New Year’s Resolutions… in April

Two New Year's Resolutions postcards
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Today is day 103 =  3-1/2 months = week 15 of this year, and where are we with our previously-new resolutions? My list has been:

  • Study Japanese everyday
  • Go to gym ~3 times a week
  • Do weekly budget
  • Iron clothes
  • Take vitamins

I’ve certainly not studied Japanese everyday, not even close… despite what Khatzumoto has to say about it, I haven’t been able to consistently do it with my work schedule (although that shouldn’t be an excuse).

I’ve intermittently been to the gym, although also not 3 times a week as prescribed, again, secondary to work… but at $500/year, it’s not something I should be ignoring!

I have keep up to date with my budget, with an elaborate spreadsheet for tracking debt/assets and using Mint.com assiduously.

As far as ironing goes, I do want to look good for work (and play!) and so iron when necessary, but it’s fairly common to see a dozen shirts draped over a chair waiting for the touch of steam. I got a new Rowenta iron (yes, a German-made one) so I’ll try to keep on top of that better.

And vitamins, even though I set an alarm every night to remind me to take them, I just can’t bring myself to pop in the Centrum… and calcium… and vitamin B complex tabs. They’re easy and certainly help since I don’t get any sunlight, and they sit right on my table, but… I have no excuse.

I know it’s a joke to make fun of new year’s resolutions and how no one ever keeps them, but what if we did? Imagine how much healthier a population we’d have, eating well and exercising, not abusing substances, doing jobs we loved, in happy relationships, Getting Things Done, living in clean houses, taking time to play everyday…

Physical Health

Image representing Livestrong as depicted in C...
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I’ve been using MyPlate from Livestrong for a couple of years now to track my food and exercise intake, and initially saw very impressive results – over about 10 months I dropped from 205 to 168 pounds. I would go to the gym in my apartment to do the elliptical for ~30 minutes three times a week or so and tried to eat as healthily as possible, mostly keeping track of foods and being aware of what I was eating so I would ration my calories (“I could eat this candy but it’s 45 calories and I only have 200 left for today…”).

I certainly didnt’t subscribe to any new fad diet or anything, I basically ate the usual foods but exercised portion control. And as I’m fond of saying, I’ve discovered the secret to weight loss: eat well and exercise. I recently heard of Timothy Ferriss‘ 4-Hour Body and it sounds like an interesting idea, although as an MD myself, I’m certainly skeptical; maybe I’ll give it a read in my spare time.

And despite being a doctor myself, I make sure to have my own primary care physician to make sure I’m getting the necessary “health care maintenance” advice and screening. A few months ago, I had somewhat elevated triglycerides but an otherwise good lipid profile (LDL 70’s and HDL 50’s) and was told to cut out things like pastries and take-out food… not that I have. I recently came across the FitBit and as a gadget-oriented guy, I thought it’d be neat to get one, but just like those fad diets versus eat well and exercise, I feel the $99 price tag is not justified in my case. It’d be just as effective making sure I take time to get to the gym and remain mindful of my eating (and logging it in MyPlate!).

What do you think? How much do you depend on gizmos and gadgets and the latest in weight-loss hardware and software to maintain a healthy lifestyle?

Growing Up Technolog’ed

Tandy 5000 MC
Image by Blog Story via Flickr

From as early as I can remember, I had wanted or used a computer. I don’t even remember what the incentive was, but I wanted a computer and for my fourth or fifth Christmas, received a Tandy RL-1000 (the one to the right is clearly a more advanced version). It had this cool drawing program that necessitated the purchase of a mouse (two button or three button? no wheel!) and I think I also had a joystick, although for what, I have no idea. I remember also getting a box with two microchips in it: a RAM upgrade from 256 to 512kb! There was also a dot matrix printer (and eventually a color one) and this neat fluorescent desk lamp. I probably didn’t use the vast majority of what it could do, but I do remember using WordPerfect v5.1 to write up school reports (did my classmates use typewriters?).

In any case, I essentially grew up with computers, having the trusty old Apple ][e at school in kindergarten, IBM PS/2 models through fifth grade for learning touch typing, “Creative Writing”, and “Writing to Write”. I think in junior high we were introduced to “multimedia” with CD-ROMs in those cassette cases and Microsoft Encarta. What a revelation – it was like Wiki before Wiki.

