Saturday, 7 October 2017

Receipt of memories

A few days ago, I had the day off.  Of course one normally associates a day off with sleeping in or lazing about to watch TV/play games.  Relaxing.
But to be honest - that is not really me.  Most weekends in fact, I still get up early but am on the 'net surfing.

But these days I feel I need to be productive.  So waking up at 6am, I felt the need to clean up.  Mainly the paperwork on my desk and sort out my cupboards.  It was such a mess that every time I looked at it I would think, "I'll deal with that another time."
Or, "I'm too tired."

Terrible.

So I decided to be proactive to clear as much as possible: filing, sorting and cleaning.  It was a task I had started a few days ago - as I was filing away my paperwork which had piled up.  I keep most receipts - from buying my morning coffee, grocery shopping to all the receipts from holidays.  Every week I extract a wallet full of receipts and plonk them on the table or squirrel them into envelopes.
So you can imagine how many receipts I have accumulated over a short period of time.  I had every intention to track expenses but found it such a hassle I don't.  I keep them in case there is a dispute or an incorrect charge.  Ok, ok - I need a better system and  am still searching for that!

Going through a table full of receipts is downright distressing,  however, the upside was I needed to read and determine if I wanted to still keep the receipt (for warranties etc).

Strangely, most recipes were readable, and still had a lot of information.  Times and dates of my purchases.  Restaurant receipts still had the addresses of the places, what I ate and the tip I gave.  Interestingly, the memories came flooding back to the exact places I was at.  I don't recall everything - like what I was wearing - but the situation, vibe and how I was feeling did come back. All these receipts made me think of all the places I tried on clothes, the shop assistants, the stores - pretty much putting me at all these places - some of which I had forgotten all about!

One of my friends had told me about a shoebox full of movie ticket stubs - something he had collected ever since he started going to the movies.  I was just thinking whether a scrapbook full of receipts would ever be a thing, but it certainly made my day as I never thought something as simple as a kept receipt would ever be a memory of a good thing (especially if it meant I was paying!)

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Are we there yet?

Perhaps it is me getting a bit further on on age and realisation that I have been working for quite some time.  But it did get me thinking about financial freedom - or at least a relative financial freedom.

While I was chatting to a colleague, we were commenting on how regulations and technology have really started to change the industry.  Furthermore, with family and worklife balance, how it would be good to be able to just take the time off when required.  Which brought me to an interesting question posed to me: "Do you have a number?"

I was taken a little aback, as I usually don't talk personal finance with colleagues.  But I was somewhat intrigued as to this - because it was phrased such that a number you would be happy with so you didn't need to work for money any more.  I had done some quick calcs, and had come up with a number which I thought would be acceptable in this scenario - i.e. a number where I would be confidently not eating salami sandwiches for the rest of my life.  (to be sure I love eating salami sandwiches - something which was cheap and tasty but I did eat a lot of it as I was trying to save money). Unless of course it is eating salami sandwiches in my holiday home in Italy. With water views... 

So I hesitantly stated a number and backed it up with some of my quick calcs.
"Excluding your own home, of course," they said.
"Yeah...., " I responded, unsure now of my quick calcs.  What else did I feel was missing as my mind started recalibrating.

Of course, context is required, as my colleague, who has a family,  are well paid professionals and I found my number to be quite a bit lower than theirs.

So what I realised was that this could very well be a lose-lose situation depending on who you are speaking with.  State a number very high, then people start to either judge you:
- Are you being realistic?
- Think you are already there, so believe you are rich or a snob;
- Admire you or just am jealous (as believe you are close to your goal).
Conversely, coming in low, like me:
- Are you being realistic?  How could you live off that.
- Think you are already there, but that you have no ambition.
- Admire you or jealous (that you are close to your goal).

Unfortunately, perhaps it was the fact that I don't like talking financial matters with friends which made me less aware of my personal finances, so perhaps this was a good lesson to spur me into action.

What I did find out is that while my number is not unrealistic, I need to consider the type of lifestyle I want from here on in.  I mean I can be more frugal and therefore get by on my lower number.  Knowing that I may not have as much as I wanted in retirement is a sad, but better to know earlier so I can do something about it. 

Anyone, less time on games and more on financial news I reckon!


Sunday, 17 September 2017

Speedbumps

The last month has been extremely busy.  I certainly felt that time had slipped away from me - another month has passed!

