Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Here are the books I am reading this summer

July 16, 2019

This summer I have been fortunate to have stumbled across some wonderful books. Here’s what I am reading:

  1. So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport. I enjoy reading books that challenge my beliefs, especially beliefs that I never consciously formed and were unconsciously inherited from my culture, family, and friends. This book does just that – it challenges a long-held belief. The book says, “Follow your passion” is bad advice. Wow! The whole book explains why. The author’s premise is that you master something, almost anything at all, and then you use that mastery to move you into a place where you can control your work. To have rare, valuable work you must have rare, valuable skills.
  2. Why We Sleep by Mathew Walker. Fascinating insights into sleep. See my last post. Every human needs to read this book.
  3. Cool Tools by Kevin Kelly. A large book containing interesting info about lots and lots of things. This is the kind of book that you open to any arbitrary page and learn something new.
  4. Infinite Powers by Steven Strogatz. Here’s a neat story at the beginning of the book: Novelist Herman Wouk was doing research for a big novel he hoped to write about World War II, and he went to Caltech to interview physicists who had worked on the bomb, one of whom was Richard Feynman. After the interview, as they were parting, Feynman asked Wouk if he knew calculus. No, Wouk admitted, he didn’t. “You had better learn it,” said Feynman. “It’s the language God talks.”

What books are you reading this summer?

A few interesting things about sleep

July 13, 2019

I am reading an interesting book, titled Why We Sleep by Mathew Walker. I’d like to share with you a few things I learned.

  1. Inside your brain is something called the suprachiasmatic nucleus. It controls your circadian rhythm, that is, your sleep cycle.
  2. When you fly to a different time zone, the suprachiasmatic nucleus must readjust to the new night/day pattern. But it’s a slow process. For every day you are in a different time zone, your suprachiasmatic nucleus can only readjust by one hour. So, if you fly from the east coast to London (+5 hours) it will take your body 5 days to readjust.
  3. Scientists have studied airplane cabin crews who frequently fly on long-haul routes and have little chance to recover. Two alarming results have emerged. First, parts of their brains—specifically those related to learning and memory—had physically shrunk, suggesting the destruction of brain cells caused by the biological stress of time-zone travel. Second, their short-term memory was significantly impaired. They were considerably more forgetful than individuals of similar age and background who did not frequently travel through time zones. Other studies of pilots, cabin crew members, and shift workers have reported additionally disquieting consequences, including far higher rates of cancer and type 2 diabetes than the general population.

By sheer will power Richard Feynman turned himself into a genius

July 9, 2019

According to popular legend, Richard Feynman, the Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist, scored only slightly above IQ of 125 when he was tested in high school. In his memoirs, however, we find hints of how he rose from modest intelligence to genius, when he talks about his compulsion to tear down important papers and mathematical concepts until he could understand the concepts from the bottom up. It’s possible, in other words, that his amazing intellect was less about a gift from God and more about a dedication to deliberate practice.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You, by Cal Newport

Deliberate practice refers to a special type of practice that is purposeful and systematic. While regular practice might include mindless repetitions, deliberate practice requires focused attention and is conducted with the specific goal of improving performance.

Should I keep my lawn grass long or short?

July 7, 2019

I would like to avoid watering my lawn. I hate the idea of dumping perfectly good drinking water onto my lawn. So, should I keep my lawn grass short or long? Below are arguments for each side. Which argument is correct?

Argument for Short Lawn Grass

Short lawn grass requires less water than long lawn grass because whatever water is present only has to hydrate short leaves.

Argument for Long Lawn Grass

Mowing it to keep it short might increase evaporation from the cut surface. A short lawn provides less shade for itself, and the soil can dry out more quickly, thus requiring MORE watering. If the grass is allowed to grow taller, the roots will be better established and penetrate deeper into the soil.  This will in turn make the grass more drought tolerant because during dry spells, there is likely to still be some moisture deeper down.

Two slices of bread puts on one pound of bodyfat

June 26, 2019

I love making bread. The hearty, wholesome kind. I love the smell of bread baking in the oven.

For the last year, however, I have noticed something quite disturbing. When I eat a couple slices of bread, the next day when I weigh myself I am one pound heavier. If I eat bread three days in a row, at the end of those three days I am three pounds heavier. Yikes! Perhaps my body has become resistant to wheat? Have you found that when you eat bread, you automatically gain weight?

