A must-watch: Arrival

A weekend ‘adventure’ into the mind. We recently watched ‘Arrival’, the movie. It was surprisingly good. It’s not the usual extra-terrestrial kind of movie. This is one of the best sci-fi movies I’ve watched so far.

It’s rather intense but the story reminds us of what humanity is. Especially in today’s real world, when protectionism and populism are becoming every day news. The real intention of the aliens was concealed up to the last part and that they meant well and wanted to help earth was unexpected but also warming. The thought of everything and everyone in the universe doing good for one another always gives me the tingles. I wish there was a little more on the aliens though. It was also sad when one of the aliens was ‘in the process of dying’.

Laura, the lead character’s ability to see the future was a little confusing as it went back to present and into the future and we were debating on when she actually started to ‘see’. There is weird dimensional time concept which was quite confusing.

She could see her future and in the narration towards the end, “… if you could see the future, would you change it?” She did. However, I think there was also a message around living a real life in the present – she knew that her ‘husband’ would leave her, she got together with him anyway and had a child, who would be terminally ill. After ‘seeing’ all that, she still went ahead with her decision(s). I’m guessing that it was because she felt the joy in those ‘future’ moments with both loved ones. Those moments are enough reason.

Living in the present and letting go are all part of the Buddhist teachings. Parts of the movie resonated with the Buddhist fraction of me. I would watch this again.

 

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Listen up: Podcasts might be your best friend

Yes, podcasts (not all) can be your best friend.

We survived those long road trips listening to podcasts or specifically CBC The Current and As it happens. I was always of the view that radio should be filled with songs and music in the past, but that has changed when I started on podcasts.

When one gets strapped for time and feel that you are constantly doing things in a day, torn between work, fitness, personal enrichment, entertainment and social, getting information through alternative means is highly valued – besides ‘osmosis of information through cells’. Catching up on information on the go is a great way to maximize time and learning. For people who cannot read in a moving vehicle, like me, listening to podcasts is an option.

Podcasts are useful when you aren’t performing another task which requires some thinking or concentration. Multitasking is a myth and that is supported by research around brain functions – our brains are only able to focus deeply on one task at a time.  Doing too many things at the same time diminishes the brain’s capacity for deep thinking.

So reading and working while listening to podcasts are bad combinations. Podcasts are great for long drives like our road trip from New York to Halifax in Canada and Halifax to Ottawa.

Listening to certain podcasts can be enlightening and enriching. They also help as conversation starters at networking events or deeper conversation pieces around pertinent topics. It helps you to consider different perspectives. For me, it also helps me to listen deeper to what people are saying. Listening is a skill and I’m still learning.

The best thing that happened to me was getting started with some podcasts. There are some paid and free apps for podcasts. You can get Pocket Casts or a free app I use, Castbox. I tried a couple of other apps before and like Castbox for its interface and it saves your profile across devices.

I personally like CBC’s As it happens, Freakonomics, Hidden Brain, Note to Self, Up First and more recently, BBC Analysis.

So what are you listening to today?

Goodbye January 2016

So we started the new year barely 30 days ago. It has been a whirlwind month with work demanding all of one’s time and it probably took us a whole week or probably more to get over our ‘time lag’ upon returning to Singapore from Canada in the first week.

It feels just like yesterday when we were just taking a long road trip from Canada to New York for our flight, looking out for bad weather conditions, the rare Starbucks signs and getting lost in the bowels of New York city streets looking for our ‘refresh’ hotel before the long flight back.

The white streets, Nordstrom and friendly squirrels in Ottawa are just a memory in our third week back to Singapore. They all seem like a long time ago but all just part of the January illusion when events catch-up on you when the new year starts in fifth gear. Of course, paying for those credit card bills from the holiday brings the awareness that it all just happened and we are only just beginning the year and the haze of January is disappearing when we see the ass of February and it hits us that we have worked ourselves into February or raced into February.

While we say goodbye to the first month of the year, there is a little trepidation that the rest of the year will be eventful and what will the 2016 elections bring, what other big events await us this year? I don’t mean to sound pessimistic but conditions have led us to believe that the world is falling sick and what we do each day at work, is a very micro aspect of helping to alleviate any conditions which can threaten our way of life.

