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

Anxiety 2019

Lately I’ve come to realize I’ve been battling a new sort of anxiety for the better part of this year. I can’t exactly put a definitive word to it; the best I can describe it is a nagging sense of insecurity about the status quo. Perhaps it’s easier to give an example.

We’re suppose to relax on weekends, right? Those of us in a fortunate enough position to have a regular weekday job get to chill on Saturdays and Sundays after a hard week’s work. Problem for me is, I can’t seem to fully enjoy my weekends. When I’m out doing super fun stuff like driving the GT3 around, I’d often times have a sense of guilt about it: I am having too much leisure; this is too bloody nice of a car; stop having so much fun and free time, because there’s plenty of work to do to preserving this whole thing.

Things are going along far too nicely; exactly when is the music going to stop?

No wonder that even on a holiday like Labor Day, I can’t seem shutdown my operating system and be in a state of not doing.

Instead of fully relaxing, I’d have anxiety about the work week ahead, and stressing about am I doing my best to warrant a long future with the company. Irrational thoughts, too, like am I just one giant imposter? I don’t really deserve to be paid for the work that I am doing; surely the guillotine will drop any minute now! It became a never-ending rat-race, and downtimes at work would trigger my anxiety, because I immediately worry about not doing enough.

Keep in mind that in reality, from the outside looking in, things are going well.

There’s insecurity about other stuff, too, like the housing. Even though it’s highly unlikely we’d be kicked out of our current below-market rate renting situation, I’d have anxiety about that, and would get deep down into the negative rabbit hole of running worst case scenarios in my head and how everything will change. Again, it’s mostly irrational thoughts, but the stress from that is real, and only now that I’ve snapped out of it do I see it clearly.

One of the four noble truths in Buddhism is that life is suffering, but it isn’t the type of suffering in what we tend to associate the word with, but rather it’s the suffering from wanting to hold onto things, and preserving what we have. Even when your life is measurably great, you will suffer greatly if you become attached to the status quo, desperate to hold on, and constantly scared it’ll all be taken away.

I think that’s been exactly my issue, and I’m glad that certain events in the past months have rescued me out.

Spare a thought for the groom-to-be decked out in full tuxedo in Japan’s hot and humid summer weather.

Will the Hong Kong passage be open?

I have a selfish concern regarding my annual year-end trip back home to China. As per usual, we are flying into Hong Kong and then taking the train into Guangzhou. Normally there’d be no problem with this, and I’ve always enjoyed spending a bit of time in the city before heading for true home. This year, however, as you may all know, there’s massive protests going on in Hong Kong, and as it stands right now, I don’t see it abating any time soon.

So the selfish question is: am I going to have issues getting through Hong Kong? I mean, protestors did shutdown the airport a few weeks back; it’s difficult to predict if it will escalate back to that level again. I’ll be slightly annoyed if my well-prepared travel plans get altered due to the protests.

That is not to say I don’t sympathize with the people of Hong Kong in fighting for a no strings attached governance from mainland China. As a person who lives in the free West, I think democratic values and basic freedoms are worth fighting for, and if Hong Kong feels like this is the moment to die on the proverbial hill, then all the power to them. One can certainly disagree with the protestor’s tactics or their demands in general, but for those of us on the sidelines looking in, I think we have to remember that we don’t live in Hong Kong, the protestors do, and I trust they’d know best what they want for their future.

That is also not to say I’m antagonistic towards China. Guangzhou is my hometown, and I have many family members there; I am not going to state (or tweet) anything negative towards the communist government that can potentially get me banned from entering my home country, to be cut off from my extended family. That is my skin in the game, and the incentive is to preserve my entry and exit privileges. I simply want to make a trip home every year without fuss.

Because of the situation in Hong Kong, this year we are not heading into the city proper, and instead, taking the shuttle bus to Guangzhou right at the airport. It’s a shame because I absolutely adore Hong Kong, and would have loved to sightsee there for a few days.

Maybe next year.

I don’t care if the reliability is highly suspect: Apple’s ‘butterfly’ keyboard is wonderful to type on.

I need a road trip

I just want to drive.

That’s it. I just want to get in the car and drive for an indeterminate amount of time. That’s the feeling I get these days when I take the GT3 out on weekends. Of course, it definitely helps, nay, mandatory, that the car is interesting and thrilling to drive; a Toyota Corolla simply doesn’t carry the same flavor and passion.

It isn’t even about expertly carving up some curvy mountain roads (though that’s fun, too): this past weekend, instead of driving up highway 35 in the mountains, I decided to stay on the freeway and instead did a loop of the South Bay, going from Interstate 280 to 92, down 880 south, switch back westward on State Route 237, then complete the loop on U.S. Route 101. Because some days I prefer to cruise at a steady pace and listen to music for a few hours, with the steady hum of the GT3’s engine at the back of my ears. It’s equally as enjoyable as attacking the bendy stuff, hitting a corner apex and manipulating the chassis.

