I’d heard that absence
Made the heart grow fonder, but
Never thought I’d think it to be so true;
I’d always found it too corny and clichéd,
But then… I met you.

You’ll be back next week.
The months, in hindsight, seem to
Have just melted right away.
But as the 29th approaches, Every second
Till then feels like a bloody day.

On Financial Independence

I was reminded of the concept of retiring young but not necessarily rich while reading the book Your Money or Your Life (by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, one of the best books on personal finance I have read so far), and thought some of you who are into personal finance may find it interesting.

You may have heard of the term “financial independence” before. It’s one of the current buzzwords in personal finance literature. But though used so often, its meaning is not entirely clear to most people. Unseasoned journalists, for example, tend to use the term synonymously as “rich” or “wealthy”. But financial independence does not mean being rich or wealthy.

Rather, financial independence refers to having enough income apart from that obtained from paid work to be able to cover all your living expenses. In other words, if your expenses are $900 a month, and your investment income (say, through fixed deposits, stocks, bonds, unit trusts or the like) is $900 a month, then technically you’re financially independent, even if your assets do not typically classify you as rich or wealthy.

This concept of achieving financial independence early in life therefore means:

  • You do not have to have be a high-income individual to achieve financial independence;
  • You do not even need to have high-value assets under your name to achieve financial independence;
  • What is important is how much you are generating from investment income; and
  • How low your expenses are.

Personally, financial independence is more important to me than becoming rich or wealthy. I’d like to choose how I make my money and how I spend my time, and not let money concerns dictate what I have to do, and when I do it.

Living the Good Life

I had always had this notion that the concept of the “best life possible” — of living the “good life” — was real. I never quite qualified it with reasoning or investigation, and just took it as it was. Then one day, hit by inspiration, I decided to do some research on what the living the best life entailed. What I found was that few seemed to have any concrete idea on what the best life was, and those that thought they did had different ideas from the rest.

Everyone’s concept of how life should be lived was different; some promoted material success, while others abhorred it; some praised religion, while others the secular life; some said the best life simply meant being happy, while others claimed happiness was transient and illusory.

And so I stopped for a while, and wondered if asking what’s the best way to live life was like asking what the colour blue was really like — would it all be a matter of semantics and circular arguments?

In the end, I decided that I’d leave this question for another day. Maybe there are just some things that can’t be known.

The Workaholic

He had always been to me – to a certain extent – the epitome of success at work. But though excellent at what he did – often earning top honours – he never appeared satisfied or genuinely happy with what he had. A smart strategist, he always chose his environment carefully, opting for where competition was less intense. I think this allowed him to consistently perform above his peers wherever he went; even if he always claimed he didn’t care much for it, you could see it in his eyes that he did.

I recalled the times I’d occasionally see that he really wished he didn’t care for it so much. He’d tell me that “this was it”, that he was going to let go of his strivings and finally relax for once. I’d sense the jaded man in him disappear. His eyes would light up, and he’d have this infectious, sincere smile as if all was well and good with the world. And I’d smile and think “finally!” along with him. It was unfortunate, however, that these episodes didn’t last long. Like a baby’s need for love, without his striving for success at work he never looked comfortable. And before long he’d return to it, often with a renewed fervour, perhaps making up for lost time spent letting go.

The Spread and Potency of the H1N1 Virus

I read an article about how evolution may be able to explain the spread of the flu virus, and I must say that it does seem to make some sense: virus strains that kill their hosts quickly will not be able to spread as far and wide as those that simply make their hosts sick (allowing them greater opportunities to cough, sneeze, and/or secrete bodily fluids that aid in the spreading of the germs from one host to another).

The high mortality rate seen in Mexico was due to its being the origin (or close to) of the disease. The most potent strains killed their hosts quickly, while the less potent ones remained in their hosts who were then well enough to help carry and propagate the disease.

As an increasing number of people begin to get infected, reports are showing that the flu’s mortality rate is decreasing and may well become just another seasonal flu.

Strawberry Trees and the Happiest Medical Professionals

Who do you think are the happiest medical professionals?

Give up?

Heart surgeons. Because 他们常常开心。

There was this time I was in the car, when my mom mentioned that it had rained.

“Maybe some trees had fallen and it’d cause a traffic jam,” she said, in reference to a recent traffic jam caused by fallen trees.

“Well,” I said, “depends on what kinds of trees those were.”

Without thinking, I added, “if they were strawberry trees then it’d be a strawberry jam.”