Monthly Archives: December 2014

The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek

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Read this interesting article Your Lifestyle has already been designed recently, where the writer reflects on his “consumption habits, work life, and money-time relationships” upon rejoining the corporate world after spending 9 months travelling (and without an income).

Within days of “normal working life”, he notices that

“the more wholesome activities are quickly dropping out of my life: walking, exercising, reading, meditating, and extra writing.

The one conspicuous similarity between these activities is that they cost little or no money, but they take time.

Suddenly I have a lot more money and a lot less time, which means I have a lot more in common with the typical working North American than I did a few months ago.”

Summing up his insights about the 40 hour workweek as a “design” by corporations, he writes:

We’ve been led into a culture that has been engineered to leave us tired, hungry for indulgence, willing to pay a lot for convenience and entertainment, and most importantly, vaguely dissatisfied with our lives so that we continue wanting things we don’t have. We buy so much because it always seems like something is still missing.

Western economies, particularly that of the United States, have been built in a very calculated manner on gratification, addiction, and unnecessary spending. We spend to cheer ourselves up, to reward ourselves, to celebrate, to fix problems, to elevate our status, and to alleviate boredom.

While perhaps too “harsh” in the way he pins down the “real reason for the forty hour workweek” on corporations, it was most interesting to read this article just after I had finished reading “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley (available as e-book from National Library or pdf file here) which had some rather similar themes (of a future dystopian world where everyone is kept happy through “engineering” or “design” by “controllers”). And another interesting thing was how SY had already thought about some of these ideas even before starting to work!! 🙂

A good article to look back on, when we find that we have “no time” or have an urge to buy stuff!!

(thanks to Dennis Yeo for sharing the article :))

(see also my previous post On Idleness)

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寻根

A different view of trip!

!

Lol I was going to post my travel journal here but I found out that wordpress is blocked in china…… and I didn’t bring my physical journal so I ended up writing on all the random hotel paper. But now that I’m out of the great firewall I can finally blog again!

It’s funny cos I brought 1984 to read on the trip then I realised the similarities (the censorship, cctv everywhere, street lights that flash whenever a car drives past) but ok 1984’s is way more extreme and boo the ending D:<

Anyway this trip was super different from my family’s usual ones cos it was on a tour group consisting of my extended family, there were 15 of us so we went around in a big bus and had a tour guide and the itinerary was all planned already. The main point of the trip was to go…

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A once in a life time family trip …

is how I would describe my recent “extended” family holiday in Fujian, China in just a few words … seriously do not think it is possible to arrange such a trip to Fujian with the same fifteen people in future!

The "extended" family at a 土楼 (tu3 lou2) in 永定 (yong3 ding4)

The “extended” family at a 土楼 (tu3 lou2) in 永定 (yong3 ding4)

The trip was planned primarily around a visit to my in-law’s 老家 (the home where their parents had lived) in 莆田 (Putien). It is unclear how long these houses would still be around due to the rapid development (i.e. building of condos) in China; everywhere, we saw high rise apartments being build, in both city and more rural areas.

mom's side old house ...

mom’s side old house … (relatives are still staying around the newer buildings adjacent to this one)

dad's side old house (more than a century old!)

dad’s side old house (more than a century old! not lived in anymore)

with visits to other major places of interest in Fujian province, namely:

  • Gu Lang Yu (an island accessible by ferry only, and the main tourist attraction for visitors to Xiamen)
Gu Lang Yu, a vehicle free island off Xiamen, was our first stop on the day of arrival

Gu Lang Yu, a vehicle free island off Xiamen, was our first stop on the day of arrival

Gu Lang Yu - stroll the streets to see majestic old buildings, fly kites on the beaches, or just hang out at the shopping street ...

Gu Lang Yu – stroll the streets to see majestic old buildings, fly kites on the beaches, or just hang out at the shopping street …

  • Jinmen 金门 (an island about 10 km off Xiamen, but under Taiwanese rule; needs to go through customs procedures for the trip there and back)
Jinmen - for learning about recent China-Taiwan history

Jinmen – for learning about recent China-Taiwan history

and the battles fought between them ...

and the battles fought between them …

  • Hakka Tu Lou 土楼 (comes in both square and round versions, and there are older (more than 200 years old) and newer ones (20th century)) (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
土楼-easy to see why they are so named ("earthen structures" literally)

土楼-easy to see why they are so named (“earthen structures” literally)

Inside the Zhenchenglou (振成樓) (we visited this one and the tour guides "square" tu lou)

Inside the Zhenchenglou (振成樓) (we visited this one and a “square” tu lou, which happens to be where our guide lives)

  • Putien 莆田 (besides the “old house” visits, we went to a primary school that Chien’s grandfather had helped to set up, and 湄洲岛 (mei2 zhou1 dao3, Mei Zhou Island)
my girls visited their great grandfather's school!

my girls visited their great grandfather’s school!

