The KU HR person told me I was a smoker because I did not complete a smoking history statement.
This is a big joke. I tole her, “Number one, I have never smoked in my life. Number two, if this smoking statement was required to get the value rate, I am sure I have completed it because I would not risk paying a high rate by refusing to complete it. If I have not done it, it must be because I was not told to do so. Number three, if I have completed it, there is a possibility that they lost the form.”
The HR contact person, who was unkind, to say the least, told me that HR could not make mistakes. It was me who didn’t complete this form and caused this high rate. I could complete, signe on the smoke form and fax it to her now to get the value rate from now on, but they could not fix the past.
I don’t get it. Aren’t HR human beings? How can you be so certain HR people are error-free? Plus, who has more incentive to be careful and not making mistake? Of course, I have the incentive because it is detrimental to me if I make a mistake. I am not that stupid to deliberately hurt myself. On the other hand, HR has zero incentive to be diligent. It costs them nothing if they make mistakes.
I work for KU Cancer Center. There is one HR (human resources) controlling for KU employees. The HR office is as remote as stars in the sky or worse than that, at least you can see the star.
Toward the end of March, when I talked to a benefit representative, I realized I was charged a higher rate of medical insurance premium, like over $40 more than what I should pay per month. The rep promised me to investigate into the matter. Nothing came back after a few days. So I contacted him. He told me he contacted HR about it and was waiting to hear from HR.
He could wait but I couldn’t as next pay period was coming soon and another extra charge would be taken from my paycheck. So I called my insurance company, blue cross blue shield KC. I was told it was HR who determined the rate.
I spent nearly a day search for a HR contact person and finally got an answer.
On 5/3, Friday evening, my daughter went to bed very early. I, on the other hand, normally go to bed very late because I don’t have to get up early the next day.
I often share some good article on facebook. That day I was going to post a link there, I saw a friend of mine posted a picture showing snow in early May. To my surprise, I saw a response from the former CEO of the practice that I once worked.
I was even more surprised when I saw how much information people share on their facebook or on other social media, and how they actually share all their postings to the world without any restriction.
I have not done any research on the consequences of this sharing. But for some reason, I don’t think it wise to overshare your information online.
I read this story on Huffingtonpost on 5/2/2013 — a group of young college or post graduates having one thing in common: a huge debt on their backs.
What is disturbing to me is this sense of unjustice or being misguided or being abused or this I-am-not-to-blame attitude. Like a girl who has borrowed deeply for a creative writing major says, “I’m all for paying high prices for good value — and my education was certainly of quality — but I’m not in the market to be abused. From interest rates to the ease of borrowing, to confusion of terms and steadily climbing price of college tuition, I guess I have to thank all of the higher education system while I have the floor to speak. To the loan companies, the banks and private colleges: thank you. I and my peers will forever be indebted to you.”
Furthermore, she questions “why are my poor peers and I being punished for wanting to do what we love in the first place? Is my generation not one of information-hungry self-starters? Are we not the focused dreamers raised on Harry Potter and ADHD medication?” I would say she punishes herself for getting herself into this situation.
Sounds like a bunch of dreamers out there, not knowing they need to grow up, make a living on their own and be financially responsible in the first place before they can talk about their grand impractical dreams. Somebody got to pay for their immaturity and not doing research on job market before plunging themselves into a life of debt burden.
Here are the four energy needs that we all need to meet in order to perform at our best: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. The important point to remember about the need and productivity is “only when employers encourage and support us in meeting these needs that we can cultivate the energy, engagement, focus, creativity, and passion that fuel great performance.” p. 9.
Nice thought, though I believe the author has moved into an ideal world or thinks in a too simplistic manner. I cannot see how an employer encourages and supports the employees in meeting their needs. Very often employers have their own agenda, and encouraging and supporting employees are seldom part of their agenda.
Continued from previous posting.
Another interesting point about the three violinists is, on the average, those in the top two groups slept 8.6 hours a day, while the bottom group slept an average of 7.8 hours.
Anders Ericsson’s study suggests that higher performers work more intensely and recover more deeply than low performers. The high performers generate the highest value by working intensely, without interruption, for no more than 90 minutes at a time and no more than 4 hours a day.
Ericsson believes 4 hours a day might represent “a more general limit on the maximal amount of deliberate practice that can be sustained over extended time without exhaustion.”
That is to say, we actually only need to work for 4 hours a day instead of 8 as we do today. Beyond 4 hours, we are only dragging our feet around waiting for the time to go home, without being productive at all.
I must say there is something true in this statement.
Continued from previous posting.
The high performers not only work with high concentration and take intermittent break, they also do the hard thing first. No procratination.
The author cites the 1993 study done by Anders Ericsson. The study involves 30 violinists around the age of 8. They were divided into three groups based on ratings from their professors. The study required them to keep a diary of all their activities. All of them agreed that “practice alone” had the biggest impact on improving their performance.
Here’s the interesting part: nearly all of them agreed that practice was the most difficult activity in their lives and least enjoyable. But what made the top two groups different from the bottom one was the top ones “practiced an average of 3.5 hours a day, typically did so in three separate sessions of no more than 90 minutes each, mostly in the mornings, when they were presumably most rested and least distracted. They took renewal breaks between each session.”
The bottom group practiced an average of 1.4 hours a day, with no fixed schedule, but often in the afternoon, which suggested that they were procrastinating and avoid doing the “least enjoyable.”
It seems low performers not only work less but also are likely to be procrastinators.
Continued from previous posting.
We don’t actually produce more values by working longer hours. In other word, the best way of being productive and getting more done is not to work longer and more continuously.
