Obviously time flies by without our catching it and without finding me getting anywhere in meeting my New Year Resolution. See how the first month of the new year is gone now! Today is the first day of the second month of the still new year.
Looking back at last month, I am sorry to say I have behaved like before and have not been as productive as I have promised myself. I can see how month slips by like before without me accomplishing anything. And I don’t want this month repeats last month or this year repeat last year.
This is what I have to do in order to have a more productive year than previous ones. On the first day of each month, I will ask myself this question: what do you want to achieve for this month? Lay out specific short-term goals for each week.
This is what I have for this month:
For daily brain exercise:
Memorize one investment term a day for this month. Review them daily.
For daily physical exercise:
Walk briskly for 30 minutes a day plus 100 jumprope a day
For daily reading
Read about Game Theory at least 30 minutes a day;
Week1: finish writing the first draft of two articles: (1) book review on South of Broad (2) the article on working with the monitor;
Week2: contact ACRP the MONITOR journal for publishing the monitor article; contact others if no reply; editing them if there is a need; work on an article on the two war memoir novels. Explore the topic of AE reporting for the second article to be published;
Week3: complete at least one book review on the book that I have finished reading;
Week4: write a piece on game theory.
I have so many books lying around on the floor that I have planned to read but never find time for them. I will read them if I have met my goals for the week.
I keep telling my daughter how she goes about looking for interns and jobs. Meanwhile I try to prepare her for the challenges ahead.
For one thing, not getting the job you have applied means rejection, which can mean many other things. Like they don’t trust you have the ability to hold the position you apply, they don’t believe in you, like they don’t see your value, your potential, like they might even have prejudices, like all sorts of negative thoughts that surge up in your brain, and that’s enough to ruin your day and your mood.
You need to amass a large chunk of energy and will power to repel these negative thoughts. You need to keep in mind that the only person that is being hurt by negative thought is nobody but you. So, regardless what happens, stay upbeat. And that takes great efforts.
You also need to keep in mind that hopelessness means when you give up trying, that there is hope as long as you keep trying. Don’t give up. Don’t despair.
Of course, I cannot tell my daughter that you are only 20 years old, that you still have time, etc. She would not buy that. She knows too well time and tide wait for no one.
“… as far as I [Theo] knew, the thought of selling the changelings [“cannibalized and heavily altered pieces”] for originals or indeed of selling them at all had never crossed Hobie’s mind; and his complete lack of interest in goings-on in the store gave me considerable freedom to set about the business of raising cash and taking care of bills. …
I did not for one instant doubt Hobie’s astonishment if he learned I was selling his changelings for real.” p. 453, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.
You can’t help feel sympathetic toward Theo Decker, the protagonist of The Goldfinch. Death of his mother at age of 13, left with a father who is better dead than alive, becoming an orphan at age of 15, how unfortunate can one become?
You would expect Theo to be grateful when he appeared at Hobie’s door like a homeless boy and was accepted totally unconditionally by such a kind fatherly figure. You would expect him to be totally honest to such a man, at least not to cheat him by selling changelings for originals. Theo does it even though he knows it is wrong.
Why does he do it? I have tried to find excuses for his actions. None holds water, except the fact that he inherits this trait from his father who tries to swindle money from his own son.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Isn’t this what the author implies?
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer was the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The 544 page story is set against World War II, from 1934 to the end of the war. It tells the tale of a 6-year-old blind French girl named Marie-Laure LeBlanc and an exceptionally smart 8-year-old German orphan called Werner Pfennig.
This book immediately brought to mind The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, due to their similar historical backgrounds. Both are war memoirs. Both books end with the deaths of good people–Isabelle and her father in The Nightingale, Werner and Marie-Laure’s father in this book.
Between the two, I would have to say Kristin Hannah is the more skilled storyteller. All the Light We Cannot See is most markedly different from The Nightingale in its inclusion of the Sea of Flames, an intriguing myth.
Doer’s novel shifts back and forth from Marie-Laure to Werner, which disrupts the continuity in the separate story arcs.
There are many deeply touching events throughout the book. The one of the most unforgettable characters is Marie-Laure’s father.
Marie-Laure’s mother died at the childbirth. She lost her eyesight at age of 6. To make up for her loss of vision and help her gain independence, her father builds a model of the town, a miniature of the city, with properly scaled replicas of the hundreds of houses, shops and hotels, etc. He also builds a model of Saint-Malo after they moved there, with “the irregular polygon of the island framed by ramparts, each of its eight hundred and sixty-five buildings in place.” The tremendous amount of love and labor poured into this model is unbelievable.
The father took the 6-year-old Marie-Laure to his office everyday. One day, he said,
“Here, ma chérie, is the path we take every morning. Through the cedars up ahead is the Grand Gallery.”
“I know, Papa.”
He picks her up and spins her around three times. “Now,” he says, “you’re going to take us home.”
Her mouth drops open.
“I want you to think of the model [of the town], Marie.”
“But I can’t possibly!”
“I’m one step behind you. I won’t let anything happen. You have your cane. You know where you are.”
“I do not!”
Marie-Laure drops her cane; she begins to cry. Her father lifts her, holds her to his narrow chest.
“It’s so big,” she whispers.
“You can do this, Marie.”
But the father never gives up, insisting that she learn to navigate the town by touch and by memory. “…in the winter of her eighth year, to Marie-Laure’s surprise, she begins to get it right.” By studying the model of the city, she has found that everything “in the model has its counterpart in the real world.”
With the ceaseless support from her father, Marie-Laure, despite her disability, grows up to be an independent and highly accomplished scientist, with great courage and intelligence. I thought of many contemporary parents who spoil their healthy children by being lax in dispensing discipline, and realized what a gift her father gave her.
Another heartwarming passage is when Marie-Laure’s father departs for Paris, leaving her alone for the first time in her life. He promises to come back in 10 days, and “On the twentieth morning without any word from her father, Marie-Laure does not get out of bed… She becomes unreachable, sullen. She does not bathe, does not warm herself by the kitchen fire, ceases to ask if she can go outdoors. She hardly eats.” I found it difficult to hold back tears, understanding how bleak yet wanly hopeful she must have felt during those days without substantive news.
He says she is his “émerveillement”, and that he will never leave her, “not in a million years.” His father’s words come back to her. Yet, he does not come back from that separation, and has most probably died at a German concentration camp.
I would have expected Marie-Laure’s father to survive the war, but it would not be quite realistic because war means death, and death is indifferent to good and bad souls and the wishes of a little blind girl.
“The absurd does not liberate; it binds.” –Albert Camus. Indeed, it binds humans like fate dictates the trajectory of Theo Decker’s life. This is how Donna Tartt starts her novel The Goldfinch.
“…the line of beauty is the line of beauty. It doesn’t matter if it’s been through the Xerox machine a hundred times.” — Hobie
“…dreams and signs, past and future, luck and fate. There wasn’t a single meaning. There were many meanings. It was a riddle expanding out and out and out.”
“Bad artists copy, good artists steal.” – Hobie quotes Picasso’s word.
“I suppose it’s ignoble to spend your life caring so much for objects—. Caring too much for objects can destroy you… isn’t the whole point of things—beautiful things–that they connect you to some larger beauty?” — Hobie
I was tempted to call the novel a memoir of a mother or how a teenage boy grows up without his mother or “the nail where your fate is liable to catch and snag.” Isn’t it true that his mother, dead 14 years ago, comes alive through his memory? On the other hand, with plenty of serious talks from Boris and Hobie on art and life, doesn’t the author try to tell us that it is much more than a memoir or a coming-of-age story, a Bildungsroman?
The novel starts with Theo Decker, protagonist, trapped in an Amsterdam hotel, after killing two persons. It then quickly flashed back to the death of his mother 14 years ago, the milestone in his life. The Goldfinch, the 1654 Carel Fabritius’ masterpiece, is his possession now after he took it from the museum. For 14 years, he was burdened with the fear over The Goldfinch, fearing that he might get caught and be punished for keeping it.
Just as Theo was settling down at his friend Andy Barbour’s house and trying to recover from the trauma of losing his mother, his father suddenly shows up and takes him away from New York City to Las Vegas, with the intention of swindling him of the money his mother left for him. This triggers a real downward spiral in his life.
With the death of his father in two years, the 15-year-old Theo left Boris, his Vegas friend, went back to New York City, and started a new chapter in his life. At some point, while he is in the antique business with Hobie, Theo’s smartness got Hobie, a father-like figure in his life, “in a jam” when he sells sham antiques as real ones.
When Boris showed up in his life again 12 years later, Theo learned that the painting he has been keeping all these year is a mere copy.
Looking at the events that occurs to him and the people in his life, I am wondering about fate and random chance, wondering how Theo’s life would be if his mother had not died when he was 13 or if his alcoholic father had not snatched him away from Andy Barbour’s house or if his father had not died in two years or if he had not met Boris in Vegas or met Welty or Hobie in New York or if he had known the fact about The Goldfinch.
I can’t help marvel at the interplay of fate, chance, nature and nurture in a person’s life. His mother, Hobie, Boris, his father, Mrs. Barbour, Welty, The Goldfinch, each one of them has played an indispensable role in his life, making him what he is now.
Indeed, there is always something in life that we cannot choose, like our parents and people who cross our path. But there is something within our control, like taking drugs or becoming alcoholic or sell sham antiques, etc.
Goldfinch is a good book in the sense it lingers on in readers’ minds, posing questions, and making them think and wonder, like how much autonomy can we claim in becoming who we are, independent of influences from our parents, events happened to us and people in our lives, etc.?
On the other hand, it is better not to focus on the uncontrollable factors, critical though they are, in order to prevent oneself from falling into a mire of fatalistic thinking.
My daughter came back after last spring semester on 5/12/2015 and left today, 1/12/2016, exactly 8 months staying home with us while working remotely on her projects. It has been such a blessing, a privilege, a luxury having her for 8 precious months. I dare not expect it to happen again in the near future. I was spoiled and got so used to having her around that I felt lost after I got home from office today.
The house seems empty and joyless without her. I felt so sad that I couldn’t help sobbing out loud. I have to try hard telling myself, “Behave yourself. Keep in mind what your children want you to do. They want you to be happy and healthy. They want you to exercise more, read and write more, enjoy yourself more, etc. And they still look up to you as a good role model.” I have promised to do something to make them proud of me.
Now is the moment to start new and put out an action plan to get something done for this year, so that when they fly back, I will have something noteworthy to share with them.
Of course, the most important task of all is to keep fit and prepare a warm nest for them to fly back… Remember this!
This is what I said to my children, “A New Year Resolution shows you want to improve and you want a better tomorrow. Don’t become cynical or discouraged when you have not followed through your previous ones. What we need is follow-up to our resolutions to make sure we keep our promise.”
This is my New Year Resolution 2016
(1) For physical health:
–brisk walk for over 30 minutes per day
–jump-rope over 100 times per day
(2) For brain health:
–learn a new language this year, 30 minutes per day, by the end of the year I shall be able to read spiegel.de
–learn a new craft, be it garden skill or something else
(3) Career development:
–publish two articles on professional journals this year
–keep options open
(4) Personal improvement/time management:
–de-cluster the house at least once a week;
–spend at most 30 minutes on social media per day in the evening
–to make sure, unlike previous years, real change will take place this year, do a follow-up at least once a month.
