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Comfort food is a fabulous term.  It is broad enough to let each of us define what it is according to our personal tastes and experiences, while at the same time graphic enough to depict the cause as well as the result, i.e., a desire of comfortness.

It’s the choice where you keep returning to even if you have the luxury to consume the most exquisite and exotic cuisines of the world.  It’s one of those nights when you just don’t want to dress up for fancy restaurants and pretentious table manners after a long hard week of work and traveling.  It’s not only the food itself, but also the state of mind that you have attached to the pursuit and consumption of such.  It’s a beautiful and satisfying craving, along with soothing emotional thoughts.

It’s highly individualized, though one can generally find some consensus choices in each culture.  Evidently, a lot of these choices involve sugar, candies, desserts, foods that are deep-fried and filling, or generally anything with strong salt and flavoring that tickles our taste buds.   And why is that?  It’s the kind of food which we craved for when we were young, often prohibited by our parents, and at the time when healthy eating wasn’t the tiniest bit of our concerns.

Eating is one of our most primary sensory forms aside from the obvious need to stay alive.  Aside from the taste and texture of what we put into our mouths, the state of mind around us at the time is a compelling memory.  The steamy soothing bowl of noodles at 4am in my dormitory room has created a lasting impression on – you know what – instant noodles.  I remember my days abroad in a cold lonely night with my books and the tiniest black and white TV, and an empty stomach resulted from unheard of supper times of 5pm.  That remains to be my comfort food until today.  It’s actually my “friend” then.  It’s where I was, what I was doing, and how I was feeling at the time of consumption that makes it my personal choice.

Comfort food is like music.  You love certain oldies because it reminds you of whom you were loving and accompanying at the time.  The scene immediately pops into your head.  You feel the heartache, the tears, the joy, and the simpler times.  We love our mothers’ cooking because it’s familiar, it’s warm, and its unconditional love even though we know it may not be the most delicious or sophisticated cooking we have tried.  Regardless, we still engulf our moms’ cooking, with tiny tears in our eyes and like there is no tomorrow, because it comforts us.

That’s the reason why despite the tens of thousands of exotic and sophisticated eateries in the city, there are still smaller players that continue to provide simpler and fulfilling comfort foods to those in need.  Selling comfort food is like selling warmth and memories.  If there is a place where I can visit and recapture my youthful experiences and dreams, they have secured my wallet.

For now, that place is called home.  My Mom’s home.

For the first 100 pages, I was imagining I was Christian Grey.  I immediately changed my mind after that and starting from around page 300, I found myself losing patience and skimming toward the end.  If not without a few daily interruptions in the past week,  I would have finished this worldwide bestseller in less than 3 days.  And no, even though I already have them on my iPad, I don’t think I’m going to continue to parts 2 and 3.

Yes, I’m talking about the renowned Fifty Shades Trilogy that has recently taken the world by storm.  The first part is Fifty Shades of Grey, followed by Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed as the grand finale.  I first heard about it from the Today Show one morning, and recently encouraged by a friend to give it a go.  I was eager to join the 40 million (and fastly growing) readers in finding out what the fuss is all about with this literary sensation that has swept past the Harry Porter series in terms of sales and popularity.

I’m positive that the essence of erotica lies in the imagination.  Everyone got something different out of fictional characters, and there simply isn’t an absolute right or wrong of whether the novel works or not.  At least, it saves you from a world of stress and headaches and transports you into a heaven of fantasies, 500 pages or so.  With that, there is only one single story line which even an 8-year old would follow.  Although this is not exactly the kind of reading material you would share with an 8-year old.

There was some suspense when the NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) was out, and believe me I will never look at the NDA in the same way, at work, from now on. (Oh and don’t forget my “soft and hard limits”.  I will surely use them in my next negotiation at work.)  What is this dreamy, rich, handsome, charismatic, tasteful, young, hunky, “cocky”, self-made CEO with a heart to save the world from hunger is hiding from Anastasia?  Well once you find out Fifty Shades of Grey is actually 50 Ways to Play, the hype is quickly over.

