Redesigning everyday life – Explorations

Brain recovery, how far can the brain recover ? According to most experts your brain can recover from serious damage but once the recovery stops that’s it. It is , however possible to recover up until your old level, which can take a few weeks months or years. In most cases people change, either in their ability to concentrate, memorize stuff, finding words etc, or have changes to their personalities. And now the fun part, most of the experts agree that in the first period recovery is at its quickest. After that it slows down. Sometimes people find themselves getting better years and years after. Which is good , very good.

I have gone past the half year mark and have had some nice improvements , reading is going better and I am getting used to all the tips and tricks that make my life easier to manage.

However, a few area’s are still a bit of a problem. And not so easy for people to understand and get their head around. In this article I will try to shed some light on this.

First off, conversations. If I am well rested and in a reasonable relaxed environment , I make sense most of the time and can actually interact on a normal level. It can happen when I’m talking my brain can’t always find the right words or my sentences get screwed up. Especially if there is a lot of noise or a lot of people talking nearby. This gets worse at the end of the day when my energy levels drop. I mix up words more often at the end of the day, so most of the time only my girlfriend notices. When I am asking for a spoon when I want her to pass me the remote control or something.

More troubling I can’t really remember what I have been talking about without taking notes. Making notes during casual conversation might be a bit odd. So I don’t do that. But then something happens along the lines of , remember you said this last time we spook. And I really can’t remember it. Most people close to me know this by now. But for people a bit further away this is a bit weird. As if I am not that interested in them or have been half ignoring them at the last meet.

Taping conversations is not really an option just yet, meetings of an official nature I am leaning towards it. But for a friendly conversation this is strange.
So I am figuring this out as I go. If I meet new people I try and casually slip in a few lines about my condition and how it can affect the conversation we have. This can clarify why I sometimes ask people to repeat what they just said twice (so I can remember better) or why it takes time for me to respond. Some people pick it up really casual ask one or two things about and continue. Other people react as if they just seen the grim reaper and the fun and casual conversation turns into me answering loads of questions about my condition. Which is normal I guess but not something you always want to do. Don’t get me wrong here , people being interested is not a bad thing and most are very compassionate and nice. But I don’t want it do dominate the conversation in any way. It’s just me trying to give some insight in why I have to apply these tactics in order to follow the conversation.

Secondly, I am extremely slow in finding solutions to any given problem, question or anything hard. It takes ages. I have to take notes, read them over. Ask questions later etc.
I a meeting this is difficult. I come up with stuff way after the momentum has passed, well after the meeting has ended basically.
This doesn’t mean my level of intelligence just dropped , my brain is essentially processing everything in slow motion. And my response is therefore also in slow motion.

This has been the greatest effect , because it takes so much time it also sucks energy. I can’t work on a hard project for hours on end on just food and coffee. I have to split everything up in small parts, which hopefully makes me a great planner ;). It’s about energy management rather than time management.

So after my first goal of getting my energy, focus and concentration on a higher level has been reached , these things will hopefully have improved a lot. Hopefully these examples will give some insight , and maybe I will tape our next encounter ;-).

Portfolio news – August 2016 additions

A bit late as I an busy taking more time off and balancing my energy, more on that in another post. The addition of August.

Only one addition this month, and yet again a extension of an existing position, namely Microsoft. It was a position that was not in line with the rest of the portfolio so it had to be adjusted. Most of the tech positions in the portfolio are performing well and I think Microsoft has more potential on the upside. The company is producing good results and while this may not be the best way to take investment decisions I love windows 10, it’s an excellent OS , fast and stable. And a lot of people agree. Also their development tools are great and they are doing a lot in the way of education and making people familiar with the software.

I think this can only get better, more and more people getting involved in tech will make for more innovations. Hopefully not only in just another app but also in research and other tech fields where you are bound to need software. All in all I am positive about Microsoft. Next month , well this month in the coming week I will get a brand new position. For the September addition.

Redesigning everyday life

Last few weeks I have been taking some more rest and time out to reflect on my progress so far. It’s been a steep learning curve and I am now up to a point where I almost know how much energy I have on any given day. I am now working on a system to score the amount of energy of each individual activity in a way such that I can compare and measure my flow of energy.

Until now I was giving out colours , red for an energy consuming task, green for an energy giving task and yellow for neutral. At the end of the day I also scored the overall day on a scale of 1 to 10.

While this was fine it didn’t help me as much as I wanted, especially when planning ahead. While thinking about this , I set on designing a system that helps me plan my activities more accurately and thus keep the heavy dips in energy at bay. So my first idea was to come up with some kind of system to score my activities and my daily available energy amount.