No, I have not forgotten this occasion and the New Year Resolution that we are all supposed to think about.
My son came back on 12/18 and left for NYC on 12/29. As always I had a wonderful time at home spending time with him. We drove to New Orleans on 12/20 and back on 12/24, 5 days and 4 nights. We spent most of the time on the way driving there. Back to Kansas, we took a detour visiting Houston to meet my sister’s son. From there, we drove north, stopped at Dallas.
When my son was home, I mentioned New Year Resolution. Both of my children were a bit skeptical about it, saying we made it and broke it every year. There was really no point of doing it again. I said break resolution does not mean resolution-making itself is a bad thing to do. It only means we have not dutifully followed up with the implement of our resolution. Once again, I believe having a resolution is always better than without.
My New Year Resolution consists of the following sections:
(1) For physical health
(2) For mental health
(3) For career advance
(4) For personal improvement
So, it is time to look back and look forward for a better tomorrow.
Nowadays I seldom get free advice from Harvard Medical news. They always send links of the article and you have to pay in order to read it. Occasionally, they send short pieces like this one. Here’s one today. It looks familiar. I mean I might have read it before and even have posted it here before. Be what it is.
“Even the healthiest people can find it hard to stick with an exercise regimen — and if you suffer from the joint pain of arthritis, moving your body may be the last thing you want to think about. But regular exercise not only helps maintain joint function, it also relieves stiffness and reduces pain and fatigue.
If you have arthritis, you want to be sure your exercise routine has these goals in mind:
1. A better range of motion (improved joint mobility and flexibility). To increase your range of motion, move a joint as far as it can go and then try to push a little farther. These exercises can be done any time, even when your joints are painful or swollen, as long as you do them gently.
2. Stronger muscles (through resistance training). Fancy equipment isn’t needed. You can use your own body weight as resistance to build muscle. For example, this simple exercise can help ease the strain on your knees by strengthening your thigh muscles: Sit in a chair. Now lean forward and stand up by using only your thigh muscles (use your arms for balance only). Stand a moment, then sit back down, using only your thigh muscles.
3. Better endurance. Aerobic exercise — such as walking, swimming, and bicycling — strengthens your heart and lungs and thereby increases endurance and overall health. Stick to activities that don’t jar your joints, and avoid high-impact activities such as jogging. If you’re having a flare-up of symptoms, wait until it subsides before doing endurance exercises.
4. Better balance. There are simple ways to work on balance. For example, stand with your weight on both feet. Then try lifting one foot while you balance on the other foot for 5 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Over time, work your way up to 30 seconds on each foot. Yoga and tai chi are also good for balance.”
I read this piece by Dr. Robert Walinger today, What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness. Immediately, I want to share it with my children. Then I thought I’d better wait till they are married and let them know the importance of a good relationship to the happiness of their lives.
What keeps us healthy and happy as we go through life? If you were going to invest now in your future best self, where would you put your time and your energy? There was a recent survey of millennials asking them what their most important life goals were, and over 80 percent said that a major life goal for them was to get rich. And another 50 percent of those same young adults said that another major life goal was to become famous.
And we’re constantly told to lean in to work, to push harder and achieve more. We’re given the impression that these are the things that we need to go after in order to have a good life. Pictures of entire lives, of the choices that people make and how those choices work out for them, those pictures are almost impossible to get. Most of what we know about human life we know from asking people to remember the past, and as we know, hindsight is anything but 20/20. We forget vast amounts of what happens to us in life, and sometimes memory is downright creative.
But what if we could watch entire lives as they unfold through time? What if we could study people from the time that they were teenagers all the way into old age to see what really keeps people happy and healthy?
We did that. The Harvard Study of Adult Development may be the longest study of adult life that’s ever been done. For 75 years, we’ve tracked the lives of 724 men, year after year, asking about their work, their home lives, their health, and of course asking all along the way without knowing how their life stories were going to turn out.
Studies like this are exceedingly rare. Almost all projects of this kind fall apart within a decade because too many people drop out of the study, or funding for the research dries up, or the researchers get distracted, or they die, and nobody moves the ball further down the field. But through a combination of luck and the persistence of several generations of researchers, this study has survived. About 60 of our original 724 men are still alive, still participating in the study, most of them in their 90s. And we are now beginning to study the more than 2,000 children of these men. And I’m the fourth director of the study.
Since 1938, we’ve tracked the lives of two groups of men. The first group started in the study when they were sophomores at Harvard College. They all finished college during World War II, and then most went off to serve in the war. And the second group that we’ve followed was a group of boys from Boston’s poorest neighborhoods, boys who were chosen for the study specifically because they were from some of the most troubled and disadvantaged families in the Boston of the 1930s. Most lived in tenements, many without hot and cold running water.
When they entered the study, all of these teenagers were interviewed. They were given medical exams. We went to their homes and we interviewed their parents. And then these teenagers grew up into adults who entered all walks of life. They became factory workers and lawyers and bricklayers and doctors, one President of the United States. Some developed alcoholism. A few developed schizophrenia. Some climbed the social ladder from the bottom all the way to the very top, and some made that journey in the opposite direction.
The founders of this study would never in their wildest dreams have imagined that I would be standing here today, 75 years later, telling you that the study still continues. Every two years, our patient and dedicated research staff calls up our men and asks them if we can send them yet one more set of questions about their lives.
Many of the inner city Boston men ask us, “Why do you keep wanting to study me? My life just isn’t that interesting.” The Harvard men never ask that question.
To get the clearest picture of these lives, we don’t just send them questionnaires. We interview them in their living rooms. We get their medical records from their doctors. We draw their blood, we scan their brains, we talk to their children. We videotape them talking with their wives about their deepest concerns. And when, about a decade ago, we finally asked the wives if they would join us as members of the study, many of the women said, “You know, it’s about time.”
So what have we learned? What are the lessons that come from the tens of thousands of pages of information that we’ve generated on these lives? Well, the lessons aren’t about wealth or fame or working harder and harder. The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.
We’ve learned three big lessons about relationships. The first is that social connections are really good for us, and that loneliness kills. It turns out that people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community, are happier, they’re physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected. And the experience of loneliness turns out to be toxic. People who are more isolated than they want to be from others find that they are less happy, their health declines earlier in midlife, their brain functioning declines sooner and they live shorter lives than people who are not lonely. And the sad fact is that at any given time, more than one in five Americans will report that they’re lonely.
And we know that you can be lonely in a crowd and you can be lonely in a marriage, so the second big lesson that we learned is that it’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you’re in a committed relationship, but it’s the quality of your close relationships that matters. It turns out that living in the midst of conflict is really bad for our health. High-conflict marriages, for example, without much affection, turn out to be very bad for our health, perhaps worse than getting divorced. And living in the midst of good, warm relationships is protective.
Once we had followed our men all the way into their 80s, we wanted to look back at them at midlife and to see if we could predict who was going to grow into a happy, healthy octogenarian and who wasn’t. And when we gathered together everything we knew about them at age 50, it wasn’t their middle age cholesterol levels that predicted how they were going to grow old. It was how satisfied they were in their relationships. The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80. And good, close relationships seem to buffer us from some of the slings and arrows of getting old. Our most happily partnered men and women reported, in their 80s, that on the days when they had more physical pain, their mood stayed just as happy. But the people who were in unhappy relationships, on the days when they reported more physical pain, it was magnified by more emotional pain.
And the third big lesson that we learned about relationships and our health is that good relationships don’t just protect our bodies, they protect our brains. It turns out that being in a securely attached relationship to another person in your 80s is protective, that the people who are in relationships where they really feel they can count on the other person in times of need, those people’s memories stay sharper longer. And the people in relationships where they feel they really can’t count on the other one, those are the people who experience earlier memory decline. And those good relationships, they don’t have to be smooth all the time. Some of our octogenarian couples could bicker with each other day in and day out, but as long as they felt that they could really count on the other when the going got tough, those arguments didn’t take a toll on their memories.
So this message, that good, close relationships are good for our health and well-being, this is wisdom that’s as old as the hills. Why is this so hard to get and so easy to ignore? Well, we’re human. What we’d really like is a quick fix, something we can get that’ll make our lives good and keep them that way. Relationships are messy and they’re complicated and the hard work of tending to family and friends, it’s not sexy or glamorous. It’s also lifelong. It never ends. The people in our 75-year study who were the happiest in retirement were the people who had actively worked to replace workmates with new playmates. Just like the millennials in that recent survey, many of our men when they were starting out as young adults really believed that fame and wealth and high achievement were what they needed to go after to have a good life. But over and over, over these 75 years, our study has shown that the people who fared the best were the people who leaned in to relationships, with family, with friends, with community.
So what about you? Let’s say you’re 25, or you’re 40, or you’re 60. What might leaning in to relationships even look like?
Well, the possibilities are practically endless. It might be something as simple as replacing screen time with people time or livening up a stale relationship by doing something new together, long walks or date nights, or reaching out to that family member who you haven’t spoken to in years, because those all-too-common family feuds take a terrible toll on the people who hold the grudges.
I’d like to close with a quote from Mark Twain. More than a century ago, he was looking back on his life, and he wrote this: “There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that.”
The good life is built with good relationships.
I read this article today 10 Easy Ways to be more productive at work. Immediately I thought of sharing it with my children and my dear readers here. Below is the whole thing. I categorize it under Emotional Intelligence because anything that needs self-discipline needs certain level of emotional intelligence to execute it. Getting more things done needs more self-discipline than time.
1. Understand Your Body’s Timetable
It’s important to organize your day around your body’s natural rhythms, says Carson Tate, founder and managing partner of management consultancy Working Simply. Tackle complex tasks when your energy’s at its highest level. For many this may mean first thing in the morning, after you’ve rested and eaten. Save low-intensity, routine tasks for periods when you’re energy regularly dips, like late afternoon. Everyone is different, so it’s important to understand your own timetables, she says.
2. Prioritize Prioritizing
Prioritizing tasks takes a lot of mental effort, says Tate, so you should plan to think about your day or week when your brain is the freshest. Then, organize your time considering which tasks are most important, how much time you’ll need for each, and the best time of the day or week to complete them based on your body’s rhythms.
3. Establish Routines
Our brains are wired to be very good at executing patterns. Establishing routines around the way you carry out regular tasks makes you more efficient and productive. For example, Tate recommends creating email rules to automate checking email, responding to routine requests and archiving emails. You may create a similar routine for opening, reading and filing physical documents. In the same way, stick to set routines for starting and completing new projects or delegating tasks to others.
4. Batch Together Similar Tasks
The brain also learns and executes complex tasks by lumping together similar items. Leverage this ability by scheduling similar tasks back-to-back. For example, you may make all of your phone calls one after another, or draft and send emails at one time.
5. Take Breaks
Complex tasks, like writing or strategizing, take a lot of mental effort, and your brain can only focus for a limited amount of time. That means it’s critical to take breaks and let your brain rest. Take a walk or socialize for a bit. Then when you get back to work, you’re energized again.
