我的好友非常懂得欣賞生活中一些美好的事物 (食物、藝術和文學)。更令人值得敬佩的是，他天生有種讓身邊的人感覺溫暖、備受愛護的感覺。 他展現的智慧和仁慈寬厚，對我的人生影響很大。 因為他的緣故，讓職場有家的感覺，且同事關係如家人一般。 若當初沒有遇見他，我在臺灣的生活絕不會如此充實。 他的英年早逝令人感到十分婉惜。
我的好友非常懂得欣賞生活中一些美好的事物 (食物、藝術和文學)。更令人值得敬佩的是，他天生有種讓身邊的人感覺溫暖、備受愛護的感覺。 他展現的智慧和仁慈寬厚，對我的人生影響很大。 因為他的緣故，讓職場有家的感覺，且同事關係如家人一般。 若當初沒有遇見他，我在臺灣的生活絕不會如此充實。 他的英年早逝令人感到十分婉惜。
I received a pair of computer progressives yesterday which now allow me to see all the UI of Logic Pro, and text in general, with greater clarity. The effect is more magnifying glass than simply bringing objects into focus, so I’m not sure I will stick to it, but will give it a couple of weeks.
January felt like a tough month and in an effort to ensure some control over my life and keep moving forward, I proposed a few bullets of change.
As with many of the bullet lists I create, I didn’t get through it all, partially due to laziness and also in no small part due to contracting COVID.
My biggest disappointment is certainly my inability to ramp up my physical activity (thank you lungs) and the ever increasing middle aged paunch. The greatest gift that returning to the Island has given is 20lbs of weight gain.
The healthy diet we had in Taiwan is just a little bit harder to replicate here and the bread just a little bit more abundant and tasty.
Dreams of running an ultra without excessive injury are drifting away.
What I have accomplished is reading, and though not on the list writing. I’ve managed to read 8 books since the 15th of January and average 2-3 short stories a week. For many I know, my daughter included, this isn’t cause for celebration, but based on my previous habits, it’s a good start.
Now that I seem to be rid of all effects of COVID, and it’s still a big PITA for the vaccinated and healthy, I hope I can slowly spend more time on physical activity with perhaps a race in the fall.
Lindsay Patterson talks about their reasons for moving to Spain back in 2017. Coming from the US, healthcare and child care was on their list, but also they left for abit of experimentation.
Our podcast is built around the idea of experimentation — in science, and in business. When we started a podcast for kids, we had the hypothesis that families were eager for high-quality, screen-free entertainment. It turns out we were right. Kids Listen’s survey of parents who listen to podcasts with their kids found that 70% found kids’ podcasts because they were seeking screen-free alternatives. And when kids start listening, they’re hooked. 80% of parents said their kids listen to favorite episodes more than once — with 20% listening ten or more times.
Now that we know kids are listening, and the numbers are there to prove it, it’s time to find out how to make our podcast sustainable. Our hypothesis is that Spain is an inspiring and safe place to take that risk. Sure, our sample size is 1, but it’s a start. Maybe you’ll add to it?
Coming to PEI was in the beginning also abit of experimentation for us. Something new, yet familiar, with what we thought was the comfort of knowing that we would be looked after when sick or during some other calamity. In a place without much in the way of “social gathering with a purpose,” The StartUp Zone provided a soft landing and a cheap place to work.
It’s amazing how the effects of not being able to travel, the rising cost of living, and the lack of confidence in a social safety net has on your desire to take risks, or to experiment. I’m sure that I am not alone in feeling apprehensive about the future, here on the Island, or in Canada in general (economic uncertainty has many follow-on effects).
A couple weeks hiking in Northern Thailand, or a week eating my way from the north to south of Taiwan would be an antidote to some of the malaise, but Taiwan is closed and Thailand requires a 2 week quarantine.
So we enjoy small treats on the Island and hope to not need to see a doctor. I enjoy coffee with my daughter at The Shed, and get to listen to sounds of the Vietnamese and Chinese language. I eat once a week at one of the many Japanese restaurants around town, where you can hear … Japanese. And we recently went to a lobster supper, which I define as local food, where we incidentally got to listen to a Chinese visitor embarrass himself with how disappointed he was with his daughters meal. My daughter goes out for Korean and works at a Taiwanese bubble tea shop where the owners fly in from Taiwan to tell her to work faster. Working in Downtown Charlottetown is in many ways similar to Hsinchu.
