Sunday 31 December 2023

I didn’t write much this year – published less than 2,000 words compared to over 22,000 last year.

One reason: I felt I had said what I wanted to say.

In 2023 I expressed some thoughts about life and death. Despite the fact that the war in Ukraine is still raging, I didn’t add much to what I said last year. There was also not much I could add about my opinion on the China-Taiwan issue. Like most people, I was shocked by what happened in Israel on October 7th and have since followed with horror on social media what is happening in Gaza.

Other news came and went.

Like every year, people predict the end of the world in the new year.

Like every year, they will probably be wrong.

At the other end of the spectrum, some people predict a good year – for some people.

I am agnostic myself. And full of hope.

Perhaps it will turn out to be a good time to bring things together.

Saturday 31 December 2022

I decided to break my own tradition this year and not write a year-end piece.

Normally I feel the need to spell out that the year that’ll be over in a few hours has been good.

I also feel it necessary to say for the record (seeing that this is what this corner of the global information network is: a record of my existence) that I hope the next year will also be good.

Because I have not, as far as I can remember, publicly complained about anything this year, I cannot claim at this late hour that the year has not been good.

And because I’m optimistic by nature, I also find it unnecessary to make it clear for the record that I’m optimistic about next year.

So, because I can’t include these usual statements in my end-of-year piece, about what else can I type words to publish minutes later for people in Argentina and Siberia and Alaska and Durbanville to read?


So, stay positive. Even if it doesn’t always make sense. (Unless, of course, someone wants to kidnap you. In that case, you have to expect the worst and fight like your life depends on it.)


Friday, 31 December 2021

Could certainly have been expected after all these years. I ran out of words. Or I had to buy new words, but I forgot. Or I ordered some words, but the container ship sunk. Or the train derailed. Or the plane ran out of gas.

Previously I talked about what had been done. But that’s done now.

Or I talked about what was going to be done.

Or I told anecdotes of anger, sadness, joy, fear, and embarrassment.

But everyone gets angry. Sad things happen. Joy is wonderful. Fear is a pest, and embarrassment is a waste of time. Most of the time.

Best of all, I look forward to next year. I think it will be an exceptionally good year.

Like every year.


Thursday, 31 December 2020

One of the outstanding features of this year – and there were a few – was the extent to which people were grouped into ideological tribes, or to which they aligned themselves with specific ideological tribes. More than any year since November 2016, you had to take a stand on the presidency of Donald J. Trump. You had to formulate an opinion about the Black Lives Matter organisation. You had to decide where you stand with the movement calling themselves Antifa in many Western countries. You had to decide if it is okay if protesters burn down buildings, destroy small businesses, and assault individual members of the public in groups against which the individual can offer virtually no resistance. (Previously, you might have thought it easy to condemn this type of behaviour, but 2020 was the year when even close family members and people in your social circle approved of such behaviour with a fist in the air, or a graphic of a fist in the air on social media.) It was furthermore the year you had to decide whether COVID-19 deserved the label of pandemic, or whether it is just another of the occasionally deadly viruses that plague the world every few years. And even if you agree that it is a pandemic, you have to form an opinion on measures that governments worldwide have implemented to combat the virus. What’s more, your own business, your own source of income, may have been threatened, and may have gone under, due to lockdown periods or other measures. Since November, you have also had to take a stand on the US election. Was it free and fair? Did the media in America give both presidential candidates the same treatment? Did they give both candidates an equal chance to state their case? If damning revelations were made about one of the candidates, did the media treat it with reasonable impartiality? Seeing that there were opportunities for corruption in the election – as with surely any large-scale enterprise managed by thousands of people, seeing that there was more than adequate incentive to commit fraud – political office brings many benefits to the victor and their supporters, and seeing that there was not enough time to investigate any serious allegations – the investigation into allegations of Russian involvement in the 2016 election lasted approximately two years, and in the light of improbable statistics, can it be said with certainty that the official winner of the election is the legitimate winner? Then, to round off the opinion bonanza, there was Climate Change and Global Warming, and the World Economic Forum and their Great Reset; there were the ongoing negotiations on Britain’s departure of the European Union; the debate over whether an adult man can simply declare he is a woman and from that moment on claim entitlement to protection and rights intended exclusively for women; the question of whether teenagers and pre-teens can decide on their own what gender they are and if it does not match their genitals, immediately proceed without their parents’ consent with hormone treatment which can have long-term, irreversible consequences; and the growing bias and political agendas of social media – maybe not a problem if they are politically in line with yours, but what happens if you change your mind? The trend that has been going on for a number of years of people losing seats on discussion panels, or being fired or losing contracts because they said or wrote something that is against the accepted currents of thought of the day, also compels one to wonder if there really is still room for free debate. Can you still think what you want and keep your job? Can you still express an opinion in a private conversation about taxation or immigration or religion or climate change and expect it not to cost you your way to earn a living? Can a scientist do experiments with the knowledge that he will still have a job if the results of his experiments are not popular among social and political activists?

