Goal Setting

Past Year Review 2019

pyr 2019
“PYR 2019” by Leon Chan

I do a past year review instead of setting resolutions at the start of a new year. For this review, I look over last year’s events and note the most positive and negative ones. I am adding a wrinkle to this year’s review by also examining my purchases, as suggested by Tim Ferriss.


Weddings – As I get older, more of my friends are hitting life milestones. I’m grateful to be included in these events and share unforgettable moments with them. I was involved in the weddings of two of my closest friends this past year. I had an amazing time celebrating with great food, alcohol, and company.

Travel – I traveled to two different countries this past year. I went to Vancouver in January for a bachelor party. I learned how to snowboard well enough to make it down the slopes without bruises on my butt.

I also visited Japan for 2 weeks during the fall. I ate incredible sushi, relaxed in an onsen, and experienced Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Japan.

Restaurants – My two favorite meals this year were at Sushi Chiharu and Paris.Hawaii. The service, food, and atmosphere at Sushi Chiharu, located in Osaka, was fantastic. I’ve ghost written more about my experience there on Yelp.

Paris.Hawaii provided a wonderful French and Japanese dinner. I got to learn more about wine from their sommelier throughout the meal. This opened my taste buds and deepened my appreciation for food and wine.

Reoccurring Events – Outside of special trips, food, and events, I enjoyed regularly scheduled time with friends and family. I stuffed my face with my mom’s home cooked meals every Wednesday night. After dinner, I head over to my friend’s house to get my butt kicked in Smash Brothers Ultimate. On Sunday mornings in the fall, I watched NFL Red Zone while munching on pancakes and omelettes. I experienced the thrills and let downs at our weekly Game of Thrones and Big Little Lies watch parties.

Appliances – A new washer and dryer made laundry less of a chore. That in itself was worth the price alone. Cleaner and longer lasting clothes is an added bonus.

Household items – A 2nd pair of glasses, parking rental, and an extra phone charger made my life more convenient at my girlfriend’s place. I no longer go blind or have a dead cell phone if I forgot something at home. I also sleep better knowing my car won’t be splattered with bird droppings overnight.

Learning tools – The Fluent Forever trainers and Anki mobile app were great investments. These two tools made it easy to stay on course with my Japanese studies. The Getting Things Done Trello Guide has also been a great purchase. The single page on Weekly Reviews was worth of the price of the entire document.


Website/Writing – My website was hacked during the middle of the year. This was due to outdated plugins and inactivity. I had to contact customer support, get rid of the malicious code, and recover backups. It took over two weeks to get my site up and running.

I realized that I haven’t written anything in the past year. I abandoned my writing and felt guilty for it.

Lowe’s Delivery – It took over two months to get the washer and dryer in my home. The delivery was pushed back a handful of times. When it finally arrived, the dryer was dented and had to be sent back. I was annoyed with the numerous phone calls and scheduling coordination.

Work – I was given the construction administration (CA) duties of a new high rise building this past year. CA involves a never ending list of tasks, especially at the start of construction. There are drawings to review, questions to answer, and meetings to attend. These tasks can easily eat up half my work day.

With the other half of my day, I’m wrapping up other project with approaching deadlines. Juggling these conflicting priorities strained my attention and stressed me out.

DIY – After two years, I realized the noise coming from my bathroom was caused by a slow leak in the toilet. I spent hours researching the problem and the do-it-yourself fixes. Then I bought the replacement parts and tools. I tried three separate times to fix it myself but it still leaks. I am frustrated for spending all that time and money only to end up with the same result.

Travel Logistics – My girlfriend and I stayed at five different places across four different cities during our Japan trip. We brought 4 medium suitcases with us. So the transportation and luggage logistics were a handful. We had to spend time on our vacation coordinating the luggage delivery and train times instead of enjoying ourselves.

Lanai Garden – I spent hundreds of dollars and countless hours cultivating my garden. At the end of the day, I didn’t care too much about the vegetables or herbs. I used the basil once for pesto. The rest of the tomatoes and eggplants were thrown out. My other herbs, such as oregano and green onions, didn’t last more than a couple of weeks.


Dinners – The best part about the watch parties were getting together and sharing a meal with friends. I plan to imitate that experience by making time for dinner parties with friends every month.

Travel – I would like to stay in a luxury hotel for a couple of nights during my next trip. I stayed at a ryokan for a night during my time in Sapporo. It was great way to recharge during a long trip. I also want to limit myself to just one event per day to prevent vacation burn out.

