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.

My Desk

My Desk


Please welcome my desk.

It’s terribly messy, but it’s functional and I don’t have to get up from my chair, which makes life… perfect.

From left to right, on the wall:

  • A lamp. Not plugged it]n, doesn’t work, but it’s here just in case I ever feel the need to try it out. Again.
  • reddish pink sticky note old formula for learning things… haven’t removed it yet.
  • orange sticky note reads… The price of SELF-DISCIPLINE is always less than the pain of REGRET. GET IT DONE.
  • pink sticky note holds break activities (read library books, read literature, add music to iPod, Internet, check mail), and my personality type (ISTJ) because I always forget it.
  • The memopad note between the stickynotes The limitation of my activities to participating in a Howrse breeding group (this is limited, but necessary as I made a commitment way back when), writing Camp NaNoWriMo novel, doing literature or history tests, reading literature books, history textbooks, or creating an outline/timeline.
  • The three memopad notes underneath The things I have to do… the first one is from Saturday, the second from Sunday, and the third from today. Since I didn’t finish Saturday/Sunday’s work, they’re still there.
  • sheet taped to the wall the schedule, also says PUSH-UPS EVERYTIME YOU GET THE URGE TO SURF
  • Big notebook with pink writing. It says April 12, 2013 I CHOOSE ENJOYMENT. I CHOOSE TO PASS THE EQUIVALENCY EXAMS. I choose to let go of the FEAR OF SUCCESS. I choose to let go of the FEAR OF FAILURE. I choose to let go of the QUASI-NEED FOR PLEASURE. I CHOOSE TO WORK.

From left to right on the desk, first ‘line’

  • A stack of books which holds most of the books I’m currently studying from. It works as a place to stick all the things I don’t need at this moment, but will  need soon. On the top is a notebook, on the bottom is a red physics manual.
  • My waterbottle. I try to drink 4 bottles full a day.
  • Golden pen holder thing. Holds a broken highlighter (which has sticky bookmark things), my fountain pen, a pen from my aunt, and every once in a while my blue pen (to the left of the base of the water bottle) and my pencil (just to the left of the laptop).
  • Chapstick and lint-free cloth. For lips and glasses.
  • Laptop. The thingamajig extraordinaire itself. Program onscreen is Alarm Clock 2 and Notational Velocity
  • Tablet and tablet pen Much nicer than a mouse or trackpad.
  • Collection of papers, project list, quick to-do list, and a tissue. Also sticky-note pad, orange.

Left to right on the desk, ‘second’ line:

  • tape for putting up memopad notes and sticking sticky notes better
  • history tests
  • memopad for taking notes of people I need to look up.
  • history textbook, open at page 52.
  • a memopad sheet I need to throw out.
  • highlighters
  • and, underneath, a Rudyard Kipling book in Romanian because I was going to read it. A long time ago.

If I really want, I can make the desk look clean, too:

2013-04-22 10.05.54

Thought Pattern

Have you ever tried to pull a tractor tire behind you?

I haven’t either. But judging from the sweat running down peoples’ faces when they attempt it (or the blood-hue of their faces), it’s hard work.

I don’t feel like that’s what I’m attempting when I work. I feel like I’m trying to move a mountain with my mind. And while I’m trying to move a mountain there’s an hourglass with sand in it that’s steadily trickling down and down and down to gather into an ever-growing heap of sand at the bottom.

Continue reading

Big Thing Challenge: Day 2

I apologize for not posting yesterday with updates. I was late getting back from Tae Kwon Do and I was more interested in sleep.

But, anyway. A learning experience both yesterday and today. I am feeling apathy. I’ve been slacking for two days, yet I don’t care. This is normal. I’ll go through periods of crazy-you’re-going-to-kill-yourself work, and periods of ‘okay, I am going to do this,’ and periods of ‘you could shoot me and I still wouldn’t do this.’

I’m in the last of these categories, and while days are whizzing by (36, if I’ve counted correctly),  I’m still thinking along the lines of present comfort, not future serendipity.


Update yesterday: very little work done. I got barely got through the outlining stages, because I couldn’t think of any literature that had mutual respect in a friendship in it. Except for Gilgamesh. And I didn’t read that. I googled, but that didn’t help much.

Update today: The big challenge was to finish Ion Creangă’s Amintiri din Copilărie, but that didn’t work out very well. Suffice it to say, I put it off shamelessly and didn’t get more than 10% through the book.

The big thing(s) tomorrow?

Write a rough draft of the friendship essay.

Finish the book.

It’s two things, but that will help.

Firstly, I’ll watch a bit of a Romanian interview which will prime me for re-understanding Romanian first thing in the morning. Then I’ll read the book until I reach page 50, after which I’ll turn to the friendship essay and, if I have to, make up examples. After all, not everyone read EVERYTHING on the planet. And then back to the book, then back to the essay, until it’s finished.

