Blog

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

I bought nothing on Black Friday

A mainstay of Thanksgiving week is the ever popular Black Friday. Remember when we actually had to wait in lines until the clock strikes 12am on the Friday after Thanksgiving? I personally don’t because I’ve an aversion of lines, but nevertheless what used to be an Olympian effort just to score that television for dirt cheap prices (only five available at this price!) is now a leisure stroll through your preferred Internet shopping sites. Heck, most of the discounts were already available before Thanksgiving.

This Black Friday I spent absolutely zero dollars because I’ve implemented intense austerity so to have sufficient funds for an 911 next year. Otherwise I would’ve totally bought that LG OLED television I’ve been eyeing for many years now, plus the just-released new Apple Macbook Air was looking tasty as well. Smart people take the opportunity to do their Christmas shopping during Black Friday, and I’d do that too if not for the fact I simply make personalized photo Calendars to give out to everyone.

In the social media age, Black Friday is not replete without people commentating on the sad state of consumerism and how people are spending money they wouldn’t have otherwise if not for the steep discounts. I saw many tweets to that effect on Black Friday, high-horsed people lamenting the decay of human logic and decency. The few videos of customers physically fighting over a piece of merchandise is always entertaining. Seriously, is it really worth hurting a fellow human being to save a few dollars? Remember: it’s Thanksgiving!

Indeed I don’t doubt that a significant chunk of the population is foolishly induced by Black Friday price-cuts to spend (more) cavalierly. Our United States does have a consumer debt problem after all; it remains too bloody easy to simply put purchases on credit cards and procrastinate the worry of paying to much later (or never: hello bankruptcy!). That said, there’s also another significant chunk of the populace who are financially responsible and leverage Black Friday to buy items they’ve been wanting to at the best possible price. Therefore one shouldn’t use a broad brush to paint the entire consumer base as degenerates of the capitalist system.

Speaking of prices, I do enjoy how Black Friday shines a light on how overpriced items during other times of the year. For example the Google Pixel 3 XL phone that was released only a month ago at $899 can be had at an $200 dollar discount. Anybody buying that phone at full price afterwards ought to feel quite shortchanged.

Overall I think Black Friday is a good time and we all have our idiosyncratic ways to celebrate the occasion. This year I happen to buy nothing but perhaps next year will be different. I’ll certainly be looking at 911-related products for sure.

Rays of fire.

Rays of fire.

Return from Thanksgiving

And we are back!

It’s been slightly less than two weeks of unadulterated break time, and I am delighted to report I’m ready to get back into the swing of things. I had originally planned to take the entire Thanksgiving week off from work, but due to the calamitous wildfires up in Paradise and all the smoggy air that permeated to us here in San Francisco - a solid week of hazardous conditions, campus (where I work) has been completely shutdown since the 14th.

A sort of forced vacation, if you will; I didn’t even have to utilize any of my precious paid-time-off accruements. That said it’s somewhat difficult to enjoy such good fortune while people are dead and thousands are displaced due to the fires. Again, if you haven’t donated to our neighbors in their time of unfathomable need, please do so.

So what did I do during the fortuitous time off? Nothing ordinary. I purposely stopped my normal schedules of reading and studying, and instead enforced an extended period of mindless entertainment. It was not without some struggle: I’ve been so indoctrinated to always be learning and improving that the notion of not doing any of that was a shock to the system. Many times in the past week while watching yet another car video on Youtube, I would suddenly get the urge to be productive and think “perhaps I should pick up the book and read for an hour’.

But I successfully fought it: not one page of book was read during the great respite. As “useless” and “waste of time” as it may be to binge watch the latest series of Wheeler Dealers, the time spent away from my normal routine (including not going to work) was ultimately beneficial. I relish my job immensely, and count myself lucky to be in a position to do it, but even so, a hiatus from the monotony is absolutely critical. Europe has got it correct in that regard: countries there take the whole month of August off.