These sounds and tastes make living here even more enjoyable.
I was sitting at the coffee shop while I did my end of week admin debris when I notice my 90 year old uncle in his car parked outside the optometrist office next door.
Getting out of his car after having a short chat, a guy started approaching me to let me know that I should inform Wendell that he ran a stop sign. While he was not particularly aggressive in his approach something about his manner triggered me and I became testy.
It took me many years to learn that in every confrontation, argument, or conflict of any kind, even a minor one such as this, one needs to be calm, polite and empathetic. Once your heart rate rises above baseline, and you loose the ability to think, your ability to choose the correct verbal or physical language for the situation diminishes.
While his delivery was aggravating, he was correct. Wendell didn’t see the stop sign. I should have smiled, said thank you, and moved on.
And now it’s time to encourage my uncle to get off the roads.
3 years ago today I had my last taste of Japanese cheesecake and a Latté at Ink as a sending off treat before I boarded a plane the next day ultimately bound for Charlottetown. We’ve decided to stay another 3 years to allow our son to graduate high school and our daughter to settle into university life. By then perhaps the housing market will have settled and we can be in a better place to decide whether to stay or move on.
I’m downtown today on a sunny Sunday sitting in air-conditioned comfort in this lifeless office. I love to work, and I have a tendency to love to work a lot.
Lately I have been spending more time perusing job ads, looking for a position within my current skill set, that doesn’t push my capabilities, nor require intense study. Every position I’ve ever had, bar serving coffee at the YMCA in Toronto, has required hauling out the method books; required a frenetic pace of study to just keep up or lead.
I see others spending their weekends working in their back-yard, tending their gardens, going off to unbeknownst to me events, and generally enjoying some down time. I’d love to spend the day on a bike ride with Camren, or go for a hike in the woods somewhere.
This 7 day a week push was supposed to be temporary. A pandemic thing (what else was there to do but work) and not a lifestyle. We aren’t attempting to cure cancer or solve big problems, nor are we trying to make a lot of money, and yet here I am.
When you reach middle age are you not supposed to slow down? I’m doing the opposite, longer work hours, harder work outs – work outs I compare to going to war. Neither are producing great results.
Maybe it’s time for a period of self-reflection, a re-examing of priorities and goals. Except, I’m not sure how I’ll find the time.
I have been practicing lately doing various types of cleans using a strap on hook for my left hand. It’s almost impossible for me to lift upwards safely with any kind of weight due to poor grip strength. In my other gym I would use light weight sandbags to get a similar stimulus.
Yesterday I was cycling quickly through a series of power cleans and managed to rip off some of the skin on my left hand. Not a big deal.
Except, as is my habit upon exiting the gym I rubbed a copious amount of alcohol based disinfectant on my hands to help avoid getting myself or others sick.
I soon realized my mistake as the stinging set in.
The weather today could be best described by saying, at least it’s not a snowstorm. But despite the winter like temperatures Sheryl and I participated this morning in the @flyYYG Runway Run with event proceeds going to the family of Randy and Valerie Diamond.
I’m still wary of the problems I have in my left posterior chain, with lately my Achilles telling me to ease off the biking, which yesterday I didn’t with a heart exploding performance this time on the Concept2 BikeErg. Since I haven’t been running much my plan was just to enjoy a run with Sheryl and take it slow and easy.
That plan went out the window when half way through the run Sheryl had some problems and decided to walk, goading me to keep going.
I like targets, and seeing Sean Casey wearing Liberal red far in the distance I thought it might be fun to catch up and say some likely not so witty words of encouragement as I sped past.
Alas, I forgot that I am no Usain Bolt and failed to sprint soon and fast enough to catch up to Sean but managed to finish with wonderful flush of adrenaline that you feel after a sustained 4th zone push.
Afterwards, as usual, a short nap was needed.
When we finally moved to a house amongst the hills and valleys of the countryside we developed a habit of rescuing street dogs. Buster was our first and he in all his glory exemplified our naivety and inexperience.
The color of his coat hid ticks well. This resulted in a first floor infestation – every one had to take their clothes off before going upstairs and have their body checked. Sleeping with ticks became a theme of my dreams and it took over a month to rid our house of the pests and return to my usual nightmares.
