Improving memory

I attended an interesting training course about memory recently. I note down my takeaways before my memories fade away.

Good memory does not equal to intelligent. I can learn and practise some methods to maximise my memory, but I probably need to experience, learn and reflect a lot to become intelligent. I often think people who have good memories are intelligent. They may be, but let’s do not be judgemental.

Don’t rely on logic. Improving memory by thinking differently. I recall in 2000 I bought a game box as a gift for my 3 years old nephew. Actually I was captivated by the game when I glanced it at the first time. I started to play it, and my little nephew quietly stood on the table to watch how I was trying to change directions of different parts to fit them in the grid. Soon I finished an easy game. I let my nephew to play afterwards and I went to do something else. When I came back, he had finished it. I couldn’t believe he could finish it so quickly. So I started a difficult game. It took me longer to finish. Then I ask him to try. I thought he wouldn’t be able to finish this one as it is an advanced-level game. I looked at my little nephew calmly put parts in the right position. I couldn’t believe he did it. How come? He giggled and told me actually he just remembered the colours, the shapes and the positions of some parts. Aha, as an adult, I used logic; my 3 years old nephew used short memory! What a game! Linking back to my training session, Kathryn suggested us to be like a 6 years old and do not be too clear when coming to remember things.

Don’t forget our sensory plays a key role when we learn new things. Visual, auditory, tasty, smell and haptic perceptions help us to remember the information. True, we use eyes the most and forget other senses. I immediately remembered the proverb – “Once bitten, twice shy”.

Linking new information to familiar things. I used to link the person who I met the first time to some cartoon characters a lot. Then I described the character to people, they quickly knew who I was referring to. Before the training course, I didn’t realise I had already applied this technique. Unfortunately, since I started working in the UK, I didn’t use the technique as before. Why? This was related to two important things. The one was the English culture/literature barriers. Many cartoon characters I know were in Chinese Without being familiar with their English names and original stories, it’s hard for me to express it to other people even though I could visually see and link the new to what my knew. The another is in workplace we need to be careful when it’s related to diversity (e.g., age, race, gender, religion). It challenges our own prejudice and bias. I didn’t want to unconsciously offend anybody due to I used the technique of linking a person to a cartoon character to help my memory. The technique would be fine if I just use and keep it for myself.

Repeat allows us to revisit our short memory and helps consolidate the information as long term memory. Yes, we all know this technique. When I was a kid, I used it a lot. In school, I repeated reading the same article or was asked to recite the article in order to memorise new vocabularies. I repeated the nine-nine multiplication table to learn arithmetic, which benefited me until today. Nowadays I feel I don’t use this technique a lot like previously. I wonder whether this is one of the main reasons why we often forget things because we get new information constantly but we are too busy to repeat old information.

Exercise and regular practise our memories. If I don’t use it, I forget it. Today technologies help us to some extent, for instance, email alert, reminder apps, and smart speakers. However, to maintain our memories and to strengthen our brain function, doing novelty and challenge exercises is essential and helpful. We can try things like driving home via a different route; learning a new language, trying things we never did before, or anything new that requires to use our senses.



Rhetoric in English and Chinese

In a Christmas visit to a friend, I learnt a bit of rhetoric in English, which I won’t normally notice much. Therefore I note them here.

Often due to an unintentional error in speech (known as misspeaking or a “slip of the tongue”) that interchanges the first letters of some words in a phrase and then creates new words which bring a humorous consequence. In literature, this is used as witty wordplay.


Spoonerism The original phrase
The Lord is a shoving leopard. The Lord is a loving shepherd.
Go and shake a tower. Go and take a shower.
Is the bean dizzy? Is the Dean busy?

In Chinese, it can be translated as “首音误置”, 指的是一种在讲话中由于口误将发音相近的词语重组形成其他词语, 从而形成令人发笑的幽默效果。这种方式被应用为一种诙谐的说话或文字技巧。在中文中,这样的例子并不多。最接近的例子可能是”字位误置”.

