Today I Learn… I make a point of learning something new everyday. This is what I learn each day

1, Nov 29, 2008

An Interesting Encounter on the Airplane

Filed under: Education — admin @ 11:10 pm

I left for the airport around 6 AM on 11/13/2008, although the flight departed a little after 9 AM.  The first transfer was at Detroit, from there the plane headed for Tokyo, the second transfer, then to Beijing. By the time I sat on the plane in Detroit, I was exhausted, ready for a nap.  Then three young Chinese students sitting by me caught my attention.  I thought they looked too young to be graduate students. Besides, this was not the time for any break. I was too curious to remain silent.

It turned out that they were juniors from Qing Hua University in Beijing, returning home after an international science competition at MIT.  China won bronze medal while MIT grabbed the gold one.  Truely impressive!

Upon being asked, one of them, 20-year-old, told me of his plan to continue his graduate study in US.  Many of his friends have already sent out applications.  He likes MIT and would very much wish he could get admitted, but then he said, “I can only go to places where there is scholarship.”

It was so delightful chatting with these studious youngsters from China. I have no doubt that, given opportunities, they will be very successful.  They reminded me of many young people that I know of.

1, Nov 28, 2008

Talk to My Son Before I Leave for China

Filed under: Parenting 101 — admin @ 11:29 am

My son called in the evening of 11-11-08, two days before I am leaving for China. I was very happy talking to him over the phone. To be sure, he seldom calls home and I don’t want to disturb him with too frequent calls. I know he is busy all the time and I always call him at wrong moment.

He talked about his plan for the independent study month, the January of 2009. There was some kind of project that he needed to compete with others in order to win the funding for the project. He told me that he planned to read a lot of books, that since he lost his credit card and forgot the PIN for his debit card, he ran out of money, that he wanted to major in mathematics and he liked it very much.

I wish he had more time for book-reading. I wish I could help him in whatever way I can. As for competing for the project, as always, try your best and let luck take care of itself.

We used to talk a lot before he left for college. But gone are those days. A call from him is enough to make my day.

1, Nov 27, 2008

Be Thankful Everyday

Filed under: Random Thoughts — admin @ 11:29 am

Today is Thanksgiving. It’s nice and warm outside. I get up early and think of a poem I read several days ago by Karl Fuchs:

Thanksgiving Every Day

The table is brimming with good things to eat;
We’re surrounded by family and friends; what a treat.
The feelings that fill us today can’t be beat;
It’s Thanksgiving Day, and it all feels complete.

But other days, sometimes things don’t seem so fine;
Those days are not polished and don’t seem to shine.
It’s then in our minds, we forget all the good,
And think of the things we would get, if we could.

On days when our thinking causes us dread,
If we could remember, it’s all in our head,
And not let our minds take our gratitude away,
Then we’d make every day like Thanksgiving Day.

Is it hard to be thankful everyday? Happy Thanksgiving.

1, Nov 26, 2008

Eldest — another Book for Young Readers

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 10:46 am

I saw my children were excited over Eldest (by Christopher Paolini), so I decided to take up the book, trying to find out what it was here that interested them. To be sure, the book was very well crafted, good language, gripping to the young, full of actions, running and fighting, in the same tradition as Lord of the Rings, with themes like duty and loyalty, love and friendship, courage and bravery, life and death, growth and awakening, eventual triumph of the good over the evil, etc. The scale matches that of an epic. But as far as I can see, nothing’s original, which is perfectly okay to his young readers.

To be blatantly honest, I find it a waste of time to sit through this over 700-page book. Even though I am not a teenager, I can imagine why 13-year-old readers cannot put down this book.

The familiar themes are conservative in nature, nothing shocking and repulsive to us. Actions, hard-to-gratified love, loyalty at the risk of one’s life, all have their appeals to the minds of the young. Fights over whatever issues are especially effective to compensate for the boredom and monotony of everyday life.

I have no doubt that, in 5 years from now, my children will have a different view of the book. For now, it is a good fit, a safe escape from daily boredom. After all, it is better than some other books, which I am too nice to list here.