Here’s what the author explains, “the more hours we work and the longer we go without real renewal, the more we begin to default, reflexively, into behavior that reduce our own effectiveness–impatience, frustration, distraction, and disengagement–and take a pernicious toll…”
Because, as many studies suggest, “we’re most productive when we move between periods of high focus and intermittent rest.” Without this intermittent break, we “live in a gray zone, constantly juggling activities but rarely fully engaged in any of them–or fully disengaged from any of them.”
Continued from previous posting.
Here’s the paradox of this confusing culture of demanding more and more and resulting in less and less. According to the author, “The ethic of more, bigger, faster generates value that is narrow, shallow, and short term. More and more, paradoxically, leads to less and less.” p. 4
As we try to meet the outside demand for more and more, we exert ourselves to the maximum, give away our time and life to the fullest, run fastest, thus leaving ourselves less and less time to breath, to reflect the meaning of our experience, to feel and think like human beings.
In our attempt to make ourselves richer externally and materially, we empty ourselves spiritually and become shallow living organisms.
Indeed, it is time to slow down, pause, think, reflect and live like a human.
On 4/27, the day my daughter came back from Minneapolis with her school, I started reading this book by Tony Schwartz: The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working: The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance, published in 2010.
The book touches many problems that we are so familiar with today, like workplace growing bigger and faster, like people putting in more and more time into their work but feeling like getting less and less done, like transaction speed increasing exponentially, like rappers bubbling faster and faster, like more emails to answer, like more customers to serve, like more places to go, more meetings to attend, more tasks crying for your attention, yet less time for any of them…
The consequences of this “furious activity” is it exacts a series of silent costs: less capacity for focused attention, less time for any given task, and less opportunity to think reflectively and long term.”
Sounds like we become more like machines and less human in the way we live.
Today I will pay a visit to China, like last year, except my daughter will go with me this year. Because of this, we will need to make a trip down south to see her grandmother.
During our last monthly meeting on 4/25, we talked about how to send secure emails to outside groups. This reminds me of one incident some years ago when I just started working at research section.
When I put patient’s name on the subject line in my email to a coworker, she forwarded my email to the manager who gave me a dress-down on protecting patient’s privacy, and much more, making it sound a severe break of law.
I don’t mind taking a lecture from the manager, but why couldn’t this coworker tell me directly? In fact, this is exactly the culture of my workplace, where talking behind your back is the norm. It went with all the other coworkers in my office at that time. Too much gossiping around.
Something I really want to forget.
Here it is, in case the image doesn’t show up — “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Now there is even a name for this kind of behavior when you spend endless hours in a trance scrolling through pictures after pictures or exchanging meaningless conversation or clicking here and there opening hundreds of browser tabs. This is called “flow.”
This is fully analyzed in the article “Online flow experience, problematic Internet use and Internet procrastination,” by Andrew Thatcher, etc, carried on Computer in Human Behavior journal, vol24, issue5, 9/2008, 2236-54.
Flow is defined as “a total absorption in the work at hand.” Procrastination is to avoid doing what one should do. The irony is flow becomes a tool for a procrastinator to avoid doing his/her work.
We want people to be in a flow state when they are doing what they should do, like fully occupied in their work, but if people use flow to avoid doing their work, they set themselves up for the life of a loser.
Joseph R. Ferrari’s Still Procrastinating? The No-Regrets Guide to Getting It Done caught my attention as I was postponing working on my second paper. Of course, I was thinking of many other people in the similar situation.
I am sure I have written a lot on this topic. But the problem persists and the topic is permanently relevant. Most people procrastinate now and then, but about 20 percent of the population are procrastinators. Ferrari says “A procrastinator is someone who habitually and consistently delays tasks.”
Here are some of his suggestions:
(1) Try to find out why you postpone tasks.
(2) Keep a to-do list or planner, and update it often.
(3) Set your priorities, and tackle the most urgent matters first. After the most pressing tasks, do the worst jobs next. Putting them off will just make your whole workload seem more impossible.
(4) Set realistic goals and deadlines. Don’t bite more than you can chew.
(5) Set some strict rules on using cellphone and email checking
(6) Team up with the most productive friends or colleagues.
(7) Be punctual.
More on this later.
I read this piece of news on 4/18, posted by Dominic Gates on The Seattle Times.
“The head of engineering at Boeing Co.’s Commercial Airplanes unit informed managers Thursday the jetmaker will reduce its engineering workforce by up to 1,700 positions this year, with as many as 700 job cuts coming through layoffs. Layoff notices to the first of those employees will go out today.”
I don’t need to get into the details of why and when. The news reminds me of the time when Sprint was laying off people in thousands and I was one of them in early 2001.
Over a decade has passed since then. We expect the end of tunnel is near and economy will pick it up soon. But it doesn’t seem so. I shared the news with my daughter. She said they shouldn’t have any problem finding another job soon. Glad she is optimistic about job market. Let us hope there are plenty of jobs for engineering people.
On 4/17, I received an email from a friend of mine, who asked me “Can you give me your he-xin-jia-zhi-guan (core value) with a limited words?”
Never mind why he asked this and why it has to be “with a limited words” and I know I have the tendency to get lengthy. I wrote the following,
For myself, do the right thing, do my best and have a goal to live by every day, enjoy what I have at the moment.
Towards others, be nice and respect human beings for their intrinsic value.
I have tried to live with less prejudice but it’s hard to be free from it.
The only justification for them is, they make me happy. Indeed, do the right thing is the only way that will leave me happy. I will be tortured and unhappy by my own wrongdoings.
On 4/23, the day my daughter went to Minneapolis with her school, I read this piece from a book. It is writer Sherwood Anderson’s letter to his son written on 1927. I love it and am amazed how wise he was as a father to a teenager child.
