Earnest expectations

So I continue my 800th post no longer continuing from the streak I had nurtured over the past two years or more. It doesn’t mean anything as long as I don’t allow it to. Streaks work because it helps build habit and some kind of psychological strength. But if the streak is short, it is way harder to resume when it is broken. Maybe it has to do with having established our expectations of ourselves.

For me, the short pause in writing was during a period of genuine break from the distractions of the world and for the first time since the pandemic started, I had some kind of real rest. One that was more extended than what I had since 2019.

I realised how much more we have drifted from being human, the kind of expectations we have of ourselves and society. There were much bolder and better expectations we can have but we choose not to, rather falling back on productivity and some numerical metrics. What about being kinder, or more patient, or caring better for others? What about refusing to do anything that can cause me to feel ashamed should I have to account the deeds to my family, or a journalist, or the world?

There are better high expectations we can have of ourselves. They are waiting for us to adopt them.

Last day of 2022

We’ve reached the last day of the year! And while we are counting, this is the 728th consecutive post I’ve written daily. Two more days and officially, I’ve been writing daily for two years. It’s amazing how this habit has kept up and ideas never quite run out once you keep going at it. I probably repeat myself but never quite as much as I’d expect myself to. The act of creating a practice that aligns with one’s interest and passion provides the fuel to keep things going.

2023 is going to be exciting from the perspective of my blogging because it is the year I’ll reach my 1000th consecutive post. There are also further interesting ongoing that may materialise in 2023. My coaching practice slowed in terms of taking on clients and growing my work because I’ve been busy working with my team at Enea Consulting to build on our bolder vision of Blunomy. The website isn’t fully fleshed out it – it looks more like the beginnings of a manifesto.

Through the year, I’ve been trying to work on a second self-published book but in the process, I’ve become way more critical of my writing and story-telling. I realised that the ideas I’ve been working on are not well fleshed out yet to be ready in a coherent collection of writings in a book. So that project is going to be on hold for a while until I develop more clarity. Maybe it’ll spring up in 2023, so stay tuned.

Choice as talent

I took some time on Christmas eve listening to the latest podcast episode of People I Mostly Admire and it was a lovely conversation between Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt. Over the past few years I’ve really enjoyed the podcast on Freakonomics radio and it’s impressive the amount of quality educational content that has come out of it.

One of the interesting ideas introduced in this episode was raised by Dubner on how one’s choice could be one’s talent. It turns out to be something incredibly important, especially in the Asian context where there’s a highly competitive environment and one could be surrounded by lots of highly talented people. I have in fact talked about how talents cannot possibly be born, but rather, the market recognises some kind of value for it which encourages and incentivise effort that enhances it. For most of us, we could perhaps fare really well by recognising that our choices can propel us in life. Thinking through our strengths and then making the choices to push ourselves into roles where we can leverage our talents works for more people than we realise.

The approach isn’t so much about sticking it through than to define some kind of exploration phase, development phase and pivoting phases where one identifies sets of strength and abilities, then consider the roles, value-creation, and gradually make them work within the context or community they operate within. Each step involves choices. And continually making choices, even if they might be wrong, is the way to move forward, to improve and to keep on pushing towards a point worth going.

Sprinting downhill

I was 13 when I met this senior in my Secondary school (it is kind of like a combination of middle school and high school in Singapore) who taught me that I need to open my strides when sprinting downhill. I had to pass my 2.4km run but it was a point in my life when I was a little overweight and not exactly a fast runner.

The distance was not long enough to win out just purely by stamina, and yet not short enough to be completed with just a crazy dash. It was challenging, especially when we have to run a course that included some elevation at different points of time. It was hard to maintain a consistent pace when running up and then downhill but because I was slower uphill, I needed a way to gain more ground downhill when logically, one could be faster.

So I learnt that opening up my strides allows me to cover more distance even as the gravity was pulling me down. Every step forward kept me from falling while taking me closer to the finish line. It was a great feeling, though my lungs were screaming for air, I could keep my leg muscles going.