The important thing a break provides is perspective, and being able to detach from the regular situation. During the time off while enjoying the slew of non-productive activities, I regained appreciation for the usual work I get to do, and gratitude for the life I am currently living. Countless others aren’t able to simply paid to stay home for a few weeks; that thought alone is humbling enough.

So I’ve returned, refreshed, and ready to attack. At least for the next four weeks until it’s time for Christmas break again. I do love this time of the year.

My primary position during Thanksgiving week.

My primary position during Thanksgiving week.

I need a break from work

I’m very much looking forward to Thanksgiving, partly because I’m taking the entire week off from work. In requesting the time off from my supervisor, I realize it has been since the beginning of January I’ve actually taken vacation. It wasn’t that I did not have enough accrued time to take, it’s just that without anywhere specific to travel to - and saving up money for the next car - there was no reason to get away from work. Simply keep stacking up the time and save it for a later date.

But I’ve come to the realization that even a periodic staycation at home is a great positive towards well-being and absolutely crucial. I didn’t even know I can get burned out from work; I love my job and it’s the best thing to happen to me career wise, but going nearly a full year without a solid break turns out to be not the best of ideas. It’s good to switch out of the daily grind and routine for some mindless, unscheduled fun.

Whenever I return from traveling I always get renewed energy and enthusiasm towards work. The change in perspective for that week or two away keeps me grounded and grateful to have a career that enables me to take time off to travel to beautiful far-flung places. I think of the many people in jobs who don’t get vacation time or if they do aren’t paid for the days away. How lucky am I? Therefore when I go back to work I make sure to earn this privilege through my performance.

So what’s on the docket for Thanksgiving week? A bit of Fall cleaning is probably in order, given the state of things continually stacking up in my room. I will be attending the San Francisco International Auto Show for the first time in two years (travel plans prevented me from going, coincidently), and I’m excited to look at some new cars in close scrutiny. My brother is headed off to LA so I might commandeer his MK7.5 Golf GTI and finally get round to writing a review for it.

Most of all there will be lots of Red Dead Redemption 2 action in front of the television. I’ve purposely (and painfully) held off playing the critically-acclaimed title everyone is crazy over until I’ve got a large immutable chunk of free time. Thanksgiving week shall be that.

Not a break from work but rather a break during work.

Not a break from work but rather a break during work.

It'll rain in Taipei

Next week is Thanksgiving, and by the virtue working in higher education I am able to take the entire week off. I'll be off to Taipei, Taiwan for some much needed vacation time in my beloved Asia. The Google Travel app sent me a notification today alerting me to the weather conditions, and it is forecasted for rain the whole time. My travel good-luck charm appears to have finally deserted me. 

I thought November in Taiwan would be chill and sunny. I guess not. 

Amor fati, as stoics say. 

While I'm not thrilled for the rain, at least it isn't monsoon season (that's during the summer), so it'll just be periodic bursts throughout the day - entirely survivable, just have to purchase an umbrella upon touching down. Rain will force us indoors most of the time, which is just as well because for me the biggest reason to travel to Taipei is the fabulous food so we'll be doing lots of that. Instead of drinking plain water I plan to replace it completely with bubble tea. Even the most hole-in-the-wall tea spot in Taipei is on par with the best we can get in the States. 

Better bring the North Face jacket, though. Shoutout to whoever invented Gore-Tex.

These past years I've been listening to kpop almost exclusively, but in order to get in the mood for the Taiwan trip, I've momentarily dusted off the Chinese music playlists and got immediately taken back to the early 2000's. That's the magic of music: it can transport you back to any time period and let you relive the moments. In my case, that would be my late teenage years of much angst and lazy days. 

Hearing Chinese songs again made me realize I probably should brush up on my seldom-used mandarin. I would not be surprised if my first words towards a person at Taoyuan International Airport is in Korean.  

Excited.