Transsiberian Rail road – Day 1: Arriving in Moscow

So finally the day had come! The trip we’d been planning for years was going to be realized. Men and my brother took a flight to Stockholm to meet up our dad. We checked in the day before, so the only task we needed to do was drop off our suitcases at Aeroflot’s check in counter. Checking in and clearing security went by in a breeze!

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We took a seat at a ridiculously overpriced café  to have something to drink. It was almost noon and we were also hungry. Glenn bought a bagel, and I pulled out my prepared lunch – a very filling portion of salmon quiche that I’d saved for the occasion. I find it to be a perfect food to bring on a trip, since it’s very easy to make, transport, pack, and eat. It’s also stuffed to the brim with protein, virtually carb-free, doesn’t take up a lot of space, extremely delicious yet healthy, and doesn’t require utensils to consume. We proceeded to our gate and hung out there for a while until boarding time.

Landing in Moscow went well despite heavy winds. All the passengers formed a cue at an escalator to avoid the misery of walking up to the main arrival hall. I was probably the only passenger who used the broken escalator on the side, as a staircase to walk up. I’ve never understood the sheer laziness of people in general. You’ve been on a flight for a few hours, and still you want to stand in a cue to avoid walking up a few steps? The body is meant to be USED, but most people treat everyday exercise as a plague and happily let their body slowly deteriorate by a combination of inaction and bad diet. Stupidity. To me, standing on still an escalator is completely unacceptable, I always walk them up. People seem to jump at any chance, however small it may be, to avoid spending energy. In my opinion, it’s doing yourself a huge disservice. Keep your body young, fresh and in shape instead by using it!

The immigration took ages. The officer in charge of our lane was extremely slow. She carefully examined all passports on every single detail and did extensive typing into the system. I’ve always been very curious about what kind of information shows up about passengers when immigration officers look them up. Maybe there’s some you-tube video about the topic.. Our officer seemed to be having a bad day. I gave her my biggest smile, but she didn’t so much as flinch a smile back – total stone face. The sun was also shining straight into the hall through a glass ceiling, and there was no AC to be found. It turned the environment into a virtual sahara desert, and I could see a lot of arriving passengers with sweat rolling down their faces. All passengers on our flight got cleared before us, simply by randomly standing in another line at immigration, and when I finally reached the baggage claim, the only three suitcases left there were ours.

Our driver was waiting for us, and took us to our hostel, which was conveniently located in central Moscow with walking distance to the big attractions. He didn’t speak English, and the only thing he said to us, what so ever, was a short “Jo.” when Glenn successfully pronounced the Cyrillic letters on a street sign. The trip from the airport took about 45 minutes due to bad traffic jams, and our driver did his best to cut the time by speeding through blocked off construction areas and changing lanes more often than Trump tweets a lie.

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We arrived at the hostel, which was named The Red Kremlin, and checked in. The lady who received us did speak a few words of English, but still needed google translate to help my understand what some guy told me when he came to the counter. Apparently, he said “Welcome my friends, I’m a bit drunk”. I understood the word priat, which is friend. The receptionist showed us to our room, which was a steaming hot dormitory of 3 wrangly bunk beds. It turns out that she herself was living in the room, and shared a bed with a skinny emo guy there – they even had a guinea pig. How they managed to live like that in a small bed which was barely large enough for one, exceeded my comprehension. The remaining guests at the hostel seemed to be only Russians who were in Moscow temporarily for travel or work. There was a crew of construction guys, and many guests left early morning wearing their work uniforms.

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The hostel itself was located in a back yard and shared the area with a barbershop, tap room, jazz & blues café, and hookah lounge. The crowd that hanged out there can best be described as progressive young punk commie rebels. If you’ve ever seen the movie Police Academy 2, the gang that Mahoney goes undercover into, would be a fitting visual stereotype to represent the Moscovites around the hostel.

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We took a walk to get some dinner at a Siberian restaurant that Glenn had localized in the vicinity. Walking there, our first impression on Moscow continued to grow. Impressive governmental buildings, a lot of gorgeous old alrchitecture, and people driving SUV’s like crazy cowboys. The city was clean, and seemed to have a good traffic infrastructure with big lights and countdowns with waiting times at intersections. The restaurant definitely exceeded our expectations! It had a nice interior, the waiter gave us great service and the food was very delicious. On the way back, we walked through a park which seemed to boast some type of historical military exhibition. We saw old cannons, people dressed up as soldiers, and a lot of communist propaganda posters.