Buster spent his life before us grossly mistreated. Spending his life up to this point locked up in a small cage, his hips were in bad shape and climbing stairs was a slow agonizing process. He was possessive which meant we got bit a lot until I got the whole you don’t “bite the hand that feeds you” under control. Feeding a dog like this raw hamburger from my hand and fingers everyday for a month helped me develop the ability to be calm.
In the end he became a gentle lion and my daughters protector. It was like Moses parting the sea when she walked Buster amongst the crowds of people out walking at night. People had an irrational fear of large black dogs. I miss these walks through the hills of Xiangshan.
In the end I had to send Buster over the rainbow bridge. His liver had exploded and he was in terrible pain. This was his last lesson, the powerful experience of being with someone as they transition from this life to whatever happens next.
This year outside the usual coffee or running gear I gave myself a number of gifts which will I expect will keep on giving throughout the year.
As to plan, I gave myself 4 days off this year, which marked the first time I have taken any time away from work since around February. Generally I have been working 7 days a week with Saturday and Sunday mornings off for running and CrossFit. Though Christmas Eve was busy enough that I was wishing I was at my desk, it worked fairly well, will a nice mix of boredom and quiet fun. This was made all the more special by the fact that the family all had this time off as well – Christmas in Asia though celebrated, has often meant school or work. This worked well enough that I am going to make it a habit, perhaps taking Saturdays off every week.
I quit Twitter. “Doom scrolling” Twitter on my idle time was having a distinct negative effect on my mood and mental health. The algorithm that influenced my feed was all doom, idiocy, or “life on the Island is constant rainbows so let’s be kind to one another” extremes. My mood has improved immensely since I’ve stopped reading it. Though I haven’t deleted my account, I don’t plan on returning.
Lastly, I finally replaced what was perhaps the worst purchase I have ever made. Satechi’s bluetooth keyboard may be an attractive device and pleasant to type on, but it constantly repeats characters randomly on key press. This behaviour drove me to near madness and I have no idea why I waited so long to send it to the recycling bin. I replaced it with an Apple keyboard and won’t bother with 3rd party bluetooth keyboards again (we have a couple solid keyboards from Logitech which are great but I don’t like the feel of the keys). Next up is the expensive Logitech bluetooth mouse which always runs out of power at the most inopportune times.
I’ve been suffering from a bought of negativity lately, brought on by a whole range of small inconsequential issues that alone are easily overcome, but together seem to make me, as my son would say, salty.
Today was another one of those days, full of nonsense problems.
It started with me trying to do a quick voice recording, a process which intimately involves my upstairs neighbours bathroom usage. Their fan I find makes a hum that poisons ever so slightly a decent recording. This lasted a short time and was followed by the fan on our laptop kicking into high gear – we still use Audacity on this particular laptop and it unlike other options causes the fan to kick in in a big way. After a short time in which the MacBook had a chance to catch it’s breath, we started anew. I didn’t get but a few sentences in when the midi interface we use started producing noise of it’s own – first a hiss, then some weird crackling. This took 90 minutes to successfully diagnose and repair as I hunted for different cables to try.
Sheryl was in Souris so I took my life in my hands by riding my bike downtown from Stratford for a meeting at noon and a later photoshoot. I swear that drivers dislike people riding bikes here. I arrived early which gave me time to get coffee, but then found out that only 2 of us showed up, so we said our greetings and bid adieu. Meetings on PEI in summer are seemingly more and more alike in Thailand all year round.
I then headed home and tried to salvage the recordings I made earlier.
Feeling exhausted I canceled CrossFit and tried to go for a short run but failed due to general soreness and malaise, and the realization that I will never be like David Goggins.
Now, this evening with food in the oven, work to do, and 2 hours of Zoom workshops to hold starting at 9pm, the power goes out. Someone decided to crash into a power pole and the power in our neighbourhood is out for at least 7 hours as they work to replace the pole. Holding office at the StartUp Zone in Charlottetown, basking in the coolness of AC, we then realize that we left some equipment at home.
I think we are due for a break and since this Monday marks our 24th wedding anniversary (Sheryl and I have been together for 31 years now), that day will be the best day to take one.