  • 把”枫叶红了” 讲成 “红叶疯了”.
  • 把”每況愈下” 讲成 “每下愈況”.
  • 把”深恶痛绝” 讲成 “深痛恶绝”.

Pun (paronomasia)
Refers to a form of intended wordplay where a word is used in a way to suggest two or more possible meanings, which aims for generating an humorous or ironic effect.


Pun Meaning
Seven days without water makes one weak. week
A bicycle can’t stand on its own because it is two-tyred. too tired

In Chinese, it can be translated as “双关语” 或 “一语双关”, 指的是用一个词来表达表达两种或更多可能的含意, 多用来形成幽默或讽刺的效果。在中文中这类例子比较多,特别是古诗词中可见, 多运用谐音来隐晦表达,不一定是为形成幽默或讽刺的效果。

  • “日暮乡关何处是”这诗句中的”日暮”既指黄昏, 也暗指人生晚年。
  • “年年有鱼”这句中的”鱼”既指鱼,也指积累富余。

Refers to misusing words by substituting them with similar sounding words that have different, often unconnected meanings, then creating a nonsensical, comic, misunderstanding and amusement effect.


Malapropism Meaning
The flood damage was so bad they had to evaporate the city. evacuate the city
Texas has a lot of electrical votes. electoral votes
Dad says the monster is just a pigment of my imagination. a figment of my imagination

In Chinese, it can be translated as “飞白法”。指的是利用词语的近音、 象形、 异义有意或无意地形成可笑的误用,从而达到诙谐、 讽刺、 仿真的效果。在我们说英语的时候,很有可能会因为记错单词用错单词或发错音而引起这样让人疑惑的”牛头不对马嘴”的效果。中文中例子有:

  • “我们滴祖国是花园~花园滴花朵真现眼~荷兰滴阳光照耀着我们~美国人滴脸上都笑开颜”
  • 玉莲听不懂什么是持久战,她悄悄问金香: “金香,顾县长说的是什么‘战’ 呀?”你真是个笨蛋,连个吃酒战也不知道。” 金香自以为是地说道,”就是喝醉酒打架嘛!喝了酒打架最厉害了…”


Half-day training on the project management framework

We often hear PRINCE2 and Agile in project management. This week I attended the Cardiff University Programme and Project Management Framework Introduction course. It’s the University’s own approach, not a specific certificate course.

It’s unexpected to know that people feel the fail rate of projects is 70-80%. However I didn’t think the projects I involved in have failed so much. The data is from the book “The Effective Change Manager’s Handbook” (2014). I need to read the book to check if I  misunderstand it.

The University’s Framework is designed for the University projects and only available for the University members. There are many resources online. I found the Charles Sturt University’s short courses on YouTube are very useful.

What is Mental Toughness?

Following the second Springboard work and personal development programme for women session, it’s good to find the Academi Wales website, and read the two useful booklets:

We have an automatic network in our brains for the negative, the ancient parts of our brains evolved over millions of years to respond to threats without thought or delay. We have no similar system for the positive and opportunities in life…

It suggested us to use 3:1 at work, which means to “give three pieces of positive feedback to every piece of negative feedback” based on Losada Ratio. I don’t know how accurate the tip is. But I think we do need to make effort to increase positive communications.

The concept of 7+/-2 was noted by George Miller in Psychological Review in 1956.

The basic formula is:

happiness = set point (50%) + voluntary actions (intentional activities 40%) + conditions(circumstances 10%)

I tried the test to learn my positivity ratio (set point) on the Positivity website owned by Prof Barbara Fredrickson. It actually tests a ratio at that moment you test it. It’s not a general resault.