Steps to the Matzu Temple (妈祖庙)on Mei Zhou island

Steps to the Matzu Temple (妈祖庙)on Mei Zhou island

  • Taining Geopark 泰宁 (UNESCO World Heritage Site for Danxia Landform) (boat ride to scenic spots can be much improved to spread out the crowd, instead of having every boat arrive at the same spot at the same time 😦  )
Buddha's profile ... taken during a 2 hr bamboo raft ride

Buddha’s profile … taken during a 2 hr bamboo raft ride

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Ganlu Rock Temple, Song Dynasty (history of more than 800 years old although it looks pretty new; perhaps rebuilt??), Taining

  • Wuyi Shan 武夷山 (UNESCO World Heritage site – great scenery. Try to do some trails that are not taken by the tour groups, such as the one from 大红袍 -水帘洞 (1 hr) to avoid crowds and loud hailers) – my favourite place of the whole trip 🙂
Wuyi Mountain 武夷山 mountain range (just 1000+ steps to reach the top on steep narrow steps) - view in photo is from 天游峰, the highest(?) point of the mountain ranges

Wuyi Mountain 武夷山 mountain range (just 1000+ steps to reach the top on steep narrow steps) – view in photo is from 天游峰, the highest(?) point of the mountain ranges

bamboo raft ride, the most popular activity in Wuyi Shan ... tip the oarsmen on stepping aboard if you want him to tell stories and entertain you during the 1 hr 30 min ride!!

bamboo raft ride, the most popular activity in Wuyi Shan … tip the oarsmen on stepping aboard if you want him to tell stories and entertain you during the 1 hr 30 min ride!!

It was a good thing too that we engaged a tour agency to coordinate the travel arrangements (e.g. transport, accommodation, meals, ticketing) as it would have been simply too difficult to do it on our own, when the group was so big and diverse (age range from 10 to 80+ years, repeat visits for some and first time for others). However, it would be quite possible to travel independently if it was only for 2 to 4  people.

And for the many other experiences we gained from the trip (e.g. like missing a boat, or creating an itinerary for self-organised group travel, or being better prepared for travel in winter), I would say it has been a very good trip!

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after note:  for anyone who needs their daily fix of Facebook, Google, Gmail, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, WordPress, Dropbox, … these sites are all blocked in mainland China (seen positively, it is a great way to break the habit or addiction to these sites!! 🙂 )

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“failed” attempt at blood donation

Got a call from the Blood Bank about three weeks ago, asking me to go for a blood test. This was in fact the second time they had asked me and the amazing reason for the call is … (btw, first time I just got a letter, that ended up lost somewhere)

… Eight years ago (Yes! EIGHT, 8) in 2006, I donated blood and they want to be sure it is free from malaria!! (LOL) so that it is safe to be used (before its 10 year expiry date!!!).

Yes, the reader should be wondering, as I did when I got the call, what can they find from testing my blood NOW, in 2014??? And why was there any question about my (frozen) blood from 2006 being checked for malaria anyway??? Well, the story goes like this:

In December 2005, I went with a bunch of staff and students from VJC to do a service learning/community service thing in Prey Veng, Cambodia at an orphanage run by the Operation Hope Foundation (founded by Robert Kee). The next year, I donated blood to support a blood donation drive organised by some college co-curricular activity group (? Red Cross??). It turns out that Cambodia (or some regions there) are “high risk” for malaria and the Blood Bank had called me to get my blood checked, before they can use it … Being the second time they asked me to do the test (=>they seem to be quite serious that I should do the test) and on the phone, I asked the lady some questions to satisfy my curiosity:

why do they need to test? checking for malaria as I donated after returning from Cambodia

why can’t they test on the blood that I already donated? because it is frozen (hmm, cannot thaw and check?)

what can they get out of testing my “current” blood (it would have “refreshed” itself many times by now, no?)? they have a way to do it  (ookay, maybe too technical to try to explain over the phone)

So, somehow, I agreed to go for the test, and she also put a thought into me “why not go and donate blood when you get your blood test done?” …

————————————–  🙂 ——————————–;) ———————————

I made my appointment over the internet for the blood donation (4 Dec 2014, 1 pm).

Entrance to blood donation centre at HSA

Entrance to blood donation centre at HSA. (4 Dec 2014, Thursday)

During the pre-donation screening, this person ( ?doctor?) went through some of the questions that I had answered online when I registered for the appointment, and I also managed to ask a bit more on how/what they can test me now for malaria, for a blood donation that happened 8 years ago … seems the malaria parasite is capable of “hiding” in the liver for a long time (or perhaps more accurately, they reproduce and can “hide” in the liver) so that the blood test can still detect their presence.

Anyway, everything was good until near the end when she asked me where I had travelled this year … Indonesia (Mt Bromo, Bali), Anhui … (Huangshan), and the exact date when I came back from Anhui … (alarm bells starts to ring …??!!!)

It turns out Anhui is also on their list of malaria areas and I needed a 4 month period from date of return (i.e. January 2015) before I could donate blood!!

So, at the end, I did the blood test, (the “original” reason for my coming to the blood bank), got a blood donor free set meal coupon to eat something from the cafe outside and complimentary parking ticket to exit the car park (which was great as I was concerned about the availability of parking at SGH, but this carpark was meant strictly for donors and there were many empty lots, so no problem 🙂 ), a 2015 diary and pen…

And the idea to “donate blood 3 times a year in 2015” in my list of 50 things to do!!

 

 

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