I discussed my idea with my therapist and she had a system which they don’t use that often because it’s normally a bit to hard for people to understand. But it has exactly what I need , a scientific based scoring method to score your activities. It also has a tool to calculate your base daily energy.

The goal for me is now to start and measure the activities and score my days. Once I have that sorted I will be able to manage my energy in a way that the strange dips in energy don’t occur as much any more.

For me this is a great step in redesigning my life in such a way I feel more in control about it. It also opens a lot opportunities to develop this further. Since it’s more accurate than just handing out colours it has a lot of potential for analysing my day to day and week to week planning.

I am very enthusiastic about this new method and hopefully I can report some good progress over the next few weeks and months.

August 2016 – Dividend

Dividends again, always a good thing. As always the markets are moody as ever and nobody knows how long this ridiculous policy of low interest and buying huge amounts of bonds will go on. It has led to inflated markets and in the Netherlands , the old crazy pre credit crisis housing madness is back once again. This time with even lower rates. More debt at lower cost is still debt.

People don’t seem to mind and are paying large amounts of money for housing again. But more on that later, back to the dividends. It has been a slow month and I am looking for good ways to even out the monthly income from my portfolio. I am looking into various ways to do this. Maybe incorporate a bit more option strategies during the month. I now sell some for extra revenue. Which works great , so I am looking into ways to extend this.

Well, without further delays and small talk the August dividend result.

9-8-2016 Dividend (NSI) EUR 13,00
4-8-2016 Dividend (AMSTERDAM COMMOD.) EUR 5,60
15-8-2016 Dividend (Product: ONEOK INC. COMMON STO) EUR 5,23
11-8-2016 Dividend (Product: APPLE INC. – COMMON ST) EUR 4,85
16-8-2016 Dividend (Product: ONEOK INC. COMMON STO) EUR 4,63
12-8-2016 Dividend (Product: APPLE INC. – COMMON ST) EUR 4,34

Total EUR 37,65

Modern Football , finally some good news ?

Modern football, a term that’s almost old school again. It’s against a lot of things. Modern stadiums , modern stadium catering, seating , ticket prices, idiotic hired stewards eh hosts and hostesses. And a lot of other things, let’s not forget the bans , mandatory away travelling arrangements. The lot basically. It used to be better, so much better. Standing in the wind, rain , and cold. Drinks and food sold out or robbed out at half time. Waiting at the tickets office for hours on end hoping to get a ticket to European matches. You get the picture although I might have overstated some of the above. Everybody has their own more or less romanticized view on days past.

Today it was announced the 4 most important football nations in Europe will have 4 places each for the Champions League. You know the competition for the champions of the different European leagues. Didn’t know we had 4 in each. I know, I know it’s been a silly name for a number of years now.

The smaller country’s will lose more once again. This has been an ongoing process. In the Netherlands every club in the 90’s envisioned European titles in their ambitions, building new expensive stadiums. Building mountains of debt and subsequently getting in a lot of distress. But sports as a business is a reality, has been for some time and everyone was looking to the US for examples of how to run a sports business. Club managers attended seminars , conferences and got their heads filled with silly ideas, supporters are customers, hospitality packages and all seater stadiums. Some Football clubs even went on the stock market. Forgetting one thing, the supporters.

Supporting a team in Europe means something vastly different then in the US. In the big 3 sports anyway. In the US people can move teams around the country, from Oakland to LA and back again as was the case with the Raiders. In my view there is a bit of a culture behind it. For me there was.

In any case , money took over in Europe. League tickets are expensive and the former working class Saturday/Sunday adventures became unobtainable for a lot of people. Well Saturday turned into Monday , Tuesday and other every day of the week basically. But people have to work. You can’t be expected to travel half way across the country on a Monday for a 7PM kick off. Most of us not anyway.

One important aspect of being a supporter of a club is the social element. Most people who end up going to the fixtures where either taken by their parents, other family or just decided to go with friends. All at a young age. For a small amount of money you could go enjoy the atmosphere , the build up, watch a game and share the stories for years and years to come. Friendships for life are forged and now matter what you will always follow that club. More or less with the same people season in and out. Whether it be a local team or one of the bigger clubs. For what ? the Football, no off course not it’s the social side of things. Meeting up , seeing old friends , reminiscing on old stories. Sharing experiences and beer.

The big leagues are getting too expensive for young people to really get attached to a club. Watching it on TV will not let you make any new friends, experience the days out (far more fun most of the time than the actual match.) and feel the energy of those once in a lifetime victories in the dying seconds of a cup final. Bringing your kids is too expensive, and they will not choose a club , but a player so you end buying another team’s shirt every season because your kids favourite player just moved. For another record braking sum of money. And this is very wrong.

But ….

