August 22, 2021

Life Improving Products!

This cardboard standing desk is my new favorite piece of furniture:

I also got a fancy Duux fan to get through summer:

July 01, 2021

Times Review Questionnaire

Question 10: The lyric I wish I'd written

Everyone can see what's going on / They laugh 'cause they know they're untouchable, not because what I said was wrong / Whatever it may bring, I will live by my own policies / I will sleep with a clear conscience, I will sleep in peace

Ophelia was a tempest, cyclone, a goddamn hurricane / Your common sense, your best defense, lay wasted and in vain / For Ophelia'd know your every woe and everything you'd ever had / She'd sympathize and dry your eyes, help you to forget

Question 15: Overrated

  • Influencers
  • Billionaires
  • Politicians

Question 16: Underrated

  • Women
  • Blogs
  • Instant coffee
  • The British food system

Question 2: The book I'm reading

Question 9: The music that cheers me up

April 14, 2021

I just want to be happy

I'm really late to the game, but last weekend I binge-watched The Last Dance on Netflix and, wow, not only was the documentary so powerful and so inspiring, but I found myself watching the entire series with a big dumb smile plastered on my face because these guys—Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Patrick Ewing, and every basketball player who appeared on screen—these guys were the gods and heroes of the 1990s, when I was in high school and college and just starting to become truly aware of pop culture. 

I've seen some chatter on YouTube and social media platforms from younger generations speculating about how great it would have been to have grown up in the '90s, and you know what? It was pretty freaking great. The internet barely existed—I got my first email address from school in 1993-1994, but didn't have anyone to email, and the world wide web (that's what we called it) was mostly text interfaces: bulletin board systems, Yahoo, text websites that loaded slowly, green writing on black screens, dot matrix printers—cell phone plans kicked you to 'roaming' the moment you set foot outside your zip code, text messaging didn't exist, and we went about our daily lives on a need to know basis. Looking back, I know I was an angst-filled teenager—though probably no more or less angst-filled than the average teen—but, overall, in the '90s, I know I felt happy. And, more importantly, I think I felt like I had a pretty good grasp of what was going on around me and in the world. 

One of the lines that really struck a chord with me in The Last Dance was when, in an early episode, Scottie Pippen says: "My mom and dad were very strong people and they were about surviving, and obviously that's what they were about if they had 12 kids. We used to have a basket in my grandmother's yard. It was in the dirt, so it would be dusty all the time. It didn't matter. I had old shoes anyway. Everybody was close-knit, everybody shared everything, you know. It was just a good time. We didn't even know we were poor."

Before the internet and especially before social media, I feel like, by and large, people could be fairly certain of what they know for sure and the things that are relevant to their lives—the tangible, the immediate, the close, the true, the impactful stuff. It seems so obvious, but in order for anyone to find a real sense of place and to understand the liminal boundary between the self and the not-self, it's important to be grounded and to focus on the spaces we occupy in reality. 

What I'm saying is: In contrast to Pippen's experience, it would be nearly impossible for any child growing up today, exposed to the internet and social media, to not know or believe that they're growing up poor—and you can substitute any adjective for poor: bigger, smaller, smarter, better, prettier, etc. What I'm also saying is: This is not good, for anyone to be comparing themselves to a universe of user-generated true or false information that is not relevant to their reality. It doesn't help. It's not productive. It doesn't make anyone happier.

This year I've been joking around with some of my friends that I'm having a mid-life crisis. I'm not. But I've been spending a lot of time since I moved to the UK in December thinking about my own happiness and where I am in my life and career. (We've been in lockdown here since December 26, so I've had some down time.) Overall, I'm very happy with how things have panned out—when I look at my LinkedIn profile, I feel good about it and it all makes sense. But I'm at a mid-career crossroad, and, while I don't know exactly where the next turn will take me, I feel confident and optimistic about the second half of 2021 and our post-pandemic future—I texted my friend the other day that "The next few months will be pivotal for the entire world as it starts coming out of this pandemic. There will be a million new and exciting opportunities to come!" and I believe it. 

Are people usually this bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in their 40s? 

In the meantime, I'm focusing on happiness and giving myself the freedom to explore new projects and creative pathways. Maybe it's the promise of a newly vaccinated world order and the Great British Summer ahead, but it's been a long time since I've felt this good.

Also I got new running shoes and I love them:

February 07, 2021

Marks & Spencer weekly supermarket haul

I managed to get through last week with only one big trip to the supermarket and one Deliveroo order (Sichuan food, with enough leftovers to last me three meals), so I haven't been back to Marks & Spencer in seven entire days! Here's my M&S grocery haul this weekend. I might take a long walk over to the Waitrose today, I've never been to the one in Oxford; it opened in 2015 and I haven't lived here since 2002, so I'm looking forward to checking it out.

January 25, 2021

I have an idea: WFH digital coworking space

Hello! I have an idea. It's been such a difficult, isolating year for so many people, and I wonder if a drop-in digital coworking space would be an interesting idea to explore.

