Blog

Short blog posts, journal entries, and random thoughts. Topics include a mix of personal and the world at large. 

No World Cup for China. Again.

World Cup 2018 is in full swing and as us Chinese are doing that once-every-four-years pondering on why China have once again failed to qualify for the tournament. In the entire World Cup history the Chinese national team have only qualified once, quite a while back in 2002. The team then had a dreadful go of it, failing to score a single goal in group play. 

How can a country of 1.6 billion souls, in a football region that isn’t exactly competitive (you’ve got the twin titans of Japan and South Korea and that’s it), can’t ever seem to form a competitive team? One would think that simply by law of large numbers China would at least be able to scrap a group together and consistently qualify for the games. 

It isn’t for the lack of money: god knows China is full of wealthy corporations and millionaires. My father tells me China’s football federation and the clubs are awash with capital, able to attract foreign players away from Europe to the Chinese leagues. On the contrary I think it’s because of the immense prevalence of money that's preventing China from playing football on the world stage. 

I see a succinct lack of national pride in Chinese athletes. For footballers in other countries it is an absolute dream to represent their national flag. Just this past weekend the Mexican players was in tears of joy because they won the match against the defending German champions. I seldom see this sort of elation and emotion from Chinese athletes. Look at the Olympics games: where are the signature shots of Chinese athletes standing on the top podium step bawling their eyes out while the national anthem is playing?

In every Olympics China wins a ton of medals, but how many of those are for team sports?

My father says sports in China is too focused on the individual, not nearly enough on team and country, and it’s largely due to the corruption of money. Athletes are selfish towards their own achievements in order to maximize the amount of money they’ll receive - there’s no play for fun or for the love of the game. A player gets upset his teammate scored the goal rather than himself. The lack of unity and playing for the collective have hugely contributed to China’s futility in getting into the World Cup tournament. 

I don’t know if the team China will ever get its act together and fight with some national spirit, but I constantly hope. I would love nothing more than to root for my birth country in future World Cups. 

 I dig awesome restroom tile-work, especially public ones where I can look like a creep taking my phone out to take a photograph. 

I dig awesome restroom tile-work, especially public ones where I can look like a creep taking my phone out to take a photograph. 

Kevin Smith on dying

On the bus ride to work today I listened to the Joe Rogan podcast with guest Kevin Smith, who recently had an heart-attack scare. Towards the end of the three-hour episode Kevin Smith talked about his near-brush with death. He said for a guy who’s been scared of dying his whole life, he was surprisingly calm and okay when he was lying in the hospital not knowing whether he’ll make it out. Life is a journey and when the journey is over it’s nothing to be afraid of or lamented, but rather be glad: people are happy when they accomplish things and life is literally the longest and biggest thing we get to do. 

Kevin Smith talked about the feelings he experienced being okay with dying was surprisingly the same his mother felt that time when she went into cardiac arrest, was clinically dead for a few moments, and came back. She remarked that being on the “other side” for that brief time was the ultimate sense of freedom: this life she’s toiled so hard through is finally over and what's left was absolute peace. 

As someone who’ve battled the fear of death demon for years, I was shocked to hear a guy like Kevin Smith, with his tremendous success, can harbor that same fear. The wisdom I gained from his story is that in life if you accomplish many great things, get after it with gusto, and leave no regrets behind, that life well lived will make death spectacularly easy to face. Kevin Smith felt okay with possibly dying from the heart attack because he was satisfied with all the awesome things he had done.

Leaving this human world is the reward at the end of the marathon of life - even if it’s cut short by disease or other circumstances.

I’m afraid to die because I want to live, because there’s many things I’ve yet to do. Fear of dying is a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more you try to avoid it by living super passively and avoiding everything difficult, the more that fear lingers and eats within. The way to make death acceptable is to live a life worthy of it: try new things, chase dreams, go after what you desire, be the hero.

To put it another way: is the things you’ve done and accomplish in life worth dying for?  

 Up and up we go, less and less we can afford. 

Up and up we go, less and less we can afford. 

World Cup fever

It's World Cup season once again and it's always a special time because I get to enjoy watching the games with my father. Every four years we'd spend the month of June in front of the television taking in all the matches - or at least endeavor to. The 2018 edition is held in mother Russia and the time-difference makes things difficult: the games are held during the day our timezone so we can only properly watch on the weekends.

On campus the games are shown at the Student Union which is great because none of us need to work during the Summer, right? (Wrong). 

Attending a World Cup game is on the bucket list so I am happy about the announcement the the 2026 games will be cohosted by Canada, Mexico, and the United States. it's Great news for America because Team U.S.A won't have to worry about not qualifying because host countries receive automatic berths - a genius move by our soccer federation. Anyways, I look forward to going to a live match with my father in eight year's time.

Might even kill two birds with one stone and go to a game in Canada because I've yet to travel to our northern neighbor. 

FiveThirtyEight has a quiz that will tell you which team you should root for in the World Cup. I got team Deutschland so I shall root for them since USA is not in the tournament. Sadly Germany's first match against Mexico didn't go so well (spectacular game, though) but it's still early days for the defending champions. 

The next three weeks should be quite exciting. 

 The many shades of purple. 

The many shades of purple. 

Toyota finally wins Le Mans

Never give up a on a dream.

After decades of futility, Toyota have finally won 1st overall at this year's  24 Hours of Le Mans. The marque joins Mazda as only the second Japanese manufacturer ever to win the storied endurance race. 

It was the team's 20th attempt; how many billions of money have been spent in chasing this glory.  

With Porsche bowing out of P1 class this year the Toyota team had little competition other than lady luck herself. All eyes were on whether the two Toyotas can finish the race without the mechanical troubles that doomed them the past two years, and if so, which car would be on the top podium step. 

