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February 18, 2022 -

Reading Time: < 1 minute

There are a million lists of ‘travel hacks’ out there and I almost never share them, but for some reason I figured I’d pass this one along. It’s a list of 45 tips, some of which will be new to even the most seasoned traveler.

A few of them I already do, like roll clothes in a suitcase rather than fold and pack them. Another one is to bring food on board, especially if you’re flying economy. I’ve opted for a Subway sandwich from Vancouver airport many times before boarding, and my fellow passengers usually give me longing looks as I unwrap it while they dig into their soggy broccoli.

One of these tips genuinely surprised me, though: frozen items are permitted through security. We’ve all been caught, usually accidentally, with a water bottle in our carry-on luggage while passing through security. People either chug the water like it’s a high school beer, or just pass it to the security agents. However, if that same bottle of water was frozen, you’d get through with no trouble at all. Who knew?

If you’d like to pick up a few more ideas, or just miss traveling and want to pretend like you have a trip coming up, then dig in.

February 17, 2022 -

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Sometimes I wonder, with political polarization so extreme in the United States and elsewhere, how we’ll be able to work together to solve actual problems. Most days can seem pretty depressing.

Fortunately, though, one guy may have stumbled on the answer: by laughing at the absurdity.

I had not heard of the group “Birds Aren’t Real” before, and I almost didn’t listen to an episode of The Daily that teased the content by describing it as “fighting misinformation with misinformation”. But I’m glad I did.

If we are going to be saved from the mess we’ve made, it will likely be by brainy Gen Zers like Peter McIndoe. If you want a laugh — and a bit of hope — you can read about him in a feature in the New York Times. If audio is your thing, then don’t miss this episode of The Daily.

Trust me, it’s worth it.

February 9, 2022 -

Reading Time: 7 minutes

When it comes to the battle against COVID-19, things in Hong Kong are falling apart fast.

Most of the developed world is reaching a grudging conclusion that SARS-CoV-2 will be with us for a long, long time, and have begun to slowly lift restrictions where appropriate. It’s too early to say the end of the pandemic is near, but at least there is room for optimism.

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January 21, 2022 -

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I often joke with friends — well, half joke — that phone calls are rude. Not all phone calls, of course, but those that come without any warning.

I’m a person who loved getting phone calls when I was younger, but growing up means getting busier. It means filling up one’s day with responsibilities, meetings, work, exercise, chatting with a loved one, or whatever else. I don’t pretend to be busier than the next person, but we all have things to do.

In this context, phone calls are just plain rude. Think about it — we don’t show up at people’s houses unannounced, because we don’t know if now is convenient for them. Unless it’s a close friend or relative, people would usually schedule a visit in advance. Right?

A cold call is the equivalent of the person showing up and banging on your front door without warning. Now, imagine you just settled into a bath when the doorbell rings. Or maybe you’re reading a story to your kids, watching a movie, or just learned a relative passed away. Or, imagine you are sitting in a formal meeting at work, and a buddy bursts in because he wants to talk to you right now. We would never tolerate these things, because they are disrespectful; at least, I couldn’t imagine doing that to somebody else.

In an age of ubiquitous mobile phones and practically free text messages, why not a quick note first? It’s just a nice thing to do, isn’t it?

Thankfully it seems most people have embraced the pre-call text message, at least in my own small circle. But if you’re still dealing with friends dialing you up without warning, designer Dan Mall might have a solution. He’s created an iPhone mockup that gives users a heads-up about the nature of a call before they answer.

From 9to5Mac:

In his concept, Dan imagines that could be a “new interim screen before the call starts that prompts you to add a subject for the call.” In his case, he’s calling someone about “Visiting Westview this weekend.” Not only is it a pretty cool idea, but would also save us time when someone calls you about “that talk.”

On the receiving end, Dan notes, the person can preview the subject of the call to decide whether or not they want to take the call right now.

It wouldn’t necessarily end unannounced calls, but at least the receiver could determine whether to answer or not. It’s a step in the right direction.

As nice as the idea sounds, though, I give it about zero chance of ever happening. If cold callers can’t be bothered to message first, it’s unlikely they’ll take the time to fill out a subject field.

September 19, 2021 -

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Ed Luce, one of my favorite writers at the Financial Times, looks at how English-speaking democracies have been battling Covid. Australia, New Zealand, and Canada are doing decently well, but the other two aren’t:

The pandemic record of these three English-speaking democracies belies the notion that “Anglo-Saxon cultures” are too individualistic to stick to social distancing. If New Zealanders and Australians can wear masks, so could Americans and British. Ignoring common sense never used to be an anglophone stereotype. What separates the US and the UK from other democracies is extravagant self-belief. Half a millennium of potted history tells Anglo-Americans they are destined always to be on the winning side. It blinds both to how the rest of the world increasingly views them, which is with sadness and growing mockery.

Ed Luce, Financial Times

This is bang on.

September 16, 2021 -

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I remember coming across the word ‘schadenfreude’ pretty early on as it was adopted into English vernacular. Its quick embrace by English-speakers is evidence that we badly needed a more precise term to describe the emotion schadenfreude refers to. People just ‘got it’, because we’ve all felt it, at some point.

