Archive for May, 2008

The main characters and the theme motivated me to watch this drama (the ending song ‘Canvas’ by Hirai Ken is nice too). I wasn’t sure whether I’d like it at first, but it gets better the farther into the story. The drama, based on a magna, portrays the college life of 5 art students. It touches upon themes that many people experience in their teens: friendship, love, passion, self-doubt, career direction, and separation. Some people don’t know what they want to do in life. Some know what they want but don’t know how to reach it or doubt whether they have what it takes. Others are confident in their ability but can’t find a place in the world that suits them. Idealist and people who can’t seem to grow pass their teenage mindset would probably like this drama.

Life would be much easier if we all have a map telling us where to go. The problem for many is that we don’t know where the goal is. And even when we think we find ourselves a goal, we often have doubts: Is it really what I want? Is it realistic and reachable? What should I do to make it happen? Do I have what it takes to make it happen? Is it really worth it (and back to the question is it what I really want)?

If we are lucky to figure out what we want in life, be it money, love, comfort, or status, there are still myriad of ways to get there. And we often don’t know which ways suit us best. We want a map in addition to a goal. Knowing where to go seems more important to me than knowing how because we can change course and move in a different direction as long as we keep the destination in mind. So the bigger problem seems to be self-doubt.

We feel frustrated and dissatisfied when we can’t seem to be able to put in the effort to live a life we want. We know that not just the process, but outcome matters as well. We also know that, contrary what many self-help book would like us to believe, there are things we can’t achieve no matter how much efforts we put in or have the correct mindsets and methods. Should we try or not, continue or give up? Will it be worth our efforts, time, and other sacrifices?

There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil betowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tired.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Came across many interesting articles on Japan throughout the week. Japan is an interesting place with lots of extremes in both the positive and negative. I like the country and Japanese food remains my favorite cuisine.
Diary on Japanese food. Don’t miss the Monday’s entry on Japanese dining (and toilet) culture.
Japanese retail is not inefficient. I agree. Services in Japan are among the best I’ve seen.
Tyler Cowen’s list of favorite Japnese movies. Kurosawa and Ozu’s movies are great. I also like most of Miyazaki’s anime. I’d add Shinkai Makoto (here’s an earlier entry) into my favorite. 
I rewatched Lost in Translation recently and still like it a lot. I’m planning to take a week’s trip to Japan later this year. Can’t wait to explore the place with a JR pass.

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This is the title of an advertisement I came across recently (drawing above). It portrays an ideal lifestyle. Work hard in a job we love and good at, gather with friends and family over a decent meal and a cup of coffee on weekend, or travel outside the city for a holiday break are some lifestyles people idealized, not to mention the more materialistic ones.


So why don’t more people actually living the lifestyle they want instead of idealizing something better in the future? Are time and money the constraints? Besides the highly monetary and status/recognition-related desires, most idealized activities are not hard to do. Perhaps we don’t enjoy them as much as we think. Or perhaps we want something to look forward to, and having an idealized future is a way to deceive ourselves to believe that future could be better. Or because once the ideal becomes attainable, it loses its glamour and hence our actual lifestyle never match the ideal one.


Having an ideal makes good evolutionary sense as it drives us to work hard and could give us a sense of purpose in life, even though the ideals always remain elusive. People who are satisfied with their life are either good self-deceiver (in a positive sense) or who’ve think through what they want to associate themselves with and live a life that’s consistent with those stories.


Since lifestyle is a habit, I don’t think it can be changed easily even if one suddenly becomes very rich and has lots of time. Instead of the unrealistic view that someday in future we’d attain our ideal lifestyle, I think it makes more sense to improve one’s quality of life step by step by shifting our mental view and lifestyle gradually toward the ideal one. We might not be able to change our personality much (and it’s likely to be an important determinant of one’s satisfaction with life), but we could gradually change our mental states, living styles, and habits to better match them with our ideal lifestyle. When the two match, will we be satisfied? Or we will we be dreaming of other ideals? Either way our life should have improved.

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Recent addictiion

I enjoyed the bloggingheads series by Will Wilkinson,  one of my favourite moral philosophers/psychologists. The conversation with Clay Shirky on internet and culture is particularly interesting. Talks with Richard Florida and Dan Ariely on their recent books Who’s your City and Predictably Irrational are fun to listen as well, highly recommended for people interested in psychology, culture, and applied economics.


Below’s a brief reflection on the conversation with Richard Florida:


I agree with Florida that where one lives make a big differerce to one’s life, but not sure if the beneficial tradeoffs by consciously planning where to live can be easily achieved. Even though I’ve lived in many cities, most were not conscious decision. Only after I came to Singapore and started working have I begun to think that location matters. The people you might come across, cultural experience, career opportunities available, and quality of life differ widely across cities. Since I’ve grown up moving from place to place, I tend not to associate myself with any countries, and it’s easier for me to choose where I’d like to live. For now I’m happy where I am. If have chance I’d like to live in a major city in the US for a while, perhaps New York (no, I’m not a neurotic) or San Franscico.


PS: The first part of this conversation on why academics are generally bitter is very interesting as well; give me second thought on whether I really want to do a PhD. Here’s Megan’s speculations on why academics are bitter. The one who wants to be happy should followArnold Kling’s advice.  



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Life update

Work: Just finished some research on Southeast Asian countries’ rice and inflation problem. Plan to brush up my econometric skills for further analysis.



Emotion: Like the market, fluctuate between periods of euphoria and melancholy


New friend: Made friend with a sushi chief when dining alone in a 居酒屋 (Isakaya) counter. He is a few years older than me but already has more than 10 years of working experience in various hotel restaurants around the world. We plan to go camping and fishing together, and he’s going to introduce me to his favourite restaurants. This is the second time I know someone while eating out alone. The other time I met a retired Japanese Ojiisan who was sent here to oversee a marine project.


Recreation: Watched a Japanese drama “結婚できない男”(Man who can’t get marry). It’s interesting enough for me to watch from beginning to end (lots of drama I stop watching after the first episode, or sometime also the last episode where the director tends to put all the flashbacks). The protagonist is a talented interior designer who doesn’t fit well in the society. I share some similarities with the protagonist’s weird personality.


Reading: Finished reading Thomas McCraw’s biography on Schumpeter and Tim Hartford’s The Logic of Life (both are great books). Thinking about what next to read or whether to push the purchase button in my Amazon cart to get 5 more choices.


Hobby: Bought a few Japanese novels and books to brush up my Japanese skills.

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