Though I tried in the beginning I just couldn’t summon the motivation to participate in CrossFit workouts, or workouts of any kind, in our living room during the time when everything was shut down and we stayed home. I preferred to simply work and by the end of the day I had little energy for much else. It’s a tad disappointing.
When the temperature made it possible to run without freezing to death I did manage to slowly add weekly mileage to the point that this week I was due to run 50km. It continues to increase until basically I run out of time. As the heart specialist at the QEH reminded me at least 12 times during a recent visit, I’m not 25 anymore, and though at that age I was so plump I couldn’t climb a flight of stairs, my preparation and recovery needs have changed greatly. So while I have been running, I haven’t been stretching, or warming up, or much of anything. I have been just dragging myself out the door in hope of gaining some mental clarity.
I have noticed my achilles complaining and I’ve been getting all kinds of cramps and other warnings.
So then I went to the first socially distanced CrossFit class on Monday. The owner worked hard to create as safe an environment as possible; quite laudable. I laughed at my new found inability to do push-ups and my loss of grip strength. The air squats felt fine and it was nice to stretch my hip abductors. I took it easy and just tried to appreciate the ability to get out the house to move my body.
Except, as the day went on yesterday I got progressively sore (DOMS) to the point that this morning I asked Camren to bend over and pick up a wrapper on the floor that I dropped.
I’ll recover but there is nothing worse than sitting down after using your body in new or demanding ways. Which is what I have been doing and am now suffering from.
I got a haircut today and while it wouldn’t be worth protesting at a state legislature for my right to get one, it was nice to be able to go and accomplish what would otherwise be an ordinary task.
I had briefly toyed with the idea of getting into the habit of cutting my own hair, but my attempts at doing so (had to look my best on Zoom), were pretty abysmal; lots of oops and such during the process. So at the advice of family, unless I wanted an army cut, my dreams of being an in home barber have been put aside for now.
Besides, what better place to learn about the habits of people half my age than at a barber shop? A number seemed to have been spending a great deal of time binge watching Netflix and were uncomfortable being inside their own head when alone.
This week was always considered Mothers week in my mind, being framed on one end by Mother’s day and her birthday on the other. I don’t remember the time that the above photo was taken, but I suspect it was during the time we lived for a short period on the family homestead in North Wiltshire.
The photo below was taken during our last time together at the Palliative Care Centre in Charlottetown. A place filled with the most remarkable people imaginable.
I’m sure she would love to see how her grand children have changed and grown into their own, and I suspect she would have sage advice for them as they enter adulthood.
Schools are closed across the country. We are told by education experts and the media that the pandemic has created an educational catastrophe, that millions of children’s learning will be severely stunted, that we may have created a lost generation. Various groups are calculating the months of lost learning, which, we’re told, will be far worse than the “summer slide.” It might be up to year in mathematics! Some suggest making up those losses through compulsory summer school. Others absurdly recommend holding all students back a year — or perhaps the requisite number of months?
There have been many positives as a result of our experience StayingHome during this pandemic. We seldom drive, we eat great and spend a great deal of time together as a family.
Our greatest concern now that we know the path forward is how our daughter Catriona is going to manage to get into an off Island university after next year with practically a whole semester of key courses essentially incomplete (Charlottetown Rural for some unknown reason scheduled all these courses this semester). She’ll pass, as will everyone, but considering how weak the math curriculum is already, how will she be able to compete with kids from elsewhere? There won’t be summer school or remedial classes, nor will the intensity in instruction be increased, so either topics of instruction will be dropped or simply less time spent on them.
True distance learning is pretty much a no go here. The network infrastructure just does not exist, and I would go as far as to say that even within the areas with Fibre it’s still inadequate. On every call I have been on there are always people who cannot adequately participate due to network issues.
Camren will be fine. He has the benefit of time and the math curriculum that he is being presented with in grade 8, he covered in elementary school.
Luckily they both have great teachers, particularly those at Birchwood who admire greatly, more so since spending all this time with Camren, trying to persuade him to learn. The patience they have must be monumental.
And we really have no answers to this problem other than to hire tutors to help prepare her for the curriculum that she will face in university and which she may not get adequate class time covering.
In perspective, in the grand scheme of life, one semester off from school is not a big deal. They both may even look back on this time fondly. But while our kids stay home reviewing material, other kids elsewhere are pushing ahead, which I think considering the amount of wealth in this country, is a shame, and further illustrates a digital divide between those who have critical infrastructure and skills, and those who do not.
