Weekly Recap: August 28th

Music this week

  • Anderson .Paak – Venice. Anderson Paak, previously known as Breezy Lovejoy (which is what I have known him as), is a singer, rapper, and music producer from Los Angeles. I knew him in the past due to collaborations he’s done with Dumbfoundead, Wax, and Elements of Music in L.A., but now he’s elevated to the next level after appearing on about half of Dr Dre’s new album, Compton. This particular album (titled Venice) is melodic and laid back, and a completely different vibe from Compton. Enjoying it a lot.
  • Vangelis – Blade Runner. Every five years or so I come back to this album, one of my favorite movie soundtracks of all time. It’s fantastic music to work to, with the majority comprised of instrumental ambience that suits the rainy neon scenes of Blade Runner the movie perfectly. Rachel’s Song in particular still gives me chills. This particular album aside, Vangelis is among the most inspiring musicians that I know of, being able to create completely synthesized and totally other-worldly soundscapes which defined an era of cinema. Below is a great photo of Vangelis in his studio scoring Blade Runner.

Vangelis

  • JD McPherson – Let the Good Times Roll. A new album from an artist who I wasn’t familiar with until recently. Singer and songwriter from Oklahoma with a decidedly retro sound, inspired by blues and rockabilly from the 1950’s. The standout track on this album is titled Head Over Heels.

Movies this week

  • The Avengers: Age of Ultron – Despite really enjoying both Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Soldier in theaters, I skipped Avengers 2. After seeing the movie at home, I do not regret that choice. The special effects are amazing, as everyone knew they would be, but it really feels like too much at this point. At several points during this movie I felt like I was watching a video game pulling out every stop imaginable to impress me. It is beautiful to look at it, but it is simultaneously gratuitous eye-candy. One interesting effect of watching this video at this particular point in time is that all of the explosions looked small to me, compared to the recent Tianjin explosion in China.

Articles this week

  • Is the game up for China’s much emulated growth model? – With clouds of uncertainties swirling overhead about China, this is the bigger question which connects them. Is this a turning point in China’s recent decades of explosive growth? No one knows the answer but asking the question and analyzing the indicators is fascinating. China, now as much as ever, feels like the biggest experiment ever conducted. Meanwhile Russia, Brazil, India and South Africa continue to languish. A new era of difficult challenges for BRICS.
  • Vigilante Justice: How cheated Chinese investors captured the head of Fanya Metals Exchange – China’s stock market continued its meltdown last week, and amidst that crisis are millions of defrauded but otherwise-normal Chinese people. This article is about a particular company which withheld billions in funds from its own investors, leading to a group of hundreds hitting the street to confront the fund manager in a Shanghai luxury hotel. China has a thing for street justice.

Daily habits

  • Logging daily mood with the Moodnotes app, which has been rewarding. Each day optionally allows for enriching entries by practicing thinking habits which improve mood. Usually these are in the form of questions which make you look at problems from a different angle, or think in terms of constructive solutions. In the words of Moodnotes: These journaling activities promote mindsets known to boost happiness. Used over time, they can bring more positivity, engagement, and meaning into your life.” Utilizing these framing techniques to re-contextualize challenges is refreshing.
  • Recording all food eaten with the MyFitnessPal app over the last few weeks has made me realize how much food I eat that I probably shouldn’t be eating. I very rarely eat candy and I don’t smoke or drink soda, but I can see that I have a long way to go. Another dimension to this challenge is that I need to eat 3,200 calories just to maintain my weight with my current exercise level.
  • Tracking sleep every night with the Sleep Cycle app. I am struggling to get 8 hours of sleep per night because of activities which are creeping into the early morning. I’m addressing this by setting an alarm in the evening which tells me when to go to sleep. Another thing that I will try is to set the smart lightbulbs in my house to turn red one hour before I go to sleep. I hope this will do two things: mentally convey that it’s time to get ready for sleep, and allow my eyes to adjust to dimmer light which should help me get to sleep faster.

Time in Bed

One Video

Incredible footage of the Tianjin explosion in Eastern China. Another clip shows multiple handheld shots of the same explosions, synced together.

