April 13, 2018 #tvshow

Judging from all the data I’ve given to Netflix for their machine learning algorithm, I’d blame them for not suggesting this show to me - Fargo.

Fargo Season 1 Martin Freeman

I remember Wikipedia uses “black comedy” to describe this show, but I didn’t find myself laughing at any moments of the show. It’s dark, patient, and tense. And of course, I love it!

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Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman)… the protagonist (or antagonist, or turn-to-be antagonist). You started off by rooting this mistreated guy. His wife always compares him to his brother, hinted she might have married to the wrong one. The sudden encounter with his high school nightmare - the bully, and found out the bully actually had a one-time affair with his wife, and then indirectly broke his nose. The low self-esteem that needed those “inspiring and positive” quotes hung on the wall to constantly remind him: “what if you’re right, and they’re wrong?” You see the struggling and desperation of Lester.

Then he bumped into a mysterious stranger of the town, after sharing his misery story, the guy offered him a yes-and-no question: “Do you want that bully to die?” From that moment, Lester’s life changed completely.

I enjoyed this show very much. The gradually built-up tension and fear took my breath away. There were moments I sensed violence but nothing happened, and the next scene, boom, and blood.
You’ve got to see what could happen to a guy who is absolutely smart but lack self-esteem, and once he overcomes that, in a dramatic way, how much of his ego could grow to explode.
And the mystery hitman by Billy Bob Thornton was super charming. In a way I respect his “style” - not just about killing, not even about elegance, I don’t know what word would best describe it yet - manipulative, efficient, aggressive, deceivable, and patient.

After watching all of the movies and tv shows, this killer would definitely earn a position in my memory hall that won’t be easily flushed away in a long time. So is the show.

April 10, 2018 #writing

This is gonna be the very first time that I share my fiction writings in my blog. I practiced that when I was learning this Creative Writing on Coursera last winter. I was completely new to this “make something up” style of writing, it took me quite a while to work on my mind as well as the writing skill, but in the end I enjoyed it. It’s like it stretched my imaginary creative muscles 💪that otherwise I’d never even noticed its existence.

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I’ll just show you one of the homework I did last December, unmodified. The requirement was to practice the technique of revealing thoughts and feelings indirectly - through the environment, behavior, and other details. For example, instead of a plain “he’s sad,” you can say something like this to reveal the person’s internal state: “sitting in the dark, he gulped down the bottle and hoped it’ll do the trick and take the edge off. It usually works, but not tonight…”

Creative Writing, Style, Week 4: Concrete Style Infused with Thought and Feeling


The aim here is not to practice withholding ideas or feeling, but to practice revealing them through the surfaces of physical experience.


Writing in the third person, describe a house from the point of view of a mother or father whose daughter has just left home and married a man the mother or father despises. Don’t refer to the wedding itself, or to the mother or father’s hatred of the son-in-law. Focus on the house as she or he experiences it in the wake of the daughter’s departure.

Then describe the same house from the point of view of the same mother or father—except this time the daughter has left home to marry someone the mother or father genuinely loves and approves of. Again, don’t refer to the wedding itself, or to the mother or father’s affection for the son-in-law but on the house as she experiences it in the wake of the daughter’s departure.

The two pieces combined should total 600-750 words.

Version: 1

He had a hard time getting off the bed. It was not chilly outside, but this morning, he wanted to give in to the duvet, just a little more, at least that was one thing in his control.

When was the last time he did that? He lost the sense of time. Dreams and reality were woven together. Eventually, he left the bed behind, gently and carefully, tried not to wake up his wife.

He walked straight to the kitchen in his pajamas, leaving the lights and curtains shut. While boiling a bottle of water in the kettle, he unwrapped the indifferent ribbon and opened the gift box he got from his daughter Maggie and his new son-in-law David. Coffee beans, Ethiopia, his favorites. One-size-fits-all, he thought, you drink it when you are in a good mood of catching up or getting ready, and you drink it when you’re tired of the reality and want to get away from it. Which way shall he interpret it? He felt it irony.

The kettle whistled and clicked. He measured the beans and ground them, placed the filter in the dripper, pre-wet it, preheated the server… and finally poured himself a cup of coffee. All on autopilot, the morning ritual. He was aware that there shall be a get-to-know-each-other session for every new beans to establish the relationship. He got the solid knowledge and technique over the years. The taste was ok, the beans were of great quality, yet the flavor felt familiar and at the same time, distant, unsettling.