50 Million Kids Can’t Attend School. What Happens to Them?
School closure and management practices during coronavirus outbreaks including COVID-19: a rapid systematic review
Taiwan’s coronavirus protocol might be seen as ‘extreme’ to Canadians, but it works
We are attempting to give the kids some kind of a resemblance of structure, structure that they used to have as we filled their days with school and after school activities.
I subscribe to the notion that this is a great opportunity for them to follow their own path of learning. To take on a project of their choosing. With so much free time there is so much they could accomplish, learn or do, but alas the lure of Xbox and its immediate dopamine rush wins far more often than I would like.
The education system here seems ill equipped for a transition to distance learning and there is an overwhelming focus on “taking it easy” and not giving the kids any new challenges. Talking to people in Taiwan they seemed to have the opposite problem when they briefly closed schools, the kids couldn’t keep up with the work load. Different culture and different values in terms of academic achievement. I’m 100% certain that my kids prefer this Island’s approach, but I’m also fairly certain that my daughters dreams of a university education may be put on hold for a year as a result. Math and science education here already lags behind, with the strategy they seem to be following here for at home classes she will be at an extreme disadvantage.
Yes we are in the midst of a pandemic, with our southern neighbour now the epicentre, but I prefer to focus on a brighter future than wallow in fear of what is beyond my control.
Now that my COVID-19 like symptoms have abated, I went last night to retrieve the last of my items at my desk at the StartUp Zone. I’ve set—up a desk in our small living room which now puts us altogether, working at the same time. Which is kind of cool.
When I was living in China alone and particularly missing my family and Taiwan, and/or when the stress level was particularly high I would listen to 美麗人生 by Gary Chau (I think some mornings I had it on repeat while raced to get ready). Not so much because I thought it was a great piece of music but it brought back memories of a simpler time when we were camping with Camren’s classmates in the mountains a couple hours from our home. It was one of the songs they performed. Kids and families form stronger bonds there, than what I experienced growing up here, with lots of group activities for kids and parents alike.
During the particularly dark days in China the song served as a reminder that life was more positive than my mood at the time might have expressed.
I’m sitting here at my desk in a somewhat zombie like state after yet another night of no sleep. I thought I was on the mend, I was well enough yesterday to go for a run and didn’t experience burning lungs and throat like the day before. Unfortunately as nighttime arrived my cough returned and I didn’t have an hour of solid sleep all night. This has basically been my whole week and never have I experienced a cold such as this. I’ve had little energy to get anything done. When I developed a fever, I decided it might be wise to test for COVID-19, because prior to developing symptoms I and my family were out and in contact with people. Unfortunately, according to the online self-assessment tool, you can only be tested if you have recently returned from travel abroad, or have been in contact with someone confirmed to have the virus. This would seem unwise, but I assume that this is due to a lack of testing capability.
Now that the initial shock that an “Asian Style” outbreak has followed us here has somewhat reduced we are now filled with worry about other practical matters.
How will we educate our children and how will we pay rent are our immediate concerns.
Due to lack of employment opportunities I fear that we will soon have to leave PEI. Of course, if the global economy tanks, then demand for design talent will go down as well. Educators like my wife should be safe for the short term, at least overseas.
Starting Monday we have to start homeschooling. There have been some rumours that the school year might not be continued, and I’ve heard that at present there are no plans to implement some kind of e-learning component to allow it to continue. Resources for parents are being made available but it’s entirely voluntary.
Other regions have been successful in implementing adhoc e-learning programs during isolation, and returning kids to school after a period of self-isolation (though Singapore just closed schools again). I doubt it would fly here due to our lack of experience and our western sense of individuality – would we allow the rigorous testing of our kids health here that they follow in Taiwan? The most obvious reason why e-learning might not work is that in 2020 many still don’t have reliable high speed internet access at home.
All of this will require patience on everyones part. If I can develop that, then this break might almost seem worthwhile.
One of the many reasons I am most grateful for my years of competing in the @crossfitgames and medical training, is that they’ve taught me to be more comfortable with the unknown. They’ve taught me to focus on the things that are within my control, and not to spend time worrying about those things that are not. They’ve taught me that we as human beings are vulnerable – we are not perfect, and we fail a lot – but this vulnerability does not have to paralyze us and keep us from doing our best every day.
