A COVID-19 snapshot

⚠️ Edit: This post now lives at https://joelabreo227.me/ ⚠️


This is a WhatsApp exchange with a friend from another SEA country. I felt like I should put it up here because it holds in suspended animation this unprecedented time in human history.

Even though it’s hard to imagine, I know that things will return to normalcy and that we will look back at this time in 5, 20, a 100+ years from now.


Good morning Joel. Long time no see or talk! I hope you and your family are well. What’s the situation like there in Pune? Have you been hit by Covid-19? I could update you quickly on our situation here in Manila.

Our government is taking no chances and is enforcing what’s called an “enhanced community quarantine.” Everyone is to stay home. Every night there is a curfew, from 8pm to 5am, to further limit the movement of people. We’re taking the policy of social distancing quite seriously.

The β–†β–†β–†β–† leadership has also directed the members not to meet in the time being. We are now using a lot of social media and other communication platforms to stay in touch, have prayer meetings, and share our faith online.

Thank God for social media and the technology (such as video conferencing) to keep in touch with one another, even if we can’t get together physically!

Our upcoming major β–†β–†β–†β–† events, all through Easter, are canceled for the same precautionary reasons, and also because in many cases the public facility is closed down anyway.

Classes are called off for a month, so I suddenly have more time than I’m used to.

Masses are also not being publicly held. Yesterday morning we tuned in to a live-streaming of a Mass at the Manila Cathedral. It wasn’t bad, and we even had communion from the consecrated hosts kept in our adoration chapel.

Overall we’re learning how to live with this strange and unprecedented situation. Our hope is to ride out the storm with serenity and peace, by the grace of God. Living with the brothers is a blessing during these unusual times, and the brothers and sisters in community are such a comfort. While everything is so uncertain, we are given this opportunity to be even more full of faith, hope and love.

Keep well, my brother. Let us keep praying for one another. God is merciful. πŸ™


Hey bro β–†β–†β–†β–†! It’s so nice hearing from you!

A lot of what you said applies in Pune too – we’re attending Masses virtually, we’re doing community meetings via video calls, and our government has imposed a strictly enforced 100% curfew in the country. No going out at all for the next 3 weeks (at the minimum). Getting supplies has been challenging, but not impossible, but I can’t imagine how the situation is for the poorest members of society who don’t have the same level of access to supermarkets and chemists (these are the only places, alongside hospitals, that are allowed to be operational).

Maharashtra is the most affected state in the country, and Mumbai is the most affected city in MH, followed closely by Pune. We have about 215 confirmed cases here but the isolation seems to have slowed down the rate of infection. Either that or the number of tests are not as high as they should be.

Anyway, basically the economy is on pause, people (who can) have been asked to work from home. There’s a lot of uncertainty, restlessness and hopelessness because of the isolation and loss of income.

I have been home for the past couple of weeks, working my usual hours every day because my company is a remote-ready company (thank God!) I’m not sure if you know but I didn’t do well enough in my MBA entrance exams to get into a university of my choice, so I decided to go back to work to my previous company. They were happy to have me back and even offered a half-time (4 hours a day) job profile that pays very well. I can comfortably manage the KKP men’s household that I have been leading, spend time with family, go to work, attend community/outreach meetings and still get paid a good salary at the end of it. God is good.

I can imagine it being a great (if subdued) time of bonding for you bros at β–†β–†β–†β–†. You bros are in my prayers. I am a bit bummed that β–†β–†β–†β–†’s India plans are potentially cancelled, but I know it’s only a matter of time before I see them again.

Please say hi and pass my love to β–†β–†β–†β–† for me πŸ™‚



About my Mi Band 4

⚠️ Edit: This post now lives at https://joelabreo227.me/ ⚠️

It’s been a couple of months since I was gifted a Mi Band 4. It’s the first “health tracker” I own, and I’ve been using it to continuously track my steps, heart rate and sleep patterns.

However, even with its shortcomings in terms of absolute accuracy, I have still been impressed with my little black band because of the qualitative trends that it gives me. I wrote a Slack post in rtCamp’s #health channel the other day that summarized how I use the band and why I like it so much:

Screenshot 2020-03-24 at 8.04.27 PM

Other notes:

  • The battery life is amazing. The fact that I don’t use the Bluetooth connectivity features at all (except to sync the watch data with my phone) is a contributing factor, but even so, the watch comfortably lasts a whole week with 20-30% still in the tank.
  • The colour screen, that allows so much customisation is amazing. This website has a nice collection of watch faces, with one-click downloads (quirky, info-dense)
  • The Mi Bandage 3rd party companion app is way less pretty than the default Mi Fit app, but it does offer more functionality. I also, don’t use most of the functionality that it offers, so it’s a net neutral for me.