Learning – Love of learning is one of my top character strengths and I plan to foster it more this year. I want to attend a class, activity, or event every month. I also plan to set aside more money for learning, whether that be classes, online courses, or books.

Writing – I plan to write at least twice a month this year. Those who have been following the site might have noticed that new posts are starting to trickle in. I’ll set up a Beeminder with penalties for not meeting my “deadlines.”

Spending – I want to spend less time debating purchases that are $25 or less. Some of these items have a huge impact on my life. This will help me save my time and energy for other decisions.

Similarly, I plan to pay professionals instead of doing it myself, especially if the cost is lower than my personal rate. I also plan to stop spending money and time on gardening since it doesn’t matter that much to me as a hobby.

Overall 2019 was a good year, the positive moments outweighed and outnumbered the negative ones. I am hoping that the plans in place for 2020 will make it another enjoyable year.


Mountain Bull

bull mountain
“Bull Mountain” by Leon Chan

This week’s links are all reads and fairly lengthy ones at that. It’s an eclectic collection with themes dealing with death, social expectations, and the art of making milk tea. As always, the common thread is that these stories were ones I’ve found fascinating and wanted to share.

What I’ve Read:

The Bull on the Mountain | The New York Review of Books – The late Oliver Sacks pens this wonderful story about hiking along a mountain in Norway. It’s one of those pieces that made me fall in love with reading again. I absolutely enjoyed every word from beginning to end, especially his meditations on death towards the end of the story.

I’m in my 40s, child-free, and happy. Why won’t anyone believe me? | The Seattle Times – Wonderful piece from a female author in her 40’s about being single and enjoying it. I love the way she redefines the metrics of a fulfilling life. She has many close relationships with her family, friends, and their children. She also has the freedom to travel and do what she wants without anything tying her down. But most of all, I admire her ability to shut out the outside voices and focus on her own definitions of a good life.

How Hong Kong-style milk tea became part of local culture | South China Morning Post – I’m not sure how I came across this article, it was buried in the middle of my Pocket list. But I’m glad I dug it up because I got to learn more about my mother land and one of my favorite drinks. I’ve been wanting to visit Hong Kong again to see my dad’s side of family, especially my ever aging grandma. So this might be the nudge I needed to finally book a ticket after six years of being away. I can’t wait to wake up every morning to a steaming cup of Hong Kong milk tea.


From Water to Wine… to Smoothies?

“Drinks” by Leon Chan

We’re back to our regularly scheduled writing this week after going out of the box the last two weeks. My favorite thing about the NBA is obviously the game of basketball itself. I love watching high stakes playoff games, where a miss or make determines the team’s entire season. A close second is the culture surrounding the NBA. I enjoy reading the petty comments players make, looking at all the memes that come from Reddit and Twitter, and learning about how these world class athletes take care of their bodies. Last year, I shared a story about the NBA’s love of PB&J. It seems that story caught fire because more articles have been featuring the relationship between the NBA and food.

What I Read:

The NBA’s Secret Wine Society| ESPN The Magazine – This story takes an esoteric look into the culture within the NBA culture. I’m not a huge wine drinker myself but reading this article made me download the app Vivino. I appreciate the deep thought and knowledge that NBA players take into the wine world. Their obsessive and competitive instincts seem perfectly in line with what it takes to become a wine aficionado.

The Bottled Water Obsession Taking over NBA Locker Rooms | Bleacher Report – We go from what the players drink when they unwind to what they drink when they are on the court. I don’t personally believe the hype that alkaline water is significantly better than any other water. But then again, these athletes are looking for any edge they can get. And as the article states, the best benefit might just be the placebo effect.

Looking at this from a wider perspective, I’m glad that NBA players are pushing water over soda and other sugary drinks. There are millions of kids around the world that watch these games and admire these players. If they learn that their favorite players prefer to drink water over soda, they might do the same. This leads to healthier children and better overall human health. I might be overly optimistic but I’d like to think that the NBA makes a wider impact on the world than just a form of entertainment.

Rajon Rondo’s Secret Stuff | The Ringer – This article came out right around the first round of the playoffs, when Rajon Rondo’s team swept their opponents. All the NBA talking heads were praising “Playoff Rondo” and his ability to weave incredible passes to his teammates. Could it be because of the smoothies and change in diet? Unfortunately, his team ran into the defending champions in the second round and got bounced in five games. So maybe not?

