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

450 words per day

It’s been said that the Ernest Hemingway only wrote about the 450 words a day. I’m far too lazy to research whether he actually did do that or not (excellent journalism being done here), so I’m just going to take that at face value.

450 words a day isn’t all that much, isn’t it? My daily blog posts are about 400 words on average (shout-out to the built-in word counter in Microsoft Word), and they take about half an hour to write. Obviously I’m not penning a great American novel, only merely writing down what I’m currently musing on, so the amount of imagination and creativity required is significantly less than Mr. Hemingway.

Nevertheless, it’s still only about a page a day, and for the rest of the time Ernest gets to chill and hangout at his leisure. It’s no wonder he chose a tropical paradise like Cuba to live in. It’s hashtag goals, as the kids say these days: write for a few hours at most, then the rest of time drink coffee and smoke cigars to the heart’s content. What a super low-stress way to make a living; I bet he would’ve lived quite a bit longer, had Hemingway not committed suicide.  

My ideal locale wouldn’t be a third-world country near the equator, but rather a cottage nestled in the hills and forests, somewhere in our northwest region. As I grow older I’ve really come to appreciate ultimate peace and silence. To attain that, being away from the cities is a must. As long as that cottage has a solid Internet connection, I can make a living doing creative freelance, or like Hemingway, write 450 words a day to someday form a novel.

The lesson here is that life is about consistency and solid habits over a long period. It’s rare and difficult to be a sudden viral sensation or hit something big overnight: good things take time to create, and it’s contingent on the creator to keep at it and coming back to it day after day, month after month. For sure on some days the progress will be excruciatingly slow, but even tiny bits of forward momentum, if done consistently, can compound into something great.

The other lesson is that this thing of ours is indeed marathon, not a sprint; don’t overwork yourself: be sure to take some time to enjoy being alive.

A road to joy.

A man and his castle

When I was in my twenties, I was completely into the urban city life. Having grown up in one, I love the density, the hustle and bustle, and how accessible everything is. Living in secluded suburbia was just about the dullest thing imaginable; there would only be the house, and nothing else. Give me the city, and the all of the lights.

Presently in my thirties, and properly “adulting”, my perspective on that has been changing. These days, peace and quiet is what I’m after, and ultimately a castle to call my own. I don’t want to hear the busy sidewalks and too many cars driving by; I don’t want to fight with the crowds and wade the troubles parking; I don’t want to pay the high tax for living in one of the most expensive cities on the planet.

I want open spaces, and dead silence.

I want the proverbial cottage at the countryside.

Too crazy of a dream? Perhaps. The immediate and biggest concern is what the heck am I to do for money. I refuse to be amongst the masses who live far away from the urban core, yet still commute for hours every day back into the city for work. That’s a significant amount of precious time to be squandered on the road, even in these modern times of endless podcasts and super intelligent cruise-control.

But those people do the commute slog for a reason: the city has almost all the jobs. It wouldn’t be so prosperous and constantly full of new developments otherwise. No doubt they’d all rather work much closer to home, but deep in the heart of suburbia or rural counties, there are no high paying jobs.

For me, the solution to that problem is the Internet, in the way of digital freelancing, or join a company that will allow work from home. With the cost of living ‘out in the sticks’ immensely less than metropolises, I wouldn’t even need to be earning as much as I do now for it to be sustainable. Besides, aside from cars (admittedly a big one), I’m not in the least materialistic about anything; I don’t need a huge salary to be absolutely content.

It’s definitely something to ponder about. I certainly cannot afford a house in or anywhere near San Francisco, so if I really want a place for myself – can’t live with the parents forever, no matter how Asian I am – I think I’ll have to get out from this city.

Exit stage center.

What if I hit the lottery?

I seldom play the lottery because rationality informs me the odds of winning are vanishingly minimal, and the money would otherwise be better served in an investment account. That’s precisely what I’ve been doing; volatility in the equities market these past few weeks notwithstanding. Investing in stocks is sort of like gambling: none of it is guaranteed, so in that way I don’t feel the need to buy lottery tickets or frequent Las Vegas casinos.

