Just Do One- How to Exercise Consistently

IMG 1599Exercise! There has been a point where all of us has decided to do some exercise. The problem is that for the first few days after you make the decision to exercise everything is great. You are motivated and maybe even excited to do your exercise routine. But then there comes that point where the motivation fades and you start to skip days, and eventually give it up all together!
I think this happens to everyone.

I am a morning person, I am most productive in the morning. In fact, I really like mornings. I like to get up early, sit down with a nice cup of coffee, open the computer, do some reading and enjoy that time alone to think and enjoy that coffee. I also found that doing some exercise in the morning really did help to get me energized for the day. It helped me start my day feeling more motivated. (In fact it lead me to getting into lifting weights at the age of 53) The problem is that about one week after I started exercising in the morning I found it hard to get up off the seat, pull myself away from that coffee and start my routine.

I don’t do a lot of exercise in the morning, just some exercises to get the blood flowing and get a bit of a pump for the day. ( Now my real workout is done later in the day on weekends or after work, on weekdays, when I go to the gym to lift weights.) So in the morning, I like the Johnson & Johnson 7 Minute Workouts. This is a quick workout that has ten exercises: Jumping Jacks, Wall Sits, Step ups, pushups, Run in Place, Squats, Plank, Side Planks, Crunches, and Tricep Chair Dips. I like this routine because its quick, I am basically a lazy person and hate exercising, so the shorter the better. But even with this short routine I found that there were mornings that I just was too lazy to get off my butt and do it! After two skipped days I felt guilty, so here is what I did to get back on track and stay there.

I changed my thinking to “Just do the first one”. When I feel lazy and don’t want to exercise I told myself that I would just start with the Jumping Jacks. Just 30 seconds of Jumping Jacks and then I will site back down and have another cup of coffee. I would tell myself that I don’t need to do the whole 7 minute routine, which by the way, is not as easy as it sounds, it really does get your heart pumping. I will just do the first one.

What ends up happening is as I do the first exercise, the blood gets pumping, adrenaline starts flowing and I feel more energized. Now I feel like I can make it into exercise 2. Still dragging a bit but the motivation is building. By the time I get to the third exercise I am pretty motivated to finish the 7 minutes.

This has never failed me, by just telling myself that I will only do one exercise, I have made the goal more easily attainable. Even if I just do one exercise I will feel like I accomplished something for the morning, but the energy builds in the body by doing one exercise and I always finish the 7 minutes. Victory and a better start to my day with more energy, a sense of accomplishment, and a clearer head!

So if you start to feel that motivation to do your exercise slipping away, when you are just too lazy to get started, tell yourself that you will just do one! One exercise or 1 minute or just 30 seconds of exercise. If you can just get started momentum will help you finish, and even if you don’t finish you whole regimen, you at least did something to keep your streak going.

Just do one!

China produces more than 90% of the world’s watermelons. Are watermelons an important part of Chinese culture and cuisine?

I have written about how many of the meals I eat in China are mainly vegetables. There was a question on Quora with a great answer that I thought addressed just how many vegetables the Chinese eat. The question on Quora was:

China produces more than 90% of the world’s watermelons. Are watermelons an important part of Chinese culture and cuisine?

Answer by Wei Nan:

Not really.

Although watermelons are really popular in summer times.

The outer layer of watermelons can also be made into a dish.

As Hongtao Zhang said, there are many other food like watermelon, that China produces more than the rest of the world combined.

If you must say something is an important part of Chinese culture, it is not watermelon, but rather, ‘food’ or ‘eating’.

Here are some other examples:

1 Goose Meat

China produces 95% of world’s Goose meat.

Cantonese(广) style(式) roasted(烧) goose(鹅)

2 sweet potato

China produces 80% of the world’s sweet potatoes.

Some of them can be made into desserts like candied sweet potatoes(拔丝地瓜)

However, most of them are made into Vermicelli(粉条)

3 Cucumber(over 70%)

Most of them are eaten raw, like some sort of salad.


or fried.