In summary, I think this is a great little starting device for someone who wants to be more mindful of their activity patterns and/or who wants to get into a habit of walking/running.

While it’s definitely no substitute for motivation, which I consider a pre-requisite for any health tool to be effective, it is a useful thing to have for someone already pursuing a more active lifestyle.

I’m two weeks into my second first job

⚠️ Edit: This post now lives at https://joelabreo227.me/ ⚠️

Yesterday was the end of my second week of employment with rtCamp, the company that gave me my first job out of college, where I worked until I left for my gap year.

Upon returning from my gap year, I was of the mind that I should go back to studying. I had decided on doing an MBA from a decently rated university in India, which required me to give a few entrance exams, which I did.

And failed at.

Well, I actually did well relative to my preparations, but I could have pushed harder and done better. I can blame the fact that I don’t deal well with hard deadlines, or that I am very prone to procrastination when I have a lot of time on my hands, or that I didn’t pace myself properly while preparing, or that I didn’t fully buy into the idea of going back to studies. The bottom line is that I was the reason I failed.

So there I was, contemplating my life decisions, equal parts sulking and despaired, when I decided to switch to plan B – work. I was a couple of weeks into considering my options when rtCamp reached out.

Going back to rtCamp seemed obvious. I was familiar with the job, the people, the industry. I knew I would be welcomed back, and that I would be compensated well.

I wanted to go back as a freelancer though. This way, I could have more control over my time, keep my options open in case something more interesting came up and most of all, put me in a zone where I had a gentle (?) pressure to be productive.

We spoke, we negotiated. It worked out.


My official title is “Digital Marketing Manager”, which I find accurate, yet reductive of the role that I understand I have been hired to play. But rtCamp has always done a terrible job of managing their titles so I’m not too mad πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ

The company has grown and evolved since I left in mid-2018. I think the main driver for this change has been their new hiring strategy and concomitantly, their new hires. They are different in a couple of important ways – first, they are all veterans in their respective roles, second, they have interesting lives outside of work.

This combination of expertise and character brings a different flavour, a diversity of perspectives, a positivity and purpose to the company. I feel motivated to do better, to be better, to push myself, or be left out.

Another change – my job role is much more defined this time around. Or, I am much better equipped to define it. The truth is probably somewhere in between. Regardless, I feel challenged every day I go to work.

My work is in an area that is new to me, but also new to the company itself – B2B marketing, on the upper end of the market. It’s one of those things in which I constantly feel like I don’t know how much I don’t know.

Anyway, I have been working hard and taking one day at a time. So far, so good.

2020 and the decade to come

⚠️ Edit: This post now lives at https://joelabreo227.me/ ⚠️

The 2020s is going to be the most defining decade of my life.

  • I’ll complete my higher education, which will be on my CV for the rest of my life
  • I’ll settle on an immediate career path, which will probably frame the rest of my 80,000 hours
  • I’ll look for, (hopefully) find and get married to a girl who will be my partner for life
  • I’ll probably have kids with this person and have to make all the decisions that come with that
  • I’ll likely decide on where I’m settling down – Pune, abroad, somewhere in between?
  • I’ll be responsible, much more than ever, for my parents as they near their 70’s and have to make all the decisions that come with that

Can I name one thing that will be different tomorrow that hasn’t changed between yesterday and today? No.

But it still feels like the beginning of something. And that’s all that matters to me.

I πŸ—£ to πŸ€”

⚠️ Edit: This post now lives at https://joelabreo227.me/ ⚠️

I’ve noticed that my mind goes blank if I ever “stop to think”. I thought it had something to do with my concentration, but the other day, I had a revelation (while talking).

I talk to think!

It makes perfect sense.

  • I need to vocalize when learning/studying or I can’t make any connections
  • I have the bad habit of blurting things out at people, often when they are mid-conversation
  • My best friendships are with people who I constantly share ideas with over chai; we can talk for hours. (Corollary – I really dislike spending time with people who cannot hold a conversation)
  • I have been accused of being a scatterbrain, of flip-flopping between opposing views just to annoy people, of being a contrarian – even though I don’t do/am any of these things (though, to be clear, I can flip-flop a lot: but that’s the point I’m making, I AM LITERALLY THINKING OUT LOUD ALL THE TIME GODDAMIT!)

One of the benefits of being a talk-to-think kinda person is that I make a great bouncing board for ideas! God knows that has come handy at work (not to brag, but I’m an A+ team player) and in my relationships (“help me understand this”).

