16 March 2014

Use a Calendar Rather Than a To Do list

Yesterday was a long day. I woke up and did a few small tasks on my calendar. To keep track of what I did, I used to keep a to do list (I used the app Tasks Free) but found that there were too many notifications for me to handle, so I now just use Google Calendar and if I need to do something I schedule it in. Using Google Calendar to do small tasks like reminding yourself to polish your shoes, cut your nail, service the car, or pump the tires, is great because you can set repeating reminders and also because the default duration for a task is one hour, it forces you to give yourself ample time to do something. Even if you give yourself one hour to cut your nails and you finish it within five minutes, it gives you free time to do something else, so you never feel like you are flooded with work. If you cannot do the task in the allocated time, you can simply reschedule to another date. With the to do list, about fifty items would pop up for a day and I would feel overwhelmed. With a calendar I can simply do one thing at a time as it comes.

09 March 2014

Personal Status Update 9/3/14

This is my first personal status update. It is pretty much a blog about how I am going. I plan to get into the habit of reporting to myself (and the public) on how I am tracking with my life.

There are three main risks with my life that I can identify right now. They are as follows:
  • Financial overcommitment (e.g. borrowing too much, agreeing to pay someone else's massive debts)
  • Damage to reputation and integrity (e.g. not standing up for yourself, letting others walk all over you, not being able to do what you want to do)
  • Major health problem (e.g. not getting enough exercise, getting diabetes)
Other risks might emerge. These are the only risks I could think of for now.

Financial Overcommitment (Green)

To mitigate risk of financial overcommitment, I will stay out of debt, not reveal how much money I have to anyone, keep myself ignorant of how much money I actually have (for plausible ignorance), play the pauper, never assume someone else's debts, and try not to promise to go on any expensive holidays with anyone. I also currently save up more than 90% of my income.

In the last month I have been successful with all of these treatment actions to mitigate the risk of financial overcommitment. I have been approached to join someone in a property investing venture. I played the pauper and told her that I didn't have any money and so the bank is unlikely to want to lend my anything. Because I am going with the story that I am broke, I have not been able to assume anyone's debts. I have no idea what my net worth is. Someone has asked me to go on an overseas holiday with them to Asia. I declined. I simply said no. I have been on holidays before and I must admit that the excitement of holidays has gone for me. I feel that happiness comes not from travelling around. Happiness comes from liking where you are. There is no point escaping to forget your problems and then two or three weeks later coming back home and being thrown back again into all the problems and issues that first induced you to escape. If you want sustainable happiness, short-term escapism is not the answer. You need to set your house in order. You need to be happy with your home, your routines, your relationships, and your work. I am working on that. I have worked on that and I continue to work on that. I don't need to engage in any expensive overseas travel to enjoy myself. I do not rule out the odd cheap domestic holiday during a long weekend or a day trip somewhere close. These trips will not break the budget.

My savings and investment targets are on track. I've had to save up more than normal to compensate for not saving up enough earlier in the year because I went on holidays. This is why I am keen on trimming my overseas holiday budget and paying off the debt to myself from splurging on these holidays. In terms of fiscal health, I am fine.

Reputation and Integrity (Green)

This risk is all about people controlling me. I have always been shy and weak and as a result people would take advantage of me. They would ridicule me and tell me what to do. After I while, I had enough and decided that I needed to learn how to stand up for myself. Entering in damage of my integrity and reputation as a major risk allows me to track my progress on standing up for myself and keep myself accountable to myself.

I can report that in the last month I have done a great job of standing up for myself. There are many instances when I have said no to point and have stood up for myself. For example, someone told me that I was stupid and I told her in a very loud and angry voice that I wasn't. She quickly apologised to me. When people invite me to lunch or dinner and I don't want to go, I have often just said no and did away with any politeness or explanation. In a gather or people recently, everyone started talking about a topic I didn't want to talk about, so I told them that I was not interested in this topic and therefore I would not talk about it any further. I do what I want to do and don't do what I don't want to do.

That being said, there are a few times when someone has said something and I have said nothing only to regret not saying it later on. In this case, the only thing I can do is to put down the perfect response in a flashcard app on my phone (I use AnkiDroid) so that I can revise it and if that topic or a similar topic ever comes up again, I will give the correct response. If that topic or a similar topic never ever comes up again, I should be happy with that. In terms of revising my flashcards, I have gotten into the habit of doing about ten minutes every weekday on the train.

All in all, I think I have done a good job. I have defended myself. People don't really think of me as a tough guy. They still think of me as a meek and weak guy. It is still early days and when people think I am weak they will continue to attempt to ridicule and control me. I will just need to be sensitive to attack and to attack back when necessary.

Health Problems (Amber)

I am mainly trying to battle health problems by apply the low-carb diet in a non-extreme way. That is, I don't completely avoid carbs but rather just minimise it. I try to completely avoid refined sugar especially but I'm rather free in terms of everything else. For example, I don't try to stop myself from eating fruits, vegetables, or even fats. I also try to limit my alcohol consumption, but that is not too hard because I don't really drink much alcohol anyway. Alcohol raises the risk of liver cancer, throat cancer, and mouth cancer.