I believe the fascination lies on the unthinkable, or a side which not many of us have crossed.  Like what some have mentioned, little did I know that I have been living such a vanilla life.  I seriously think sales at hardware stores around town would surge, and I can certainly see product placements appearing in the rumored movie version of the trilogy.  Yet that hype (and high) passes quickly as you read on, and soon you will be faced with 300 more pages of a highly repetitious story line of “should I?” and “should I not?” revelations.

Indeed.  The book has 79 “Oh My…!”, 82 “Jeez…” and 101 “Crap!”.  I thought Ana could only bite her lip and Christian cocks his head from side to side at all times.  Because the attraction is almost purely sexual in nature, there isn’t any emotional element to draw me to the end, undisturbed.  Yes I know you wouldn’t expect a literary masterpiece from erotica, but it certainly can be more varied and sophisticated in terms of the writing.  I know the following 2 parts will continue to unveil the 50 shades of Mr. Grey in probably a psychological manner, sadly I don’t care anymore as the main characters look a bit silly and stupid to me.

If you ask me the writing has pretty much taken away the excitement, or kinkiness, away from the book.  Nevertheless, the fact that the trilogy has captivated so many women around the world proves that there are so many of us who are dissatisfied with our sex lives, or to put it a bit mildly, way too vanilla.  It certainly is a topic worth studying.  I recently have the same sentiment when I witness the thousands of ecstatic women and men screaming at the 60 hunky, chiseled, 6-packed, jaw-dropping handsome, 6-feet-2 shirtless models staging outside the new Abercrombie & Fitch store in Central.  Yes, we all need a piece of fantasy every now and then.  And yes, sex always sells.

I really don’t know why people are STILL complaining about their jobs being outsourced.  Yes, the obvious drawbacks are possibilities of wage deflation, losses of luxurious corporate benefits, absence of job security, and absolute increase in work pressure and workplace efficiencies.  Plus, most of us complain about the degradation of service levels as well as increased costs in inter-partner bureaucracies and training.

I wrote last year about the irreversible trends of corporate outsourcing, and they are only getting more popular.  My arguments are that even if you are fortunate enough to still be employed by the big corporates, none of the so-called solid benefits are going to last forever.  You don’t have job security, your bonuses are increasingly tied to the ever-rising or unattainable goals.  The company is talking about a “review” of your pension plan, and human resources just broke the news that rising health care premiums are driving their need to reduce medical coverage gradually over the next few years.

Unless you are at the so-called top of the food chain, and making huge revenue for the company directly, chances are, no one is immune.  The world is a flat economy, and cheaper labor around us are certainly going to “steal” our jobs, whether we like it or not.  Instead of complaining, we really need to step up our game by finding out what makes us either irreplaceable, or what’s unique in our problem solving approaches.

If you are real worried about your life at an outsourced company, hear it from me, your days are already numbered at your current one.

Life is hard, and people pay you because you have the ability to handle head-scratching problems, and very often ahead of its time.  Money is not going to fall from the skies and working models are evolving every second.  So get over it, stop reminiscing, and grow a pair.

 

Ever since I started posting pictures of some of my fruity smoothies on my Facebook page, some of my friends have been curiously asking me questions over the apparently weird contents of my daily regimen.  “Is it nasty?”,Does it kill you?” are amongst the many questions I have answered a number of times.  Perhaps there’s no better place than here on my own blog where I can lay out all the answers of these frequently asked questions.  Alright, let’s fire it up, and go!

Why Do You Do It?

All of us know about the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables, but I feel that I have not been eating the required amounts in my diet.  My occasional fruit intake is never going to deliver the healing effects they promise with such scarce quantities.  Vegetables are often cooked with oil and sauces and despite its fiber content, most of its nutrients are already gone by the time they are served on a plate.  Salads are rather expensive, and you probably get less than 500 grams of greens from one standard serving.  I feel that I need a solution that can give me the most benefits of fruits and vegetables in a tasty and efficient manner.

Why Don’t You Just Eat The Fruits And Vegetables Directly?

