Hanzi

Like everyone I’m overexposed to screens, so to practise Chinese characters on paper is surprisingly relaxing — absorbing in writing the right strokes to form radicals and components. Colorbooks for grown-ups have a similar stress relieving purpose. I don’t believe you can learn Hanzi with your eyes alone, as they come with such crual similarities […]

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Into the Woods review

Detective and mystery thrillers are often captivating to read, but the stories themselves are never memorable: who did what to who and how did it end? A few months later I’ve forgotten it all — and in this respect ‘Into the Woods’ by Tana French is no different — yet beside the story itself, there’s […]

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Specify. Choose. Specify. Choose. Specify.

Here are the last four months of teaching branding at the Shanghai Institute of Visual Art summarized into two verbs. SPECIFY: The market isn’t homogenous. Which clusters of people do you see of people that are similar to each other, and meaningfully different to people in other clusters? Don’t segment based on age: people aged the same aren’t […]

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Chinese in Hattem

(Originally written for GoEast Mandarin.) My hometown Hattem has around 11,000 citizens, with on the north the river the Ijssel, and on the south the biggest forest of the Netherlands, the Veluwe, teeming with life and fields thick of heather. There are two bus stops, with a bus every two hours — but not on […]

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Guns, Germs and Steel review

Here’s a hugely impressive book, and I feel smarter and more understanding after reading it. Diamond writes a beautiful message: all societies are inventive, but the environments and starting materials, conditions are not the same. And most of it is based on the narrative of Yali’s question, an elegant and honest search that shows the […]

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Two years in China

Today marks two years in China. All these days have stretched time and have given me much more than two years would justify. Highs and low, for which somehow I’m both grateful. Time slowly consumes you, until it wins. And yet it’s measured in experiences, not in years alone. Thank you China.

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How much to spend on marketing?

This is the sort of trick question that typically raises the dogma of “3 to 6 percent of revenue”. But all that does is make you approach your marketing backward, by starting your strategy with the budget. A strategy is a response to a challenge, so why start with the budget? Instead, plot a business […]

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Mother’s Day

(Published on Shanghai’s non-profit HerCentury) I’ve been checking old places I went to on Google Street View, trying to remember names of classmates, looking up old cartoon movies we watched, and Lego sets we owned & other toys. I grew up in such wealth of love and space for creativity, even though we were just […]

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The many cities above line 5

Lao Zhou sits on the courtesy seat of the subway with a bag of spinach and pork between his feet. For the past six decades, his life was lived around the creek and the buildings next to it. Sepia-tinted memories of a thousand bicycle rides alongside the water, girls, and French Phoenix trees — the […]

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The big wait

Imagine being the doctor of a professional football team. You studied at a medical school for years, and now you sit on the bench — match after match — while nothing happens. Of course, because professional football players rank among the world’s fittest people. You watch every game from the sidelines, but you’re bored out […]

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