Holding the mug cup, he headed out and walked towards the garage where laid the growth chart of Maggie. He slid through it, paused at each mark and let the memory flow back. No matter how many times he reminded himself, it still shocked him how fast his little girl grew up. He had devoted his life-savings and life-lessons to her, yet out of numerous options, she picked up this David guy.

He gulped down the rest of the coffee. It was cooled and bitter.

Version 2

Headache. Hangover. But why not, he thought, you only get to drink like that few times in a lifetime. He rolled over, adjusted the duvet for his wife and got off the bed without making a sound.

He opened the curtains in the living room, let in the sunshine. Looking at the reflection of himself in the window, finger tapped his white beard, he smiled, felt lightweight.

He recalled something and rushed to the kitchen. Unwrapping the beautiful butterfly ribbon, he opened the gift box he got from his daughter Maggie and his new son-in-law Dave. The aroma flew over. Coffee beans! He shouted silently. He held it to his nose and smelled it out, Ethiopia, his favorite. Well done, well done, he clapped to the new married couple.

Time for the morning ritual. He had a second thought when reaching the electric grinder and turned to look out the lower drawer. Got it! The hand grinder. Got to enjoy it at a leisurely pace. He had been rushing for his whole life, now when everything was finally settled, he liked to take the time he couldn’t spare before. He also liked to devote more labor if possible, as a way of respecting the gift—the representation of the kindness from Maggie.

Every turn-around of the hand grinder reminded him of the old days when they went out for the merry-go-round. Truly amazing how kid grew up this fast! And more than anything, he is very proud of her. All the things he had done for the family, she understood.

When he was wandering in the nostalgia world, his hands ran autopilot and poured the coffee. He held the mug cup and smelled, “well done, well done.”

That was it!

I still remember I rushed the ending of the second version, and after read it again, it does show that the it was too weak.

I’ll also paste the review questions below, so you can have a feeling of what’s it like of attending the course 😉. It’s similar to what we software engineers do everyday - peer review others’ code on Github. In this creative writing course, we also review others and answer the questions to help the writer improve his/her writing.

If you feel like it, please leave your review in the comments section 💁🏻‍♂️

Q: How successful is the writer at sticking to concrete language, describing the things of the world as opposed to explicit judgments or feelings? Please explain.

Q: Has the writer nonetheless managed to imply the character’s state of mind in her choice of descriptive language? Please explain.

Q: Which of the two pieces seems most promising to you as part of a longer story? Please explain your selection.

April 6, 2018 #english #language

There’s one activity that I’ve been carrying on for almost 5 years now, that is to answer one question every day on my Q&A a Day, 5-year Journal. The questions vary from something as simple as “What did you have for lunch today?” to as philosophical as “What makes you happy?” I found it the easiest, if not laziest, way to keep a journal. I’m reaching 5th year now.

One night when my wife and I tried to answer it, I was fascinated by our completely opposite response of it — “What’s the new word you learned recently?” She couldn’t come up with one, I couldn’t come up with just one. She is native in both Japanese and English, I’m neither.

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Every day I encounter words I don’t know. There’s hardly a day I could go by without marking anything on the book I’m reading. Even when watching TV shows on Netflix, I would have a notebook (or any paper like receipts of lunch in my pocket) at hands to note down the words or the timestamps so I can look them up later.

This linguistic journey isn’t always that smooth, there are rainy seasons. When I saw my wife flipped through a novel during a weekend while the same book took me about 2 weeks to finish, there was a taste of frustration, to be honest.

So why am I doing this - learning new words and writing in English while I could get by every day just fine? There would be no perceivable setbacks in my professional or personal life. When I started my Writing Spree April a few days ago, I stumbled on this question myself.

I remember how it was like in the early days. Though I had the English lessons during my school years, much like how everybody treated the second language at school, I passed the tests and then forgot about it - I had no desire or need of practicing it. It was until I joined my current company that I started to relearn English, roughly 7 years ago.

Below is what it was like when I tried to read Cooking Solves Everything by Mark Bittman and The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.

notes and highlights on books

The 2 books were recommended in the company at that time. I bought them on Kindle. It was tough. I rarely went through a page without colorful marks. I’m glad now I recognize most of them, but still not all.

