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!



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