Four C’s of Cloughs model – Commitment, Control, Challenge and Confidence suggests that Mental Toughness is a combination of resilience and confidence. I found two videos:

Rethink “Change”

Recently I attended a course about Change and Resilience. It’s good that I had a time to rethink of “change”. Change is not the problem, the poor implementation of any change process is the problem that threatens us. Change is not the problem, resistance to change is the problem.

The robertsoncooper (is founded by Sir Cary Cooper and Professor Ivan Robertson) provides i-resilience report for individuals to build resilience skills. The website also provides leadership, management and well-being support resources.

As I didn’t think about “winners/losers” in a change too much, when the presenter talked about it, I kind of questioned myself “Is there always winners/losers in an organisational change?” “Who are the losers? Who are the winners?” “Are the winners are leading the change towards a right direction?”

The presenter drew a diagram which basically shows people’s reactions in a change. Top 10% are champions who are happy to see the change and are keen on making the change. Bottom 10% are traitors who have negative views of almost everything, and those who disagree the change strongly as it’s against their beliefs. A large number of people are not sure. It’s suggested to focus on understanding and influencing the 80% people, rather than on persuading and influencing the bottom 10% people.

I remember the diagram immediately though I can’t say it presents people’s attitudes in the change very correctly. The diagram can be useful for me to reflect on my views and position in a change. For example, I can ask myself

  • “Am I in the top 10% group of people who have insight, foresee the impact of the change, believe in it and are keen on to make the change happen?”
  • “Am I one of the middle 80% group of people who are not sure and wait-and-see?” I think people who are open-minded and keep critical thinking in this group are those people can help the change and influence others.
  • “Am I one of the 10% group of people who are often have a negative view of any change?” “Do I really agree that this change has a good impact?”


This is a Chinese book that was recommended by my sister. Luckily I found the original English book “Scarcity: why having too little means so much” written by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir in our library.

I immediately enjoyed reading it as there are so many examples I can link to easily. I kind of see why I have made decisions in certain circumstance, and why I feel busy and can’t finish things I planned to do on the day. Although I have applied some good methods to make life smooth and simple, this book explains why sometimes I still go into the trap.

This is a talk from the authors.

On page 174-175, it mentioned a “financial education” class designed by economist Antoinette Schoar and her coauthors. This is a video that presents their work.

Two-day training course of “Leadership”

I always wonder what’s the difference between Leadership and Management? This course helped me to learn it.

What is leadership?

This video explains Leadership through an easy example. To lead is to have the ability to get people to follow. To influence people, we need to do:

  • Start from simple easy movement, which is easy for people to start
  • Be prepare you are alone, people won’t follow
  • Keep doing
  • Keep encouraging
  • Transform

Actually, I quite like Jack Ma’s talk which shows that he is an effective leader.

What is effective leadership and what is effective management?

Leadership and management are not either-or options. They work together as a blended approach. If management is about the procedure, then leadership is about people.

What are leadership styles?

The first approach is to use the Tannenbaum and Schmidt Continuum to see how we can balance between the level of freedom that a manager chooses to give to a team, and the level of authority used by the manager.

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The second approach is to use the Situational leadership model to understand different circumstances. Effective leadership is actually  working from high management towards low management. Trust and Believe people can do will make us spend less time on managing people. (e.g., displayed in the diagram below: S1 -> S2 -> S3 -> S4, sometimes it works another way around S4 -> S3 -> S2 -> S1)

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Understand motivation

Motivation is a drive to satisfaction. It makes people make work forward positively, responsibly, and happily. We can motivate people in many ways, however it all depends on individuals. From Howthorne effect, we can see that more resources do not always make better outcomes and performance.

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So how do we know what motive the person and how can we motivate them? The approach is:

  • Talk to people and find out what’s important for them (their motivators)
  • Open your eyes/ears (try new ways; look opportunities for them)
  • Motivate them using their motivators daily

What are transformational leaders?

Transformational leadership is social skills that get the best of you and people. It creates real, fair, honest interpersonal connections. It creates valuable and positive change in the followers which develop followers into transformational leaders.