What I Heard:

Rom-Com | This American Life – This year’s Valentine’s Day episode of This American Life centers around the typical plot development of a romantic comedy. There’s the meet cute, the run, and some happily ever afters. I thought the overall theme of the episode was exceptionally clever. The stories themselves are also terrific and I can see why they were chosen to be included in this episode.


Baby Steps

“Steps” by Leon Chan

This week, I have an article, movie, and website to share. I haven’t shared a website before on my weekly updates. However, I’ve been using the backgrounds from Quotefancy on both my personal laptop and desktop for a couple of weeks now. I think it’s subtly making a difference in my productivity and wanted to share it with my readers.

What I’ve Read:

How Fiber Helps You Lose Weight | The Atlantic – This articles dives into the benefits of adding more dietary fiber into eating habits. It states, with scientific research, that fiber leads to weight loss, lower body fat, and other positives. I always feel like I’m not getting enough vegetables and this article fuels that concern. I enjoyed the author’s numerous attempts at naming the fiber dedicated month, my vote would goes toward Pooptober.

What I’ve Watched:

Baby Driver – I actually rented this movie twice, it was free both times thanks to T-Mobile Tuesday. It wasn’t that I wanted to watch the movie more than once, I just forgot about the movie and it expired after 30 days. Overall, I thought it was good a movie albeit with a lackluster ending. It was a fun heist movie that made its almost two hour run time fly by.

What I’ve Discovered:

Quotefancy – This is a website that basically overlays famous sayings over breathtaking backdrops. My current favorite is a quote by Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” It inspires me to take action rather than just sitting back and grumbling. Having said that, the changes that I wished to see are a lot closer to home than big worldly endeavors like world peace. For instance, I was tried of looking at the unopened boxes in the 2nd bedroom. Instead of complaining to my girlfriend, I decided to unpack the ones that had my things in it. Baby steps right?


Exams and Playoffs

“PB&J” by Leon Chan

I’ve been tied down with studying for the SE Exam (again) since the beginning of 2017, hence the lack of activity on the website. The test was last weekend and I’m finally free pending the test results. Hopefully I passed this time and will have time to consistently write.

Anyways, we are now officially in the 2nd round of the NBA playoffs with the Clippers-Jazz series ending today. To share in my obsession of all things basketball, this week features two articles about the culture and business of the league.

What I’ve Read:

The NBA’s Secret Addiction | ESPN – Almost every morning for breakfast, I slather a generous amount of peanut butter between two slices of square wheat bread. Little did I know, I was performing a pre-game routine found in a growing number of NBA locker rooms. This fascinating article investigates the history of a PB&J “addiction” and shares the preferences of some of the NBA’s biggest stars.

Away Game: Inside the Dallas Mavericks’ Pivot to China – Whenever athletes get traded unexpectedly, they always throw out the cliche, “the NBA is a business.” Well, this piece actually gets into one aspect of the NBA business, social media and fan interactions. I enjoyed the profile on Ryan Kline and the in-depth look into how the Mavs are winning over fans from China.


Ode To Japan

“Fuzzy” by Leon Chan

This week’s reads all connect back to Japan. It was’t exactly intentional but having Japan pop up in the headline summaries might have made me more inclined to open the link.

What I’ve Read:

An Ode to The Rice Cooker, The Smartest Kitchen Appliance I’ve Ever Owned | FiveThirtyEight – I’ve been visiting FiveThirtyEight more frequently as the US primary election rolls on; I find their analytical approach to the elections a good alternative to the cable networks. On one of my recent visits, I stumbled upon this article on the sidebar. The author does an excellent job infusing information along with the personal narrative.

The Perfect Fit | The New Yorker – David Sedaris’ short stories are some of my favorite things to read; the wit, pace, and zany details always combine for an engrossing tale. In his latest essay, Mr. Sedaris recalls his latest family vacation Japan. Just like his past stories, this one doesn’t disappoint and grabbed me from the first paragraph.



“Gone” by Leon Chan

Some of my readers might have noticed that I haven’t written an update in over two weeks. There was a deadline at work over those two weeks, which made me incredibly lazy during my usual writing hours. I was also feeling a little depressed from not hitting my personal goals, like reading x number of books or publishing essays in a timely manner. However, the deadlines are over and I’ve been rejuvenated by this TED talk from Shonda Rhimes. So I’m back and hopefully more productive.