It certainly has tested my last two areas of concern - lifestyle and focus. It certainly feels tiring when you feel the hurdles come crashing at you.  The issues which needs to be dealt with so feel that one feels lacking time.  Or the illness or sickness that sets one back when trying to get back on track.  Last month was exactly that which initially felt that I was on a path of setbacks and plateaus.  Getting ill during a period when I was busy really compounded things and as much I as I wanted to push myself in terms of the gym, I knew it was not going to be in the longer term interest - so I rested.  I also kept my diet going and tried to eat cleanly as possible.  Reduced alcohol and no beer.  Somehow Even though I only managed a few trips to the gym, I kept on going on my goal.  I definitely lost some strength, but kept losing some more weight and more importantly visceral fat and overall body fat.  I didn't think that was possible and I was thinking of the plateau I had reached and to be honest, I had moments of frustration.  Interestingly, I have felt better on the basketball court even though I have not shot a ball for some time.  I definitely fit my clothes better and strangely enough, one of my friends even commented that I lost weight.  "I thought you were letting yourself go there before - don't do it; don't be the first among our friends to do it!" he exclaimed.  Though he had never mentioned to me before, he said he didn't know how to say it to me.  Great.....
To some degree, I do think that men have issues around weight, health and body.  Perhaps to some degree, our friends don't want to judge and so will never really bring that up and I really am not sure how one would take it.  The only reason why he brought it up, was because I mentioned the new scales and that I am trying to change my diet.  Think we have established that he may not speak his mind, but at least he is encouraging....oh wait - hang on a minute there!

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Focus

Sometimes one feel so worn thin.  So stretched.  Tired.

When the goals just feel that little bit out of reach.  Like looking in a mirror, but without a reverse a reversed caveat - "object may be further than they appear".

I remember when I used to be able to run a few kilometres and really had no troubles and my mind could just push through the pain and make it through.  Over the years, perhaps my mind has gotten weaker and just gives up in those situations.  "Just walk now," my unfit tells myself.  "Just relax," that soothing inner voice says, directing my gaze to a nice park bench.
I wonder what happened.  What happened to the competitive person who used to play nonstop and who could run forever?  Was it seeing the young fellas just catch up and be better overall?  Am I past the peak?  Damn.

But self doubt aside, perhaps over the years I have grown weaker or less confident and need to mentally rebuild my confidence.  My recent determination has certainly allowed me to rebuild some of that and putting in the effort and subsequently seeing results continues to make me drive forward.   Often times, it is frustrating when one sees a disproportionate amount of effort to eventual outcomes and pushing hard for long periods at a time can be mentally challenging.

Playing video games has also been frustrating as it does require a lot more patience to get through.  Finding it much harder to stay up to play games these days!


Setting smaller goals and moving forward.  Step by step.  (heart to heart....thanks Martika!).

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Lifestyle 1.0

Following on from my realisation on fitness, I proceeded to do what most people would do.  Yep, I did nothing.  My shirt buttons kept popping open and I was still feeling bloated after most meals, but especially after dinner.  My belly was getting fat but kept encouraging me to have another beer.  
I had my gym membership and I was going to do various exercises now and again, but it barely made any inroads.

When my set of old scales gave my the ghost, it was time to buy a new one.  I settled on an Omron HBF 214.  My previous set had an electronic display, which I thought was already an upgrade!  This particular model also looks to measure body fat, visceral fat and body age.  Excitedly, like a child with a new toy, I jumped on to take these new body measurements.  'Most of my weight gain was just muscle', I reassured myself.  'It's just the belly fat'.  After taking down the results, it was time to interpret them.  BMI - over.  Body Fat - outside of normal range.  Visceral Fat - High.  Body age - 7 years older than I am.  Deflated, like a child who doesn't know how to play with a new toy, I measured again just to be sure.  Same results. After other people jumped on it and it was confirmed to be working correctly....I was surprised and shocked.  

I thought I was eating healthy already?  I already cut out sugary drinks and sugar in my tea/coffee.  What more do I need to do?  What is visceral fat anyway?  

After a load of questions I was somewhat ready to tackle the issue.  There is no change, if there is no change.  I am still a newbie when it comes to fitness and health.  Speaking with older friends, they had previously lamented the fact that their bodies have changed with age and that they getting fatter, or have problems recovering.  I never really had that problem, so I had dismissed that somewhat.
So now it was time to pay more attention as the fight was on my doorstep!

My doctor had previously told me that diet was around 70% (assuming one is not a professional athlete).  I had previously downloaded an app - myfitnesspal.  It had been a while, so after updating it, I started to count the calories I was eating to see if there was anything there.  I started going cold turkey so at the beginning of the month, I decided to have salad for lunch.  I stopped snacking on biscuits/chocolates on my trips to the kitchen - eating pieces of fruit instead.  I felt hungry after lunch as I was eating earlier in order to avoid crowds.  Early afternoon was a struggle, as my body was calling out for me to eat more.  The fruit tied me over for a while.  

