Saturday, January 10, 2009

Pineapples to kick off the new year

CNY preparations have begun at home, kinda' early this year. The good news is that June has reverted to making her pineapple tart filling from fresh pineapples, 'stead of using the pre-packaged stuff.

We picked up 12 whole pineapples (skinned right before our eyes) from the Chinatown Market, and went looking for a hand grater by which to manually pulp the pineapples with. Then we got smart and decided to use the blending machine at home. CNY isn't so far away that we can spare the time, eh?

With mechanical assistance, June got the 12 pineapples pulped within the afternoon. Now it's all simmering in the wok to be slowly cooked over the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, June's prepping the other baked goods she's making in time to greet the season.

Hope dNYel is hungry! Festive cookies soon coming your way!

Friday, January 09, 2009

20 years from retirement

What are people looking forward to when they retire? What do they expect out of life when they hit that age when they don't have to work any more? How will they spend their time then, and how will they continue obtaining the resources that they need to sustain themselves over the next couple of decades or so, assuming that everything goes according to the best-case biological plan?

For many people, their goal is to slog it out in the here and now so that they can retire and "enjoy life". They'd spend their time then taking care of family matters, which they are too busy to take care of in their working years. They'd have time on their hands, not needing to watch the clock any longer and they can do whatever they want because they are forever free of deadlines and superiors. With the money they've frugally saved over their long careers, they'd have the means to live out their lives as comfortably as they have become accustomed to. Ah, the golden age of retirement... heh, if only.

Just barely 20 years away from retirement age, and already the prospect scares me. I'm an instant gratification kind of guy, and if I wasn't already enjoying life now, I doubt very much I'd enjoy it anytime later. Besides, if we're too busy for those nearest and dearest to us right now, there's no reason to assume that our presence will be appreciated then when they've grown too busy for us.

Well, maybe except as cheap day-care for our grands whose parents can't find the time to look after them themselves. And then there goes the no-deadline, no-watching-clock ideal. Junior has to be in school by 7, fetched and ferried around after-school activities from 3, be home in bed by 8, thanks very much. No mahjong for you Pa, the boy has an exam tomorrow, remember? Oh yah, your Alzheimer's. Meds three times a day after meals, and for goodness sake go change your diaper NOW, ok?

And that's for people with family. Lots of us DINKS today don't even have that to look forward to because of our decision to opt out of that Wonderful Life. If we're going to stay relevant we're going to have to keep proving day after day that we can still run with the pack, pretty much until we can't any more. And at 62-65 I believe we can still run with the best of them, so unless things have gone seriously wrong physically, I'd still feel too young to retire. Ask me again in 20 years.

And as for retirement savings, I think the past year has been a big reality check for us all in that we can't trust in the value of our accumulated wealth. So much that people had stashed away for a rainy day got washed away in the financial tsunami. Cash-rich one day, peniless the next -- and not necessarily due to anything that was of their own doing either. When idyllic fantasy met unthinkable reality, we learned the hard way that financial wealth is merely imagination working overtime on our behalf. Stings, doesn't it?

I think I'll continue working because I feel I should earn my keep, past glories notwithstanding. People today have neither memory nor gratitude so just because I might have been a career whiz before, there is no obligation for others to let me rest on my laurels while they are doing their best to topple my achievements, break my records, and leave me in their dust. Fact of life. It's what we hope for, anyway, every subsequent generation to better its predecessors. That's progress.

I fear irrelevance. I may be a misanthrope raising my fist at everyone around me, but I still need people around me to raise my fist to. I view retirement as an eventuality that will put me out of the game, especially as I don't forsee having a family around me to abuse me in return. No, I don't wanna retire. Heck, I don't even wanna grow up.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Are you happy at work?

These days, I don't wake up for work with especial dread. Yes, there are days when I'd much prefer to stay in bed 'cos the day looks like it's going to be a long, draining one, but at least now I can step forth knowing I'll actually be missed if I wasn't there. That's stronger motivation than just having to show up at work because the consequences for absenteesm are dire.

My job itself is anything but boring and routine. There are so many opportunities to try on different hats apart from being the elbow-patched drone at the chalk whyteboard. For example, there is such a diversity of CCAs on campus that when we get deployed to look after different activities from time to time, we can't help but pick up new skills along the way. After all, we have to at least look like we know what we're doing if we want our kids to trust that we know what we're doing.

For me, I've had the opportunity to play theatre (and movie!) director and producer, I had to learn from scratch to be a hard-nosed news publisher, and even though I was terrible at debates I still learned to appreciate a good argument. And all that from just being involved in CCAs alone.

Every new hat unlocks new areas of creativity for me to dabble in. Occasionally I amaze myself when some ideas work -- "Admiral" was the one best example of this happening -- though most of the time when I make a mess of things it was because the learning curve was steeper than I had anticipated. But I still gained from the experience, or the attempt anyway.

So the job's ok, I guess. Can't really complain. But to say I like my work would also be to say I like the people I work with. It's really rare to find such a combination of friends among my colleagues with whom we share more than work. We are all very good at what we do, but at the same time, we don't take ourselves too seriously either. We spend time hangin' out with each other, just as much as we have formal meetings planning strategy, curriculum, pedagogy and other concepts represented by big words. But our most important meetings are breakfast and lunch talking about, uh, less consequential things.

Are you happy with your job? You may be good at what you do, no doubt, but if you want to know how happy you are at work, one effective indicator is to see who you go to lunch with.

As it turns out, my lunch partners seem to be dwindling in number somewhat... it's going to be an interesting year.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Too stupid to quit

Hi Selene! In your private comment, you observed that I sound like I like my work, and you wished you could say the same about yours.

First, I have to say that I have had my share of sucky jobs before. I spent years as a mindless corporate zombie, sharpening pencils and pouring coffee for other people. The work itself wasn't tough but it was to me utterly pointless... except for the pencils. Every day I'd wake up feeling that I was just a tiny cog contributing to some bazillionaire's vast financial empire and getting in return little more than a couple of grand a month to "buy something nice" for myself.

Too stupid to quit, too. I would have felt like such a loser to quit (how that philosophy got popular, I'll never know). It took an untimely retrenchment for me to strike out on a different career path leading to where I am today. Which is where, exactly? Wait, let me moralize a bit first. *drags out soapbox to stand on and waggles right index finger pontifically in the air

We don't always find the best match right away. In times like these, we're grateful to have any job at all, sucky or otherwise. While in the grind, we may chafe and whine, but for those of us who pay enough attention, we learn something about ourselves -- our motivations, perhaps, or the kinds of people we prefer to interact with, or the needs we derive most satisfaction in helping others fulfil -- something that will help point us in the direction to go next. 

Next entry: Liking Work

p.s., happy (very) belated Christmas! It's an entry I started and forgot about. Finished it today.