What A Year!

One year anniversary celebration golden vintage logotype. FirstMy last day with EY was July 9th, 2018. Therefore today marks a full year since I officially started my “work break”. Reflecting on what I accomplished during this time, I can say without hesitation that the experience has been very fulfilling. I am grateful to have this opportunity to devote much time and energy to what is important in my life.

My new journey actually started on June 25th, 2018, when I shared my plans on this blog before boarded a flight to Europe. A whirlwind of activities followed, as documented in Much needed R&R. Things didn’t get as crazy since then but I have been quite busy nonetheless. I can’t believe how fast time flies.

I set out three priorities during my time off – 1) travel; 2) spend time with family and friends; 3) read, write, exercise, and relax. I did pretty well in all three areas. My post at the beginning of 2019 included the first half of this one-year adventure, and below is a brief overall report (all numbers are for the time period 06/25/2018 to 07/10/2019).

Travel – I visited 14 countries, 11 of which were new to me.

  1. Denmark (Copenhagen, Bornholm)
  2. Poland (Gdańsk)
  3. Lithuania (Klaipeda)
  4. Estonia (Tallin)
  5. Russia (St. Petersburg)
  6. Finland (Helsinki, Aland)
  7. Sweden (Stockholm)
  8. China (Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong)
  9. Philippines (Hundred Islands, Manila, Boracay, Coron, Palawan)
  10. Malaysia (Kota Kinabalu, Kuching)
  11. Brunei
  12. Singapore
  13. Costa Rica (San José, Fortuna, Guanacaste, Manuel Antonio)
  14. Cuba (Camagüey, Trinidad, Cienfuegos, Remedios, Havana)

Additionally, David and I did a 2000-mile road trip in US Northwest from Crater Lake to Glacier National Park via Columbia River Gorge. We fully immersed ourselves in the beautiful nature. We also drove down to Charleston, SC and spent a few wonderful days exploring its rich history and culture.

Spend time with family and friends – Believe it or not, I flew back to China four times this past year for various reasons. With 53 days there, I got a chance to catch up with many old friends, some of whom I haven’t seen for decades. I spent three precious months with my mother during her recent visit, including three trips to Pennsylvania to see my aunt. I was also on four long road trips to New England to visit David’s family, a total of 19 days. Throughout the year there were numerous get-togethers with friends and ex-colleagues as well. I greatly cherished all these wonderful personal interactions.

Read, write, exercise, and relax – I ended up more or less on track with my reading schedule, even though I was four books behind at times. I still wasn’t able to finish the books piled on my floor, nor the many classic Chinese books that I was hoping to re-read. At my friend’s prompt, I wrote 7 Chinese articles on travel (about 20,000 Chinese characters). I didn’t write as many English blog posts as I should though. In terms of exercise, I swam less than before but walked a lot more, averaging 8,209 steps a day. I also attended 12 hot yoga classes and played tennis 5 times. Not sure how much I relaxed this year, given all the hectic activities, travel stresses, and family events, but I feel quite refreshed at the moment so I guess I relaxed more than I remembered. 🙂

All in all, it has been a very rewarding year with many unforgettable memories. I am so glad I made the big decision and carried it out. Now I am getting ready for the next chapter of my life, and I expect great things to come in the near future.

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Books read in 2019 Q2

I was two books behind schedule at the end of last quarter. And I am two books behind schedule now. Guess that means my reading was on track this past quarter. This is no small accomplishment given all the travels and other things I did in these three months.

Here are the books I finished in Q2:

  1. Origin by Dan Brown
  2. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
  3. The Associate by John Grisham
  4. Body Double by Tess Gerritsen
  5. Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations by Thomas L. Friedman
  6. If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating by Alan Alda
  7. The Bat by Jo Nesbø
  8. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
  9. Future Babble: Why Expert Predictions Are Next to Worthless, and You Can Do Better by Dan Gardner
  10. Deep Freeze by John Sandford
  11. When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink
  12. Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

A good list of books, some of them are quite big page-wise, like #2, #5, and #8. The only two books that I didn’t enjoy as much are #7 and #11. Maybe because I have read quite a few books from the authors and these two books just didn’t meet my high expectations.

Looking forward to reading more. I have high hopes that I will catch up to my schedule by the end of next quarter. Stay tuned. 🙂

Books 2019 Q2

Books read in 2019 Q1

My book-reading started slow this year largely due to my mother’s recent visit. At one point I was five books behind schedule in reaching this year’s 50-book goal. I am not complaining though – the quality time we spent together was priceless! I have been catching up this week and managed to finish 10 books in the first quarter. Not bad at all with only two books behind now.

Here are the books I finished so far:

  1. Rising Strong by Brené Brown
  2. Police by Jo Nesbø
  3. Grand Pursuit: A History of Economic Genius by Sylvia Nasar
  4. The Power of I Am: Two Words That Will Change Your Life Today by Joel Osteen
  5. Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle
  6. Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom by Thomas E. Ricks
  7. Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
  8. The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks
  9. The Present: The Secret to Enjoying Your Work and Life, Now! by Spencer Johnson
  10. The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan

A good list of books – I was captured by the characters and stories in the fictions, and learned quite a lot from the non-fictions. Seven out of the ten books were written by authors that I was familiar with and they all met my expectations. And I was glad that I picked up the three books (#5, #6, #7) by new authors.