Good idea, but not all phytonutrients can be absorbed by our body purely by chewing and normal digestion.  With the use of a high-speed (35,000 rpm & above – revolutions per minute) food processor/blender, fruits and vegetables are chopped and ground into fine angstrom units that are perfect for phytonutrients to enter into our body cells.  In other words, blended juice is much easier to be digested and absorbed by our bodies.   Due to the high-speed motor itself, juices from these high-speed blenders are around 39 degrees celsius which can trigger the enzymes and magnify the phytonutrients in three folds.  Nutritional value of the juices will deteriorate above 39 degrees.  Lastly, the skin, seeds and core of fruits have the highest level of phytonutrients, though they are often discarded when we consume them in solid form.  With a high-speed blender, we are not wasting any single bit of these fruits and vegetables.

What Are Phytonutrients?

Phytonutrients exist in all fruits and vegetables and they help our bodies fight cancers and all kinds of diseases.   They are extremely effective in healing our bodies without the need for modern medication.  There are many types of phytonutrients depending on what fruits and vegetables you are getting.  Thus, it is always beneficial to include as many varieties as possible in our daily diet.  My earlier post 15 Healthy Foods You Cannot Afford to Miss covers these necessities in more detail.

I Have A Juicer.  Is That The Same Thing?

There has always been debates about whether a juicer is better than a blender, or the other way around.  I think it’s definitely up to your personal taste.  To begin with, either one is going to do you wonders when compared to eating cooked vegetables or fruits in small amount.  A juicer works without the need of adding water, and you get a perfectly smooth beverage every time.  However, I think it eliminates our access of the most natural dietary fiber, let alone seeds, core and skin.  I don’t want to just drink sugary juice.  With my blender, there is nothing to clean except a simple rinse under running water since the whole fruit is ground into liquid form with the addition of water to facilitate the grinding process.  I have wasted nothing.  Needless to say, blended smoothies are going to be thicker than the watery form of pure juices.  Yet you can control its thickness by adjusting your fruit/water content.  The more water you are adding, the lighter the texture.  You get the same level of goodness as long as you finish the whole thing.  Hence, you can tell that I am more of a fan of the high-speed blender than a juicer.

Can I Use Any Blender With Speed Lower Than 35,000 rpm?

Your stomach will have to do more work to digest the veggies if they aren’t ground fine enough.  You risk yourself stomach ulcer that way.   You may not be realizing the true benefits of all the nutrients.  The texture is going to be super thick if you put in a lot of goodies, and also you will end up spending more time in the kitchen cutting and dicing fruits before the blender can operate.  All in all, not worth it.  Better invest in a good tool if you want to do it right once and for all.

What Fruits And Vegetables Do You Blend On A Daily Basis?

As I mentioned, I prefer the concept of varieties and balance.  I like stocking my refrigerator with around 10 different fruits and vegetables on a daily basis.  It’s easy to google the benefits and nutritional value of each fruit as you like, and my article above highlights the 15 super foods that I often incorporate as well.  Lately, my must-have items include carrots, tomatoes, green beans, ginger, apples, pears, cucumbers, grapes, grapefruit, kiwi, beet root, broccoli, cabbages, black sesame and black soybean powder, flax seeds and cranberry mix, and wolfberries.  The beautiful thing is that you can create your own mix according to your personal liking.  I usually go down to the supermarkets and sample what’s in season.  You really can’t lose with that.

It Looks Overwhelming.  How Does It Taste?

Again, you know what each of these fruits and vegetables tastes like, so you already will have an idea as to the sweetness and sourness levels of your ingredients.  I like to balance my tastes with the sweetness of grapes and apples and mix it with grapefruit and one or two vegetables for a fresh and layered taste.  I first started with fruits only and it can ONLY taste good.  I then figured that I wanted an even more balanced diet and started adding more greens to my mix which may not be to your liking.  If that’s the case, just skip the greens and blend it some other time.  Also, you don’t need to pack as much like me.  Less ingredients with slightly more water will ensure a lighter smoothie which will be easier for beginners to adapt.  Use the natural flavor of your ingredients to adjust the taste.  Or simply stick to one fruit only as you can never go wrong with that.  You don’t need sugar or honey at all.