We decided to hit the sack after a long day of travel and new impressions. The room was very warm, but none of us had trouble sleeping.

Operation plastic detox step 4: Shaker

So the operation has come along fine! In part 1 I got rid of the plastic measuring cups, part 2 was adios to the plastic bowls, in part 3 my plastic pitcher became history, and this week it’s also a beverage related item that doesn’t make the cut. I’ve been using this item pretty much daily for the last years and anybody who is working out and taking supplements will recognize it immediately:

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Protein shaker. The printing has even become unreadable thanks to a certain frequent forearm motion known as fapp.. sorry, shaking. The biggest problem with these protein shakers, (apart from the plastic contaminating your protein with testosterone lowering chemical compounds like Bisphenol A), is that the plastic really soaks up the smell of old protein. Well, not any more! Here is the replacement:

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Say ni hao to Mr. stainless steel high quality shaker with BPA-free lid! This bad ass shaker from SLVRBCK has the following properties:

  • stores 700 ml of liquid
  • has a leak-proof lid with built in filter to help mix
  • screw on compartment for storing more protein or vitamins
  • does not soak up any smell
  • machine-washable
  • holds the liquid’s temperature longer
  • will probably never break from normal use or in your gym bag
  • only costs about 15$
  • does not put estrogen mimicking chemical compounds from plastic in your protein
  •  completely recyclable (should you ever choose to)
  • a cool monkey with sunglasses laser-printed onto the side
  • measurements in the vastly superior metric system as well as the absurd imperial system

Review: Stephen R. Covey – 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People

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Great. Another book review among the thousands that already exist for this book. This happens to be one of the top 10 self improvement books of all time, so if you are interested in personal growth, it’s a must. My girlfriend (who happens to be the only person I’ve met that has a higher interest in self improvement than me) has been snagging me to read it for some time, and I finally got around to it. Here’s my take on it.

What type of book is it?

Practical type of self improvement book that is packed with author anecdotes and real world examples.

Who should read it?

I think everybody would benefit from this book. It’s deep, long, contains so much good quality information that it would take a lifetime or more to master it, and several re-reads to understand it.

What’s bad about it?

Well, to be honest, it bored me quite a lot. The second half of the book took a long time to get through. Maybe I didn’t find the information there as useful as the first half, or maybe I just got tired of all the information. I’m not sure, but it just took a massive amount of effort to finish.

What’s good about it?

It’s just so incredibly full of good information, tactics, and lessons to learn. The first half of the book I found much more interesting and useful than the last. Especially the part about time management. That’s pure 100% gold material and should be a mandatory read for everybody.

Final verdict

Definitely a good read, but be warned. This heavy hitter induces reading fatigue like crazy. That was my experience at least. But in the end, I got a lot of good things out of it.

Getting veneers in Asia: Day 2 – Getting my teeth ready

Day 0: Choosing a clinic

Day 1: First treatment

So the next step was go back to the clinic to make my teeth ready for the veneers that were being made. Getting the teeth ready means that you have to remove some of the natural part of the tooth exterior to have the veneers fit and not take up too much space. So it looked like I was in for a long date with Mr. Toot filer..

Don’t worry, it didn’t actually look like the image. I’d like to point out that Rose Dental Clinic had modern western equipment and very well trained staff with international dentistry degrees.

The treatment started with Dr. Trung placing a few cotton swabs dipped in some mysterious liquid under my gums. It didn’t take long before my mouth was transformed to the likes of a drooling village idiot and felt completely sedated.

Then he started filing away on my teeth. It didn’t hurt at all, and took about an hour. The hardest part was actually to have my mouth open during the procedure. But at least it was completely painless and I could tell he was a skilled professional. After the treatment, my teeth looked a lot smaller (and definitely like the village idiot I felt like during sedation).

We scheduled an appointment for the following day to come back to veneer fitting. They also fitted me with temporary veneers to wear until the next appointment. However, those weren’t secured very well and they started to come off within two hours of leaving the clinic.

Why YOU should get up before 05:00

I recently solved a huge problem in my life. Something related to personal growth that I’ve been working on for at least a decade with only minor and temporary improvements. It’s a problem I’m sure many of you readers are familiar with: how to structure and set up your daily routine so that you can maximize your productivity, not waste time and get done what you need to get done – without feeling like a robot or lacking time to enjoy impulsive ideas.

