Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

I once had a wise boss. He was a gentleman, firm but considered. He told us not to save on trivial things which would cost more in the future.

I totally agree on this, especially on things intended to use for a long time.

But there are also some things which I try to squeeze every last cent out of. Like skimping on car parking coupon.

This afternoon, I walked across the street to get the best milk tea in town after finding a nice parking lot. This is a hot spot where parking attendant would regularly inspect.

Yesterday, I almost had a summon if not for my wife, who asked me to check on the situation outside. Just as the parking attendant was about to issue the ticket, I hurried over and drove the car away. She was nice enough to spare me.

But not this time.

When I came back 10 minutes later, I found a ticket on my windscreen. $40. If I had put a coupon, it would only cost me $0.40. That’s a difference of 100 times.

For a stubborn person like me, I guess this is the time it really registered. Don’t be penny wise, pound foolish.

Sunday Bliss: Grilled Cheese Sandwich

After watching the legendary scene of grilled cheese sandwich in the movie Chef, I’m inspired to make one of my own.

In what’s like a follow-up to the movie, the mini series Chef Show (now streaming in Netflix) showcases Jon’s chemistry with his buddy Roy. It’s nice to see him getting his hands dirty and his willingness to just about try anything.

I’m also convinced Roy is the coolest chef, after the late Anthony Bourdain. As a celebrity chef, he remains grounded and speaks with honesty and zero fluff. His easy-going and laid-back nature are pretty rad. But when it comes to cooking, we can see his intensity coming through and he demands the very best.

Today, I made my very own grilled cheese sandwich. Sourdough bread, kraft, cheddar and emmental cheese, unsalted butter and olive oil. That’s it.

I’d say not bad for my first attempt. If I were to tweak anything, I’d just have 3 slices of cheeses instead of 6. That would be just nice.

Something To Succeed In

I was looking through my Day One journal and 2 years ago, I closed the entry by writing this:

However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking is someone special. I proposed to my wife in the cinema after watching the show “The theory of everything”. He was witty, intelligent, compassionate and funny, all the traits I inspired to have.

Life hasn’t gotten any easier now as compared to years back. But I know people around me have my back and I’m really grateful.

When life throws you a lemon, hopefully you don’t slip and never recover from there.

Being Employed

Being employed is a blissful thing.

Your days are structured. You look forward to the off days. 

If the job is tough, you look forward to the end of the day. If the job is boring or repetitive, you will find ways to entertain yourself. 

If the job is not what you want, you will keep a glance out there for (potentially) better opportunities. 

Most importantly, being employed means you’re paid. The assurance and security, knowing that there will be money in, is such a comforting feeling. 

I’m jobless. For 38 days and counting, I’m unemployed. 

My savings are long depleted. I’m in debt. Having applied for countless positions, I’ve only gotten 2 interviews, without success. 

For many – especially men – not having a job plays on the mind. We are supposed to be the breadwinner, the primary source of income to support the family. 

My wife is now shouldering this responsibility alone. I feel inferior. With each passing day, I’m sinking deeper. 

I suffered panic attacks. I’ve had sleepless nights. They kept me up, and I wondered if I’ll ever be able to get out of this slump. 

Now, I’ve resorted to applying for positions which I probably wouldn’t go for if given a choice.

In 2 weeks, we will be heading to New Zealand. I’m grateful (but also sorry) that my wife has taken up the bulk of the expenses for this trip. 

But with the uncertainty surrounding my future, it’s tough to truly enjoy my time there.

I’d love to secure a job before we leave. I thought of calling my former boss, a gentleman I’d gladly work for again. 

But something’s holding me back. Deep down, I’m feeling ashamed to be in this plight. I’m worried how others would see me. And I’m afraid of being rejected. 

But what’s there to lose?

Welcome Back, MacBook

The MacBook Pro I’m typing on is a 2013, 13″ model with the lowest end specs – 128gig of SSD, 8gig of ram, and the slowest processor (but still blazing fast for most tasks even today).

It’s a superbly built machine. I remember when I first opened it up from the pristine box and holding it for the first time, it was a surreal sensation. How can a laptop be so strikingly beautiful?

When I opened up the lid and the screen came to live, words appeared so sharp, pictures so vivid, that I was totally blown away. Doing everything on it just became that bit more enjoyable.

Unfortunately, it went bonkers when I updated the MacOS a year ago. Just after the update was completed (or did it not?), it did the customary reboot with the black screen. And it has remained that way since.

The orange indicator flickered when I plugged the charger in. After a while, it disappeared altogether. I was wondering if the charger, the cable, or the battery has failed. When I switched it on again, the fan started spinning so loudly I thought the machine was going to take off. Still nothing on screen, pitch black.

I casted it aside. By then, it has became a good-to-have-device. I never needed it to do serious work. Most of my needs were already well served with the combination of iPad and iPhone anyway.

The MacBook has remained in the cupboard, neglected. A few months back, I decided to resurrect it. To send it for diagnosis, to understand the actual problem. Not too sure what prompted me to do so, but it turned out to be a wise decision after all.