Sadly, my days of bread-making and bread-eating are over.

Small, obscure schools better than big, well-known schools for preparing for life after school

June 23, 2019

Stephen Curry and C.J. McCollum are two of the most talented players in professional basketball. Before joining the NBA, Curry played basketball at a small, obscure college, Davidson. McCollum played at Lehigh. We typically think of superstars coming from big name schools, like Duke, Kentucky, and North Carolina.

What if they are big stars because they went to small schools? Curry stayed in school for three years, McCollum four years. They were allowed to develop as basketball players about as far away from the NBA spotlight as you can get. They weren’t big fish in small ponds so much as they became sharks in a kiddie pool. They crafted their games and built the supreme confidence necessary to earn contracts that would eventually pay them millions of dollars.

One of the reasons they were effective right away in the NBA is because they were experienced. They had to shoulder the load for their college teams for three or four years. They got better faster, and then they were ready for the NBA.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/ja-morant-late-bloomers-nba-draft-11560952239

I suspect the same may be true of academics. Attending a big-name school like MIT, Harvard, and Stanford may not be the best training ground for the real world. Rather, attending a small, obscure school where the teachers are there expressly to teach may very well better prepare a person for his or her career after school.

Best way to exercise: Mind-body connection? Empty the mind? Grease the groove?

June 9, 2019

Which of these is the best way to exercise:

  1. Mind-body connection. Be mindful of the body while exercising. Where there is tightness, send mental commands to relax and let go.
  2. Empty the mind. Get the mind out of the movement and allow the body to move without interference from the mind.
  3. Grease the groove. Perform the movement over and over to master the movement. It doesn’t really matter what the mind thinks about.

Which way is best? I suspect each is best suited for certain exercises. While statically stretching it might be best to focus the mind on identifying tightness and then using the mind to command those tight muscles to relax. While doing a golf swing it might be best to empty the mind. While walking it probably doesn’t matter what the mind thinks about.

I hereby replace wasted hours each day with activities toward a new goal

May 11, 2019

After watching a wonderfully inspirational talk by Arnold Schwarzenegger, I reflected on how much time I spend each day on (what I deem to be) wasted activities. I was shocked when I added up the time that I spend watching TV, watching YouTube (which is essentially TV), and repeatedly checking news websites: 3 hours each day, oftentimes more. Eek! Is that how I want to spend my life, mindlessly watching TV and YouTube, and getting frustrated and stressed out by the news reports? No!

I hereby set a goal for myself. I hereby replace those 3 wasted hours each day with activities that bring me closer to my goal.

Goal: I want to perform the Olympic weightlifting snatch movement, lifting my body weight. This movement requires a great deal of mobility, strength, and speed. My mobility/flexibility is appallingly limited due to many years spent glued to a computer station. I have never really focused on speed, so I am starting at ground zero. As for strength, I’ve got a long way to go to lift my body weight.

I am pumped up. For a long time, I felt like I was drifting aimlessly in life. This goal now gives me direction and purpose in life.

Be like a 3-year-old child

May 3, 2019

Observe a 3-year-old child. He/she has a completely relaxed body and mind. No concerns, no responsibilities, no stresses. Every moment is new and fresh and explored with curiosity. Movement is free and flowing. Today while exercising I used my mind to put me into the mindset of a 3-year-old. Oh, my, what a wonderful, joyous exercise session.

What is a comfortable belt?

April 13, 2019

It is said that a comfortable belt is one that you don’t feel, and you are unaware of it. But that’s not the most comfortable belt. Like comfortable shoes, would you be completely unconscious of comfortable shoes? No. Something better than comfortable shoes are shoes that you know are comfortable.

So, in the same way, self-consciousness adds something to life. It is one thing to be happy, and not know it. It is another thing to be happy and know it.

It is like one’s voice in a shower room or bath tub has more resonance. That is why temples and cathedrals and resonating boxes for guitars and drums are created – to give this little quality of echo. For all echo is a certain kind of feedback which enables you to reflect upon what you’re doing and to know that you know.

So, one might say that ordinary people are Buddha’s, but they don’t know it. The Buddha is the one who knows he’s a Buddha.

Alan Watts, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GX4f5sGVP_U, at 8 minutes, 21 seconds.