What I’ve Read:

Liar’s Poker | Michael Lewis – I finished this book about investment banking in the 1980’s over the weekend and thought it was a good read overall. The book reads like a memoir because it mostly follows the personal events of the author. I liked the writing style and found the story compelling; I also learned quite a bit about bonds, stocks, and how the markets work.

How To Talk To Girl’s At Parties | Neil Gaiman – The title is a little misleading because the story is not just about talking to girls. However, the title was compelling enough to make me click the link in the first place. I enjoyed the short story and it’s subtle hints.

What I’ve Been Watching:

Cooked | Netflix – This documentary series from Michael Pollin explores the different ways we transform food. The series focuses on four main ways to cook food, themed to match the fours elements: fire, water, air, and earth. I admired the exploration of different cultures and their uses of these elements in their cooking.


Escaping the Echo Chamber

echo chamber
“Echo Chamber” by Leon Chan

This week’s links contain two short pieces from a couple of websites I don’t normally visit. I got a hold of these stories through recommendations from my usual sources of internet reading. I appreciate hearing different voices and escaping the echo chamber.

What I’ve Read:

Always and Never | Whatever – Sci-Fi author, John Scalzi, pens this response to a question about financial security. His answer is funny, insightful, and could be applied to many middle class  families. I like that he takes into account the uncertainties and fortunes of life in his reply.

Smells the Same | Lucky Peach – This short personal memoir details life during the heyday of Fulton Fish Market in New York City. I enjoyed the format of this essay; the printed pages imitate a college essay with pictures and captions scattered along the sides. I also wish I could sketch like author and end my writings with a similar flair.


The Plural of Anecdote is Not Data

Anecdote Not Data
“Anecdote Not Data” by Leon Chan

Not much of an introduction this week, the articles are insightful and informational while the video clip is pure entertainment (and a very good one at that). I guess that’s what I usually expect from those respective media forms and delivered them this week as such.

What I’ve Read:

Has Tinder Really Sparked a Dating Apocalypse? | The Science of Us – I like to read pieces about “millennial” culture, maybe I’m as narcissistic as everyone believes my generation to be, and I thought this was another one of those. But after reading through the piece, I was pleasantly surprised to learn this essay was more about scientific findings. My main takeaway form the piece is “the plural of anecdote is not data.” I have a tendency to extrapolate stories I hear from friends to “what everyone must be doing.” However, this article shows that I should probably reexamine that line of thinking.

Asian Essentials for Easy Weeknight Meals | NYTimes – I’ve been following the regimen outlined in The 4 Hour Body by Tim Ferriss in an attempt to bulk up. One of the prescriptions from the book is to eat the same meals throughout the week. This essay came at the right time as it added variety to an otherwise boring meal. Being Asian, I already had some of the essentials and tried the sauce for salmon last night. My dinner turned out better than expected and I can’t wait to to try some of the other recipes.

What I’ve Watched:

Sesame Street: Game of Chairs (Game of Thrones Parody) | YouTube – Who says that Sesame Street is just for kids? This delightful, comical, and slightly educational video is a gem. I loved the numerous references to Game of Thrones and the playful nature of the skit. Definitely worth the five minutes for any fan of Westeros.


Economy of Language

Economy of Language
“Economy of Language” by Leon Chan

I was obsessed with daily fantasy football this past week and did not have much time to read. However, all the articles I did read were short and sweet. The economy of language inspired me to keep the words to a minimum this week (and also gives me more time to focus on building on lineups).

What I’ve Read

The Myth of Quality Time | NYTimes – This is a short but thoughtful essay on time spent with loved ones. The writer wraps his point around a well-told personal story. I can relate to those seemingly random moments when someone shares their thoughts with you. Those moments happen, as the writer states, seemingly meaningless time together and can’t be forced.

How Syrians Are Dying | NYTimes – I have to embarrassingly admit I have not been keeping up with world news. This past week I read headlines about the European migrant crisis but did not have a clue to its cause and history. This multimedia piece by the New York Times brought me up to speed with its simple yet poignant graphics.

What I’ve Watched

The Search For General Tso | Netflix – I was browsing Netflix late Saturday night and came across this documentary, which was recommended in an article on a previous Thoughts post. I was intrigued to learn about Chinese immigrant history and culture through the lens of food, specifically Americanized Chinese food. On a side note, the movie made me crave Orange Chicken from Panda Express with its various close ups of fried chicken.