4 Eggplant (>60%)

Mainly stir fried

or made into pie

5 Spinach(~90%)

Yeah, I didn’t know China produces that much either. I guess some other country had done a great job in letting people know, as it always do.

Some sort of salad with peanuts.(果仁菠菜) A dish you have 50%+ chance to find in any restaurant in China.

Put into soup

Or into dumplings with egg.

6 Chestnut(~84%)

Fry with sugar, as a snack.

Stew with meat.

Or as stuffing of cakes.

7 Garlic(>80%)

Jin Xiang, a county of Shan Dong province,(金乡县) happened to produce 60% of the world’s garlic.

Pickled sweet garlic(糖蒜), a good companion of dumplings and hotpots.

Laba garlic.(腊八蒜)When you soak garlic in vinegar for some time, they turn green. Another great companion for dumplings.

Garlic leaves can also be a kind of vegetable, a must in twice-cooked pork(回锅肉)

China produces more than 90% of the world’s watermelons. Are watermelons an important part of Chinese culture and cuisine?

Walking: USA vs China

I have written previously about how daily life in China tends to be healthier than in the US. The food in China tends to be fresher and much less processed. The diet tends to have more vegetables with small amounts of meat, less sugar and salt and very little or no bread.

In China you tend to do much more walking during a normal day. The way the communities are set up you have to do a lot more walking. Car ownership is still something that a relatively small percentage of the population enjoys so walking is the primary way to get around on a daily basis.

I recently visited the US and picked up an iPhone 6s. Although I was not aware of it, the phone began tracking my walking activity. I discovered this on my return to China. So for the two weeks the phone tracked my walking in the US I average less than 1 mile of walking per day. Upon my return to China on the 27th of February the amount of walking almost doubled. I have to admit that after 6 weeks in the US I was unaccustomed to walking so the first few days back I took a taxi to get around. But within a few days my normal routine had me logging 4 to 6 miles of walking per day. This is just my normal routine and I am not quite back to walking at the same pace as I was before I visited the US.

The Health app in the iPhone was a pleasant surprise as it allows me to see how much walking I am doing. I want to set some higher goals for myself. Maybe try to increase my daily walking to 10 miles. We’ll see how it goes

A Visit to Grandparents Home-Life in China: A Westerner’s Perspective

It is Chinese New Year 2016. I am in the Yellow Mountains of China in Anhui Province. Chinese New Year is a time when millions of Chinese return to their home towns to be with family. It is a holiday for visiting friends and relatives and eating! I think it is most similar to Thanksgiving in the US.


We visited my wife’s grandparents 20 minutes outside of the village of Tao Hua Tan. They live in a small village with older homes that were probably built 30 or 40 years ago. They are in their seventies (The grandfather is 79).


They maintain a fairly large garden in the back courtyard that

The Front Courtyard

supplies them many of the vegetables they eat. They raise chickens and the grandfather, I was told, fishes. The gardens were meticulously maintained. Plantings were layed out out in neat rows and they were well tended, as I did not see any weeds. There were also other ornamental plants. There was a small pond, the purpose of it was not clear to me. In the back corner was a small pen made mostly of bamboo that held the chickens. The chicken pen was also very clean and well maintained. It is clear that these people love their home and spend a lot of time tending to it, despite their age!


A view into the kitchen

Dinner was ready! The dishes were layed out on a traditional round table that could seat 10 of the twenty people that were visiting. All of the food was prepared by the grandparents. In the center of the table was chicken soup made with one of the chickens they raise. You can’t eat food that is more fresh than this!  I must say that they are very good cooks. The food was delicious! Yet another thing this couple takes pride in doing.

The gardens in the back courtyard



Of course, with the meal there was bai jiu. A strong white liquor that is always served at family gatherings. It is served in small glasses and it is customary to always ask someone at the table to drink with you.  Never take a drink by yourself! While you eat you go around the table inviting people to drink until the bottles are all empty!