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So how can we develop transformational leadership skills? One crucial approach is to develop Emotional Intelligence, which fits in transformational skills well. According to Dr Goleman’s study, we know that it’s important, we can develop our EQ, we can learn it. It brings out the real self.

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Then, we need to learn how we make the team work together. Here is an example of developing plans. It’s not a very good one. And it is not a single direction process. No7, actually linked back to Step 4, 5, 6.

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Understand objectives

Objectives are difference from aims/goals. Objectives are short-term, highly specific and achievable new state of outcome. It’s never “ongoing”!  As a leader, you need to know your team objectives that you are able to governance.

Objectives can bring the team: motivation, focus on reality/priority, and measurable performace/sucess.

I quite like one of the skills the trainer used. When we state an objective, we should define the output like:

“By xxx (specific deadline), I will have + verb-ed (action) + noun (a new state).”

We can use the SMART checklist when we write objectives.

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Deal with tricky cases and conflict 

This is too complicate to discuss here. I have seen many examples, but they were manageable and not exceptional. I was joking with a colleague and said, “The more different-characteristic people you work with, the more you learn.”

A few reminders for myself:

  • It’s a conversation aims to resolve a problem. You don’t solve people’s problems, you offer support and input you can.
  • Always deal with what presents!
  • Don’t mention the individual’s name when bring up a complaint from the person.
  • Bring the issue by saying something like “I notice…”
  • If people ask you a complaint they had, say something like “I will deal with it.”; “I am working on it.”
  • If the person respond silently, you can go back to your expectations for them and say something like “I can suggest… If you notice anything that I can do to support you, tell me.” Then you two need to set a reasonable agreed timescale to resolve it.
  • Divisive conflict needs to be dealt with at the time it happens.
  • Using verbal warning means a formal process starts.

Try Mobile Sat Nav Apps

I’ve never been a modish or a technogeek, but I like practical.

I had been annoyed by my TomTom One more and more recently. Considering its disadvantages below plus I have been using it for six years, I decided to replace it.

  • A frozen starting screen (the solution is to connect it to TomTom Home on computer to restart it!)
  • Can’t find signal at the beginning, and I have to drive for a bit distance to retrieve the signal. This is not relevant to my location.
  • The postcode button is disabled without a clue and I am unable to key in an address to find the specific place.
  • No free life-time map updates
  • Small screen
  • Slow notification when I need to know the direction at a Roundabout
  • No much difference between the ‘shortest’ route and the ‘fastest’ route.
  • For people who use it first time, the direction voice guidance is a bit confusion, for instance, ‘keep right’ actually means staying on the same road.

I haven’t decided to buy another GPS navigation device or simply use a mobile phone. I did a bit search online and on my week-journey in Cornwall, I tried two free mobile apps: Here WeGo and GPS Navigation & Maps Sygic as my temporary sat nav tools. Neither is ideal, but for my own purposes, Here WeGo is better and it matches most of my requirements as follows:

  • Free and good review rate
  • Can download the maps and use it offline (So don’t have to have Internet)
  • Map is accurate and easy to read
  • It has turn-by-turn voice guidance, so I don’t need to look at it all the time.
  • The map is easy to follow
  • Not really use a lot of battery
  • Have automatic day/night mode
  • Repeatedly notification when near a Roundabout/junction to change direction (can be too much too!)
  • Speed limit notification
  • Can save collections of the favourite places
  • Can set preferred route (I haven’t worked out how to use this the best. I found if I saved a collection and then I can choose between different routes before Start. However if I key in a postcode directly through Drive, there is no settings for me to choose a preferred route.)

Some disadvantages of Here WeGo:

  • Lose signal quite often, but often it connects again quickly.
  • If I don’t choose a preferred route manually, by default it will guide a shortest one (which could be very narrow country lanes).
  • When I key in a postcode, it changes to the one the system uses.
  • Only one voice is available, or turn off the voice guidance.

