Dumplings

I’ve been reading a fascinating book called Dumplings: A Global History, which is part of a series of books aptly called Edible.

Like much of the history related to food, there aren’t always concrete sources to determine where a specific food originated. Oftentimes foods are “independently developed”.

That makes sense. After all, in software programming, if two people wanted to arrive at the same solution, there would likely be some similarities in the code, as well as different code that would function similarly.

In the case of dumplings, one of the main goals was to make a meal more filling at a low cost. Peasants might have made dumplings to feed their large families to stretch out the more difficult to obtain meat. Innkeepers might have used it to feed hungry guests a tasty and filling portion of food, while maximising profit.

Essentially, dumplings are some kind of mixed ingredient (either savoury or sweet) wrapped by or combined with some kind of carb. There’s a large number of variants from all over the world – from the Polish pierogi to the Italian ravioli to the Chinese jiaozi.

In the past, the dumpling ingredients used were usually what was available on-hand. In recent times though, with the reliability of global food transportation and more frequent international travel, dumpling ingredients aren’t limited anymore.

As eaters in this modern age, we’re privy to fascinating fusions and interesting interpretations. I once had cabbage dumplings in a lamb broth – a dumpling dish inspired by farikal (a Norwegian lamb and cabbage stew). My Asian tastebuds were very pleased.

I wish there was less talk of ownership over and authenticity of food. Imagine a world where all kinds of fresh ingredients were cooked with whatever techniques best brought out their flavours.

How magnificent would that be?

Calculus

One way to motivate myself to finish the tasks of the day is to have a reward ready. And my reward to myself for finishing my work is… yes, more work. 

These days, I find myself completing my tasks quickly so that I get to work on my cocktail app. It’s my current reward. 

The app slow-going but I’m enjoying the process. And I’m excited to see what it could be. 

I’ve told people that work is my hobby and this often elicits weird looks or statements like, “If it’s work it can’t be a hobby.”

But note how I say “work” instead of “job”. Because a lot of things are work — taking care of children (even if they’re your own), cutting the grass in your garden, doing the laundry. 

This is one of the reasons I’ve stopped taking on jobs that require coding or development of any sort. I wanted coding and building websites to be a hobby — things I do for myself. 

When I was in college, calculus was my hobby. There was something extremely relaxing about working out a math problem, solving a problem that definitely had a solution. 

In a world that has innumerable variables and indefinite outcomes, calculus was a safe place. 

In the same way, working on my app is a safe place. There’s a somewhat tangible end in sight and all I have to do, is figure out how to get there. 

Marvel

I watched Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse on Sunday night and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. When Ming first put the movie on, I was like meh but by the end of it, I was like wow!

In the last few years, I’ve found myself pretty out of it when it comes to superhero movies. In fact, when I watched Spiderman: Far From Home, I was shocked to discover that Iron Man was dead. 

I don’t remember him dying in The Infinity Gauntlet

As entertained as I am by the movies, whenever I think about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I don’t think, “What amazing movies!”

Instead, what goes through my head is, “Wow! Amazing content marketing.” 🤓

According to an article in Quartz, when the movies were first produced, the main goal was to “break even on productions and make money selling toys and other products tied to the films”.

Marvel chose Iron Man because in their group surveys, he was the toy that most of the children wanted to play with. 

“Marvel brought together groups of children, showed them pictures of its superheroes, and described their abilities and weapons. Then they asked kids which ones they would most like to play with as a toy. The overwhelming answer, to the surprise of many at Marvel, was Iron Man.”

Ben Fritz, The Big Picture: The Fight for the Future of Movies

Imagine this as a content marketer: You create content to sell a product and yes, you see product sales increase. And you also end up making tonnes more on that piece of content! 

Is that the dream or what? It’s really something to marvel at.

Admin

Administrative tasks are one of my most-hated things to do, mainly because they’re so dreary and take too much time. And yet, they’re so necessary. 

One of my solutions has been to hire someone to bear some of this load. However, there’s only so much they can do. And when it comes to optimisation of your life, you’re definitely more invested than they are. 

