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

1, Oct 31, 2009

Look Smart. We are Often Judged by our Appearance

Filed under: work — admin @ 12:51 am

When an American acquaintance of mine, out of her kind heart, offered to be my teacher of American popular culture, I started questioning myself. Do I appear this dumb, after 1/4 century stay mostly in higher education section?

This reminds me of the talks people so much enjoy engaging daily on how this or that dresses, in or out of fashion, and how much importance people attach to being right in one’s dress. Last week, I noticed how a CRC looked up and down at a monitor, as if making judgment on how people dressed.

All this reminded me of the time when I first reached this land in 1984 in Waco, TX. A nice highly religious lady, in an attempt to civilize me, blessed her heart, taught me how to eat apples. I was very much tempted to crack a joke telling her I used to live in cave or just got used to life off the tree. A salesgirl at a camera store ignored me at first but took a 360 degree change of attitude when I insisted on seeing her manager. All because I looked like a refuge fresh off the boat instead of a Ph.D. candidate.

Looking right has been important from very beginning. Yet I have all these years conveniently ignored it, lazily gone by my own rule, refused to yield to the shallow and superficial part of American culture, well, except during job interviews when I cared to look not-like-me. Meanwhile, I have observed the spectatular ignorance demonstrated by the nicely dressed and thickly-powered folks. A constant source of amusement at work.

1, Oct 30, 2009

Openness –The Only Promise of American Society

Filed under: American Culture — admin @ 12:59 am

On 9/12/2009, one day after 9/11, an interesting event occurred in Washington DC. Taxpayer March on Washington of 9/12/09 is an amusing phenomenon, though rather expected one from conservative forces in the nation. It was expected because we are in the times of extreme economic hardships for many people, the best times for a leader of whatever kind to arouse discontent. It was said to have attracted 600,000 to 800,000 participants to Washington DC on that day.

Their positions are:
Down with Obama’s healthcare reform
Down with big government
Down with federal spending
Down with anything seemingly un-American
Down with almost anything the president proposes and represents…

The funny thing is we never see such a huge gathering when billions of dollars went down into war efforts like the two wars waged by Bush. Guess money spent killing Iraqis and others were worthwhile.

Obama has demonstrated the greatest political courage to fight for public welfare at the risk of losing the chance of winning second term of presidency. He gives full energy to causes that he believes, even if it could mean political suicide. That was a rarity in politics.

One salient redeeming feature of American society is its openness, allowing its door widely open to everybody around the world who are willing to give their best to America. That’s why America has garnered most of the Nobel Prizes. That’s why American political stage has the largest non-white representation among white-dominated western nations. It counterbalances the conservative and reactionary forces in American culture. This is the only promise of American society, not the 9/12 Taxpayer March or anything of this nature. Otherwise, America will go downhill at a much faster speed than the Roman Empire.

1, Oct 29, 2009

Just Culture of Disrespect at Work Place

Filed under: work — admin @ 12:40 am

It is so funny that both of these should occur on the same day. Yesterday morning, we had a meeting introducing another must-take-annual-training-course “Just Culture.” I had a great expectation before meeting, but was disappointed after that.

I thought it was going to be focused on being positive and respectful, no gossip and dirty language at work place. Got really excited over the change of office culture. Instead, it emphasized on being legal and lawful, doing nothing against rules, regulation, laws and orders. Do not do anything to get us into legal trouble. The purpose is to create a culture in which everybody automatically follows laws and rules. This is actually another version of compliance training.

In the morning, something rather unpleasant happened because of lack of a good work place culture. A colleague asked me about a patient. I wrote back saying it was not my patient. She wrote back saying I should do this or that, even if it were not yours. When I went to her office to explain, both the office dwellers said the same thing to me, and even worse.

I was extremely upset over their undisguised arrogance and immediately wrote an email but did not send. Why don’t people use “Can you …” instead of “you should …” as if they were some kind of boss barking out commands when they are nothing of this sort and are in no position to tell me what I should or should not? I resent greatly this kind of bossy attitude.

One step forward, even if they were boss, respect is still in high demand. Why is respect so much obviously absent among people who dress like going to Sunday church? The discrepancy between the appearance and the behavior defies explanation.

