Dog

Jacob has been staying in my place and after I’d fed him on one the mornings this week, I suddenly understood the sentiment behind the song I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing

He has to be fed at 6am in the morning, which is at least three hours before my usual morning wake-up. What I typically do is feed him, then crash on the couch. He often goes back to sleep as well. 

One of of these mornings as I lay on the couch, I watched him curl up on his blanket and found myself unable to go back to sleep. 

I just wanted to keep looking at him, his little paw curled up, the crook of his leg sticking out, the gentle up-and-down movement of his body as he breathed in and out. 

Every time I look at him, I know that I would do everything in my power to give him a happy life. I wonder if loving a child will feel this way. The magnitude of it frightens me. 

But then I think about this science fiction short story that I read when I was a teenager, in which a group of humans brought alien pets (dogs) back to Earth. 

In the story, the dogs lived pampered lives. They got regular meals, were bathed by someone else, had comfy beds to sleep on. And whenever they wanted a treat, all they had to do was “shake hands”. 

Thinking about Jacob, I wonder if that story has some truth in it after all. 😂

Frozen

I came across an article about the “father of the modern frozen food industry” recently and I was fascinated!

Clarence Birdseye’s modernisation of food freezing methods were borne out of his work in the US Fisheries Association, which at the time was trying to find better ways of getting fish to the marketplace. 

Frozen seafood at the time was deplorable. Apparently, only the lowest grade food was frozen and frozen foods were sold at even lower prices than canned food. 

Birdseye had always been entrepreneurial from a young age. While he was drawn to nature, he was also fascinated by the “industrious spirit of the times”. 

“Once, he noticed an abundance of muskrats in a nearby field, wrote letters to a local zoo director to assess demand, and ended up trapping and selling them for $1 a piece,” Zachary Crockett writes about Birdseye. 

While he was living in Labrador (described as “a remote, inhospitably cold region in Newfoundland”) — where he was breeding silver foxes for fur — he also developed an interest in food preservation. 

He noticed that when Inuit fisherman pulled fish out of the water, they would freeze “mid-flip” in the air. They would then be packed in snow outdoors. He discovered that they “tasted perfectly fresh” after thawing, even if it was weeks later. 

After he returned to the US, he started experimenting with methods to “fast-freeze” foods. And I guess, the rest is history. 

We take our frozen food for granted these days. Perhaps we’ve gone full-circle and begun to turn our noses up at frozen and other preserved foods. 

But like most kinds of food, frozen food has a story as well. 

Guilt

During my periods of melancholy, one of the most common emotions I experience is guilt.

No matter how I look at things, it’s either guilt about not working enough or guilt about not spending enough time with family. Guilt over not standing up for myself, or guilt over “being selfish”. 

I feel guilt over being annoyed when someone talks to me while I’m working. Then guilt over not paying attention fully because I’m working and trying to listen. 

Guilt tugs at my heart if my to-do list isn’t long enough, then keeps me up at night if I don’t manage to check all the items off. 

During the times when I’m so tired I feel like going to sleep forever, I feel guilty over not being grateful enough for all the other positive things in my life. 

I feel guilt when I eat meat, over how my existence affects the world’s environment, when I think about how things might be better if I just. died. now. 

And then I feel guilty for even thinking that at all. How self-important, I think. You’re not that important at all.

I suppose in the world of Pixar’s Inside Out guilt would be a mixture of Sadness and Fear’s influences. And I don’t know how they become so powerful in my mind. 

But a little voice in my head says, “Just keep fighting.” And so, I do. 

Constructive

Some time back, I read an article in The Guardian about their pilot project to “see how readers would respond” to good news. They wrote more than 150 pieces highlighting the “good things happening in the world”. 

They discovered that the number of readers “for this kind of journalism” was “remarkably robust”. They found that “almost one in 10 readers” shared these stories on social media. (They don’t mention how this compares to the sharing of bad news.)

In a world where bad news seems to get the most sensationalised — I’m thinking about my Facebook feed and WhatsApp group chats — it’s refreshing to read uplifting news. 

Rather than switch off completely, which is what I’ve seen some self-help articles suggest to shield one’s self from the negativity, perhaps it could be a good thing to read about what’s going right in the world. Or to read a more constructive take on a negative issue. 

“If people just shrug at news because they feel there is little they can do, nothing will change,” Mark Rice-Oxley writes. 

While most people expect journalism to be just reportage, perhaps it may need to evolve to become something more. 