6. Create A Five-Minute List
When you don’t have the energy to start a major task or you find your energy waning, using a five-minute list: A to-do list of easy, low-intensity tasks that you can do in less than five minutes. It might be an internet search, printing out and sorting documents, or light research. Whatever it means for you, the five-minute list can help you be productive even during the times you have difficulty concentrating.
7. Don’t Multi-Task
One thing the brain is not good at is multi-tasking, or switching rapidly between tasks. Nothing gets your full attention and you’re more likely to forget things. Instead, it’s better to focus on one item at a time.
8. Do A Daily Brain Dump
Eliminating “popcorn brain”–the incessant popping of ideas and to-dos into your thoughts–by doing a brain dump, where you empty the contents of your brain by writing down all the myriad thoughts, ideas and errands that pop up. Just focus on getting them all out and then connect the dots later, she says.
9. Make Routine Tasks Fun
One of the reasons people often procrastinate is that they find a task boring and have trouble motivating themselves to do it. But those tasks still need to get done. Try to make the routine work more fun, perhaps by listening to music or trying a new environment. Have your team meeting in the park or during lunch, for example.
10. Use ‘High-Performance Procrastination’
If you procrastinate, it sends an important signal. Ask yourself why. Is the idea not yet fully formed? Is the task even worth completing at all? Is the project out of alignment with your goals or skills? Use the information to cull your to-do list and focus on what’s really important.
Today a colleague of mine told me how upset she was with her adult child. According to her, her child was very smart but just couldn’t get through college courses. She was talking about someone who would be 30 years old next year. After getting back home, I read something about how successful people go about their daily lives. I thought it helpful to share these here.
1. They make SMART plan. Execute their plan immediately. Take action. No procrastination.
2. They know how to rest well so that they work with efficiency and high energy.
3. They know how to prioritize and categorize things.
4. They are laser-focused. They are 100% involved in what they are doing at the moment.
5. They don’t seek perfection at the first try. They won’t stop doing something because it is not perfect.
6. They work with rhythm, busy when there dealing with urgent matters; relax when dealing with trivial.
7. They have both vision and well-laid out program to reach their goal. Plan->execution->check their plan and summarize.
8. Good time management. Do the must-to-do first.
9. They are good at delegating to others.
Yesterday, as we were entering highway 435 westbound, a white SUV on my left lane slowing cut in front of me and then moved to the lane to my right, and parked on the shoulder. I pressed my brake and watching her with utter shock and amazement. She maneuvered her vehicle as if everybody else were non-existent. How could she do that? My daughter and I were simply speechless.
For a long time we talked about it and still couldn’t believe what we just witnessed. I could have hit that SUV easily but I was able to hit brake and let her go.
“Well, you see with your own eyes that there are all kinds of people on the highway and we have to drive very carefully and defensively,” I said to my daughter.
First of all, the title of the movie, “While We’re Young,” is rather misleading. The main characters — middle-aged couple Josh and Cornelia Schrebnick — are not young any more. Why isn’t it called “While We WERE Young” as it should be? Does it imply that they are still young at heart even if they are not physically? If it does, the ending doesn’t suggest it.
The movie starts with presenting a childless New York couple in their mid-40s, who have struggled but failed to have children. Josh has this grand idea about his documentary film and has worked hard on it for a decade but failed to accomplish anything. They seem living in a state of quiet resignation.
Then their dull and staid life is shattered when Josh is approached by Jamie and Darby, a young couple in their mid-20s. Josh is smotheringly overwhelmed by the vitality, youthfulness, and optimism of young Jamie, so much so that the older couple is sucked into the whirl of youthful activities. They copy their new friends in everything from hat-wearing to hip-hop classes to promiscuous swearing. The effect is of an elder generation mimicking a younger generation that is in turn taking lifestyle cues from many preceding generations. In one scene, Josh exclaims: “I remember when this song was just considered bad!” when Jamie slips a pair of headphones on him.
Josh and the young Jamie share a passion for documentary filmmaking, and Josh’s father-in-law is a luminary in this field. It is later revealed that Jamie approached Josh with the hidden agenda of getting closer to the latter’s father-in-law.
Jamie gets inspiration and assistance from Josh and, with some modest fabrication, he makes a widely-acclaimed documentary about an Afghanistan veteran. When Josh confronts Jamie about his “dishonesty”, his raucous, public accusation does not detract from Jamie’s success in the eyes of their onlookers.
The theme touches on many things — inter-generational conflict, the old trying to cling to their youth, the contrast between the “wisdom” of age and the optimism of youth. The ending suggests that there is no compromise between the two generations when Josh comments on Jamie, “He’s not evil, he’s just young.” It is more of a resignation and a stereotyping of youth than a confession that he can actually learn something from them.
The movie ends with the middle-aged couple on the way to Port-au-Prince to adopt a Haiti baby, still looking unsure of what life will be after that.
The whole adventure with the younger generation has left them to confront and accept the reality that they are not young any more.
By the way, if you are looking for likable characters, stay away from this one.
Here’s what I learned today about keys to a long life:
Be social. Loneliness kills.
Smile often. Grumpiness hurts yourself most.
Be moderate. Don’t go to extreme.
Get a higher education,
Be friend with healthy people. You tend to gain weight when you are with fat ones.
Don’t sit for long,
Be a good person, which is a reward in itself.
Be a great neighbor. Kindness to others comes back to benefit you more than you give to others.
Be positive in life.
Now we know better.
I read this article today Healthy School Year and thought of sharing with parents here, even though some of us already knew this, even though my children have all left home. It is a good one and I wouldn’t let go any good one without sharing it here.
“Grades may matter less than parents think By Natasha Persaud Feeling socially connected as a child could be more important to future happiness than good grades, according to new research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies. The Australian study tracked more than 800 men and women for 32 years, from age 3 onward, to discover pathways to adult wellbeing. Their model of wellbeing involved values such as:
(1) believing life is meaningful,
(2) social involvement at work and at play,
(3) having coping skills,
(4) and kindness and trust.
Remarkably, economic security wasn’t included because previous research suggests it’s not that important to happiness.
Why Parents and BFFs (Best Friends) Matter During childhood, parents and teachers assessed whether participants were confident, well-liked by peers or excluded from activities. During adolescence, the now teenagers performed self-assessments that gauged personal strengths, friendship quality, parental support, participation in groups and overall life satisfaction. Having someone to talk to if they had a problem or felt upset was very important.
Why should social interactions early in life matter? The study authors posit that it promotes healthy ways of relating to oneself, others and the world. The research, while preliminary, might be eye-opening for parents. While grades are important, fostering a good relationship with your son or daughter is more so. Likewise, helping your child form positive friendships may help him or her enjoy a truly good life later on.”
End of the article.
I read this from Harvard Medical School newsletter. “Trying to be perfect can cause anxiety.” Below is the article. I shared it with a colleague of mine today.
“No one is “perfect.” Yet many people struggle to be, which can trigger a cascade of anxieties.
Perfectionism may be a strong suit or a stumbling block, depending on how it’s channeled, as clinical psychologist Jeff Szymanski explains. Dr. Szymanski is an associate instructor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and executive director of the International OCD Foundation.
“The core of all perfectionism is the intention to do something well,” says Dr. Szymanski. “If you can keep your eye on intention and desired outcome, adjusting your strategy when needed, you’re fine…. But when you can’t tolerate making a mistake, when your strategy is to make no mistakes, that’s when perfectionism starts veering off in the wrong direction.” In its most severe form, perfectionism can leave you unable to complete any task for fear of making a mistake.
To help you prioritize the projects and activities that mean the most to you and keep your personal strategy in line, Dr. Szymanski has shared the following exercise:
What do you find valuable in life? What would you want 50 years of your life to represent? If that seems overwhelming, think about where you want to put your energies for the next five years.
Think about your current goals and projects, and assign them priorities. Use the letters “ABCF” to help you decide where you want to excel (A), be above average (B), or be average (C), and what you can let go of (F). For example:
• A (100% effort): This is reserved for what’s most important to you. For example, if your career is most valuable, your goals might be to impress the boss, make sure clients are happy, put out good products at work.
• B (above average, maybe 80% effort): Perhaps you like playing golf or tennis or want to learn a new language. You enjoy these activities, but have no plans to go pro.
• C (average effort): Perhaps having a clean home is important, too. But how often does your home need to be cleaned? People aren’t coming to see it every day. Could you just clean up on the weekends? Or focus on a few rooms that get the most traffic?
• F (no effort): Time-consumers that don’t advance your values or bring you pleasure — for example, lining up all your hangers or folding all your clothes in a specific way. Do you have any tasks that, upon reflection, don’t really matter — you’ve just done them one way for so long that you’re on autopilot? These deserve to be pruned.”
Yesterday I shared with some of my acquaintances, former classmates, friends on wechat my posting “Reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.”
I also shared it with my daughter. She always enjoys reading what I write. She encourages me to read and write more. In fact, she insists on being the first reader of my writing. Sometimes, I do feel encouraged. One old friend of mine is the same way.
I shared with a colleague of mine, hoping she would pick up this book. Sometimes, I wish I were part of a book club so that I will have a place to talk about what I read with others.
“In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.” –The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.
Although days have passed since I closed this book, I still can’t stop thinking about it.
It is a war time memoir of two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, about the events, love, hate, life and death, from 1939 to the end of World War II. The story is told through flashback in 1995, with Vianne reflecting upon those harrowing years living under Nazi occupation.
“In war we find out who we are.” Indeed, some French people became “collaborators”, helping Nazi to round up and deport Jewish people.
Both sisters had stood the ordeal of the war. They are vastly different in personality, yet both are brave in their own way and both have suffered excruciatingly gut-wrenching experiences at the hands of their Nazi occupants.
Isabelle, code named the Nightingale, chose the dangerous task of shepherding crashed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees Mountains to Spain, saving over 117 men. The seemingly weak Vianne risks her life to protect her own children and those of her Jewish neighbors.
The climax of Vianne’s greatest sacrifice comes when she allows herself to be raped by the hated German soldier who billets at her house in exchange for the promise that he would not harm her children.
On this, Isabelle said, “What I learned in the camps, …They couldn’t touch my heart. They couldn’t change who I was inside. My body, they broke that in the first days, but not my heart… Whatever he did, it was to your body, but your body will heal…”
The next great sacrifice comes when Julien, their father, learns that Isabelle was captured and tortured. The Nazis tried to make her reveal the identity of Nightingale. Julien turned himself in as Nightingale so that his daughter could be released. For this, he was summarily executed.
Many words rush to mind when I try to grasp the theme of this book — courage, strength, sacrifice, bravery, endurance, motherly love. But none of these words are powerful enough to describe these extraordinary, unforgettable people.
This happened on 10/20/2015 when a colleague of mine had one of her impatient moments. During a teleconference, they emailed us PowerPoint slides for us to go with the conference. She became frustrated when she couldn’t open the attached slides. Blood rushed to her head as she acted out her frustration. She was raving about things like “If I need it for my job, I should have it in my computer.” She almost banged her mouse on the desk.
It turned out PowerPoint application was not installed on her computer. I have it on my computer. So I immediately converted the slides into pdf file and emailed it to her.