What a just culture or lack of it or whatever you name it! I shared this office experience with my daughter in the evening. She told me not to let it bother me, “Not worthwhile to think more of it.” I wrote to a friend of mine who wrote to me with this …

“I wish so badly you weren’t treated with such disrespect there… I will keep you in my thoughts and hope that the situation improves and that things will blow over!”

Now dust has settled and peace finally returns.

P.S. I am currently reading a book on American work place culture, Then We Came to the End: A Novel by Joshua Ferris. A depressingly true presentation.

1, Oct 28, 2009

Pollution in China Captured by Lu Guang, Winner of 2009 W. Eugene Smith Award

Filed under: China — admin @ 12:53 am

Photographer Lu Guang of China has won the 2009 W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography for his four-year project on the effects of pollution in China. For more of his work on pollution in China, go to fengniao site.

My daughter was deeply disturbed seeing the human tolls brought upon by pollution in China. “It is wrong. And it is even more wrong if we don’t do something to stop the wrong.” Hopefully, Lu’s work will wake the world up to the stark reality of pollution in China and to more legal, collective and governmental actions.
The air is too filthy to be here.
Children born deformed and abandoned.
Land after polluted water.
Pollution has created more cancer villages.
Wasted water flowing into the ocean goes international.
No blue sky.
Washing in river filled with industrial wastes.

1, Oct 27, 2009

Waste No Time on Unneccessary Social Networking

Filed under: Technologies — admin @ 12:41 am

I once promised my daughter that I would give her a cell phone once she was in high school. Now I changed my mind. No cell phone until she drives on her own. I don’t care what others are doing or saying, I am firm on my decision.

She knows that money is not the issue as the monthly phone fee is only a fraction of the cost for her weekly lessons in art, piano, and figure-skating. She also understands many people spend tons of time on chatting, texting and other means of social networking, and she should not be like this.

Therefore, even if nearly all of her friends have cell phones, I am glad that she accepts without complaints the fact the she still does not have one. Modern technologies make communications so much like a heaven. I am not against social networking. Sometimes, they makes good connections and help out those who need to connect to others, like emotional support. Yet I repeatedly remind both of my children to never waste precious time on senseless emailing, texting, IM, Facebook, or anything that might crop up replacing Facebook. Never network simply for the sake of networking. We got to have something more important in life than this unless your life depends on this.

1, Oct 26, 2009

A Good Customer Service Brings so Much Joy

Filed under: Random Thoughts — admin @ 12:31 am

Last Saturday 10/24, while my daughter was doing volunteer service, I went to the bank, then to a Sprint store for a problem with my cell phone. The person who served me was extremely nice and kind, explaining to me some technical details about cell phone and radio frequency safety. After that, I asked him if he was a technician. Yes, he was. No wonder he was so clear in his explanation. Thus happily I left the store.

Later my daughter and I went to Sutherland to buy a box of apples. As we left the place, my daughter left a negative comment on the customer service of the store. “People don’t even bother to talk to you when I ask a question.”

I reflected upon these experiences. The technician at Sprint store could have saved a lot of breath by not saying anything to me, not even a “hi.” Of course, he did a lot more than that. He did it not out of job responsibility, but because he wanted to be nice. People at Sutherland store were expected to serve the customers, yet they were too lazy even to greet the customers. There seems so much negativity going around there. I am not sure if it is because people don’t want to be nice or they don’t care.

I told my daughter a good customer service was very important in making somebody’s day. At my work place I treat everybody, colleagues, auditors, monitors, and PM as customers and exhibit good customer service to all who deserve it. It really doesn’t take much. All you need is being nice to people you meet at work or everywhere. And that’s one of the ways for you to feel good.

P.S. the experience at Sutherland reminds me so much of the old socialist state where customer satisfaction was never the priority. Funny witness the same thing here in capitalist state, as if history repeats itself in another land.

One of my colleagues asked me again for my weblog. I told that person “My writings are more on parenting which is a boring topic to you.” And no again, but will be yes when the third time comes.