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I was looking for some kind of blueprint or system that would guarantee that if followed, I would pass all my courses, get in better shape, have time for hobbies, and get done all I need. And of course, it needed to be so easy to follow that you would want to follow it out of free will. Now, I’ve finally found the system I so desperately needed. Let me walk you through it and find out how you can implement it as well.

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The KEY part is to fixate your sleeping and rising times to be the same, EVERY day of the week. I argue that it’s almost impossible to achieve without this variable handled. Why? Because that’s the one part of the equation that all my previous years of trial and error were missing. I’d work late nights on weekends, and have to get up early for school during weekdays. It was just too hard to maintain fixed times because it would negatively affect my sleep.

But recently, I chose to increase my study rate to 175% in order to get my degree 6 months faster. It turned out to be a real blessing in disguise, because it also made me give up all those weekend work shifts – which freed my schedule so that I finally could try the fixed time method. And boy, did I see huge and unexpected improvements in all areas of my life!

Improvement 1: Increased mental capacity. I quickly notice an improved cognitive ability – the brain seemed to just work faster and better. It’s hard to explain, but I had no problems handling the study rate of almost 2 full time jobs. No more brain fog.

Improvement 2: Expect to have the perfect nights sleep every night. Yup. Your body THRIVES on set times, habits and routine. When you start setting your waking and sleeping times, you can adjust the amount of sleep hours to tailor your individual need exactly. In other words, the schedule will guarantee that you get enough sleep every night, and wake up fresh and rested. Not bad huh? I also noticed that the time to actually fall asleep was significantly reduced – not bad for somebody who has been battling insomnia for years and years.

Improvement 3: Say goodbye forever to morning tiredness. This might be one of the best hidden benefits. I noticed that the schedule completely eliminated any form of morning tiredness. Following a fixed schedule, you can expect your body to even wake up a few minutes before your alarm goes of. Once you get out of bed and turn the alarm off, you’ll be at full mental capacity within minutes. It’s almost unbelievable. For years, I’ve had the conviction that morning tiredness doesn’t really exist on it own. Many people harbor the false belief that they are slave to “morning tiredness” – a view based on victim mentality that lets them off the hook from taking responsibility. I argue that there is no such thing as a “morning person” or “evening person”. Being tired in the morning is simply the side effect of a poorly managed day that deprives you of sleep and keeps your body guessing because you don’t have a routine. Nice to finally be able to confirm my suspicion. I’ll write a detailed post about that too.

Improvement 4: Increased amounts of free time. This seems counter intuitive. How can imposing strict rules of getting up and going to bed give you more free time and not less? Due to increased mental capacity, not wasting time in a tired state, and choosing to work on important stuff early, you free up massive amounts of hours to spend on leisure in the afternoon. Guilt-free. You’ve already taken care of your must-dos. Instead of being a slave to your moods (which is controlled subconsciously), YOU finally get to take conscious control and be the master of your time. Not a bad deal at all if you ask me.

My personal schedule

After successfully and easily maintaining and tweaking my routine for 6 weeks, here is the plan I follow every day (even weekends).

04:20 Wake up 5 min before my alarm. Go to toilet, record my weight measurement, boil water to have green tea, make my bed.

04:30-05:30 Creative hour: Work on personal projects and stuff I’m learning. Practice DJing & photograpy, learning new stuff in photoshop or premiere, etc. Hobby time for all my creative passions.

05:30-06:45 Get to the gym, have a workout, sauna, shower, and take my bike to school. This type of early morning workout also lets you enjoy pre-workout supplements with caffeine, something that is very difficult to combine with an afternoon workout set up, since the caffeine will make it very difficult to fall asleep.

07:00 Arrive at school, start preparing your day for class, lab assignment, or whatever is on your study schedule. If it’s a weekend, I’ll just go back home after the gym to start working on something else.

08:00 Start studying. I can’t fully express the immense satisfaction of being the first person in the classroom and already having hours of productive work under your belt, as your groggy and tired classmates start to arrive (many of them late), just having woken up. You feel like you have cracked the code to secret superpowers!

16:00 Study day is finished and I take my bike home.

17:00-18:00 Eat with my brother and watch some entertainment

18:00-19:00 Start preparing my bag for tomorrow and doing my evening routine (brain dump, some planning, duolingo app, filling out habit calendar and gratitude journal). That’s right, the foundation for a perfect day is created in the evening before.

