The Problem of Math, Sleep, and Keyboards

Every once in a while I get an idea and it becomes an obsession. Like tiny houses, or songs, or… school, or teaching math, or whatever.

And I couldn’t really even call these things an obsession, because I’m totally capable of turning off the song or ignoring tiny houses (I’ve seen most of what I care to see… all that remains is getting money and building one. Expending resources for research on building doesn’t help as much as expending resources on getting into school to make money to build the house). In fact, they’re less ‘obsession’ and more ‘really interesting.’

Like the fact that

The number of syllables in Cantonese number words are less than the number of syllables in English number words… therefore making Cantonese people memorize faster as opposed to English people. [1] Or, the fact that the Asian number system is so simple (21= two tens one) it allows a child of four to count to 40… whereas in English, a child of four can count to about 15. [2] [3] [4]

My conclusion came in two distinct stages:

  1. My kids will learn math in Cantonese. This presented a slight problem later on down the road, unfortunately, as I don’t know Cantonese, and as I’m not Cantonese, nor do I plan on having a Cantonese husband… and as Cantonese has no shared root-words with English… I unfortunately had to scrap this idea.
  2. * As Romanian is slightly better than English when it comes to logicality (21 = douăzeci și unu, doi= 2, zece= 10, unu=1. The instead of i in două and the i instead of the e in zece are grammatical things, and și (pronounced she) means and), but not as good in syllable count, my kids will learn math in Romanian first. This is good, because they will learn the ‘weaker’ language first (Romanian isn’t exactly the primary language in any country except Romania), and have it cemented in their brain. Then we can work on English, because Romanian is latin-based, and English smart-words are latin-based.

* This is, of course, subject to change.

Second really-interesting thing

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. A book written by Mihaly Cziksentmihalyi (Yes, I can spell that. I use the mnemonic: Chick-sent-me-HIGH, which does not exactly connote the proper pronunciation, but helps with spelling).

Mom borrowed it from the library and had it around the house for 2 weeks, then sent it back before I had the opportunity to say, “MINE!”

That said, I do know the basic idea:

Scratch that. I have no idea.

Basically the state of flow is one where you are completely involved in what you are doing in the moment, and you’re creative as well and you’re feeling enjoyment (we discussed that in Thought Pattern).

Now, I feel as if I’ve been feeling that. Because, *ahem* yesterday, by 1:30pm, I had worked six hours and 22 minutes.

More, in fact, than I worked on Tuesday, and about the sum total of work the previous Wednesday to Friday.

Before lunch!


I woke up at 5:00am, sat down to work by 5:45, got stuck in a physics problem for an hour and a half (I have no idea where the time went), and then started in on literature study sheets.

And let me tell you something. When a literature study sheet about a poet makes you itch to draw something or write a poem or do something creative, you know the poet is a good one. (The poet in question is Mihai Eminescu, and according to Romanians, he is the best poet that ever lived.) I mean… I actually copied down a paragraph in its entirety describing his style merely because it sounded so musical.

So I had a lot of fun yesterday. And, unlike previous days, I wasn’t ridiculously bouncy until 8pm, when I hit 8:08 hours of work. It was pretty awesome.

Which leads into a small problem:


Something in my brain psychology, at some point down the line, has changed.

Waking up before dawn leads to at least an hour productivity before 8am, when the household starts work… which leads into me being in a state of high gear… allowing me to crank out 4-6 hours of work before lunch if I make sure that this thought pattern is broken:

  • lazy to work >> check Facebook >> lose time OR lazy to work >> get awesome idea >> act on idea >> lose time
  • to break it, just do this:
  • lazy to work >> close eyes and concentrate on breathing for 15-30 seconds OR do 2 minute exercise set >> work
  • or, if that doesn’t work
  • lazy to work >> change subject of work.

Waking up while the sun is up, on the other hand, leads me to believe that

  1. The rest of the family is awake
  2. I can relax on FB/make noise/what-have-you

According to the schedule I made out last night, at this hour, I should be doing physics. However, I have only worked 5 minutes today, and that’s because, at 5:45am, when I sat down to work, the words were swimming, I was tired, and I went back to sleep for an hour.

I feel totally awake now, just lazy. And I’m writing a blog post while I still have the English words to write it.

As it’s very hard to go to bed before 10pm in this household, there is the problem of getting enough sleep. I could wake up at 5am and sleep 6-7 hours a night, but be ‘productive’ (until sleep dep kicked in), or I could wake up at 6-7 am, sleep 8-9 hours a night, but be ‘unproductive’ (until I figured out a ritual/switched up my brain psychology)

Therefore, the problem of sleep is:

Should I focus on changing my brain psychology or changing my sleep schedule?

To rephrase that… 1 or 2?

  1. Wake up at 6am, create a ritual to establish flow (though the only ritual I have so far is wake up when it’s dark out), and go to sleep at 10pm.
  2. Wake up at 5am, work, nap, eat, work, go to sleep at 10pm.

I’m leaning towards #2. Not only is it simpler to fall asleep than to go to work (around the world I found that I have a talent for falling asleep… anywhere), but according to my research, biphasic sleep may actually be the natural way to sleep. [5] [6] [7] [8]

Naturally, however, the worst possible time to go for a sleep schedule change is ten days before you head out across the pond to visit family in Romania… right? Right. Despite that… this sounds awesome.

The problem with biphasic sleep is that the rest of the world isn’t on biphasic sleep.

My conclusion: I’m going to test out the following schedule:

  1. Wake up at 5am, work, eat, nap at 13:30, work, go to sleep at 23:00 (or slightly earlier if need be.)

And then go from there.


Lastly, keyboards

The Romanian keyboard requires five diacritic marks, two of which do not exist in any other keyboard. They are ț, ș, ă, î, and â. The ones that don’t exist are ț, ș, and ă. (the diacritic is the little comma under the s and t)

On the standard Romanian keyboard I’m using, these keys take up the place of  ; ‘ [ ] \

Which means that it’s really hard to type in quotes “like this”, unless you hit the option key at the same time (I use Mac products, so I’m not sure what the Windows/Linux does).

Which means Romanians normally do one thing:

  1. Write without diacritics and rely on innate knowledge of the language to read anything written without diacritics. It works pretty well. I myself have a diacritic in my name, but make do without it. Most words that have diacritics don’t have a version without diacritics, and if they do, context helps remove and ambiguity.

But I don’t like doing that, and since people can learn keyboards pretty quickly if I use them (I type in Dvorak Simplified Keyboard), I simply added the Romanian Standard keyboard to my list of keyboards and started working.

At the beginning, it was a problem of remembering that R is R, not P, and then I was on my way to doing quite well.

That’s not the problem now, though. Now, my fingers are incapable of typing Romanian using the Dvorak keyboard (if, by any chance, I get lazy). Sometimes I have to stop and think… “Wait. Okay. Language I want to communicate in is… English. Wait, this is a Dvorak keyboard, not QWERTY. Where’s P again?” And then 3 seconds later I’m up and running and writing my 60-90wpm speeds.


To conclude:

  1. Math is cool. 
  2. My kids are learning number sense in Romanian before English.
  3. I’m going to try being biphasic for a while. Also, f.lux
  4. Keyboards are weird.