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

1, Jul 31, 2009

Techonology, Social Network, Time, Use it for Your Advantage

Filed under: Technologies — admin @ 12:31 am

At first we have email to connect or send message to friends and families, far and near, then IM shortens the time between the two parties, then facebook, youTube, myspace, blogging, twittering helped by cell phone texting, etc – all help broaden and enrich the quality and dimension of our social network.

On Saturday on the way to her art class, I talked to my daughter about this. What does it mean to us? It means many things. On the plus side, it vastly facilities communications and social network. On the minus side, any unnecessary activities, such as texting or emailing or IM-ing just for the fun of it, mean TIME consuming. Yes, we need to be connected, informed and need to participate in this wonderful social networking. But what for? Do we have to have a purpose in all our activities? Yes, if you value your time and your life. After all, without exception, all activities consume our time. Everytime I watch others engaging in non-stop social-networking and I see too many of this (e.g. texting), the first thing that hit me heavily is – ouch! you are wasting so much time. I am sure we can live comfortably without it.

I care how I spend my time and also wish my children would care. Finally, if you really care how you spend your time, never participate for the sake of participation; never connect for the sake of connection. Never do something simply because everybody else is doing. Always tap the new technology and maximize its benefit for your own advantage.

By the way, one of the reasons for my insisting on short posting is this – I don’t want to waste too much of my readers’ precious time.

1, Jul 30, 2009

Happy Birthday, A Dad Writes to His Daughter

Filed under: Father — admin @ 12:04 am

My heart misses a beat or two every time I read about a dad’s love for his child, no exception this time. I received the following from a long time friend of mine. A few scanty lines have expressed so much.

Late into the night, stars shimmering all over the sky;
Deep in my heart, for you
Qingqing, my dearest daughter,
A light is lit — a light of prayer.
On this day — a special day,
Your old dad,
Wish you — happy birthday and happy everyday in your life.
Happy birthday to you!!!

birthday_wish_from_a_dad4

1, Jul 29, 2009

Sarkozy, Vasovagal Episode, and Running

Filed under: Health — admin @ 12:39 am

Last weekend 54-year-old French President Nicolas Sarkozy suffered a vasovagal episode, collapsing while jogging after 45 minutes of intense physical activity in hot weather in Versailles. To be sure, vasovagal syncope – a nerve condition in which exhaustion and dehydration can lead to a loss of consciousness due to a loss of blood pressure. Luckily he did not reach the point of losing consciousness.

The incident makes me think of my children, both of them are very into exercise, keeping fit and in shape. As a worried parent, I feel compulsive to share some points on exercise with the readers. Keep in mind this — running offers more health benefits than risks. We only need to avoid some risks that running might pose.

(1) Avoid dehydration from heat and perspiration during exercise.
(2) Avoid extreme weather. You double-torture your body under extreme conditions. Exercise does not have to be a torture.
(3) Avoid over-exertion of yourself. When you don’t feel up to the task, either slow down or wait till you feel capable. You will have to pay heavy price for over-charging your body. For people of all ages, never over-stretch yourself. Even in exercise, moderation is the gold.
(4) Warm up and down so that your heart rate, blood supply and muscles have time to adjust to the level of demand. Slowly pick up speed and slowly slow down.

By the way, I like this soaring dove in real blue sky, thanks to Sarkozy.
dove_in_blue_sky

1, Jul 28, 2009

Ten Commandments for Your Workplace

Filed under: Education,work — admin @ 12:34 am

The company issued to us “10 Commandments for Your Workplace” created by Harvey Mackay. Like the Ten Commandments in the Bible, the emphasis on these points only projects the reason behind this emphasis, that is, the sorrowful lack of them among the employees. To be sure, these are very good points, rich and sweet. That’s why I post them here to share with my readers and hopefully with my children someday. Comments are mostly my words.

(1) Be respectful, including people’s ideas, views, time, manners, etc.
(2) Follow through — if you promise it, do it no matter what.
(3) Think before you speak. Don’t exercise your freedom of speech at work
(4) Help out — go out of your way to help whenever you can, always
(5) Learn something new everyday — grow and develop for your own good
(6) Pay attention — don’t bury yourself in your own desk, keep your ears open to going-ons around you.
(7) Ignore pettiness — think BIG, rise above, always in life
(8) Be patient — you will lose everything if you lose your cool
(9) A good attitude is up to you — be a positive factor wherever you move your graceful self
(10) Do your best, in all situation and under all condition. You are the one who need to answer for judgement of your conscience.