I can’t believe some people are so short in patience and quick at building up steam and letting it out. They remind me of a terrible two-year-old. The funny thing is this kind of behavior seems to be the norm around my workplace.
They expect perfection of others. They expect to have all their ducks lined up in a row for them. They have zero tolerance of other people’s slightest oversight. Even if they know nobody is perfect, including themselves, they still won’t compromise their expectations.
This is what I shared with my daughter and hope she remembers it.
(1) Don’t expect perfection of others.
(2) Tolerate and forgive other people’s flaws and oversights.
(3) Develop problem-solving skill.
On the morning of 9/8, we felt a bit sad when we realized that today would be our last day in Paris. We would leave for Charles De Gaulle Airport the next morning.
Every day when we went out early in the morning, the street was rather empty. As the day went by, we saw more people out and on the run. One interesting thing we observed in Paris is, except early in the morning, we can always see people sitting outdoor in some eatery. They are conveniently situated outside cafes, and the rows of clean chairs and tables outside all seem to face pedestrians, like front row seats.
I remember sitting in a place called Café Français, right around the Bastille fortress. As we ate, my daughter and I people-watched and made discreet comments in Chinese. The locals appear to drink profusely, smoke publicly and have a seemingly endless amount of time for chatting.
One interesting phenomenon about these eateries is that their chairs almost always face streetward. At first, I thought this arrangement was meant to facilitate people-watching (like what we did). Nope. We started throwing out random guesses later. At one time, I said perhaps they were afraid that someone would either grab their bags or assault them from street, because petty crime tends to be higher in large, touristic cities. My daughter posited that having a single row of chairs per row of tables was meant to save space.
My daughter planned to go to Jeu de Paume and a few other art galleries. She said Jeu de Paume was an art center for modern and postmodern photography. According to the map I checked, it is located in the northeast corner of the Place de la Concorde. That area seems lined up with a few other famous places of interest. I was much more eager to see the Place de la Concorde than postmodern photography.
When we got off the bus at Concorde, we landed on its northwest corner, which we didn’t know at the time, so we fell back on old tricks — asking people. We stumbled onto a policeman, but it turned out he wasn’t sure where Jeu de Paume was. Still, he was eager to be helpful and directed us to go further north along the Avenue Gabriel. We did, but it turned out the direct opposite of where we ought to have headed.
As we meandered further away from the Place de la Concorde, I felt something was off. The Avenue Gabriel seemed quiet and relatively deserted compared to other museums we had visited. Jeu de Paume was supposedly just off the Concorde. Time to ask people again.
Strangely, there weren’t really other pedestrians around except for a group of policemen standing and chatting on the north side of the Avenue Gabriel. We were on the south side of the Avenue.
As we crossed the Avenue, they all stopped talking and turned to us, seemingly on high alert. They were armed to the teeth! They didn’t know where Jeu de Paume was neither. “That must be a really tiny museum,” I said to myself. One of them, a smart one, used his cellphone to google it and found it for us.
As we said merci and was ready to cross the Avenue, one police told us to keep clear from north side. I asked “pourquoi?” We learned beyond that tall wall is Ambassade des Etats Unis d’Amerique! Wow, the US embassy! The surrounding is heavily barricaded and the policemen acted like they were facing imminent danger at any second. No wander they were on high alert when they saw us crossing the Avenue; no wonder there weren’t many people around.
Years ago, I went to the US embassy in Beijing. It looked like a country fair or flea market with plenty of people loitering outside or doing business. It did not look drastically different from its surroundings. The gate guards looked normal and relaxed. I guess for the US embassy there is much more to guard against in Paris than in Beijing.
We left Jeu de Paume and headed for our next destination. I must say the scene outside Jeu de Paume was more entertaining to me than what I saw inside.
We went to an area where there was a concentration of art galleries, one next to the other, either for one individual artist or for a handful of them. Many of them seemed very interested in selling rather than exhibiting. To me, the prices they asked seemed exorbitant. “Good luck on that,” I said to myself.
The highlight of the day was meeting with my high school best friend at her apartment in the area of Invalides. Her own daughter was visiting her, too. Since my daughter is a vegetarian for this year (from one birthday to the next), she served a special dish for me–escargo! She prepared two kinds of dumplings for us, one with veggie filling another kind with meat. The homemade meal was especially delicious to us because we had been eating outside all these days in Paris.
Of course, as we have learned, no French meal is complete without some kind of alcohol. She dished out a variety of drinks. I tried to stay away from it for fear of looking like a drunkard because I have low tolerance for alcohol. My daughter had her share of the fun and even took with her a small bottle of Cointreau. We had a wonderful dinner and a very enjoyable gathering at her apartment.
That concluded our Paris adventure! The next day we would be heading home. Already I started feeling homesick for Paris!
This was how we started every day in Paris — an early rise, the application of toiletries, and a croissant from one of the bakeries near our bus stop. A friend of mine later asked how I could remember Paris’ street names. What I would do to prepare for each day was simple: I studied the map, found out which bus route we would take, and recorded all relevant street names on a notepad. Then off we went with the map and the notepad.
Even with that level of preparation, we almost never reached our location without getting lost once or twice. When we looked back on those days, it was so much fun and such an adventure.
On 9/7, my daughter planned to visit three places: the Cité de la Mode et du Design, the Cité de l’architecture et du Patrimoine, and the Palais de Tokyo. We would go to the fashion and design school first.
As always, the directions on the map was as clear as daylight– we would hop on a bus and get off at Gare de Lyon which is not far from the Seine river. We would cross the river and the museum would be right off the bridge.
I had a clear picture in my head of the location of Gare de Lyon and the river, but with a cloudy day, we couldn’t tell which direction we were headed in after we emerged from the metro. We walked and walked and still couldn’t see the river. The station couldn’t be that far. So we stopped, asked a passer-by and learned we were heading north when we needed to go southward.
After lots of merci’s, we turned toward the river. Meanwhile, we laughed and told each other, “See, good thing we asked someone, otherwise, we’d never see the right river.”
After crossing the Seine, we got lost again because the Cité de la Mode et du Design was nowhere in sight. I remembered it was not far from and to the east of the bridge, but the roads looked so perplexing. We walked a little while before we decided to stop and ask people again.
It turns out the museum was right off the Pont Charles de Gaulle. When we were wandering around the north side of the river, we crossed the Pont d’Austerlitz, which is far west of the de Gaulle bridge.
While my daughter was having her fun time in the galleries, I climbed up to the roof where a variety of vegetables, flowers, and even fruit trees were grown. I sat down on a bench, resting my tired feet and enjoying the panoramic view over the Seine. At that moment, Mao’s poem surfaced, “You can’t be considered a true man if you cannot reach the top of the Great Wall.” Funny that I gave myself a pat on the back as if I had climbed that height.
From there, we took a bus to our next museum, the Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine. From the map, we knew the architecture museum was not far from Guimet, the Asian art museum. But trust me, that didn’t make it any easier to find.
Eventually, we arrived after walking back and forth on the Avenue de President Wilson. I felt like I had completed a whole month’s worth of exercise in less than one day. Once inside, I grabbed a chair in the cafe and spent the next few hours there. My daughter jokingly said, “It seems like the first thing you try to spot in a museum is a chair.” That is absolutely true.
It was around 7:30 pm after our dinner. My daughter still planned to visit the Palais de Tokyo. It is conveniently in the same neighborhood, so off we went. I really find it hard to enjoy contemporary art, so I told my daughter to go inside while I was at the cafe and gift shop.
Unsurprisingly, there were some Chinese in the cafe. One young couple was talking in Chinese, so I greeted the girl in Chinese, in an attempt to make small talk. She aloofly answered, “What can I do for you?”, to which I responded, “Nothing.”
After they left, another group of Chinese came over and I was able to chat with a few of them. We left the museum around 10 PM. I knew my daughter wanted to stay longer, but I thought it was not safe to be outside too late.
I started writing this day’s events on October 7, exactly a month after these events. When looking back, I had such a fond memory of our days in Paris.
Today a colleague of mine at another location told my sidekick that one physician’s certain account had expired. Since my sidekick was busy, I took it over.
I contacted that person. Here’s the email exchange between us.
I said, “I just talked to Dr. … about his expired … account. He said he would renew it on Thursday morning.”
The other person said, “Does he have the paperwork or do I need to resend?”
Me, “I don’t know what he has. Perhaps it will help if you could resend it.”
The other one sent 3 docs, saying “Attached are the forms he needs to renew his …”
Me, “I will email back to you the three documents after he signs and dates on them. What else does he need to do after that?”
The other one, “I will need the original documents.”
She didn’t answer my question. I will send the original to you, then what next? I guess that person thinks it’s none of my business to know what to do next. I would be contacted if there was a need. Interesting. So I stopped here.
If I ask others to help me with something like this, I would write this. “If he still has the documents, please ask him to review, sign and date on them. If he doesn’t have them, let me know and I will resend them. Please send them back to me the original after he has done so. I will take care of the rest after I receive the original.”
The novel “debuted at number one on the The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers of 2015 list (combined print and e-book) dated February 1, 2015, and remained in the top position for 13 consecutive weeks.”
The plot is rather straightforward, centered around three women and one man.
Tom, a charming liar;
Rachel, Tom’s ex-wife;
Anna, Tom’s ex-mistress and current wife;
Megan, Tom’s current mistress;
All three are Tom’s victims. Tom cheated on Rachel when he started having an affair with Anna. Tom cheated on Anna with Megan. Tom then murders Megan, who is pregnant with his baby. Rachel finds out and confronts Tom who attempts to also kill Rachel. The story ends with Rachel killing Tom in self-defense.
Rachel, the protagonist, seems the most unlikely heroine. When you first read the book, you can’t help lamenting the wretched life that she is leading–an alcoholic, unable to tell what’s real because of frequent blackouts, fat, lying, frazzled, unemployed. And because of these qualities, she is devoid of self-respect and self-value.
The cathartic part is in the end she finally sees through Tom’s manipulation and finds the strength at a critical moment to save herself. She also wins over and discovers a most unlikely ally in Anna. I think she turns out to be a true heroine when she brings justice for all three of them.
I will not let go anything from Harvard Medical School, even if I have read it many times. Here’s one on exercise and the quality of your life.
“Exercise not only helps you live longer — it helps you live better. In addition to making your heart and muscles stronger and fending off a host of diseases, it can also improve your mental and emotional functioning and even bolster your productivity. Exercise can improve your quality of life.
1. Wards off depression: While a few laps around the block can’t solve serious emotional difficulties, researchers know there is a strong link between regular exercise and improved mood. Aerobic exercise prompts the release of mood-lifting hormones, which relieve stress and promote a sense of well-being. In addition, the rhythmic muscle contractions that take place in almost all types of exercise can increase levels of the brain chemical serotonin, which combats negative feelings.
2. Sharpens wits: Physical activity boosts blood flow to the brain, which may help maintain brain function. It also promotes good lung function, a characteristic of people whose memories and mental acuity remain strong as they age. While all types of physical activity help keep your mind sharp, many studies have shown that aerobic exercise, in particular, successfully improves cognitive function.