Rotating video recording

Recently I used a mobile phone to record a few interesting moments. When I played the recordings, the orientation would not been rotated automatically. Thus as usual, I searched the Google Camera features and found some good tips (e.g., 1, 2) of using Google camera.

Then I found this resource written by Christian Cawley. I have the VLC Media Player. Following the instruction in this article, it works for me as I don’t like to install extra applications to solve a simple problem. However if in the recording, I have turned the camera in two directions , I will need to use a Editor application to edit the video. This is because the Geometry features in VLC Media Player will only allow you to choose one rotation for the who video.

A note made from Germain Greer’s speech

Yesterday evening I attended a 2015 Hadyn Ellis Distinguished Lecture – “Women & Power: the Lessons of the 20th Century” made by Professor Germain Greer.  There was no picture and recording that I can share as Professor Greer did not like it. I respected it.

As a woman myself, I probably haven’t done anything particularly to seek equal opportunities for women in education and employment, like the feminists did. I assume that in the theater there were few people like me who didn’t know her feminism influence and her arguable viewpoint on transgender people. But obviously in the theater there were few people like me who is a Chinese and grew up and largely educated in China where women had equal vote right to men in 1949 (the same time when P.R.China was established).

May be because of the recent Paris attacks, the security and safety of the event was overwhelmed: security staff and policemen were around the venue, two times of ticket checking, one bag checking, and security staff stood in front of the theater watching the audience.

About 10 protesters again Professor Greer (mainly about her previous statement on transgender people) were outside of the venue. They were quiet and had clear message boards in hand.

The theater was almost full and the Vice-Chancellor started the event.

Professor Greer had both intellectual rigour and a sense of humour. Mostly sarcasm! I couldn’t understand all her jokes because I lack of knowledge about Western history and culture. She talked about the issues such as women vote, unequal pay and opportunities between women and men, “unskilled” from low payment, abortion, and sex-selective abortion. She encouraged women to endeavour to gain power for themselves but have fun in it. Those issues are closely related to women, however, she didn’t talk these issues without showing evidences. She didn’t try to convince you to believe her without having your own different opinions. It’s the free speech and the open critical face-to-face dialogue that influence people. I was thinking if a strong but clear viewpoint was stated by an ordinary person, probably no media would care much or think twice. If it was made by famous people like Professor Greer, it would call a lot of attention and bring up debates, which is a good thing. Why can’t we talk and learn from each other?

There are some viewpoints below that made me think more (they are not quite her own sentences).

  • What do women vote for? What do you think the vote accomplishes?
  • Equality is not enough.
  • Abortion and not allowing abortion, which is good or right for women?  (Not talking about what the law says, there are a lot of individual circumstances here! It’s case by case! Only people who are in the situation know it the best, however they are too busy of thinking between keeping or losing the baby to think of this issue.)
  • Women are not supporting each other enough, at least are not as much as men do to support each other.
  • It’s not the economic status that women need to seek, it’s the power that matters.

I was thinking about why I didn’t do as much as the feminists did?

Recalling my own experience, I was brought up in a family that girls are as good as boys though the culture at the time was that boys are better than girls. My parents/teachers didn’t say I shouldn’t do so and so because I was a girl. I studied in the same classroom with boys and went to university by passing the same exams. We had 1/4 female students in the subject and male classmates were nice to us. I worked in a core team in a company and I was the only woman in the team. I did the same job to male colleagues and we had the same payment. Companies encouraged young women to work in the IT positions. So in China I didn’t experience too unequal treatments because of my gender. Here I do not deny that it definitely had/has unequal treatments between women and men in life. I also don’t deny that in the same working area men in general get paid higher than women. For me it’s more about the inequality between the rich and the poor and the different opportunities from individual to individual. I wish I understand more of the issues if I didn’t experience it myself.