As the time of writing, I’m reading the book Don’t sleep, there are snakes by Daniel L. Everett. Over the years I’ve changed intentionally to physical books, but what remain unchanged is the “splash patterns.”

page 99 of Don’t sleep, there are snakes photo

Judging by the numbers of marks, things don’t seem to be that different than 6 years ago. 😅 (and I’m too embarrassed to share aphoto of my wife correcting my writing - full of red marks on words, grammar, punctuations, etc. Her “writings” were more than mine, it was bloddy, you can imagine.)

Putting them together makes me even sadder as if no progress were made. I felt defeated. I couldn’t help but wonder:

Would there be a day that I don’t need to have a dictionary (app) around?
Why am I enforcing this hardship on myself?
Would there be an end?

Among all the reasons I could come up with — a way to see the world differently; explore different cultures; English is the worldwide common language; entertainment value (thanks to Holywood) — the very core of it probably is that I’ve found my voice in the language itself. A very different kind of “sound” than thinking in my mother tongue Chinese, as if I’ve found a hidden passport with new identity in the drawer that could fly me to a freeland.

Worth to mention that although I’m a Chinese Korean - I had been learning Korean from elementary school to high school and after that I once even had a partime job as a Korean-to-Chinese translator for 2 years - I never found my voice from it. Amazingly, it was familiar and foreign at the same time.

But I seem to enjoy the brand new encounter with English this time. I noticed there are times that it would be the dominant language in my mind. This kind of session usually comes after I embody myself in an English book or movie, also as of this writing. I love this narrative. It’s soothing, calm, and reflective.

It helps me classify my past traumatic stories - family conflicts, romantic relationships, identity issues. Because those events were recorded in Chinese as they occured, it was too violent, too emotional, or too embarrassed to look back and analyze them. The native language seemed to have a way too strong shock that would scare me away. But examing them with a different language, especially one that I have limited but handful enough vocabularies, helps me remapping those past dots into coordinations from a different perspective, from a relatively far distant where I feel safe and secure. This handicap works in my favor.

As of writing this post, it also forces me to think deeply and differently on this subject, probably I’m the one who gets most excited about this discovery than any of my readers (sorry!), and I have a good hunch that I’ll revisit it in the future when I get more insights of it.

Back to the question - would there be a day that I don’t need to have a dictionary? Nope. That day won’t come, and perhaps I don’t want it to come either - wouldn’t that be boring if I’ve mastered every single word? How can I answer the question in my 5-year diary then!? But seriously, much like the universe, knowing there will be unknowns means the adventure would never stop, so as the fun of it.

Bonus tip: as any language learners, we’ve got a unique advantage over others - while they might feel guilty or time-wasted after spending hours on Netflix, we could always claim it as our learning session, right? 😉

April 1, 2018 #writing


I haven’t been able to write anything here for a while. My recent trips, books I’ve read, movies I’ve watched, stories I’ve been in. It’s not that I don’t have the time - I still “managed” to watch some episodes on Netflix, but I have trouble saving the attention for writing after waves of the day.

I’m ongoing a change in my career, and I’ve finally made some time for myself - a whole month to rest, relax, and reflect. So here comes the idea of a writing spree - write a post every day for 30 days, inspired by my friend J who had composed a song every week and carried it on for a year. Sounds fun, right?

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Want to get the words out so I can hold myself accountable. This trick always works for me. I can control every minute now. No room for excuses. Let’s set the bar high.

As for the execution, I’m a big fan of having a system, a routine, a ritual for such project. The time, the place, and the pace all matter to keep me in the desired context without distractions, deep and long, like a diving in the deep sea.

For the time and place, I’m gonna live in the countryside myself to kick off the writing spree. Start a digital detox. Gonna bring lots of books.

For the pace, my daily writing rotation might be separated by languages - English, Japanese, Chinese, and Ruby - my favorite programming language. That would cover a 4-day rotation, then maybe I’ll even continue the Creative Writing course in Coursera, or pick a theme and try to write a series of it.

That’s the commitment. We rarely get such opportunity, will do my best to make it count.

October 21, 2017 #netflix #tvshow

Narcos Season 3, I was skeptical about the show as Pablo Escobar, the main character of the previous 2 seasons, faded out and the Cali cartel bubble up to the surface. I was happy to be proved my concern was unnecessary; this season tastes surely different, it tastes great.