Looking forward to reading more!

Books 2019 Q1

 

Books read in 2018 Q4

In my last book report I mentioned that I would need to finish 16 books in the fourth quarter to accomplish my 50-book annual goal. Well, I ended up reading 14, therefore I am two books short of meeting my reading goal for 2018. 😦 Given that Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’ has 1400+ pages, which is more than enough for three average-length books, I can persuade myself that I did a decent job. 🙂

Here are the books I finished this past quarter:

  1. The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis
  2. The Stand by Stephen King
  3. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō
  4. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein
  5. 纵有万般心碎,也要笑得甜美 by 谢姣姣
  6. Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes
  7. The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future by Kevin Kelly
  8. The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz
  9. The Sea Wolf by Jack London
  10. When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro
  11. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
  12. The Outsider by Stephen King
  13. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
  14. Don’t Get Too Comfortable by David Rakoff

I enjoyed most books on this list, except #4 and #14. Here is a mini book review I wrote on #4; and I didn’t include the meaningless long subtitle of #14 in the list.

I learned a lot from #7, highly recommend. #8 exceeded my expectations. Books from Stephen King, Erik Larson, Haruki Murakami, and Michael Lewis were as good as ever. Looking back, I indeed accomplished a lot in Q4 in terms of reading! 🙂

Just set a goal of 50 again for 2019. Keep reading…

Books 2018 Q4

 

Books read in 2018 Q3

The third quarter of 2018 passed just too quickly. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was too busy with other activities to read much. Therefore I only finished 8 books in the past three months, a big gap from the 14 books in the previous book report. It seems I would need to finish 16 books in the fourth quarter to accomplish my 50-book annual goal. Definitely a challenge!

Here are the books I finished this past quarter:

  1. The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith
  2. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  3. Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson
  4. Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism by Fumio Sasaki
  5. Golden Prey by John Sandford
  6. Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi
  7. The Silent Sea by Clive Cussler and Jack Du Brul
  8. The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie

I liked all eight books okay – none of them stands out as a “highly recommend”, nor is any one considered a waste of time. They are good enough.

I REALLY need to catch up now till the year-end, even though a big trip in December will make it difficult. I have never finished 16 books in three months in the past and I am nowhere close to finish one at the moment, but I have every intention to do the impossible. Wait and see!!! 🙂

Books 2018 Q3

Books read in 2018 Q2

I just came back from cruising around the Baltic Sea, and the second book report of 2018 is over due. My goal this year is to read 50 books, 25 of which in non-audio format and 5 in Chinese. I finished 14 books in Q2; only two of which I actually read as opposed to listening, and there was one Chinese book. Now I begin to think the non-audio part of the goal is quite challenging.

Here are the books I finished in the second quarter:

  1. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
  2. Perturbed Chinese 忐忑的中国人 by 梁晓声
  3. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
  4. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
  5. Obsession by Jonathan Kellerman
  6. Operation Hail Storm by Brett Arquette
  7. Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
  8. Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Max Tegmark
  9. In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
  10. New York Post Fiendish Sudoku: The Official Utterly Addictive Number-Placing Puzzle by Wayne Gould
  11. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  12. Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
  13. Prayer by Ole Hallesby
  14. Adultery by Paulo Coelho

As usual, the books on this list are eclectic in many ways and I liked most of them. I read quite a few books from the author of #2 twenty years ago, and this one is as good as expected. I really enjoyed #7 and #9. I finished all 200 puzzles in #10. There are many interesting and though-provoking topics in #8 and #12. I don’t like #14 at all.

Keep reading… till the next report. 🙂Books 2018Q2

Books read in 2017 Q3

It is time for another book report, right before I depart for a long trip. My goal this year is to read 50 books, 20 of which from shelves at home. I finished 12 in Q3. According to Goodreads, I am one book behind schedule. Not too bad – still three months left to catch up. 🙂

Here are the books I finished in the third quarter:

  1. The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer
  2. A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis by Devin Brown
  3. Life Reimagined: The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife by Barbara Bradley Hagerty
  4. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
  5. The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel
  6. Havana Storm by Clive Cussler & Dirk Cussler
  7. The Cross of Christ by John R.W. Stott
  8. Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain
  9. The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan by Robert Kanigel
  10. 100 Photographs: The Most Influential Images of All Time by The Editors of Time Magazine
  11. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  12. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

Three of these are from shelves at home (behind the goal again). I enjoyed most books on this list. Fictions #1 and #4 are very good; Non-fictions #8, #9, #10, and #12 are really informative, I learned quite a lot from each one.

I need to finish 14 books in the next quarter to reach my goal of 50… Not sure I can accomplish the 20-books-from-shelves goal though, as that requires an impossible 9 in Q4.🙂 Keep reading… till the next report.

Books 2017Q3