“The best thing, I dare say, is first to learn something well so you can always make a living. Bob seems to be catching on at the newspaper business and has had another raise. He is getting a good training by working in a smaller city. As for the scientific fields, any of them require a long schooling and intense application. If you are made for it nothing could be better. In the long run you will have to come to your own conclusion.
The arts, which probably offer a man more satisfaction, are uncertain. It is difficult to make a living.
If I had my own life to lead over I presume I would still be a writer but I am sure I would give my first attention to learning how to do things directly with my hands. Nothing gives quite the satisfaction that doing things brings.
Above all avoid taking the advice of men who have no brains and do not know what they are talking about. Most small businessmen say simply — ‘Look at me.’ They fancy that if they have accumulated a little money and have got a position in a small circle they are competent to give advice to anyone.
Next to occupation is the building up of good taste. That is difficult, slow work. Few achieve it. It means all the difference in the world in the end.
I am constantly amazed at how little painters know about painting, writers about writing, merchants about business, manufacturers about manufacturing. Most men just drift.
There is a kind of shrewdness many men have that enables them to get money. It is the shrewdness of the fox after the chicken. A low order of mentality often goes with it.
Above all I would like you to see many kinds of men at first hand. That would help you more than anything. Just how it is to be accomplished I do not know. Perhaps a way may be found. Anyway, I’ll see you this summer. We begin to pack for the country this week.
Ok, I read this article, “10 Crap Things About Adulthood” by Lizzy Shramko, on 4/18/2013. Here is the list.
9. Health Insurance. High deductible. Low deductible…
8. Your body.
6. Coffee addictions.
5. Business Casual.
4. The more money you make, the more money you spend.
3. Dreams are dead. You would think that more experience leads to higher aspirations and lofty goals. Not true. People have been beaten down with pragmatism and a shitty economy, when you couple that with having to pay your bills and health insurance copays, this one kind of makes sense. You no longer have time to dream about all the cool shit you want to do. You’re not going to Paris. Your shitty app company is never going to launch. This is probably the last year you will be jamming with the guys. So forget about your dreams.
2. Being a woman. You thought being a girl as a teenager was shitty and confusing, well buckle up and get ready for a never-ending crap ride of sexual harassment and double standards.
1. Racism. Police officers don’t stop racial profiling. Neither do TSA agents or people who work in department stores. In fact, it gets worse. As with the aforementioned dudes it’s as though white people grow more and more indignant and refuse to acknowledge their privilege. If you bring up anything about race they will crouch down in a defensive position and attack. You might even be accused of reverse racism. Actually you will most definitely be accused of reverse racism.
It’s been a month since Shawnee Mission office has merged with ours. To help people get to know each other well, we received the following as a self-introduction. We were asked to complete and post them by our desks so that other people passing by will have some fun reading and getting to know us. I thought it fun to share them here.
HI, MY NAME IS ______________________________________
GET TO KNOW ME……
What was your favorite food when you were a child?
What’s the #1 most played song on your iPod?
What is one of your favorite quotes?
What’s your favorite indoor/outdoor activity?
What chore do you absolutely hate doing?
What is your favorite form of exercise?
What is your favorite time of day/day of the week/month of the year?
What’s your least favorite mode of transportation?
What sound do you love?
If you could paint a picture of any scenery you’ve seen before, what would you paint?
If you could choose to stay a certain age forever, what age would it be?
If you could witness any event past, present or future, what would it be?
If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
If you had to work on only one project for the next year, what would it be?
If you were immortal for a day, what would you do?
If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to?
If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you meet?
If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?
If you could know the answer to any question, besides “What is the meaning of life?”, what would it be?
If you could be any fictional character, who would you choose?
What do you want to be when you grow up?
When you have 30 minutes of free-time, how do you pass the time?
What would you name the autobiography of your life?
What songs are included on the soundtrack to your life?
What was the last movie, TV show or book that made you cry or tear up?
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
What was the last experience that made you a stronger person?
When was the last time you had an amazing meal?
What do you miss most about being a kid?
What is something you learned in the last week?
What story does your family always tell about you?
On 4/16, I read this one about U.S. economy. “IMF Lowers 2013 Economic Growth Forecasts” by Scott Neuman.
“The International Monetary Fund has lowered its projections for global economic growth, including in the United States, citing sharp cuts in government spending and the struggling eurozone.
The Washington, D.C.-based international lender’s World Economic Outlook shaved its 2013 forecast to 3.3 percent from 3.5 percent. It also trimmed its projection for 2014 to 4 percent from 4.1 percent.
The IMF on Tuesday also pared back its forecast for growth in the U.S. economy this year, to 1.9 percent from 2.1 percent.”
From this I think of many college graduates who have already been unemployed for a year or even longer. The dreadful part is this prolonged economic downturn will indeed create a lost generation.
Which is better, positive or negative?
I have tried to find out how the authors determine positive and negative. Or what do they mean by positive and negative? Which one is better? No, the authors do not answer these question directly. They make no value judgment as to which is better.
But, from the way they are presented here, all positive instincts — Action, Fight, Acquisition, Association, Mating, Parental care are better than negative ones — Flight, Avoidance, Privacy, Refusal, Filial dependence, if you look at the pairs in terms of survival of the fittest.
Furthermore, all habits associated with positive instincts seem better than those associated with negative one.
My understanding is, those who possess predominantly positive instincts are in better position to compete and survive in the world.
What about the ordinary people? If the heroes are innovative as it is shown in the table, its opposite is imitation.
That is, according to the authors, “As submissive natures unite with masterful individuals (heroes) to make the order and operation of a society, so the imitative majority (the ordinary folks) follows the innovating minority, and this follows the originative individual.”