To build on that success, I now humbly suggest we adopt another word: “Jantelagen”.

I first came across the term ‘Jantelagen” during an episode of This Is Pop, a Netflix show on popular music, that examined Sweden’s extraordinary success in the music industry. The country’s best producers and songwriters have influenced decades of pop music around the world, from Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys to The Weeknd and Dua Lipa.

You would think, with this kind of success, Swedes would be shouting about it from the rooftops — but they aren’t. With the host of This Is Pop badgering one songwriter to list the famous artists he’s worked with, he finally blurts out the word “Jantelagen”, before adding “the law of Jante.”

Being a Canadian, I immediately got it — in the very same way I got schadenfreude. Jantelagen loosely translates to braggart, or show-off, something frowned upon in Canada, too, although not to the same degree.

Hej Sweden:

Often times, when people at first have little and suddenly an excessive amount of something special – a lot of success, money or fame – they have the tendency to brag about it.

Swedes on the other hand remain relatively unnoticed when they reach something extraordinary. They are less prone to bragging. This is because they follow a common rule called the Jantelagen, literally translated: law of Jante. Basically it says that “You are not better than anyone else“.

I absolutely love this.

One of the songs I listened to when I was younger contained the phrase, “halfway to coal, halfway to diamond,” a reminder that anybody could end up at the top — or the bottom – quickly. It’s not that life is dependent on luck, it’s that we don’t entirely control our destiny. A bit of humility recognizes one’s good fortune, and that is usually followed by gratitude — something we all seem to lack these days.

July 3, 2021 -

Reading Time: 4 minutes

July 1 is Canada Day. It’s a fun, energetic and beer-filled day for people inside Canada, but almost completely unknown outside of the country’s borders (except for Canadians abroad). The small Canadian celebrations here in Hong Kong usually have to compete with another major anniversary on the same day: the return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty, or “Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day” (just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?) This has traditionally made planning social events for July 1 rather difficult!

There’s actually a third anniversary on July 1 that usually flies under the radar: the anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China.

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April 20, 2021 -

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I am a person who loves to work late into the night. I’m busy during the day, with phone calls and text messages and assignments and meetings, so my productivity and focus is lower than it should be. Once the sun sets and everyone goes to bed, a peaceful calm descends, creating a serene environment for reading, working, studying, whatever it might be.

The problem with working late is the waking up part. If you start work in the afternoon, then fine. But, if like me, you still need to wake up relatively early in the morning to head to work, then you’ve probably suffered from sleepiness or even dozed off from time to time.

We already know that sleep is imperative to our health, energy, thinking, and other cognitive abilities, but cheating on a full night’s rest is easy to do because it seems like the consequences will be short term: “I’ll be tired tomorrow. I can deal with it.” But it looks like that’s the wrong answer.

I first heard of a possible link between Alzheimer’s and lack of sleep many years ago. Since then, I’ve heard unscientific anecdotes about how many people in seniors’ care homes with dementia had demanding careers and senior positions with lots of responsibility. There was already speculation that years of just a few hours’ sleep may have caught up to them.

Then I saw this from the New York Times: Sleeping Too Little in Middle-Age May Raise Dementia Risk, Study Finds. It’s the first large study to draw such a strong connection between sleep and memory loss:

It followed nearly 8,000 people in Britain for about 25 years, beginning when they were 50 years old. It found that those who consistently reported sleeping six hours or less on an average weeknight were about 30 percent more likely than people who regularly got seven hours sleep (defined as “normal” sleep in the study) to be diagnosed with dementia nearly three decades later.

“It would be really unlikely that almost three decades earlier, this sleep was a symptom of dementia, so it’s a great study in providing strong evidence that sleep is really a risk factor,” said Dr. Kristine Yaffe, a professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the study.

If you take pride at how much you can accomplish on such little sleep, read this — now. The article details how the study was conducted and how other variables that could have impacted the results were removed, so you can make up your own conclusions.

It’s a scary read, but better to come across it now than when it’s too late.

March 11, 2021 -

Reading Time: < 1 minute

This was just too funny not to share.

A satirical Twitter account (which I’m very late to discovering) called VC’s Congratulating Themselves makes fun of VCs for their gaffes, adoration of money, ginormous egos, and occasional tone-deaf public statements. It’s definitely worth following for a bit of humor while doomscrolling.

Jason Calacanis, a well-known investor who has literally made billions betting on startups, is unquestionably successful. But in the Silicon Valley VC world, it’s not enough to be rich and successful — they want to make sure you know how rich and successful they are.

Enjoy.

December 19, 2020 -

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Big news dropped on Friday regarding Microsoft’s plans to develop new Arm processors for its servers, and maybe even its popular laptop computers.

From Bloomberg:

The world’s largest software maker is using Arm Ltd. designs to produce a processor that will be used in its data centers, according to people familiar with the plans. It’s also exploring using another chip that would power some of its Surface line of personal computers. The people asked not to be identified discussing private initiatives. Intel’s stock dropped 6.3% to close at $47.46 in New York, leaving it down 21% this year.

If you’ve been paying attention to the technology space this year, this news shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. It comes mere weeks after new Apple computers running proprietary Apple processors were released, trouncing many high-end, ridiculously expensive machines with much more powerful chips.

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