25 October 2009

Boot camp

Howdy! How has everyone been in the last 10 days?
I've been reading a lot about the brain with my lovely book The Owner's Manual for the Brain, it's so fascinating when a lot of things you used to take as being the power of nature can be explained. Things like how caffeine causes you stress, which released the cortisol hormone which then gives you a double whammy when you try to drink coffee to relax when you're worried, or how smoking really doesn't relax you much other than satisfying the stress from your addiction not being satisfied. A lot of things that people would end at "it's just not good for you" are explained in this book from a brain point of view. After all, everything starts from the brain, your food cravings, your moods, etc.

Currently, I'm reading a lot about sleeping and it helps make sense of my sleeping habits and why I feel so refreshed when I wake up at 6am. Oddly, according to the book, people who have adjusted themselves to adapting to the "light bulb" lifestyle in which they take advantage of light available at night are technically the superior ones of the species. After all, if you don't learn to adapt to new environments you will soon go extinct. Yet, the times when I used to stay up at night and work, I'd often get stuff done but my mood would go down the drains. Then I read things about moods and things started to make sense when I connected the dots. So I guess in the end, it's back to square one of "do what makes you feel best" :), just this time I can kind of understand why I feel good about something :).

This brings me back to the fantastic book Think like Da Vinci. It tells you how Leonardo Da Vinci often asked the questions not of how something worked, but why something worked the way it did. Lucky for me, I often have this same curiosity, especially when it comes to myself psychologically and physically. Being told "drinking a glass of warm milk before bed helps you sleep" doesn't cut it for me, but being told that the milk stimulates melatonin (something that we naturally produce in the lack of light and which improves sleep) production and when we drink it warm, gets absorbed faster in our system than a cold variation, which is why warm milk is suggested, not cold is what I'm looking for.

As I've said before though, this curiosity sometimes does kill me. Sometimes I feel so drained from why, why, why, why, why and wanting to constantly learn more about everything because my brain sometimes works faster than my ability to absorb. Oh speaking of absorbing, another interesting I learnt is the importance of sleep when trying to properly learn something, especially when it involves motor co-ordination (ie. using your body). This kind of also explains to me why sometimes I feel so exhausted mentally by the end of the day if I did everything I wished I could do:
  • Practice Drums
  • Work Out
  • Write new comedy
  • Do my web design work
  • Learn a new skill or read up on current technology
By the end of that, I just feel burnt. This could be because of the way the brain works in learning and by the end of the day, you've exhausted your store of you could say learning quota. A good night's sleep help restore this balance and you're good to go the next day. I could go on and on and on. I'm only 1/5 through the book! Yikes!

I really wish they had this book in an electronic format, would make it so much easier with my Kindle DX.

So I've recently been trying to optimize my workflow even more and came across a kick-ass money management tool online called Buxfer. It has helped me keep track of everything I spend and one great feature I absolutely adore is its ability to upload receipts and store them in the transaction item I enter. Perfect! I used to use a combination of Xpenser and Outright but after a while it just felt so.... broken apart, not to mention the interface wasn't the most pleasant to look at.
I sent my HP iPaq 912 PDA for repair and after some checking, they found that my USB slot and keypad was not working and they gave me a brand new one! Wahoo! So now it works perfectly and this good thing is, I have a lot of experience with this phone, I know exactly what tools I want and how to use it properly. My productivity has shot back up to where it was before because I'm able to keep my PDA comfortably in sync with everything I use. The only thing I'm missing is to see if I could connect my PDA to my Macbook and share the Internet via a USB cable, so that way if I'm traveling, I don't have to try to connect to the Internet directly with my PDA. On top of that, when I get PCCW Wifi later on, I'll be able to use the cheaper plan of only 1 device going online and connect my PDA to my Macbook and keep it in sync. Voila!

Yes, yes, I know, I'm going on and on about this stuff, but it's exciting to see how over time and experience, my needs are getting discovered and slowly properly satisfied without compromise.