I started to go to the gym four times a week and lifting weights.  It had been a while since I had gone to the gym.  Work commitments always made me tired and unmotivated.  'Maybe tomorrow', I would tell myself.  'It's raining today', I would think as I looked out the window.  I certainly was getting up early enough to be able to make it to the gym, but the will was not there - until those results from the scales slapped me in the face!  I tried to go after work (realising that my gym closes at midnight).  It was packed.  My lack of exercise meant I was starting off with light weights in comparison to all the all the deep V tank top wearing people around me.  'I have to just start and not worry about other people,' I sighed.  

This was a few weeks ago.  On the food front, after about 10 days, my afternoon hunger pangs have reduced as my body has adjusted to the reduced intake.  During that time, I had two of my previous "normal" lunches - a chicken curry rice, and a BBQ pork rice with veggies.  The calorie count on were much higher than my salad lunch and I actually felt bloated after eating.  I have not tried it again.  My dinner diet at home has also changed - adding more vegetables and a smaller portion of meat. Not half bad tasting, but at least it is much healthier than when I was eating out 95% of the time, which had a large proportion of carbs.
I have already shed a few kilos of weight and my pants and shirts suddenly are not bursting at the seams.  Interestingly, my posture has improved and I don't feel tired in the seated position any more - strange I know, but I don't think I worked my back muscles as much as I did before!  After most meals, I felt bloated and lethargic and really don't feel that way so much any more.

Obviously early days still, so hopefully I can look forward to getting fitter, better shape and healthier!  At least I don't need to buy a new wardrobe!

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Fitness

Generally, I consider myself quite fit - playing basketball, soccer etc.
But recently, with a busy schedule, it has not been the case.

My clothes have been feeling tighter in the wrong place - the belly.  The pants, shirts, and jackets have seen a bulge in the midsection - not cool!
Secondly, my back.  Running up and down for sports and jumping has certainly meant more pressure on my back these days - especially with the extra weight I am carrying in the front!  So after any intense sessions of sports, the back needs a few days off to recover.  Muscles feel tight and general discomfort when sitting. Uber not cool.

So, without trying to re-buy an entire wardrobe in order to accommodate my paunch, the only way is to get fit and be more discerning in what I eat.  The sad realisation is that my metabolic rate cannot keep up with my childish eating habits.  No more sugary drinks.  No more eating a block of chocolate/a packet of lollies for afternoon tea.  No more eating a block of chocolate before bed.  No more eating of two desserts. No more beer....ok, less beer.  Dieting is good - and interesting that people many years my junior have already adopted these hard lessens and yet I have not.  Gotta face the fact that I just need to watch what goes in.  So let's see how that goes.

While I do play sports I don't exercise for sports. I don't do any training to build muscles in the right areas or other areas.  I think that needs to change if I want to a) continue to eek out a few more years and b) if I want to keep my back protected.  Doing yoga has really highlighted my limited flexibility - so bad with any back exercises.  So will need to do some exercises to really improve that from here on in.  Losing excess weight should help too.

Mind over matter from here on in.  Or should I say, mind over body and fight those excesses!

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Against the grain

Sometimes, things just don't go your way. 

Like when you leave the house at a particular time and see the bus pull away. 

But sometimes, these things don't come in a drizzle.  It will rain - and not the garden variety, but cats-and-dogs variety.

So you've missed the bus and have to wait 20mins for the next one.  Of course you had wanted to be early today.  Pulling out your phone, you realise that your phone battery has dies.  At which you point you rummage through your bag and there is no charger in there. Awesome. Then it starts raining. and you have not umbrella. What the....

There are times where I get the sense that some people are just lucky - and perhaps more lucky than me.  Like the guy who doesn't get wet as a bus brings up the gutter water onto the pedestrians, while everyone else is soaked.  Is it really just really good planning and foresight, I wonder?  Or am I just being superstitious?

Separately, reading books like "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell were certainly interesting - as a way to understand these outliers and the positive reinforcement select groups of individuals might have due to some circumstance which might be unrelated. While the reverse is also true for those who are not part of that group.  I subscribe to that view that sometimes, the situation which lands one in a particular position helps the next step but perhaps we need to be focused on where we are going more consciously and try to influence that sphere which we can influence and step into, thereby enhancing the opportunities to move forward. 

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Disaggregated purchase

Many moons ago, I had discussed some of my thoughts and experiences of shopping. How the world has evolved with changes in technology and taste. 
I had always liked to believe that I was not much of a spender, but I am sure like everyone else, the temptations are sometimes too great. 
Unfortunately, I like to research a lot as well and leads to a much deliberation - more so with whether I can live with the cons and see what other's user experience has been.

