Links from the past weeks

📖 Narcissus and Goldmund

“One knew nothing. One lived and walked about on the earth or rode through the forests, and so many things looked at one with such challenge and promise, rousing such longing: an evening star, a bluebell, a lake green with reeds, the eye of a human being or of a cow, and at times it seemed as if the very next moment something never seen but long yearned for must happen, as if a veil must drop from everything. But then it passed, and nothing happened, and the riddle was not solved, nor was the secret spell lifted, and finally one became old and looked as shrewd as Father Anselm or as wise as Abbot Daniel, and perhaps one still knew nothing, would still be waiting and listening.”

Hermann Hesse
Narcissus and Goldmund


I love the writing and for the first few chapters, I was absorbed. There was a sense of not wanting to move forward, because the story may move such that I don’t get to enjoy the writing anymore. This not wanting to let it go, is a form of relishing.

Then, I went to other books, and came back again. Into the book I went; suddenly the story sped up and I was caught up in Goldmund’s travels, and Hesse manages to use this young man as a foil, teasing out the deeper questions of life, and yet, there is never an answer. Because life carries on, and meaning may or may not arrive.

It is clear that Hesse has insight into the human condition, and the way he described the natural world, it conveys a zest for life, an understanding of the importance of the simpler things in life. I read and re-read the first paragraph of the book. Goldmund is such a character – an aimless wayfarer – and Narcissus is so intellectual, perhaps overly so, but I love them both, and their differences perhaps reflect the different extremes one may struggle with, within oneself.

I am reading this in my 40s. I wonder if I would have loved this book as much if I had read it as a younger human. Would I have tasted the same sense of wisdom?

Highly recommended.

Links from the past weeks 

  • We started watching Girls5eva and “New York Lonely Boy” is an awesome song.

  • Quirky slides from Softbank’s 2020 earnings call

    Slides in my industry are umm, more academic but I am always up for inspiration.

  • I almost bought Marcin Wichary’s book on keyboards, but instead, I soothed myself with a 2018 article he wrote: Bigger in Japan.

    (The Kickstarter page is here.)

  • After reading this MacStories piece about how there is a remake of the classic version of Angry Birds, I went and paid my $0.99.

    It is a simple game and very enjoyable, but it was made stupid in later years, when it became saddled with mechanisms aimed to get you to make recurring in-app purchases.

  • Reading The Art of War, and bemoaning the lack of the Chinese text in my copy. Not that being able to read the characters mean you understand the text, but well, I would like to refer to it and pretend my education hasn’t been wasted.

  • Dow said it was recycling our shoes. We found them at an Indonesian flea market

    I really love this piece of journalism. Not so great for those involved in the Singaporean project.

  • This is a little against my desire to stop using music as background, but I read somewhere about slow radio and went looking for the BBC Radio podcast.

  • Apparently, Chinese youths are referring to themselves as rats. It is a self-deprecating way to refer to themselves while describing their struggles. The article also touches on other memes, and includes the Chinese characters and Hanyuan pinyin to help one understand the wordplay.

  • Another day, another artificial sweetener to be careful about.


Suddenly we have been together for 12 years and on alternate Sunday mornings, we put our night guards together, in a bowl of water, and use Brite on them.

Lately, aka perhaps a short summary of my early 40s

I got myself a pair of glasses with progressive lenses. I wear full-strength contact lens to correct the near-sightedness in my dominant eye, and on the other eye, I wear a multi-focal lens that is powered down for my near-sightedness and has provision for my new-found far-sightedness. There are quite a number of options these days for people with both myopia and presbyopia and none are perfect apparently.

Listening to a bunch of new-to-me music: Bluetech, into.cassette, florist, caroline. Oh I love Bluetech. Especially when your audio equipment is capable of rendering some form of soundstage. I also made a playlist of ambient electronica from the 90s after I watched John Darko’s videos on how he got into electronic music.

I sought out old comforts – film cameras, the Ricoh Digital IV, keeping a blog. I obviously cannot find that version of myself anymore, but living is searching, refining, and hopefully finding some equanimity.

Relatedly, caring a little more about meditation, taking walks, and sleeping better.

I started running in my late 30s, and last year, my running volume halved. Covid undid my efforts at building my running self, and it has been tough trying to get back to the same speed/ volume. I keep things fresh by going to different places but with the world moving on from the pandemic, I find more places more crowded these days, which adds friction to my going for a run. Ah well, I will figure something out.

I read “big” books like The Third Reich, Lord of The Rings, The Complete Works of Plato … and added War and Peace and The Art of War to my list. Even though I once said I decided to not read W&P. Ha. Perhaps someone in her 20s might have wanted to read such books, youth affording the time and headspace but life moved along quickly. Perhaps someone in her 40s might find joy in the labours of reading such fat tomes, so that she does not reach her retirement, thinking, “Oh maybe I really should read these books now, before I die.”

Links from the past weeks

🎥 Everything Everywhere All At Once

The movie looks very madly paced, and I forgot about it for a while. One day, in between reading books, and wondering why it gets such great reviews, I rented the movie from Apple TV.