Climate change for one is a huge concern after drastic weather changes in the North and winter arriving close to two months late and more. [These thoughts are all my personal opinion and not much of a dissertation piece based on in-depth research.] It is supposed to be 20 degrees into the negative but it is barely going beyond 0 or -5 in some parts of Canada. We talk about this for years and committees have been established. The world needs drastic approaches to this by changing policies such as lowering the cost of electric cars, building the infrastructure for electric or hybrids, making them more affordable and convenient could increase the take-up rates and reducing the reliance on gas, banning leaded petrol in countries (Canada I know has banned leaded petrol), education of the public and coal being a major culprit, needs to be replaced with alternatives.

Leadership crisis across the world from world leaders to corporate leaders. The expectations of leaders have changed. There is a need for different views and approaches which may be slightly more socialist in nature. What is the definition of a good leader and why?

I could go on, but life is good and we rejoice in many things. This is also not an article about how the world needs fixing, but how our problems at work seem small in comparison to the magnitude of the world and the universe. We have a few years of actually living our lives so perhaps it is what we need to consider – what does living our lives mean?

Discovery, international experience and learning form my foundation for ‘living a life’. Which means, for us to be happy, we need to be living up to our definition of ‘living our lives’. If I am not discovering new things, learning and experiencing life through traveling or living abroad, my soul may shrivel up and die. All very dramatic.

So while we bid January goodbye, how about taking stock of our lives at this point and shaping our lives in a direction; before we start to find ourselves drifting into the events of 2016 and losing perspective.

 

Things to do on a break

Well, being on a break or what some call a luxury. Quite true and as much as I hope to extend this ‘luxury of time and flexibility’ to at least October 2015 or later, I had the good opportunity and blessings which resulted in a new job which I would jump into by end of August 2015.

With a definite amount of time to my break, my ‘break’ time is even more precious. Taking a break can be nerve-wrecking. For me, I got into it almost involuntarily. I had a recent surgery and was out of action for a month so I was given the option to take a break to recover fully, which also means, quitting earlier than expected.

The first week on the break was fine as I enjoyed the absence of Monday blues. Then again, I had a long hospitalisation leave prior to that which already gave me a little bit of a cabin fever, some bad habits and possibly some good [medicated] sleep too.

Post-recovery and now mid-way through the break, I’m rethinking if some time could have been put to better use. The list of things to do below are just what I’ve done so far among others which can be a form of discovery too. Like I discovered online games and unfortunately, got a little hooked.

One thing which I would have loved to do while I have this excess of time and flexibility (like attending day classes just like all other women of leisure) was hot yoga. I had to suspend the account for a few months until I’m ready to do a full stretch or even a downward dog.

Now, this is not in any order of priority, but just top of my head at the moment:

  1. Visit the library and borrow books on self-development for progression in life.
  2. Tend to your garden if you have one.
  3. Listen to the radio. I’m listening to the online radio at the moment. It’s amazing how the radio does keep you company during the day when you are a little isolated from everyone else. Especially after a month and more being at home. It is also quite relaxing listening to the hits you recognise. Also, to get updates on what is happening locally, like events, ads, conversations etc.
  4. Catch up with old friends. No pun intended. Drop people a note to check in and appreciate their time in engaging with you.
  5. Sign up for freelance work. Yes, I’ve written some articles and also translated a few from Traditional Mandarin to English (yes, I’m amazed myself). Also received a request and invitation from the online magazine to join them long-term as an editor. That sounds fun…if only I had a longer break….
  6. Research on places to go for a short solo trip! I’ve not taken one for a while now and I’m happy to share that I’m booked for a trip to Lake Toba for about 9 days. Exploring, discovering, reading and writing while I prepare for the next big job.

    Photo courtesy of Easy Planet Travel.
    Photo courtesy of Easy Planet Travel.
  7. Attend a friend’s wedding and ‘gatecrash’ parts of the National Day rehearsal.

    So I saw the tanks while getting to the hotel and had quite a night trying to get home. Waiting in the queue would probably take me all night, no response for calling cabs maybe due to the road closures around the area, tried to take a bus and realised after two bus stops that I was heading in the wrong direction. Got off and walked back to where the hotel is, got on the last circle line train (i think) to Dakota and saw this:

    And again, after the wedding while I was heading home.
    And again, after the wedding while I was heading home. Waving to the boys while they ‘parked’ the tanks.
  8. Go swimming and chill at the poolside. Well, at least i did after the stitches came off. I sat at the poolside today until it rained. (There isn’t shelter where the deck chairs are.)
  9. Grocery shopping and I feel that I spend a lot more daily while I’m on a break than when I was at work. :/
  10. Take plenty of selfies with purr meister. Especially when he is irresistibly cute and snuggling up next to you. IMG_20150806_153504
  11. Play online games. Which can be slippery slope.
  12. Meet and talk to start-ups. Can be invigorating and they do chat about new technology which can be exciting.
  13. Watch dramas online. I started watching this Japanese TV series called ‘Suteki na Sen Taxi’ and I’m at episode 10, the final episode now. I’m dreading the end of it. It is about a special taxi which takes the passenger back in time to correct a wrong and its driver who is quite eccentric and interesting. I noted how the character developed from episode one to ten and there is a ‘moral’ in each episode which can be heartwarming after watching all the gory movies.
  14. Try to lose weight and do more exercise. Considering I cannot go overboard with strenuous activities or stretching my butt, I can brisk walk, jog and swim (still felt a little odd on the first swim in ages). The stitches on the butt just came out and I’ve been told to go easy as it’s still not very strong.
  15. More updates on escapades in Medan and Lake Toba!

 

My first paid article!

I’ve written essays at school which were submitted for competitions and well, just enjoy writing casually, which also includes some teen novels I’d written when I was younger and unpublished of course.

 

Now that I have some time (beyond household chores, reading and meeting potential business partners), I decided to sign up as a freelance ghostwriter. Things that I’ve learnt about writing for money:

I’m sure many of you would laugh at my experience as a first-time paid writer, but I’m just happy.

 

  • Deadlines, research and write within the deadlines makes one feel unsure of the quality and standard.
  • Choice of topics. You either take it on and turn it down but of course turning it down reduces some future opportunities.
  • Writing and rewriting.
  • I’m on my laptop almost the whole day and I’m half afraid that my laptop might ‘burnout’.
  • Upside: Happy to be paid a token for writing and spending time on my laptop surfing the internet.

I was ‘naively’ elated with my first paid article. What did I do? I went out and got some groceries with that at Marks & Spencer as a treat. Then I became ambitious and accepted translation jobs too. So I just translated lifestyle articles in Traditional Chinese to English. Well, I thank my lucky stars that I went through karaoke training with my mother when I was a kid. Pitch and tone aside, at least I still remember how to read some Traditional Chinese words. So thank you Mom (who is currently in Qinghai with my father for a monastery’s grand opening).

This is how I feel now. #roar Credit to Wiki Commons.
This is how I feel now. #roar
Credit to Wiki Commons.

Ok, now give me more writing projects which can fund our grocery needs. #feedme

What I learnt from meeting with startups

I had a few good meetings with a couple of startups recently and it was like #siliconvalley, the HBO TV series. Many of these folks are out there to help make lives better. For most of them, they have identified an area which the industry lacks and they are trying to fill the gaps.

Of course, it may or may not work, depending on timing, maturity of the market, cycle, trends and other factors.

Nevertheless, I noticed some of their similar traits and I feel re-energised by listening to them talk about their products and services.

 

Courage

To put in capital for the projects and to make that first step takes a lot of courage. Some of the people I spoke with had proper day jobs which would have paid them well and they would have a steady income. Detracting from their usual career paths to create something for the market needs courage to accept failures and risks. Hopefully, these are calculated risks which are based on a lot of research.

 

Enthusiasm

All of them exuded enthusiasm when we spoke. They speak with purpose and their enthusiasm can be contagious. They have so much passion for what they believe in, even when they talked about their failures, it was with frankness and they openly admit to bugs or multitudes of rejections before trying another way. #bouncingback

 

Open to ideas

Their openness to exploring new ideas is different from an organisation or an small business enterprise. They readily jot down ideas we discussed and are open to alternatives. The ability to be flexible is something which all of us require in our lives too. Or keeping an open mind to ideas especially in mature brands or industries.

 

Humble

They openly admit to shortfalls they have and hence require the help in that area. Sometimes I feel we forget to ask for help or forget how to ask for help, for the fear of appearing inadequate.

 

Driven

With the numerous rejections and some failures, these individuals continue to focus on their product(s) and service(s). Their tenacity in those circumstances are admirable. Driven by their purpose, they don’t let roadblocks stop them in their journeys.

 

Innovative

Their products may seem like just another one in the market. However, they are continuously working on the offerings and improving them according to user feedback. Speaking with them helps me learn about new technology and how technology can be harnessed to create something which is useful for various groups of people.

 

Meeting them reminds me of purpose and that we should all rekindle with our own purpose.

#opportunitythinking #startup