One of the downsides is that when I am blindsided by something and need to respond immediately, I literally cannot think. My mind goes blank. And all these years, I’ve been hard on myself for being emotionally unintelligent πŸ˜’

Great article on this topic: https://www.fastcompany.com/919234/do-you-talk-think-or-think-talk (mirror)

And another, in a leadership context: https://fractio.nl/2015/07/10/think-talk-leadership/ (mirror)

Instagram + Twitter = 3

⚠️ Edit: This post now lives at https://joelabreo227.me/ ⚠️

I’ve been using the Instagram Stories and it has taken the place of my old WhatsApp Stories contact list, only on steroids. Seriously, this is such a great feature.

It’s ephemeral nature allows me to post without abandon, the tagging and re-sharing is great for pulling people into the conversation and the stickers/filters/text additions are just plain fun. I use Stories to post updates about where I am, what I’m doing and who I’m with. It’s great.

Instagram, as in my main feed, is where I post all my artistic and more carefully curated pictures. I still don’t want to take myself too seriously when I’m deciding what to post and I avoid posting selfies of just myself on my feed (those are the scum of the Instagram post types if you ask me #hottake). Instead, I post things that I really enjoy seeing – great pictures that tell stories or aid in a narrative. It’s a great creative outlet.

And then Twitter. I have been much more impulsive with my tweets ever since I’ve made my Instagram. I think part of the reason is that I just don’t care about my followers anymore – all my social interaction and associated dopamine comes from Instagram now – but another part is that Twitter is kinda perfect for the text-based shower thoughts that I have.

{There’s also WordPress, where I write long-from stuff. This site for personal stuff, the other one for more formal stuff.}

So it’s all fallen into place quite well. I have clearly demarcated zones for all the types of things I want to do. Instagram has actually made me use Twitter (and even WhatsApp, for pure communication) better. It’s very much a case of 1 + 1 = 3.

Life is good. Let’s try to keep it that way!

Standard Operating Procedures

⚠️ Edit: This post now lives at https://joelabreo227.me/ ⚠️

I have a shitty memory.

I’m sure this fact is compounded by the fast-paced, always connected, instant gratification seeking world that I live in, but there’s no denying that at the end of the day, my memory/recall is average at best.

But I am a thinker. And a planner, and a meticulous one at that. I get easily anxious, especially in areas that I perceive to be out of my control. I like to be in control. I have a dominating personality (don’t hate, relate) and I often find myself in positions of leadership. I like being efficient, in fact, I hate sloppiness. I’m a purist, I’m a great team player. I am a big picture thinker.

All of these things are a spaghetti bowl of cause and effect, and I am waaay too lazy to untangle it. All of it is true though.

The effect is this – I LOVE SOP’s. I think in SOP’s, I operate in SOP’s.

I can also, in spite of my shitty memory, create and internalize SOP’s, working themes, behavior patterns (these are all different facets of the thing that I’m trying to describe, what I call “SOP”).

So, that’s what I do. I create SOP’s for myself. And I stick to them with all my life.

That’s why I will often say things like “that doesn’t sound like me at all”, or “yup, that’s about right”. Even when I don’t remember the specifics, I remember the SOP’s that I have created for myself, others, or situations and that’s enough for me to call bullshit or bueno on a situation with confidence.

And more often than not, I’m always right. 😏

Why did I get on Instagram?

⚠️ Edit: This post now lives at https://joelabreo227.me/ ⚠️

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with traditional social media, but without the love. Probably something to do with the fact that I hate pretentiousness, selfishness, mediocrity (in others lol).

I don’t use Facebook (or Messenger) to this day, and my account largely exists because of those once-in-a-while times I need to reach out to someone who’s not on my WhatsApp contacts list.

I think LinkedIn is just slightly less depressing than Facebook, but still reeks of desperation and pointlessness.

Snapchat, when it was a thing, really scared me. So did Instagram, and Twitter, for the longest time. I think I was afraid of the “culture of creation” that I perceived on these platforms…you know, the constant grind to search for that perfect angle or come up with that punny caption or be at that oh-so-popular gig in town. My life is not that interesting, and I am not that creative, at least in the way that these platforms tend to reward.

So I just never felt the need to use social, and being the stubborn purist that I am, I just became the guy that wasn’t on Facebook, or Instagram, or Snapchat. Quirky and notable, but my friends just kinda got used to it and that was that.

That all changed in 2016, when rtCamp hired me into their enterprise sales team, with additional responsibilities marketing the company and its products. I just had to get on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

I still hated the first two with a burning passion, but Twitter? Twitter was different. I “got” Twitter. I started posting, using it to connect with people, to promote myself.

It took a while, but I got over the fear of the “content grind”. I realized that I can be myself, and that was enough. Actually, I realized that the more honest I was with myself and with my “audience” (for lack of a better word), the easier it became to leverage the reach of the platform to do good.