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A post shared by MATIAS VARELA (@matiasvarela) on

Among the new colorful characters, I think zooming in on Jorge Salcedo—later the chief head security of the Cali cartel—is a genius move. The show takes us to his life, his family, his desire, and struggles. We get to see how his morality was shaken, shifted, and shattered under extreme circumstances. How yet another good guy could do bad things. How a man with his words fell into his wife’s arm, like a vulnerable baby. It was an emotional journey, the backbone of the season.

Also, there are more of the Cali cartel “godfathers”—the conflict between the Rodriguez brothers; how power drives you to feed your ambition; how the once seemingly unbreakable empire got tore apart with the cumulative efforts of each individual who stepped forwards and risk their own lives on the field.

I especially love the limited scenes to Pacho—his past and pain, loyalty to the brothers and cruelty to his enemies. When things went south and a new gate opened for him, his true color emerged.

Lastly, salute to Javier Peña, the fighter who won’t bend to the shitty crappy “politics.” The world needs such people.

In Case You Want More

September 24, 2017 #book

Systems, Goals, and Odds of Success

After Reading the Book “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big”

Book - how to fail at almost everything and still win big by scott adams

What this book is trying to tell is extremely simple: treat yourself as a programmable moist robot, build the system to control the inputs, so you can determine the outputs. Your time, focus, and energy are the fuels to keep you in the game, equip yourself with strategies with good odds, all you need to do is stay in the game long enough, success will find you, sooner or later.

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What distinguishes it from other self-help books are:

1) The author is the creator of the cartoon Dilbert, that means you will get tremendous entertainment value from the book, guaranteed. It’s enlightening and humorous, the only non-fiction book so far that keeps making me laugh while also sharing something inspiring.

2) Thanks to his various experience in public speaking, business writing, and other backgrounds, I found the book extremely easy to read and persuasive (in a good way.)

I’m glad he stopped pursuing the career as a salesman, otherwise, I might have bought whatever product he’s selling. I’m so hooked as a reader for his humor and storytelling technique.

“Passion is bullshit”, “Goals are for losers.” Given that I’m right in the season of dumping the goal-and-passion-driven engine to my mental garage, this line hits me at the perfect timing. I’m definitely biased, maybe I’m seeking validation, but what it presents is worthy food for thoughts.

The culprit of goals, almost by definition, is that it sets you “in a state of nearly continuous failure at best, and permanent failure at worst if things never work out.” It pushes you to fight the feeling of discouragement at each turn.

A system is “something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run.”

For a cartoonist, that might be drawing one cartoon per day; for a writer, writing five hundred words per day. In contrast to goals, systems bring a steadier stream of low-grade highs. They’re guides to a fulfilling life, day by day, rather than enticing pictures of some grand end goal without instructions for how to get there.

It focuses on designing each action that naturally drives you to the next step without the need to use up your limited willpower supply. In another word, it’s kind of in the same family tree of routine, ritual, habit, and compass, but system gives you the vision of each component connected to the final outcomes, and it does sound much cooler right?

The concrete example of the author’s system: “Eat right, exercise, think positively, learn as much as possible, and stay out of jail, and good things can happen.” I know it sounds stupidly simple, maybe not that different than what your grandma told you when you were a kid, yet whether you can keep doing all of these throughout your life is the key. Design each step carefully so it drives you to the next action, and collectively it’ll increase the odds for luck to find you.

I have to admit that I do feel that he’ll success one way or another, if not Dilbert it may be other projects (just like Dilbert was one of them.) He’s seeing the world in a macro view, each time he applies his system, he gets a better chance of winning the game.

It reminds me of the Starcraft league (or any other sports leagues), you may get lucky to win one game, but to be the winner of the best-of-7 series, to beat the equally talented opponents, to advance through the seasons of, years of tournaments, you’ll not only need a good strategy, but also apply it, practice it, tweak it, maintain it, and reduce the required willpower to the minimum so it can be sustainable. All of these in a whole is the system.

The book covers a lot of topics: passion, goals, systems, attitude, talents, observations, humor, happiness, diet, exercise, and luck. I’ve never thought about that I would want to acquire skills like public speaking, persuasive writing, humor, and golf(!), but now I’m deeply hooked.

Thanks to the another book Irresistible that pointed me to this one.