1, Oct 25, 2009

Glenn Beck, Rise on Fear and Herd Mentality Part 2

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:05 am

An individual in a crowd —
–loses his/her individuality
–is irrational, impulsive, and irritable, with dead fixed mindset
–is under total control by emotions,
–has zero tolerance of any different views, with death-to-those-who-differ-from-me mentality,
–sees the world as absolute two colors: black and white, nothing in between
–tends to go to extremes, admitting no doubt or uncertainty
–behaves more like an animal or one of the Herd as Le Bon called,
–is quick to action, good or bad, which is exactly what the demagogues intend in the first place.
–will do something that he/she would not if he/she is not in the crowd
–serves as the best instrument for demagogues

The crowd can be powerful and destructive, so much as that sometime the juries had to genuflect to its power, as in the case of O.J Simpson trial. China’s Cultural Revolution offers classic example on the destructiveness of crowd behavior on the greatest scale.

Time is the crucial factor. The author believed the modern age was an era of crowds. Demagogues work their wonder in time of deep economic hardship. Demagogues always capitalize on fear and insecurity that are lurking in the minds of those who are in want of mental power. Now is the time for demagogues to rise and fly.

Avoid the crowd, if you don’t want to subordinate yourself to a downgrade level of existence.

1, Oct 24, 2009

Glenn Beck, Rise on Fear and Herd Mentality Part 1

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:57 am

The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, by Gustave Le Bon, first published in 1894, latest edition 2002. This is an excellent book, the first one of its kind, on crowd mentality and behavior. Le Bon, 1841 –1931, was a French social psychologist, sociologist, and amateur physicist. I read it at graduate school and it comes back to my mind every time I see phenomenon like Glenn Beck. It is especially true in the age of mass media, with TV and internet.

The larger the crowd is, the less people think and the bolder they become, believing themselves indefeatable and capable of doing any crazy things — anything can go and everything is possible. So you can say the capacity of one’s mental power diminishes and is even reduced to zero as the crowd gets large. Once in a crowd, people totally delegate their thinking and reasoning power as human beings to demagoges who articulate, magnify and fire up to a wild prairie fire using whatever discontent lurking in people’s minds.

People who are not in the habit of thinking by themselves have an instinctive need to obey a leader and are easy victims to demagoges like Hitler, Mussolini and now Glenn Beck, the winner of the crowd control. Mussolini once said, “The crowd is like a woman, the crowd likes strong men.” How women hate these words!

1, Oct 23, 2009

Interesting Real-Life Stories from Office

Filed under: work — admin @ 12:42 am

The doctor next door to my office was Women Who Mean Business honoree for the year 2008, chosen by Kansas City Business Journal. She is the only doctor in the list. She is one of the few doctors here who is easy to get along and has the least air of importance around her. Sometimes, I was wondering why other doctors couldn’t be like her. Now I know why.

On 10/15, one of my colleagues sent out an email, asking us if we would do something for our boss on the Boss’s day, like what they did last year, inviting the boss for lunch. I turned it down flatly as I am straightly against any activities that aim at bootlicking your superior and sacrifice my integrity, even though everybody does it and makes it a tradition here.

Last week, a big mistake committed by a colleague came to my attention. But as it was not up to me to point it out, I chose not to say anything to that person. I confirmed my view with another colleague of mine, who properly revealed the issue to some related person who wrote the doctor, without getting me involved. Alas, it takes so much to bring it into the broad light.

Yesterday I copied and gave my posting on work hard and spend harder to one of my colleagues, who asked for my blog site and was turned down. “You must have written about me on your blog,” said she. Well, on hindsight, I should not have shared so much in the first place, though I have nothing to hide from her.

1, Oct 22, 2009

Work Hard, Spend Harder, the Material-Oriented American Culture

Filed under: American Culture — admin @ 12:05 am

It would be unfair to say most Americans do not work hard. On the contrary, most of them have over-worked themselves. On 10/20 a monitor from a southwest state came to our office. As usual, we chatted a little bit, then started the real business. While chatting, I shared with her the definition of happiness posted on 10/17 blog. She paused for a second and said, “You know what. It really makes sense.” Next she told me of someone that she knew of. Her acquaintance, over 60 years old, plans to work for another 10 years before she can retire, in order to pay off her mortgage.

Leaving the monitor room, I entered a room filled with cancer patients, most of them being senior citizens. A feeling of sadness overwhelmed me as I reflected on the words of the monitor. It is a rather sad reality when you think of the fact that for most people, they work hard all their lives and finally they can afford to retire, a disease like cancer strike them down, rendering them incapable of thinking of anything but how to stay alive.

