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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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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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A long article by Nancy Andreasen on her research on creativity. Excerpts:

As in the first study, I’ve also found that creativity tends to run in families, and to take diverse forms. In this arena, nurture clearly plays a strong role. Half the subjects come from very high-achieving backgrounds, with at least one parent who has a doctoral degree. The majority grew up in an environment where learning and education were highly valued. This is how one person described his childhood:

Our family evenings—just everybody sitting around working. We’d all be in the same room, and [my mother] would be working on her papers, preparing her lesson plans, and my father had huge stacks of papers and journals … This was before laptops, and so it was all paper-based. And I’d be sitting there with my homework, and my sisters are reading. And we’d just spend a few hours every night for 10 to 15 years—that’s how it was. Just working together. No TV.


I’ve been struck by how many of these people refer to their most creative ideas as “obvious.” Since these ideas are almost always the opposite of obvious to other people, creative luminaries can face doubt and resistance when advocating for them. As one artist told me, “The funny thing about [one’s own] talent is that you are blind to it. You just can’t see what it is when you have it … When you have talent and see things in a particular way, you are amazed that other people can’t see it.” Persisting in the face of doubt or rejection, for artists or for scientists, can be a lonely path—one that may also partially explain why some of these people experience mental illness.


One interesting paradox that has emerged during conversations with subjects about their creative processes is that, though many of them suffer from mood and anxiety disorders, they associate their gifts with strong feelings of joy and excitement. “Doing good science is simply the most pleasurable thing anyone can do,” one scientist told me. “It is like having good sex. It excites you all over and makes you feel as if you are all-powerful and complete.” This is reminiscent of what creative geniuses throughout history have said.


Some of the other most common findings my studies have suggested include:

Many creative people are autodidacts. They like to teach themselves, rather than be spoon-fed information or knowledge in standard educational settings…Because their thinking is different, my subjects often express the idea that standard ways of learning and teaching are not always helpful and may even be distracting, and that they prefer to learn on their own. Many of my subjects taught themselves to read before even starting school, and many have read widely throughout their lives…

Many creative people are polymaths, as historic geniuses including Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were

Creative people tend to be very persistent, even when confronted with skepticism or rejection…


In A Beautiful Mind, her biography of the mathematician John Nash, Sylvia Nasar describes a visit Nash received from a fellow mathematician while institutionalized at McLean Hospital. “How could you, a mathematician, a man devoted to reason and logical truth,” the colleague asked, “believe that extraterrestrials are sending you messages? How could you believe that you are being recruited by aliens from outer space to save the world?” To which Nash replied: “Because the ideas I had about supernatural beings came to me the same way that my mathematical ideas did. So I took them seriously.”

Some people see things others cannot, and they are right, and we call them creative geniuses. Some people see things others cannot, and they are wrong, and we call them mentally ill. And some people, like John Nash, are both.





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The History and Future of Everything Put time in perspective.

The Science of Kissing

Everything is a Remix – A documentary on ideas and innovation.

Digital sleight of hand

Without the Doing, Dreaming is Useless – One of the many videos on the creative process from 99U.

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Misc. videos

Interesting Ted talk on why follow your passion is a bad idea and we’d stop wage war on work

Anime on The History of English in 10 minutes

Louis C.K on parenting

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos looks to the future

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I was in Seoul and Taipei last week, just finished two reports on the macro & political situation there, and am now working on presentations for an upcoming offsite in London. The past week reminds me of a time back in the sell-side when I was working 14-7. Like back then, I don’t think it’s sustainable. And like back then, I’m still learning and enjoying what I do. Life is probably a bit more balanced nowadays as I continue to take Thai boxing and Japanese lessons, read books during commutes, and update my blogs. Having soup waiting at home also helps.

I don’t know how much longer I’ll continue today’s lifestyle. The arcane wanderer in me still wants to live an alternative lifestyle at some point (like this guy or Jodi). In Yunnan, I also came across many people who quit their jobs to seek different lifestyles, which according to this NYT article seems to be getting more common in China nowadays. I’m not sure just quitting my job and going to live in Dali/Lijiang would satisfy me, as I probably prefer the feeling of pursuing something more than the feeling of escaping from something. For now I’ll continue to save, so that I wouldn’t mind ‘naked quit’ when I feel like I’m not learning anything more in my job.

PS: Zhang and Liang’s travel videos (in Chinese)

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Interesting debate on the future of education. My experience is similar to Peter Boettke’s. A few good teachers and peers did wonders in shaping my intellectual and personal developments, although nowadays the blogosphere plays a similar role.

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Two Ted Talks on how technology and human ingenuity will likely make the future better. The speakers are optimistic, as opposed to a more pessimistic take from Robert Gordon. Erik Brynjolfsson is also optimistic about growth, but thinks human will need to “race with/against the machines”, a theme not dissimilar from Tyler’s latest book Average is over (even though most people seem to associate Tyler with The Great Stagnation, he’s probably more a realistic optimist than a pessimist).

Where do I fall on the debate? I don’t think anyone can predict what will happen that far out, but my bias is that things will continue to get better over the next 100 years or so. I’m not sure where this optimism bias arises from, but it probably serves me well personally.


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It relaxes my mind. It’s a good way to get closer to nature, spend time with family/friends, and do some exercises. I’m lucky to live in a place where there are many accessible hiking trials. Spending a day out hiking and reading (during commute and breaks) is a cheap and excellent way to recharge.

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