I would say the minority people who can truly change the course of history are not necessarily innovating. Sometimes, it is simply because they are powerful or they have money power.
What is history in a large picture? It is “the conflict of minorities; the majority applauds the victor and supplies material of social experiment.”
Wow! It is so true when we look at the wars today. The minority like Bush and his gangs wanted to get rid of Saddam Hussein, whatever excuses they gathered. Who supplied human materials? The vast majority of ordinary people!
Don’t societies and civilizations make progress throughout history? What about social evolution? It is, according to the author, “an interplay of custom with origination” of extraordinary persons.
The authors call these persons “initiative individual –the ‘great man,’ the ‘hero,’ the ‘genius’ –regains his place as a formative force in history. He is not quite the god …; he grows out of his time and land, and is the product and symbol of events as well as agent and voice; without some situation requiring a new response his new idas would be untimely and impractical.”
Next, the authors give examples like Churchill, Napoleon, Marx, Lenin and Mao Tsedong.
The situation demands someone to jump out and lead. The higher the crisis, the higher is the hero’s place. The hero might remain normal and unknown if not for the special occasion or events.
“Events take place through him as well as around him; his ideas and decisions enter vitally into the course of history.”
So wonderfully said!
I have such a fond memory of the holidays that people celebrated during my childhood, May First International Workers’ Day being one of them. Of course, what follows is June first Children’s Day. Back then, I don’t think I appreciated it as much as I do now.
Only after I arrived and settled in America did I begin to appreciate and understand these holidays. I also realized how provincial and parochial the mainstream American culture is. To the extent that I really don’t want to be associated with this culture.
For this International Labors’ Day, let us remember the famous rallying cries of communism articulated by Karl Marx –
Workers of the world, unite!
On instincts, habits, feelings and human nature: different habits and feelings grow out of different instinct. “Their totality is the nature of man.”
According to the authors, “known history shows little alteration in the conduct of mankind.” That is, we behave pretty much the same as our ancestors four thousand years ago. Even though the means and instruments have changed, the motives and ends remain the same throughout human history.
There are always these six pair of instincts: to act or rest; to acquire or give; to fight or flight; to associate or privacy; to mate or reject; to offer or resent parental care. You find these instincts among human beings, regardless of culture and social class. As long as you are human beings, you exhibit these instincts.
Evolution in man has been social rather than biological. “It has proceeded not by heritable variations in the species, but mostly by economic, political, intellectual, and moral innovation transmitted to individuals and generations by imitation, custom, or education.”
In case you want to keep a copy of the Table of Character Elements, so nicely arranged by the author, I have the screenshot of that below. You can see clearly the six pairs of instincts with their associated habits and feelings.
Table of Character Elements
For each of the positive instincts, there is a negative one. Associated with the positive and negative instincts are positive and negative habits and feelings.
6. Parental care
6. Filial dependence
Habits associated with positive instincts:
On Action: Play, Work, Curiosity, Manipulation, Thought, Innovation, Art
On Fight: Approach, Competition, Pugnacity, Mastery,
On Acquisition: Eating, Hoarding, Property
On Association: Communication, Seeking approval, Generosity
On Mating: Sexual activity, Courtship
On Parental Care: Homemaking
Habits associated with negative instincts:
On Sleep: Rest, Sloth, Indifference, Hesitation, Dreaming, Imitation, Disorder
On Flight: Retreat, Cooperation, Timidity, Submission
On Avoidance: Rejection, Spending, Poverty,
On Privacy: Solitude, Fearing disapproval, Selfishness
On Refusal: Sexual perversion, blushing
On Filial dependence: Filial rebellion
Feelings associated with positive instincts
On Action: Buoyancy, Energy, Eagerness, Wonder, Absorption, Resolution, Aesthetic feeling
On Fight: Courage, Rivalry, Anger, Pride
On Acquisition: Hunger, Greed, Possessiveness
On Association: sociability, vanity, kindliness
On Mating: Sexual imagination, sexual love
On Parental Care: parental love
Feelings associated with negative instincts
On Sleep: fatigue, inertia, boredom, doubt, vacuity, acceptance, confusion
On Flight: anxiety, friendliness, fear, humility
On Avoidance: disgust, prodigality, insecurity
On Privacy: secretiveness, shyness, hostility
On Refusal: Sexual neurosis, modesty
On Filial dependence: filial resentment
One of my favorite books is The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant. I have read it more than once. Not because I have a bad memory, like I’ll forget it all once I close the book, but because good books always worth re-reading. I will post my notes from the book here.
On Chapter V, Character and History, the authors start “Society is founded not on the ideals but on the nature of man, and the constitution of man rewrites the constitutions of states.” Talk about biological basis of society! Very interesting!
The authors define human nature as “the fundamental tendencies and feelings of mankind.” They call instincts “most basic tendencies.” They believe “human beings are normally equipped by ‘nature’ (here meaning heredity) with six positive and six negative instincts, whose function it is to preserve the individual, the family, the group, or the species” In other words, people are born with these instincts.
The interesting part is the author’s description of human nature through their “Table of Character Elements” with 6 positive and 6 negative instincts.
To be continued tomorrow…
We had our monthly meeting yesterday at another clinic, for that I need to drive eastbound instead of west. Once I followed my auto-pilot during one of these meetings and headed west instead of east. Of course, I ended up skipping that month’s meeting.
There was an interesting episode during this meeting. At some point when people complained about the other section of research, the manager said “On the note of political correctness, I have no comment on this.”
I kept thinking about this after the meeting as I know this manager did make comments on similar topic outside the meeting without the need to be politically correct.
Talk about freedom of speech and openness or fear of the openness and what you can say in private and cannot in public or at a meeting!