1, Jul 27, 2009

Ability to Listen and Understand — Key to Grow and Development

Filed under: Leadership — admin @ 7:55 am

Last Thursday’s leadership workshop was not consummated with a happy smile on the face of all the attendants. Thus, the next day, the organizor emailed everybody to see if anyone had any more to say on the topic. The email ended asking for more feedback, but then, the person wanted the follow up to be “on a positive note.”

I was toying with these thoughts and was very much attempted to reply-all with the following, but then I only sent it to the organizor because I am sure it is too far above most of people if I do.

(1) Why people express negative views when they know it is going to be anonymous? Is this the only way for people to tell what they truly think?

(2) All we have to do is to listen and understand. What happened during the meeting reveals nothing but our mental inability even to listen to anything negative without getting hot-headedly defensive. Does this attitude help to lead and transform all forces into productive and positive ones? What does it say about the accomplishment of this leadership workshop? If we cannot bear the different views, does it constitute the essence of intolerance?

I believe the company, like a person, can benefit tremendously from listening. On the note of self-checking, if the purpose of the workshop is to lead and influence, regardless of what, what do we learn if all we can say to those who express views different from that of ours is “You can leave the company if you don’t like it?” Is it so hopelessly difficult to change people who came in to workshop with prejudice and went away unchanged?

So much for a wonderful sunny Monday.
agree_to_disagree

1, Jul 26, 2009

Can’t Quit their Day Job Even at Age 70

Filed under: work — admin @ 12:41 am

Yesterday I met a neighbor of mine at the local grocery store. Most of the time we see each other and say hi and are too busy to chat, but not today.

She asked about my children, then the topic moved to her plan. I learned that the only bread-earner in her family lost his job recently. Though he found one later, the pay was far less than before. “We will probably work till [age] 70.”

After that, I kept thinking of her and feel sorry for my neighbor. What makes some people keep on working at age 70 and some others can retire before they turn 40? The only factor that determines when we can retire is money.

My daughter said, “How boring it is if you don’t work.” Unless you day job is exactly what you are interested in, you are better off turning to your real passion if you have this money.

1, Jul 25, 2009

Thou Shall Not Steal and The Rabbis Turned Criminals

Filed under: Crime — admin @ 12:16 am

CBS News.com, July 23, 2009 3:58 PM, “Thou Shall Not Steal: Rabbis Masterminded Money Laundering Ring, Say Feds,” posted by Neil Katz

MSNBC.com, updated 6:26 p.m. CT, Thurs., July 23, 2009, “44 arrested in N.J. corruption probe Suspects include rabbis, mayors; probe involved black-market kidneys.” By AP.

Washingtonpost.com, Friday, July 24, 2009; 6:40 AM, “Officials lambaste NJ corruption after 44 arrested,” by DAVID PORTER, The Associated Press.

New York Times, “44 Charged by U.S. in New Jersey Corruption Sweep, Agents led suspects from F.B.I. headquarters in Newark on Thursday. The inquiry began with questions on money laundering,” by David M. Halbfinger, 7/23/2009.

BBC news, “US corruption probe nets dozens, More than 40 people, including politicians, officials and several rabbis have been arrested in a major FBI operation in the US. Three hundred agents raided dozens of locations in New Jersey and New York as part of a 10-year probe into corruption and money laundering.”

What happened to the politicians and religious leaders? Not close enough to law or to God? Not really. To be sure, it must be large enough to catch so much national or even global attention. The disturbing part is the offenders are supposed to exemplify their own moral teachings. The fact they knowingly transgressed the force of law and the teaching of their Bible makes the transgression especially unpardonable.

How can we explain the downfall of these powerful persons? Is it because the power of money is too great to resist even to these religious leaders? If that is the case, I am shuddered at the thought that my children someday in the future might be exposed to such temptation. Then again, with my constant nagging, I am sure my children know better than getting themselves into such a huge disgrace.

1, Jul 24, 2009

Workplace Culture, Positive or Negative and Our Attitudes

Filed under: work — admin @ 12:31 am

Yesterday was a busy day — meeting early in the morning, monitor visit after that, fetching my daughter from school at noon, and leadership workshop at 3 PM.