1, Nov 25, 2008

Exercise of Both Brain and Body Muscles

Filed under: Health — admin @ 10:18 am

This entry is for my children, parents, and numerous readers who want to keep their minds sharp as they age gracefully. I read it somewhere not long ago but really forgot exactly where that somewhere is. Getting really forgetful. This confirms one more time that our minds need to be sharpened all the time so that they will continue working for us. Here’s the main idea that I read about.

Most of us invest large chunk of time and money to the exercise of the muscle of our bodies. We understand clearly the saying “use it or lose it.” In fact when talking about exercise, we all tend to think of non-brain body exercise, like jogging and walking. But seldom do we pay equally attention to the exercise of our brain muscle, me included. Isn’t that funny? As if our brain would remain unchanged over times. Now you see the dire consequence of neglecting the headquarter of our body — I am getting terribly forgetful!

I remember the five main cognitive functions of our mind that the author talked about — memory, attention, language, visual-spatial, executive function. Just as there are exercises to different part of our body, we also have exercise targeting at different functions of our brains. Exercise of our brains mean challenging, stimulating all five areas so that we stay mentally sharp and alert as we advance in age, not that fast though.

1, Nov 24, 2008

The Last Email Sent to the Clinic by a Doctor

Filed under: work — admin @ 10:07 am

This was sent out around the end of year 2007. I dug it out when I cleaned my crowded email box, getting ready for a 2-week trip to China. I thought to share part of the email here. She said she was fully aware of the fact that it took “a team to provide the incredibly complex management our patients receive. And that we all have an important part in providing the dignity, respect, and compassionate caring that our patients deserve during such a challenging passage in their lives. I feel so very fortunate to have been part of the best team I could imagine.”

She ended her email with this — “I appreciate all of your help and support. With gratitude and thanks.”

I was touched by these words — “providing the dignity, respect, and compassionate caring,” when I used to think of doctors as simply curing disease and making huge money. Idealism still exists somewhere even among doctors.

Every time I met a good person I think of Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” She was wrong again. I know I am so bad at seeking out the good folks as if they do exist.  Laugh out loud.

1, Nov 21, 2008

Things Parents Need Least

Filed under: Parenting 101 — admin @ 10:27 am

What do we need least? — Blame. Yes, I cannot keep my rage when someone blame me for having failed in parenting. I have been a parent of two for the past 19 years and have undergone untold hardships. I admit that I am not a perfect parent. Still, I do not need blame. I remember when some people criticized my parenting and I rose up defending myself, I was accused of “never accepting criticism.” That person has never been any help in parenting at all.

To be honest, many parents are already tired, exhausted, frustrated, even depressed in dealing with headstrong children. If, instead of offering constructive advise and help, others keep on piling blames on the failure of her parenting, which only helps to crush her will to do a good job of parenting.

I have committed many mistakes in parenting, regardless of my good intentions and constant efforts. I wish my children are resilient, always bounce back, remain a child in their hearts, becoming independent, responsible adult while remaining the innocent child inside after going through the vicissitues of life, not to be diminished by setbacks, obstocles, frustrations, betrayal, prejudices and discriminations, keeping the curiosity of the child even when they grow up.

I just realize I have so much to say to my childen and they never have time for my long-windedness.

1, Nov 20, 2008

Chinese American Children Accept God, Part Two

Filed under: Religion — admin @ 10:36 am

I am fully aware of the therapeutic function of prayer of any kind. Nothing would last for long if it is totally useless. The fact religion has persisted for so many centuries proves the power and function and even legitimacy of its existence.

Yet, if it is so useful to human existence, why do we have so many disbelievers? From my own experience with religion, I have found the biggest obstable to be a true believer is my thinking and reasoning power. To truly accept God, you must suspend your reason. Suspension of reasoning and thinking ability is the prerequisite to accepting God.

Yes, you must feel the existence of God without thinking. Too much challlenging to too many people with thinking heads.

I once told my children and I hope they still remember this, “The key is to be able to open yourself, listen to your deep-seated needs, follow it naturally.” I do not want them to be fixed in any one mode of thinking or living. So easy to say, right? I have no answer yet.

1, Nov 19, 2008

Chinese American Children Accept God, Part One

Filed under: Religion — admin @ 10:08 am

This is a very big and heavy topic. I have been thinking of this for a long time and never found enough time for it. I have been asked by many people about religion. I don’t want to give out a simple answer to a complicated question.