One might be wondering why people do not retired earlier. Don’t they work hard all their lives and should be able to afford an early retirement? There is no doubt that most Americans work hard. As a matter of fact, it is a known fact that Europeans work less and enjoy more vacation than Americans do. A report from International Labor Organization reveals that Americans worked 1815 hours in 2002 while French 1545, Germans 1,444 for that year.

I can come up with two explanations for this– either most of Americans do not make much for their work or they spend more than their earnings. Considering the material-oriented American culture, I am more gravitated toward the second explanation. That is, Americans, being the most improvident people of all, work hard and spend harder than they are at work, saving nothing but garage trash for their advanced years. It makes zero sense when a man toils his life away for a huge house, a giant car, and other superficial materials, but never has the time, the health and the state of mind to enjoy. It is more like a life of slavery of our own material possessions. How much can you expect of civilization existing on this lifestyle?

For my children and my dear readers, life should not be made up of this endless toil and moil. It got to have some joyful meaning. Work is only a means to an end, whatever the end may be. We will definitely be able to enjoy more of life with early retirement if we can value time more than material possessions.

The same idea was articulated in 9/14/09 posting.

1, Oct 21, 2009

Woodrow Wilson, One of the Greatest US Presidents

Filed under: Presidents — admin @ 12:56 am

Upon learning Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, I thought of my favorite US president, the greatest one according to this writer, also a Nobel Peace Prize winner– President Woodrow Wilson.

No president has been as visionary, intelligent, inspiring and progressive as Wilson. He was the only professor-turned president and was the president of Princeton University before that. After World War I, he introduced in his 14-Points the idea of a league of nations, the first time in history of its kind, which won him the 1919 Nobel Peace Prize.

While Wilson fought hard for the League of Nations, he failed to have his peace effort passed in US Senate. Being a great thinker and an idealist, he would naturally be not understood and accepted by the average crowd of herd. He left the white house, rather beaten and disheartened. In fact, he was so unpopular by the time of next election that Americans chose a president who was in direct opposite to Wilson — Warren G. Harding. Harding came to the white house only to prove how dim-witted and incompetent he could be in that position.

Yet, years later, Wilson’s tremendous value was gradually discovered by historians and unfolded to the future generations.

Some people called him a white supremacist, which is absolutely true. Then again, at that time, how many white men in upper society were not white supremacists? And how many of the nation’s founding fathers did not own black slaves? It might be too harsh to judge a person out of his historical context.

Wilson once said, a president can be as great as he wants to. Indeed, in that position of high power, anything seems possible — war or peace or whatever. That’s how America found itself in Vietnam and now in Bush’s 2 wars. Alas, as Wilson was not popular when he left white house, his brilliant words and ideas were not taken seriously, so much so that the next three US presidents following Woodrow Wilson, Harding, Coolidge and Hoover, had proved themselves to be the most insignificant and nugatory occupants of white house.

1, Oct 20, 2009

Original, Unconventional and Success

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:14 am

It has been nearly two years since I first talked to my daughter about getting some work experience either by working for others or starting her own company. We all agreed that work experience was very crucial to her future success. At first, money-making is not the concern. Yet, so far nothing has happened.

Yesterday evening, I raised the topic again. “How about setting up a business that helps students with SAT preparation?” I threw out this suggestion. I said we all tried to capitalize our own assets, that is, what service we can offer others. Since you have worked on SAT preparation, you can reflect upon this experience and try to make it valuable to others.

My daughter thought the idea not feasible, “People would hire someone much older than I am,” said she. She thought people had prejudice regarding the age of people they would hire for help.

Indeed, prejudice does exist when people prefer older and experienced tutors as if younger ones were not qualified. Prejudice is not right. It is up to us to wipe any prejudice of this kind. If we don’t do anything, we actually feed in and thus perpetuate this prejudice.

Moreover, keep in mind this. When you set up a business, it does not mean that you do all the job. You can always hire someone to do what you cannot do. You have to rake your brain and be able to come up with solutions when you have your own business.

This I keep telling my children — if you want to be like everybody else and end up being mediocre, follow the convention. If you want to be successful, be original, unconventional and resourceful in your thinking, your planning, and your action.