On homework for yesterday’s workshop, we were supposed to ask 6 people of this question, “How would you describe the workplace culture here …?”

My partner and I each got 6 responses from 12 sources. While the responses I have received are almost all positive, those of my partner’s are just the opposite, partially because she assured people they were anonymous.

My attitude toward all positive input is, somewhere some people have not told the truth. It seems we need to cover our face to reveal the truth. Or some express what the workplace culture should be instead of what it in reality is.

I view negative input (criticism) as being more helpful than praise. First of all, people care to provide lengthy input. I would not spend that much time. Secondly, criticism opens our eyes to places where improvement is needed. Criticism has the potential to bring about changes, advances, and progress. If we are all content with our status quo, we feel no need to change, innovate and advance, and just wait for a sad ending.

I was shocked over some people’s attitudes toward negative input. They got defensive, trying to invalidate any negative inputs. In fact, other than the organizer, all present got defensive. In fact, their attitude toward criticism is nothing but negative. No wonder people want to remain anonymous — the only way to tell the truth. It is all because of this hopelessly non-confrontational lie-telling American culture. Happy Friday.

1, Jul 23, 2009

Don’t Give up Your Day Job. Keep Both

Filed under: work — admin @ 12:06 am

Don’t give up your paycheck to chase rainbow or go birdwatching or whatever catches your fancy.

I am not a big fan of the 2007 Consequence debut album — Don’t Quit Your Day Job! Yet, don’t-quit-your-day-job reveals so much of the conflicts between what we have to do and what we would rather do during the day.

“It would be so nice if your day job is what you are talented at and also what you are interested in,” I told my daughter dreamily. “That doesn’t happen often,” she soberly reminded me.

You may be talented in singing, dancing, drawing, even blogging. But if you cannot make a living in the field of your talent, you are better off flipping burgers and at least get paid for it during the day.

It brings to my mind my favorite Russian writer Anton Chekhov. His day job was a medical doctor, moonlighting as a writer. In his own words, “Medicine is my lawful wife and literature is my mistress.” It must be exhausting to support a wife and a mistress. No wonder he lived only 44 years.

Isn’t that tragic? I wish we all could reconcile the two. So nicely goes the day job.

1, Jul 22, 2009

Jump Out of Your Personal Loss by Reaching Out

Filed under: Friend — admin @ 12:54 am

My friend from North Carolina came to visit us at the moment when she was overcome by grief over the loss of her mother in March this year. I know time is the cure-all in situation like this. Still, I wish she can move on to her life as quickly as she can. Here are some tips to her and also to myself in case I find myself in the same boat.

(1) Go out either to find a job or do volunteer work. By going out you jump out of your solitary confinement or even self-imposed house arrest. Meet new people, experience new life, broaden your horizon. All these will help divert your attention from your sadness.

(2) Have your own life and your own goal and pursuit, instead of latching on your spouse or children. This way you will have less complaint and feel a lot happier when your spouse gets back home in the evening doing something he enjoys. Live and let live.

(3) Find opportunities to do good and to be helpful to others. When you reach out and make difference, you will find your value confirmed and realized. When you are with someone who is in much more miserable situation than you are, you will begin counting your own blessings. Sometimes, get yourself blissfully busy for others is the best medicine for sadness and depression. .

Her visit reminds me of the song Lean on Me

Sometimes in our lives we all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow
….
So just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’d understand
We all need somebody to lean on

Lean on me when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
Till I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on

Lean on me…

1, Jul 21, 2009

True Beauty and Flower Picking

Filed under: Friend — admin @ 12:08 am

A long time friend from Bowling Green, Ohio came to visit us last Friday. She is now living in Raleigh, NC. We have not seen each other for 15 years, though we have been keeping in touch all these years. I had half day off yesterday and we left for airport in the afternoon.

We walked and talked for a long time twice in the evening. The more she told me about her husband, the more I rejected Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” Here is a hard-to-find good man.

Once they were walking in the state park trail among wild woods, my friend saw a beautiful flower and nipped it off. Her husband said other people also appreciated its beauty. If people before us were like you, we would not be able to see this flower.

There is always value or something deeper than what we hear or see. This often makes me think. I see true beauty in his words and like to share this with the readers. Now we know how we shall behave when we find ourselves in the similar situation.