How Much Of It Do You Need?

It’s up to you really unless you are aiming to reverse particular symptoms, which you can easily google the various recipes online.  As normal supplements, you probably need no more than half to one litre a day, since you can keep it in your refrigerator for up to 24 hours.  As I replace my breakfasts and sometimes even lunches with my smoothies, I go all out by filling up my tank with goodies for a 2-litre mix.  I take half of it in the morning when it’s freshest, and leave the other half for the rest of my day.  Whatever left in the fridge will grow slightly thicker over the cold so the earlier you finish it the better.  Do not store it over 24 hours as it will go bad since there are absolutely no preservatives added.

What Benefits Have You Personally Experienced From It?

I’m not a medical doctor, and I have not taken physical examinations since then so I cannot provide scientific evidence here.  However as a fact, I feel that I have a lot of energy even if I replace some of my meals with my veggies mix.  The fibre keeps me full, and the smoothies are very easy to digest unlike regular meals with meats and processed foods.  You will not have any constipation problems whatsoever, and you will feel your body cleansed and detoxed.  My skin is better and brighter, as if the natural antioxidants are doing its magic.  All in all, I can’t say for sure whether this is all psychological only, but again I can’t think it will be harmful to me as well.

Is This Expensive?

Not at all.  I shop all of my ingredients from local supermarkets and they are imported from all over the world including China, United States, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Taiwan.  I have done a rough estimate that my daily mix (2-litre) costs no more than HK$35 a pop.  That’s cheaper than a Starbucks coffee, and almost the cost of breakfast in the city.  Some fruits like strawberries and blueberries will certainly cost a bit more, but you don’t need them on a daily basis.  I think this is one of the lowest cost healthy solution in the market.  Of course, this is unless you decide to pick organic fruits and vegetables.  I am sure they are so much better as they are free from pesticides and genetically engineered processes, but since they can easily cost up to 10 times higher, so far I have not been switching to organic just yet.

In terms of the blender, there are a few options in the market.  I don’t intend to promote any particular brands in this space as they each have their pros and cons.  Leave me a message if you are interested and I shall be happy to share some of my thoughts.  If you blend as often as myself, the daily cost of the blender is negligible.

What Do I Need To Watch Out For?

Check your allergies – Needless to say, you know yourself best, so stay away from suspicious foods instead of being overly adventurous.

Beware of pesticides – For vegetables and fruits which you won’t be skinning, soak them thoroughly in running water before putting them in the blender.  I know there are risks as with anything these days, but luckily for the 2 years I have taken this up so far, I have not had any problems with fruits and raw vegetables even if they are grown in China.

Time – No I’m not talking about blending.  In fact the preparation time is quite minimal, usually within 30 minutes which includes all the washing, cutting, blending and cleaning up.  The key is getting fresh ingredients if you want to maintain this as your daily regimen.  You can’t stock up too much since the ingredients are all perishable and they lose their nutritional value quickly.  I almost shop every other day, sometimes even daily since I blend a lot.  That’s why you need to assess whether it will be easy for you to find produce on a regular basis.  If not, reduce the frequency to a manageable level.  If you find it too time consuming or troublesome solely for the sourcing of your ingredients, I would advise you to drop the idea entirely.  You will not be able to keep this up.  So save the hassle and money of buying a blender.

Picking a blender – This topic will be taken offline but I just want to say that aside from functionalities and all, you need to find something that requires the minimum effort of cleaning.  As mentioned, if you need to spend 15 minutes cleaning up parts and filters and caps every day after usage, you will lose your drive altogether.  Furthermore, if you have other cooking ideas in mind, pick the right blender as some can whip up puree, sauces and even desserts like mine.  I once whipped up a hot ginger soup for myself that ended my months-long dry cough after only 2 days of serving.

Leave me other questions if you have any.  I am excited to share your experienes, anytime.  Happy blending!

On NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams opened the story of Nora Ephron’s passing as someone who is necessary, indispensable and probably irreplaceable. Filmmaker, screenwriter, humorist and journalist, Nora died this Tuesday at 71 years old. She was both incredibly pointed and funny. Over night, the internet is flooded with her amazing quotes from her books and movies. With that, I am sharing Amy Odell’s compilation of Nora’s most famous quotes on buzzfeed.com.