19:30 Go to bed, read some book. I find that once I get into bed, I’m often so tired that I can’t even manage 20 minutes of reading. Falling asleep is a piece of cake! Usually I fall asleep around 20:00, which gives me at least 8 solid hours of sleep every night. I can’t even begin to tell you the satisfaction of getting up early and getting your important work done first. It’s unbelievably satisfying – something you owe yourself to experience. It gives you hours of interrupted time to completely focus on what matters to you.

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Drawbacks

The observant reader will note that late night social events don’t have any room in this type of set up. And yes, it’s true. Following this type of schedule, maintaining a party lifestyle or hanging out with friends late at night several times a week is simply not an option. But honestly – how often do you really have important late night social events anyway? A few times each month, max? The workaround is to go to those few important late night events, and still get up early the next day. To compensate, have a 20 minute power nap during the day. Research shows that such a nap can make up for 2 hours of missed sleep. Just do NOT make that nap longer than 20 min. You don’t want to fall into deep REM sleep, since it can make it more difficult to fall asleep in the evening.

I’d also note that this type of set up probably isn’t for everybody. If you are the unambitious type who isn’t interested in personal growth or improving your life, then by all means – continue as you were. But just ask yourself; how’s that been working out for you..? Join the league of goal driven individuals, instead of wasting your life in the quagmire of shallow unimportant party nights. The future belongs to us.

Tips on implementation

  • Skip breakfast. I noticed an immense improvement of my health and well being once I started doing this about 7-8 years ago. It doesn’t mean eating less, just eating two big and satisfying meals instead of many small. Save yourself the time to not have to not have to prepare breakfast every morning, washing dishes, etc. Have a big lunch and dinner instead.
  • Don’t take any caffeine after lunch.
  • Take some time each week to plan your week so that you block off time for stuff you really must do. “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. Truest words ever spoken.
  • Impose a STRICT time for when you are allowed to play with your phone or social media. Limit this time to no more than 1 hour a day, preferably less. Keep your phone out of sight and in flight mode or turned off while you work. One study showed that even a mere presence of a phone on the desk decreased the mathematical performance of students by over 20%.
  • Wait until the afternoon to check your mail. That stuff can wait until you’ve used your willpower to do your important things first.
  • Consider trying the android app “my effectiveness pro”. It’s a great tool, based on the popular book “7 habits of highly effective people”. Obviously, read to book to fully understand how to use the Eisenhower matrix of time management that the app also uses.

Acknowledgements and tips

I’d be lying completely if I claim all the credit of inventing the system on my own. The idea of such a system had been percolating in the back of my mind for years, but it wasn’t until I listened to a pod-cast episode with author and personal trainer Craig Ballantyne that I finally was able to make the step of implementing it. In the pod-cast, he talks about his book “The perfect day formula”, which I purchased amazon for a few $ after listening to the episode. In the book (which I recommend), I found more tips and strategies on how to set up the schedule. Check it out!  I’d also highly recommend “The habit blueprint” by Patrik Edblad.

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Confucius on changing the future

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Like the ancient roman god Janus, you must constantly keep a backward glancing eye on your own progress if you wish to learn success. By analyzing yourself, your actions and their consequences, you learn from your past to create a better future.

Confucius was a Chinese philosopher whose teachings has had a deep impact on Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Korean mentality and way of life. He is the author of a huge collection of good quotes and one of my favorite philosophers.

Operation plastic detox step 3: Jar

Following part 1 and part 2, it’s was time for another plastic object in my kitchen to be cut from the roster. This is the item I got rid of:

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This plastic pitcher has been with me a long time. It’s got measurement increments on the side in both imperial and metric and that’s a feature I really like. I didn’t think I’d find a good BPA-free replacement with this feature. I was wrong..
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Meet Mr. Heavy Duty thick glass pitcher with big bold measurement increments in both imperial and metric! This is so much better than my wobbly, old, thin plastic pitcher. A most welcome addition to team kitchen! Testosterone-lowering-plastic will no longer contaminate my fluid measuring. Next week there will be a really important player getting cut from team kitchen – and a very promising free agent signed to take his place! Stay tuned.

Review: James Allen – As a man thinketh

What type of book is it?

Philosophical type of self improvement book that teaches the reader the power of thinking.

Who should read it?

I would recommend this book to beginners in self improvement, or people who normally don’t read the genre. The concepts of the book are very easy to grasp and it’s a delight to read.