1, Jul 20, 2009

July 20, 2008, The Day They Arrived in America

Filed under: Random Thoughts — admin @ 9:02 pm

Exactly a year ago today when my sister and her son came to America to study English. Things did not turn out the way my sister planned. So the boy went back in March this year.

The good news is my sister worked very hard with her son and finally caught up with the class so that the boy can successfully move up to the next grade. I am so glad for my sister. Hard work eventually paid off.

Respect – An Indispensable Ingredient in Any Good Relationship

Filed under: Friend — admin @ 12:02 am

My friend from North Carolina and I took a long walk yesterday evening, talking about many things relating to human interactions.

She told me how she and her husband dated and got to know each other. One thing that strikes me as essential to their successful relationship is the respect and admiration that the husband demonstrates for the wife. Upon learning stories of her past experience, he said my friend was a super marvelous woman. I could imagine someone hearing the same story could say “That’s nothing comparing to this or that.” You can also say lack of respect and the rudeness are the factors that can lead to failed relations.

While respect is indispensable to wife-husband relationship, I see it as the key ingredient in all human interactions and relationship, including that of parent-children and between friends. Once I observed the treatment of a friend of my daughter’s. The way she was treated by her mother was almost humiliatingly disrespectful. I would not be surprised if the girl rebelled when she became a teenager.

I always emphasize to my children the importance of respectful language and sincere respect for others, especially to those dearest to them. Nowadays respect and sincerity are so woefully lacking in families, as I hear disrespectful words thoughtlessly thrown in the air.

Here’s to my children the same old teaching once again — imagine how you would feel if someone told you to “Stop farting” (in Chinese language, this is a nasty way of saying “shut up”) or “Don’t talk rubbish.” I bet you would feel hurt, right? Therefore, never ever hurt other people with foul language, friends or relatives or anyone.

P.S. one strong point that we remember our father is we had never heard him utter any hurtful word to anybody. He was simply too kind to hurt anybody. Isn’t it a beautiful world if everybody were like this? Not happening in reality.

7/21, I came upon this quote today, too nice not to share it with my dear readers and hopefully my children will read it someday. ” Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are endless” -Mother Teresa

1, Jul 19, 2009

Time Management Tools at Leadership Workshop Part 2

Filed under: Time management — admin @ 2:12 pm

Explanation on the tasks in Action-Priority Matrix. See post on 7/18.
(1) “Major projects” are tasks that are high impact and in need of serious effort.
(2) “Quick wins” are jobs that are also high impact but less effort. A easy piece of cake.
(3) “Hard slogs” are jobs that need lots of time and energy without much significance.
(4) “Fill Ins” are things that we do when we have nothing urgent on hand.

The problem with many people is they tend to postpone job number 1 and 3 as much as they can or they will tackle it till last second, the moment before deadline. That is how procrastination comes in. It seems I am not the only one who tend to dodge hard work.

Those who are experts in wasting time tend to spend their prime time on Fill Ins. For some people, it is very tempting to focus their energy on Fills Ins and Quick Wins. If you think it so dumb to spend time on minors, take a hard look at the pattern of your own time-spending.

Now you know why we always get behind, feel pushed by deadline and where our prime time has gone, and why we need to manage time in order to get as much tough task done as possible.

1, Jul 18, 2009

Time Management Tools at Leadership Workshop Part 1

Filed under: Time management — admin @ 12:36 am

Last Thursday, 7/9/09, during our leadership workshop, we talked about job planning and organizing. The time management tools consist of two matrix:

Action-Priority Matrix

Y = low —-> high impact
X= low —-> high effort
Note: (1) being high impact and high effort and (4) being the opposite

(2)
“Quick wins
(1)
“Major Projects”
(4)
“Fill-ins”
(3)
“Hard Slogs”

Urgent-Important Matrix

Y = Not important —-> important
X= not urgent —–> urgent
Note (4) being least important and least urgent and No 1 being the opposite

(2)
“Important
Goals
(1)
“Critical
Activities”
(4)
“Distractions”
(3)
“Interruptions”

Time management is my favorite topic. I will come back to it later..

1, Jul 17, 2009

Bridge, Violence, Murder and Family Fight in 1920s

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:17 am

Recently a book came to my attention as it actually happened in Kansas City. I did not believe it was a true story. But after a shallow digging, it is sadly and dreadfully true. The Devil’s Tickets: A Night of Bridge, a Fatal Hand, and a New American Age, by Gary M. Pomerantz, newly published June 9, 2009, 80 years after the murder.