On 4/23, the editor from the journal that accepted my article notified me that they were going to publish my writing on June 2013 issue. Wow, it took nearly half a year for one to go out.
Yesterday, 4/24, my mind was fully occupied with the idea and I was very anxious to start my second one. But we had a monitor yesterday. Besides, I had to get ready for next week’s two monitor visits. Whenever I got a second, I searched the internet looking for topics for my next article.
The month April is running out soon. I set the deadline for nailing down the topic, which is before I leave for China in mid May.
Continued from 4/21 posting.
(1) Pursue what you love. Passion is an incredible motivator. It fuels focus, resilience, and perseverance.
(2) Do the hardest work first. We all move instinctively toward pleasure and away from pain. Most great performers, Ericsson and others have found, delay gratification and take on the difficult work of practice in the mornings, before they do anything else. That’s when most of us have the most energy and the fewest distractions.
(3) Practice Intensely, without interruption for short periods of no longer than 90 minutes and then take a break.
(4) Seek expert feedback, in intermittent doses. The simpler and more precise the feedback, the more equipped you are to make adjustments.
(5) Take regular renewal breaks. Relaxing after intense effort not only provides an opportunity to rejuvenate, but also to metabolize and embed learning.
(6) Ritualize practice. Will and discipline are wildly overrated. As the researcher Roy Baumeister has found, none of us have very much of it. The best way to insure you’ll take on difficult tasks is to ritualize them — build specific, inviolable times at which you do them, so that over time you do them without having to squander energy thinking about them.
My daughter will leave with her school for Minneapolis, Minnesota to participate this year’s Academic Decathlon. It will be held from April 25–27, 2013.
Her high school, Shawnee Mission South, scored 37,712 points at state level, which stands highest and qualifies it to go for national competition. But SMS is no match to a high school in California. Granada Hills Charter High School makes 51,590 points.
Since this is her last time for this type of event, I hope she has a good time in Minneapolis.
Today is Earth Day.
The idea of celebrating the Earth Day started on 9/20/1969 when Gaylord Nelson, a Democratic senator from Wisconsin, gave a publicized speech in Seattle in which he remarked, “I am convinced that the same concern the youth of this nation took in changing this nation’s priorities on the war in Vietnam and on civil rights can be shown for the problem of the environment. That is why I plan to see to it that a national teach-in is held.” Nelson had been pushing environmental issues for some years.
On 4/22/1970, the teach-in was called Earth Day. Earth Day had won many victories: it led to the Clean Air Act of 1970, the Clean Water Act of 1972, and the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and to the creation, just eight months after the event, of the Environmental Protection Agency.
For more information on this, read Adam Rome’s “The Genius of Earth Day: How a 1970 Teach-in Unexpectedly Made the First Green Generation” (Hill & Wang).
Celebrating Earth Day today and everyday.
“The 6 Keys To Being Awesome At Everything” written by Tony Schwartz, 11/6/2010, published on Business Insider. I read this article before, but dug it out before 4/8 as I was doing cleaning up to get house ready for another adult to come back. Here are part of the article.
“We’ve found, in our work with executives at dozens of organizations, that it’s possible to build any given skill or capacity in the same systematic way we do a muscle: push past your comfort zone, and then rest. Aristotle had it exactly right 2000 years ago: “We are what we repeatedly do.” By relying on highly specific practices, we’ve seen our clients dramatically improve skills ranging from empathy, to focus, to creativity, to summoning positive emotions, to deeply relaxing.
“Like everyone who studies performance, I’m indebted to the extraordinary Anders Ericsson, arguably the world’s leading researcher into high performance. For more than two decades, Ericsson has been making the case that it’s not inherited talent which determines how good we become at something, but rather how hard we’re willing to work — something he calls “deliberate practice.” Numerous researchers now agree that 10,000 hours of such practice as the minimum necessary to achieve expertise in any complex domain.”
Again, these were offered via Harvard Medical School newsletter. The following tips are said to keep your strength training safe and effective.
1. Warm up and cool down for five to 10 minutes. Walking is a fine way to warm up; stretching is an excellent way to cool down.
2. Focus on form, not weight. Align your body correctly and move smoothly through each exercise. Poor form can prompt injuries and slow gains. When learning a strength training routine, many experts suggest starting with no weight, or very light weight. Concentrate on slow, smooth lifts and equally controlled descents while isolating a muscle group.
3. Working at the right tempo helps you stay in control rather than compromise strength gains through momentum. For example, count to three while lowering a weight, hold, then count to three while raising it to the starting position.
4. Pay attention to your breathing during your workouts. Exhale as you work against resistance by lifting, pushing, or pulling; inhale as you release.
5. Keep challenging muscles by slowly increasing weight or resistance. The right weight for you differs depending on the exercise. Choose a weight that tires the targeted muscle or muscles by the last two repetitions while still allowing you to maintain good form.
6. Stick with your routine — working all the major muscles of your body two or three times a week is ideal. You can choose to do one full-body strength workout two or three times a week, or you may break your strength workout into upper- and lower-body components. In that case, be sure you perform each component two or three times a week.
7. Give muscles time off. Strength training causes tiny tears in muscle tissue. These tears aren’t harmful, but they are important: muscles grow stronger as the tears knit up. Always give your muscles at least 48 hours to recover before your next strength training session.
So we were told via Harvard Medical School newsletter.
Strength or resistance training challenges your muscles with a stronger-than-usual counterforce. The simple and easy-to-follow strength trainings include
–pushing against a wall or
–lifting a dumbbell or
–pulling on a resistance band.