The pole-sitting number 8 car of Nakajima/Alonso/Buemi have been faster all week than the sister 7 car driven by Conway/Kobayashi/Lopez, but during the race the 8 car encountered an unlucky safety-car plus a 60-second stop-go penalty that dropped them nearly 2 minutes behind. Supremely mighty night-stints by Alonso and Nakajima erased the deficit and when the sun came up on Sunday morning at La Sarthe the 8 car regain the lead it won't relinquish. 

It was poetic and emotional to see Nakajima do the final-stint to the checkered-flag, him being the driver of the car that stalled-out before the final lap while leading the race in 2016. From ultimate heartbreak to ultimate redemption. During the podium ceremony Nakajima nearly lost his composure when the Japan national anthem was playing. To win one of the crown-jewels of motorsport with the team representing your home country is super special indeed. 

Honestly it was emotional for me as well. I've been following the Toyota Le Mans effort since the GT-One (TS020) era at the tail-end of the 90's, so it's been a proper long time. I thought the 2016 tragedy with one to go was the Racing Gods telling Toyota it was never meant to be, but the team kept fighting and now they've finally achieved the result. Omedetou gozaimashita

 Got a white one as well, in the only size of Porsche I can afford. 

Got a white one as well, in the only size of Porsche I can afford. 

The perfect bus timing

Today after the work was one of those scarce and magical occasions where the bus came right as I arrived to the waiting area. Then at the transfer point the second bus also came right as I alighted the first one. I got home in record time, nearly as fast as it did driving.  

So I've been doing the commute via public transport thing for nearly two weeks now, and I've got to say it's been going really smoothly. I'm lucky that while the bus can get crowded sometimes, it isn't the insanity that one of my friends have to deal with in which daily his bus is so full he's usually squeezed-in right next to the exit doors. If I had to deal with that everyday I would've never sold my car. 

Indeed taking the bus have increased my total commute time by half hour to an hour, which is not ideal, though I claw back the lost productivity by tightening up my social media usage when I am at home. As soon as I get home from work I immediately attack the rest of my daily to-do list, where before when I drove I'd spend way too much time browsing twitter before I get a move on. 

A big positive in using public transportation is that I listen through so many useful podcasts - in peace. Not needing to concentrate on driving stuck in traffic and avoiding idiot drivers frees my mind and calms me down. I honestly don't mind the extra time it takes to get to work because I arrive with a better mental state, rather than still pissed off the asshole in the Nissan Altima cut me off. 

It's almost always an Altima. 

 To the back of the bus. 

To the back of the bus. 

The Forever Car

Since selling my ND Miata I've naturally been having some thoughts about what to get next - a few years down the line. Whatever the selection, I think it will have to be what car enthusiasts call a 'forever car': the one to keep until death (or at this point until manned vehicles are no longer a thing). A 'forever car' is one I wouldn't sell under any circumstances, for any price. It's one that will live with me even if I do decide to buy another car. 

Obviously, it's got to be super special. A car that in the old Top Gear show would belong on the 'Cool Wall' in the Sub-Zero section. 

Though that doesn't necessarily mean expensive. I honestly thought my 2013 Subaru WRX STI - the first car I bought with my own money - was going to be a forever car (I even spent overboard for protection film and ceramic coating on the paint), but the notoriously fragile EJ257 engine ultimately derailed that plan. It's great shame because the rest of the drivetrain is famously bulletproof and a mechanical joy, but I simply can't be constantly worried about engine failure in a 'forever car'. 

The ND Miata was never a candidate chiefly due to the lack of power, and the spec I bought did not have the limited-slip differential. Yes it's got enough motivation to be fun and nimble for its size but personally in a 'forever car' I need something much more substantial. These days a poverty-spec Mustang GT can be had for mid 30 thousands and it's got 460 horsepower, so 155 in the ND was never going to suffice. 

So the search is on, and these days I've got my eyes towards Germany. 

 A new desktop ornament has arrived. 

A new desktop ornament has arrived. 

The 'long-cut'

I was reading a transcript of the The Tim Ferriss Show when he had on Seth Godin, and the part that particularly struck me was when Seth talked about the 'long-cut'. The opposite of a short-cut, the long-cut is the paradigm that success takes proper amount of time to achieve. The contemporary Internet world is full of charlatans selling life-hacks, short-cuts, and methods aimed at getting at success more quickly, and it's all bullshit.

Underneath all good results are years of hard-work and nose on the grindstone. 

But most people don't see that. All they see is the party at the end and figure the planning part took no time whatsoever. Add in an unhealthy dose of instant-gratification culture and it's no wonder those lists with tips and tricks like how to lose weight quickly (for example) are so popular. Nobody wants to be told it'll take a massively long time and the work will be tedious and draining. 

Charlie Munger of Berkshire Hathaway fame was once asked what are the methods to his success, and he replied the person asking the question merely wanted to know how to arrive at Charlie's achievements but faster. He cautioned even with his distilled processes it's going to take a commensurate amount of years and decades. 

I can certainly commiserate with the instant-gratification crowd, because some days it's difficult to concentrate when the end of the tunnel is so bloody far away. I believe success in life is achieved via compounding, where it's the little things done consistently everyday that will pile up into something remarkable after a prolonged period of time. The daily interest of a savings account is rather minuscule but after a few years it'll be a nice chunk of change. 

The long cut: I shall remind myself constantly of this. As the back-cover of Jocko Willink's 'Discipline Equals Freedom' book says:

"There is no shortcut. There is no hack. There's only one way. So get after it." 

 An afternoon enjoying an augmented reality tour of Apple's new 'Spaceship' headquarters. 

An afternoon enjoying an augmented reality tour of Apple's new 'Spaceship' headquarters.