3. Improves sleep: Regular aerobic exercise provides three important sleep benefits: it helps you fall asleep faster, spend more time in deep sleep, and awaken less during the night. In fact, exercise is the only known way for healthy adults to boost the amount of deep sleep they get — and deep sleep is essential for your body to renew and repair itself.
4. Protects mobility and vitality: Regular exercise can slow the natural decline in physical performance that occurs as you age. By staying active, older adults can actually keep their cardiovascular fitness, metabolism, and muscle function in line with those of much younger people. And many studies have shown that people who were more active at midlife were able to preserve their mobility — and therefore, their independence — as they aged.
9/6 was the second day of Paris museum pass. Originally we planned to visit three museums that day: Palais de Tokyo–museum of modern and contemporary art, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Guimet Museum of Asian Art. All three of them are within short walking distance, in the same neighborhood as the Tour Eiffel.
For some reason, we thought all of the three were included in the museum pass. Not so until we stood at the ticket check of Palais de Tokyo. We decided to move to the next museum on our list–Musée d’Art Moderne, which is as close as next door. Once again, I was struggling to make sense of modern art while my daughter was enjoying every minute of it.
At the Guimet Museum of Asian Art, I was exposed for the first time to a variety of art works from Japan, India, Korea and other parts of Asia. To my unpleasant surprise, the museum, instead of classifying them as parts of Chinese art, call Tibetan art works Arts of Himalaya and Ancient Tibetan Bonpo Art.
The large Chinese collections at Guimet remind me of those at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO. The same thought process took place while I was appreciating Chinese collections, the jades, the bronze mirrors, the paintings, the lacquerwork, the ceramics, and the archeological findings from as early as pre-Shang dynasty, almost 4000 years ago. That is, I had a mixed feeling every time I see Chinese arts exhibited in a foreign land. Perhaps it is a good thing that these national treasures are well-preserved and are still on display, regardless where, especially so when you look at what the Islamic militants have done to the ancient Babylonian civilization.
A French gentleman in Chinese painting section struck up a conversation with me in English. He told me he came to the Asian museum every week. He made comments on the stories told in a series of Chinese paintings. He read the explanations carefully. I wish they had English explanations.
My daughter remembered seeing Musée des Arts Décoratifs when we were on a bus running through Rue de Rivoli. We were walking on Avenue du général Lemonnier, which used to be Rue des Tuileries and was renamed in honor of général Lemonnier. The museum closes at 6 pm, so once again, we needed to run. We knew the museum building is at the corner of Rue de Rivoli and Avenue du général Lemonnier and saw the long banner from far away with the word Les Arts Décoratifs going up and down, but it took us a bit longer to find the front door.
My daughter was dazzled by so many beautiful artifacts that she wanted to take pictures of them all. But she couldn’t. Here’s the problem that she started to encounter the day before when we were at the Louvre. She could not take pictures any more with her iPhone. The message that was given was something like exceeding storage. Either her phone ran out of space or her cloud storage was full.
Either way, she had to delete many of the old pictures before she could take pictures again. And that took time when she had to pick and choose among thousands of pictures and decide which ones to delete. It irritated her greatly because we didn’t have the time at that moment. Once again we tried to outstay till we had to leave.
I told my daughter, “Well, one lesson we have learned from this trip is to take a camera with a few spare memory cards.” There went another museum day.
That evening we went to a Japanese restaurant, the one we passed by when we were looking for Musée des Arts Décoratifs. My daughter remembered that place and wanted to go there. So we did. We ended up getting some Chinese foods at that Japanese restaurant. I had 6 dumplings for 5.50 euro plus some vegetable dish which was too heavily seasoned for my liking. I think they were pan-fried frozen dumplings with the rim still hard and dry. I heard cooks there talking in Chinese. Later, a friend of mine told me there were plenty fake Japanese restaurants in Paris. So much for our authentic experience in Paris.
September 5, 2015, the real deal began today. Before our Paris trip, my daughter had a list of famous museums in Paris. She did her research online and found a card called the Paris Museum Pass. For 42 euro you get a 2 day pass; 56 euro will get you 4 days; 69 euro 6 days. They must be used consecutively. Within these days, you have unlimited access to more than 60 museums and monuments in Paris. She would have preferred a 4-day pass, but meeting with her friend on 9/4 ruled out that possibility, so we ended up with the 2-day pass.
9/5 was our first day using the museum pass. We planned to visit three museums: Musée du Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and the Centre Pompidou. On the map, the three museums were in close proximity, the Louvre situated on the north side of the Seine, east of the Place du Carrousel, and Musee d’Orsay on the south side of the river to the west of Place du Carrousel; the Pompidou is only few blocks east of the Louvre. We only needed to walk along Rue de Rivoli eastward and then turn north before Rue du Renard. The only public transportation we needed was the bus to the Louvre.
A sidenote: I was truly impressed by Paris’ extensive public transportation system. One can literally get anywhere just by taking the bus or metro. It is even better than that in Beijing, without the same level of traffic jams. Having lived in small or mid-sized cities in the U.S. since 1984, I am used to life without public transportation. Car culture began to feel like it must be the way of life everywhere in developed countries. Before the trip, I thought we would rent a car or render a quarter of our budget to taxi drivers. My days in Paris, without a car or a taxi, have convinced me of the savings and the efficiency of public transportation!
We realized we needed to hurry if we wanted to cover all three museums in one day. We would be at the Louvre first since it opened at 9 AM and is the largest museum in Paris and the world.
We got off the metro at Louvre-Rivoli, turned south and stumbled upon the southern entrance of the Louvre, not knowing we were at the right place until we were in front of the glass Pyramide du Louvre and saw scads of tourists milling around and snapping photos.
I noticed an exceptional number of Chinese at the Louvre, the biggest mass I’d seen in Paris so far. This was surprising at first, then I realized it was just a symptom of China’s burgeoning middle class. I chatted with a Chinese college art teacher.
The Louvre was simply gigantic, its scope almost beyond my poor imagination. I am not sure I can tour it all, were I to devote a whole week there. My daughter was reading the plaques and taking pictures so much that her eyes were dry and tired. So we rested a bit at the museum cafe (where a bottle of frankly mediocre water will run you 3 euros) for a lunch of tomato and mozzarella sandwich. There were a group of Chinese college students sitting close by. One of them told me in Chinese they were part of a study abroad program.
As soon as my daughter felt better, we moved on, knowing we still had a busy day ahead. After heading into a new wing part of the museum, my daughter developed a headache, so we found a quiet alcove in the Flemish wing where she took a nap. A nap in the Louvre! By the time she woke up, it was after 2 pm. We rushed through a few galleries of French paintings before heading for our next museum–d’Orsay.
It was about 4 pm when we finally found the d’Orsay. It took us longer than expected to reach there. I thought the westward road along the Seine seemed unreasonably long. We stopped asking people twice just to make sure we were on the right track.
My daughter wanted to visit the d’Orsay for its collection of impressionist and post-impressionist works. Knowing that the museum closed at 6 pm and we only had two hours of viewing time, we rushed and searched around for these works. We bravely tried to outstay our welcome until a museum attendant made us evacuate. Since the museum shop closed later, we browsed their books and postcards before buying a thick, square volume on the museum’s collections.
From there, we headed for the last museum for the day, the Centre Pompidou. We took a bus and got off at the Châtelet stop. From there, we walked eastward on Rue de Rivoli. The sky was darkening when we finally saw the famous facade. It turned out there were only two floors open to the public and both floors hold modern and contemporary art, which I couldn’t make heads or tails of. We left at closing time, around 9:50.
On 9/4, the highlight of the day was the trip to Monet’s Gardens at Giverny, which was followed by Sacre-Cœur, Sacred Heart Basilica of Montmartre.
Before we left for Paris, my daughter and her friend agreed to spend a day at Claude Monet’s house on 9/4. We bought tickets online in advance for that date. Claude Monet’s garden at Giverny is a little over an hour’s train ride from Paris. My daughter’s friend bought 8:20 morning train tickets for us and we were supposed to meet her and her mother at the Gare Saint-Lazare at 8:00. The train would take us from Gare Saint-Lazare to Vernon, where we would hop on a bus to Giverny.
That morning I set a 6AM alarm for fear of missing the train. We reached Saint-Lazare a little after 7. It is a huge train station with a small ocean of people shuttling around in the morning. I believed this was their rush hour. Imagine the immense task of finding her friend who had our train tickets!
We thought it better to wait at the platform that would depart for Giverny. But first we needed to find out which platform it was, which was not an easy task.
One lesson we learned in Paris is that we should have brought with us a portable English-French dictionary. Optimistically, I had expected many Parisians to have at least a moderate grasp of English. This is not the case. Every time we needed to ask a question, we would say in French, “Pardon.” The stranger would say, “Oui?” Then we would ask, “Parlez-vous l’anglais?” Most of time, the answer was “non.” Occasionally, we were excited when people said, “Oui.” And then a bit let down when their English was really far from adequate.
For some reason, people always directed us to ticket office when we asked for the platform for Giverny. We went to the ticket office, hoping someone would answer our question. As good luck would have it, someone there understood us and we finally found the right platform. We waited by the train and for my daughter’s friend to show up, which they did.
Later I shared my experience with a wechat group. I learned this from a college classmate, “…the French are known for being unfriendly to English-speaking people and refuse to speak English if you ask them questions in English without first attempting French.
“Nevertheless, I found over the years that if you have an Asian face, they are more likely to help you and speak English more readily. The fact is, almost all educated French people know how to speak English, but they are simply too proud in front of native English-speaking people, especially American and British visitors. I usually start by saying in French (after basic greetings in French) that I am sorry I don’t speak French but do you speak English? They are almost invariably friendly to Chinese.” Indeed, I must say this is a very accurate description.
Monet’s garden far outshines its painted depictions. You seldom see such luxuriant and naturally well-maintained gardens. It is enhanced with a grove of willow trees and a pond intersected by several dainty bridges. What a joy it would be to live in that environment! No wonder Monet was moved to capture its beauty in oil. I was so inspired by the wonder of the garden that I realized I too could create, to the best of my ability, some natural beauty around my dwelling, just for my personal enjoyment. I felt highly motivated for some days, then this fever subsided as more time went by.
We planned to catch a midday train back to Paris, but got lost on the way to the local bus stop. We missed the bus and ended up waiting for two interminably long hours for the next one. Of course, in keeping with tradition, the first thing we did when we arrived in Gare Saint-Lazare was to use the toilette. We tended to be very opportunistic about using restrooms whenever we found one. Scarcity generates demand. A guy was standing outside to collect fee, 0.75 euro each. It was so funny and bizzare to watch.
Good thing our next place was not far from Gare Saint-Lazare. A bus took us to the Sacred Heart of Montmartre, where a spectacular white church–the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur– towered above, more awe-inspiring than any other structure we had seen so far. We climbed up to the top–Montmartre, and enjoyed the view from the highest point in Paris.
There were plenty of people around, some tourists, some Parisians who lounged on the huge lawn and the stairs before Sacré-Cœur. I told my daughter there were some similarities between Paris and Beijing. For one thing, like in Beijing, you always can see some Parisians seemingly doing nothing but idly sitting around, drinking and chatting, and enjoying sunshine, whereas New Yorkers never have time for this.