In the smaller competitions and countries ousted of the champions league due to the new rules, I see a lot of room for improvements. At first it will be a lot less. Some fans will lose their European away games. Which I must admit are legendary. Less money from TV, sponsors and everything else. As a club you will probably have to sell all of the talent every season , and that maybe a bit of an annoyance.

Less money from all those distractions will hopefully achieve the following, and I know I will stretch it a bit here. Quality games will not be readily available any more. After a few seasons most of the tourists will stay away, thus leaving the clubs with the few die-hards who are willing to sacrifice all of their money for a season ticket. Eventually prices will have to come down, in other words getting people to go to the stadium on a very regular basis will be the main source of income. The rotten dialogue between most club boards and their supporters will have to be restored. Supporters will once again have a say in clubs , idiotic Monday night games will be a thing of the past. Everyone will play on a Saturday (sorry personal preference , in my case Sunday’s 14:30 would be the real old school way) and thus have time for a night out afterwards.

Competitions will be far more exciting because most teams will be equally good (or bad). Parents will bring their kids again, they will make friends and after a few years will start going with their friends and make new friends, all friends for life. And so on , The balance of old is restored and new stories will be told for years to come.

Plan A or B

It’s been a few weeks since the post on the test results and in the meantime I have been spending some time on digesting everything, still a lot of questions need to be answered which I will hopefully get to in the next few weeks.

The recovery is now focussed on getting my concentration better when doing mentally intensive tasks. I have to cut up a task in tiny 10 minute pieces and take 10 minute brakes between them and do this for 1 hour. I then have to write all I experience during and after this hour. Also I have to grade my fatigue and general well being beforehand. Did I sleep well, what did I do the day before? That sort of thing. This is important to get a feel of how I perform and feel during a period of intensive activity.

I must admit last few weeks haven’t been easy , I had a bit of a setback after the ‘pressure’ of work went away , it’s not that they pushed me at work it’s just the fact that you want to perform at the best of your abilities. That being out of the way it became apparent how much energy this took away. After a week or so it started too creep in, being tired more often. Feeling fuzzy and unable to think properly. The people at the recovery centre told me this is normal when people go at it with full force, and thus having a few setbacks during the process. Learning to deal with these episodes is the important part.

One important factor which I always forget is to relax and let go , not constantly trying to figure out ways to improve myself and try to work on it all the time, be it consciously or subconsciously. Working harder isn’t the solution , relaxing more is. Which is an adjustment for me at the moment, but one I need to make.

They also pointed out to me I just started to really process what it means and what has actually happened in the past 7 months or so. After this stage I will have more room to accept it and then move forward again. All contributing to my recovery. So after sprinting in the beginning I am back to basics, simply walking.

It’s really strange how this affects your life , impacting almost everything you do on a day to day basis. Ignoring tell-tale signs of fatigue and pushing on is not the way to go. This also means being flexible enough to throw your ‘plan A’ out of the window and having a ‘plan B’ ready just in case. Which I now try to do when I plan my weeks. So if on any given day in the week I will be too tired for an activity I will have a backup activity in place, thus reducing stress from the pressure you put on yourself wanting to finish something.

Like Hannibal did in the old days, so every day can be concluded with ” I love it , when a plan comes together ” .

Portfolio news – July 2016 additions

This month I have added some to an existing position again, first off Ahold Delhaize, which has finalized the merger in July and had an reverse split, there are now less stock available and I got extra dividend. Also less shares. In order to balance this out again I added to this position. I remain very positive about this stock.

I also added to the vanguard dividend appreciation ETF, It’s an product that is composed out of stocks that generate dividends, I do this when I have small amounts of cash left and it’s a low cost way of getting invested and be diversified at the same time. It’s ideal for everyone who doesn’t view finance and investing as a hobby. Because it’s low cost and maintenance free you really don’t have to pay attention and just add on a regular basis. Research shows it’s one of the best if not the best way to be invested, just buy an ETF that follows the index or is based on generating income.

Since I enjoy this as a hobby I tend to buy stocks rather than just ETF’s or other things like mutual funds and index funds. But if you are not, index and income ETF’s are a very good way of investing without having to do all the research into individual securities. And over time the ETF’s probably do better than my hand-picked selection. For me it’s also about the fun of doing the research. Time will tell.

The last addition to the portfolio is Bayer, which is a German company that is active in Healthcare and Agriculture , life science as it is described. It has a history of excellent growth and dividend keeps on going up, it has a good cash flow and isn’t high in debt. It’s maybe a bit on the expensive side at the moment, but I thinks that is generally the case in today’s markets.
Since this is a portfolio for the long term I am not to concerned about the price, and this stock is near it’s year lows so it’s not way too high.

So that’s it for this month, now on to the research for the next additions.