The plot is very straight-forward. A couple play bridge with another couple, with each couple as partner to each other. Mr. Bennett of Kansas City had the habit of slapping his wife when he was mad. He it again during this fateful evening of bridge, driving his wife to the same degree of madness, to the extent that the wife killed the husband with a few gunshots. The wife was later acquitted.

The story may be tragic, yet the book is a good read, entertaining and also opening a window into American life in 1920s, the roaring age and leaving readers wondering about all possibilities involved in family, bridge, and marriage. A family violent fight can possibly turn deadly. So scary when you think of your house as a haven instead of a battleground. Read it with a sweet chocolate in hand because the book does not leave you a pleasant taste in your month.

You will have a better understanding of the 1920s after you read Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920’s, by Frederick Lewis Allen, originally published in 1931. It is an excellent and interesting history book on an unique era of drastic changes in American history–between the end of the WWW I in 1918 and the stock market crash of 1929.

By the way, I talked to my mother over the phone on Wednesday evening, 7/15, and learned that a fight between two adults, not just verbal but physical, occurred in the family of the 11-year-old boy who used to live with me here. The couple even got my mother involved. Things became ugly to the point that my mother told them to move out of her house. There is always something going on, as if we don’t have enough of domestic violence.
Not husband and wife, just dog and cat over bridge

1, Jul 16, 2009

Lyndon B. Johnson — Personality and Success

Filed under: Politics — admin @ 12:05 am

LBJ was otherwise a great president and a high achiever, associated with many wonderful things, such as,
–the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the most comprehensive and far-reaching legislation of its kind in American history,
–War on Poverty,
–Great Society,
–Job Corps for the unemployed,
–Medicare and Medicaid,
–urban development,
–environmental conservation
–consumer protection,
–department of transportation,
–environmental protections laws — clean air and water
–food stamp law,
–the Head Start program for preschool children; ESEA first time pouring federal money into public schools
–Voting Rights Act (1965), which outlawed the literacy tests and other devices used to prevent African Americans from voting;

He was a brilliantly practical politician — ambitious, competent, practical, and visionary, and a domstic success.

The difficulties with him came more from his domineering personality and his involvement with unpopular Vietnam War. He was known for his abrasive personality — grandiose, overbearing, inability to create a trust among those who worked for him, making it difficult for people to work for him.

It is almost tragic to see the flaws in his character, though of different kind from those of Nixon and Bill Clinton. I have not a slightest doubt that these presidents had all the good intentions of doing the best job on their position. We only wish to see them impossibly flawless. Meanwhile, let’s drink to our dearest hearts and try to learn something from these people. At least, we know it is not pleasant to be around people with abrasive personality.

1, Jul 15, 2009

JOB Means Just Over Broke

Filed under: Economy — admin @ 12:49 am

I just learned a new acronym today. JOB = Just Over Broke. For quite a few Americans, a job mean JOB when they live from paycheck to paycheck without any savings. Once they lose the job, they are literally broke, bankrupt, destitute, down-and-out indigent! Sooo terribly sad.

Last weekend, a friend of mine called telling me that her 14-year-old daughter had been babysitting since last year and had saved $1,500. She asked her mom where to invest this savings. I am very much impressed. I don’t know what to say. She has more economic sense than some of adult American friends that I know of.

By the way, sometimes I see the term indigent stamped in a patient’s medical record cover, which means no money and no insurance. How many choices of treatment can an indigent cancer patient have? Not many.

On Monday, on the way home from the skating place, my daughter and another Chinese girl were chatting all the way. The topic was how much money they would make in the future. One said one million, the other said over two million. I was too tired to join the conversation, much as I wanted to. I am sure my daughter and her generation will never know the experience of JOB if they ever learn something from the current economic bitterness.

1, Jul 14, 2009

How People Relate to Each Other Throughout Generations

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:31 am

Last weekend I sent a picture of my children to four of my friends. To be sure, they are far from having a star-look. Rather, they are just normal looking kids. Still, they are very much dear to me because they have been such wonderful kids.

Last weekend my daughter helped me with some kitchen work, upon my request. She was so glad to have helped, asking me “Why didn’t you ask my help earlier?” as if I had not done so before.

Yesterday I felt a bit under the weather, my daughter insisted that I went to bed and let her prepare the vegetable.