Dinner is served


The grandparents are vibrant people who seem to stay very active and so they come across as being much younger than their age. They maintain a lovely home and are very gracious hosts. It was a truly enjoyable visit!

The “Fire Bucket” (Hua Tong) – Life in China: A Westerner’s Perspective

 In China, south of the Yangtze River, many homes do not have heat despite temperatures that dip down into the 20s and 30s in the Winter.
I am in a small village in the Yellow Mountains and so far none of the homes I have visited have heat. The temperature on my arrival was 35 degrees and it has since dipped to 28 degrees. Four inches of snow fell and the main water line to this part of the village froze.

Life here is pretty cold. But there is one object that is in many homes that gives you a little relief from the cold. In Chinese it is called a Huo Tong. Loosely translated “Fire Bucket”. Quite literally it is a large wooden bucket. At the bottom they place a pan with hot coals covered with a layer of ash. Then a wire grate is placed over the pan and a blanket or heavy towel is placed over the top of the bucket to keep the heat in.

 This bucket serves several purposes. First, a pot of tea is often found in the bucket. This keeps the tea hot and ready for drinking throughout the day. Food in pots is also placed in the bucket  to keep the food hot until it is ready to eat.

 The fire bucket is not so hot that it cooks food. The coals just provide warmth that lasts for many hours before they need to be replenished.

But when your feet
become numb from the cold and you are chilled to the bone you can sit beside the bucket, place your legs inside and cover up with the blanket. The warmth is truly comforting. Very much like sitting beside a fireplace on a cold winter day. On really cold days you might see 2 or 3 people sitting together with their legs in the bucket enjoying the warmth a good conversation.

Life With A Macbook

Is the Apple Macbook the best computer I have owned? Absolutely!

Apple and coffee

Like most people, I grew up using PC computers. And for most of my life, those computers were Microsoft based systems. Although, in my 20s I did own an Apple IIGS that I bought personally but used for work as well. At that time, the Apple was pretty amazing compared to PCs but there were some things that really put me off the Apple.

First, they were expensive and the peripherals were all proprietary so they tended to be very expensive.

Second, there was not much software available for them and the software that was available, was pretty expensive

Third, Apple was not popular in the business world as that market was pretty much ruled by Microsoft at the time.

Over the years I really railed against Apple products because they were based on a closed operating system. So I used PC computers and put up with all the problems they had. Things like the dreaded “Blue Screen of Death”, where the computer had a major crash and just displayed a blue screen with error codes. Then there was the bogging down of the system with use. PC’s would become painfully slow as the operating systems got used. I found that the only solution was to completely reinstall the operating system so the system was essentually factory fresh. This of course took many hours as all the data had to be copied, the operating system installed and then all of your programs reloaded. At first, this was not that bad of a task. Every year or two a few hours spent to keep the computer running fast was not a bad tradeoff. But, around 2009 I found I had to do this about every 6 months and it was becoming a real annoyance. Still, the PC was the preferred platform for getting work done.

In 2011 I returned to the corporate world, the company issued a nice new Lenovo laptop and an Apple iPad. I thought it was great to have a nice new high powered machine on which to work. But almost immediately the flaws of the PC showed up. The first was the refusal of the machine to sleep when the cover was closed or wake up when the cover was opened. Kind of a key feature of a laptop when you are constantly running around attending meetings or working at different locations throughout a building. Waking up the computer would take several minutes and sometimes a reboot was required, painfully slow when you were trying to get work done. Sometimes the computer would just lock up and refuse to function, requiring me to unplug the laptop and remove the battery. Frustrating! These issues continued over time even when I got a new computer. from the IT department.

The other issue that really ended my love for PCs was the horrendous battery life. It got to the point where my laptop could not last 2 hours on a charge. I know I was not unique in this. When I went to meetings everyone scrambled for the few outlets close enough to where they sere sitting to plug their laptops in. So it was always a race to get the available outlets before the other guy. If it was a long meeting, it was almost comical to see people negotiating to get plug time!