I think there’s some latent want of hitting the open road, because I’ve yet to take the GT3 on an appropriately long road trip, and I’ve been used to doing at least one of those per year with my personal cars. Indeed, the 911 isn’t the most economical car to take on a trip: it can barely get 20 miles to the gallon, and so far this year there’s been thing after thing that’s occupied my free cashflow. The car’s expensive enough as is to own, and honestly there are scant moments I wished I bought a lesser sports car so I have extra money left over to actually do big events with it.

But every time I take the GT3’s engine up to its glorious 9,000 RPM redline, all is forgotten. This is exactly the car for me, and god willing I plan to keep it until the environmentalists manage to get internal-combustion cars banned forever.

Once I get back to a steady equilibrium and get my money house in order after the expense of traveling to Japan, I shall take the Porsche out on a trip. It’ll likely be a journey down to Porsche Experience Center down on Los Angeles; I’ve been wanting to take a driving course there so I can finally learn the chassis dynamics of a GT3. I’m far too chicken to exploit my own car on public roads - probably better off safety-wise, too.

I’ve only got free Porsche roadside assistance for two more years so I really need to take advantage and drive the GT3 outside of the Bay Area more often.

Blue like the sky.

I almost bought the iPhone 11 many times

I know, I know: it was only last week that I wrote I wasn’t going to get the iPhone 11, specifically, the Pro version.

But then I made the big mistake of reading and watching the reviews. The latest iPhone is only an iterative update to the same formula dating back to the iPhone X, except for one key area: the cameras. Indeed, much of the focus during the iPhone 11 introduction was on the new camera system, and in the ensuing reviews, everyone is absolutely raving about how excellent it is, even when compared to just one-year-old iPhone XS.

The best smartphone camera yet made? Now that has my hobbyist photographer’s attention.

Immediately, my mind began to rationalize purchasing the new iPhone: spending over a thousand dollars for a device you use every single day is well worth it! Think of all the awesome photos I’ll be able to take with it! My mom needs a new phone anyways; get the new iPhone 11 and give your slightly used iPhone X to her! And so on and so forth. The self-convincing was very effective, because at one point I was prepared to make the purchase.

Which presented another problem: unlike previous years, I did not preorder on the first day, and the delivery lead-time for orders made last week was out in the middle of October. This little niggle saved me from pulling the trigger, because I was not about to wait three weeks for the phone to arrive. Normally, waiting that extra bit wouldn’t have deterred me, but I think this time somehow my subconscious was leaving space for me to change my mind. And I did.

So I was resolved once again to not get the new iPhone, until I woke up this past Saturday and for whatever reason decided to check on the stock levels (iPhone 11 launched on the day before) at the Apple stores around me. As serendipity would have it, the Apple Store at Stonestown had the exact model I wanted available for same day pickup: iPhone 11 Pro 256 GB in Midnight Green. The resolve evaporated quickly and I rationalize with myself once more that this is the universe giving me the go-ahead signal.

However, I didn’t complete the checkout at that time, as there remain a hint of reservation with spending that amount of money. Over the course of the weekend, I can remember at least five occasions where I went back to the Apple Store app to check on the stock status, to see if the phone is still available. I came close many times, but ultimately did not jump over the last hurdle. After some mental and paper calculations, while I would enjoy an iPhone 11 immensely, I’m far better served by the money saved from not buying it.

That’s what adulting is like, kids.


Happy 2nd anni to me and Squarespace

Yesterday I checked my Mint account to see how much money I don't have, and found out Squarespace have charged the annual fee for this hosting this very site. Because I am a super pro and awesome, I pay for the business tier which costs $216 dollars per year. I don’t exactly sell anything on here, but back when I signed up for Squarespace, the personal tier did not include unlimited pages and galleries, so I was forced to go with business. Maybe I should call and downgrade now that the base tier offers unlimited content hosting as well.

I’m quite happy and proud it’s already been two years since I’ve migrated over to Squarespace, from the combination of tumblr plus Flickr. I think Flickr is still going relatively strongly due to its legion of legacy users stemming from way back when, but tumblr, last I’ve heard, is not doing so well: parent company Verizon have sold it to the owners of Wordpress for essentially peanuts. I’m rather glad I jumped off that sinking ship, though I do still miss the community interactions that tumblr provided; Squarespace is a fairly standard website hosting service, and there isn’t any of the intensive linkage between “sites” like tumblr offers.

Good times, I would say. Instagram killed the tumblr star.