I talked to a friend of mine last week over the phone. She is remarried with an American living in east coast. She said there would not be anyone to read if she wrote because she did not have any kids. In other word, I write because of my children. So nice of her to bring it up to me.

True, children means many things to one’s life. On the one hand, they mean responsibilities, cost, and your time, plenty of them on the parents’ part. On the other hand, they are endless well of joy and blessings. Yet, you won’t be able to enjoy their presence if you have not done a good job in parenting. Remember Esmie Tseng? Again, as always, reap what you sow. See this.
(http://momwrite.com/2008/07/esmie-tseng-killed-her-mom-how-can-we-prevent-it/ )

I am thinking of the kind of role model, legacy, and memory that I want to leave to my children everyday. They are behind every thought of mine in my decision-making. The thought of them dwarfs all other trivial things and minor annoyances, making them seem so irrelevant and so unworthy of my attention.

See how important the children are in my life. That’s how people connect to each other generation after generation. Don’t tell me I don’t have a life of my own. My life has already been made million times richer because of them.

By the way, my son will visit relatives in China as he is the only grandson in his paternal side and has thus been specially valued. Yes, that’s another way of how generations are related.

1, Jul 13, 2009

Startups, There Is No Higher Calling Than This

Filed under: Economy — admin @ 12:40 am

My son has been very much into startups since his high school years, from his internet venture to this summer job, and endless plans and ideas. Out of my wild ignorance, I often interpret it as his desire to be his own boss, an extreme form of individualism, the product of American education, so unlike me with an overdose of patience to work with the most absurd species. I started looking at his startup from a new perspective after I read these words by Paul Zane Pilzer.

Pilzer, author of many books including The Next Millionaires, made a comment on the virtue of startup, “When you create a business, you create something that improves the life of your customer, of another person, maybe of ten people, of a thousand people, of a million people. There’s no higher calling.

So nicely put. I feel ashamed for not being able to take on this higher calling.

1, Jul 12, 2009

China Needs No Confirmation. Neither Do All of Us

Filed under: China — admin @ 12:53 am

On the evening of 6/24, while I was reading Joseph Campbell’s A Hero with A Thousand Faces at Border’s with my daughter, a stranger initiated a conversation with me, telling me that he was studying Chinese now and how wonderful China was. I appreciate his kind expression of good-wish and friendliness. Yet, I cannot stop wondering how naive some people can be. He talked as if I needed to be confirmed and needed to be told how great China was, as if I cared how the world thinks about China. Sounded nicely condescending, leaving unpleasant taste in the mouth.

Somehow I have passed the age when I need this confirmation. And I think China also has passed this immature stage of development. She does not need anybody to tell her how she is and should not care any comments from outside. Just as America does not need to be told how great it is.

This friendly guy reminded me of the time when I was told how Americanized I had become, given to me as a compliment. Yes, I do need compliments like a little pupil! I know the world would be a lot sunny if people are not as sensitive as I am. Oh well, again, let truth stand.

Now I feel better after letting it off my chest.

1, Jul 11, 2009

To the memory of my father, the flower and all

Filed under: Father — admin @ 8:50 pm

flowers
22 years ago, July 11, 1987, my father, consumed by cancer, left us forever. Otherwise, he would be 80 years old this year. I was then in America, a second year Ph.D candidate. This morning I called my son and talked to him about his grandfather.

My father had an exciting and interesting life, born and raised in a mountainous area in Shanxi, a country boy who left his home village as a teenager to join the army, then became a member of Chinese communist party, had been to Korean War, graduated from a college in Beijing, had been in the inner circle of Ministry of Culture, ending his political career as a high-ranking army officer.

My father seldom talked to us about his past experience, but occasionally we heard some stories about my father from his comrades and my mother. We learned that he always emerged a key player wherever he went. During the Cultural Revolution, once two large contentious groups in Tianjin were on the brink of violent clash, with their swords already out of sheath, my father talked both sides out of their arms and retreated to their home, thus preventing the bloodshed of a large scale.

I once urged my father to write down his stories, my father, being an astute yet deposited politician, said, “Whatever I write, no one will publish it.” “I can find some publishers in Hongkong,” said I. “Not possible.” My father liked reading biography or autobiography of politicians. He once indicated that someday he would write his own memoir. In the end he left unprepared, leaving nothing written, nothing except memories in the living.