Initially I'd thought about logging onto YouTube for a daily lunchtime livestream, but I wonder if that idea could be expanded to something more community-driven, something along the lines of an online co-working space where anyone working from home could work... but, online, "around" other people. There are so many "study with me" videos on YouTube that perform so well -- and I've noticed there's been a recent uptick in "writealong" livestreams in the writers' community. I've always worked in media, so that's the work environment I'm most familiar with. I think the concept of an online coworking space / wfh with me could work well for writers and digital media people -- maybe there's a way to stitch breaks or some kind of recurring downtime, collaborative brainstorming, interactive career development sessions, or other programming into the day. I wonder if something like this would appeal to both freelancers as well as people who are on staff at publishing companies. Anyhoo, just throwing this idea out there because I've been thinking about it for a few weeks.

January 09, 2021

Cultivating a morning routine


One week into the new work year and I'm starting to nail down (and enjoy!) my new remote-WFH morning routine. The first few days I felt a bit anxious because of the chasmic eight-hour time difference between Oxford and Hong Kong, but no emergencies yet (knock on wood). It's important to me to get to a point where my work day does overlap with the Hong Kong office by at least two hours, so I'm going to continue refining my routine so I'm ready to be fully into my work day by 8 a.m. GMT. 

I've also decided to shift my focus in 2021 to self-improvement and self-awareness, something I think I need to check in on in my mid-life years. To that (selfish) end, I talked to a bunch of life coaches and mental health professionals to find out what their best tips are, and published these listicles on the Tatler Hong Kong site, just in case they can be of help to anyone else!

January 03, 2021

I'm a squirrel

One of the most surreal/weird things about being a writer/editor and working in media (or as a "content creator" as the kids call it these days) is that every work day for the past two decades, I've woken up in the morning, dumped the contents of my brain onto the web or onto paper, hit "publish," and then... those ideas, words, images, and videos are just out there. Like, in the world.

There's a lot to unpack here, like the responsibility of having a platform and all that (I'm looking at you, media outlets, humans, and clickbait websites that put irresponsible information out there into the world that encourages people to make badly-informed decisions that could impact their own health and lives and the health and lives of people in their communities). For readers and content consumers, I'd encourage you to read broadly, look with your eyes, consider science, think critically, and develop at least some basic media literacy. In the fictional but wise words of Patrick Melrose's very terrible father: "Observe everything. Always think for yourself. Never let other people make important decisions for you." 

But I don't really want to talk about that today. Today I'm thinking about fiction writing. I've never fiction-written in any meaningful way, not even in school. In college I tested out of freshman writing and was placed directly into a freshman (writing) seminar, which I tried to plead out of, asking the college to place me back in freshman writing because even though I'm a really good standardized test-taker, that didn't mean I was good at writing. That request was denied. So I found myself in a seminar about... Cold War spy literature. (What? I know.) It was a disaster. Coming out of a high school that placed overwhelming emphasis on its math and science curriculums, I was unprepared for expository essay writing and had retained almost nothing from history lessons on the Cold War. I barely scraped by in that spy lit class; in my assessment, the professor wrote that I should steer clear of English classes, especially writing, and... that was that. I was complete spooked and never took another college literature or writing class again.

Kind of ironic, then, that I've built a career on writing and editing. It's always been non-fiction, though. Until last week, when I decided to start a (little) personal fiction project of just a few thousand words, just for fun (and a potential learning experience). It feels super-weird, just making things up and writing them down, but also pretty cool, just making things up and writing them down. For the past 20 years, I've only written things down if they had already happened and/or were (probably) true (or "not untrue," ahem, early career at a tabloid newspaper). I'm definitely not good at fiction-writing, and I don't even know if I have the bug, although there's something about writing down whatever I feel like writing down and advancing a story however I want to, just through the act of typing, that feels thrilling. 

So yeah, I think that's all I have to say about that right now: that the biggest/smallest revelation I've had about fiction-writing as a very novice fiction-writer is that, right now, for me, fiction writing is: Making things up and writing them down. Which is a totally new experience. And somehow, after 20 years of writing-as-a-job, feels the same-yet-different and, also, a little bit exciting.

December 28, 2020

I moved to England!

After nearly two years in Hong Kong, I've decided to move back to Oxford, where I was born and where I've always wanted to live. I'll continue working with Tatler Asia remotely as International Editor at Large based in the UK.

November 16, 2020

My only vacation of 2020

And then it was December. Well, not quite, but almost.

I haven't taken any vacations this year, just a day or two off here and there, and I've spent those days off just walking around Hong Kong, taking ferries back and forth across Victoria Harbour, and exploring malls and other manmade places around the city. This weekend I thought I'd finally do a staycation, and I was lucky enough to score a last-minute reservation at the Adventurers Suite at the Explorers Lodge at Hong Kong Disneyland, where I spent 24 blissful hours basking in the escapist world of Disney. OK, overstatement, but it was great. 

October 04, 2020

Doing meaningful and unmeaningful things

We've had a four-day long weekend for mid-autumn festival, so I've had some time off over the past ten days to do both meaningful things (moving), less meaningful things (visiting random tourist attractions), and not meaningful things (going to more malls). I'm working on improving my vlogging output, so I made some videos about my week!

I moved! Here I talk about my move, how I felt about my last apartment, and give an empty apartment tour of a corner one-bedroom unit at The Luna in Wan Chai.

I visited Noah's Ark! I had no real plans over the long weekend, so on the first day we had off, I visited the Noah's Ark attraction that I've been meaning to see for a while now.

I wandered around a mall. No plans over the long weekend continued, I took the MTR out to Yoho Mall for a wander around. Later that night I had dinner at Bibi&Baba, the new Peranakan restaurant in Wan Chai.