Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How to be a responsible person: Use a calendar

When I was small, I was always puzzled why adults need to use organizers to record what they need to do on a certain day.

"Why don't they just remember it? I guess adults are either too lazy to remember things or their memory is just too bad."

Well, as a student, my daily routine was pretty much fixed: wake up, breakfast, go to school, attend classes, lunch, attend some more classes, go home, do homework and sleep. If you got a mundane routine like that, of course you don't need an organizer to help you remember stuff.

After I started working for a few years, however, I experienced quite some changes to my life:
  • I began to assume more and more responsibilities beyond my full-time job
  • I got to know more and more people and have more and more events to attend
Because of these changes, there's an ever increasing number of things that I need to remember and my memory is not that reliable anymore. I started to use Google Calendar and, wow, I suddenly had 2 more GB of brain memory to use!

In Professor Randy Pausch's lecture about "Time Management", he mentioned about using a calendar because his brain didn't have space to remember things. Well, Professor Pausch was a smart guy and I'm sure he could manage to remember the stuff he needed to do if he meant to do it. However, even if he could do that, that would not have been an efficient use of his brain, and this is true for everyone.

Human beings invented tools to help them do things more efficiently. Whenever a tool is doing a task better than we can, we let the tool do it for us. Yes, maybe you can calcuate 123423 x (23438 + 9234983) / 5534328 in your brain in one minute because you're good at numbers, but I will still call you an idiot if you can use a calculator to get the answer in five seconds and you choose not to use it because you want show off how "fast"your brain is.

Similarly, organizers, paper calendar, Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook, iPhone, etc. all do a better job than you in remembering things. Why on earth would you waste a valuable portion of your mind to remember what you have to do next Tuesday while you can use it to focus on the task you're doing now?

I don't care what calendar tool you choose to use. If you're old fashioned, use a paper calendar. If you're technology savvy, use a web based calendar like Google Calendar. As long as you find one that works for you, it's fine. The important thing is that you're not using your brain to remember any time sensitive tasks/events/appointments.

If you follow my advice, there're at least three improvements to your life:
  • You'll be more focused on the task at hand
  • You'll never forget another time sensitive task/event/appointment again
  • You'll feel that you've control over your own life because you know what lies ahead in the future
And the second point tells you why using a calendar can make you a more responsible person: if you miss an appointment or fail to complete a time sensitive task, people will think that you're irresponsible. It's that simple.

Of course, you can hire a secretary to remember things for you if you're rich. If you're poor like me, just use a dirt cheap calendar :P

Previous article: "How to be a responsible person: Cut unused communication channels"
Next article: "How to be a responsible person: RSVP properly"

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Air and Simple Gifts - Pearlman, McGill, Yo Yo Ma, Montero

This is my favorite part of the inauguration of Obama. Yo Yo Ma is really good! I should pay attention to his music more :)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

16 things about me

My friend Alfred on Facebook tagged me in his "16" note so I'm writing 16 things about me in this post. See the rules below:


規則:當你比人tag左,就要寫一篇note,內含16 項有關你的事情,習慣,喜好,目標....或任何各不相干但有關你的東西。最後tag另外16個人。你必須tag返tag左你的那個人。如果我tag左你,即係我想認識你更深。


If someone tags you, you have to write a note with 16 things about yourself. It can be about some special events that happened to you in your lifetime, your habits, your hobbies or your goals. They don't have to be related to each other but they're all about you. Then, tag another 16 friends and one of them has to be the one who tagged you. If I tag you, it means that I want to know you more.
  1. I really like playing Chinese chess and chess. When I was in high school, I could spent hours playing Chinese chess after school (so you can guess that I didn't get good grades back then). I don't really play Chinese chess anymore because no one plays with me in LA. I do play chess regularly on Facebook though and sometimes can pull off a nice game like this one :)
  2. Playing piano is my another hobby. It feels really good when you can play a song that you love so much and be totally "in" it. It's a good way to ease my stress too! My favorite songs are "Close to You" and "La La La Love Song" from Long Vacation.
  3. Around 10 years ago, I became extremely obsessed in playing DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) after seeing Jenith's performance in Korean town. I dare not estimate how much money I had spent on this game hahaha... I liked other music games created by Bemani too like Beatmania II DX and Drummania. I still remember that I could brag about passing all the DDR songs with the highest difficulty back then. This is not true anymore as the songs are insanely difficult now :P
  4. I really like reading and learning about new ideas and perspectives. Whenever I read something that gives me new inspiration I'll be very happy :)
  5. Joel Spolsky is the guy who inspired be to start blogging although he doesn't know about it (his writing style is really good, take a look at his blog even if you doesn't work in the software industry). I like sharing good stuff with other people and a blog provides an excellent platform for me to do that.
  6. I'm an extremely logical and practical person (that's why I studied engineering). I care about the results a lot more than the whether the process is "right" or "wrong". Whenever a problem occurs, I focus on finding a solution instead of seeking whom to blame. I hate people who ignore the reality and talk about ideals only.
  7. Materials don't really bring me a lot of pleasure. I don't really care about living in a big nice house in Beverly Hills or driving a Lamborghini. I care a lot more about what I achieve and what good I do to this world.
  8. Perhaps the only material that does bring me great joy is delicious food. I eat all kinds of food: Chinese, Mexican, American, English, Vietnamese, French, Italian, Korean, Japanese, Thai, Malaysian, etc. I think that the food from each country in the world is delicious in its own way.
  9. My eyes are very small. See my Mii image? My eyes are like two horizontal lines.
  10. You may find this weird: I enjoy the feeling of hitting things with my fingertips very much. I guess that's the reason I like playing piano and typing. The Typing of the Dead is one of the greatest games invented since I learned how to touch type through it.
  11. Unless something special happens, I always try to be on time for whatever event/meeting/appointment I need to attend. I think that being late is practically stealing time from other people and time is the most valuable resource a person has.
  12. I hate people who're irresponsible. Because of this, I don't say "yes" easily. When I do say "yes", I really mean it. Promises, no matter big or small, are very important to me. Unless I'm really not able to do it, I always do what I promise to do. If you're interested, see my series "How to be a responsible person".
  13. Someday, I would like to travel around the world and experience the great variety of human cultures. The ironic thing is, I always think that airplane tickets are way overpriced (Man, traveling on an airplane is like paying money for torture).
  14. I really love the movies produced by Pixar. I'm pretty sure that the people who work there are some of the most creative and talented minds in the world. Finding Nemo and WALL•E are both brilliant and my favorite movies.
  15. I'm a web programmer and it's not really related to what I studied in school (electrical engineering). However, I think the job fits me well since I love web technologies and analytical thinking.
  16. I went to Wah Yan College, Kowloon for my high school education and it gave me a lot of happy memories. The fathers were kind, the teachers were great and my classmates were intelligent. Wah Yan gave us a lot of freedom and opportunities to make our own decisions. Whenever I think about it I'm touched because the fathers and teachers had trust in us unconditionally, although we were just a bunch of naughty boys who often made mistakes. Think about it: is there someone who will trust you just because you are you? Not that many I would bet.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Best DUI Arrest In History

