Lu-Hai Liang

thoughts from a freelance foreign correspondent

Archive for July 2020

iPhone SE (2020) – a journalist’s review

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In August 2017, in the UK, I bought my first ever Apple iPhone. It was to replace a stuttering LG G3.

This phone was the SE  – “Special Edition” – and shared internals with the iPhone 6S. It cost £299 with 32GB of internal storage. I loved it for its fluidity of use; its decent camera; and its compact size. The design: with machined speaker grilles, metal frame, and square-ish proportions, remains one of my favourites.

Unfortunately by June 2020 this iPhone SE had stopped working and I was forced to buy a new phone. I replaced it with the second-generation iPhone SE.

Five generations — the iPhones 7, 8, X, XS, XR — separate the old SE and the new SE. And it is the most modern phone I have ever owned. It shares the same processor as the top-end iPhone 11 Pro but costs far less. The 4.7-inch screen seems gigantic compared to the 4-inch screen I was using. I have to admit, I do miss the very compact size and lightness of the old SE, which didn’t move around so much in my pocket when I went jogging.

The new iPhone SE has an extremely fast A13 Bionic processor (although the latest version of iOS can be a bit buggy). The screen is colourful and contrast-y; the speakers could be better; it is water resistant; it is a bit heavy; the front-facing camera is quite good (7MP) which is important in this day of video-calls. The battery life could be a bit better but it’s not too bad.

I bought it in the Apple store in Fukuoka and it cost me £376.37 for the 128GB version.

From my freelance journalist’s perspective — we freelancers being somewhat price sensitive — I consider this a very good deal. I’m a fan of iMessage; the way the iPhone syncs with my iPad; the included EarPods, which have a decent mic and button controls; and the Apple ecosystem of apps, podcasts, etc.

It is not the most transformative gadget I have had. That accolade possibly belongs to the iPad Mini, which I snagged last year in Seoul. The iPad is my do-almost-everything gadget. I watch films on Netflix on it while simultaneously FaceTiming. YouTube is better on the bigger screen. Video-calls, such as Zoom, work better on my iPad than on my laptop. I have a Logitech keyboard which I use to write messages and emails, etc. I have an Apple Pencil to sign documents and to occasionally doodle. And I play Call of Duty, playing online Battle Royale and deathmatches. The iPad Mini was one of my best ever purchases. And the phone, for me, is of lesser importance these days, but I can highly recommend the new iPhone SE.

Written by Lu-Hai Liang

July 21, 2020 at 8:36 am

The sushi chef

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I’ve been in Japan since March but I haven’t eaten sushi, at a restaurant, ’til this past week.

A friend and I went to a sushi restaurant. We ordered our selection. They brought the sushi carefully arranged on the plate. And each plate looked immaculate, as if it was art. I tried a variety, from their menu. For my second plate I ordered the salmon again. I put it in my mouth and chewed it slowly. The texture was like cream yet meaty; a careful savouriness engulfed my mouth, and the rice gave it a floury pillow. It was an intense enjoyment.

We drank green tea then shochu. We talked about the delicious food we’d eaten in times past. Around us were Japanese couples, friends, and work colleagues enjoying themselves. It was a wonderful evening.

As we got up to leave, my friend went to use the bathroom, and I stopped to look at the sushi chefs. They were held in the middle of the restaurant separated by glass from the diners. I looked at them and felt some complex emotions. I realised it was envy. I envied them.

But why?

I guess it was the simplicity of their job.

I have heard that it takes some time to become a sushi chef and it can take years of training. I am sure great manual skill is involved. But some of it sounds like sushi-chef propaganda. It is, after all, just cutting strips of fish and collecting rice together neatly. But I envied the physical aspect of their job. And its focus.

Journalism can be very tiring. I once heard that burnout most often occurs when you most care about the work. And these weeks have been busier and more exhausting than usual. I am not reaching burnout, but I am looking forward to a little holiday.

However, the yearning for a different kind of job remains. I’ve had this desire — medium-strength, like sake, or tabasco — buried for a few years. It as if the heart wants to live something else for a while. Like a hunter might want to switch things up the next season by being a fisherman; or the spear-fisher wants to try foraging for a while. It is not unnatural.

I looked at the sushi chefs and wondered for a moment what it would be like to switch places. Then we left and the moment passed. The desire won’t go away.

Written by Lu-Hai Liang

July 17, 2020 at 8:07 am