Anyways, I visited my aunt and uncle today who are in their mid-60s and who had recently received one of those digital photo frames. I couldn’t figure out what they were asking me to do until I realized they wanted to put their old printed photos into the frame… it’s possible but in my head, thought it wouldn’t be worth the effort or the cost of someone else doing it for them.

I can’t find the link, but I remember reading something awhile back about how, because we have instant access to information through the Internet and access anywhere via our smartphones, people are becoming stupider: it’s easier to look something up than to remember it. It’s like the phenomenon of looking at your watch and then looking again a second later if someone asks you what time it is: you look first to see if you’re approaching a limit (like whether you have time before a noon meeting) but you don’t really comprehend the time explicitly, so to tell someone the time, you need to look again.

I’m personally very guilty of looking things up on my phone whenever and wherever – and how much do I retain? Probably not much… not to mention the whole distractibility thing and inability to multitask. I’m very fond of saying that “I love living in the future,” especially after discovering something like Google Translate on my iPhone that can translate spoken text (just like Star Trek!) – I’ve always been a sci-fi geek and fantasizing about the future.

What do you think – are today’s children growing up connected from an even earlier age than me at any disadvantage? If so, what would you suggest to today’s parents? If not, what do you think the biggest benefits are.

What do you wish you knew more about?

Steps to knowledge

Prompted by Plinky, I figured it’d be a good marker for the future too (ie, did I actually do any of it???). In no particular order:

  • Meditation and yoga
  • Cooking and baking
  • Relationships
  • Scotch and wine
  • Who I am as a person and what’s important to me
  • What I really want to do when I grow up
  • Anime
  • Japanese
  • Personal finances and investing
  • How to survive the end of the world
  • My career
  • Classic books like The Art of War and the Tao Te Ching
  • Psychology and sociology
  • Men’s style
  • Tae kwon do

There are probably a lot more, but these are a few that I thought of in 10 minutes…

No One Understands!

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I have a hard time communicating with my parents. I’m pretty sure the majority of people my age feel the same way, but it’s particularly difficult with me since I’m adopted. I work in a white-collar / upper middle-class occupation and my parents grew up decidedly blue-collar. I’ve finished graduate school and then some, and they graduated high school and my sister barely finished seventh grade. When I go home, there’s such a divide between what I think is important and what they think is important or are even able to comprehend.

Advanced education is one of the most distingu...
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I’m in a liminal zone between my family and my friends (who are much better able to understand me) but suffer under the yoke of “we’ve done so much for you, why can’t you be grateful?”. I do appreciate what they’ve done for me, but it’s nevertheless hard to spend time with them just because it’s so dissatisfying. I was watching a TED talk by Eric Whitacre about a virtual choir of Youtube singers, and was profoundly moved by the beauty of such a disparate group of people spread out through the world. I wanted my father to experience it but within seconds of the performance starting, he was making comments like “he’s a real new agey kind of composer” and “they can’t show everyone’s face because there are so many contributors.” It kind of comes down to the fact that he likes to hear himself talk. It kind of ruined it for me, and I became frustrated that I couldn’t share this seemingly simple thing (after all, who doesn’t like a well-performed song?).

I’m on a personal development quest to rid myself of judgment, recognizing that I am very critical of myself and by extension, of other people, but it’s such a challenge when I come home, I’m not sure I can do it.

Shopping in Suburbia

Flatiron District
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Having spent a good amount of time living in Manhattan, I became used to the huge selection of shopping available. The standard stores like Bloomingdale’s, Lord & Taylor, and Barneys New York had a remarkable selection, and the “little” shops like Club Monaco, Armani Exchange, and Urban Outfitters in the Flatiron District and the Village were a lot of fun; you could walk 15 minutes in any direction and find almost anything you wanted.

I recently went to a mall in suburbia where I grew up and my parents live, and after walking around the same brand stores, I couldn’t find anything I wanted to buy – the selection was really abysmal. Although I read a lot about style online and try to be somewhat fashion-conscious, my former budget, being a student, was pretty low so my options were limited. Now that I make a decent salary, I want to be able to buy what I want, but it’s difficult when it’s not even available! It makes for a good excuse to go the city, but I long for the ease of just hopping on the 6 train and heading downtown for an afternoon of shopping.