The simple fact is I have told my children again and again, “When you are in a dire need for help, emotionally, spiritually or psychologically, if you believe God can help, go for it.” You can say my approach to religion is very practical. Right you are. This is how I perceive church — a refuge where human seeks companionship with one another. It fulfills our deep-seated spiritual and psychological need, deeper than our reason can reach.

For me, I find it extremely difficult to cognitively justify a belief in the existence of a super being. Nothing gives me more goose bumps than inconsistency — outwardly praying with a gathering of believers while inwardly thinking of something different from the utterance.

Tomorrow I will post part two on this topic.

1, Nov 18, 2008

On Conversation and Montaigne’s Writing

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 10:23 am

I planned to send this to my son when he told me with excitement of his dinner with an old acquaintance of mine. The following was notes from reading a book on conversation.

Too bad I forget the author of the book, but I remember the book quoted extensively Montaigne’s writing. Montaigne invited people to attack his ideas as “agreement is boring and intellectually deadening.” Montaigne would be a total alien at my workplace.

Then, again, Montaigne found few people worthy of being his opponents, because most people were not up to his intellectual level. I laugh out loud. Yes, try working here in Kansas and you would be completed isolated.

He disliked “pretentious conversationalists who parade their learning” or those people “awaiting their own turn to hold forth.” So terribly and pitifully shallow.

Here’s an interesting observation made by Montaigne. “Just as our mind is strengthen with vigorous and well-ordered minds, so it is impossible to over state how much it loses and deteriorates by the continuous commerce and contact we have with mean or ailing ones.”

According to him, the main reason conversations were unsatisfying is that people “get defensive when their views are questioned.” This is so fun. “Most people, when their arguments fail, change voice and expression, and instead of retrieving themselves betray their weaknesses and susceptibilities by an unmannerly anger.” I am not aware of any mannerly anger.

Montaigne was so interesting that I was very much eager to get hold of Michel de Montaigne’s original writings, in French. Wish me good luck!

1, Nov 17, 2008

Parenting – No Easy Way Out

Filed under: Parenting 101 — admin @ 10:08 am

On 9/19/2008, I went to see my dentist during lunch break. We have known each other for many years. He is such a cheerful and agreeable person that I cannot imagine he is anything other than a loving father to his children. While keeping my mouth wide open and trying to amuse me with his story, he told me about his 3-year-old. “She would not listen to me if I say nicely. I had to make a loud noise with a wood stick to get her attention.”

I would like to tell him that loud noise might work at that age. I did not say a word. Remember he still kept my mouth wide open? I never forget this incident because I sincerely wish parenting could remain that easy when the children grow big.

1, Nov 16, 2008

President LBJ, Grandiose, and his Vietnam War

Filed under: Presidents — admin @ 11:10 am

I have been reading a book on US presidents in 20th century. There are tons of interesting and thought-provoking facts. I read an adjective describing Lyndon B. Johnson — grandiose, a rather derogatory term for a president.

Comparing to Jimmy Carter, LBJ was rather grandiose. He wanted to achieve an unprecedentedly large-scaled achievement — Great Society. To be fair, he did achieve tremendously and had done unprecedented good deeds domestically, such as, civil right laws, Medicaid, War on Poverty, etc.

Yet, he was more remembered for his expansion of Vietnam War to 550k strong and was forever haunted by the chanting — “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” Readers will be able to appreciate the fact that this man was truely grandiose, having the capacity to generate monumental results — large-scaled victory domestically and even larger than his victory is his defeat and loss in Vietnam War. A strange phenomenon. A paradox. What went wrong in his mind? Beat me.

1, Nov 14, 2008

Refrain from Making Judgment

Filed under: Parenting 101 — admin @ 10:16 am

We are so fond of making judgment as if we were full of wisdom and so in the position to judge. It is so easy to forget that life is a matter of choice and each of us live the life of our choice, that respect others means making no judgment of other people’s choice.

Sometimes, I hear one of my children making comments of other people in a rather disrespectful tone. I realize I must have set an undesirable example in this aspect, if not explicitly. To be sure, we live in the world of unprecedented diversity, which means we must be constantly aware of and respect the diverse forms of existence, passing no judgment on others, that is, if we want to be treated with due respect, too.