Lastly, this could be a spoiler but, my favorite line of the book is this one: “Say something, you bastard!”, page 166.

September 10, 2017 #random #dreams

I dream a lot. I know technically, we humans all dream when we’re asleep and it’s just a matter of whether you remember it or not. Still, I reinforce: I dream a lot.

Some of my dreams are bizarre in an inexplicable way, some are so vivid and immersive that I can’t stop replaying it in my head throughout the day. For such dreams that evoke an emotional response, I would like to share it with people and naively believe they’d be interested too, but I’ve failed every single time.

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Sharing dreams are hard. Unlike real experiences, which we forge into a story form that consists of a proper setup, escalation, and twist in an intriguing way, dreams are literally up in the sky and out of our control.

Because dreams are non-logical, non-sequential, with lack of a kind-hearted narrator to fill us in, it’s hard for the teller to reconstruct, and also hard for the listener to capture the whole picture. It’s against how our brain pieces information together.

Simply put, dreams are unshareable.

Sure, we’ve got the powerful weapon when it comes to storytelling, “exaggeration.” We can choose to sprinkle some secret hot sauce to our dreams to increase its entertainment value. But I would know I’m cheating. Eventually, it’s me trying to share the experience, I may still cut some trivial clips, but I don’t want to decrease its legitimacy or lie.

Despite these natural flaws and how meaningless my dreams are to you, I’d still like to take on the challenge. Zero exaggerating guaranteed™, you have my word, but note that there will be no climax or closure or any forms of those things.

So here we go.

First one was an eerie happening. Two giant battleships suddenly appeared in the sky, as if they just blinked from other galaxies, some electronical particles were still left in its trail. Amazingly the battleships share 90% similarity to the Terran Battlecruiser of Starcraft (lucky me, I got the chance to see it “real.”)

People looked above fearfully, for a few seconds, the battleships just hung in there like the alien’s ship in the movie Arrival. All of a sudden, the ships started shooting the ground. I couldn’t believe it until I saw bridges, buildings, and people getting smashed by its laser beams. I could feel my heart pounding so hard, “OMG it’s really happening. Who are they?! Why are they doing this?!”

I tried to run, but got trapped by the laser beams, somehow it didn’t hit me but only around me, as if it wanted to keep me alive on purpose. I thought I was done.

The end.

The second one, unfortunately, involved one of my innocent female coworker/friend. As bizarre as it can be, I saw her in my dream half naked (and thank god, she was blurry). She didn’t say anything, she was just standing there, half naked.

Naturally, as you can imagine, I raised my hands (but hold on your imagination there), and flashed her my wedding ring and said in an emotionless tone: “sorry I’m a married man”, as if I were to speak the secret code to bypass a speech recognition system and unlock a door or something. It all happened within 3 seconds.

The end.

(Okay this is the last one, hope you are still there.)

It was my least comfortable setting. I was like the little yellow man in Google Maps, got dragged around involuntarily by an evil-minded kid, and just to screw with me, he dropped me to a random place on Earth. Then I opened my eyes. I was in the middle of a busy crowd, which was rushing towards the buildings ahead.

“Where are we going?” I grabbed one guy nearby and asked.
“To the exam, yo!” He shouted as if it was too obvious.
“What.. what? What exam? Where am I?” I panicked.

Then I realized, I was carrying a shoulder bag, and somehow I knew I would find a paper clue that would tell me which classroom to go take the exam, for which I knew nothing about! Why on Earth did I end up like this? What was I doing the whole semester? Where did the time go? It didn’t add up, how could I possibly remember nothing?!

I entered the classroom while scratching my head with all kinds of questions, then I realized: I didn’t even have a pen to take the test.

The end.

August 27, 2017 #product #book

Blinkist is a service that provides summaries of a non-fiction books that you can read in 15 minutes. I gave it a try over the weekend and here are some first impressions.

It won’t be the dominant way of reading books for sure, but it can be useful in situations like the typical “don’t have enough time” scenario. These summaries are written by the staffs of Blinkist who love to read.

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Also, I found that for some authors that I can’t stand their attitudes or repetitive writing styles, but they did make some good points in their books (like The 4-Hour Workweek), with Blinkist I can grab the core ideas with all the arrogance or repetitive shaved off.

