Book Review: Brain Rules

Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and SchoolBrain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading books on the brain always blows my mind (Yes. That’s intended.). There’s only so much thinking about thinking that you can do before your thoughts go everywhere. But if you’ve got one place you want to improve on, then why not improve on how you think. What better part to lifehack than the thinking process? Everything else depends on that. Now I’m sure that most of you, like me, didn’t take up brain science in College. And as cool as reading a book on Brain science sounds it would probably bore you to death and kill more brain cells than it would help create. Fortunately for you and me, this here book makes all those fancy concepts easy to understand!

There are 12 brain rules John Medina covers. He does a good job of going over each rule. Each chapter would usually start with the occasional witty story to grab your attention. Then he would mention the discoveries behind each rule, the theories surrounding it, and one or two studies that back the theory up. The chapter ends with the practical impacts of each rule in your personal life or even for society at large (e.g. Brain Rule – Exercise: Because more Oxygen in brain; Brain Rule – Sleep: Sleep well, think well.). You’ll find the occasional illustration in between every few paragraphs. Those make me feel that in writing the book itself he applied the very principles that he’s writing about! (Brain Rule – Attention: We don’t pay attention to boring things.)

The book takes on a very evolutionist stance. The first chapter makes it clear enough (Brain Rule – Survival: The human brain evolved, too.). As a Creationist holding to the Bible’s claims I have trouble accepting some of the premises of some of the rules. But hey, you can still explain most of these from the Creationists point of view. For example, instead of the theory that the brain focuses on survival because of the Savannah, we can just as well say that God our Creator made our brains react to threats for our safekeeping.

The information in the book is valuable stuff, which like I said, have practical tidbits that you can apply to your daily life. You would probably find the same in other sources. Some even seem to be too common-sensical (You don’t need a book to tell you that stress hurts your brain). But with all the drivel you’d find in tabloids, in websites online, or the conflicting claims every week in your Facebook news feed, it doesn’t hurt to actually hear from someone with authority on the matter (with of course the references to back the claims).

If you’ve already forgotten some of the rules after reading the book (Brain Rule – Memory: You gotta repeat it before it sticks), there’s also a neat website companion or the book!

4 out of 5 stars. Would read again (Brain rule – Memory). Also, I’m a guy, so I find details hard to remember (Brain Rule – Gender: Male and female brains are different.). You never know what other info you might unearth (Brain Rule – Exploration: We are powerful and natural explorers).

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This review was first posted on Goodreads

Dying Thoughts

What would you do if someone held you at gunpoint? Would you run, or would you try to fight? That was the topic of a conversation with friends a few days ago. Best answer I could give is a general “it depends”. Is the gunner after something? Am I in a location where there’s a place to hide, or is it an open field? Am I with other people? One of my friends shared that he and his girlfriend already agreed on what they’d do if the situation does happen. That’s good planning. You’ll never know when something like that would happen, and if you’re not prepared it might already be too late.

Personally, I have a hard time preparing for death. Whether it’s planning for what to do in a life-and-death situation, or something less tragic like buying insurance. It seems like a pointless activity, a futile effort. Some activities extend your life for just about one moment more. Some are plans for future setups that extend beyond my lifetime, a future as unsure as the future where I do exist, like tomorrow. Plans we make collapse as we execute them. What reason is there for us to expect that our plans beyond our lifetime will fare any better?

Would you believe that there’s a whole book in the Bible sharing these same concerns? Our Pastor, Pastor Noel Espinosa, began a series on the book of Ecclesiastes years ago, and the message still resonates with me.

I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity.

– Ecclesiastes 2:18-19

Vanity is the common theme in the book. At first look it seems that the writer’s repeated refrain is that of the meaninglessness of his work, his achievements, his pleasures, or his knowledge. But as Pastor introduces the series, he shows how the Hebrew word hebel actually means breath, vapor, and is the key to understanding this book. Our lives are brief, like vapors that pass by and are no more when faced with death. Why worry, and plan so that I can extend whatever joyous moments can be hand in this all too brief life? Pastor summarizes it in one of his points:

The reality of death makes any happiness all too brief, and without God, a mere illusion

The writer, thankfully, does not leave his readers to their despair as it seems he has. The book points us to the reality where life is not mere illusion, but that we exist for Him who created us, our God. The Lord will work continue to work in our lives for His glory. What we do matters. Preparing for our eventual departure may still not yield what we expect, but as Christians we know that whatever happens it will be for the good of those who love Him. The future that extends beyond our lifetime will be governed by the same unchanging God, as will the moments that will lead up to it.

Book Review: Si

SiSi by Bob Ong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Walang kupas talaga si Bob Ong sa larangan ng pagsusulat. At sa paglabas ng kanyang ikasampung libro ay napatunayan na niyang kaya niya iba’t ibang kategorya ng kwento ma-horror man yan (Kaibigan ni Mama Susan; na hindi ko naman binasa), tungkol sa superhero (Kapitan Sino), script man ng iba’t ibang klase ng sine (Lumayo Ka Nga sa Akin), o love story na paksa ng librong ito.

Pagbuklat mo pa lang sa unang kabanata ay mapapaisip ka na, dahil ang nakalagay ay pang-72 ito. Ngayon pa lang ako nakakita ng librong sinulat ng ganitong istilo. Naiintindihan ko na kung bakit, ayon kay Bob, sinimulan niya tong isulat kasabay pa ng Stainless Longganisa pero ngayon lang natapos.