Should I actually do this, I give myself full permission to babble incoherently and watch Sword in the Stone.

Productivity Challenge Day 5: Summary of the Productivity Challenge.

38 days left.

So the challenge was… an underachievement (I refuse to use the word failure because I didn’t fail: I learned a few things). The only day I actually hit 5 work-hours was Day 2, Thursday. I didn’t use the internet less than 2 hours every day (and if I did, then I was reading romance novels for eight hours. Never let it be said that I am not gifted in the art of frittering away my life.)

So, because I was lacking in the simple self-discipline of making myself work for 20 minutes at a time 16 times a day, I refused to write a blog post as well.

Okay, well, I wrote a pointless blog post every day for a year. (You can see it at And those blog posts only had a word requirement. These blog posts will help me make something of the nonsensical directions my life seems to be taking. I hope.

I realize I’m getting off the point. I didn’t sleep much last night and I have a headache now. I’ll cut to the chase. These are the things I learned: 

  • The more you put something off, the more icky you feel later. (The price of self-discipline is always less than the pain of regret. I have no idea who said this first, but it’s definitely true.)

You’d think I’d have learned this before now. It’s been presented many, many, many times over the past two years (at least). But I haven’t learned it yet. And, as in Cherie Carter-Scott’s Ten Rules for Being Human “Lessons are repeated until they are learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can go on to the next lesson.”

Obviously, I haven’t learned this lesson yet. Maybe next week.

Summary of the Productivity Challenge:

“Work 5 hours a day. Write 2 short essays, 1 long essay, and add 10 events to the historical timeline a day. Spend less than 2 hours on the internet a day.”

Summary of my progress:

5 things to do. 5 days. I completed 1 of those things on 1 day. So, 4% progress.

The next challenge:

One thing I think I have learned is that you have to try new ways of doing things, and that you can’t give up. Funny, I hadn’t thought of that until now. So the next challenge. Do one big thing each day. This challenge will run from April 1st, Monday, to April 7th, Sunday.

Tomorrow’s big thing: Write a 30-point 150-300 word essay in literature.

Productivity Challenge Day 2: Semi-Success

42 days left.

I may or may not have mentioned this, but I use an iPod app called Eternity. It tracks your time for you. I’ve been using it since October to track every single action I do. This is how I know exactly how much time I’ve been spending on what… and it helps me piece together what I’ve been doing.

So, without further ado.

Today started off fantastically. I woke up, and the first thing I did was reach for my history book. Instead of twenty minutes, I read for 25. I got up, said my prayers, and got back into bed to read a romance novel. After all, until 8am, I had time to do WHATEVER I wanted.

At 8am I got up, went to my desk (still in my pajamas) and answered biology questions for 23 minutes. 

Then I had breakfast. Simply working at schoolwork for 48 minutes before breakfast hasn’t happened to me in years. I was… crazy happy. Jumping around, bouncing, etc. 

The day progressed pretty slowly. We live next to a church where the bells start ringing from 7:25 in the morning to 9:30 at night, every half hour. So whenever the bell started pealing for :00, I set aside what I was doing, picked out a subject, and went to work for 20 minutes. Sometimes I worked more than 20 minutes, but mostly I stuck to the schedule of ‘learn, break, learn, break, learn, break.’

(I’m trying not to make this a blow-by-blow account, but it’s hard to think of a way to make this interesting).

All went well until lunch time. Before starting school, I asked that Mom restrict the lunch hour from 1pm to 2pm. We only ever spend 25-35 minutes at the table, but this allows Mom some leeway in case a meal doesn’t want to be finished exactly at 1pm, and it allows me to block off an entire hour for a break. But– the current schedule asked that I work from 1pm to 1:20pm. Lunch started promptly at 1pm, so I set aside work and went down to eat. I returned to my studies only at 2:30pm, to do some history. I basically managed to catch up to my current time until 4pm, when I decided to ‘skive off’ a bit more. When I sat back down to do physics, I got a FB message.

A friend who had his wisdom teeth taken out had PMed me to ask if I was busy. I said, ‘no, I’m just doing some physics problems on and off.’ He said he was just looking for some conversation, because he couldn’t do anything but lie down with his face on ice. So I offered to give him a summary of what I’d learned in history so far. Not only would it help me (history is in Romanian and he only speaks English; I’d have to not only organize the material, but translate it as well), but it would give him something to do.

So, skipping around my basic knowledge (ancient origins of Romanians —straight to—>  revolts and kingdoms in 1800s+), I gave him what I knew. It was really helpful, because by translating, I had to look up certain things, make sure I had them right. I got to cement the knowledge I already had.

Afterward, I totally relaxed until about 10pm, when I read a bit more of history.

Total work hours: 5:17:48

Total internet time: 4:26:44

Total events added to timeline: 1.