In the rare times when the lottery jackpot reaches stratospheric heights like last evening’s $1.6 billion in the Mega Millions, I'm inclined to buy in at the minimum. The odds haven’t changed of course, but the prize incentive is increased so dramatically that it’d feel rather stupid to not at least throw my hat into the proverbial ring. After all, the hockey great Wayne Gretzky once said, "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take". $40 million is life-changing indeed, but $1.6 billion is another life.

It’s always fun exercise to dream about exactly what you will do with that amount of money. I reckon the dopamine hit alone is worth squandering the two dollars required for one ticket. Plenty of people would probably quit their jobs, buy property somewhere to live, and follow their true passions. I’m certainly amongst that camp: if I hit the lottery I’d be a vagabonding photographer, with a focus on driving cars in spectacular locations, and write about it all on this website.

The question is, would I need to win a jackpot to do that?

Answer is a decided no. It doesn’t take an enormous sum to travel and write; get good enough I might even be decently paid for it. What the hypothetical lottery winning provides is absolute freedom: freedom from the obligations of a normal person. People aren’t keen to quit their jobs to chase a passion because they’ve got others dependent on their regular paychecks, be that a spouse, children, or a mortgage.

I currently have none of those obligations, and quite a bit saved up in the bank (again, last couple of weeks’ stock market notwithstanding). So what’s stopping me from going after my passion?

Just me.

I don’t suppose any of this is OSHA approved.

I don’t suppose any of this is OSHA approved.

Financial goals stop the great

Last week I wrote about not letting fear stop the great: I shouldn't let worries of potential theft deter me from getting a motorcycle and enjoying it fully. But you know what does stop the great? Money. 

For clarification, I've got enough money to purchase a bike many times over (hashtag not so humble brag). Rather it's my financial goals that is preventing me from dropping the few thousand dollars to procure a motorcycle. Currently I am actively saving up to purchase a 911 in a year's time, and with Porsche's pricing as it is, the car will cost dearly. Therefore all discretionary monetary resources I've got must attune to that objective first. 

A motorcycle wouldn't be the first casualty: due to the tremendous need to store up money for the 911, I've had to delay other interests as well. I'm largely done with my Korean studies and had originally chose to learn the piano next, but the keyboard I want costs almost $2,000 dollars so that immediately tabled it for later. I've also stopped buying new camera gear: while I've been pining for a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens for the longest time, $2,600 dollars for right now is better served towards the Porsche. 

Travel plans for this year? There were none. I couldn't part with the cash to do so. Compared to 2017 where I four times took trips out of the country, the contrast is stark. These days I even try to not go out on weekends (not too difficult for a homebody like myself) because that would mean spending more money than necessary. 

Extreme? Perhaps, but it's all dedicated to a singular goal: once I had decided to buy a 911, I knew many temporary sacrifices will have to be made. Such is the condition of being a rabid car enthusiast, though we all have our areas of fiscal extravagance, don't we? A friend of mine is planning to go see The Phantom of the Opera for a third time now that the tour has returned to San Francisco. 

I bet he hasn't the need to perform austerity like I am. So lucky. 

Geometric light play. 

Geometric light play. 

Saving up for my first DIY computer

Writing about AutoCad yesterday and how it’s best run on Windows PC brought me back to my early years of high school. I was super into computer games but as of sophomore year lacked a proper gaming computer. By then I’d already hacked together my first computer but being that it was the first computer I got blindsided by the components learning curve. 

What constitutes a decent computer processor was easy because it’s revealed in the Gigahertz number (multi-core processors wasn’t a thing yet), but I had no clue that graphics cards too carries a hierarchy. Deficient of that specific knowledge I bought just about the worst graphics card possible. Needless to say playing games on my first computer was far less than ideal, often times impossible. 

Growing up my family wasn’t made of money so they weren’t going finance yet another built computer in such a short period of time. Typing word documents and surfing the web hardly requires the latest and greatest so my parents were adamant that I continue to use the computer I’ve already got until college. Obviously then if I want a new one to game on I would have to pay for it myself. 

