James Tang

Tardiness

Being late makes it less fun for everyone.

It’s one of those rules I have always neglected because I thought the world should revolve around my convenience. No, the world is waiting for me and I shouldn’t annoy it any more than I already do.

New Pet Peeve

People who check their iPhones/Blackberry when eating with you.

Drug

If someone invented a free drug that induced happiness with no negative side effects (define that however you want), would you take it?

Yes Man

This movie came at Hana’s recommendation and it really gave me a new appreciation for trying new things. I remember reading Paul Graham’s essays before about “staying upwind” but until I saw Yes Man I didn’t have a visual image of what could result. One of the hardest things for me to do is try something new, to accept change. As relatively young professionals/students, we are at the beginning of our adult life. This means no one else claims responsibility for our actions except us. Truly embracing this is refreshing and scary. It means you can do whatever you want. If I want to plan to take the next year off to travel around the world, I will. It’s also scary. The thing I fear most is that I’ll dig myself into a rut and never leave because it’s just so damn comfortable.

As has been said so many times, do something challenging, something random, something that might lead to an unexpected fortune, and stop rejecting something just because you feel weird about it. Do it and regret it later. Surround yourself with friends and opportunities to try out new things. We live in the age where people are easily connected, ideas are abundant, and travel is getting to be less of a hassle.

Why? Because it’s there.

Sleep + Food = Energy?

One of my oldest theories about sleep was disproven yesterday. I was talking to Aiko, one of my friends I met in Japan, and she told me that Japanese people sleep about 6 hours average. I was totally stunned. In a few minutes, she had shown:

  • 8 hours a day is a myth.
  • Sleep debt is a myth.
  • Life expectancy is not shortened due to lack of sleep. (Japanese people in Japan have the longest lifespan vs. Japanese in other countries)
  • Energy levels do not decrease with 6 hours of sleep. (Anyone who has met Japanese people knows what I’m talking about)

I remember reading before that a vegetarian diet gives more energy, but maybe it also reduces sleep requirements?

(Vegetarians consume more calories than non-vegetarians, yet end up being thinner. Simple calculations would imply a higher metabolism per body weight, which just means the body functions better).

I also had this previous theory of calorie expenditure. Basically, I thought our bodies have a set amount of calories it can burn through before it expires. This was based off the idea that our cells make copies of themselves quite frequently, but each time it copies itself, the ends of our DNA strands don’t get copied, so the DNA gets shorter and shorter. I believed that having a faster recovery system meant that the body was able to replicate cells faster, thereby also reducing the DNA in our body, causing aging.

I’m totally confused now. Western literature and health recommendations seems worse and worse every day.

Self-Destructive Lives

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about what life, in particular the meaning of the word “self”. From an objective point of view, this means my body and my thoughts. However, if we live in a subjective reality, then everything around us is a manifestation of our thoughts. Jesus taught that helping others helps yourself. He believed in this to the point of giving away all resources he had to people he believed could use better. Similarly, Marcus Aurelius says if a man harms another, he is really only hurting himself. So the question remains, how far exactly does “self” extend?

What about the idea of duty to others? Should I act in self-interest, or for the benefit of others. In an episode of House, we saw a doctor abandon her medical profession in order to pursue a happy life in cooking. On one hand, she is now living her life as happy as she can be. On the other, society had worked together to help bring her success so that she could repay them by saving lives. Society invested in her, by taking the residency at Johns Hopkins from someone else and giving it to her. Not to detract from the value of cooking, but I believe saving lives is a higher calling. By quitting her job, she essentially betrayed society. Can you imagine if a field medic just decided to quit his regiment during war times to pursue a career in farming? How far exactly should be live our lives according to our terms?

Should we have the responsibility of intervening in someone’s self-destructive life? I used to believe things like addictive drugs and gambling were fine because they were conscious choices and only hurt the person involved. This was until I realized that person could also have become the person to find a cure to a terminal illness I might get, but he didn’t and so he hurt me. Similar case with suicide. I finished The War of Art and he writes that each of us has a grand masterpiece within us that we need to bring out before we die, almost as if it were a duty. What does this mean?

Firefly

Amazing

Skepticism

On skepticism:

“I realized that if the universe was actually subjective, I’d never recognize it as such if I believed it was objective, since I’d simply manifest an objective universe….” Steve Pavlina

Having just read Tyler Cowen’s Create Your Own Economy and accounts of so many other intelligent perspectives, I have never been hit harder by the phrase “life is what we make it.” Tyler brings up the idea of placebos in our lives and how framing can change our values. I’ve long been a fan of understanding the incompatibilities of the mind with rationality, and now the idea that my mind is simply too weak to understand its own consciousness is really hitting me. It seems like seeing the universe as subjective to my own consciousness has only upsides.

Los Cabos

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabo_San_Lucas

Date: 7/31/09-8/5/09

Cost: $250 (flight) + $500 (5 nights at all-inclusive Royal Solaris)

Highlights:

Beach: Not quite as “Photoshopped” as Cancun beaches, but still better than anything I’ve ever seen in the States. They aren’t crowded and the waves can get high enough for body surfing. Not much “scenery” though.