One of the more recent ones has been for suits.  While it still has it's place as a staple in some office environments, I always had a fascination with it when I was looking at photos or watching movies where the suit was a much more common attire. I had heard that going to the movies meant dressing in a suit, rather than jeans and a t-shirt!  The realisation is that I probably need to give up the comic t-shirts at some point in my life - and that time is drawing to be sooner - much sooner!

Of course one can buy off the rack, but unfortunately as we are all quite different, I have found off the rack suits rather difficult to fit well as it really depends on their "house" cut which ends up requiring many alterations.  This has led me down the path of tailoring - as I worry less about labels and more about fit.

My journey in tailoring only had started recently, and traced back to recommendation by a relative.  Also as I was growing up I had seen some of the tailors who went to people's office, which I had thought was very cool at the time!  So over the years I had built up and tried a few tailors and made a few suits.  Tailoring means that it suits your body shape at that time - and unfortunately I have not been able to keep my body shape size static.  My earlier commissions have been retired from service and they were cheaper and less well made in terms of detail, stitching and comfort, and cloth selection.    Over the years I learned (mainly through a friend) about the reasons for the pricing differences - and progressing from fused to full canvass, functioning jacket buttons (yes some jackets have sleeve buttons which don't actually open the jacket), different lapels, button stances, side tabs for pants, vent positioning,.... the list of details goes on, leading to a dazzling permutation of combinations to choose from, not to mention fabric choice.  

Unfortunately, after experiencing the positives of good tailors, cutters and fabrics, the decision to go back is a hard one, as the details would gnaw at me.  However, the cost of  this hobby has really only gone one way, so as one who loves a bargain I have been searching for other ways to get close to similar quality, without paying overs.  This has led me to trying to search for fabrics and take that directly to the tailors, finding cheaper tailors.  Of course this can lead to varying results but so far it has been fun, but time consuming, to say the least!  Travelling to various places to get things done, researching and building contacts - all of this takes a whole lot of time.  But the results can be quite satisfying as I slowly build up knowledge and experience in the area.  It's different to see a swatch of cloth, vs a bolt of cloth, and going to a building full of various tailors - my version of a kid in a candy store!  I'm not sure how much longer I can keep this up, given I have been quite time poor - but the experience is certainly has been pretty cool and hopefully the results get even better!


Saturday, 28 January 2017

Fire Rooster

Firstly, to all those who observe it - happy Chinese New Year! Welcome in the year of the Fire Rooster!

Another year has rolled by and though my post rate is up, it is still abysmal!  So room to improve I say!
Over the past two years, during Chinese New Year I have had to travel, which meant that I really did not get much of a chance to appreciate the festivities or really take a break.  However, it still has remained rather busy and hence there has not been much rest in the lead up to this time!  However, at least staying put has meant some less stress from the hectic travel.
Reflecting on the year, I tried to do better and remain focused, but it was quite challenging.  Taking the time out towards the end of the year was certainly refreshing and allowed me to get through one game which I had been looking forward to:  Uncharted 4:  A Thief's End.  On PS4. Which was awesome - firstly to be able to crack open the PS4; secondly to complete a game during the year; and of course finishing the series.  In a strange way, I was in two minds when I heard that this was the last in the series.  My initial thoughts were ones of disappointment in that a really good game franchise was actually finishing up, especially as I had played all of them and been on the adventures with the characters.  However, after deeper thinking, I realised that I had been lucky to play all of them and finished all of them.  In my (much) younger days, I certainly devoted much time to playing various games and was happy when I completed different games - Zelda I, II and III and a few in the Final Fantasy series - but I did find it difficult to keep up with the games across multi platforms, as much as I was fond of the series.  I was very engrossed in the Final Fantasy series, having played since around FFIV (Final Fantasy II for the US market). But somewhere after FFX, I seemed to have lost the urge - not to mention the gross misnomer.  I missed the PS One games, and had heard good things about FFVII, so perhaps once remastered, I will get a chance to play the version.
One game which I am currently torn in - The Last Guardian.  I played ICO and was immediately drawn to the puzzles and gameplay - and it did become a sleeper hit.  I also really enjoyed Shadow of the Colossus, with similar premise.  However the reviews have made me hesitate, but we shall see whether the urge to play it remain to be seen.  The discrete nature of the stories means there is less compunction to play.

This time of the year is also when one tries to make effort and makes resolutions.  Unfortunately, I have not had much success.  Firstly, I find it difficult to pin down one thing.  Secondly, I am not good at setting good goals.  It did put me to shame hearing others' resolutions and perhaps I need to put together a better list. An ambitious list (stretch targets) to keep me going.  Like finding good books to read.  Learning a new language (incl a programming language).  Finishing games.  Perhaps knowing what I want well help me set on the right path.

Well it is a interesting time of the year - with lots of horoscopes and predictions.  Having read mine, it did mention a few things to watch out for, so I will see how that pans out!