It was getting dark as we left Montmartre and walked through narrow lanes with many tiny stores around that area. And that ended another interesting day for us.
It is not enough to be busy. We must ask “What are we busy about?” — H.D. Thoreau
Give yourself at least 10 minutes a day for think time.
Don’t say we have no time to think. Imagine how terrible it is when we spend the day without real thinking.
“embracing THINK TIME and REFLECTION as habits and as organizational culture will determine the success or rapid failure of organizations in the 21st century” –Daniel Patrick Forrester
“Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization”
On 9/3, our plan was to tour the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris in the morning. We took a bus to Châtelet, which is north of the Seine. Notre Dame is on the Île de la Cité, south of Châtelet. As we were crossing the bridge, we saw many people, including groups of tourists. My daughter said, “They must be Americans.” She may have been right because most of them appeared to be carrying a swelling life-saver around their waist.
Not long after we landed in Paris, we noticed that people in Paris are generally in enviously great shape. You seldom see overweight people on the streets. Many of them have model-like, even pre-teen frames, perhaps because of their food or because they walk a lot which they do or because they smoke. I am not sure if there are more smokers in Paris than elsewhere, but I notice that they smoke more openly in Paris than in America. Smoking does have the effect of making people crave less food.
Very often you see some lady from behind thinking that must be a young girl in her 20s but her face reveals that she is far past that era. Perhaps, the unholy trinity of cigarettes, alcohol, and plenty of sunshine has taken a toll on their complexions.
I told my daughter, “There are a few signs that tell you someone is a tourist, excess fat being the first sign, the next few being a map and practical bags.” We followed that group of tourists to a church-looking structure with a magnificent statue and fountain. It turned out this was the Place de Saint-Michel, another place of historic interest, the statue being Archangel Michael and the devil.
Finally, we were in front of the famous Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris. The Gothic cathedral revealed rich cultural and religious meanings which are deeply embedded and explained in thousands of pictures and sculptures, color and light, beauty and tremendous outpouring of creativity. I am sure the cathedral has witnessed many more stories than Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre-Dame. There I stood in awe with my mind running back to what I have read before but for the first time truly appreciated this, which is something you never see in America. I was beginning to appreciate how much people in the New World have missed if they have not paid a visit here. And I decided I must revisit Paris!
Outside the Notre-Dame, we attempted but failed to find a public restroom. I believe we were spoiled by the abundance of free restrooms in America. Drink and eat as much as you please–no need to worry about nature’s calls! Here in Paris we discovered that clean and free restrooms are largely indigenous to the U.S.
It would take a few tries before we found one. Very often salespersons would say no if you ask for the restroom at their store or restaurant. Once, a girl working at a restaurant surprisingly let us use their restaurant. We rushed downstairs only to find it was not free. The door was locked. You needed to insert coins to use it. We asked people for toilette so often that my daughter said, “The word we used most often in Paris is toilette.” Once we saw McDonald’s, we were excited and certain they must have free toilette. But we turned away from it when we saw a long line waiting outside McDonald’s toilette.
Not far from the Notre-Dame was the Hôtel-Dieu, which is the oldest hospital in Paris. Outside a sign posted by the Assistance Publicque Hospitaus de Paris says, “L’Hôtel-Dieu de Paris You are in front of the Hôtel-Dieu. It was founded in 651 by the Bishop Saint-Landry. It is oldest hospital in Paris. Born out of a religious initiative, it was a symbol of charity and shelter. It was situated the other side of the Parvis Notre-Dame, and straddled the two banks of the river Seine. For many centuries, it was runned by the Chapter of the Cathedral. Since 1849, the Hôtel-Dieu has been administrated by the Assistance Publique, which has responsibility for the organization of most of the public hospital in Paris… It is possible for you to enter and admire the architecture of the hall and of the inner court. We ask you to respect the peace and calm which is necessary for the rest of the sick.”
We entered the hospital quietly, knowing there were patients inside. We hadn’t forgotten to ask about toilets, but the service desk people told us there weren’t any in the hospital. Interesting indeed. We took a tour of this oldest hospital in Paris, then left to search further for a toilette.
My daughter and I walked westward along the Seine, passing some stands that targeted tourists. As I was wondering why they were selling locks to tourists, before we knew it, we were on Pont des Arts, witnessing the famous Love-lock bridge. Spray-painted words read, “Love is not locked.”
We hopped on a bus going east and headed for Place de la Bastille in the afternoon. From there, we looked for the Maison de Victor Hugo. Again, we spent plenty of time looking for the Maison, until some one told us that we were in the area already, that is, in the Place des Vosges with many people, couples, lovers, lying around on the lawn, hugging and kissing. I thought it so cute that I had to take some pictures. I guess they must be used to seeing tourists taking pictures.
I read this piece in Chinese last month. I thought it a good one for my children, so I translated it into English. I also shared it with some friends. Here’s the story.
There is a couple who have been very thrifty raising 4 children who have turned out to be very successful in life. On their 50th wedding anniversary, the children planned to give their parents a special gift. Because the old couple enjoy walking on the beach, they decided to fund the most luxurious oceanic cruise, fashioned after the TV show The Love Boat. They bought for the old couple first class for everything, the best accommodations, etc.
The ocean liner was huge, with a capacity of up to a few thousand people, with swimming pool, evening parties, theater, etc. They were full of huh, aha, wow. The only thing that bothers them is everything is terribly expensive. The old couple has been thrifty all their lives. They have not taken with them much money and cannot bring themselves to enjoy anything. So they spend most of the time in their five-star cabin or walking on the deck and enjoying the oceanic scene. Luckily for them, they brought with them a box of instant noodles as they were afraid they were not used to the food on the liner. Since everything is expensive on the ship, they live on their noodles. Occasionally, they would buy some bread and milk from stores for a change.
On the last night of their vacation, the old man was wondering what they would say if their neighbors asked about the meals on the ship. They wouldn’t know what to say if they had not tasted any. So they made up their mind to have dinner at the ship’s dinner room. After all, it was their last night on the ship.
They had a wonderful time in the candle-lit dinner room with music around, which brought them back to the time when they first dated. Toward the end of dinner time, a servant approached them asking them politely for their ship ticket.
The old man was rather upset, thinking “Why do you check my ticket for a meal? You think I was smuggled in, right?”
The servant checked on one of the boxes on the back of the ticket and asked them with a surprise, “Dear gentleman, you have not consumed anything with this ticket after you got on, haven’t you?”
The old man became even more upset, “It’s not your business if I consume or not.”
The servant patiently explained to the couple, “You have first class cabin ticket, which means you can enjoy everything on the ship, free of charge. Because it’s paid. All you need to do is to show your ticket each time you enjoy them and we would put a check on the back.”
The old couple was utterly speechless, recalling how they tried to save by living on their instant noodles everyday on the ship.
What does the story reveal to you about life?
Like all weekend morning, I got up early to start my morning walk today. I consider the recent trip to Paris the best birthday gift that I could have, so I really don’t expect anything different today.
After I got back home, I went upstairs to wake up my daughter. I knew she wanted to watch Meet-the-press Sunday morning show at 9 AM. As soon as she woke up, she shouted out “Happy Birthday!” That was a real joyful moment.
After breakfast, they asked me where I wanted to go today, since today is my b-day. I said I wanted to go to Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. So we went and, took some pictures and had some fun time.
My son woke up really late today. He called me around 2 PM to wish me happy birthday — another sweet moment of the day.
They went out to get a birthday cake for me. Instead, they came back with a blueberry pie, which is very delicious and more healthy than a cake.
I spent the day sorting through pictures that we took while we were in Paris from 9/1 to 9/9, and recording our activities there.
A happy, healthy day, I can’t think of anything else that I would expect.
On 9/2/2015, we went to the Eiffel Tower in Champ de Mars, southeast side of the Seine. As we approached the Tower from north side, we were besieged by a group of young girls asking us to pledge for various causes. As my daughter was completing the form, other girls gathered around, starting to manhandle her into doing the same for them. I told my daughter, “They are asking for money. We don’t know who they are and this seems more trouble than we can handle. Better leave now.” But they wouldn’t let her go. It was with some struggle that we torn ourselves away from that mess.
From the Eiffel Tower, we walked southward crossing Champ de Mars, a “landscaped park with extensive lawns”, toward the École Militaire. We were to meet my high school best friend at UNESCO, located further south of the military school, 7 Place de Fontenoy. We took an unnecessarily convoluted route after getting lost in the surrounding area. My friend took us to her office and then gave us a tour of the building, which is decorated with donated art. My friend also took us to lunch with two other high school classmates of mine. It was the first time that I met one of them in 40 years! We have a fun reunion, the five of us.
After parting ways, we got on a bus without knowing where it would take us. After we crossed the Seine, we got off at a street full of busy pedestrians. Before long, we learned the name of the street–Avenue des Champs-Élysées. It is like Wangfujing in Beijing, packed with luxury shops and casual eateries, and guarded with smartly-clad doormen. We walked northwest along Champs-Élysées.
We did have some fun on that avenue, getting some souvenirs and gifts for friends and colleagues. One surprise on Champs-Élysées was the abundance of beggars. All of them were Muslim women, with their hijab-covered heads faced down and fully buried beneath their hands, a small cup standing close by. It seems like nobody paid much attention to them. After seeing around half of dozen of them, I wanted to take a picture, but my daughter firmly refused: “It’s degrading to them.” Later we learned from an acquaintance that many Muslims from titanically wealthy middle eastern countries like to shop on Champs-Élysées. Their religion dictates that they should give to the poor. The beggars specifically target these Muslim tourists.
As we walked up north, a majestic monument appeared ahead. My daughter identified it as the Arc de Triomphe. There was some activity around the Arc. I asked a police on duty there, and indeed, the road ahead was closed to traffic due to the procession of official motorcades and mounted military escorts to mark the 70 years of Nazi defeat and the end of World War II. There were plenty of people around the Arc de Triomphe, site of France’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We accidentally bumped into a historic sight and a patriotic celebration!
This sounds like a classic oxymoron, same difference, right? Right. How can you be a leader and command a group of followers when you are not in a leadership position to command and lead?
Still, I call myself a leader when I treat everybody with due respect like what a real leader should do, greeting everyone with a smile and bellowing out good morning to colleague walking from afar.
I call myself a leader when a group of colleagues complain and I chip in, “What’s the solution? We won’t get anywhere without that.” In other words, what’s the use of complaining? Let’s focus on the real thing. I did steer the herd away from their favorite indulgence.
I call myself a leader when I recognize the positive forces around me and try to encourage that force by letting people realize their own positivity. Like telling people, “You are so positive! I like working with you.”
I call myself a leader when the manager joined the pack in steamy gossips and I, instead of succumbing to this group pettiness, cracked open the door and said a doctor was passing by, which put them back to work.
I lead by example, by simply being the role model that I have aspired to be. Everyone can be a leader in his/her group. Everyone can inspire and influence, command respect and authority, by exemplifying our values and principles.
Everyone has an ideal self. Be that self. And you are the leader.
A young colleague of mine, one year younger than my son, came in for a short while today. She was in a hurry, saying too much work and too much stress. She is a smart one and has a high aspiration. I once told her to look out for her own dream and her own agenda. I shared my son’s word with her — “Life’s too short to live other people’s dream.” It’s been over a year since that conversation.