It was slightly out of character for me to switch from a free service to a paying one (and Squarespace wasn’t exactly the cheapest service, either), but I think two years ago I had a strong desire to bring the two separate threads under one slick and modern package. Tumblr wasn’t the best at showing photos at their maximum quality, so hosting full-size photos on Flickr was necessary. The linking back and forth was a bit tiring for the person who had to set it up: me, so to concentrate more on the actual content, the incentive to bring the wordy website and photo repository together at the same spot was strong.

Of course, Squarespace made it super easy to pick a template and get going, though the initial setup process (idiosyncratic to me) was a huge chore because I had to manually add everything from my tumblr and Flickr account. Words, photos, tags, metadata: all had to be entered for each individual content, dating way back to 2011. Tedious, to say the least.

Money is well spent if there’s utility to the thing you bought, so on that vein I shall continue to constantly push out new stuff on here to justify the $18 per month hosting cost. Here’s to many more ramblings, photographs, and stories.

On weekends we go grocery shopping.

Support physical books and art

Despite the amount of trees felled every year in order to produce them, I still can’t peel myself away from physical books. An Amazon Kindle would be so much easier and a more environmentally friendly way to consume books (digital copies are cheaper as well), but it lacks character and soul. The tactility I get from touching a book’s pages and the smell it gives out is a significant part to the overall joy of reading. Besides, I am a serial highlighter, and making markings on an actual book helps me retain information far better than sliding my finger over a Kindle screen.

There’s also something very zen about shelves full of properly lined books, giving off a suitable facsimile of being in a library right in my room. Libraries are awesome places that gives off endless vibes of learning and discovery; coupled with the inclination towards quiet and silence, it’s no wonder the library was one of my favorite places to hang out as a kid (our family was also quite poor, so there’s that, too.) These days as an adult I can afford my own books, and have created a small library of my own.

Physical books are cool, and I especially like it when the creators I follow comes out with these tangible works of art. The bulk of creative content - this website included - reside in the digital realm on the web, where cost of entry is superbly low. Compared to producing an actual book, and the material costs alone almost makes it not worth the effort; a problem particularly acute for photographers, where printing costs are exponentially more than simple words and paragraphs. I’ve printed a few photo books for personal use, and they are easily in the hundreds of dollar.

So I make a point to support creators who come out with physical books by actually buying them, because I understand how much effort and money goes into making it possible. In doing my little part, I hope to spur on the incentive for these creatives to keep making prints and books, that there is a sizable contingent who still love the unique experience of interacting with actual materials. Plus, it’s important to monetarily support your favorite authors and content makers anyways, most of whom are simple freelancers just looking to get by.

Due apologies to the environmentalists out there. I also keep the air-con at 68 degrees.

To industry!

Buildings should have smoking rooms

Yesterday, work on campus was going just fine when the fire alarm sounded. More annoyed than any sort of panic, as is the wont these days when the alarm sounds, everybody in the library filed outside while the grown-ups figure out exactly what triggered the alarm. You’d think I’d be happy about the reprieve from actual work, but our office is a service point, and when we’re all outside waiting out an alarm, we are unable to fulfill our duties for the rest of the campus community.

Mind you it’s not out of an intense dedication to my job; I rather not deal with the backlog afterwards when we do get let back into the library building. Obviously my feelings would be different if the building was visibly smoking or on fire, but as it’s usually the case, yesterday was only a false alarm.

Set off by someone vaping in the restroom on the fourth floor. The library building is decidedly modern in that it lacks any physical pull triggers for fire emergencies: it’s entirely predicated on detectors, which ironically they have to crank up the sensitivity because a human is unable to intervene first. Many a times now we’ve had to evacuate the building due to precisely the same scenario: the vapors from a vape pen triggering the alarm. It’s quite annoying, I have to be honest.

Not that I am against vaping or smoking; we’re a university, so everyone for the most part is a proper adult. Therefore the decisions you make - like choosing to smoke - is entirely up to you, so long as the consequences is limited to you and only you. I am not in agreement with the wholesale ban of smoking/vaping on campus with no provisions for dedicated smoking areas; people are going to smoke regardless, and I think we should provide space for them to “safely” do so without bothering the general public.

This is where I think Asia and airports are ahead of the curve: spaces feature dedicated smoking rooms where people can do there business. Even the 7-Eleven I went to in Japan had a smoking room. By allowing space for such activities, you avoid the ignominy of smokers setting off fire alarms because they have to clandestinely vape in the bathroom. I think our library building should construct and designate rooms specifically for smoking and vaping, so the rest of us won’t be interrupted from our work and studies.

I can’t think of a better morning stroll than at a setting like this. Those two are doing it correctly.