In early 2014 I finally decided to buy an Apple Macbook. I was traveling through Shanghai and stopped by one of the Apple stores. I was certain I wanted a Macbook but I was not sure what model I wanted. I had purchased an iPad mini the year before and had tried to use that as a main computer platform.  I really enjoyed the small size and the ability to carry it wherever I went. It was extremely convenient but it just could not be used for real work most of the time. It was more suited to consuming material, like reading documents or reviewing spreadsheets. So the decision was down to getting a laptop that was small and light or something more powerful like the Macbook Pro.

After 2 hours in the store I finally decided on the Apple Macbook Air with an upgraded Flash drive. I have to admit, at first I did not like the Mac. The operating system was not like a PC. I was not familiar with where files were stored. I did not understand how to load programs. I did not understand how to start a program. For the first few days I actually regretted the purchase. It just felt like I was not going to be productive on this computer. But slowly I began to understand how OS X, the Apple operating system, worked. I also began to realize all the little things that Apple designed into the computer to make it easier to use.

So what do I like about this computer?

  1. It just works! After two years of use the computer is still fast, and it doesn’t crash. Day in and day out it works.
  2. The battery life after more than a year is still very good. I can get through a day without plugging in.
  3. It sleeps and wakes! Always! Close the cover it sleeps, open the cover and it is instantly on and right where I left off. Amazing!
  4. It boots up very quickly. When I do turn off the computer it boots up very very quickly!
  5. The file system. OS X has file tagging built in. This means that you are not constrained to having to put files in directories to find them. When you save a file you can add tags so later you can find the files using tags. Of course the Spotlight search system works great as well, so it is much easier to find files in the operating system. Fantastic!
  6. Design. The Macbook is a beautifully designed product. It makes me feel good every time I touch it. But more importantly for me, the Mac Air is small and light. I take it everywhere and it is thin enough that I can slip it into my belt at the small of my back and walk around. Small is Convenient!
  7. Apple products are expensive! There is no denying that. And purchasing this computer was a hard decision due to the cost. However, except for the first few days of use as mentioned above, I have never once regretted the money spent on this computer. And to this day I feel it is worth every dollar spent on it. This is due to the 6 points above.

So what do I not like about the Macbook?

  1. The lack of ports! Only two USB ports, and a thunderbolt connector. And worst of all, no video port to plug into a standard monitor. So I always have to get an adapter if I want to use an external monitor or use a projector.
  2. The keyboard, I still cannot get used to the chiclet style of the keyboard.

We spend a lot of time on our computers and the computer should not get in the way of getting work done. With this Apple computer I never find myself worrying about whether it is going to function properly, it just does, day in and day out. I could list a lot of other things I love about this computer, but the above items are the main ones for me. Its a tool to help me be productive and I think that there is some fundamental rule that applies here that I learned when I was a Carpenter. When purchasing a tool for woodworking I found that it was almost always better to spend a little more money to buy a quality tool. A good tool helped me work with less effort and produce a better quality product. I think the same applies to computers.

One last positive feature of the Apple. I did not mention it above because I have only needed to use it once. But it was such a life saver that it bears mentioning. At one point I had cleaned out a bunch of files that I no longer needed on my hard drive. Unfortunately, a few days later I realized I had deleted a file that was very very important. Of course, I had emptied the trash can so the file was gone. I was panic stricken. Then I discovered Apples Time Machine. Time Machine is essentially Apples solution to backing up. In literally a few clicks, I was able to recover the file.  No technical knowledge needed, no plugging in external hard drives. It was very easy and the best part was that Time Machine had been working all along to make sure my data was backed up and it took less than a minute to recover the file. Pure brilliance!