On a different note, I went to Shenzhen yesterday to do some Chinese stand up comedy (in Cantonese for me) and it was a blast! The audience loved it! There was an MC and 3 other comics (mandarin speakers) and I was the special guest. I was pretty nervous because I was worried a lot of the audience wouldn't understand Cantonese but it turns out even if they didn't speak it, most people understood Cantonese! So that was good! :D

One of the organizers called Angela was even kind enough to drive me around the city afterwards for a quick tour of the place before dropping me off at the train station. I got home and felt all the love I had for Hong Kong rush back into me. Don't get me wrong, Shenzhen is a nice place, but Hong Kong has still won my heart over.

So here I am back, on my fantastic Herman Miller Aeron chair, typing you this entry, excited about the next 10 days and what it has in store for me. For one, we have a public holiday tomorrow (Monday 26 October 2009) so I'm even happier about that :).

One confession before I go, my 6am waking up has been affected greatly due to unforseen late nights and I'm hoping today will be the last day I wake up at 9am. The 2 hours of peace I get between 6am and 8am does wonders for me in every way. I can't afford to lose that. So let's see if I make it before the next Day 10 entry. Have a great 10 days!


15 October 2009

The Hong Kong foo-e!

I'm back home! Lovely, lovely ol' Hong Kong!
I must say, my jet lag has kind of worked to my advantage. Ever since I've returned, I've been waking up at 6am and loving it! I'm not feeling sleepy or anything, just feeling... alive! It's 11:50am and I've gotten so much stuff done! Sure it's been almost 6 hours into my day but it's only 11:50am! Mentally I feel like I've still got the whole day ahead of me!

So one lesson I've definitely learned to enjoy is that waking at the break of dawn is awesome. Not only do you make the most of sunlight, you feel ahead of everyone. Now, when I have stuff to do but want to go to bed, I just sleep, knowing that I can wake up at 6am and tackle it and still be ahead of all my clients. Not to mention I can throw in my drum practice/gym session before I even start work, getting that out of the way is fantastic!

As you can see, I'm kind of boiling with excitement because there is so much happening and I'm trying to stay calm. First things first, I'd like to share with everyone my lovely addition to my life: My Kindle DX! May I just say, as pricey as it is, it's definitely worth it. I've got my ebooks on it and can't wait to rock out and read everything! I finally can separate my reading hobby from work (because everytime I'm at my laptop, I always get distractions here and there). Now I can read all my books I've been longing to read but didn't want to lug around with myself.

Speaking of kick ass books, I'm currently reading (in paper version though) The Owner's Manual for the Brain. I saw it on my last day in the US before going to the airport at Barnes and Noble and fell in love with it after skimming through a few pages. This is exactly what I wanted to read and learn about! Currently, putting aside the fact that the book is super thick, it's super worth it! I'd have loved to have it on my Kindle but they don't have it in that edition. To prove to you how much I wanted this book, I even paid the full retail price of US$29.96 (+taxes, making it a bit over US$32) when I could have ordered it via Amazon for US$20 (but then I wouldn't have the book with me now, it'd have to get sent to me). I couldn't help it, I just had to the read the book.

Another killer thing is that after coming back to Hong Kong, a lot of my "plans" I had thought up while in the US is working out. Now that my knee is pretty much back to normal, I'm able to practice drums and work out again. In fact, I already went to the gym this morning and may I just say 8:30am at the gym is awesome! It's practically empty! Everyone's left to go to work! :) I really hope I maintain this 6am habit of mine, though it's going to be a bit tough during the weekends with my stand up comedy gigs at night that usually last until midnight at least. I need to be in bed by 10pm!