Resort: The all-inclusive package is really an amazing deal. All drinks and food covered and the quality is great. Royal Solaris has 4 restaurants and from 6:30 am to 1 am at least one is guaranteed to be open (usually the buffet at the weird hours). Standard liquors are found (Bacardi Rum, Stoli Vodka, Jose Cuervo). Food is pretty much endless. Also, no tipping expected which is one less thing to worry about. Once you get there, you can pretty much put your wallet away. One annoyance was the lack of wifi in the room; you had to go to the lobby to use it. Service with a smile is available everywhere and at the American-owned Royal Solaris they are required to know English. Their main goal is to ensure that you have a good time and to be professional enough to never give you attitude even if you probably deserve it. My opinion is to just enjoy life at the resort as much as possible, the area around it is beautiful and there isn’t much of a reason to step off it to see sights. If you do leave to go somewhere, do something exciting like ATV riding or parasailing.

Baja: I came here for a morning of ATV (All-terrain vehicle) riding with my sister. Apparently, no licenses are necessary and it is sort of like a slower motorcycle designed to go up mountains, accross beaches, and through forestry. It does carry some dangers (I saw one guy flip his ATV over trying to go up a hill at a wrong angle and it almost landed on him), but that just adds to the fun. My sister described riding in the back as a rollercoaster through the landscape without any assurances that the person driving is qualified or even competent.

Observations:

Mexican people expect tips. The moment I stepped outside of the resort, many people approached me to try to help me without my asking and with the implicit understanding that I was supposed to tip them. This is part of the reason why I liked the resort so much since I never had to fend off any help, it was just part of the package I bought. The difference is so dramatic that signs are posted everywhere to remind tourists to tip. Be sure to add this into the costs of going anywhere.

Mexican food is unpretentious and delicious. The foods served appealed much to me because there was very little processing involved and it was fresh. You can pretty much look at the food you’re eating and identify all the ingredients except spices. The food is very satisfying and at the resort it was endless.

The resorts give gifts to entice you to purchase a timeshare. From our Cancun experience, we knew that they would give us a gift (this time it was the ATV deal) to have the opportunity to speak with us during breakfast about timesharing. The deal as far as I can tell is a pretty fair one, but requires a strong committment. You get to stay at any one of the RCI-owned resorts located from all over the world for 4 weeks a year (food not included), for 30 years. They really want to get you committed because then it ensures steady business and they can use that money to invest in other properties. We weren’t ready for it this year either since our family is rather small and vacation time not used one year, doesn’t roll-over. You still get the free gifts though. Since we knew the procedures this time, it was easy just to break off the discussion early and tell them we weren’t interested.

The weather is hot and humid. Beautiful skys, few clouds, and a bright sun. However, the moment I leave my air conditioned room, my glasses fog up.

Japan

Date: 7/10-7/19

Cost: $840 (plane) + $290 (JR pass) + $210 (hostel) + $750 (other)

Highlights of Places Visited (Bolded are favorites):

Nagasaki: Loved just walking along the pier in the evening. We bought fireworks, beer, and sake for a very memorable night.

Himeji Castle: Largest standing castle in Japan. Lots of cool history and sights.

Disney Sea: Rides are way too kiddish to enjoy, but the rest of the park offers some amazing sights built with Japanese attention to detail. It’s a place that I enjoyed just walking around and taking random pictures while soaking up the environment. Fire and Water show every night at 8 pm over the summer.

Nikko: Lots of old temples, liked Himeji more.

Ghibli Museum: I enjoyed all the interesting sights but was truly floored when I saw physical proof of the dedication Hayao Miyazaki has towards his idea of perfection in animation. Every frame in his most recent movie Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea was drawn by hand without computers. To hone his art, he had 3 large bookshelves full of art and stories from all over the world. Prior to this, I merely enjoyed his movies. Now, I can appreciate every little manual imperfection. I also got to see my cousin for the first time in 6 years since he lives close to it.

Harajuku: People dress up in cosplay (maids, goth, anime) every weekend and it is a good place to buy clothing. Fun experience.

Mt. Fuji: More a test of will than anything. We started our hike at 11 pm and I reached station 8.5 at 5 am. It was dark, cold, raining, and generally miserable due to our lack of preparedness.

Observations:

Japanese convenience stores are great to eat at. 7-11, Lawson’s, Daily Yamazaki, etc… all carry decent quality foods: onigiris, yakitori, bento boxes, and mochi.

Japanese culture prioritizes manners. Everything begins on time (not a minute later), endless thank you’s for buying $5 worth of food, no worries about theft (Derek knowingly left his bags unsupervised for 30 min at the train station), helpful towards people who are clearly ignorant, take great care to not intrude or take more space than necessary. Despite very rarely seeing a trash can, Japanese people can hold onto their trash until they do.

Japanese standards for girls puts an extremely high priority on looks and much less on intelligence. Aiko tells me of her friends taking an average of 1 hour each day to put on make up and the constant use of umbrellas when walking outside. Cuteness is emphasized over hotness (whatever age you guess a girl to be, add 5 years). Having a crooked tooth is considered cute on a girl and not much emphasis is put on teeth straightness.

No one leaves their house in sloppiness. Whether to go out shopping, or just pick up mail, people look much better than Americans. None of this American shorts and sandals, at least not without a cool shirt. Somehow, crocs are fashionable. Sunglasses are rarely worn despite the sunlight damage because they cover the eyes, something very important in Japanese communication. Also, Yukatas look amazing on girls.

American things are highly valued. English, hip-hop music, Gap, Disney, white guys… Places like Denny’s are considered high-class for young adults.

Japan is tight on space. Rooms are barely bigger than the bed, capsule hotels are popular, parking lots use machines to place parked cars right next to each other via rotation and insertion