Begin Again

Begin Again – Music and New York, from the director of Once.


From A Field Guide to Getting Lost:

For many years, I have been moved by the blue at the far edge of what can be seen, that color of horizons, of remote mountain ranges, of anything far away. The color of that distance is the color of an emotion, the color of solitude and of desire, the color of there seen from here, the color of where you are not. And the color of where you can never go. For the blue is not in the place those miles away at the horizon, but in the atmospheric distance between you and the mountains.


Blue is the color of longing for the distances you never arrive in, for the blue world.

More here.

What I’ve been reading

Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China. Evan Osnos wrote an engaging and insightful book on today’s China. In his words, the book “is an account of the collision of two forces: aspiration and authoritarianism.”

The hardest part about writing from China was not navigating the authoritarian bureaucracy or the occasional stint in a policy station. It was the problem of proportions: How much of the drama was light and how much was dark? How much was about opportunity and how much was about repression?


Now and then, a surge of patriotism provided a form and direction to people’s lives, but it was, as the Japanese author Haruki Murakami wrote of nationalism in his own country, “like cheap liquor”: “It gets you drunk after only a few shots and makes you hysterical,” he wrote, “but after your drunken rampage you are left with nothing but an awful headache the next morning.”

I long for a day when people are less nationalistic, and anyone could travel and live in any country he/she wants.

If there’s a clear trade-off, to what extent is having a say and control over our life more important than a capable government who can make our country strong and prosperous?

PS: Evan’s book has the most detailed account of Justin Lin’s experience I’ve come across.

Floating on a Malayan Breeze: Travels in Malaysia and Singapore. Observations of the different culture and lifestyle between Malaysian and Singaporean, as well as racial and political background.

The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement. Overall I enjoyed reading about the fictional characters that David Brooks created to illustrate a range of social science findings and philosophy. There are plenty of sensible advice on learning, happiness, and success, but I think some of the findings are not as robust as he makes them seem to be.

we are primarily wanderers, not decision makers…We wander across an environment of people and possibilities. As we wander, the mind makes a near-infinite number of value judgments, which accumulate to form goals, ambitions, dreams, desires, and ways of doing things.


The truth is, starting even before we are born, we inherit a great river of knowledge, a great flow of patterns coming from many ages and many sources. The information that comes from deep in the evolutionary past, we call genetics. The information revealed thousands of years ago, we call religion. The information passed along from hundreds of years ago, we call culture. The information passed along from decades age, we call family, and the information offered years, months, days, or hours ago, we call education and advice.


But looking at her son, Julia didn’t really get the sense that the unsupervised Harold, the non-homework Harold, the uncontrolled Harold was really free. This Harold, which some philosophers celebrate as the epitome of innocence and delight, was really a prisoner of his impulses. Freedom without structure is its own slavery.


“The real great man is the man who makes every man feel great,” the British writer G. K. Chesterton wrote.


“There is no craving or demand of the human mind more constant and insatiable than that for exercise and employment,” the Scottish philosopher David Hume wrote, “and this desire seems the foundation of most of our passions and pursuits.”


Recognition and wealth, she had learned, do not produce happiness, but they do liberate you from the worries that plague people who lack but desire these things.


Life is change, and the happy life is a series of gentle, stimulating, melodic changes.



Interesting short science fiction film by Robert Hloz. Here‘s one review, the reviewer compares it with Death Note.

Nice photos by Ho Fan. More here.

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I agree with all of Bryan’s advice/strategies.

I like to think of myself as a non-conformist. But my guess is that most people also like to think of themselves as non-conformists, at least in some ways. Like other personality traits, there is probably a conformist vs. non-conformist scale where each of us lies, and it could vary for different issues (i.e. we conform to some norms/conventions and not others). Guess one message from Bryan’s post is that we should be smart in choosing which battle we want to fight. Life is all about balance and trade-offs.

PS: Good time to re-read Emerson’s Self Reliance:

What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

Optimal sleep hours

WSJ has an article asking how much sleep do we need. Some experts argue that seven hours might be optimal, while others think we should sleep longer. As usual we should be skeptical about these findings. My guess is that it differs by person, and the quality of sleep is as important as the amount of sleep.

This might be a way to find out your optimal amount of sleep:

Experts say people should be able to figure out their optimal amount of sleep in a trial of three days to a week, ideally while on vacation. Don’t use an alarm clock. Go to sleep when you get tired. Avoid too much caffeine or alcohol. And stay off electronic devices a couple of hours before going to bed. During the trial, track your sleep with a diary or a device that records your actual sleep time. If you feel refreshed and awake during the day, you’ve probably discovered your optimal sleep time.



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