Published on August 28, 2015
Video

Song of the Day #180: Alice

Pogo – Alice

Pogo is an Australian electronic musician who produces video compositions to accompany the songs that he makes. Almost all of his songs sample well-known works entirely (like this one, which samples Alice in Wonderland), meaning there are no sonic elements in the song that are not in the movie. Pogo has a popular Youtube channel and an official website here: PogoMix.net

Published on August 28, 2015

Weekly Recap: August 7th

Music this week

  • Dr Dre – Compton. Although it was suddenly announced a few short weeks ago, this has to be the most anticipated hip hop album in years. In what has already been an amazing year for hip hop, this is a landmark release that lives up to the sky-high expectations set upon one of the most impactful artists in modern music. I’ve been listening to it on repeat all day. What I really love about this album isn’t only the phenomenal production quality: it’s the spectacular features from lesser-known artists like Anderson .Paak and King Mez. They shine on this album as much as popular favorites like Kendrick Lamar.
  • Tame Impala – Currents. Very much in the same psychedelic rock style as their last album in 2012, titled Lonerism. That’s a good thing. My favorite songs on the album are Disciples and ‘Cause I’m a Man.

Movies this week

  • It Follows – an American horror film released in 2014 that follows a girl pursued by a supernatural entity after a sexual encounter. I’m convinced that this movie is a metaphor for sexually transmitted diseases. It’s uncharacteristically beautiful for a horror movie and manages to evade many of the tired conventions of horror movies, including special effects. Very impressive film which critics love (96% on Rotten Tomatoes).
  • Dumb & Dumber To – I waited a year to watch this movie out of fear that it would spoil the magnificence of the original Dumb & Dumber. It has its moments but doesn’t hold a candle to the original, which is a timeless classic that should have probably been left alone.

Articles this week

  • Hey UFC, Bring Back Bare-Knuckle Fights to Stop Brain Trauma – the argument made in this article is very convincing, for a simple reason: “When you punch a man’s skull bare-fisted, the skull punches back.” Due to the presence of gloves on the hands of professional fighters, demanded by state athletic commissions, “fighting sports mainly come down to brain damage contests. A great fighter must have the skill to inflict blunt force trauma on his opponent’s brain and the “good chin” to take it.
  • It’s Starting to Feel Like the UFC Has Sold Its Soul – controversiality has been tailing the UFC in recent weeks along with its huge upswing in popularity and visibility. In the last month the UFC has hosted some of the biggest events in its 22-year history: title fights for both of its superstars, Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey (both of which defended their title). The question of whether or not the UFC serves its athletes and fans as well as it should is becoming an increasingly legitimate question as it rapidly acquires new fans around the globe.

Daily habits

Some new ones this week:

  • Logging daily mood with the Moodnotes app, made by ustwo, creators of the brilliant mobile game Monument Valley. The app uses information collected to provide feedback based on the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Video on that below.
  • Recording all food eaten with the MyFitnessPal app. Based on the Peter Drucker adage: “What gets measured gets managed”. I’m less likely to eat food that’s bad for me when I know it will be recorded and potentially scrutinized. Although it’s a hassle to input each meal, what’s really cool is that MyFitnessPal shares data with the Health app on iPhone so you can see charts for calorie and protein intake, among many other macronutrients.
  • Tracking sleep every night with the Sleep Cycle app. I used to do this, years ago, but have recently gotten back into the habit. The same as tracking food, once you start keeping tabs on data, you unconsciously move toward improvement. Just by tracking data from the last week I can see that I have a lot of progress both the quantity and quality of sleep.