It can also be useful for single-purposed how-to guides, like learning some tips on cleaning up the room, without reading through a whole chapter (or chapters) of the life philosophy of the author (if you’re not interested in at all).

What We Gain from Reading?

During the free trial period, I picked up several new books and also some I’ve had read to compare and try to make a baseline of the evaluation.

The summary is of good quality, and I love the final “Actionable advice” on the last page to give you some guidance on what you can act upon right now, usually something small that you can start immediately.

Although it helped me quickly consumed some books on my to-read list, I didn’t proceed to subscribe. Something was missing for me, some key ingredients. It got me think what we actually gain from reading.

A Source of Food

Whenever I start a new book, it feels like I’m on a new journey. I have this hope beforehand where it should and would lead me to, even though most of the time I won’t get exactly where I planned to be, the journey itself is valuable.

The materials presented in the way are good supplies for thoughts. They may not directly contribute to the point of the book or are trivial and off-topic, but it inspires me to ponder, to seek the answer myself. These “by-products” are missed if you’re running too fast.

It reminds me of the movie Passengers, where they found the meaning of life “during the journey”, not as planned after arriving at the destination.

Bullets are the backbone, but we may need more flesh.

In Control?

I was gonna say it could be a good “addition” to my day-to-day reading activity. But what put me off was the lack of options of the pricing plans.

The subscription is $50 a year, with a $80 Premium plan that provides better functions like audios and sync. Interestingly you can’t pay monthly, need to be 1-year upfront. I wonder if they made it that way to prevent people from signing up just for 1 month and reading like a marathon and then just bailing out.

This “lack of options” led me to think I’m less in control (exactly the case mentioned in 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People). If it has had the monthly option, I’d probably sign up and forget about it and let it last for a year heh, who knows heh?

Nonetheless, I’d still recommend you to check out the 1-day free trial, especially with the App that can read it for you, and decide if it’s worth for you or not.

July 15, 2017 #book


Having experienced obsessively refreshing the website and checking how many likes I got in the early days of Facebook, a hate-it-but-can-not-stop-doing-it behavior that I couldn’t explain myself, I hope that this book - Irresistible, would provide more insights on this topic.

With the question in mind, I started reading.

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Reading Roadmap

This is my “Peek into the Future” series of reading, a “sequel” of the previous book I read - “Thank You for Being Late”. Both books reflect on the issues caused by current technologies, while this one focuses on the behavioral addiction in smartphones, video games, wearable techs, emails, and so on.

Precious, Timely and Relevant

A Reflect on the Ethics of Design

It’s the first book I read that questions the ethics of design of video games, wearable techs, social networks and upcoming VR tech. After years of trial and error, designers have learned and become capable of engineering a system that could abuse the weakness of human being, a weaponized product through thousands of tests that could easily outpace our willpower.

Also, as a software engineer, my company as any other companies, want people to use our products simply, more. The more people use the better. No companies would say “it’s enough”.

But imagine this, if they use our products 24x7x365, does it improve their lives or rather cause destructions? If I were in a company developing a highly addictive service like YouTube or Netflix or World of Warcraft that keeps so many users hooked to a degree that they can’t stop even they want to, would I just blame them lack of willpower and self controls, or would I have this self-consciousness to say, “here we are abusing the human weakness, using it to our advantage, and it’s evil”? Quote the book, “There are a thousand people on the other side of the screen who job it is to break down the self-regulation you have.”

It made me think about the responsibilities as “the guy on the other side of the screen”, to re-examine the ethics when designing a product.

One interesting fact I learned and got surprised was that Steve Jobs chose to not give an iPad to his kids. Evan Williams, a founder of Twitter and Medium, bought hundreds of books for his two young sons but refused to give them an iPad. “As if the people producing tech products were following the cardinal rule of drug dealing: never get high on your own supply.”

A Reflect on the Parenting

There are some great pieces in the book that showcased why too much time in front of a screen can affect a child’s empathy.

Cyberbullying, or even any other mean conversations sent through message apps, provides zero nonverbal cues, hence hard for children to build empathy.

“Screens” makes parenting easy. But the book calls for more.

Parents have always taught their children how to eat, when to sleep, and how to interact with other people, but parenting today is incomplete without lessons on how to interact with technology, and for how long each day.

After reading it, I imagined, if I want to be a role model for my kids in the future, how I should behave myself these days, and this book showed some methods.

