The Guide to Blind Gift-Giving

So it’s Christmas, and bless the season, we’re all out of ideas. Especially when it comes to blind gift-giving. How do you buy gifts if you don’t know who you’re buying it for? Still, don’t settle for stock options like vouchers or gift sets. Make it unique!

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While the list is not exhaustive, I thought that at least it gives you a place to start looking. 🙂 Happy shopping!

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Best Apps for Seoul: Subway 지하철

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Korea’s subway system is kickass.

Trains that arrive on time, are clean, travel fast, have racks for you to put your bags on, segregated carriages for those who need seats – I was so impressed by their system while I was there. Taking the train no longer felt like a drag, I actually enjoyed my commute. (The bus system was something I didn’t try because it was mind-boggling to say the least) Their app is the cherry on top of the already delectable fresh cream cake, and it’s equally, if not more impressive.

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Best Apps for Seoul: Introduction

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WordPress.com has now officially implemented their paid plans – which means I have only 3GB of space for images on the free plan. What a bad time to be uploading image-heavy app posts!

In any case, all the apps pictured above are apps that I found immensely useful in Korea. I’ll be doing a quick introduction of Airbnb, Accuweather, XE Currency and Skyscanner in another post, but since they’re in English they should be simple to navigate. Daum Maps, Subway, and Yogiyo are apps that are in Korean, so I’ll be going into detail in the hopes that you’ll be able to use the app!

PS: Keeping the images on the post to a minimal to save space for the three Korean apps which will need more explanation! Bear with me.

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100 | The Case For Kindle

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Kindle Paperwhite 2, 2014 No Ads.

So I am here with a tinge of remorse today – both the shame of having to eat my words and because I just busted a good part of my salary on this little un right here. But I’ve yet to regret it, so it’s a good buy, I reckon.

Since the advent of the Kindle I’ve always insisted that I don’t want one because I prefer print books. I used to reason that I loved the font, loved feeling the pages and loved smelling the paper. And so through these years despite a few offers from relatives to get me one, I never for a moment thought of acquiescing.

Then one day, Hongting and I were discussing books, and he casually mentioned, “You should get a Kindle.” Didn’t think too much of it but it ate at me for two weeks before I caved. I even put up a post on Facebook and everyone was trying to psycho me into getting one. Andy also wanted one, and we should’ve ordered together but.. as things would have it, I woke up one day and decided that today was the day I absolutely should have a Kindle Paperwhite 2, ordered it by SMS from Kindlesupply and got it 4 hours later. Reckless? Yes. Very. Andy got his a few days later as well. Serial bookworms definitely.

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My first book: The Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. Fantastic biz management book!

Because I began this journey as a detractor, here’s why you shouldn’t buy it:

You read less than 4-5 books a month
I bought this because my reading capacity is at least 4-5 full-length books a month. This does not include poetry books or plays. If you read any less than this you’ll be hard-pressed to make your Kindle worth its value.

You want to read in alternate languages or genres
Sadly Kindle has a really pitiful collection of Korean, Mandarin and Singaporean literature, which was one of the reasons why I hesitated for so long. It was only after I decided I needed to get cracking on my business reading that I took the plunge. Even now, my Kindle stores mostly classics that I don’t have the physical copies of, thick textbooks, or business-related books. I still purchase my Korean, Mandarin and Singaporean literature in printed word.

You need to get an IP mask
.. if you are lazy like me and don’t want to go through the rigours of figuring out how to mask your IP. I bought mine from IPVanish at 10 USD a month and so far it’s served me well. Some of my friends also mentioned never having to buy an IP mask for their Kindle. God blessed them 😦 But since I also use it to read Harvard Business Review (you’re only allowed to read 5 articles a month) I guess it’s worth it for me. Assess if it suits your needs or not.

It is not printed word!
Let’s face it, no matter how much e-Ink looks like real ink, it just cannot replace the look and feel of physical books. That’s why I don’t buy a lot of literature on my Kindle – font is important to me, and so is the book cover. I’d much rather read it in printed form.

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And here’s why I got it in the end:

No more lugging books around
One of my favourite fantasy series is the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. And that one series has over a thousand pages, with each book about the size of a dictionary. I am sure not going to lug that monster around. The Kindle gives me the freedom to buy psychiatry, finance and management textbooks and read them on the go without breaking my back.

Reduces cost
There’s one other thing I broke often – my bank. Paper books are more expensive than Kindle books, and that’s not counting the opportunity cost of time taken to search for that book. Could be a little subjective though – I’m spending way more now because it’s so easy to buy with this 1-click feature Amazon has (damn you) and I’ve spent an incredible amount of money on books so far.

Highlight, clippings and search function
Particularly useful when reading thick reference books. Imagine having to thumb through a 500 page book to find a certain quote, or having to copy 400 quotes into my quote book by hand (that’s what would’ve happened for the above book). It’s madness. I can highlight on my Kindle and just export the clippings .txt file after I’m done, and I can search key terms too. Granted, I do still copy poignant quotes, but for case studies and all.. Why did I not own a Kindle earlier?!