1, Oct 19, 2009

Learning Chinese from the Blogs

Filed under: Random Thoughts — admin @ 12:39 am

My children once asked me why I did not write in Chinese. Fancy asking this. “So that both of you can read it,” was my answer. “It will be an incentive for me to read it if you write in Chinese,” I was told of this. I do believe they will read the Chinese blogs, don’t I?

As I didn’t want to dampen any upbeat enthusiasm that the child might have at the moment, I promised to post some Chinese occasionally. Here’s part of an email sent to me from a friend of mine. Part of the difficulties of posting in Chinese is that I have not made it possible to posting in Chinese.

As the quote sounds a bit mawkishly corny and sweet, I will simply extract the main idea of the quote. That idea is, if you can be nicer with someone, don’t be just nice. Be nicer than nice. If you can be together with someone, don’t separate lightly, well, unless both agree to be together.
Be nicer than nice

1, Oct 18, 2009

Nobel Prize in Economics but not in Mathematics

Filed under: Random Thoughts — admin @ 12:38 am

This year’s Nobel economics prize goes to Elinor Ostrom and another American economist, the first time that a woman is thus awarded. This brought up an interesting fact about the history of Nobel Prize, that is, a question that many people have tried to answer — why we don’t have a Nobel Prize in mathematics so far.

There have been some explanations for this question, many of them are romantic in nature regarding the founder of the prize, Alfred Nobel. A look at the history of prize in economics will invalidate any explanation of this kind.

So far we have Nobel in Peace, Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, and Economics. Award to economists started only in 1969, not one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895. This is to say a prize in mathematics or in any field is always a possibility if a mathematician has prove him/herself worthy of it.

One step forward, isn’t it not too far from truth if people can always come up with some explanations when they have not convinced the world with their achievements as economists did in 1969?

For me I know it is always tougher to blame ourselves than blaming others.

1, Oct 17, 2009

Take Control and Take Charge of Your Life

Filed under: Life — admin @ 12:38 am

This is an email that I wrote to a friend of mine on 10/8/2009.
“What you describe in your email — ‘the fact that I have full control of the way things go around here, (including my pace, and happiness) which has made my life much less complicated and stressful!’ – reminds me of a definition of happiness that I learned back in graduate school. That is, happiness means the maximum of control over one’s life. The more control you have over your life, the happier you are.

Based on this definition, I cannot say I am as happy as I want to be when I would rather do something else but I do not have other choice or I would rather spend my time on what I enjoy, which is not what I am doing right now. But It is up to me to reconcile, compromise and make life easy for myself. It is up to me to make sense of and give meaning to my daily experience. If I cannot control factors outside me, I can at least control the way I think, which holds the key to my happiness.

If anything, you might find me often talk on a higher level. That is because I think a lot, but I make this clear to myself that I am responsible for making myself happy. If I am not, I don’t blame anyone else but myself. This may be called taking control of our lives, thought and action.

I have talked too much for this cloudy day and hope our minds are bright and sunny, regardless of clouds outside.”

1, Oct 16, 2009

Money Lessons That Children Need to Learn at Home

Filed under: Money — admin @ 12:35 am

Last weekend I read from the Internet about mistakes that parents are likely to make regarding teaching children on money management. Oh boy, all of them sound so familiar. Here are a few mistakes.

(1) Set no limit. One is lucky if one’s child behaves responsibly. Otherwise, one should set a weekly or monthly or yearly limit on how much a child is allowed to spend.

(2) Neglect giving life lessons in daily life. Of course, life lessons include money management. A child starts boosting his/her financial IQ right from home with the parents.

(3) Leave children out of the picture when you make long-term financial plans, considering children too young to understand or sparing them the burden of financial matters of the family.

(4) Fail to start a kid’s saving account and to give the kid an opportunity to manage his/her own finance.

(5) Fail to explain how credit cards and bank work. Actually, many parents themselves fail to set a good example in using credit cards.

I have to confess, at some point during my previous parenting, I have committed the above mistakes, one by one without missing any of them. I am glad to say I am getting better now, after enduring some irreparable losses. Hopefully, readers who are like me, will become wiser because of their previous mistakes.

1, Oct 15, 2009

How Much A Mother Will Do For Her Children?