These lessons are so important at a time like this in the world where so many things are unknown about #COVID19. I’m drawing on these lessons now myself and I hope you will, too.
Julie Foucher, MD
How has Taiwan kept its coronavirus infection rate so low?
Taiwan’s number of COVID-19 infections is currently below 50, despite the island’s proximity to the outbreak’s epicenter on mainland China. Experts say early intervention has helped stop a public health crisis.
I think this early success comes from experience and good leadership. I don’t expect this kind of success south of the border, nor despite calm rational leadership here on the Island, expect the same results locally. Which leads me to think that the safest place to be during this outbreak is near the epicentre of where it started, a reversal of my thinking, after years and years of believing that we should leave Taiwan to be closer to safer surroundings.
Sheryl and I lived through SARS in Taiwan, she was pregnant at the time, and the image that lives on in my head is the constant temperature checks wherever we went. From the time I got on the bus to work, until I was sitting at my desk, I was checked no less than 5 times by security wearing masks and gloves. The same could be said for most public places. Wearing a mask is commonplace there, and despite the medical establishment in the West stating otherwise, it was deemed an effective tool to slow the rate of infection. I always saw it as a means to keep our hands away from our face and I still have a number of N95 maks in storage here somewhere, which I suppose might be worth their weight in gold these days.
SARS changed us. Vigorous hand washing had become the norm. We always had disinfectant hand wipes, and Purell, in the car and in pocket, for the kids when we were out and about. It wasn’t just SARS. The kids would get sick all the time, in addition to the normal seasonal flu, there always seemed to be some kind of viral infection making it’s way through the schools. Doctors were a great source of information and they were frequently visited. This kind of resource is sorely lacking locally.
Social distancing is the norm here, people expect their homes to be as far from others as financially possible, personal space is expansive, and you can walk the streets of Charlottetown without meeting a soul. That wasn’t possible in Taiwan, no matter how hard you tried, and I tried often.
And yet, when I look through my photo library for photos during the period of SARS, and all the years since, I see nothing of masks or security checks, or the constant multitudes of hand disinfectant stations. I see us traveling the region, smiling faces, and generally just living our lives. Sheryl recalls that we still went about our days, went to movies, and ate at restaurants. We just remained calm, aware, and made sure we were following proper procedures.
What worries me most about this pandemic is not the virus itself but all the hysteria that surrounds it. I get the feeling that it’s not a good time to be in America, unless you are wealthy. The lack of leadership there, the delusions of people with voice everywhere, and the click bait hungry media have seemingly whipped people up into a frenzy. Why you need a years supply of toilet paper during an outbreak is beyond me, there are more pressing concerns other than a comfortable wipe.
It’s been a few months since I’ve written with much regularity and much life has lived during this short period. In bullets:
A couple of weeks ago or more I had a short talk with Mathieu Arsenault about goal setting and how he structures the multitude of activities he is involved in. It wasn’t so much what he said, the brain is amazing in how it forgets everything you have learned in the past, but more the timing of the conversation, which has lead me to attempt to re-prioritize the activities I spend time on. Without a boss or employees I tend to spend time on work which though “very important,” doesn’t really help us buy groceries. I really love how serendipitous conversations can lead to all kinds of new insights.
I haven’t really found a way to fit my blogging and twitter activities into the mix but I’m trying to find a way to justify it (it feels similar to how I have been trying to justify buying a new running watch just because it’s on sale).
Robert Pollack: Rethinking Our Vision of Success
How do we understand that our 100,000-fold excess of numbers on this planet, plus what we do to feed ourselves, makes us a tumor on the body of the planet? I don’t want the future that involves some end to us, which is a kind of surgery of the planet. That’s not anybody’s wish. How do we revert ourselves to normal while we can? How do we re-enter the world of natural selection, not by punishing each other, but by volunteering to take success as meaning success and survival of the future, not success in stuff now? How do we do that? We don’t have a language for that.