Another new addition to my family of gadgets is the Shure SRH440 headphones. I finally couldn't accept my AKG K81DJ headphones anymore because the wire kept screwing up! After searching and trying a whole bunch of headphones, I came across these Shure headphones and it blew me away with its clarity (though I kind of need to add a bit of equalizer to my music to give it that extra kick sometimes). I didn't know the price but thought to myself there's no way in hell I could afford these but it only cost US$100 (ie HK$780)! Woah! Nice! And then I thought to myself, something's got to give, they're not going to have stock! And sure enough they didn't. But after a bit of snooping around at other stores, I found someone else selling it for the same price and now I'm listening to lovely SOMA Space Station with these.

So now I'm happy but worried about my credit card bills :P Yikes. Well that means it's time to work and make me some dough! So here I am, refreshed after my trip and energized and ready to go. I've got a whole long list of to do's ready to tackle and around 6 hours before I have to head down to the Comedy Club for this week's Comedy Festival Events.

One thing I'd like to share with everyone that I learned on my 3 week trip away from Hong Kong was the power of saying "hey man, let it go". While I was there, sometimes I'd be in my hotel room, all charged up because I'd gotten that great idea that would help my work a lot but I wasn't physically in Hong Kong so I couldn't do it and after a while I just learned to let it go. I used to have that problem before where I'd get frustrated internally and often got disappointed in myself but now I just try my best to tell myself "hey man, let it go". It's quite interesting to realize that almost anything in life can be somehow ignored and eventually it'll fade away (not necessarily in a good way, but it will fade away). Of course, the only thing that you can't really ignore are bills. Damn.

Have a great 10 days and stay charged up and relaxed at the same time! That's how I feel right now!! RAH!


05 October 2009

Last day in Salt Lake City

Howdy! Woah, I'd never have thought I'd be writing a blog entry from Salt Lake City, Utah!
How is Hong Kong? It's been 2 weeks since I've been home that I've forgotten what humidity even feels like!
I've been travelling around the US and we went to:
  1. Washington DC
  2. Baltimore
  3. Philadelphia
  4. New York City
  5. Albany
  6. Salt Lake City
and our next stop is Pasadena! I'm still trying to register that I've been to all these places! I've met so many people and eaten so much (seriously, my pants are tight, I don't need to use a belt anymore lol) but the best highlight so far is that I got to touch snow! Like proper snow! Now just sleet, but snow that can be made into snowballs and snowmen!

My right knee is 98% back to normal but I still wear my brace when walking on the streets just to play safe. I still have uneven legs where my right leg is thinner than my left due to muscle wasting from all these days of not using my right leg. Sigh. My fitness level has returned to what it was a year ago so I've done a full circle. I started seriously working out in November 2008 and we're in October 2009 and I've had my high times when my fitness was at its peak but now I'm back to (if not worse than) what I was this time last year. Ahh well, at least I got to enjoy a lot of super, duper yummy food!!

So what have I learnt from this whole trip? Well one main thing is that humans are humans after all. Even in America, there are the same problems you face anywhere in the world. You've got the rich, you've got the poor, you've got the dull, you've got the creative. As much as the States is indeed a place of opportunity, it is also a place of many failures. I guess the main interesting thing is the amount the US focuses on arts. In Hong Kong, the arts is often under-rated and overpowered by more practical things like maths. In fact, the arts has an underlying power that most people don't realize. How many times have you watched a movie and felt motivated like never before to do something? How often have you listened to a song that touched you deeper than anything you felt from a text book? The way the arts can affect you at a deeper level, can easily influence you without you knowing.

It's quite similar to marketing. Through smart marketing, companies can manipulate your thought process by making you relate to certain things. In the same way, so can art. In many ways, people can use the arts to convey a message much better than they could ever do with plain words. Watching Basketball Diaries can drill the harm of drug-use into a child's brain much better than any father-son talk if you ask me.

This is the one main thing I'll be taking back home with me. Oh and a few pairs of Van shoes (Yum and a blue pair!) I bought along the way. Mmmm vans shoes. I'm a happy soul. Off to pack my suitcase and get ready for bed! Speak to you again in 10 days, from ol' HK!:D