Look and Feel
I absolutely hate it when I want to read a book and it’s printed in a godawful font for reading – I’m looking at you, Calibri – and I can’t change it. Or when it’s so tiny when I read it it’s like tiny ants marching across the page. This helps. The flipside is the Kindle has limited fonts and if you like/love fonts such as Hoefler, Helvetica and Garamond, you won’t be able to get it here. Again, that’s why I buy literature in printed word. For business books, it’s not as important.

Doesn’t hurt the eyes
I spend an inordinate amount of time facing the screen nowadays and it would do me well if my reading didn’t further hurt my eyes, thank you very much. The e-Ink is very gentle on the eyes if you don’t read it at high levels. I read it at about brightness level 7, and if I can’t see then I just deem the environment too dark to read and change places. Ideally I’d try to read at as low a brightness as possible to prevent eye strain.

If you’re deliberating between a Kindle Paperwhite 2 vs. Kindle Voyage like I was, my simple answer is, it doesn’t matter. The only thing I find better about the Voyage is that it looks sleeker and the text is definitely crisp compared to the Paperwhite 2. Perhaps you prefer auto-brightness, in which case get the Kindle Voyage. I would turn off the auto-brightness so that wasn’t an issue for me. Hongting’s Voyage only cost SGD 7 more than mine (his was directly from Amazon and he waited 2 weeks) whereas I paid SGD 245 for a 2014 Kindle Paperwhite 2. Thinking of it still makes me want to pound my chest and rave at the skies. But since it’s done, so be it.

I’ve been hugging my Kindle to sleep almost every night and now I can’t really imagine life without it. The treasure trove of knowledge that’s opened up to me with the added convenience is just very worth the moolahs. In short, owning a Kindle is like being an omnivore that’s never tried berries. You never know how good it is until you taste it. And then you kind of never want to go back.

Hope this helped you if you were deliberating!

PS: Another reason why the title is “the case for Kindle” is also because my Kindle is naked and needs a case and my favourite colours are tan and navy, but a black case will do too. Thank you. 🙂

The Boy Inside

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Once in a while, a friend achieves something and I, as a bystander, end up feeling immensely proud despite having done nothing. This is especially so when it’s a creative pursuit. I guess it’s the fact that you see growth, you see improvement, and whether small or big, these things take a lot of courage, wisdom, and aptitude. For this very reason, artists are people I admire endlessly for their gumption in taking something personal and putting it on stage, subject to criticism, and also for their relentless hard work – all the sleepless nights and mental/physical stress the audience doesn’t see. Congratulations, Liansheng! Another tick off your bucket list before moving on to the next endeavour. Thank you for writing this play, for the unique insights only you could have provided.  I’ll be looking forward to your next piece, and I do so hope this gets a proper staging!

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Such an exciting year for all my friends who are literary artists! Plays being put up here and there, translations being worked on and poems being composed. What better motivation than them to write, write, write?

Waging war with the pen.

他坐了十几个小时的飞机,却只上场26分钟。他没有教练指导,没有任何人陪同,比赛结束后也只能独自匆匆离去。他的名字叫亚拉-阿扎德-阿卜杜勒-哈米德,也是本届亚运会上,伊拉克队惟一的羽毛球运动员。不为别的,只为了自己心中的那份梦想。 — 向他学习吧!

Photo: 他坐了十几个小时的飞机,却只上场26分钟。他没有教练指导,没有任何人陪同,比赛结束后也只能独自匆匆离去。他的名字叫亚拉-阿扎德-阿卜杜勒-哈米德,也是本届亚运会上,伊拉克队惟一的羽毛球运动员。不为别的,只为了自己心中的那份梦想。<br />
--- 向他学习吧!

Imagine –

Taking a 13 hour flight to London, alone. Playing in the games without a coach. Alone. (How did he even get into the Olympics without a coach? He must have trained so hard.) Leaving the court alone. How self-conscious he must feel. How desperately alone he must feel. Yet he presses on. He knew this would happen in Iraq. Dread would have tried to steer his heart away. Yet he chose to face his fears, knowing what he’d go through, knowing the crowd’s silence at his victory and cheering at his defeat would break his heart, knowing this self-consciousness and torment he’d go through, knowing how pathetic he must look, he still chose to go on. Why? He couldn’t ignore the fire in his heart. He couldn’t ignore the burning imprint of his Olympic dream in him. He couldn’t ignore the fact that his dream burnt far deeper than the skin-deep sear of loneliness, self-consciousness and slight humiliation.

This guy has all my respect. He is one athlete I will always remember. Thank you, Iraq’s one man badminton team, Yara Azad Abdulhamid.

4 | I Will Wait.

As a young girl of 12 in 2008, I fell in love watching Beijing Olympics 2008, Men’s 3m Springboard Champion, with a man called He Chong.

Visiting Beijing later in the year, at the Water Cube, I promised him that in 4 years, I’d watch him wear his dreams on his neck again.
The hype is over. China lost their clean sweep to a Russian, who obviously is like Dmitri Sautin Jr. I don’t like seeing Qin Kai & He Chong not on the gold platform. Even worse, I don’t expect He Chong to be on the bronze platform. Seeing Qin Kai cry and watching He Chong try to muster a courageous smile is too much. It’s devastating, really.
But all in all, I will wait. I will wait a lifetime to see this man reach his dreams. I will wait yet another to see China clinch a clean sweep in diving.
I will wait.