Filed under: Mother — admin @ 12:32 am

On Tuesday evening, after calling my family in Beijing, I was mulling over this question. The next day the same question still hangs around in my head. I learned of one mother’s extraordinary way of helping her child. She realizes the limitation of her teaching and influence on her adult child, especially when the child is far away from home. She is also keenly aware of the randomness of fate and so many things that are beyond human control, subject to forces outside us. Therefore, instead of doing nothing, she seeks every opportunity to do good deeds, believing “good deeds will eventually yield good returns” — the typical Buddist law of moral causation. The more good deeds she performs, the more good turns will visit her child. It is true as long as you believe it. Another mother works her head off to accumulate wealth so that her child will have enough to live on.

I shared this with my daughter on our way to her art class yesterday evening. She said the first child should do the good thing himself. “Gee, I never thought of this,” said I. “It is so obvious. Since this is for his good, he should do it to get the good return,” she answered. On the second mother, my daughter thought it so pathetic. “You certainly have a different view from mine,” I commented. “It’s because you are different,” said she.

For me, I don’t have much money and have not accumulated plenty of good deeds for them to enjoy Karma effects. I am, in my own quiet way, plodding and blogging everyday, so that years later when they have time and feel the need, they will have something to read and hopefully to benefit. I have no doubt every mother has her unique way in what she can do for her children.

1, Oct 14, 2009

Try to Stay away from Job Related Stress

Filed under: work — admin @ 12:41 am

The World Health Organization has called chronic job stress a “worldwide epidemic.” Work-related stress seems a part of modern life and culture, especially if one has to work in a company. Facing constant threat of layoff and deadlines, encountering and dodging unagreeable people everyday, modern stressful life causes stomach-irritation, appetite-ruining, sleep-deprivation, fatigue syndrome, general decline of health, and even cancer.

If you have choice, you can leave the stressful position and go with some less stressful one. Yet, for most of us, stress-free job is simply not an option. Still, no need to be pessimistic. There is forever one thing that is within your control, your attitude, regardless of your environment. Yes, you can always choose an attitude and a mentality, that gravitates to stress-free and to your health and benefit.

1, Oct 13, 2009

Job for Government or for a Private Company

Filed under: work — admin @ 12:44 am

This is from a monitor who used to work for US government, that is, for CDC. Now he is working for a private company. This is what he told me. “It never pays well if you work for government or for university. Only private practice pays well. The tradeoff is you have more security working for government or university but not enough to live well. You got paid well working for private practice but never have the same level of job security.”

This is true in the past, but I am not sure how things are now and how it will be in the future. Also, I realize he has to travel for 80% of his working time, away from home, from his responsibility as a father. Because of this I would say he has to pay dearly for his well-paid job. Yes, the cost of his well-paid job is the joy of his family and the hardship of constant travel.

Life consists of so many tradeoffs, though not always of equal value. We always compromise, sacrifice or give up something in order to gain something else. I hope my children will follow a rather different path from that of this monitor and will take whatever job, government or private, as long as they don’t have to compromise the joy of their families.

1, Oct 12, 2009

Skating, Goal-Setting, and Reaching Your Major Goals

Filed under: Emotional Intelligence — admin @ 12:23 am

Yesterday afternoon, right before my daughter started skating, I asked her to set a goal for this practice session. I was thinking of my 10/7 posting on “Task-Oriented vs Time Oriented.” I asked her to focuse on one particular task as her goal for that afternoon. After an hour’s practice she came out of the rink, feeling a bit frustrated over her lack of progress. I could see the same pattern reappear — practice, frustration, practice again, … finally giving up.

I told her life could be seen as a constant process of goal-setting, reaching, re-setting, and reaching again. That is how we progress and how we jump and leap to a higher order of existence. Failure to reach your goal or giving up half-way without reaching the destination, even if it is a minor one, is very symbolic and significant. Because if you do not have the steel in your character to carry you through a minor goal, how can you expect to achieve something big? In fact, these daily minor goals are like the building block for the bigger goal in life. The accumulated effect of minor failure will lead to a major one. Don’t take it lightly, no matter how minor it may seem.

My children are all very familiar with a person that I have told them many times. He started Ph.D program the same time as I did in 1986, but gave it up after spending 11 years on it. You can make it a classic example of many things — procrastination, lack of self-discipline, poor time management, lack of efficient study method, and failure in goal-setting. I am sure he would have a totally different result if he had set goals and followed them through religiously.