1, Nov 13, 2008

Birthday Party – Yes or No

Filed under: Parenting 101 — admin @ 10:47 am

I have heard some parents holding rather lavish birthday party for their children, an epoch-making event so that the children will never forget it. To be sure, the child certainly feel special when a big party is thrown on his/her B-day, with all attention on one person, the bigger the party, the more special the child feels.

Well, the question is: do they really need to feel special? If the answer is yes, the questions that follow are: is the party the best way to make them feel special? What are other ways that you can make them feel special?

I think it easier to throw one big party once a year than giving them due attention everyday in their lives. For me, I try to remind my children that everyday is the day that they should feel special, with or without any party, because they are loved and appreciated each and everyday. Plus, they know their mom does not want to spend money on such child-spoiling luxury.

Thus, no birthday party was held for both of them after they reached school age. Many of my friends asked me to hold a grand party for my son upon his high school graduation. Both my son and I had too much more important things to focus on than a party.

1, Nov 12, 2008

Strong Mom with a Weak Son

Filed under: Parenting 101 — admin @ 9:50 am

It has been nearly three years since I started observing with a high level of amusement of a mom and her son. The mom is past 50 years while the son is half of her age. The mom is a strong woman. She never recoils from hardship and always faces tough work with genuine smile from the bottom of her heart. She is like a huge tree for her son to lean on, which is good when the boy was little. Nice arrangement for both of them!

Yet, after the boys grew up and needed sunshine to grow on his own, the mom still presents herself as the huge tree giving shade and support to her son. Or that is what she thinks she is doing. In reality, she underhandedly deprives her son of the much-needed sunshine to grow on his own and to develop into a responsible and independent social being.

We are too smart to be such a strong mom, aren’t we or should we?

1, Nov 11, 2008

Protecting Your Child – Always the Right Thing

Filed under: Parenting 101 — admin @ 10:13 am

If you believe it is the right thing, do it regardless of whatever.
If you think protecting your child is the right thing to do, do it at any cost.
If you worry what others will say or feel or think, do not allow these irrelevant thought enter your mind in the first place.
If you let this bother you to the extent that you sacrifice your child so that you can silence others, you commit number one crime as a parent. For me, number one responsibility of a parent should be protecting the child from any possible harm.

As a parent, we often face the choice between pleasing the need of some people while neglecting the need of the child. The extreme case of such parent is Susan Smith of South Carolina who murdered her two children so that she could get married to another man. How stupid and how easy some parents can lose their minds.

The child’s need comes before anything else. Let Hades take care of any whining adults who are too selfish to think of anything else but themselves.

1, Nov 10, 2008

Talking about The Three Little Pigs with My Children

Filed under: Parenting 101 — admin @ 9:50 am

While taking a walk with the youngsters in my family, I asked them what they thought of the story of “The Three Little Pigs.” One tried to retell the story, the other told me the strongest house, the house of brick, was built by the youngest pig.

I hope the youngsters will always remember the moral lesson of the story — no pain, no gain; the level of the comfort and security that you will enjoy in your life is in direct proportion to the level of efforts you put into it. It would be too late by the time you need this security but you have not built for yourself.

Of course, the first and the second pigs can run to the brick house of the third pig. But living under other people’s roof? That’s too much compromise of our dignity as an individual human being.

1, Nov 9, 2008

More reading on paradox of time

Filed under: Education,Reading — admin @ 10:08 am

My weekend routine is pretty much fixed — art class in the morning, tennis lesson in the afternoon, then either clothes shopping or bookstore. The least that I can tolerate is clothes shopping.

Below is what I read from the paradox of time.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life… Everything else is secondary,” by Steven Job, p. 27 What does he mean by “living someone else’s life”? Whatever it may mean to you, I feel like making daily efforts so that other people can have a better life. Look at how I spend my weekend. This may be the definition of mom or should it be this way?

“All that really belongs to us is time; even he who has nothing else has that.” by Baltasar Gracian, p. 27 Don’t we know this already? Yes, then do we know how to spend our time wisely?

1, Nov 8, 2008

Asking questions at work: the Risk and Benefit

Filed under: work — admin @ 7:50 pm

If you think you can ask your smiling colleagues any work related questions at work, think again. If you assume everybody is willing to help because our ultimate goal is to get the job done, grow up or wake up, my dear friends. If you truly believe in the slogan of “teamwork,” try that in kindergarten.