At that time I didn’t understand why he did not let me get it outside China, especially his experience during the Cultural Revolution. Now when I think back, I understand how much freedom of speech he had for someone in his position. He belonged to the Party, regardless how he was treated. Nowadays, you don’t often see such dedicated and self-disciplined party member.

The world has changed tremendously since his times. I wish he were still here.

P.S. My father was very proud of my writing, showing them to his comrades whenever someone came over, modest as he was elsewhere. Writing is the time when I think of him, eager to make him a proud dad. 7/12/09

1, Jul 10, 2009

Positive Thinking Yields Surprising Benefits

Filed under: Health — admin @ 7:24 am

A longtime friend of mine emailed me lately an article written by Jennifer Openshaw, author of The Millionaire Zone. Since the email was written in Chinese and my children cannot read them, I paraphrase the main ideas below. The central theme of the author is positive thinking will yield surprising desirable result to your brain, your health, and even your career.

The following practices will help you to lead a happy, healthy life, with certain degree of success.
(1) Count your blessings. Write down a list of things you are thankful everyday. We all know that we willl decrease our complaints when we are aware how blessed we are already.

(2) Keep a journal. It is a very beneficial practice in the long run. Get into a habit of journaling.

(3) Exercise to stay healthy.

(4) Think and reflect upon what you are doing, for 5 minutes at least everyday. It will give you a different perspective, relaxing and reconciling.

(5) Do good whenever there is a chance. It always leave you with a good feeling after you have done a good deed and realize you have made difference in a good way.

Develop positive habits or get rid of negative ones if you need to. The good news is it will take only 21 days for a habit to be formed.

Happy Friday with happy habits!

P.S. A friend of mine read this and promised to “practice these five things starting today!” 7/14/09. So shall I.

1, Jul 9, 2009

What is Needed to Be a Successful Politician? Part 2

Filed under: Politics — admin @ 12:02 am

Having a sense of justice and a heart like Jesus are far from enough to make you a successful politician. Just look at Al Gore. He had all the good intentions and knowledge to do wonder for the whole world by protecting our beloved Mother Nature, nothing being more noble than this. So sad when this noble man failed.

In the end, the one who grabbed the white house had the supports of all the conservative forces, the backbone of American culture. An acquaintance of mine said, “I vote for Bush because he is against gay marriage.” Big deal, yes bigger than global warming. That’s what the average Americans care about. Jimmy Carter with a heart of gold was beaten by an actor and a great communicator, no need for high IQ.

Presidents of a “democratic country” are similar to folk heroes, representing the core values of those who elect him (never a her). You have to adjust or even sacrifice yourself in order to make it work in American politics. For example, a politician must lower himself to the same level of the popular mind or stoop to cater to the taste and culture of mainstream America. This is too much a sacrifice for a person of integrity.

Political arena is a huge real-life stage, on which it is very hard for a politician to remain true to himself. Recently we see an exception to this rule — the coming of Al Franken, the junior United States Senator from Minnesota. Watch this guy. He will make difference in American political life.

In fact, this is an interesting period of American politics with many unique actors. Of course, the main actor of this kind is the current president. Stay tuned for more excitements to come.

1, Jul 8, 2009

Politics, Public Service, What is Needed to Be a Successful Politician? Part 1

Filed under: Politics — admin @ 12:29 am

It always takes a few days for me to bounce back after my son’s leaving. While my son and I were walking and talking, the topic moved into politics. There are many popular conceptions or misconceptions about politicians, as being ambitious, power-hungry, megalomaniac, with oversize ego, not all flattering though. In fact, politicians are seldom viewed as great as Mother Teresa of Calcutta, though they should be this way.

As an idealist, I believe the first and foremost indispensable quality that a politician should possess is an unshakable sense of justice and an absolute dedication to public service and the welfare of the great majority of people. A successful politician must be passionate about what he truly believes, like the current US president.

Character building and personal integrity are extremely important. We have plenty of examples of politicians with flawed character. Look at Mark Sanford, Governor of South Carolina, then the famous Lewinsky scandal that tortured Bill Clinton, and see how Nixion disgracefully went down history with Watergate scandal.

So colorful and dramatic.