On Love

1. “I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”— Harry, When Harry Met Sally

2. “Well, it was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together… and I knew it. I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming home… only to no home I’d ever known… I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car and I knew. It was like… magic.”— Sam, Sleepless in Seattle

3. “Sometimes I believe that some people are better at love than others, and sometimes I believe that everyone is faking it.”

4. “Beware of men who cry. It’s true that men who cry are sensitive to and in touch with feelings, but the only feelings they tend to be sensitive to and in touch with are their own.”

On Divorce

5. “The desire to get married is a basic and primal instinct in women. It’s followed by another basic and primal instinct: the desire to be single again.”

6. “Never marry a man you wouldn’t want to be divorced from.”

7. “The divorce has lasted way longer than the marriage, but finally it’s over. Enough about that.The point is that for a long time, the fact that I was divorced was the most important thing about me. And now it’s not.”

On Youth

8. “Oh, how I regret not having worn a bikini for the entire year I was twenty-six. If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don’t take it off until you’re thirty-four.”— I Feel Bad About My Neck

9. “You can settle for reality, or you can go off, like a fool, and dream another dream.”— Heartburn

10. “You can’t retrieve you life (unless you’re on Wikipedia, in which case you can retrieve an inaccurate version of it).”― I Remember Nothing: and Other Reflections

On Reading and Writing

11. “Reading is one of the main things I do. Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter.”—I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman

12. “To state the obvious, romantic comedies have to be funny and they have to be romantic. But one of the most important things, for me anyway, is that they be about two strong people finding their way to love.”

13. “I try to write parts for women that are as complicated and interesting as women actually are.”

On People

14. “Insane people are always sure that they are fine. It is only the sane people who are willing to admit that they are crazy.”

15. “I am continually fascinated at the difficulty intelligent people have in distinguishing what is controversial from what is merely offensive.”

16. “American society has a remarkable ability to resist change, or to take whatever change has taken place and attempt to make it go away.”

On Feminism

17. “The Wonderbra is not a step forward for women. Nothing that hurts that much is a step forward for women.”— ’96 Wellesley College commencement address

18. “One of the things people always say to you if you get upset is, don’t take it personally, but listen hard to what’s going on and, please, I beg you, take it personally. Understand: every attack on Hillary Clinton for not knowing her place is an attack on you. Underneath almost all those attacks are the words: get back, get back to where you once belonged. When Elizabeth Dole pretends that she isn’t serious about her career, that is an attack on you. The acquittal of O.J. Simpson is an attack on you. Any move to limit abortion rights is an attack on you — whether or not you believe in abortion. The fact that Clarence Thomas is sitting on the Supreme Court today is an attack on you.”— ’96 Wellesley commencement address

19. “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”— ’96 Wellesley commencement address

On Cooking

20. “My mother was a good recreational cook, but what she basically believed about cooking was that if you worked hard and prospered, someone else would do it for you.”

21. “Every so often I would look at my women friends who were happily married and didn’t cook, and I would always find myself wondering how they did it. Would anyone love me if I couldn’t cook? I always thought cooking was part of the package: Step right up, it’s Rachel Samstat, she’s bright, she’s funny and she can cook!”—Heartburn

On Parenting

22. “If pregnancy were a book they would cut out the last two chapters.”

23. “When you have a baby, you set off an explosion in your marriage, and when the dust settles, your marriage is different from what it was. Not better, necessarily; not worse, necessarily; but different.”

24. “[A successful parent is one] who raises a child who grows up and is able to pay for his or her own psychoanalysis.”

25. “When your children are teenagers, it’s important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you.”— I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman

On Death

26. “…the amount of maintenance involving hair is genuinely overwhelming. Sometimes I think that not having to worry about your hair anymore is the secret upside of death.”― I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman

27. “When I buy a new book, I always read the last page first, that way in case I die before I finish, I know how it ends. That, my friend, is a dark side.”

Nora Ephron will be dearly missed.

