Monday 31 October 2022

Month of October 2022

Life gives you little surprises now and then. This month, there were four.

The first was an encounter with a friend not seen for almost five years. We have known each other for ten years and she was at a high level management role, working almost everyday and reaping the fruits of her effort. We met at a business event that she hardly went, opting for fashion shows over economic seminars previously. Through our conversation, she revealed her activities and showed me many pictures. In them, she was dressed in slacks, wore jungle boots or wrapped in a head scarf, sometimes with her younger sister. The background typically consisted of beautiful blue skies, mountain ranges, waterfalls or dirt tracks. She had taken time off work to avoid burnout, starting from a week to two and then to months, now it's the fifth adventure year! What sparked this was an incident at work where she felt helpless and frustrated. She needed peace and found it in nature, aided by teachings of zen and meditation. One takeaway she constantly shared was to think of how work is defined and its meaning. In her view, she's on a learning journey and will return to work when she's experienced enough life to lift her thoughts from a singular angle. I was part impressed, part inspired by her transformation. This was not the same person I knew.

A friend offered free tickets for my family to attend the Singapore F1 and we duly obliged by attending the Friday event. We watched the practice sessions from the flyer capsule, getting a bird's eye view of proceedings. There was lots of walking and crowded streets brought a sense of relief that life is indeed getting back to normal. I'm glad we avoided the mud baths created by the heavy downpours on the weekend spectacle.

Last month, I made a business trip since Covid. This month, my wife and I went on a leisure trip to Vietnam! It's our first experience and was a very pleasant one. Two weeks before departure, her friend mentioned she was also going with her husband and we had a couple of overlapping days. So we planned to stay at the same hotel and went together on a full day sightseeing tour along the Mekong river cruise together with a visit to Coconut Island. This trip was relaxing as I just tagged along to wherever they planned. I enjoyed the Viet, Jap and French food plus the wonderful cafe settings. Also did a few business shirts and bought some sports attire. The weather was accommodating and it's nice to let time drift by, having a massage or just sipping coffee.

Finally, the last one was the most unexpected. I was at an exhibition when a friend called me over to introduce someone. There was no need to. As soon as the stranger pulled down his face mask, I immediately recognized him. He's not changed much except being unshaven. This was a dear neighbor whose family used to live at the unit below mine. We lost contact more than 30 years ago after I moved and they (brothers and sisters) went separately for overseas studies. Over the years, I only heard from the grapevine that someone met one of the sisters but nothing much. So I was absolutely delighted to recount our many years of wonderful memories and to know his family members were all well. What's even more amazing is that his brother actually stays at the same unit now. This encounter reminded me of an episode on a TV show called Super Sunday where the aim was to look for long lost relatives or friends. I'm so glad that life has arranged for us to meet once more.

Reading the above as I post this out made me feel so grateful and humbled.

Tip: Haneya Junmai Ginjo Nama Genshu, rich and flavorful, a little sparkle, full bodied

Saturday 22 October 2022

When Earth Gives You Lemons

What life deals you, the only way is to make the best of it. Where the mountains and seas are, make good use of what they give you. Where the soil is fertile, plant the right fruits and reap rich rewards. A skillful ruler can become the king of men if he/she knew how to turn a situation to his/her advantage. Learn to trade with friends across borders yet keep enemies at bay along the same borders. One's survival can be determined by deliberate actions, natural endowments or just pure luck.

The above summarizes what I learnt from a recent read, "Prisoners of Geography". Although this book was published in 2015, from the introductory paragraph, it already foretold future events happening now. It certainly captivated my attention and maybe it was destined to be this way. The beginning touched on the thoughts of Putin and his insecurity arising from Russia's western plains, adjoining Ukraine. This as we now know, has become reality in a battle that does not look like ending soon. For the rest of the book, it delved into ten different maps and presented the facts on the ground and what historical events led to certain formations of human tribe, split along geographical constraints. It predicated the fortunes of each nation and explained why some would always find it hard to prosper eg Brazil. These insights allow us to better appreciate leadership considerations and their stubborn insistence on issues others might find repressive eg China's "ownership" over Tibet. Accordingly, one could even simulate future flashpoints through scenario modelling.

This is a fascinating book that I highly recommend. It's full of interesting information bits and written with just enough weight on each continent/region. At around 130 pages, one could swig a glass of whisky on a cool Saturday afternoon and be taken on a knowledge quest around the world.

Tip: Aberlour Abunadh Batch 67, apricot cherry, ginger ale spice encased by heavy sherry oak

Saturday 15 October 2022

Finance Investment Movement 26

In the past few weeks, there had been much impactful news that could move financial market sentiments. The Korean peninsula once again featured missile threats, UK did a major about turn in their tax cut plan, the western hemisphere continued its grapple with Russia and impending winter crisis while Asia got whipped by a typhoon with flood waters still yet to fully recede in Thailand. All these events inadvertently contributed to scary fluctuations in certain currencies and swung the global markets on a high rope. Amidst this chaos, Singapore respectably stood rather resilient, especially the SGD. Therefore an opportunity had risen. There were a buffet of choices if one had cash reserves.

It was after a long deliberation that I decided to do something. The November SSB offer of 3.21% marked a new record and I have set aside $10000 to apply although it's unlikely the full allocation will be given. Fixed deposit rates are reaching levels unseen since my younger days. It's tempting to put all idle cash in but I'll wait. As travel resumes and in anticipation, $1500 was exchanged for Yen and $6000 for Aud. Reits were going on a Great Singapore Sale and I picked up 5300 shares of Lion Phillip ETF at $0.981. Soon after, the price continued to tumble, reflecting even more market concerns. Next, one share of SPY was purchased at US$358. I expect this to drop more as the outside expectation of a recession is imminent. I don't think I'm done yet, hoping for more fruits to pick.

As requested by the kids for quite some time, the fibre plan was upgraded to 2Gbps with Singtel Wifi 6 extenders. The installers are coming next week and crossing my fingers that the intended speed and coverage will improve our surfing experience.

Tip: Bijoufu Junmai Ginjo One Grain For A Drop, great all rounder, a little sweet and gentle punch