Nevertheless … nevertheless … I am grateful. I’m thankful I’m still alive. I am thankful that my two sisters, their children, and my two dear parents also survived the year. And I am grateful for my wife and partner who makes every day better with her love, her companionship, and her support. Then I am grateful for my health, and for a good home in Taiwan. I’m grateful for our two cats. I am grateful for all the eateries in our neighbourhood where we can enjoy tasty and healthy meals. I am grateful for all the opportunities I have to make money. And – I’m thankful for the pleasant cool weather today in Kaohsiung (13ºC), and for the nice cup of hot, black coffee I enjoy as I type these words.

Be good to yourself in 2021. Be good to people who share your life with you, and whose lives you share. Be good to people who are strangers to you right now, but maybe later friends. And be reasonable with people you disagree with, and don’t burn bridges that you will later regret. And if people are not reasonable with you? Keep your conscience clean and your intellectual honesty intact. And make sure you have enough money in the bank – or in your safe, or in your crypto wallet, or in your little bag of gold and silver, and enough sources of income that cannot be cancelled overnight.


Tuesday, 31 December 2019


I realised tonight that next week is not just the end of a year, but the end of a decade – my third end of a decade as a full-fledged adult.

The first decade after high school started for me in a missionary house, with me part of a team hoping to convert more people to the Christian faith. The decade ended for me in the streets of Hong Kong, very far from home, and even further removed from any kind of certainty about my own future.

I started the ’00 decade as an overweight smoker with a bad attitude and a problematic self-esteem. Ten years later, I exited the decade at a bit of a low-point – less overweight, no longer a smoker, but financially relatively broke. And I was already 38. The decade did include some of the proverbial best years of my life: I started writing in 2003 as if a fever had taken hold of me, and by the middle of the decade I had met a woman who could only be described as an angel descended from the seventh heaven upon my earthly existence. Nevertheless, the highlights were in the middle of the decade; the end would have made any mortal anxious.

And so began my third decade as an adult. In 2011 I turned 40. I continued with a variety of projects intended to bring about more financial security, and I returned to my writing with renewed dedication. This decade had highlights of a different intensity, and the lows were not quite as low as in the previous decade.


What are my predictions on the eve of this fourth decade of my adult life?

No predictions. No short speeches to motivate myself. I’m already happy. I’m already doing much better financially than in previous decades. I’m already living the fuller life I dreamed of in my twenties and early thirties.

Am I prepared to do even better? Am I ready to travel even more, give more, provide more assistance, do more of what I am already doing? Am I ready to experience even more of life? Is there a fuller version of me that I’m already becoming as I type these words?

* * *

One fairly wealthy friend of a friend mentioned this year that the life we – Natasja and I – are living is closer to the lives of billionaires than to the lives of people struggling for survival. “Sure,” he said, “billionaires have fine Egyptian cotton linen and they live in bigger houses, but you – like them – have running water, modern plumbing, stable electricity and high-speed internet. Compare that to people who live in shacks with no running water, no electricity, no internet …”

I was also reminded recently of an old truth: There are things we have no control over; there are some things we have partial control over, and then there are things that depend to a significant degree on our decisions – if you choose this path, then this is the path you’ll be following for the next few months, and maybe for the rest of your life; if you choose that path, that would be the path you’ll be following for the next few months, and maybe for the rest of your life. It is therefore wiser to focus instead on the aspects of your life that you do have the most control over. And if you tend towards honesty and a critical view of things, you’d recognise that you have sufficient control over your own life and the environment in which you live to create the fuller life of which you could only have dreamed when you were younger.