6 more days and we will enter into a new era under a brand new Chief Executive of the HK SAR. All we are bombarded by the news these days are the various scandals going on with the two transitioning heads of state. For months, the incumbent Donald was caught repeatedly by the press in reckless spending on business trips, accepting lavish traveling and even residential favors by local tycoons, and very much to our horror, smuggling truckloads of liquor from the chief executive’s mansion to his home. On the other hand, CY, the CE-elect, was wildly skinned by the public for lying blatantly about his illegal building works at his home – an offense which he harshly accused of his rival Henry only a few months ago. These scandals have hardly anything to do with public policies or the welfare of our fellow citizens. Worse yet, they speak about our leaders’ character and integrity. Or, the lack of it.

There is a saying that our souls can be corrupted by power, and don’t act all naive and shocked when you turn on the TV news. This happens everyday at the work place and in your households. The difference is only in terms of the level of misuse for personal gains. I am never saying that any of this can be condoned. I’m just saying that while we point our fingers at those around us, we should at the same time have the decency to look at how we conduct ourselves.

In my profession I always look into areas to minimize wastage and inefficiencies. I agree, these are only fancy and politically correct words. My company charges me to make sure we tighten up our expense control measures so that no one is stealing corporate resources. That’s why I am in one of the most hated professions on the planet.

Corporate resources can be traveling guidelines so that the junior marketing manager won’t be checking in to the presidential suite like our Donald did. They can also be how the heads of departments spend our money on unnecessary external consulting firms so as to “pass on the blame” for below-par business results. Talking about how it is best to spend company’s money is challenging and confrontational alone from a third-party point of view, but nothing is even remotely comparable to the landmines of employee benefits. You can imagine the extent of it by looking at the public riots you see in the cash-trapped countries of Greece and Spain.

What are these so-called employee benefits? Alright, we have hotel categories, hotel breakfasts, hotel locations, serviced apartments, daily spending limits, flight classes, lowest cost airlines, airline lounge access, airport limousines, club memberships, blackberry models, cell phone packages, laptops, flat screen monitors, office furniture, name cards, stationery, pens, folders, giveaways, and the list goes on.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE nice things. I love to be pampered, and I like to think that I have earned my ranks enough to be treated nicely by my boss. However, I know what the reality is, and I know how to draw the line. I come in to work and deliver and get my pay check. Then I can spend it on nice things. I’d rather see my employer make money and then reward me with a bigger pay check. Then no one owes anyone anything. What strikes me hard is that I often see many well-off senior staff thinking very much like Donald and CY – let’s get as much out of the company/government as possible.

I am fully aware that there are blood-sucking corporations out there who take advantage of innocent workers like running a sweat shop. That’s why we protect our employees with well written policies – something which our Chief Executives conveniently omitted for themselves. We know what we are entitled to when we sign on to a job offer. From time to time, companies will want to revisit those policies due to flagging business results or other priorities, and this often creates an outroar of frustrations and resistance from everyone. In my years of experience, I often find the biggest resistance actually comes from the highest ranking staff and often the most wealthy ones. They work their way around with smart excuses, threats and pressure through their poor secretaries. The only thing they almost never do, is walk away. No, it’s not worth losing those high paying jobs, they admitted.

That to me is a complete revelation of their character, and it is eye-opening. I believe it is a competitive market out there, and every one of us should know how much bargaining power we have in all circumstances. If you truly believe you are being ill-treated by not getting the true rewards of your deliverables, walk away. There must be tons of other companies who want to grab you. You have suffered enough. Don’t bully your way through the innocent policy enforcers. Negotiate a bigger package and then take 150 days of leave a year to indulge. Don’t spend your precious time haggling over the next hotel tier or that first class window seat on your next business trip. The reality is, a business trip is a business trip. Even if you have Donald’s presidential suite, you can still hate it because your diamond shoes are too tight.

That’s why, if I am charged with attacking “greed” as one of my buying commodities, I will happily and politely defer to my fellow human resources colleagues for their professional enjoyment.