Gaya ng nabanggit ko kanina tila pabaligtad ang pagkakasulat ng librong ito. Pagdating pa lang sa kabanata 60 ko napagtanto na ang bawat kabanata pala ay tumutugma sa edad ng bida. Bawat kabanata ay may inilalahad siyang alaala na karamihan ay may kinalaman sa pagmamahalan niya ng kanyang naging asawa. Paalala, hindi ito librong hapon na dapat basahin simmula sa huling pahina. Sinadya ni Bob na magsimula sa edad na 72. Maganda ang kinalabasan. Maihahalintulad ang karanasan na ito sa kung may nakilala ka ngayon lang sa matandang edad na at ikinuwento niya ang mga nangyari sa buhay niya. May mga detalye sa kwento na mapapatanong ka, “Sino naman yung karakter na iyon?” tapos sa sunod na kabanata ay saka lang niya maipapaliwanag kung ano ba ang kinalaman ng taong iyon sa buhay niya.

Natuwa din ako sa kung paano niya ipinahiwatig ang buhay niya. Kalimitan ang karakter ng isang libro ay may isang dimensiyon lamang. Kung ang karakter na ito ay matapang, mabait, madaldal man o hindi sa simula ng libro dadalhin mo ang impresyon na iyon hanggang katapusan. Pero dahil nga nilalahad ng librong ito ang pagtanda at paglago ng isang tao sa bawat yugto ng kanyang buhay, makikita mo ang pagkakaiba ng bida noong siya ay 20, at noong siya ay 60. Napahalagahan ko rin kung paano naipakita nito na ang mga nakatatanda sa atin ay nabiyayaan ng Diyos ng mas maraming karanasan na kalimitan ay nangangahulugan din na may dagdag na karunungan.

Marami pa akong ikinagusto sa librong ito. At kung nagkataon na 4-stars ang ibibigay ko sa librong ito, ay siguradong mapipilitan akong dagdagan ang rating na iyon para lang sa huling kabanata at pahina ng libro kung saan ay nabigyan ng panibagong kahulugan ang naunang 71 na kabanata na binasa ko bago makarating doon. Naglalaman ito ng isang mahalagang mensahe na sa panahon natin ngayon ay mahalagang pag-isipan.

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This review was originally posted on Goodreads.

Round Three

We’re gonna give this another go. Hey guys, I’m Jonn, software enthusiast and stuff, and I’m gonna give this blog thing another go. Just a dump for some random topics until I build up the habit and find out what I really want to end up talking about. Not gonna write a too-long introduction so that I don’t feel guilty when I eventually slack off on this writing exercise.


“Believe me”

There are waaaay to many things to think about. Overthinking shouldn’t even be my problem (I’ll go over overthinking in a separate post), given that we have so many things that compete, not just for our attention, but also our understanding of them.  Lourd de Veyra even said in his commencement speech just a few weeks ago, “nagtatampisaw tayo sa baha ng impormasyon” (We are floundering in the flood of information). I browse the internet on a regular basis. I get a bunch of articles on a daily basis coming from my feeds, facebook wall, links from friends and the like. I get my regular flood of information everyday. Now besides the fact that I struggle daily with trying not to drown and die from information overload, or the fact that my average-ish brain is struggling trying to take it all in, this made me realize that there was a bigger, more important problem that I had to address:

Which of these speak the truth?

Which beliefs and opinions should form the base for the principles that I will follow throughout my life? Which ones work? Which ones should I dismiss? And it’s not just the internet that trigger this kind of thinking for me. There’re the people around us that regularly exert their influence towards us, like those that come from your best friend for example, or those who you grew up with, like your family. The opinions and beliefs of these people add up and compete with the right to influence your own beliefs whether by suggestion, or straight-up imposing it on you, or by the person’s mere regular proximity to you that you slowly but surely pick up on what they believe as well. And there’s my own emotions, beliefs and biases that add to the mix. There’s the feeling of sympathy in certain situations, the occassional hipster-feel, the bias against certain people or events that affect what I believe.

I don’t know about everyone else but this gets me frustrated. This gets me really, really frustrated.. and bothered. I don’t know what to believe. Just recently, from my recent encounters with people (and the interwebz), I’ve had to question what I really believe about the following topics:

  • Grades matter, but should they really?
  • Is the Chief Justice guilty or is it just the President messing with us?
  • Will investing in a smartphone pay off and which smartphone brand has the promising future?
  • Is eating healthy worth it? What kind of healthy eating actually matters in the first place?
  • Is there a place in society for boyfriend-girlfriend relationships?
  • Tradition and culture are important in keeping one’s identity

These are opinions from various kinds of people from people I know, from people in the internet that I don’t know, people whose opinions I care about, or even people who don’t matter to me at all. They are many and some of them really matter, and choosing the wrong belief will lead to the eventual consequence. And with the sea of opinions and the fear of not knowing if the belief I’ll be picking will lead to a great amount of pain, I usually end up undecided on many matters.

This blog’s aim is to address that indecision. It will attempt to lay down in writing what I believe to be true so as to better understand what I myself believe about things. This blog is my own way of forcing myself to take a stand on beliefs that confound me. And may the Lord help me in this endeavour! Fortunately, in the sea of opinions and beliefs, in the case that the currents threaten to sweep me away from the truth, I can always cling to that one source of information that always has and always will contain only the absolute truth: the Bible, the word of God, breathed out by Him and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and for training in righteousness. [1 Tim. 3:16] May His word be the foundation of whatever belief I will profess.  Now I am not perfect, and I know that I may end up misinterpreting or misrepresenting something or someone at some point, so I ask dear reader, if you may be so kind as to gently point me in the right direction. If I am in danger of misrepresenting God’s word, even more so, rebuke me Christian brother or sister. And I pray that whatever writing may be found here, may it be written with great care and all of it end up in bringing glory to God’s name.