We do have structures that value the future over current success. I’m at an institution that has one of those structures. Columbia University is one of the most well-endowed universities in the world. That endowment, which is permanent, according to the economic structure of the country, is stable, it produces wealth without taxation, and that wealth is, by government regulation, required to be spent in the public interest. My job is in the public interest, my teaching is in the public interest, my salary comes that way, my sabbatical, which allows me to find the time to talk to you now. The idea of an endowment is perhaps an expandable idea. If I were talking this way, not to you, John, but to the people I hope are watching this, it’s the most wealthy and powerful of them that I wish I was talking to. The more you have, the more you can set aside in a de facto endowment to stabilize the present so that the future doesn’t collapse on us.
That’s not a taxation. That’s not a redistribution. It’s a withholding. It’s an agreement to do with less now for the sake of the future. I don’t see economic structures that do that. I don’t see politics that does that. But I see kids, like those in the street this week, knowing if we don’t do something like that, they don’t have a world.
I had an interesting conversation yesterday with “Naga”, my Chinese teacher, around a number of very simple topics like foods, our past life in Hsinchu, and some of the differences we have discovered between Canada and Taiwan. With the exception of a brief foray into low carb diets, this is about the level of conversation I can handle these days.
We talked briefly about challenges, or the comparative lack their of in my day to day life here.
Some long term residents of Taiwan might chuckle, but just walking outside your door in Hsinchu presents some challenge; you never know when a scooter or a car might come screaming down the side walk. Crossing the street safely introduces a whole other level of difficulty. Add learning a complex language, a culture which beneath the surface is radically different from my own, and high stress work environments, and it might be easy to see how life here is far more sane.
With the exception of possibly being malled by a scooter, I do miss the challenges I faced there – the insanity. Living in a foreign land, even for the length of time I did, keeps you on your toes, forces you to constantly learn new things, and in the case of Hsinchu force feeds you a steady diet of stress. Perhaps it’s telling that I miss the workplace most of all – the hard problems, ridiculous timelines, and the difficulties in communication (I do recognize that my family doesn’t miss the amount of time I needed to normalize after work).
She brought up a salient conclusion that being in the place where you grew up can make you too comfortable, and that I need to create the conditions here that allow for the same amount growth that I experienced there (but for the sake of those around me, without the stress). Achieving that kind of growth alone might be the biggest challenge of all.
A Ghurka rifleman escaped from a Japanese prison in south Burma and walked six hundred miles alone through the jungles to freedom. The journey took him five months, but he never asked the way and he never lost the way. For one thing he could not speak Burmese and for another he regarded all Burmese as traitors. He used a map and when he reached India he showed it to the Intelligence officers, who wanted to know all about his odyssey. Marked in pencil were all the turns he had taken, all the roads and trail forks he has passed, all the rivers he had crossed. It had served him well, that map. The Intelligence officers did not find it so useful. It was a street map of London.
From Bugles and a Tiger, My Life in the Ghurkas via Steven Pressfield
I walked out of the house today without my keys, which resulted in a taxi drive to downtown. This is surely further evidence of my cognitive decline, which I attribute to my laziness towards studying Chinese or deep reading of any kind. If there is a bright side, it’s the knowledge that it’s pretty difficult to get into our house without the fob and key. No windows to slide in through.
The sociologist Robert Stebbins identifies “serious leisure” activities as the most fulfilling: pursuits that require regular refinement of skills learned in earnest. Hobbies are declining, but a hobby is exactly the kind of activity that adds value to the weekend. Stamp collectors and basement inventors may not be cool, but they know the benefits of becoming fully immersed in an activity and losing track of time – that rejuvenating “flow” state.
A hobby is an activity undertaken purely for its own sake, but technology attempts to monetise it. A friend used to make beautiful earrings occasionally. Almost ritualistically, she would buy the beads, and carefully craft the small, coloured jewels in a quiet workspace. Then came Etsy. Now she makes beautiful earrings and sells them, ships them and manages this business along with a full-time job and a family. What was leisure became labour. The side hustle is a weekend thief, but in a time of stagnant incomes, many must choose income over time.
Even though she is exhausted and a little miserable, my friend is praised for her hard work. The Protestant mindset has a firm grip in the culture: live to work, not work to live. We get competitive about our busyness (“I stayed until 9pm!” “I stayed until 10pm!”) because it makes us look wanted and worthy – supply and demand. It is hard to shake the ingrained value that time must be utilitarian and occupied, which is why taking two days off can seem suspect, or a bit like failure.
I was just about to sit down and do some really unimportant work but I think I’ll go hang out with my son instead.