After years of hearing about how awesome Minecraft is, I finally tried it for myself last month.

For those who do not know about Minecraft, it is an open-ended game where you are dropped into a world with nothing at first. However, you can break and collect any material around you, remix the materials to make new materials, and build to your heart’s desire. There are two modes: survival and creative. Survival is more of a game mode where zombies attack you during the night, so it forces you to do things like build shelter and weapons early on.

Like Civilization, Minecraft’s survival mode is an education about human history and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. As you advance through different phases of the game, you go from being very concerned about safety and shelter, to caring about aesthetics of your buildings. One behavior, however, that I realized was that I did not like exploring dark caves where zombies could attack me. Instead, I tended to prefer building amenities to the house and garden.

Hence this week, I switched over the creative mode. Creative mode gives you access to all materials, the ability to fly and invisibility to zombies. When I was young, one of my favorite games was to design apartment layouts out of mah jongg tiles (using special blocks like 4 circles as a stove) and to this day, I love looking at house layout diagrams. I realized that Minecraft could allow me to revisit my love of designing buildings.

And so, I started chipping away at some ice on the side of a small mountain in a glacier biome and 4 days later, created an ice palace.

Minecraft Ice Palace

The structure was inspired by the geography and built one room at a time. This building process has also making me pay more attention to building in real life and learn about materials, colors, and shapes. My next project has already begun. :)


This Newtonmas (Dec. 25th), I received The Great Scientists Finger Puppets and then proceeded on a drive up the coast of CA Highway 1 (north of San Luis Obispo). I ended up documenting the adventure in a series of photos on Instagram/Twitter.


The great scientists are out for adventure! #Curie #Newton #Einstein #Darwin

#Darwin says these elephant seals are monsters of evolution

#Newton says a sports car in motion should stay in motion

#Einstein says being late to Christmas dinner with relatives… is relative

Marie #Curie says this aqueous solution tastes delicious


I have a bad habit of not drinking enough water. Of course hardly anyone makes the “8 cups a day” recommendation, but I sometimes go a whole day without any water at all (other than in my food)!

I first became concerned about this via Fitbit‘s water tracker. For a few days, I used this to encourage myself to drink more water, but soon returned to my old habits. Two weeks ago, I gave a Quantified Self SD talk about the Fitbit, which caused me to readdress my water intake concerns.

Alas, I found the solution! I simply switched the cup on the left for the cup on the right:

Larger cup, more water
Well, of course… but this decreases the annoyance of going to the break room to fill up more water while I’m busy working. I usually stop drinking when I finish the drink. The bigger cup encourages me to drink more.

Straw minimizes distraction
While a straw seems childish or too much like fast-food drinks, it’s actually much better for productivity. Drinking a mug requires more attention than drinking out of a straw. Multi-tasking becomes easier and hence it becomes natural.

I’m half way though my second large cup today. Hope this new habit sticks around.

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