The downright truth that has been repeatedly revealed itself to me is this — you are asking for trouble way more than for help.

First of all, you give people the opportunity to interpret your question as your being incapable of handling your own job independently,or as being incompetent on the job, or as lacking of the necessary skill to complete your task alone. Such a nightmare! You want to avoid this booby trap as best as you can.

Secondly, not everybody is as helpful as you naively assumed when helping others does not pay. Very often, people try to prove how competent they are on the job. Helping others only takes away their time to prove how good they are. Even worse, helping you accomplish your task might dwarf the accomplishment of the helper. After all, who wants to be the ladder for others to climb?

Thirdly, you expose yourself to all kinds of criticism, innuendos, and unfriendly gossips when your question reveal your weakness to some people with ulterior motives. Don’t be this silly. Don’t throw yourself into the mouth of a lion.

Benefit, you can get answer quickly, not without cost, though.

What is wrong with me? Nothing but the reflection of my two decades of work experience in the States.

1, Nov 7, 2008

Impatient with the Stupid Mistakes at Work

Filed under: work — admin @ 8:46 am

Recently I have met more than my share of frustrations lately — teaching a 10-year-old how to play chess when he simply cannot remember the rule of the game, not to speak of the tacts and strategies of this mind game.  At office frustration level went up when I encounter a different level of stupidity.

I often see people reporting adverse event like this — “cold/headache” or “CHF/pulmonary edema” or “CHF/kidney failure”  Are they two separate events or one causing the other?  In either case, we cannot report adverse event like this. Medical records are legal documents which is no place for any ambiguity like this.  Incidents like this often make me wonder what these people were thinking when they did it.  I had to spend a lot of time digging through thick records determining which is which.

Even more stupid than this is — the patient that I have spent so much time on was not my patient.   Frustration goes up to sky high when I think of so much of my precious time being wasted on someone else’s responsibility. My anger level never fails to shoot up every time I waste my precious time on stupid thing like this.

When reflecting upon this piece of my work experience, what can I say to my children?  Well, avoid getting yourself down to this level in the first place.

1, Nov 6, 2008

Reading is Crucial to Keeping Your Sanity

Filed under: Health — admin @ 8:37 am

I must find some times to read each day before going to bed so that my head is purified and uplifted. At least, that’s how I feel about reading yesterday.

We are facing endless trivials everyday coming from people of all sorts from everywhere, your office, on the street and at home.  We are so easily sidetracked and submerged in the seas of minor annoyance and nuisances.  Happily, reading can play the function of raising us out of this muddy sea to a more purify level.

This is the first time that I work with people of this level in my life. Most of my previous work expereinces have been with more educated population. Yesterday, 11/5/2008, an extremely upset thing happened at my office. I think it too unique to be missed. I need to record it for my children. Because this might start me to another position.

I saw a patient’s follow up was due but her data had not been collected by her CRC. I checked with the person who should get the data ready but had not. “Patient came on 9/11/2008. We can use this as her 5 yrs FU. Please let me know.” I need to update the system after her data ready. She was extremely mad with my email, thinking that I did not know what to do and pouring out many offensive words against me. Her eyes pierced at me in a very inhuman way just to emphasize her madness. I felt like being in a zoo instead of an office. I explained to her in as calm voice as possible that I was waiting for her to get the PSFS done. Since I came into this office July of 2007, 4 people left. I now see one of the reasons for their departure. If you ask me what I was thinking at that moment, “A dog can bite a human, how can a human bite back?” Sorry, this was what immediately came into my mind at that moment.

I am sure we all have unhappy moments meeting extremely unfriendly beings and all feel the need to forget them. Reading helps purge incidents like this out of my mind.

1, Nov 5, 2008

A president is as Great as He Wants to be

Filed under: Presidents — admin @ 8:42 am
Indeed, my prediction came true, a landslide victory for Democrats. One of the factors that has helped is the dissatisfaction with the incumbent administration. He took full advantage of this factor. Let me put in another way — the incumbent president helped tremendously defeating JM. Political battle is very relentless, pushing to the limelight of the world a young first-term senator who is little known 4 years old, dashing the 30-year long dream of the much well-known senior politician Clinton.

