Archive for December, 2014

2014 Review

Baby Sky: This little chap is a wonderful addition to the family, who brings me many first-time experience and an additional reason to draw.

Sport: The NYC marathon was a great experience, not just the event itself but also the training process and the feeling that some part of me has changed. I continue to practice Muay Thai but plan to start Wing Chun or Tai Chi in the coming year to focus more on the meditative side. Also plan to play more basketball going forward.

Travel: Iceland is a beautiful place, and its 18+ daylight during summer is fantastic; also did my first ice-climbing there. Tokyo remains my perennial favorite city, and this year I happened to be there during the Sakura season. With the yen at current level it makes sense to visit more often. It’s also nice to catch up with friends in Singapore, Xiamen, and London, and I hope to do more joint trips with friends next year.

Moving: I moved to a new apartment on the HK Island side. Walking/Jogging was a great way to explore a new neighborhood. I’m happy to be around a public library and a big park (with many basketball courts), not to mention the cafe and eateries.

Book: Highlights include The Power of Glamour, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman, The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success, Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China, The Art of Stillness, and On the Shortness of Life.

Movie & series: Movies I watched recently and like include Lee Ang’s Pushing Hands (old movie) and Intersteller, which prompted me to watch the 2001: A Space Odyssey. Other movies I like include Her, Begin Again, Boyhood, The Great Beauty, The Wind Rises, and The Lunchbox. The Americans is good (watched the first season). I also like this short sci-fi Numbers. There are probably many others that I like but had forgotten because I didn’t record them. Maybe I should keep a comprehensive list of all the movies I watched. For now this blog helps.

Article & Podcast: I find it useful to review the articles that I like and excerpted. The recurring themes include mindfulness, creativity, ageing, education, parenting, and life design. Since walking has become a more important part of my daily life, I’m also listening to more podcasts. The Tim Ferriss Show is a recent addition that I listen to regularly.

Hong Kong: I like many aspects of the city, past and present, but this year’s protests make me more pessimistic of its long term outlook.

Learning: I learn a lot about the HK property market, although prices are moving in the opposite direction from what I want. Also learn about HK’s education system. I plan to spend more time next year to brush up on my Japanese. One easy way to start is by watching more Japanese drama.

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Why is everyone so busy?

From The Economist:

The problem, then, is less how much time people have than how they see it. Ever since a clock was first used to synchronise labour in the 18th century, time has been understood in relation to money. Once hours are financially quantified, people worry more about wasting, saving or using them profitably. When economies grow and incomes rise, everyone’s time becomes more valuable. And the more valuable something becomes, the scarcer it seems.


So being busy can make you rich, but being rich makes you feel busier still. Staffan Linder, a Swedish economist, diagnosed this problem in 1970. Like Becker, he saw that heady increases in the productivity of work-time compelled people to maximise the utility of their leisure time. The most direct way to do this would be for people to consume more goods within a given unit of time. To indulge in such “simultaneous consumption”, he wrote, a chap “may find himself drinking Brazilian coffee, smoking a Dutch cigar, sipping a French cognac, reading the New York Times, listening to a Brandenburg Concerto and entertaining his Swedish wife—all at the same time, with varying degrees of success.” Leisure time would inevitably feel less leisurely, he surmised, particularly for those who seemed best placed to enjoy it all. The unexpected product of economic progress, according to Linder, was a “harried leisure class”.


Alas time, ultimately, is a strange and slippery resource, easily traded, visible only when it passes and often most highly valued when it is gone. No one has ever complained of having too much of it. Instead, most people worry over how it flies, and wonder where it goes. Cruelly, it runs away faster as people get older, as each accumulating year grows less significant, proportionally, but also less vivid. Experiences become less novel and more habitual. The years soon bleed together and end up rushing past, with the most vibrant memories tucked somewhere near the beginning. And of course the more one tries to hold on to something, the swifter it seems to go.

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Beauty & slowness

December is a good time to slowdown and reflect. And three short books – Seneca’s On the Shortness of Life, Pico Lyer’s The Art of Stillness, and Henry David Thoreau’s Walking – helped put me in a good mindset. In 2015, I hope to develop routines that would give me more time to walk, meditate, and pay more attention to the little beauty in life.

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Pixar’s Andrew Stanton,  on story telling – “And that’s what it really is, is that we all live life conditionally. We’re all willing to play by the rules and follow things along, as long as certain conditions are met. After that, all bets are off.”

Meghan Daum on Nostalgia, Aging, and Why We Romanticize Our Imperfect Younger Selves – “But here’s what Older Self will not have the heart to say: some of the music you are now listening to — the CDs you play while you stare out the window and think about the five million different ways your life might go — will be unbearable to listen to in twenty years. They will be unbearable not because they will sound dated and trite but because they will sound like the lining of your soul. They will take you straight back to the place you were in when you felt that anything could happen at any time, that your life was a huge room with a thousand doors, that your future was not only infinite but also elastic. They will be unbearable because they will remind you that at least half of the things you once planned for your future are now in the past and others got reabsorbed into your imagination before you could even think about acting on them. It will be as though you’d never thought of them in the first place, as if they were never meant to be anything more than passing thoughts you had while playing your stereo at night.”

Pico Lyer and The Art of Stillness – “Going nowhere … isn’t about turning your back on the world; it’s about stepping away now and then so that you can see the world more clearly and love it more deeply…It’s only by taking myself away from clutter and distraction that I can begin to hear something out of earshot and recall that listening is much more invigorating than giving voice to all the thoughts and prejudices that anyway keep me company twenty-four hours a day. And it’s only by going nowhere — by sitting still or letting my mind relax — that I find that the thoughts that come to me unbidden are far fresher and more imaginative than the ones I consciously seek out.”

Brain Pickings’ Maria Popova on Tim Ferriss’ podcast

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