Exercising my mental strength

My dad emailed me an article about the dos and don’ts that mentally strong people like successful CEOs seem to share, and from there was a link to some things you can do to exercise mental strength. Well, I’ll write a quick blog here as part of exercising part 5, which is to reflect on myself on a daily basis, and I’ll also try to exercise part 1, which is to evaluate my core beliefs.

One of the things I’ve come to believe since I started grad school is that there isn’t enough being done to bring new people up to speed in terms of software. I spent a lot of time just setting myself up with the basic tools to give myself data to work with. My research feels like it goes at a snail’s pace at times, but I believe that at the end of the day, I’ve learned a thing or two and I’m a step closer to releasing something that will be useful to those who continue down the same line of work I’m doing.

To me, this is how I will have a real impact. The impact of that seems to me to be way bigger than the academic impact of any research paper I’d end up writing before I graduate. It’s been said that the measure of a researcher is in their writing, and what better way to be effective than to write great software that people can easily read about and work with.

I think related to this is that I believe that it is necessary to be accommodating of people who are different from you. People might have different beliefs and speak different languages, but ultimately there is a common ground that can be reached, and there, I believe that a connection can be made that benefits everyone. As general as that seems when I wrote it, it actually applies to three things that I’m thinking of.

  1. Software: people don’t all use Linux and are not all C++ developers (or are even developers to begin with), so if you put in the work, you can have Windows or OS X users building your programs, Python programmers calling your library, or even mortal end users running your program.
  2. Research: Researchers in different fields run with different mindsets geared towards the problems they care to solve. Obviously, everyone makes use of computers in this day and age, so it’s pretty fun to see the language that people outside of computer science use to implement their ideas.
  3. Languages: It’s actually pretty hard to get in a situation where the language barrier actually causes a real issue, but it’s a great feeling to be able to accommodate someone who is more comfortable or is only able to use another language.

I guess to summarize the theme of my beliefs in the most general way, I feel like it’s important to make an effort to understand others as well as to make an effort to let others understand you.

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Ending this streak of no posts

I really think something is wrong with my brain if I tell myself to blog but only do so during the new year. Time to put an end to that, with a quote from a recent study:

Progamers showed increased gray matter volume in left cingulate gyrus, but decreased gray matter volume in left middle occipital gyrus and right inferior temporal gyrus compared with healthy comparison subjects.

The positive difference between pro-gamers, who live a disciplined daily regimen to improve their game, and gaming addicts, who just compulsively play for hours on end, is in the cingulate. Actually, not quite — the quote speaks about the difference between pro-gamers and healthy subjects (i.e. non-addicts), but the result is the same: significantly larger cingulate gyrus.

800px-Gray727_cingulate_gyrus

It looks like the larger cingulate helps to suppress impulsivity. It also helps to reduce perseverative errors. As I understand it, perseverative errors are when you continue to do something (because it has been reinforced by some positive stimulus) even when it’s not working out (the positive stimulus isn’t there any more).

Well, I’ve been meaning to blog and it’s not been working out! Seems that I need to do what my favorite undergrad professor continues to say and change my brain. Hopefully I can break the habit with this combo-breaker of a post.

I’ll be writing about more general things, like this post for example is about brain science that I’m interested in. I’ll also post about Chinese and Japanese, on top of the usual tech bits that I started this particular blog out for. The idea is that I’m consolidating everything into this one blog (used to have 2+) so that I don’t have to even think about where a post should go, which causes me to think about whether I should even post at all, which causes me to not post blogs at all. Let’s see how well this goes.