Using progressively heavier weights or increasing resistance makes muscles stronger. This kind of exercise increases muscle mass, tones muscles, and strengthens bones. It also helps you maintain the strength you need for everyday activities — lifting groceries, climbing stairs, rising from a chair, or rushing for the bus.
The current national guidelines for physical activity recommend strengthening exercises for all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms) at least twice a week. One set — usually 8 to 12 repetitions of the same movement — per session is effective, though some evidence suggests that two to three sets may be better. Your muscles need at least 48 hours to recover between strength training sessions.
I am all about college education now because my daughter is going for one of them this fall.
Last week I read this article written about a year ago, “11 Public Universities with the Worst Graduation Rates” by BLAIRE BRIODY, The Fiscal Times.
“Just 56 percent of college students complete four-year degrees within six years, according to a 2011 Harvard Graduate School of Education study. Among the 18 developed countries in the OECD, the U.S. was dead last for the percentage of students who completed college once they started it ― even behind Slovakia.”
“An American Institutes for Research report last year estimated that college dropouts cost the nation $4.5 billion in lost earnings and taxes.”
The reasons for college dropout ranges from the cost to unpreparedness. Even for those who complete college education, many of them are burdened with debt, equipped with few skills and employment opportunities. Some call America’s for-profit universities “dropout factories.”
This provides both parents and college-bound students a serious food for thought.
Last week I read about Millennial Jobs Report for March 2013 from Generation Opportunity site: 16.2% youth unemployment rate.
The youth unemployment rate for 18-29 year olds specifically for March 2013 is 11.7 percent non-seasonally adjusted (NSA).
–rate for African-Americans for March 2013 is 20.1% (NSA);
–rate for Hispanics for March 2013 is 12.6% (NSA);
–rate for women for March 2013 is 10% (NSA).
The declining labor force participation rate has created an additional 1.7 million young adults that are not counted as “unemployed” by the U.S. Department of Labor because they are not in the labor force, that is, those young people have given up looking for work due to the lack of jobs.
If the labor force participation rates were factored into the 18-29 youth unemployment calculation, the actual 18-29-unemployment rate would rise to 16.2 percent (NSA).
The conclusion is: job opportunities remain scarce for young people after years of debt-fueled government spending.
The end of new Dark Age.
This is how I felt when I read on 4/9 an article from New York Times site, “New Guidelines Call for Broad Changes in Science Education.” Two key points will mark the end of Dark Age in America, if they are followed.
(1) On Climate change: “Educators unveiled new guidelines on Tuesday that call for sweeping changes in the way science is taught in the United States -including, for the first time, a recommendation that climate change be taught as early as middle school.”
(2) On evolution: “The guidelines also take a firm stand that children must learn about evolution, the central organizing idea in the biological sciences for more than a century, but one that still provokes a backlash among some religious conservatives.”
The guidelines, known as the Next Generation Science Standards, are the first broad national recommendations for science instruction since 1996. They were developed by a consortium of 26 state governments and several groups representing scientists and teachers.
This is only a guideline. I don’t expect all people will accept and follow it. Still, it’s a progress.
On 4/3, my daughter needed to get to school at 7 AM for a long field trip. After I dropped her off there, I went to the office a little bit late. I was in the break room having my breakfast and seeing more people coming in at this time. I noticed that most people passed me by as if I were not there, except one doctor who knows me well. We chat when we have a chance.
I remember one doctor who left our clinic early this year. I knew she had a little girl. Before she left, I shared with her some of my writings on parenting. She read it and was full of praise and respect when she talked to me later. I could see a change of attitude in her. How strange it is or perhaps it should be this way.
The boring nature of our daily work tends to breed slight or brush-off or cold shoulder among the familiar faces, especially in this environment. Only your accomplishments can make people change their attitude.
During the weekend of 4/6, while my daughter was out of town, I read this article –
Law School Graduates Continue to Face Brutal Entry-Level Market
“The Class of 2012 outcome data shed considerable light on how difficult the job market remains for law school graduates.
“These graduates fared 1% better than last year’s graduates in lawyer jobs: 56.2% of 2012 graduates were employed in full-time, long-term lawyer jobs. Exclude jobs funded by the law schools from this figure and it is 55.1%.
“A devastating 27.7% were either underemployed (short-term or part-time job, or non-professional) or not employed (unemployed or pursuing an additional degree). The national non-response rate was 2.6%.”
From the Harvard Medical School newsletter, I learned that sometimes the root of depression is physical illness. Interesting to know.
Depression is more than a passing bout of sadness or dejection, or feeling down in the dumps. It can leave you feeling continuously burdened and can sap the joy out of once-pleasurable activities.
Sometimes, a physical illness can trigger depression. When that happens, depression can affect the course of a physical disease. This seems an chicken-or-egg story. Two common thyroid disorders are well known to affect mood.
If the thyroid makes too much hormone (hyperthyroidism), manic symptoms can result. If the gland makes too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism), exhaustion and depression can appear. Treating thyroid disease can often relieve the mood problems.
The take-home message is that if you have depression, or think you might, a thorough physical exam and careful medical history could help pinpoint a physical source of the problem — and the most appropriate treatment.
Ouch! I learned this piece of news about the suicide of an Italian couple due to financial trouble. The news came from CNN in Rome.
The man was 62 years old and his wife 68 years old. “He was a clerk at a shoe company, though he hadn’t worked for some time. She was a retired artisan. Together, they had no more than 500 euros a month, from her pension, to live on.
On Friday (4/4), they were dead.” The wife’s elderly brother “threw himself into the Adriatic Sea soon after the news broke about his sister.”
It was a sad day when I read this. And for a long time, the news stuck in my mind.