I really, really enjoyed the movie. I know it is unnecessarily messy and one wonders if there is anything new, but I appreciate that it entertains and also goes, without being too soppy, into poignant themes and meaning. It is a deep breath and a fresh breath of air at the same time. I hope it brings some calm and perspective for the young ones, and also the middle-aged ones like myself, trying to not lapse into a mid-life crisis. There are so many possible lives, but let’s live this one well.

Some notes from Japan 🇯🇵 ✈️

  • Topping up our Suica card (which we added to our phones’ Wallet app on a previous trip) has become more arduous. Of the various credit cards, only the Amex was able to complete the top-up in the iOS wallet app. I had to add my Amex card to my partner’s phone so that both of us can continue to use our Suica cards.

  • Japanese merchants still aren’t that cashless. Trying to wave our cards didn’t work- we are generally invited to plug our card into the machine and sign. I used Apple Pay once. If they allow payment by IC card (a reference to the transport cards), you can use your Suica, which makes things faster. Most payment machines can take payment from your Suica (loaded onto the iPhone’s wallet) without you have to press twice on the lock button to activate payment.

  • Prices are as if there had been no inflation over the recent years. On top of that, the exchange rate had gone in our favour and so, things felt more affordable than usual.

  • I used to buy my contact lens solution after I landed in Japan. This time, there was more difficulty in finding a 100 ml bottle of solution + case. The Japanese are now selling single-use solution + case. It is quite a thing to marvel – the single-use product is quite well made!

Links from the past weeks

  • Harry Styles is very likeable, and while the song’s merits can be debated, the music video for As It Was is a work of art. I had to find out where it was filmed.

  • I was trying the Matter app, and I enjoyed Kieran Setiya’s piece titled What’s the use of hope?

    I like the Matter app’s interface, and the play audio function was great. It was free to try before 15 January 2023; the subscription is US$59.99 per year. I have been a user of Reeder, and I have flirted with Instapaper and Pocket previously but I’ve usually found that I do not use read-later apps that much. Reeder does have a read-later function, but I tend to not use it. I am now also trying out Anybox, which I am treating as a bookmark manager, but it also has a download/ read-later function. At this moment, while the Anybox interface makes things nicer to look at, given my needs (not much), I might just stick to Pinboard since the repository function is the main point for me (I paid a one-time fee previously, before the site changed to a monthly fee model). So I will use Pinboard + Reeder + Apple Notes.

  • The mac mini M2 is finally out. The lowest end model is cheaper than the M1 version. Such a sweet little box.

  • Why You Really Shouldn’t Spend a Lot on a Standing Desk

    This article’s title amused me. We are there already? I haven’t gotten a standing desk, because I’d have to remove from my just-the-right-size apartment our trusty bludot Strut desk. I had considered converters but could not stand the idea of my monitor & keyboard & mouse shuddering as they were being moved up/down. Also, a large converter that would fit a monitor + keyboard seem to be such an ugly mammoth atop the desk. And yes, the “solution” is the same as before standing desks came into fashion – get up, take a walk.

  • Ten Percent Happier has a course they call “The Dalai Lama’s Guide to Happiness”. I enjoy the format, where you watch a short video before the meditation session. Roshi Joan leads the meditation sessions, and she has a very calming presence.

  • We started watching The Chase, a trivia game show, and of course, I had to find out more about the Chasers. Buzzy is such a fun presence and Victoria Groce was so good, I thought she was an actor who was supplied the answers.

📖 Walking 

“My next project is to draw circles around places in which I find myself, say with a radius of one to five miles, and then to follow the circumference on foot all the way around.

Walking sometimes means undertaking an inner voyage of discovery. You are shaped by buildings, faces, signs, weather and the atmosphere. Maybe we were made to walk, also in cities? Walking as a combination of movement, humility, balance, curiosity, smell, sound, light and- if you walk far enough – longing. A feeling which reaches for something, without finding it. The Portuguese and Brazilians have an untranslatable word for this longing: saudade. It is a word that encompasses love, pain and happiness. It can be the thought of something joyful that disturbs you, or something disturbing that brings you plenitude.”

“Everything moves more slowly when I walk, the world seems softer and for a short while I am not doing household chores, having meetings or reading manuscripts. A free man possesses time. The opinions, expectations and moods of family, colleagues and friends all become unimportant for a few minutes or a few hours. Walking, I become the centre of my own life, while completely forgetting myself shortly afterwards.”

Erling Kagge


I was in the library and saw plenty of books on running, and I thought that’s not what I want, why aren’t there any books on walking? The simple act of walking is perhaps too ordinary to deserve books to be written on it. But I took a step to the right, and there they were – books on walking. I was pleased, the bright pleasure of discovery in a library, amidst too many books that may or may not interest you.

I enjoyed the author’s book on silence, and had expectations for the book. It did not disappoint. This ode to walking is a perfect book for my December. Contemplative but not too much, and in December, I took a few more walks, one much longer than usual.

Highly recommended.