A Visit to a Farming Village in China

Today we went to visit a family friends home. As usual we were offered snacks and tea but later we were served lunch. The young man of the house went out and came back with a bottle of red wine for me as he knows I enjoy drinking it. But of course, the traditional white wine was also served. When you drink you always ask someone to drink with you and so it goes round and round until the bottles are all empty!  I don’t think I have ever had a meal where we left a bottle with liquor left over! Ever!

After this my wife’s sister wanted to go visit an old friend of hers and invited me to go. A small van came to fetch us and off we went. We left this small town and drove to where the roads became smaller and windier, leading us out into the country to farmland. The road became a narrow concrete path that was about double the width of a sidewalk just enough for one car!

A farming village nestled in a valley in Anhui Province

About 30 minutes later we arrived in a small farming village where her friend lived. The village was nestled in a valley of farmland. We were dropped off and had to walk through the village to get to her friends house.

In the village playing a game
In the village playing a game

As we walked we passed a congregation of people who all turned to look at me. Not many foreigners came to this place and I was the focus of their attention, in fact I was told I was the first foreigner to visit that they could remember. They shouted out “hello” so I walked over to greet them and see what was going on. For fun they gather in an empty lot and play a game involving money.

We arrived at the friend’s house and I was warmly greeted. There was a flurry of activity to bring out chairs and, of course, snacks.

The homes in the village were very simple. As far as I could tell they were earthen structures made from compacted earth.

Then skim coated with a type of mortar. This makes it look like the houses are concrete but after many years the mortar falls away to expose the earthen walls.

A simple earthen home in the village

It is really amazing how long compacted earth can withstand the elements. These homes have electricity but no heat and as the sun set the temperatures dropped.   One thing that is hard to get used to h
re is the lack of heat. Although it only gets down to about 35 degrees, the cold is constant. From when you get up to when you go to bed you are cold and the only relief are the fire buckets! After two days of rain I am cold to the bone. But I am slowly getting used to it. Well! Maybe not!The bathrooms here, like many of the homes I have visited, are outhouses with a large pot sunk in the ground. Two boards are laid over the pot on which to stand to do your business.

The bathroom. Two boards and a pot in the ground
The bathroom. Two boards and a pot in the ground

We took a little walk around the village and into the fields. Here they grow rice and Mulberries. Since it is Winter the plants were dormant but in between the rows of Mulberry were

A villager off to pick vegetables from the field

winter vegetables.
On our walk back to the house, we passed an old farmer on his way to pick vegetables for dinner. In the village chickens roamed freely.

On our arrival back at the house I learned that we were to be served dinner. My god! Just 2 hours before we finished

IMG_4262 (1)
Chickens roam freely in the village

lunch and drinking! My wife’s sister told me just try and eat a little.

Again, there was a frenzy of activity as the table was cleared and the food brought out. Suddenly many people arrived for dinner. About 20 people from the family ranging from grandfather to the friends daughter! Meal time here truly is a family affair.

To my dismay bottles of Bai Jiu (White liquor) were brought out and opened. Sister must have seen the look on my face, she leaned over and told me to try to drink a little. We began eating and the food was really delicious! I found myself eating and eating. I was told everything on the table was grown in the village except for the Bai Jiu of course! There was chicken, pork, beef intestines and a variety of vegetables and eggs! The drinking began as well and we soon finished off the two bottles of liquor. I simply could not refuse to drink when asked!

After dinner we took another walk and found the friends wife, who had cooked our meal, beside a small pond.

Washing the dinner dishes in the community "pond"
Washing the dinner dishes in the community “pond”

She was washing the dishes from our dinner. This pond was used to wash clothes and dishes. At this point it was about 40 degrees outside and that water had to be cold!

This was quite an eye opening experience. I think I have now seen how a great many Chinese people live. I think I got used to seeing life in the cities of China and thought this that life was the norm. But now realize that a great many leave truly simple lives in small villages. Truly an eye opener.

Soon we said our goodbyes and returned to home in town. I was frozen and immediately sought out the fire bucket to try to warm up! Yes, even here in town at the house we don’t have heat!  There is no escape from the cold!