I remember my favorite president W. Wilson once said something like this, “A president is as great as he wants to be.” Indeed, we have seen presidents like W.G. Harding, C. Coolidge, H. Hoover in 1920s, the three least inspiring, most mediocre ones who only proved how incapable they could be and how wrong it was to push them into white house. And of course, we also have successful ones like TR, FDR, JFK, and B. Clinton. This elect has four more years to write his own history.

For us, we are writing our history everyday, just as great as anyone else.

By the way, there is something very amusing. At my current workplace people asked each other “Did you vote?” but no one asked “Who do you vote?” This is so different from the culture that I used to be in at Sprint, where people openly talked about their choices.

1, Nov 4, 2008

On Time Paradox and New Psychology of Time Part 5

Filed under: Education,Reading — admin @ 9:11 am

Now here’s another perspective on time.

The Present-hedonistic Time Perspective
(1) I believe that getting together with one’s friends to party is one of life’s important pleasures.
(2) I do things impulsively
(3) When listening to my favorite music, I often lose all track of time
(4) I try to live my life as fully as possible, one day at a time.
(5) Ideally, I would live each day as if it were my last day.
(6) I make decisions on the spur of the moment.
(7) It is important to put excitement in my life.
(8) I feel that it is more important to enjoy what you are doing than to get work done on time.
(9) Taking risks keep my life from becoming boring.
(10) It is more important for me to enjoy life’s journey than to focus only on the destination.
(11) I often follow my heart more than my heart.
(12) I find myself getting swept up in the excitement of moment.
(13) I prefer friends who are spontaneous rather than predictable.
(14) I like my close relationship to be passionate.

Check these questions against yourself and see where you stand.  As with yesterday’s posting, I have worked through then and found them very interesting and very much worthy of sharing with the readers here.

Oh yes, today is voting day.  Drawing from past presidential election experiences, I predict it is going to be a landslide victory for Democratic party.  Yes, any time there is a huge dissatisfaction with the incumbent party, you will see a similar huge victory for another party in the election.

1, Nov 3, 2008

On Time Paradox and New Psychology of Time Part 4

Filed under: Education,Reading — admin @ 9:46 am

Here’s more on Time Paradox book.  I just love this book and read more about it last weekend.  The author composed a list of questions for different perspectives on time. These are questions on the future-time perspective. p. 58

(1) I believe that a person’s day should be planned ahead each morning.
(2) If things don’t get done on time, I don’t worry about it.
(3) When I want to achieve something I set goals and consider specific means for reaching those goals.
(4) Meeting tomorrow’s deadlines and doing other necessary work come before tonight’s play.
(5) It upsets me to be late for appointments.
(6) I meet each day as it is rather than try to plan it out
(7) Before making a decision, I weigh the costs against the benefits.
(8) I complete projects on time by making steady progress.
(9) I make lists of things to do.
(10) I am able to resist temptations when I know that there is work to be done
(11) I keep working at difficult, uninteresting task if they will help me get ahead.
(12)  There will always be time to catch up on my work. 

Obviously, you cannot be future-oriented if you choose YES to all the questions.  I have answered all of the questions and will ask my children to do so.

1, Nov 1, 2008

Halloween, Ghosts, Spirits or Not

Filed under: American Culture — admin @ 11:14 pm

Yesterday, 10/31/2008, was Halloween.  I took the 10-year-old to go trick-or-treating inside our neighborhood. He was overwhelmed by the amount of candies that he thus got.  This is his first Halloween here.  It reminded me of the time when my children were small and how I took them out on Halloween night.

I remember reading with my children about ghost stories around this time of the year. They were all familiar with many famous western ghost stories or scenes of ghost, such as, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, the ghost telling Hamlet the truth about his father’s death. The ghosts, brought to life by authors, always fulfil certain mission that the living cannot do.

To be sure, ghost stories are people’s favorites everywhere around the world. There are many ghost stories in Chinese culture. One coming up to my head is Liao Zhai by Pu Songling. I hope someday my children will be able to read these stories and understand that the ghost stories are not for ghost but for us living. You can also say Halloween is not “All Saints’ Day” as it was originally meant to.

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