Sleep Time August 2015

One Video

A quick overview of the Moodnotes app which charts your emotions and seeks to improve mental health and well-being:

Published on August 7, 2015

Summertime 2015 in Chengdu

A few photos from the past few weeks in Chengdu:

Chengdu Rooftop

Rooftop Chess

Kensho Old Hood

HM Geno

Chengdu Street Signs

NASA with Kensho

Kensho Sleeping

Posters

Lunch Table

Published on August 4, 2015

Weekly Recap: July 31st, 2015

Music this week

Not a lot of super-new albums this week, but two 2015 favorites along with one soundtrack:

  • Jamie XX – In Colour. Been listening to this album for most of this month and really enjoying it. More so than The XX, which I already enjoyed before this. Favorite songs: Sleep Sound, Loud Places and Girl.
  • Mass Effect Official Soundtrack – Jack Wall. Excellent ambient music to listen to while working. Fits nicely into the background.
  • Lapalux – Lustmore. An album released on Brainfeeder, Flying Lotus’ record label. Sounds a lot like Flying Lotus, which is a good thing.

Movies this week

I saw three movies this week:

  1. Ex Machina – young programmer conducts a Turing test on an android with artificial intelligence created by a rogue scientist. Very thought provoking but one glaring thing bugged me the whole time: one rogue scientist in a bunker is not capable of building both the hardware and software of a life-like android!
  2. Margin Call – a dramatized story about the 24-hour period which preceded the 2008 financial crash, starring Kevin Spacey. Tense, realistic, and insightful.
  3. Infernal Affairs – the 2004 Hong Kong cop drama which inspired Martin Scorcese’s The Departed. This had been on my to-see list for a long time and it did not disappoint. Very, very good film.

Books this week

  • The Checklist Manifesto – Finished this week. About the importance of maintaining lists for managing complex problems. Written by a surgeon who effectively brought about significant change in hospital infection rates by enacting checklists for doctors and nurses to reference as they treated patients. Link to The Checklist Manifesto on Amazon.
  • Ready Player One – Started this week. About an 18 year old who masterminds a near-future virtual world called OASIS which is basically exactly like the Oculus Rift. Link to Ready Player One on Amazon.

Articles this week

  • Ray Kurzweil’s The Law of Accelerating Returns – very lengthy report on the accelerating rate of change that we are seeing in our lifetime. Written by one of the world’s foremost authorities on futurism and AI
  • The AI Revolution: The Road to Superintelligence – a good layman’s description of the road from present-day to ASI (Artificial Super Intelligence). Exciting and a bit frightening.
  • The Strange Phenomenon of Music ‘Skin Orgasms’ – BBC article about the science about “frissons”, or the physical reaction we feel to musical crescendos that stimulate a natural thrill response.

Daily Habits

I’ve been doing well keeping up with my daily habits. Here are some of them:

  • 3x weight-lifting gym sessions
  • Daily supplements: fish oil and 5k IU of vitamin D
  • 10k steps per day
  • Daily meditation (using Headspace for this)
  • Daily Chinese practice (vocab list review)
  • Wake up by 8:30am
  • 33 daily push ups, one for each year of age
  • Record my weight (currently 88kg, or 195 pounds)
  • Floss daily

One Video

I came across this video of Rhonda Rousey this week, describing the distinction between her and “Do Nothing Bitches”. She is worthy of all adoring devotion that she gets. She has an upcoming UFC title fight this Saturday, too.

Published on July 31, 2015
Video

Song of the Day #177: Moaning Lisa Smile

Wolf Alice – Moaning Lisa Smile

My Love is CoolI discovered this song recently on Conan, it is the first single off of the debut album of London-based rock band Wolf Alice. This song sounds like it could have come out in the early 1990’s, championing roughly the same sonic palette as Pearl Jam’s Ten and Nirvana’s Nevermind: distorted grunge rock.

A little known fact about this song in particular is that it’s actually about Lisa Simpson, and not the Mona Lisa. Lead singer Ellie Rowsell said “We wanted to write about what Lisa Simpson might be feeling when she was 18.” The sixth episode of The Simpsons, which aired in February 1990 (which is approximately when this song sounds like it’s from) is also titled Moaning Lisa. The episode is about Lisa contending with depression and find an outlet in music, specifically the saxophone, and features a guest appearance from Ron Taylor (Twin Peaks) who plays recurring character Bleeding Gums Murphy.

Published on July 14, 2015