What’s bad about it?

Some of the reasoning seem a bit outdated. Like where the parts where Allen suggests that thinking “impure thoughts” about the opposite sex could lead to a host of negative side effects of your character.

What’s good about it?

It’s short, contains a lot of great wisdom and easy to grasp concepts, and the thing I like the most is that it’s packed with a lot of powerful quotes! Here are my top three favorites:

Men are anxious to improve their circumstances but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefor remain bound. The man who does not shrink from self-crucifixion can never fail to accomplish the object upon which his heart is set.

All that a man achieves and all that he fails to achieve is the direct result of his own thoughts. In a justly ordered universe, where loss of equipoise would mean total destruction, individual responsibility must be absolute. A man’s weakness and strength, purity and impurity, are his own, and not another man’s; they are brought about by himself, and not by another; and they can only be altered by himself, never by another. His condition is also his own, and not another man’s. His suffering and happiness are evolved from within. As he think, so he is; as he continues to think, so he remains.”

How many people we know who sour their lives, who ruin all that is sweet and beautiful by explosive tempers, who destroy their poise of character and make bad blood! It’s a question whether the great majority of people do not ruin their lives and mar their happiness by lack of self-control. How few people we meet in life who are well balanced, who have that exquisite poise which is characteristic of the finished character!

Final verdict

A great read! It opens the readers mind to many ideas and instills the command to take ownership of your thoughts and exercise self control. The last four pages are pure gold, and definitely my favorite part of the book. Those last pages are well worth the price of the entire book, and I love how Allen finishes:

In the bark of your soul reclines the commanding Master; he does not sleep, wake Him. Self-control is strength; Right Thought is mastery; Calmness is power. Say unto your heart, “Peace, be still!”

Getting veneers in Asia: Day 1 – meeting the clinic, cleaning & whitening

Previous part: Choosing a clinic

Today was time to visit the clinic to see them in person and start my treatment! I must admit that I was a bit nervous. I don’t have dentist fear, but I was about to potentially start a quite large procedure. Apart from repairing my front tooth a few years ago, I hadn’t been to a dentist in over 14 years. And now I was close to trusting a clinic in another country performing a procedure that would change my appearance? Not to mention the cost. Even though the price would be significantly lower than in Sweden, I had still spent a few years saving up for it. What pushed me to actually go through with all of it were the thousands of great reviews that Rose Dental Clinic had piled up over time, and their very professional and kind email responses to me.

They provided hotel pick up for certain districts, which was great. I met the driver and a guy who worked the reception. After arriving to the clinic, I was brought in to the treatment room and met my dentist, Mr. Trung, who had his training and graduation from the university in Bordeaux, France.  I also met his lovely assistants.

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He took a look at my mouth and had a short consultation about what I wanted and what he recommended. I was sort of hoping to get away with 6 veneers, but he politely told me that it would look strange, since my smile is quite wide. His recommendation was for 8 veneers. He also said that for my half-damaged front tooth, a crown would be the best option under the veneer.

We started by cleaning and whitening the teeth, which was done by his assistants. The cleaning procedure took about 1 hour and they did a thorough job. Then I had to whiten the teeth by having a bright light shine on them for about an hour. It wasn’t painful, but my teeth were a little sensitive after. The hardest part was having that sucking device lie on my gum in the same place for the hour of light.

After the procedure, I had to bite into a mold from which my veneers was to be made. I was also brought to the reception to pay for the treatment of the day. We also booked a time for starting the veneer process a few days later. My teeth looked much whiter already! Especially the lower ones.

Operation plastic detox step 2: bowls

So the operation is up and running! Feels very good to invest in my health and eliminate all that plastic in my kitchen that touches my food. And besides – buying quality items for cooking is such a pleasure! It’s also good for the environment. If you didn’t know, plastic is just one of the hundreds of materials used in daily life that comes from the oil industry. For this week, I chose the following item to replace:

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Take a look at these plastic bowls. I’ve used them for years.. No more! Say hello to Mr. Stainless Steel bowl!

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Take a look at these high quality brushed stainless steel bowls from Kökskungen. I like the measuring on the inside, and I LOVE the silicone coated bottom that protects the bowl from sliding around when you are working it. The coating also dampens the noise of when the bottom of the bowl clanks against the counter top. Good investment that will serve my kitchen for MANY years! I already know what to replace next week..