For some reason, prior to April Fool’s day, I thought of Blackwater shootings in Baghdad on September 16, 2007. The incident left 17 Iraqi civilians dead and 20 people injured. It happened in Nisour Square, Baghdad, Iraq. They were killed by Blackwater Personal Security Detail.
Of course, Iraqi people were angry with the U.S. for the killing of the innocent people. In the end, no one was punished for the crime. This seems a small incident when you think of thousand of innocent Iraqi people who lost their lives during the Iraq war. Blackwater settled a lawsuit filed on behalf of six of the victims, for an undisclosed sum, on 1/6/2012.
Some Americans wonder why people in that part of the world harbor such a strong anti-American feeling, “We bring you democracy. We came here to liberate you,” said some Americans. But the dead cannot be forgotten. And death is what war means.
On 3/30, I read something about why people stay at their job even though they don’t like it. A survey within a company indicates:
72% of people would rather work for themselves.
86% plan to actively look for a new job this year.
70% of employees in the company they work for and aren’t seeking it either.
58% of workers think they don’t need help in their careers and can figure it out for themselves.
The numbers tell us that out of 86% people who plan to look for a new job, only 2% are actively seeking job or looking for changes.
Some people say they are chained by the “Golden Handcuffs,” that is, the good pay and benefits. I would say they are very much the product of their own inertia, which is the only force that chains people to one place, one location, and one lifestyle.
Life is a lot richer than what we can possibly experience. Don’t let your inertia restrict you and limit you from developing your full potential.
During the last weekend of March, I met this article while I was on the internet “Where Are the Country’s Least Happy and Healthy Americans? Of course, I was curious to know who are the happiest and least happy Americans.
As you have probably guessed, Hawaii is the happiest of all! The opposite to Hawaii is what they term “Sadness Belt,” which means those least happy states are all clustered in Central and Southern Appalachia, and the region’s neighboring states, with West Virginia (50) and Kentucky (49) being the saddest two states for the fourth year in a row.
The Well-Being Index compiles surveys in six categories:
1. Life Evaluation: how a person’s current life compares with their expectations
2. Emotional Health: deals with the respondent’s experiences and feelings on a given day
3. Physical Health: encompasses diseases, physical pain, sick days, body-mass index, etc.
4. Healthy Behavior: addresses both positive behaviors (i.e. exercise) and negative (i.e. smoking)
5. Work Environment: questions for workers on job satisfaction, treatment from superiors, etc.
6. Basic Access: includes access to food, housing, healthcare, etc.
There is no doubt that states that registered lowest in economy and education also show as lowest in happiness.
Part of a good parenting is to teach children how to have a strong will power, which is the key to his future success. One way of teaching them is to tell them what they should do and do it themselves. Such as, do your homework first right after you get back from school. Tell them this,
“I know you want to play and it is hard to do the right thing when you don’t want to. But guess what? this is the occasion to practice your will power. Don’t you want to be strong both physically and mentally? Will power is like muscle, the more you use it, the more you have, the stronger you are.”
By the way, if you give in every time the child asks for something, the child never learns to accept no.
Another weekend edition.
I had a busy day yesterday–got up late in the morning, went out walking for an hour in the morning. Shortly after I got back, a friend of mine called about college expense.
Her child was admitted by some great colleges but not the top three that she wanted most. The dreadful part is she has no scholarship at all, leaving her parents to cough out the whooping cost of $63,000 a year, $252,000 for four years if tuition remains unchanged. Guess what? The child cried because she was afraid that her parents would not pay for her graduate school. Whew!! Her parents sent her to private middle and high school, then are going to pay for her college. Way more than most parents are willing to pay.
The good news: my daughter’s event placed first at the State competition, but her school as the whole did not come out first. So she and her partner cannot go national for their individual event. What a pity!
Yes, it is funny that I add this category for weekend edition. There is always something for weekend, something that we don’t do during week day. I will need to get visa for my daughter as a Chinese visa service is available today only.
My daughter is with her school for this year’s Science Olympiad competition at state level. I was told even if she is placed first for her individual event at the state level, which she did at regional level, she and her partner might not go national for that event. The school team that come out first at the state competition will go national.
I read this article on 3/21, from Harvard Medical School. The article looks familiar, which means I might have read it before and posted here. But then, if it is a good thing, it doesn’t hurt to read it again and again.
Here are seven ways that can help keep down our stress and blood pressure. Practice them when you find yourself tense and on edge.
(1) Get enough sleep. Inadequate or poor quality sleep can negatively affect your mood, mental alertness, energy level, and physical health.
(2) Learn relaxation techniques. Meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, deep breathing exercises, and yoga are powerful stress-busters.
(3) Strengthen your social network. Connect with others by taking a class, joining an organization, or participating in a support group.
(4) Hone your time-management skills. The more efficiently you can juggle work and family demands, the lower your stress level.
(5) Try to resolve stressful situations if you can. Don’t let stressful situations fester.
(6) Nurture yourself. Treat yourself to a massage. Truly savor an experience: for example, take a walk or a nap or listen to your favorite music.
(7) Ask for help, that is, if it is beyond the realm of self-help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your friends, and neighbors. If stress and anxiety persist, ask your doctor whether anti-anxiety medications could be helpful.
With the other adult away from home right now, I have to enlist my daughtger’s help with household work. I asked her to wash the dishes since I do the cooking.
While she was washing, I told her a Chinese saying, small stream runs long “Xi-shui-chang-liu.” At first she didn’t understand what it meant.
When your water resource is limited, that water will last longer if you let it run in a small and steady manner than if you let it pour through the sink in as large quantity as it can. Same can be said of any resources.
Not wasting can help you go a long way.
Nothing makes your life more miserable or ruin your day more thoroughly than the consistent presence of a dull pain or a feeling of tightness around your head.