It doesn’t need to give solutions, but perhaps can provide a well-rounded list of suggestions that readers can use to make the world a better place. 

Clone

I recently read a hilarious piece of flash fiction titled ‘Taylor Swift’. 

In this weird alternative reality, anyone can purchase clones of Taylor Swift. Each clone knows all the songs, of course, and can sing them “just for you”. 

There are basic clones, and then there are others that are fitted with accessories like wings. 

One of my favourite things about flash fiction is that it can say so much in such a small number of words. 

For example, what kind of a world are these characters living in, that it’s possible to buy a live clone of a pop star with just a few swipes on your mobile phone. How cheap are they that some people can own multiple clones? 

Has capitalism grown into such a state that live Taylor Swift clones can be produced at such highly efficient rates? 

Besides being a “meditation on capitalism, fame and consumer culture”, it’s also a story about being a teenager. How emotions like love and rage seem so much bigger, and yet, you can switch from one emotion to another in a flash. 

At its core, Taylor Swift is a love story. To me, anyway. Or perhaps more of a story about love — wanting it, finding it, figuring out how to get it. 

Fight

“Stoicism is not resignation. It is, in fact, a philosophy that shines brightest when the outlook is darkest.” 

This was one of the lines in the Daily Stoic email newsletter from November 18, 2019. It’s one of the reasons stoicism draws me in. 

In the hardest of times, in the most stressful of times, my practice of stoicism has helped to remind me that as long as there is hope, I can find the strength to keep going. 

That as long as there is something I can do about a situation, all I have to do, is do something. 

This issue of the newsletter highlighted the Spartans, during a moment when King Phillip of Macedon threatened to attack. He demanded their submission, saying that: “If I conquer your city, I will destroy you all.”

The Spartans refused to submit anyway, because the one word they heard was “If”. 

“They weren’t going to lay down their arms without a fight—you were going to have to come and take them,” says the Daily Stoic. 

There are times in my life when everything feels bleak, when it feels like I’ve fought as hard as I can and am still fighting. There are times when I’m tired — not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. 

Stoicism reminds me to “focus 100% of our energy on what is in our control”. 

It reminds me to stay alive, to keep fighting. 

Advertising

I’m always fascinated by the ads that Ryan Reynolds comes up with and this time was no different. His latest stunt is a gin ad in his Netflix movie ad in a Samsung TV ad, which Fast Company calls the “turducken of advertising”. 

In the article, the writer also comments on Reynolds’ “ability to mock pop culture while simultaneously creating it”. 

I love his ads because Reynolds is always on-brand. This style (or shtick) of his works because as an audience we know what he stands for as a brand. Would the same kind of ad work for someone else like, say, Hugh Jackman? 

I don’t know the answer to that, but it’s a question to think about. 

This, I guess, comes back to authenticity. 

Authenticity isn’t always about being the most earnest, or coming up with a message that will tug at heart strings. It’s about staying true to who you are, to what your brand represents. 

When Ron Swanson from the TV series Parks and Recreation sets up his business, he called it “Very Good Building & Development Co”. 

As background, Ron is no-fluff, no-nonsense type of character. And when he cares about something, works on it to the best of his ability. He’d rather have less business than compromise the quality of his work. 

The quality of his work is what sells. And when he needs to create a commercial, I think mainly to tell people that he exists, he goes straight to the point as well. 

For your viewing pleasure:

Tranquility

I have been experiencing a high level of anxiety for the past week or so. There are periods of time when I am particularly high-strung. I’m learning to recognise these moments. 

I’m learning to develop strategies to deal with them. 

The Nov 12th issue of the Daily Stoic email newsletter spoke about tranquility and was a good reminder on building my “inner citadel”. Marcus Aurelius cultivated his by journalling. 

Ada Palmer (a historian, professor and novelist), who was highlighted in this issue of the newsletter, uses a strategy that requires “stopping, reframing, changing perspectives”. 

She sometimes imagines life as “being a guest at a banquet”. 

“Many great platters are being passed around for you to take from, but occasionally one arrives already empty, everyone else has already taken it all,” she says. 

She reminds herself that the food “was a gift” from the host, that “you didn’t really need it, there is plenty of other food”. 

“Sometimes just thinking about that can make me less upset by something,” she says.

“Cultivating your inner citadel doesn’t mean reaching a point where one is immune to life’s disturbances,” goes the Daily Stoic. 