There are points of life when a lot of work you had done previously have taken you to a point of elevation. You’ve been putting in the hard work, and built up to that point but there hasn’t been any results yet, you don’t seem anywhere close to the finish line. Perhaps you’ve prepared yourself to that point where you can now sprint downhill, where the force of gravity could take you to the finish line with a lot more natural momentum even if it may still take efforts.

Are you ready for the sprint downhill?

What kind of competition?

Imagine an economy you preside over where everyone hones their skills in violin-making and produces violins. Everyone in the economy works really hard to make and sell violins. They do so many other things such as growing their own food, trying to sustain themselves, just to make violins. In the economy, there is no other markets; no one is producing food to sell, no one providing laundry services. Money is exchanged only to buy and sell violins. And only violins have a price.

That sounds absurd. Because if only violins have a price, then money is only worth violins. Then what is the value of money in this economy? Yet, without answering such questions, if we were to allow the metaphor to continue, say you are supposed to spur productivity of this economy, what would you do?

You could do things that enhance the labour productivity. This means everyone produces more violin in the economy, thereby driving the prices down and causing violins to be worth less vis-a-vis the currency in circulation.

Or you could start getting people to perform other work for others. That enhances productivity of the system overall as the ones good at violin making gets to outsource parts of their chores so that they are freed to make more violins. You allow more goods and services to be priced using money hence allowing more things to be exchanged and money becomes more valuable too. The higher productivity raises overall wealth measured in money and allows people to demand for more violins or pay more for them, enriching the violin makers.

Before I go further, you must be wondering what I’m talking about. I’m thinking about education, where grades are the only thing that matters, where students are expected to focus on grades despite having to fulfill other requirements such as CCAs, including sports, student activities, leadership activities, etc. All these while trumpeting that different students have different strengths and then consigning a future michelin-starred chef to the E-bucket and having him sent to vocational school.

Our system ties up and stifles talents, force everyone to be denominated and priced using just one attribute of their capability: intellect/academics (or test-taking). And so if you want to improve the system, do you still force everyone to produce more and better grades?

The Amazing Avocado Fruit


This is potentially the most random post on my website but a friend of mine who translated the Japanese variety show, Tetsuwan Dash episode on 16 June 2020 (Guest: Inohara Yoshihiko) for her family, decided to share a whole host of fun facts gathered from the show with me. So I thought it a waste not to reproduce them here:

Avocadoes have twice the Potassium of bananas, 7 times the Vitamin B2 (aids in breakdown of fats) of kiwis, twice the vitamin E (an antioxidant) of lemons, and twice the dietary fiber of 1 great burdock (a kind of root).

Types of Avocados

The most common type of avocado exported around the world is the Hass variant of avocado. This is because its thick and hard skin makes it ideal for long distance travel i.e. export. It seems to be the only one available in Singapore as well. In Japan and other places, they have started growing Pinkerton avocadoes (picture to be added soon – notice shape is different from regular Hass avocados)

The price of these Pinkerton avocadoes grown in Miyazaki (called “Hinata Princess” = sunny place princess). A 500g avocado (big) costs 5000 yen (USD50)! Unfortunately you can only buy these reportedly amazing avocados in Japan, either via their online shop (mail order) or at Miyazaki airport.

Another species is called the Monroe avocado (named for Marilyn Monroe), this same farmer in Miyazaki also grows them. They grow so huge that one avocado can sell for as much as 12,000 yen (USD120) if it tops 1kg. The one they showed on the show was 24cm long!

Similar to bananas, avocados can’t be eaten as soon as they are harvested because it takes time for the starch in the fruit to be converted to glucose (making it sweet and yummy). However in the case of avocadoes, instead of being converted to glucose, starch is converted to fat (unsaturated fat). This unsaturated fat is good for lowering bad cholesterol, and is the key ingredient giving avocadoes their deliciousness – the longer they are left on the tree before harvesting, the yummier they are because they have a higher fat content.

In the show, the Japanese farmer leaves his Pinkerton avocados on the tree (to slowly gain more fat content) for a year before harvesting! On the other hand, the normal avocados we eat from the supermarket have usually only been left on the tree for about 7 months before being harvested, because it takes about 200 days before they are big enough to be harvested and they then harvest it as soon as they are ‘big enough’. For this particular farmer, after leaving the Pinkerton avocados on the tree for a year, he stores them at 20’C for 20 days to allow them to continue to ripen (starch => fat conversion).