So when I came across an article about “payday activities”, I was curious.

According to Nina Semczuk, while she was serving in the army, soldiers were dismissed early once a month (after payday) to do things like settle bills, make payments etc. 

After Semczuk left the army, she began applying that same practice in her life but in a slightly different way.

She would block time and then use that time to do things like optimise her savings accounts, negotiate better rental rates, and following up on online shopping refunds. 

She suggests focusing on two things during these “payday activity sprints”: (1) money-related tasks that (2) can be accomplished during business hours. 

To start implementing payday activities, start by making a list. 

“Write down every action item you want to address,” she writes. 

“Maybe you want to research what credit card would get you the most points for your spending habits… Perhaps you want to review your grocery budget and purchases to see if it would make sense to set up automatic deliveries.”

And then, schedule a block of time to do those things. 

I’ll probably give this a try at some point. There are heaps of things I’d like to optimise. 

Advice

“…it is not necessary to accept the choices handed down to you by life as you know it. There is more to it than that— no one HAS to do something he doesn’t want to do for the rest of his life.”

Those are some of the last lines in a letter Hunter S. Thompson wrote to his friend Hume Logan, who had asked for some life advice. 

The gist of the letter is that there is no single “right” goal. 

Thompson writes about how when we set goals, “we seek to understand the goal and not the man”, which means to say that as we grow and change, we see the goals we have set in a new light. 

And instead of shifting the goal, we force ourselves to stay on the same path, heading towards a goal that we may or may not desire any longer. 

Thompson writes, “…it would seem foolish, would it not, to adjust our lives to the demands of a goal we see from a different angle every day?”

“We must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal,” he continues.

He comes up with a kind of formula for life ie. “A man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES.”

Rather than living one’s life with the sole purpose of reaching a “pre-defined goal”, Thompson suggests choosing a way of life you know you will enjoy.

Although the letter was written in 1958, I think the advice still applies today. 

No code

I’ve been coding every day for the last few days and it’s become another way for my brain to stretch. I’ve written code on and off since I was 16 (mostly frontend) and delved into web app development in 2015. 

But for the past couple of years, in terms of work, I’ve avoided coding as much as I can. There are easier ways to do it, I tell myself. 

Ryan Hoover writes in his article The Rise of “No Code” that although there may be tradeoffs, “it’s inevitable that more products will be built — or at least MVP’d — without writing code, including by programmers that can code”.

I personally love no code tools. I use them for apps that are meant for my use only. I have a podcast app where I line up podcasts to listen to, as well as save those that I want to listen to again and again.

I use one for my email newsletter on cocktails. I use one for my podcast — Ledes (on break). I use it for my e-commerce stores. 

I use no code for this blog because I wanted to focus on writing, not coding.

At some point though, no code tools can only do so much. You pay for them in other forms — lack of flexibility, with money, possibly a compromise on ownership. 

But when you want to start small, move fast, focus on priorities, no code tools are amazing. 

Newbie

There’s so much joy in being an utter newbie, being thrown into a real life situation where you’re required to learn and adapt as fast as you can.

Over and over again, I’ve found myself in these situations and I’ve begun to think that I do this to myself on purpose. Because I love that feeling of being a blank slate being written over.

You learn so many bad habits if you work in a single field for too long. You stop challenging yourself because our brains were wired to keep us lazy.

In the past, when everything humans ate had to be hunted or gathered, staying efficient was a good thing. But today, when all we have to do to eat is pick up a phone, laziness is not always efficiency.

I love going from zero to competent, and then if I’m still interested, to expert. And then going further.

In the past few months, working at the bar has been that for me. I’ve gone from being able to carry one glass per hand to carrying a tray full of glasses, comfortably, balancing it on my palm like I’m supposed to.

I’ve gone from having to look up recipes every time I make a drink to being able to make five different cocktails at one go without referring to anything. I’m still slow, but I can feel my brain stretching in a way that I’ve become familiar with now.

I see how much more I have to learn and I feel elated.