Which meant getting a job and saving up gradually, and I mean really gradually. I interned for a department at San Francisco City Hall and the monthly income from that was in the single hundred, often times less. The sum total of the parts I was looking to purchase amounted to well over a thousand dollars so saving was quite the long project, ending up over a year. 

The gaming computer was my first instance of setting a financial goal and actively working towards it. The experience taught me the value of working for money and the patience to wait for the rewards. For motivation I had printed out the list of components on a sheet of paper and stuck it in the top of my school binder. Funny how that habit have continued on: when I was saving to buy my first car I had the WRX STI set as my laptop wallpaper as a reminder to keep going after it. 

As for the present time: 


Learning can be expensive

Frequent readers of this blog (have I got frequent readers?) will know that I am actively saving up for a car, which obviously entails not spending my monthly paycheck on anything other than the necessities (it's going well). However I am bumping up to a metaphorical wall because I’ve just finished up with my Korean studies (the textbooks portion anyways) so I’m in search of the next thing or hobby to learn. 

The problem is that most of what I'm inclined towards cost significant money. Money I rather not divert from the car objective. 

Ever since I was a teen I wanted to learn the piano, and while I did take a year’s worth of classes during high school, I lacked the motivation and focus to continue on then. Fast forward a decade and armed with a new learning mindset I think it’s appropriate time to finally accomplish a childhood goal. Youtube videos are aplenty and music theory textbooks are cheap. 

Sadly an electric piano isn’t. A suitable unit I’d need is nearly $2,000 dollars. Now you may say I don’t really need such an expensive keyboard to learn how to play the piano but then I'd reply that I am not the type to half-ass anything I set off doing. A proper digital piano with the correct graded hammer action is naturally quite costly but well worth the money over a cheap plastic version one can buy at a Costco (I had one). Learning a craft requires multiple years (took me two with Korean) so I want a piano that feels excellent to the hand and last a long time. 

But to borrow from my savings goal in order to pay for this extravagance is a difficult decision indeed. It’s a choice between one of the other, really: I can buy the keyboard now and delay the car purchase by some months, or keep to the current savings trajectory and not start piano learning until after buying the 911. I’m reluctant to choose the former option because ultimately a car is more important, but in picking the latter I’d still need something to work on in the meantime. 

The search continues. 

Looking down on the evening commute. 

Looking down on the evening commute. 

Mechanism for implementing austerity

I have found the best way for extremely frugality: have something impossibly expensive to save up for. 

My one New Year's resolution this year is heavy austerity in my finances. The past fews years have been a bit overboard on the travel expenses, even though I wouldn't trade away a second of the experiences. Nevertheless it was time to refresh the rainy day fund, in preparation to counter any ill events, should they arise. 

First half of the year the resolution was not going so great. I didn't travel anywhere so that was good, but I put some money down for travel later this year, which required a significant chunk (super counterintuitive, I know). Due to various circumstances my mother decided it was time to buy my brother a car, him of still in college and no real income. So towards that end I've fronted and still fronting (insurance is a bitch) some money.

I also bought a few expensive play things as well. Self control is difficult. 

Now the situation has changed. Looking backwards I realize the only times I was able to implement crazy austerity was when I needed to save for something big. Back in 2012 when I decided to buy a WRX STI and needed many thousands in down-payment dollar, every financial decision, big and small, was run through the filter of will it adversely affect my goal. Utilizing that mental mechanism I socked away nearly over 50% of a paycheck. 

So to force myself into frugality, I've pick another big item to save money for. It isn't a house because I have no interest in ever owning, so naturally it's another car. Not a normal-priced car obviously because I can go and buy one now. It needs to be quite expensive: six-figures at least. 

Won't say what the car is because that'll spoil the fun, but ever since I made the decision my austerity resolution is back on track.  

Do you want to save money effectively? Have a huge monetary goal to save towards. 

The architect drew inspiration from the Death Star. 

The architect drew inspiration from the Death Star.