Sunday, March 30, 2008

Paulo Coelho ~ Traveling Differently

Recently, i was on a Singapore Airline flight to Ho Chi Minh City. On the flight, came across this interesting article about traveling by Paulo Coelho, best selling author of The Alchemist. The ideas that Paulo Coelho brought across in the article is unique and very logical. Here is a summary of the article.

Why do we travel? What do we want to get out from our traveling? Most of the time, we would want to learn more about the people, the place and the culture. The journey itself is a way to learn.

Very interestingly, Paulo Coelho advocate NOT visiting the museum! It is because, visiting museum requires lots of time and objectivity. And often we see a lot in the museum but cannot remember much! Very true isn't it?

Instead of the museum, go to the local bar. Find places where the locals hang out for a drink and chat over the most mundane stuff in life. This is where the live of the city can be found. Sit down, relax, enjoy a drink and observer the people coming in and out of the place. Quoting from the article "one cannot judge the beauty of a path merely by looking at its entrance." Do not judge, be there to learn and feel the spirit of the ambiance.

Be willing to meet more people, especially the local. Be open and forward. Talk to someone on the streets, ask for directions. If they are not able to help you with it, ask someone else. Try, try and try again. The chances are we will find excellent company.

Do not travel with tour groups! Tour groups are a disguised way of pretending to be overseas! You are still with a group of people who share similar culture and background. You are still speaking the same language. Most of the time, the focus is not on the places that you are visiting. I guess, if you have the experience of traveling along and traveling in a tour group, you will get what Paulo Coelho is trying to say.

Do not judge. Take things as they are. We just need to acknowledge the things that are happening around us. Do not compare price, do not compare environment, do not compare the quality of life. We are there to learn how they live, what they can teach us and learn their point of view. What is their reality? What is extraordinary to them? Very true isn't? Some of the very simple things that we take for granted like clean water from tap may be an extraordinary thing to them. Some of the things that are extraordinary to us, like long necks with rings and big lips with discs are actually normal and beautiful!

We should travel with a mindset "know that everyone understand you". I am kind of puzzle when i read this line. Upon reading more, i get more clarity from it. There are many forms of communications and verbal communications just makes up a percentage of it. Even if we do not know the language, be courageous. In the event that we got lost, all we need is a hotel card, hop onto a taxi and show the card to the driver.

Don't buy much. Spend money in a way that we do not need to carry. Go to the theatre, restaurants and just take a walk around. Best of all, there will be no need to pay for any excess baggage!

Take your time travel a place. It is better to visit one place for five days than five places for a week. There is this interesting line that i would like to quote from the article:
"A city is like a capricious woman who needs time to be seduced and reveal herself completely"

Lastly, the journey itself is an adventure. It is more important to discover church that no one heard of, than visiting an attraction of thousands of chatting tourist! Yes, you may like to visit attractions to see how they are like. It is also equally important to get lost in the streets, wonder around. We will never know what we will find!

I will end with this quote
"Feel free to look for something, without knowing what it is" ~ Paulo Coelho.

Check out the full article at
Travelling Differently at Walking the Path - The Pilgrimage

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Easy Simple Mental Addition and Subtraction

Mental calculations can be quite daunting. However, do you know that we can easily do mental calculation for addition and subtraction up 4 digits.

The theory goes like this:
1) Human mind can hold up to 7 bits of information consciously at any one time. (why do you thing most phone numbers are 7 or 8 digits? =D)

2) It is easier to do the addition or subtraction from left to right (most significant digit first).

3) Use some common sense to do some simplification to the questions.

Now for the exciting part:
Lets say we are going to do addition for 56 + 43. Instead of the conventional way of doing from right to left (least significant digit first)

We do addition from the most significant digit
56 + 43 = 56 + 40 + 3

=> 56 + 40 = 96 then 96 + 3 = 99

It may seems trivial at this stage to do mental addition subtraction from left to right. It becomes more apparent as we do number with more digits.

For subtraction:
95 - 48

There is 2 ways. First is the same as above, doing from left to right (the most significant digit first)
95 - 40 = 55 then 55 - 8 = 47

Second, since 48 is close to 50, we can do this:
95 - (50 - 2) = 95 - 50 + 2

95 - 50 = 45 then 45 + 2 = 47.

Now lets take a look at addition and subtraction for the hundred position.

567 + 325
=> 567 + 300 + 20 + 5
=> 867 + 20 + 5
=> 887 + 5
=> 892

786 + 593
=> 786 + 500 + 90 + 3
=> 1286 + 90 + 3
=> 1376 + 3
=> 1379

Try out these sums mentally. You will realized that with practice, doing addition and subtraction mentally is really easier when we do it from left to right (from the most significant digit)

687 - 396
=> 687 - 300 - 90 -6
=> 387 - 90 - 6
=> 297 - 6
=> 291

You will realized that when we need to carry over for subtraction, it is gets a bit more sticky.
And easier approach will be as follows:

Since 396 is close to 400, we can do this:

687 - (400 - 4)
=> 687 - 400 + 4
=> 287 + 4
=> 291

It takes more practice as the number of digits increase, as human's conscious mind can hold up to 7 bits of information, we can easily to up to 4 digit and 3 digit addition and subtraction.

After a bit of practice on this technique, we can easily do mental addition and subtraction without the hassle of using a calculator for anything less than a thousand.

Asian Parenting