When WhatsApp ripped off Stories from Snapchat, I dived right in, and I loved it. I used to post stories all the time. It was a great tool, and I used WhatsApp stories right up until I left for Manila (where my phone got stolen, and I lost access to my WhatsApp account, and thus all my “followers”. Life is hard πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ)

Anyway, back on Twitter, I started noticing that my posts were getting more and more conservative. This wasn’t entirely because I was taking myself too seriously; it was also a side effect of my Twitter account being my primary social channel to both my personal(πŸ‘πŸΌ) and professional(πŸ‘ŽπŸΌ) circles.

So, at this point, I took the most logical step I could, and made an alt.

My Joel Altreo (huehuehue) alt account was a success. I was as random, as expressive, as creative as I wanted to be. I experimented with different formats and found a groove where I was getting the most out of the platform.

One of these formats what the tweet-with-photo-attached. I quite like this format, because I’m a visual thinker (and thus a visual communicator) and love to take photographs.

I would often post pictures of people, experiences, things, and hitting the “Tweet” button would feel great, but the follow-up would often let me down. You see, nobody is on Twitter. That’s a scientific fact.

So even though I was expressing myself, I would see my friends sharing on Instagram (see where this is going?) and creating so much of “social context” without me. Worst, I couldn’t share my social context with them because I could just never get myself to start posting WhatsApp stories after my phone got stolen.

Finally, since I have the blessing of knowing & caring about a lot of people across different social circles and cities/countries and I had long been craving for a way to keep up with developments in their lives.

That’s three social voids, for those keeping count.

December 2019. It’s Advent, and I’m praying to God to give me direction in my life. It was a hopeless time, full of (self-inflicted) pressure to do well in my upcoming entrance exams.

I’m searching (also, procrastinating) for something that will help me grow in the things that I want to do (viz., be more socially available to the people I care about, and express myself).

A couple of friends suggest I try Instagram (thanks, Krys, Desai!). So I downloaded it. And it felt great.


God on earth and man in Heaven

⚠️ Edit: This post now lives at https://joelabreo227.me/ ⚠️

The unfathomable Holiness of God contrasts the obvious imperfection of the human race. Yet, He stooped down. Why? WHY?

This is the core message of Christmas, and it gives me chills every time I think about it.We have no choice but to rejoice! πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ

Merry Christmas!

(Gloria in excelsis Deo)

What no man could hope for now conceived.
Earth is raised to heaven on this eve.
God on earth and man in heaven, who can such a wonder fathom,
For where God wills there nature yields!

Glory cry the angel choirs,
Glory fills creation song!
Hope of hearts more pure desires,
unto us the Lord God is born.

Sprung from Jesse’s root the promised Son,
Hope of prophets, our desired one,
Key of David, Star of Light,
Man is raised to raised to heaven’s height,
Rejoice for our Emmanuel is come!

Glory cry the angel choirs,
Glory fills creation song!
Hope of hearts more pure desires,
unto us the Lord God is born.

Word of God made flesh in perfect love,
Man made Son of God to reign above.
God descends in mortal flesh; man is clothed in holiness,
The child is born to set the nations free!

Glory cry the angel choirs,
Glory fills creation song!
Hope of hearts more pure desires,
unto us the Lord God is born.

The Lord God is born.

{Originally from: https://www.swordofthespirit.net/bulwark/dec08p10.htm}

I’m on Instagram! (and how I plan on using it)

⚠️ Edit: This post now lives at https://joelabreo227.me/ ⚠️

I would love for everyone I care about to be on Twitter. But that is not remotely close to being true.

Facebook makes me sick in the stomach.

Instagram…I actually really like. It just has a way of encouraging people to showcase their own personal brand of creativity, that I find really attractive. Plus, it has (almost) everyone I would want to keep in touch with. And, they’re active.

But. It’s a new landscape, and I’m a bit lost. So. Here are my tentative Rules of Engagementβ„’ for Instagram:

  1. It’s my primary social platform. I don’t fully know what this means, and I’m sure it’ll be clearer down the line, but for now, I want to use this platform to catch the pulse of how the people I care about are doing: both, in specific (ie., news/life events) or general (ie., social context)
  2. I am very scared of an over-populated timeline filled with people I don’t care about. So, I will only follow people who I am in regular contact with and whose lives I would like updates on. Both conditions need to be true.
  3. Corollary to above, I will not follow any “pages” or personalities, at least to begin with.
  4. I want to post regularly, but I don’t want to find myself in a place where I’m taking myself too seriously. Having said that, I want my profile to reflect a mindfulness with regard to posting – I want to post things that I resonate with; not pointless captions, bullshit captions or #random updates yuck

Here goes nothing!