Unlike Hass avocados which turn black when they are ripe and good to eat, Pinkerton avocadoes do not change colour (stay green) so the way to tell the best time to eat is when you press the avocados with your finger and it is soft enough to leave a mark. The taste of Pinkerton avocadoes is also different (especially after staying on the tree for a whole year) – the hosts of the show described the taste as being similar to chestnut, and much richer than the normal Hass avocados.

The show featured this avocado farm in Miyazaki (on Kyushu island), and the good thing about the location of this farm is that the soil is actually stratified rock formed of alternating layers of sandy soil and clayey soil. The sandy soil allows water to penetrate easily as well as oxygen, while clayey soil retains nutrients. Furthermore, as this stratified rock was formed undersea (before being pushed above sea level by tectonic movements), it also contains the remnants of shells and coral – this means lots of sodium, calcium, and magnesium in the soil!

How to prepare avocados for consumption

The Japanese avocado farmer’s recommended way of eating avocados is to drizzle sesame oil and a dash of pink rock salt! The hosts tasted and said this was super good.

Other gourmet means of enjoying avocado were featured on the show as well:

Avocado foods

1)  Avocado gyoza – avocado will add to the richness of the gyoza

  • Mix minced meat with garlic, ginger, oyster sauce (like normal dumpling filling), place in the gyoza skin
  • Place a piece of avocado in the center
  • Fold the gyoza and fry it over medium fire for 2 mins
  • Pour hot water over the gyoza until they are 70% covered and cover with the lid and leave for 10 mins
  • Drizzle sesame oil and leave over medium heat for another 5 mins to get nice grill marks

2) Avocado Kimchi Cheese Nabe (hot pot)

  • The usual hot pot stuff like cabbage, pork, shimeji mushrooms in a soup base of katsuo/kombu
  • Add 300g kimchi and bring to boil
  • Add camembert cheese right in the center and surround with pieces of avocado, leaving it on low flame for 15 min [host commented avocado oil is good for the heart]
  • Tip: add guacamole to the hotpot for added taste and texture (of the spring onions)

3) Avocado wrapped in meat

  • Slice avocado longitudinally
  • Marinate boneless pork rib with salt and pepper, and potato starch
  • Wrap the avocado in the meat!
  • Fry in olive oil over medium fire for about 7 mins
  • Turn off the fire and drizzle shoyu (soya sauce) [avo fat + pork fat = umami!]

How to store avocados if you’re not finishing the whole thing

If you remove the seed, the meat will start to oxidise and turn brown. You can put the seed back after removing to slow down the oxidisation. But a better way suggested by the farmer was that after you open the avocado, you just don’t remove the seed and eat the half without the seed, then put the half with the seed still attached into the fridge (with cling wrap). This way it will not oxidise.

How to store avocados so they will be yummy: allow them to ripen at room temperature (counterintuitive since avocados are usually sold at the refrigerated section!). Letting avocados ripen in low temperature will cause brown lines to appear (I’ve personally experienced it). But it’s okay if the avocado is already ripe then you put it in the fridge so it’s cold when you eat it.

Thank you all for indulging us!


This is a Coffee Cup

This is not Coffee
This is not Coffee

Too often, we underestimate ourselves and overestimate others; and in so doing we end up looking stupid despite the contrary. We’ve a colleague who loves to carry his cup around so that he can make coffee conveniently in the office. Because his cup is issued by the company, it looks like the ones on many of our desk. This is the same cup we use as a pen holder at many desks.

Once, we saw an extra cup on our main desk with words written, “This is a Coffee Cup”. We figured out that it must be this colleague’s cup and he wrote that with his marker because he knew most of us used the cup as penholders and he didn’t want people to put their stationery into his cup when he leaves it empty on a desk unattended.

Everyone was praising the creativity of the statement and the interesting intention behind the writing when he came along and so I asked him about it. He replied that he was just trying to decorate his cup and act creative by imitating some “Stating the Obvious” series where you have tote bag that says “This is a Tote Bag” and T-Shirts that says “This is a Tee”.