1, Jul 7, 2009

Remember We All Left Home for a Purpose

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:37 am

Yesterday afternoon the whole family drove to the airport to send my son off. My daughter did not go skating in the afternoon in order to spend more time with her brother. At the airport, I asked my daughter to take a picture of me with my son. After saying goodbye, we left for home. My daughter looked cheerless and I felt equally downcast. So I told my daughter, “Your brother left home for a purpose, so do we staying here.” She sensed that I tried to cheer her up, so she asked, “Are you talking to me?” as if she did not need to be comforted. Actually I was also telling myself.

I told my son that 1/4 century ago I left his grandparents for America, a land of thousands of miles away, the separation and the sacrifice on both sides were painful, yet for a purpose, whatever that purpose was. I was then young and stupid, still I made this decision, believing I could achieve something better and bigger if I ventured out. In a way, by choosing to go out of the state for his higher education, he is in the same situation as I was 25 years ago, only he is not as far as I was from my parents and he has been well guided and prepared than I was before.

I am sure all parents feel the painful separation each time their children leave home. For me, a sense of purpose can help extenuate the pain and make both sides strong and focused.

1, Jul 6, 2009

Endless Opportunities to Do Good and Make Difference

Filed under: children — admin @ 12:16 am

For my daughter, today is the first day of second session of summer school. My son will leave for Georgia in the afternoon. I take the day off today.

While taking a walk with my son, we talked extensively on his career goal, short-term and long-term plans, his current startup engagement, character-building, reading and writing. I emphasized once again that success is the means to an end and this end should be bigger than oneself. It is crucially important to link his career goal to this big cause.

He knows he should make contributions to the mankind, yet he does not know that we don’t need to wait till we become rich and famous to do good. If you feel strongly about a belief, you will contribute in whatever manner you can. Again, keep in mind no education is complete if you feel untouched over the sufferings of your fellow human beings.

Their generation enjoys boundless opportunities and possibilities to do good and make difference. Exciting indeed. Now I am beginning to miss my son even before he leaves. Time to keep myself busy.

1, Jul 5, 2009

4th of July, Waste, and Extreme Form of Triviality

Filed under: American Culture — admin @ 12:18 am

The world is never poor in providing weird forms of entertainment. Yesterday I learned that a man ate 68 hot dogs in 10 minutes at the annual 4 July contest at Coney Island in New York, shattering his old record of 66. Once again, the world record for competitive hot dog eating has been proudly broken by an American.

It beats my limited brain to try to understand why people go through such a torture cramming down their necks so many hot dogs. I can never drag myself through this eating process unless my head is absolutely empty and all my brain power has been put off.

I read it somewhere as a true story that some Americans truly believe the only America has 4th of July. This story always shows up in my mind during 4th of July.

By the way, my son came back on 7/3 and will be leaving next Monday. The nephew also came back for the long weekend. The house has been full of life and laughter ever since.

Happily ended a 4th of July Saturday.

1, Jul 4, 2009

When the Little hands Reach Out For You, Do not Turn Away

Filed under: Parenting 101 — admin @ 12:56 am

Yesterday evening I talked with a friend of mine over the phone for a long time, well longer than half a hour. Her mother passed away quite unexpectedly, without having seen her. She was deeply regretful for not having spent more time with her before her departure. There were many things that she could have done with her mother but she had not.

This brings to my mind many things in life that we could have done but we did not. After that, we simply cannot turn back the clock and start from the beginning once more. For example, while the children are home with you, spend some times with them instead of leaving them alone. Yes, they will live no matter what. But your life will be richer with less regret if you can be with your child as long as you can.

About a year ago, 6/30/2008, I posted a little poem, Enjoy Your Turn. Parents, when the little hand reach out for you, please do not turn away, because the time will come sooner than you realize when “you become the one reaching out for that once upon a child!”

1, Jul 3, 2009

Smoking Parents Lead to Smoking Children

Filed under: Parenting 101 — admin @ 12:01 am

My daughter talked to me, with a rather mixed feeling, of one of her classmates. That girl told my daughter, “Both of my parents smoke and I have been second-hand smoker since I was born. I will smoke, too. It makes no difference.”

It reminds me of a lung cancer patient who quit smoking after this diagnosis. He complained of his son who was chain-smoking inside the house and made him cough non-stop. I thought the boy was just like his dad when the dad was young. And that’s how the boy learned to smoke like a chimney.

Both examples powerfully emphasize once again the crucial role of the parents in the health and behavior of their children. Once again, parents, behave yourself for your children.

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