The latest talk-of-the-town mass media sensation is Hong Kong’s first (at least so on the city’s free longstanding and conservative TV station) reality TV show, “Bride Wannabies“.  Don’t let the show title fool you, it’s nothing like “The Bachelorette” of the States.  5 single ladies allow a TV crew follow their every move in their romantic adventure toward finding their future partners.  The show won’t be nearly as entertaining or captivating to the public without the abundant supply of so-called life coaches, match makers, psychologists, dating strategists, and of course, a variety of makeover stylists and cosmetic surgeons.  Everyone I know have watched the show with at least a comment or two, to say the least.

The show centers around one theme, which is the literal translation of “leftover ladies” in Chinese.  Apparently some also called them “3S” ladies meaning ladies who are single, seventies and stuck.  I think that’s harsh.  Anyway, it generally refers to women who are highly educated, make a good living and certainly have high standards of everything in life, including their choice of men.

Enough has been said about the show itself, the 5 bride wannabies, and the highly controversial experts.  I am rather interested in the social phenomenon and why there is such a difference in treatment between the men and women in this city.

I will never understand why single women are brutally labelled as leftovers as if there is something wrong with them.  What about the men?  Alright, scholars are rationalizing it saying it’s the conservative notion of women looking for men to protect and take care of them, and that there is still this historical belief of female inferiority in our society.  In my opinion, if you have lived through life with enough experience knowing that Prince Charming only exists in fairy tales, you will certainly adapt and adopt a new standard of your significant other as you age.  However, if you feel that you need to be absolutely honest with yourself with what turns you on, both physically and emotionally, by all means keep your faith, look for your Mr. Right,  and embrace and enjoy your single life in the time being.  There is no right or wrong.  You are the owner of your life.

Some people brought in the financial aspect claiming that it’s becoming less and less viable sustaining in this economy without living a coupled life.  Isn’t it better however making your own bucks than looking for a meal ticket somewhere?  It’s harder than winning a lottery really, and you still risk losing it through unexpected breakups or divorce.  It’s not a business transaction.  If you are really committed in setting yourself as a commodity in the market, please, assess your market position and how much bargaining power you have.  That goes for both men and women.  In my line of work, so many buyers and sellers fail to come to an agreement solely because of the absence of such awakening.  My job is to shake some sense into both parties.  I kid you not, I can very well make a career change into a match maker in this booming market.

Some women complain that men are often intimidated over how successful they are.  Well, either these men are not worthy for them to begin with, or the women need to reflect over themselves whether they have actually been sending derogatory remarks all along.  If it was the latter, then they are just digging their own graves by possessing extremely poor social skills.

There is nothing wrong with singles, women or men, at any age.  The key is whether they lead a happy life, and be content with what they already have.  Step out of your comfort zone and expand your circles.  Whinners are losers, if they are not doing anything about it.  Time and time again people report that they are attracted by cheerful, confident guys and gals.  And remember, confidence doesn’t mean cocky.  If you carry yourself well with elegance, humility, confidence and a positive outlook on matters, I really don’t see how you won’t find yourself surrounded by admirers.

So instead of those stupid and meaningless dating strategies that are nothing more than sound bites, you will never go wrong with investing in yourselves, and believing that leading your own life in your own way probably is one of the best blessings of it all.

I love a good meaningful conversation.  If you give me a choice of ten casual acquaintances versus one single dinner companion with an open heart and soul, I would pick the latter, any time of the day.

You may find it as an obvious fact, but in a heavily condensed urban city where physical proximity does not equal to emotional availability, we should count our blessings whenever we have the opportunity to enjoy a nice, candid, no-agenda exchange.

Those of you who have read my earliest posts would remember how difficult it is to explain my profession.  It’s not in one’s normal vocabulary, and it’s not something that you can describe in one sentence before you completely bore your partner to death.  Yet if someone is curious enough to probe, I am more than happy to act as an ambassador for my professional community, or more selfishly, for my own reputation.

I’m always happy to reciprocate, of course.  Last night I was introduced to a field called Occupational Therapy.  I have heard of Physiotherapy, or Vocational Training, but shamefully not the former.   As my friend explained, the Chinese translation of the field is more than misleading, and I conveniently blamed it on the same.  After hearing his line of work, and learning about the lack of professional resources particularly in the mental practice area in this city, I find his profession fascinating both in terms of technical knowhow, and of its limitless possibility.

