Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Chess Game of Life

I have always played chess with my uncle back when I was small. I remember each move took my uncle quite a while. He carefully planned each action, pondering every possible counters, maneuvers, attacks, and then triple-checked to see if he forgot any possible or desirable move. That is why it’s so difficult to win him.

He thinks like he plays: precise, observant, deliberate and careful. It has taken me a while to understand him and his playing style. In fact, it’s taken me a while to understand myself and my own moves. Not everything in life can be seen as easily as in chess. Not all moves are as foreseeable; not all decisions are as defined.

Sometimes we make bad decisions; bad choices, in life. The challenges we are facing, and the decisions we have to make in life, are extremely tough. Bullying, academic stress, communication with parents, dating drama, peer pressure, addictions … The list is endless. I would say, without doubt, that this is the toughest time for us than any other time in history.

As the old saying goes, “Experience is a harder teacher because she gives the tests first, the lesson afterward.” There are always a lot of ups and downs in life. They are important to keep us going, because a straight line even in an ECG, means we are not alive.


As I look back on the chess games I’ve played with my uncle, I wonder if he knows how much he has really taught me. The patience is learnt; my learning is improved; my concentration and memory is developed; the mental clarity for solving problems and formulating tactics is developed; that relentless attitude pays off in the end.


Cracking the life-long mystery

I am pretty sure many people, like me, are puzzled and interested in knowing something about this mysterious topic – dreaming. We often wake up with fragments of a dream fresh in our mind and wonder why we dreamt about that.

There is still so much we don’t yet know about the function of sleeping. Despite much scientific progress, the “why” of sleep remains a a sixty-four-thousand-dollar question we have yet to figure out. Dreaming is an ancient and fundamental aspect of sleep. Researches on animal sleep suggests that we, humans, are not the only species to dream.

According to Hobson and McCarly’s activation-synthesis hypothesis (1977), dreams are the “result of the forebrain responding to random activity initiated at the brainstem … This random activity, or noise … passes through similar sensory-relay stations as information from the environment, and is interpreted in a way that leads to the phenomenology of dreaming.”

I think this explains why dreaming appeals to a majority of peoples’ dream experiences, being somewhat erratic and haphazard. This theory points out that the bizarre nature of dreams is associated to some parts of the brain trying to piece together a story out of what is essentially random information.

Interestingly, there are what’s called dream dictionaries available to interpret and discover the meanings of your dreams. Take falling as an example. You might be falling from a skyscraper, a cliff or a helicopter or from a higher ground. This suggests loss of control or insecurity. According to DreamMoods, you might be feeling overwhelmed, perhaps in school, at work, in your daily life or in your personal relationship. You might have lost your foothold and cannot keep up with the high demands of your life.

Decoding the science behind the mechanisms of dreaming may lead to important understanding into its purpose, and to the purpose of sleep itself, whether dreaming plays a role in the consolidation of memory that occurs during sleep and whether dreams are related to the learning boost that sleep appears to provide.

Dreams are interesting, or I would say rather intriguing experiences to ponder.

Note: This is more of a fact-oriented article instead of my usual opinion-based writings. The above article would not be accomplished without the numerous books, scientific research documents and online information on this topic. Credits to Mr Beaton, my English teacher, for the inspiration and the interesting facts he told us in class on this topic.


Kahn, D., Pace-Schott, E. and Hobson, A. (2002). Emotion and cognition: Feeling and character identification in dreaming. Consciousness and Cognition, 11: 34-50.

Winson, J. (1993). The biology and function of rapid eye movement sleep. Current Opinions in Neurobiology, 3: 243-8.

Freud, S. (1900). The Interpretation of Dreams. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Vols. IV and V. London: Hogarth Press.

It’s Free Yet Priceless

Recently, I listened to a Cantonese song called 陀飛輪. It is about a guy who realizes the value of time. Over the past 18 years, he could not even afford a watch, but he had the time to have fun and enjoy himself. Turning 27, he figured out that there’s not much time left to continue to be lazy.

During this fall, he looked around and found out that he had nearly everything he wanted – expensive wines, sports cars, cameras and even golden watches – making everyone jealous. However, he doesn’t think he’s rich.

He realizes that we don’t need high salaries, high career positions or high-class products to gain people’s respect. At the time when he understands this lesson of time, even if he can go back in time, the day is already dark. Time has already elapsed.

He wonders how many heartbeats he have left. The clock is ticking. At this defining moment, he finally understood what life is all about, that we should treasure the time we have and stop being materialistic.

As the old saying goes, “Money can’t buy happiness.” It’s true. I think people are being more materialistic nowadays. We place too much value on owning things and showing them off to others in order to make an impression, from the newest smart phone to clothing of a famous brand, even though researchers have proved that objects don’t make us happy.

We do live in a wasteful society. We waste time on social media. We waste time designated for rest by staying up late. We waste time worrying about things we have no control over. We waste time by operating in fields that we were not meant to operate in. We waste time by procrastinating. We waste time by not being forward thinkers. We waste time by making long-lasting decisions based on temporary feelings.

“It’s better to go on a vacation than buy a new couch is basically the idea,” says Professor Dunn, summing up research by two fellow psychologists, Leaf Van Boven and Thomas Gilovich. He discovered that the only thing to be positively related to happiness was leisure: vacations, entertainment, sports and equipment like golf clubs and fishing poles.

So why not treasure our time and make wise decisions? Whatever it is that you’ve been putting off and waiting to do, do it now! As Michael Altshuler put it, “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” Take control of your life and enjoy it to the fullest.

All rights reserved.
All rights reserved.

Time is free yet it is priceless.
We can’t own it yet we can use it.
We can’t keep it yet we can spend it.
Once we’ve lost it, we can never get it back.

Basketball and my destiny

Finally the day had arrived. Another Saturday. I went to Bonsor for basketball along with some friends. I practised my shots, trying to increase the accuracy and releasing speed. Some people came over and asked if we would like to play a friendly match.

I, myself, am not the best player. I remember I started playing basketball because of a friend in grade 8. He was an incredible player. I used to play very badly, missing easy lay-ups and jumpers. I didn’t have the confidence to shoot.

Every time I got the ball, I would pass it to one of my teammates for sure. That friend of mine always plays with me and he’s always on my team. As you would expect, I got blamed, criticized and yelled at for everything – bad passes, slow reactions, etc.

I got a pass from the point guard. Seeing that the defender wasn’t guarding me tightly, I got hold of the ball, and took the shot. I made it! I cannot describe the happiness and triumph inside me.

I’ve always been an admirer of Kobe’s fadeaway jumpshot. I could never figure out how he does it. How he can pull up for a fadeaway jumpshot with the clock ticking and half a second left. I knew Kobe is a hard worker. His determination, his perseverance, and his confidence are all that I envy.

My friend drove to the basket, leaving me wide open. He then passed the ball to me and I took the shot. The ball bounced and hit the rim. The ball spun around the rim maddeningly, and finally, it fell to the floor. I was disappointed.

I remember reading an article about why not making mistakes is the biggest mistake ever. After all, mistakes not only help us let go of fears, but also teach us valuable lessons. As Al Franken said, “Mistakes are a part of being human…lessons that can only be learnt the hard way. Unless it’s a fatal mistake, which, at least, others can learn from.”

Kobe’s story of success as well as Franken’s quote gave me a lot of insights. I started to recall what I did in the last couple of weeks – nearly zero things related to school work. I always regard myself as a procrastinator, but things are getting more and more serious. Determined, I believe that I am the creator of my own destiny and that I should start using my time wisely. “Time flies,” as they say, “in the blink of an eye.”