Man even if I'm conscious I can't recite the alphabet backwards! It was so funny when that driver admitted that he was drunk at the end hahaha :D

Friday, January 16, 2009

How to be a responsible person: Cut unused communication channels

Alright, I finally have time to continue my "How to be a responsible person" series. This time, let's talk about one easy thing you can do to make yourself a more responsible person: cut unused communication channels.

In ancient times, people primarily rely on talking and paper to communicate with each other. Nowadays, we have zillions of communication media: cell phones, SMS, Skype, emails, Facebook, blogs, you name it. We have so many of them that we have a hard time following up on all of them.

Now, let's picture this scenario: you see your friend Leonardo walking towards you on the street and you say hi to him

"Hi, Leonardo!"

He doesn't seem to hear you so you say that again with a louder voice

"Hey, Leonardo, it's me, Valentino!"

Leonardo still doesn't seem to hear anything and walk right past you as if you're invisible.

"Man, what a jerk."

You're pretty pissed off because someone completely ignores your existence while you obviously exist.

No, we don't see that very often in real lives. However, this happens very often in modern communication channels.

One very common example I encountered on a daily basis is that people don't respond to emails. If you have decent typing speed (~70 wpm), it really only takes one to two minutes to respond to an email most of the times. That said, many many (I mean it) people don't respond to you in days or even weeks.

The result of not responding to an email is no different from the case when Leonardo ignores Valentino face-to-face: people feel bad because you ignore their words. Maybe you don't respond since you're too busy, miss the email, forget to reply, or you truly want to ignore that jerk. This doesn't matter since the person on the other end still experience the same thing: you fail to respond.

What I am trying to say is that once you participate in a communication channel (be it email, SMS, MySpace, choose one you like), you assume the responsibility to interact with other people on that channel. If you seldom or never communicate on that channel, do me a favor, just cut it. It's easier on you and other people.

Some common examples of unused communication channels
  • Unused email addresses: you can either delete them or forward all the emails to an account that you check regularly. Yeah, I know Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail don't do the forwarding for free. That's why they suck and you should use Gmail instead.
  • Social network site: If you just don't have time for Facebook anymore, please remove your account.
  • Voicemail: If you don't reply to voicemails, maybe you should ask your carrier to see if there's any way to disable it.
  • Unused face: if you don't have time for any face-to-face conversation, just tear your face off. (Alright, I'm just kidding on this one)
"What if it is a channel that I cannot cut?"

For example, I don't think you can tell your boss that you would like to cut all email communications in this technological age without getting fired. Well, in such case, you can only live with that, learn how to type fast and respond to emails :P

Previous article: "How to be a responsible person: Just say NO"
Next article: "How to be a responsible person: Use a calendar"

Monday, January 12, 2009

Longer - Dan Fogelberg

This old song talks about love in the past, present and future tense. Take a look at the lyrics and you'll know:
Longer than there've been fishes in the ocean
Higher than any bird ever flew
Longer than there've been stars up in the heavens
I've been in love with you

Stronger than any mountain cathedral
Truer than any tree ever grew
Deeper than any forest primeval
I am in love with you

I'll bring fire in the winters
You'll send showers in the springs
We'll fly through the falls and summers
With love on our wings

Through the years as the fire starts to mellow
Burning lines in the book of our lives
Though the binding cracks and the pages start to yellow
I'll be in love with you
I'll be in love with you

Thursday, January 8, 2009

"Error often is to be preferred to indecision"

When I visited Princeton University, I saw this statement from Aaron Burr Jr, the 3rd Vice President of the United States under Thomas Jefferson:

"Error often is to be preferred to indecision"

From my observation, many men are still too afraid of mistakes and incapable of making decisions quickly and confidently. The experience of learning from mistakes is just so much valuable than making no decision and idling that you would wonder why people choose the latter.

"Don't let anyone tell you that you're too young
to change the world"

Similarly, don't let anyone tell you that you're too old to change the world.

"Everything should be made as simple as possible,
but not more so"

One of my favorite quotes from Einstein. I hate unnecessary complexity.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!!

I am actually out of town now so this is a pre-written message to all my readers:

Happy 2009!!

Although there is not a lot of you, I would like to thank you for reading my blog this past year :)