“It’s about having your systems in place, your battle-tested line of defence ready to fend off those disturbances when they inevitably show up.”

I’m trying to improve my systems. 

Taco

I binge-watched Taco Chronicles today — finishing up five of the six episodes that I’d yet to watch. What a delight it was, even more so because I’ve been working at a Mexican-themed bar. 

Each episode of the series features a different type of taco. The tacos “narrate” their stories, while the viewers are treated to gorgeous footage of meat being cooked and tortillas being flipped. There are interviews with experts, of course, as well as with eaters at the different taco shops. 

The episode that resonated with me was the one about the taco de guisado, corn tortillas wrapped around some kind of stew. A shop serving these tacos would typically have between 5-30 different guisados that one could choose to fill their tortillas with. 

It reminded me of our local chap fun (mixed rice) shops in Malaysia, where one would also have a whole range of dishes to choose from, to eat with rice. 

Like the taco de guisado, chap fun is a cheap, filling, complete meal. 

Seeing something like that existing in Mexico, across the world from where I am, made me think that although people around the world may eat differently, there is also a lot we have in common. 

We may use different ingredients and spices, but at the end of the day, what we want is a complete meal. 

Notion

One of the things I struggle with is keeping my CV up to date. Besides constantly shifting roles and new startups, I also find myself dabbling in quite a few things that are career-relevant, but don’t always fit into the grander scheme of my CV.

So I decided to set up a “live CV”, that’s not as public as having my own homepage, but also easy enough to update and share. 

I used Notion — which is a tool I’ve been wanting to experiment more with — to set it up, and I’ve fallen in love! 

What an amazing tool, with a level of versatility that some website builders don’t even have. There are limitations, of course, but nothing I can’t live without. 

Because Notion combines databases and documents, among other things, I’m also using it as a no-code tool to build my cocktail recipe database. I’ll probably use it for my personal editorial calendar as well. 

With its collaborative features, it’s also amazing to use for team documentation, work flows. I can also imagine myself using it for a production file (for video production) or even podcast scheduling. (I guess these are content calendars, of sorts.)

I’m also looking forward to when Notion has custom domains, which is “on their radar” (although not high priority). 

But as it is currently, I’m already sold! Definitely adding this to my stack! 

Ego

In the past, I have encountered people who thought they were the only persons that mattered — that only their wishes and goals needed to be met. That their problems were always the fault of someone else. 

I’ve learned that these people aren’t the best to be around. I’ve learned to recognise red flags like these, and keep my distance. 

“This temptation to believe that we are everything, that we are immune to the constraints or flaws of other people is the source of so much pain and misery in the world,” goes the Nov 8 issue of the Daily Stoic newsletter

Even as I see this behaviour in other people and learn to be wary of them, I am also wary of this behaviour within myself. 

The newsletter highlights the fact that many Stoics, especially those who were in leadership positions, spent time “working on their egos”. 

This issue reminds us that “ego is the enemy”. 

“Of what we’re trying to accomplish. Of the people we’d like to be. Of relationships. Of kindness. Of the ‘objectivity’ and rational thought that Stoicism prizes.”

As we climb up the ladder of success, or find ourselves in positions of power, we must remember that it could all disappear in a second. 

“We are not everything. We are ordinary. We are mortal. We are not exempt.”

Practice

Yesterday I made pico de gallo at the bar. 

It’s been one of my tasks for a couple of weeks now and after I was done last night, my colleague (who teaches me so much) said, “Your diced tomatoes look good today.”

I was elated. 

For someone who never spent a lot of time in the kitchen growing up, it was an achievement to make something from scratch, efficiently. 

It’s not that I come from a family that doesn’t cook. All the women in my family cook and they’re the types who cook in huge amounts to feed the entire family. 

Enough pork trotter stew to feed 20. Enough fried bihun (Chinese vermicelli) to last 15 people an entire weekend. Jars of Christmas mince pies to give out to all the neighbours. 

But somehow, I found myself in my 20s, not even able to chop veggies correctly. 

At the bar, as my colleague watched me fumbling with the knife, she just showed me how to use it properly. Then told me to keep at it. 

It didn’t matter that I sucked when I started. She didn’t say “You’re too slow!” and chase me out of the kitchen. “You’ll get the hang of it,” she said. 

Yesterday, I took a little over half an hour to make enough pico de gallo for the whole night. That’s less than when I first started, and my chopped veggies look more decent too. 

Practice makes progress.