A Fistful of Dong: The Cost of Living in Da Nang, Vietnam

This is the first time I’ve felt a little guilty about writing one of these posts. The beach town of Da Nang is an underappreciated gem. It’s the smallest of the big five cities in Vietnam, and much less well-known than Hanoi or Saigon.

But it’s been vaunted as an up-and-coming hub for digital nomads in recent years, so the cat’s out of the bag already. If it starts getting overrun with bitcoin enthusiasts and wellness coaches, I swear it’s not my fault…

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Constraints That Liberate

“Every morning I roll out of bed and ask myself, what should I do today?”

These were the very first words I wrote on Deep Dish, 2.5 years ago. I’m as surprised as anyone to find that I still have that same untrammelled freedom today. If I had to try and pin down the central theme of this blog, it’s exactly that: opening up your options. I’m not going to stop writing about that stuff any time soon.But I do want to introduce a new through-line.

Something I’ve learned the hard way during this extended sabbatical is that you can absolutely have too much of a good thing. Total unconstrained freedom is – well – kind of freaky, actually…

Digital Minimalism review - cover image gazing into the abyss

Digital Minimalism Review: Gazing Into the Abyss

Maybe you hear a mischievous little voice in your head that whispers ‘jump!’ every time you walk across a bridge, or lean over a balcony. In a similar way, I have recurring fantasies of shutting down my social media profiles, deleting this website, and generally trying to erase my presence from the Internet.

And so, I need to read a book called Digital Minimalism like a depressed person needs a lecture on antinatalism. Of course, I read it anyway…

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Tips For Reading 100+ Books a Year

There’s a stomach-sinking moment of realization that comes in every reader’s life: you’ll run out of years long before you run out of books. Like the monstrous hydra, every title struck off your reading list spawns three more to take its place. The unread piles glowering at you from the bedside table only grow larger. So many secrets, so little […]

Goals Gone Wild

Every month, the blogging mafia convene: if you know what’s good for you, the first post of the year better have something to do with goals and resolutions, and at least one mention of the phrase ‘new year, new me’. I’m sorry! They’ll break my kneecaps if I don’t do what they say! My compromise is to write a post […]

Living on $10,000 a year: Deep Dish 2018 spending report

Living on $10,000 a Year: Attempt #2

Last year, my goal was to live the good life on less than US$10,000. I ended up going about six hundred bucks over my target, but was pretty happy with the attempt. This year, I didn’t have any particular goal in mind. Since I’d already built a spreadsheet and got in the habit of tracking my expenses, I kept up […]

The Best of the Best Books I Read in 2018

This is normally my favourite post to write. But now I have to somehow pick out the highlights from 100+ contenders. Most of these books were curated and recommended by Deep Dish readers and other people of impeccable taste. I already knew they were going to deliver. And they did!

After much internal debate and killing of darlings, I’ve managed to narrow it down to the top 10. These are the books that blew my mind, made me howl, or filled my notebook to overflowing. In no particular order:

The Matthew Effect: For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

Meditations on Momentum

What’s the difference between Robert Galbraith and J.K. Rowling? Clearly, being a talented writer is necessary, but not sufficient. Rowling has momentum on her side. At this point, she could publish the contents of a bowl of alphabet soup, and it would still sell better than 99 per cent of novels by hopeful first-time authors.

This is a ‘no duh’ example, designed to get you nodding your head along. But momentum is everywhere, and it’s rarely in plain sight. Without being consciously aware of doing so, I’ve written about it in four domains…

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Fat People Are Heroes

When I see an overweight person slogging away on the treadmill, I think to myself: that person is a goddamn hero.

Here’s the dirty little secret that fit and muscular people don’t mention in their #fitspo Instagram posts: if you’re already in decent shape, you can get away with all kinds of shenanigans….

Fuck-You Money Part II

If you ever need a refresher on the importance of fuck-you frugality, go peel off a $100 bill, and subject yourself to the silent, brooding judgment of Benjamin Franklin.

The side-eye is so doleful it traverses time and space. It’s almost as if Franklin knows his face is about to be a) rolled into a tube and stuck up some degenerate’s nostril, or b) used to purchase another superfluous piece of junk that will, in short order, be discarded upon a mountain of previously purchased superfluous junk.

Franklin’s not mad; he’s just disappointed. He wants us to be better…

Somebody wants you to do something, fuck you. Boss pisses you off, fuck you! Own your house. Have a couple bucks in the bank. Don't drink. That's all I have to say to anybody on any social level. Did your grandfather take risks? I guarantee he did it from a position of fuck you. A wise man's life is based around fuck you.

The Joy of Fuck-You Money

Humphrey Bogart used to keep a $100 bill in his dresser drawer at all times—a decent chunk of change in the 1920s. He referred to it as his ‘fuck-you money’, because it meant he’d never be forced to take a crappy part. According to Bogie, the only good reason for making money was “so you can tell any son-of-a-bitch in the world to go to hell”.

Unlike Bogart, I am not a tough guy. One time I cried in front of my boss. She gave me the rest of the day off. In fact, all my bosses have been great. I’m struggling to think of a single person I’d like to say ‘fuck you’ to.

But there are plenty of people who I’d like to politely say ‘no thanks’ to. And I say it all the time! It’s great. If I think back on the last few years, fuck-you money has changed my life.

The Brave New World of Wireheading

The rat’s paw moves constantly, sometimes becoming a blur as it depresses the lever over and over. Once, twice, ten times, a hundred times, five thousand times in the space of an hour. With each push, an electrode sends a jolt of electricity coursing through its tiny rodent brain. The rat will push the lever for as long as 24 hours without stopping. It won’t eat, or sleep, or make any effort to leave the confines of its stainless steel cage. Unless the men in white lab coats cut off the current, it will stimulate itself to death.

It’s 1954, and science has just stumbled upon the brain’s pleasure center. Heady days! The excited researchers repeat the experiment on monkeys, and find, again, they can reach right into the hypothalamus and light it up like a Christmas tree, transforming their subjects into blissed-out automatons. The seminal paper concludes that these results could “very likely be generalized eventually to human beings—with modifications, of course”.

Of course…

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Bali on a Budget: Living on Less Than $800 a Month

Bali offers a delightfully low cost of living and high quality of life. This being my fourth trip in as many years, I figure I’ve got enough spending data to do a decent breakdown of my expenses.

I’ve tracked every last rupiah during my time here, and crunched the numbers on my spending. What follows is a full cost-of-living breakdown including all the nitty-gritty stuff (like insurance and bank fees) which most reports seem to forget or ignore.