She started working here at the end of March 2014. It’s been nearly a year and a half. I wish she could start something seriously instead of toiling on here. Really this is the place where people like me are hanging on and waiting for retirement. Today I wrote on a thick piece of paper — “Where do you see yourself five years down the road?” and gave it to her, telling her to keep it as a reminder. She said I always gave her good advice. She will keep it with her all the time as a reminder.
This reminds me of my advice to another colleague of mine back in 2007 when both of us just started at research. She was in her early 30s then, now pushing towards 40 with two young children.
At that time, I asked her if she wanted to be like the then CRC in our team by the time she was their age. She said no, with an emphasis. Now after 8 years, nothing has changed. It is harder to initiate changes now than if she did it, say 5 years ago, even though she still can. Time and tide wait for no man.
Yesterday around 9 PM we drove to the cinema on Antioch and 55th street in Merriam, where my daughter and her friends often go. She said it was too expensive to watch movies at AMC (American movie theater chain). For the same movie, you watch it for $4 at cinema while over $10 at AMC.
It was Saturday evening. It was okay to have some fun driving 11 miles to a cinema, even though I was sure I would fall asleep there. Because I seldom stay so late at night now.
The cinema at Antioch and 55th street is really huge with a vast parking lot. While waiting in line at the ticket booth, I noticed those movie-goers were young people. My daughter said the couple in front of us were younger than she was. They were perhaps high schoolers.
The movie that we were going to watch had already started while we were still waiting for the ticket. Finally, it was our turn. The salesgirl told me the total cost. Without thinking, I was going to pay for it. My daughter cut in, confirming the cost of each ticket.
She couldn’t believe what she heard. Immediately she said to the salesgirl, “We are not going to watch it” and told us “Let’s go.” I was glad we turned back home because I was really tired and feeling a bit uneasy over the thought of sitting in a huge room with a few hundred young folks.
It turned out that she normally goes there with her friends on weekdays. They raise ticket prices on weekends. I am proud of my daughter.
Tomorrow I will start tutoring a friend of mine’s teenager boy on his writing skill. I was a bit dreadful of taking on this task, as I was afraid that I might not be of any help at all. Then the thought that I might make some difference in another person’s life motivates me to take the challenge. I might be able to improve the quality of his writing which might help him in the long run. This is rather encouraging to me.
The task seems daunting to me because I know it takes much more than writing skills to write well. In fact, it takes a certain level of logical and clear thinking in addition to language skill to be able to produce high quality works. How can I teach a person how to think when people think differently from one another? How can I judge what is a good writing and what is not when there are different styles involved?
It is a path filled with uncertainties. Still, I proceed. Because I believe I can be a positive influence in a person’s life.
I told my son that we were going to NYC to see him during a weekend in August. He said it was a lot easy for him to come back home for a week. So he did.
He came back last Saturday, 7/25. It has been the most joyful week for me. I feel extremely blessed for having him back, even if it’s only a week. He told me his company was going to launch their product on 9/1, so August would be a busy month. Today we drove to the airport again to send him back to New York.
I felt sad and was quiet as I helped him packing things up and sadder as I said goodbye. It’s like before, like every time I went to the airport to send him off. I can never get used to his leaving.
We hugged each other goodbye. I told him to keep fit and get more values out of our time here, together or separate.
My son came back yesterday. I translated the following from Chinese to English for both of my children.
(1) Eat with your eyes closed. This will force you to rely on other organs.
(2) Eat more Lecithos-rich food. e.g. peanut, soybean, Edamame
(3) Carry some different coins with you. Try to tell with your fingers which is which.
(4) Watch TV without sound. Try to understand the show from what you see only.
(5) Dink coffee or tea with your nose pinched. Use your tongue to smell it.
(6) Read out loud. Send to your brain what you see.
(7) Learn a foreign language
(8) Do something that you sub-consciously would not do, like trying a whole new dish, taking a new route to a familiar place.
(9) Take a detour to a known place and use your brain to get back
(10) Try using your left hand, if you are not left-handed, to brush your teeth or do something using a different hand
(11) Drink yogurt
(12) Take a break or a walk or deep breath before learning
(13) Go to new places
(14) Try to see things from different angle or perspective
(15) Have a nourishing breakfast
(16) Take a longer time to chew before you swallow
(17) Walk fast, exercise
(18) Use timer to manage your time. Take a break when time is up.
(19) Create joy. Joyful moment is beneficial to your brain.
(20) Determine if your left brain is more developed than the right one or vice versa. You are happiest when you use the side that is more developed.
(21) Have enough sleep
(22) Eat food rich in curcumin which helps fight dementia
(23) Have regular exercise
(24) Shut down the cellphone at a regular interval, so that you can concentrate your brain
(25) frown occasionally, which helps you focus
(26) Keep up with news, new ideas, and new development
(27) Use images. One way to help memorize is to link a concept with a picture.
(28) Create chaos to challenge your brain.
(29) Confirm yourself. Give yourself a hint that you can do it, which helps you reach your goal.
(30) Play games that requires your hands and feet, which helps improve your reaction speed.
(31) Read the writings written by smart people.
(32) Write often, write what you think
(33) Go to museum, which helps reduces stress and tension.
(34) Play puzzles, sudoku, brain-teasers, chess, etc.
(35) Use your fingers
(36) Eat dark chocolate and drink grape wine
(37) Play music instrument.
(38) Drink coffee.
(39) Have a hobby
(40) Make comments in appropriate places
(41) Throw into trash your calculator
(42) Go back to Nature. Crowded and noisy urban environment is detrimental to your memory and your self-control ability.
Yesterday noon, we drove to the airport to get my son home. He came back from New York City to spend a week with us. He will be going back next Sunday, 8/2. It’s not a long visit, still I already feel blessed with his coming. It’s a highly joyful moment for all of us seeing him back. He is such a wonderful boy!
I will work half a day next week, that is, 4 hours each day from 7 to 11 AM. Since my sidekick is also off on vacation next week, I’d better not take the whole week off this time. Plus, my son also works remotely while he is with us.
I am the happiest mom so far!
We had our monthly CTO meeting at CRC today. During the meeting, the person presiding the meeting mentioned a quote of Marie Curie, which happens to be my favorite,
“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.”
On the way back to office, I took the road less taken. I think of the fact that the other adult in the household always takes Ward Parkway to KC plaza, averting the unfamiliar ones. I like to try different routes, the unfamiliar one, the more adventuous, the more chance to discover something new, the better. Try and learn something new everyday. Isn’t that what life is all about!
I read this one on 2/22/2014, “How does your memory work?” I thought of sharing it here.
“To remember something your brain goes through the following process:
First your brain consciously registers the memory, a process called encoding. The reason most people don’t remember a name straight away is because you haven’t encoded the name – perhaps because you weren’t paying full attention. Next, the brain must consolidate the memory, followed by the last step which is called retrieval.
The best way to improve your memory is to keep remembering the same thing, over and over again. This strengthens the neural pathway to the memory. There are other things you can do to improve your memory; get a regular sleep pattern, eat a balanced diet and exercise often.”
Here’s what I have learned:
(1) Pay attention if you really want to remember it
(2) Review what you just remember, reinforcing it helps make it permanent
e.g. if you want to memorize a piece of poem, commit it to memory first, then review it again and again until you can retrieve it without your active thinking, like the time table you learned when you were little.
This has been a busy week so far. My sidekick is off on vacation for two weeks. Physicians kept coming with new research patients. On top of that, there are three morning meetings this week, on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Meanwhile, I try to make it relevant to my personal agenda.
Today, while at the meeting at Westwood, I thought of this quote, “If you’re only willing to do what’s easy, life will be hard. But if you’re willing to do what’s hard, life will be easy.” – T. Harv Eker
As if life won’t be easy if you don’t do the hard work. As if only hard work can make your life easy. Sometimes, it seems the opposite is true. Life is not easy even if you have worked hard. You must know how to work hard in the right way.
It’s like you work very hard going east when your destination is west. You have to know the right way to reach your goal, with full speed.
On the morning of 6/25/2015, we had a meeting at another location from 7:30 to 8:30. Also that morning, there was a monitor scheduled to come at 8:30. It turned out that the monitor was told by one of my colleagues that I started working at 7 AM, which meant she could come early if she wanted. This she did. The front desk lady told me she showed up at 7:50. Of course, I was still at the meeting at another location.
The front office supervisor wrote to my manager at 8:27 AM that morning, “I have a Monitor here and she says [my name] knew she was coming but neither her or [my sidekick] are here and she cannot stay long she has other appointments and a flight to catch. Please help with direction.”
The next day I explained to my manager, “Yesterday’s [study name] monitor came to south clinic earlier than the schedule because she said someone at OP office told her I go to the office at 7 AM.” The manager, instead of taking my words as true, came back challenging me, “She arrived around 8:30 which was her scheduled time.”
Neither the manager nor I were at south office at the time when the monitor came. How did she know when the monitor came? 7:50 is 40 minutes ahead of her scheduled time. Both the monitor and the front desk lady told me she showed up earlier than schedule. Why did my manager challenge what I told her, as if I lied to her?
It upsets me every time I think of this. Some people say hurtful words or hurting others without thinking. My manager belongs to that some people. I don’t think it is her intention to hurt but she did it. Well, for me, it is time to put it behind me and move on. Let’s try to forget uncomfortable things in life, as if they never had happened.
For some reason, I thought of this early in the morning today while I was doing math exercise. It bothers me a bit when I think of it. So I thought the best way to put it behind me is to record it here.
There is one reason that I felt specially pushed to leave this office. It is the manager. To be fair, like all of us, she is a good person with limitations, that is, she is rather gullible to what people say to her. But that limitation hurts decent person like me in particular, because I make it my principle not to say bad things about anybody to my manager.
Here’s how bitching words about me got around. When I worked at our SW office, I was with someone who seems to make it her mission in life to gossip about others. To be fair, she is also a good person or at least she has the desire to be good. But the flaws in her character often ends up being detrimental or even sabotaging to others.
Specially, that colleague of mine lacks the guts to say what she wants to say in front of the people. Instead, she badmouths her colleagues to the manager, colleague like me, a nonwhite minority who she strongly dislikes. Also, when a mistake of hers is found, she blames other for her mistakes, with me being that other.
Second weakness is her lack of the self-discipline to watch her mouth and not to gossip about others. For some unexplained reasons, she simply couldn’t stop gossiping about others. This baffles me tremendously.
It yields some horrible consequences for me when I was around that person before 3/2014. This I didn’t know until I left SW for south office and until I had some exchanges with the manager who distrusts me and my ability, and of course, dislikes me, believing I am a liar, all totally for no reason at all. I’ll show why she distrusts me tomorrow.
Now you understand why I have been constantly looking for jobs. Too bad, I don’t have the luck to land on anything and now, as I am approaching six decades of life, I am losing the drive to drive around.
On 7/14, while at office, I read this article from BBC site, “What’s the best way to fight memory loss?”
They had an experiment using 30 volunteers. The volunteers were then randomly allocated to three groups and asked to do a particular activity for the next eight weeks. The scientists did their battery of cognitive tests before the activities.