A Reflect on the Grit vs Addiction

When I was half way through the book, I can’t help but comparing it to the other book Grit (and I almost shouted out when it literally used the word “grit” once in the book!). For the almost same stories - like a long-time runner who runs everyday for nearly 40 years - in the other book it’d be modeled as the perfect role model of grit, but here it could be treated as a behavioral addict.

What’s the difference? It’s the mindset. If he pictures the exercise as a core activity to live a healthy life and chooses to do it every day, then it’s a display of true grit. But if he’s driven by the numbers/goals shipped from the wearable techs, feeling irresistible of breaking the streaks, forcing himself to go out even when he’s physically ill, that’s an addiction.

Here Is the Big But…

The most critical problem is, you won’t learn that much about what the book was titled to teach - ingredients of the behavioral addiction and how to engineer it. You’d get that kind of “aha” moments a lot, but each chapter is not explained in full lengths, and it rarely pieces them altogether.

It felt like the same cotton candy wispy knowledge I get from reading hundreds of articles on my phone but having trouble recounting what I really know now after all that consumption
(One review from Goodreads)

And after 10+ chapters of reviewing the history and revealing the components, you’d expect some sort of solutions or redemptions. Ironically, after criticizing addictive games all the way through, in the end it uses gamification at length as the suggestion to encourage and overcome some of the issues. Too thin.

Lastly, just a preference, but the writing is a little dry.

Some of the great quotes

Where once you had to seek out new goals, today they land, often uninvited, in your inbox and on your screen.
(On the “like” button on Facebook) Users were gambling every time they shared a photo, web link, or status update. A post with zero likes wasn’t just privately painful, but also a kind of public condemnation… Like pigeons, we’re more driven to seek feedback when it isn’t guaranteed.
“I worry what happens when a violent video game feels like murder. And when pornography feels like sex. How does that change the way humans interact, function as a society?”
Wearable techs like the Apple Watch and Fitbit allow you to track your workouts, but they also discourage you from paying attention to your body’s internal exhaustion cues.

Further Reading & Watching

I’ve tweeted on the same topics before, and I still enjoy reading/watching them again.

What’s next for Me?

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life

This was directly mentioned in the book, I feel this is exactly the “system” I want to build into my life.

Instead of goals, live your life by systems. A system is “something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run.” For a cartoonist, that might be drawing one cartoon per day; for a write, writing five hundred words per day. In contrast to goals, systems bring a steadier stream of low-grade highs. They’re guides to a fulfilling life, day by day, rather than enticing pictures of some grand end goal without instructions for how to get there.

As for the continuous reading of the “futures”, I have these 2 books in mind particularly:

Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable, and What We Can Do About It. A quick Ted talk to get the idea: https://www.ted.com/talks/marc_goodman_a_vision_of_crimes_in_the_future

The 100-year Life - Living and Working in an Age of Longevity, I don’t want to retire :)

Ready Player One, it’s a fiction set in the future where living in the VR world becomes the norm.

July 11, 2017 #design

When I approach a security check in an airport, I often see some kinds of instructions in the front side to teach people what items I need to put into the trays.


It's one of the critical tasks that require our full collaborations to ensure the safety for all of us. So from the perspective of airport staffs, they need to teach first-time travelers and also remind experienced ones.

Hence the simplest idea is to show some flyers or guidances in the front side of the security checkpoint, and hoping people would read them.

Continue reading...

Recently, in the Amsterdam airport, I noticed its tray design works amazingly.


The items you'll need to put are drawn inside the tray! It serves both as an instruction and a reminder at the right timing and right place. When you take one tray, it's right there to guide you.

(And plus it's twice big as the one in Tokyo!)

I guess the security checkpoint is the place where we could assume that people would come with the right mindset - to pass it, they will have to put the right thing into the tray to be examined (unless they want to get caught on purpose). Even for first-time travelers, they can get the picture while waiting in the line.

But not everyone pays attention to the instruction, no matter how well the illustrations are embedded, it still appears complex when it contains just some bold text, and we humans are lazy, we want simple stuff.

And here is the genius part of the placeholder design. All people will take at least one tray, that's the perfect chance to teach them, Not before, and certainly not after. They're guaranteed to see it. The placeholder provides such contextual guidance, that removes all unnecessary hurdles and assit us with zero cost.

I feel so fascinated about it.