In terms of exercise, there are two areas I am working on: strength training and cardio. I have two sets of dumbbells, 10KG dumbbells and 5KG dumbbells. Whenever I use the 5KG dumbbells, I use both of them and whenever I use the 10KG, I just use one at a time, so in total I carry 10KG at all times. Whenever I use dumbbells, I usually just watch YouTube videos that teach me proper dumbbell technique. Why bother paying a personal trainer when you can get all the answers off YouTube for free? Dumbbells are also easy to get. You can just buy them online. I purchased my 10KG dumbbells for around $60. A friend of mine told me that I overpaid and that buying online is expensive because dumbbells are heavy and couriers would therefore need to charge a lot. It is probably better to get dumbbells then from a physical store but be sure to benchmark the prices of these dumbbells against online prices. Whenever I use dumbbells, I use a stopwatch to time how long I use them and after a session is done I data enter how many minutes I used the dumbbells into Google Forms from there I can create a time series telling me whether I have been using my dumbbells or not. It keeps me accountable to myself. The graph (below) shows clearly that my dumbbell use is on an upward trajectory. I am happy if the line goes up. I am not too concerned about the steepness (gradient) of the line. I just don't want it to plateau.

In terms of cardio, I mainly rely on walking. I think walking is the best cardio workout because it is easy. I rely on the phone app Accupedo to measure how many steps I have taken in a day. I aim for 10,000 steps in a day but I am not really doing too well there. Based on the screenshot below, the average number of daily steps I made in February 2014 was 6325 and for March 2014 it was 6895. I should at least get 10,000 steps daily on average.

Because my cardio goals have not been satisfactory, overall I would say that my poor health mitigation actions are not really going well. I need to pick it up.


Walking: I am averaging 6000 to 7000 steps a day. I need to average 10,000 steps a day.

Learning: For the last 50 weeks I have been regularly revising flashcards on AnkiDroid. The recent spike is to due an exam. After the exam, I didn't revise the flashcards much but have since picked up where I have left off, doing about 50 cards per week.

Dumbbell use: The amount of strength training I have been doing is on an upward trend.

01 March 2014

Why I Got a Red Nexus 5

About a month ago I purchased a red Nexus 5. I used to have a Sony Xperia Z. Some people have asked me why I purchased a new phone. Below are my reasons.

1. Faster processor

The Xperia Z has a Snapdragon S4 Pro processor whereas the Nexus 5 has the faster Snapdragon 800 processor. The Nexus 5 is approximately 80% faster according to Antutu benchmarks.

2. There were problems with the camera on my Xperia Z

For some reason, dust particles appeared in the lenses of my Xperia Z. It turned out that this was a common problem on Xperia Z phones. Luckily for me when I purchased the phone from Kogan, it was still under the one-year warranty. I sent the phone to Kogan for repair and they gave me a brand new Xperia Z. However, it took them about two months to send the new phone to me and during that time I had to use the backup phone, i.e. the Kogan Dual-Core Smartphone, which is a horrendously slow phone compared to the Xperia Z. So I simply decided to buy a Nexus 5. It turns out that when my Nexus 5 arrived in the mail, the new Xperia Z came at the same time.

3. My mother can use the Xperia Z

My mother currently uses the Samsung Galaxy Y and she constantly complains about how bad this phone is. She says she will buy a new phone but hasn't done much about it yet. My intention is that she can use my Xperia Z, although to date she hasn't accepted it yet. Perhaps she is looking for a smaller phone.

4. The Nexus 5 is cheap and I had the money

Whenever I arrive home, I empty any coins in a jar in my bedroom. When my Xperia Z was being repaired, I decided to collect all the coins in this jar and take it to the bank to deposit the money. It turned out that I had enough money to buy a new Nexus 5, so why not? I saved up for it and I haven't gone into debt and I have not gone on a phone plan. It is unlocked and off-contract, so there are no obligations on me.

Don't use Whatsapp

Facebook has recently purchased Whatsapp for $19 billion. Many people use Whatsapp because it allows you to send messages to friends using data. Using data to send messages rather than SMS can mean that you pay a fraction of a cent per message rather than 9 cents (or more). In the long-term this can save you a lot of money.

I used to use Whatsapp along with other messaging apps, namely Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Viber, and Hangouts. After using Whatsapp for a while, I noticed in the settings that although the app was free for the first year, after you have used it for a year or so you are supposed to pay around $1 per year after that. This annoyed me greatly, so I uninstalled the program. All my other messaging apps pretty much do the same thing but are completely free. Viber, in particular, seems like a clone of Whatapps. It uses your phone's contacts to find other people who use Viber, and you can message them, have group chats, and even engage in VOIP conversations (something you cannot do in Whatsapp). Viber has more functionality than Whatsapp but it is free.

Whenever someone pays more for something, they usually give senseless rationalisations. One of my friends said, "Whatsapp is better integrated with your phone." He didn't specify. I hate it when people just say crap to justify paying more for something.

It's true that many people use Whatsapp, but I find that there are so many alternatives that there is no point paying $1 per year. Chances are, if someone doesn't have Whatsapp, they will definitely have Facebook Messenger, and off all the messengers around I think Facebook Messenger is the best. It is the fastest and it looks good as well. I also love Chat Heads, which allows me to chat with friends while watching YouTube or browsing the internet.

Many people say, "It's only a dollar a year! You can afford that." That may be the case. I don't mind spending money. I'll happily purchase a $4 coffee but that is because there is no other alternative. That is the going rate for espresso coffee in my city. But messaging apps are different. Whatsapp is the only app I know that charges money while all other apps are free. Even if I pay little, why pay when you shouldn't?

Then there are those who say that even though Whatsapp say they charge $1 per year, in reality they don't. Supposedly if you wait until the due date for payment, Whatsapp will just keep letting you use the program for free because they don't want you to stop using it. I have problems with this. Firstly, if they are lying about charging you, who is to say they won't lie later? Secondly, it is clear that Whatsapp's is employing a bait and switch technique here, luring people in by exploiting their ignorance and assumption that the app is free and then trying to charge them later when they cannot switch because so many of their friends use Whatsapp.