I popped by a repair shop with raved reviews near my home, where the friendly technician concluded it was motherboard failure, a common occurrence for this model. Changing it would cost $350. I weighed the value of getting a new model against changing the motherboard. Or if I’d get along fine without the laptop. Eventually, I decided to go ahead with the motherboard replacement.

Seeing a previously unusable device come to life before me was gratifying.

It’s not just a laptop. It’s a loyal companion that witnesses several life events with me. It has been a constant when all the gadgets around – iPhones, iPad, and the likes – changed.

It has been with me through my move to a new home, marriage, and having a kid. I reminisce the days when my wife (then girlfriend) would play Dungeon Defenders late into the night.

While others have wax lyrical about how tablets are the future of computing, I’m happy with my laptop. Touch screen may seem natural to most, but I’m content with using a trackpad, especially on a trackpad as precise as the MacBook’s.

While the keyboard of recent years MacBook played out like a nightmare, typing on this keyboard is a pleasure. They keyboard on this MacBook is everything the current models aren’t – the key travel, tactility and durability – it’s perfect.

And this laptop has all the ports I need – 2 USB ports and SD card slot. Dongles not needed!

It has also reignite one thing: the invitation to write.

Since typing is such a joy on this machine, I just open iA Writer and punch the words away. Writing no longer feels like a chore, something forced. It feels like old time again, where I’d write and share at every opportunity.

Thank you and welcome back, my MacBook.

Getting Rid of “Too Much”

Too much time = procrastination

Too many choices = inability to decide

Too much money = squandering on stuffs that are non-essentials

Too many stuffs = cluttering of physical and mental spaces

Constrains can be good. Giving boundaries to things are important. Without proper framing, we are scattered all over the place, unsure of how to proceed and what to do.

Restoring Film Camera

Intriguing.

I love all things vintage. There’s character and story behind things that are well used.

To find a young chap restoring and repairing stuff like film camera – it’s not something you’ll see everyday.

The man behind this is Pierro Pozella. His demure, dedication, patience and background seems to fit this trade perfectly.

He didn’t wake up suddenly and realise god as bestow him the ability to restore film cameras. It’s more like the trade chose him.

It started when he was volunteering and people were discarding stuffs. He took things apart and try to savage what’s useable.

As he progresses, he got better and people were knocking on his door. Organic growth through positive word-of-mouth.

That’s how PPP (the name could be better, but at least it’s memorable) becomes what they are today.

And the fact that he’s so keen in training apprentices to preserve this art heartens me.

A Walk In The Park On A Friday Morning

An uncle with a head of silver hair stopped by the side of the pathway. He balanced on his bicycle full of groceries bags, looking intently up the sky and fully absorbed by what’s happening above him.

Fighter jets thundered by, leaving a trail of echo that broke the silence on this tranquil park. A typical Friday morning scene, perhaps?

I looked down, my toes feeling a little edgy and uncomfortable. Not the best choice of footwear – a pair of flip flops. 30 minutes ago, I convinced myself it wouldn’t take long and for convenience sake, it’s the quickest solution to get me out the house.

I would never make the same mistake again.

Walking and nature. Therapeutic to mind and body. Now that I’m getting more accustomed to the rhythms of walking, I yearn to do more. Longer and further. Walk the parks, observe the happenings. Walking hightens my scenes, it opens up the world.

I’d love to do more of it.

Never Gets Easier Applying For Jobs

It’s never easy looking for a job. And it never gets easier.

I can’t help but feeling jaded after multiple applications. Some job descriptions are so wordy and precise that I wonder if there’s one single candidate that’s able to fulfil every requirement.

Some friends around me go round spamming their resumes. I doubt they read the job opening clearly enough, and they have a one-size-fits-all resume they readily dump everywhere. They nonchalantly declare the “if you don’t try, you’ll never know” mindset.

Well, purely relying on sending out mass resumes and hope that one hits, that’s what some would do. I’m incline to doing this because after 3 weeks, I’ve only heard back from 3 companies and attended one interview.

DHH sums the process of job application up best:

“Applying for a job is hard. Every time you don’t hear back, you can lose a tiny bit of yourself.”

Good Writing

What constitutes good writing?

Good writing is a pleasure to read.

Short sentences, concise expression, unpretentious words. And honesty.

I’m drawn to people (and brands) who write this way.

Jason Fried. Shawn Blanc. John Grubber. Hiut Denim.

Jason Fried said rhythm is the most important element of great writing. Great writing has momentum, it has bounce, it propels you along. It’s like gently jumping from one trampoline to another, never slamming onto hard ground. And by the end, you feel better for having read it.

My favourite writers use clear language that are easily understood. That’s the appeal. Beautiful language is simplicity.

Taking this a step farther, Gary Prostov advocates writing akin to music.

Start with short sentences. And draw the readers in. When the readers are rested, engage them with longer sentences – filled with vigour and poise. Write with short, medium, and long sentences. Create rhythm and harmony. Don’t just write. Write music.