Beyond the basics of not skipping meals, having enough sleep, getting things done before deadlines, and not staring at computer screen for too long, here are one more trick that might work for you: relaxation techniques, so we are told by the expert.
“Physical and relaxation therapies can help stave off tension headaches, so long as you practice these techniques regularly. Physical approaches include applying a heating pad to your neck and shoulders to relax the muscles.”
“Exercising these muscles also helps, by strengthening and stretching them. Relaxation exercises that focus your attention on various parts of your body in order to relax and release tension and stress can also help.”
This is from a friend of mine When we talked about parenting boys. I think it a simple statement showing a fatherly love for his daughter.
Not long ago, while I was working on a writing on student loan crisis, I bumped into this article –”Calculating a College Degree’s True Value.”
The article lists the salaries after graduation for 25 majors from the highest paid job (system engineering) to the lowest one (biology).
While I understand that not everybody is interested or is capable of taking the highest-paid major, it strikes me as pure dumbness or self-deceiving when some people take a heavy student loan and go for a major that doesn’t pay at all or that doesn’t even promise a job upon graduation.
It is one thing if your family can pay it all for your low-paid major. It is another thing when you get that major by taking out heavy student loan.
On this April Fool’s day, let us wish people stop fooling themselves when they go to college.
Yes, the first quarter of the new year is rushing by before you even get used to the new year. This is what I told my children and keep reminding myself– time and tide wait for no man.
It is time when we should go back to our new year resolution and see where we are now. Because I have not kept up with mine, as always, I need to check out why and how to improve, so that I will do something differently and can get back to the right track.
After I took a close look at my daily work, busy as it is, I have found that I actually still can squeeze out some time for doing what I have promised myself to do. Squeezing out time is what I will do next.
On 3/20, a friend of mine took my daughter to BMV to take written driving test. While waiting for her turn, my friend had a long chat with my daughter. Here’s what this friend told me of part of their conversation.
“When you grow up and get a high paid job, you will buy a BMW and can drive me around in your car,” my friend told my daughter.
“Sure, I will drive you, but I will buy a used car because it cost too much to buy brand new one,” replied my daughter.
My friend was impressed by her down-to-earth approach. Instead of boasting of spending big and chasing coolness like some young people that she knows, my daughter knows the saving of used car and the best of all, she doesn’t care about being pretentious.
I told this friend, “The cost of a new car runs at least $10,000 more than a one-year old used one when you combine the cost of car purchase, sale tax, annual registration fees, tax property, and insurance.” She was surprised to learn the savings of a one-year used car. I was surprised that she didn’t know all this.
Last weekend, while my daughter was at the recycling center doing volunteer work, I was trying to catch up with some writing that was due last Tuesday. But I bumped into this article on BBC- The world’s most expensive dishes. Just out of curiosity, I checked it out and was shocked at what I saw. Here are some of them.
The Golden Phoenix Cupcake
The world’s most expensive cupcake was introduced to sweet-toothed spectators in Dubai’s new Bloomsbury’s cafe on 5 July. It is priced at a whopping 3,676 dirhams, and is created from a recipe that includes Italian chocolate, 23-carat edible gold sheets, organic strawberries and lots of edible gold dusting. The cake is presented on a 24-carat gold stand and must be ordered at least 48 hours in advance. (Bloomsburys, Dubai)
The Frrrozen Haute Chocolate
Here’s an exaggerative description of its cost: a moment on the lips; a lifetime on the credit card. Such is the case with the world’s most expensive dessert, the Frrrozen Haute Chocolate, priced at $18,713. Available at Serendipity 3, a restaurant in New York’s Upper East Side, the dish combines 28 different kinds of cocoa, is adorned with 5g of edible 23-carat gold and infused with gold flakes. The sweet treat is presented in a goblet lined with edible gold leaf, served with an 18-carat gold and diamond bracelet and eaten with a solid gold spoon encrusted with rare black, white and chocolate-coloured diamonds.
Le Burger Extravagant
The world’s most expensive burger is made of Japanese waygu beef, infused with 10-herb white truffle butter, seasoned with Alderwood smoked pacific sea salt, topped with cheddar cheese, shaved black truffles and a fried quail egg served on a white truffle-buttered Campagna roll and finished with a blini, crème fraiche and Kaluga golden caviar. Oh — and, a solid gold diamond-encrusted toothpick on the side. The damage? $293, by appointment only, also at the world-famously pricey Serendipity 3 in New York.
Sushi Del Oriente
How about some Sushi Del Oriente — nigiri sushi wrapped in 24-carat gold leaves and sprinkled with five 0.20-carat African diamonds? This is the dish one Japanese businessman tucked into at his personal residence in Manila, Philippines, in 2010, served by up-and-coming celebrity chef Angelito Araneta Jr of premium gastronomy company Karat Chef. The bill? A cool 85,727.59 Philippine pesos. Apparently, the chef’s “artworks” are typically purchased as marriage proposal gifts.
And much more. But to be honest, the thought of the expense makes me sick.
Yes, here’s another birthday this month, the Obamacare or Affordable Care Act which was signed into law on 3/23/2010.
To be sure, Obamacare has had a very rough time since its birth. The GOP has tried over 30 times to repeal it. Even with the Supreme Court upholding of the law, the GOP still has not given up its fight to outlaw it.
As with anything that is progressive and representative of historial trend, the Obamacare will have to experience vehement attacks of various sort before it finally becomes as established as our social security tax and Medicare.
This law might go down the American history as the single great achievement of Obama administration.
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Happy 18th birthday. My daughter turns 18 today, ready for college this fall. Here’s your virtue birthday cake! Of course, we will have the real one today. And I know she likes the real one better than this one.