Total essays written: 0 (I outlined two, though: one for literature and one for history)

This is already getting too long, so I’ll just say that, despite the fact that I spent 4 hours on the internet… (this is really important) IT WAS LESS TIME THAN I SPENT STUDYING!

I’m really happy with today.

Tomorrow all I’m going to try is to make sure that I’m actually getting an essay written. I think 5 extra minutes for thinking out an essay will help, instead of trying to put it all into one block. It’s really hard to find examples.

Productivity Challenge Day 1: A Learning Experience

I can’t remember who said it– Sun Tzu or some Greek general– but no battle plan survives contact with the enemy.

And boy is it true. I woke up this morning and instead of going straight to prayers and getting dressed and reading some of my history book (the easiest, most relaxing patr of my studies), I lazed in bed, found a book on my iPod (in English), and basically wasted away the entire morning.

… yes, it’s a bit sad. But, like I mentioned yesterday– nothing, absolutely nothing, will make me do something unless a) I want to do it, b) I’m heartily bored of everything else.

In the end, boredom drove me to do some schoolwork. Not much. A bit of history, a bit of outlining, answering some biology questions, doing part of a literature test, and reading more of the history book.

Total work time: 2:05:56

Total internet time: 1:09:12 <- points to me

Total events added to timeline: 1.

Total essays written: 0.

The upside about all of this is that, when 4pm hit, I crashed against an idea I probably should have had ages ago. Instead of working in huge chunks (which I’ve found, over the years, don’t work for me), I should be working in small chunks.

So, here goes. Tomorrow, every hour on the hour, I’ll do 20 minutes of work. With the exception of meal times, from 7am to 9pm I will be doing these 20 minutes of work. The other 40 minutes are mine to do with as I please. 

All I have to do is break through the barrier of not wanting to do anything. I’ll extend the chunks as needed.

A New Challenge

A good friend of mine is doing this, and I figure it’s a great way to get productive. At least, it’s working for her. 😀

The problem with me is that while any productivity system will work wonderfully for a period of time… in the end the only thing I fall back on time and again is the motivation or the self-discipline to make it work. Productivity systems… do not work for me.

So. Here it is. I have 44 days until May 7th, when I’ll be heading out to Romania. (Actually May 8th or so, but I figure that 44 days is better than 45). That is just over 7 weeks.

I’m going to commit to 5 hours of work a day for the rest of March. After that, I’ll take a short break on Monday, assimilate things, and add on another hour. I’ll be spending no more than 2 hours on the internet a day. I’ll reduce this further in April.

I’ll also be aiming for:

  • 2 short essays a day
  • 1 long essay a day
  • 10 events added to the timeline a day

How My Studies are like Novel-Planning

((I am throwing out the schedule.))

How my studies are like novel-planning:

Biology. This takes the place of world-building. My usual approach is to figure out the bare minimum that will allow me to get by without having to pause in the middle and think, “Wait… are these people Asian or European so I know what they look like.” That, literally, is about the extent of world-building. 


Physics. The magic system. “Um… it looks like this and this is what it does and it’s vaguely based on…” *looks around wildly* “PENS!” Wait, no, pens don’t have magic. Everyone would be making pens. Um… um… um… “TREES!” Trees is good. Okay. Cool. So what’s the outcome of this?


which leads into…


History. The story. The lovely plot. The interesting part that allows for the broad, sweeping, thoughtless actions of my characters. There is extrinsic motivation, just the way I like it. Not like…


Literature. Character feelings and motivation. Ugh. Intrinsic stuff. Figuring out the little nit-picky details… knowing out what they like and dislike and the symbolism of the fact that Jenny likes green beans as opposed to peas… not for me. (Translated to literature… the reason that ‘night’ is used more than ‘day’ in a particular poem and how the metaphor of sparks translates to cloud formations…)

What’s school like for you?


… considering the fact that I am happiest when productive, it’s a wonder that I don’t post these things on time.

Perhaps it’s a certain type of productivity, or perhaps I don’t feel that writing down random thoughts on random subjects to be productive. Or perhaps I get lazy.

At any rate, at some point I shall fix it.

I mentioned that I am happiest when productive. This is not a random statement. It has been carefully studied over a period of 69 days, using a wonderful little gadget called Illuum.

The entire point of the app is to figure out what makes you happy. You input how happy you’re feeling based on a number from 1 to 9 (9 being happiest), and then you write down what you did that day.

This is what I’ve found:

  • I’ve been happy 52 days of 69, sad 1 of 69, and middling-well 16 days of 69.
  • My happiest day of the week is Sunday (possibly because it’s my only break day.)
  • My saddest day of the week is Friday (can’t think why)
  • I’m happiest when I have finished a task, went [gone] somewhere, or watched something.

What have you found?