I can’t help but compare what we do as a living, as I always strive to keep myself grounded by not taking myself too seriously.  The following conversation never happened last night, but in my imagination, part of which could go something like this:

What are you most proud of with the work that you do?

My friend:  The ability to see my patients recover and adapt to the desired state according to prescribed progress.

Me:  My stakeholders giving me 30 minutes to convince them that I’m not wasting their time to help them save half a million dollars.  Oh, also, to finally get my stakeholders know what it is that they truly want to buy.

Who do you constantly work with in your everyday work life?

My friend:  Patients who have a certain disability to achieve the daily “occupations” of life, and their loved ones who see the need to seek professional help for subject’s adaptation and recovery.

Me:  People who hate me, underestimate me, abuse me, and set me up as scapegoats for one or more of their supply chain problems.

What is the demand like for your profession?

My friend:  There is a growing lack of professionals in our field.  The demand is constantly surging and we find it difficult to keep up with the relatively long accreditation process.

Me:  Demand? What?

What is the one biggest challenge that you see in your profession?

My friend:  The lack of awareness of what Occupational Therapy is.  We hope the Health Department could educate the public more so that patients can seek treatment earlier on, and more resources can be injected for those who are very much in need.

Me:  To make the case for department heads that the half million dollar savings we achieved for their business equate to jobs saved for their employees.

What are you most frustrated about your work life?

My friend:  Below-par recovery progress due to resources insufficiency or uncontrollable physical complications.

Me:  Incredibly idiotic, egoistic and insecure morons.  And they’re not even mentally handicapped.

What is the one question that you get the most from people about your profession?

My friend:  What’s the difference between Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy, or Vocational Training?

Me:  Why are we stuck with this crappy ball point pen at the office?

 What is the outlook of your profession?

My friend:  Instead of containing within the public healthcare sector at present, we see the growing need of increased specialized care that warrants investments from the private sector.  Wages and recognition will be on the rise.

Me:  Ultimately, we will be helping our companies achieve more cost savings by outsourcing our own jobs. 

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,800 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

I certainly do not belong to any religious cult, nor do I pay any special attention to this doomsday prediction other than having seen the “2012” movie two years ago, purely for entertainment.  Though I can’t keep myself imagining whether I would have done anything differently if we are sure we are left with less than a year to live.

With much temptation to recap and reflect upon the year of 2011, it may be more worthwhile than ever, to think of my new year resolutions.  Regardless of the specifics, the resounding theme is always going to be: following my heart.

Deep down we all know what are the right things to do, but for some reasons we always choose to take a detour due to lack of confidence, obstacles, or worse yet, stupid and meaningless power play.  If we say what’s on our minds, we could save precious time from all the guessing and procrastinating.  Yes, it may appear tactless and reckless, but as I mention time and time again on my blog posts, let yourself be vulnerable at least once in a while.

Who are the ones that you miss the most?  Make sure you reconnect with them in the new year.  Like or even love someone?  What harm does it make to express that without expecting anything in return?  We used to think there is always time, and we know what we would do if the right moment comes around.  But what if there isn’t time anymore? 

Living your life truthfully does not equate to living it irresponsibly or at the expense of others.  I am not saying we should neglect others’ feelings just because they might be in your way.  But you cannot even start to care for others if you aren’t even honest to yourself.  It’s time to ask yourself the hard questions, and demand the straight answers.

Over the past year, I am blessed with lots of opportunities to work and travel, the availability of lifestyle changes, the company of friends and loved ones, and all the new people whom I have met around the world – which certainly is the highlight of my year.  Though I have been clearly less productive in the past few months, I am mighty proud of my blog here since it has given me an outlet to express what I believe in, despite the absence (or presence?) of an audience. 

If this were our last Christmas and countdown, I wouldn’t have any last words since I would have done it all.  All I want to say will be “I Love You” to everyone around me.

Because, there is always room for more love.

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