midsummer night

It has not been a hot summer. Nevertheless I’m enjoying thinking about a cold winter day. Thinking about walking through the Christmas Tree selections outside the market. Thinking about falling snow falling. Falling.

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Also thinking about the seasons that have passed us by.

[January] RGA Skating Event

[February] Celebrating bday with Stephen + Denise @ Tutti Matti

[March] Celebrating Valentines: “I thought: I need to revisit Japan ASAP. On second thought, the fact that I can eat this in Toronto means I don’t really need to revisit Japan ASAP”

[April] Checking out his grandma’s quilts; she gets her patterns from St Jacobs

[May] Ramble around St James Cemetery: “There is nothing more romantic than graveyards in the spring. The memories of others, the scent of lilac and, going down a flight of stairs, a sense of hanami (花見)”

[August Bonus] Celebrating half-bday @ Rectory Cafe on Ward Island; “after Thanksgiving, however, the Rectory will close its doors for good



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Busy at work but took Sunday off to watch Arrival. I started the film thinking this is like Space Odyssey and finished thinking this is as anti as can be.

In my interpretation of Space Odyssey, the monolith represents human nature, which is beyond good and evil. Is using a bone as a weapon to drive rivals away from the water hole good or evil? Neither because it is human to want to ensure our own survival.

In Arrival, monolith x 12 is here to unify humanity. Personally, I think things worked out because the aliens worked with 12 nations independently. If they only sent one monolith, they would not have had the opportunity to test 12 different approaches. Yes, different people doing different things will create conflict and conflict will create winners and losers at least in the short term. In the longer term, the rival ape men might find a bigger water hole elsewhere.

In terms of cinematography, I loved every moment of Arrival. So I’m sort of hoping that I misunderstood the message and the film is not suggesting that we all unify around THE RIGHT ANSWER. Otherwise, I think Arrival represents everything that is wrong with the world. When people try too hard to grasp the truth, they find themselves bound by narratives created by others.

how do you make lemonade if you can’t see the lemons?

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When I started my current job, at the end of each round, I would make a list of things that might happen in the next round. This year, I worked on eight different deals and somehow lost this habit. Not surprisingly, I ended up with more surprises. Next year, gotta do this consistently because how do you make lemonade if you can’t see the lemons?

Mr. Turner & my new goal in life: once more with feeling

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If someone had asked me for a declaration of life goals ten years ago when I graduated from university, I probably would have said something like this.

One. Find Nietzsche.

Two. Scoot around Rome or some other romantic European city.

Three. Hike Zermatt to Charmonix.

So … ten years later … am I getting closer to these goals?

One. I don’t actually pick jobs to increases my chances of finding Nietzsche but somehow it worked out that way. As soon as I joined Milliman, I started asking people for book recommendations and was given the suggestion of Dynamic Hedging: Managing Vanilla and Exotic Options which I loved which led me to read other Taleb books. He does an amazing job explaining Nietzsche. But more than that, experiencing the 2008 financial crisis made me realize my work should not be about trying to control chaos but trying to benefit from chaos. Then, in 2012, I actually found Nietzsche. In conclusion, I’m giving myself a rating of “so far so good”. Although a part of me thinks that I’ve actually never really truly confronted the chaotic. Hard to say whether I really get it until that happens.

Two. I still don’t have a driver’s license. But it’s okay because, in 2010, I realized that I actually enjoy riding a bike up and down hills. And nothing is more romantic than realizing that a flood has covered the original route and a new one must be found.

Gazing at Les Baux-de-Provence
a.k.a. taking a break after realizing that I’m not there yet

Three. I’ve visited neither Zermatt nor Charmonix let alone hike from one to the other. The picture at the top comes from a series of photos entitled Abstract Zermatt. The project is described as follows: Les images échappent alors à la photographie de paysage et participent d’une démarche picturale basée sur l’impression, la sensation et le souvenir, la trace et la disparition.

A pictorial approach based on feeling, sensation and memory, trace and disappearance is a great way to describe Turner. It’s way too early to say what my favorite film of 2015 will be but Mr. Turner had quite an effect on me. Looking at the man’s life from the outside shows the opposite of beauty. He is a strange looking fellow. His is estranged from his ex and children. His communication style is baffling. At the beginning of the film, when he sings (not so well) and brings tears to the woman playing the piano, I was like … I don’t understand why this is so moving. At the end of the film, as he lies there dying, I found myself thinking … he is so wonderful … don’t let him go. And I can’t even pinpoint exactly what happens between the beginning and the end that makes me so attached to this character.

To be honest, when I saw the preview for this film in November, I was a bit shocked. I always imagined Turner to be a most interesting person and here we have a character who mostly grunts. But on second thought, art is not defined by whether the artist has an interesting life. Art is not even defined by whether the subject matter is interesting. In fact, one could argue that art is about seeing supposedly uninteresting things in an interesting manner. And what does it mean to have an interesting life anyway?

Once upon a time, I was convinced that life is about doing interesting things like hiking from Zermatt to Chamonix. And meeting interesting people. And by interesting people, I mean people who want to do interesting things with me. Now I realize that this is a dangerous way of thinking. Walking through life with preconceived notions of what is interesting can make us blind to the things that are unexpectedly interesting. And the unexpectedly interesting is the key to chaos.

If someone asks me for a declaration of life goals today, should I say encounter the unexpectedly interesting? Or find the key to chaos? Do such goals even make sense? Probably the best goal I can set is the one my piano teacher gave me long ago: once more with feeling.