1, Oct 11, 2009

Charting Through the Uncharted Path

Filed under: Parenting 101 — admin @ 12:47 am

Yesterday morning I drove my daughter to Union Station for another Saturday monthly science seminar. The topic is on wind power, a comprehensive approach to delivering affordable energy to Kansas City, a look at wind power vs other forms of energy by Joe Medina from KCPL. Very interesting lecture!

After the lecture I drove my daughter from Union Station to her volunteer work. From Pershing and Main to somewhere east of 435 highway I drove through streets and neighborhoods which I had never been before. Good thing I was not alone. I said to my daughter sitting in the back, “It gives me an uneasy feeling to wade through the unfamiliar place. I feel sort of uncomfortable seeing the new surroundings.” She did not share my sentiment, which is a good thing, considering our age difference.

A Chinese saying goes “gu tu nan li” — It is hard for one to leave the place where one has lived for a long time. The saying not only emphasizes the attachment one develops to a familiar location, but also implies another part of it, the hardship of breaking out of one’s comfort zone to enter into the unknown, the one I just mildly experienced. It takes certain degree of mind power and initiative to rough through the process.

I remember the 26-year-old nephew recalled painfully how miserable he was in the first three months of his stay in the US, living with a non-Chinese roommate. He started feeling comfortable after he moved in with three Chinese students. One would think young people fare well in adapting to new environments. Not automatically. One does need something extra, regardless of age, to make a comfortable adjustment.

1, Oct 10, 2009

Some Thought-Provoking Cancer Facts

Filed under: Health — admin @ 12:41 am

Cancers of the colon and rectum, which are related to diet and lifestyle, are rare in developing countries, but are the second most frequent malignancy in affluent societies. Now think twice next time you indulge yourself in American fast food.

The proportion of breast cancer deaths is far higher in the rich countries (2 per cent of all female deaths) than in economically poor countries (0.5 percent). Overweight is one of the explanations.

Research shows that individuals from medically under-served populations — a lack of health care coverage and low socioeconomic status (SES) — are more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage cancers that might have been treated more effectively or cured if diagnosed earlier. One’s SES includes mostly a person’s income, education level, occupation, social status in the community and where that person lives. SES, more than race or ethnicity, predicts the likelihood of an individual’s or a group’s access to education, certain occupations, health insurance, and living conditions— including conditions where exposure to environmental toxins is most common—all of which are associated with the risk of developing and surviving cancer.

Per 100,000 men and women, of cancer of all sites, African Americans have the highest cancer incidence and death rate (504.1 and 238.8); American Indians have the lowest cancer incidence rate (297.6); Asian/Pacific islander has the lowest of death rate (115.5).

We might understand people with least stress in their lives enjoy the lowest cancer incidence. They might be least exposed to environmental toxins and chemicals. People concentrated in lower social level suffer the highest of both cancer disease and mortality. But how do we explain the fact the Asian/Pacific islander has the lowest of cancer death rate?

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have the highest incidence rates for both liver and stomach cancer and are twice as likely to die from these cancers as Whites.

White American females have the highest breast cancer incident rate, while African American females have highest breast cancer death rate.

Well, are we supposed to learn something now?

1, Oct 9, 2009

Obama — Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Filed under: Presidents — admin @ 7:24 am

A man’s life is but a brief span. If one can accomplish one great deed, that’s good enough.

Practice of Hypocrisy and the Want of Consistency

Filed under: American Culture — admin @ 12:33 am

This was written as we entered the 8th year of the US invasion of Afghanistan. It troubles me to see no end of this senseless war and troubles me even more when I observe that some of the discrepancies in American culture have been so conveniently accepted without ever being challenged.

On the one hand, the strong pro-life fundamentalist voices who backed fully behind Bush’s power usurpation give people an impression that these seemingly pious Christians love God-giving lives above anything else, even before their birth.

On the other hand, the majority of the same people have supported wars, the killings in thousands. Their support is indicated by the 4/2003 poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News, showing 72% of Americans supporting the Iraq War, despite finding no evidence of chemical or biological weapons. Love of God-giving life and the act of aggression and adoption of the most efficient way of killing innocent lives — all in one people, one culture. All this defines a culture of hypocrisy of the highest degree!