First group were simply asked to walk briskly, so that they were just out of breath, for three hours a week.
Second group were asked to do puzzles, such as crosswords or Sudoku. Again they had to do it for three hours each week.
The final group were asked to take part in an art class which involved drawing a naked man.
“Our scientists redid their battery of cognitive tests and the results were clear-cut. All the groups had got a bit better, but the stand-out group was those who had attended the art class.”
Of course, there are many explanations as why the art class best improves mental ability. For now, just keep in mind this: art is a powerful tool in keeping your brain sharp.
Do include art activities for your brain health.
I think it a good brain practice or a way to challenge yourself to see if you can come up with a different word for expressing your idea. Even better, you can learn new words this way. That is, deliberately looking for a different word when you write. Instead of using the one that comes to your mind first and that you have used and overused all your life, see if you can think of or find another one, a synonym, even a totally new word.
use rebuff for reject,
use reprehend or reprobate for criticize
use detrimental for harmful
use advantageous for beneficial
use lucrative for profitable
use approbation for approval
use concur for agree
Please note this is more for brain health than showing off your vocabulary.
I read a story like this. A man and his girlfriend were in a flower store. When the man noticed his girlfriend liked yellow rose, he bought one for her the next day. Days later, she asked him, “Do you truly love me?” He poured out a torrent of words to show how much he loved her. She expected only one word and now she got a chapter. Her mind became absent minded while he was pouring on and on…
I thought it funny at first. Words of love should be sweet and touching, but it can become unbearably boring when it is more than enough.
Then again, there is, of course, more to it. The take home message is quality over quantity. The same thing can be said of parenting. If we talk too much, most likely our words fall on deaf ears.
In fact, quality prevails over quantity in nearly everything.
Nature may call in different forms, be it when you feel thirsty, or when you are sleepy, or when you are hungry, or when you need to use restroom. Don’t hold yourself back when you hear nature’s call.
That is, drink when you are thirty, eat when you are hungry. Go to bed when you are sleepy, slow down when you are tired. And of course, go to restroom when you need to. It will be detrimental to your health if you keep doing what you are doing and ignore nature’s call.
This is what I read on 1/16/2008, an article written by Tycho Vancreato, “9 activities to help improve your working memory and concentration.”
(1) Brain-healthy eating
(2) Turn on music
(3) Reduce stress
(4) Pay attention
(5) Group things
(6) Think back
(7) Strengthen your neural connections
(8) Include more of your senses in an everyday task
Detail for number 7:
This is an exercise that can even create new neural connections. Grab the mouse with the hand you normally don’t use it with. It is probably harder to be precise and accurate with your motions. You could easily try some of these exercises everyday. It is important to challenge your brain to learn new tasks, especially processes that you have never done before. e.g.
–Use your opposite hand to brush your teeth
–Dial the phone or operate TV remote
–Draw symmetrically by making the same movements with two hands
I read this from CareerBuilder. It was written by Kate Lorenz. Here are the ten ways that you could damage or even endanger your career.
(1) Poor people skills
(2) Not a good team player
(3) Missing deadlines constantly
(4) Conducting personal business on company time
(5) Isolating yourself at office
(6) Starting an office romance
(7) Fearing risk or failure
(8) Having no goals no plan
(9) Neglecting your professional image/reputation
(10) Being indiscreet. Remember office is not your private domain.
7/11/2015, I was doing some cleaning today. Of course, I dug out some printout or notes that I took some years ago. Before I trash them, I thought it better to share them here. This is the first of these notes.
The best Time to Buy:
(1) Airplane tickets: Wednesday morning
(2) Books: Thursday
(3) Cars: Monday
(4) Clothing: Thursday evening
(5) Department-store wares: Saturday evening
(6) Dinner out: Tuesday
(7) Entertainment/Movie/Museum: Wednesday
(8) Gas: Thursday before 10 am
(9) Groceries: Sunday or Tuesday
(10) Hotel room: Sunday
It has been 28 years since my father left us. Every year on this date I think of him and the memories that I keep about him. There are lots of thoughts on this around this time of the year.
Sometimes, I wonder if my father knew how much we miss him, as if he were in heaven and were watching us. Then I realize this is simply not true. I want very much to tell him that he has not died, that part of him is still alive in us, not physically but spiritually.
I want to tell him that the older I am, the more I realize that I am so much like him in many ways, like having this never-ending drive to be something better with each passing day, that with this desire to learn and never letting a day pass without learning something new, even as I approach 6 decades of life and still try to learn a new language.
Even in my dealing with people, I have the same kindness that my father possessed, that I never hurt people, exactly like what he wished. He just never said anything bad about anyone at all. He truly had an angel heart! The sad part is when he was alive, we never told him this and he never knew how we appreciate and carry on his legacy.
I want to tell him that his two grandchildren are very much like him, too. They are extremely kind-hearted and have the same thirst for knowledge as their grandfather and the desire to be better everyday. I bet it would be a huge comfort if he knew this.
He was such a rare wonderful man. I wish he were still here with us. I miss my father. It is definitely unfair that he was taken away so early in his life.
(1) A child must learn how to cook and take care of himself/herself.
(2) A child must learn to drive so that she doesn’t rely on others to take her to places.
(3) A child must go to college and spend a few carefree college years studying and making lifetime friends.
(4) A child must love reading which broadens his vision and makes him a happy person.
(5) Don’t just cry and blame others or bad luck, even if “things fall apart, center cannot hold.” Be resilient after however big setback.
(6) Teach your child to live gracefully, even if he doesn’t have the means to live a splendid, grandiose life.
(7) Teach your child to keep a notebook and a camera when he travels. Even if the scene is the same, the mood might be different.
(8) Teach your child to have a place that she can claim as her own.
(9) Teach your child to be kind to others.
(10) Teach your child to save for rainy days so that she can always pay her bills. When she has money, think of the time when she doesn’t have.
(11) Finally, smile, grace, self-confidence, these are the great spiritual wealth.
A bit of wisdom in parenting:
1. In general, the main factor in child education is family not school.
2. Irresponsible parents do no good to the child. Over responsible parents do no good to parents themselves.
3. How parents treat each other impact the way their child treats others.
4. Develop enthusiasm and wisdom in the child
5. Bring out well-behaved child
6. Be generous to others
7. Help child to be active and be healthy
8. Don’t think the child only develop physically before age 6 and you can leave the child to the grandparents. Such child might be out of control by the time he gets back to you at age 6.
9. Often do three things with the child:
a) have dinner with the child;
b) fix/repair toy/furniture with the child;
c) read with the child
10. There are three key time points in a child’s development, around age 3, 6, 13. You might face tremendous consequences for missing these key periods.
11. A child needs to learn to do things himself by age 3. Try to let him do it if he can. If not, teach him how.
12. Don’t worry too much if the child chooses a road not often taken.
13. Be careful about your manner when you lecture to a teenager.
14. Let your child have his own privacy. Don’t force him to confide everything to you.
15. A child needs a more permissive parent around age 3, an authority figure around age 9, a passive democratic one around age 13. Parenting style evolves from authoritarian to democratic.
16. Let the child develop friendship among his peers, but be watchful whom he is associated with.
The other day my daughter didn’t go to bed until 3 am next morning. I asked her if she watched the movie that she rented, she said yes sheepishly. I once told her, “You stay late at night only if you have work to do. Do not burn midnigh oil just to have some fun time, especially during weekday.” She knew it. I asked her if she felt a bit guilty when she was watching at night. She said yes.
I told her it was a good thing that she still felt guilty. It would be awful if she doesn’t. Then I told her, “If you feel guilty doing something, you’d better stop doing it, because you know you should not do it.”
This sense of guilt is our inner voice of self-check when nobody is watching. The voice comes from our years of upbringing and socialization which tells us what is the right thing to do. It’s better listening to this voice.
When your child makes mistakes, you as the parent should let him know where he did wrong and how to be better next time. But the timing of your criticism is critical to ensure your criticism is constructive and positive. Always have in mind the well-being of the child.
If you truly love your child, DO NOT criticize him —
1. in public
2. when the child is already full of regret for what he has done
3. before the child goes to bed
4. at meal time
5. while the child is having a good time
6. when the child is crying
7. when the child is sick
These rules go for anyone, not just for children.
This is a translation from a Chinese site. I am glad that both of my children do not so far show any of these signs. Still, I post them here as prophylaxis.
Here’s a quote on emotional quotient, “Emotional Quotient is the ability to sense, understand and effectively apply the power and acumen of emotions to facilitate high levels of collaboration and productivity. In the business environment, Emotional Quotient is important because it helps you leverage your awareness of emotions for effectiveness in the workplace.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald said “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
Here are the signs of an EQ loser.
(1) Unable to put yourself in other’s shoes. Unable to empathize. Doesn’t care how other people feel.
(2) Like to raise himself up in public by belittling others.
(3) Must have the last word in argument.
(4) Dominated or preoccupied with negative mood or thought
(5) Only care about self-expression, paying no attention to how others react to what he expresses. They are anything but active listeners.
(6) Knowingly ask question that you know the answer with the intention of showing off your smartness. Deliberately poke people where it hurts most.
(7) Over-concern about how others think about him even if other people do not in the least care about him, like not even noticing his existence.
(8) Make judgment about other people’s life and lifestyle.
(9) Put on the most respectful mask in front of strangers while throwing the most nasty temper at those closest to him.
I know time and tide wait for no man and people have to do something even when they are at a low ebb. They cannot wait for their peak creative moments to be productive because time is marching on regardless.
The first part of this year is quickly rushing by. For this year I have decided not to look for a change of job any more. I am trying to find something else more meaningful to fill my time.
The plan is I will quit the job and engage full time in whatever I have found. Well, so far, I have not been successful.
Because my day job has long become irrelevant to my personal agenda, I have tried to squeeze as much time as possible for myself during the day, reading, thinking, finding and injecting meanings, and enjoying what I have.
I will certainly work harder to create something, even though I don’t know if I will be able to do something different in the months to come for this year. In fact, I am more motivated when I think of the end of year, the time when my son comes back home for holiday. I am more motivated because I want to do something for them, something they are proud of.
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I rented the Breaking Bad dvd from our local library and started watching a few episodes with my daughter yesterday, 5/30/2015.
The show features the transformation of Walter White, an ordinary not-well-off high school chemistry teacher, into a notorious crystallized methamphetamine cooker. He finds himself having a late stage lung cancer and a wife pregnant with their daughter. And worst of all, he is in desperate need of money for both situations. To be sure, he is a smart one, with an advanced level of chemical know-how. Upon seeing how much money he could make in drug business, he decided to partner with his former student to cook high quality methamphetamine.
A 50-year-old teacher who knows right from wrong yet deliberately engages in illegal activity and even commits murder. A law-abiding citizen won’t make enough money for his family if he doesn’t break the law. A respectful high school teacher cannot afford cancer treatment. These situations make for a rather thought-provoking show.
The more I think about it, the more I see Walter as a victim rather than a criminal of the society that denies him decent healthcare when he is sick, that leaves him poor after he has dedicated his life to science and teaching. It is a shame that society has pushed a decent high school science teacher down this road.