It is equally disturbing to see those against the war were only concerned that the war has not been worth its financial cost, placing money above human life. If the majority of people sincerely value human lives as they claim, they would not have supported the Bush wars or would have stage strong protest against wars as it is. Well, you can say it is un-Christian without war. That’s how we got the word of Crusade. Alas, the practice of hypocrisy makes every killing possible and anything good impossible.

As with LBJ-Vietnam, so down will be Bush-Iraq and Obama-Afghanistan, together with the culture behind them all. Yes, I know how people hate to be told that they are hypocritic, even if it is true. Because nobody likes ear-stinging truth and nobody cares.

P.S. Early this morning, this piece of news came in the air, “The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples.”

This is a confirmation of Obama and a denunciation of his predecessor from international community, a victory for Obama supporters and a slap in the face of his opposers. Now whether or not he will go down in history as one of the great presidents depends on his handling of Bush wars, economy and health care, other matters being totally irrelevant.

1, Oct 8, 2009

Hurrah for Rio — Hosting Olympic Games

Filed under: American Culture — admin @ 12:46 am

An unwise move again by our President.
Perhaps the President was caught in a Catch-22 situation as whether or not he should go to Denmark for his Chicago or maybe he over-estimated his political stardom or personal charm, whichever he believes that he possesses, when he and his wife made such a high-profiled personal appeal at Denmark for his Chicago hosting. Even if the world sees him in a more favorable light than the previous president, people outside the US has not forgotten what the US has done in the past 8 years. And no one person can erase the undesirable image that the US is enduring now among international community.

I was hoping Chicago would be kicked out and Rio would win when I learned of the President’s appearance in Copenhagen. I thought the trip was an unwise step, even if he felt he had to go for political expedience. I was wondering if he had already known that this trip was so futile, like a waste move in a chess game. If anything, this president is very flexible and resilient. He seems very capable of bouncing back after each faux pas. Probably he had no other choice, politically.

Ability to host the game is like the symbol of a country’s political and economic status and approval rate by world community. It means so much to a country that has never hosted before. It’s like coming of age, being accepted, the kind of feeling that US does not really appreciate.

It is a privilege rewarded by an international organization, which US deserved nothing of this kind. If anything, by denying Chicago, IOC sent a clear message of disapproval of US past behavior, two wars over UN rsolution and environmental records.

OMG, I sound so unpardonly unpatriotic. Oh well, let truth be.

1, Oct 7, 2009

Task-Oriented vs Time Oriented

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:04 am

I often heard parents mentioning how much time the children put into this or that activities. For some times I employed the same method on my children — you need to practice piano at least half an hour everyday. This does not necessary yield desired result.

Lately, I discover we might be better off if we can be flexible in imposing rules of study. From my past experience, I have seen failure in both methods if not employed properly.

For example, when you insist on children’s devoting one hour on practicing piano, what you often see is children play around the piano for an hour without getting anything done. When you ask children to complete homework, they would spend the whole evening on 10 math problems which they could very well get it over in 30 minutes.

In reality, task-oriented method works best on piano or skate practice when quality is top concern; time-oriented one works best on homework when you need to get it over in the smallest amount of time. I told my daughter, “Never mind how much time you put into practice, as long as you reach the goal you set for yourself.” With her math homework, I ask her to find out how much time one problem will take, then multiple that number with the number of your math problem is the total time needed for you homework.

For myself, I use task-oriented method at home doing my own amateur plus hobbies. At work, I often use time-oriented method, trying to get the task done as soon as possible.

Now, everybody, including the children, is happy with the correct study rule now.

1, Oct 6, 2009

Exercise Cut Breast Cancer Risk in Postmenopausals

Filed under: Health — admin @ 12:33 am

From my reading — Researchers say moderate-to-vigorous exercise may cut breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women.

The UK’s Daily Mail (10/1) reports, “A daily dose of housework could cut the risk of breast cancer,” according to a study appearing in BMC Cancer. For the study, investigators surveyed over “110,000 postmenopausal women to rate their activity levels at different ages.” They found that “women in the group who had done more than seven hours a week of moderate-to-vigorous exercise were less likely to develop breast cancer than inactive women.”

In fact, data indicated that “women who stay fit and physically active after the menopause are 17 percent less likely to develop the disease than those who rarely leave the sofa.” But, “light exercise in later life did not help, nor did exercise at younger ages.” The researchers speculated that “exercise may affect hormones in a way that helped prevent breast cancer.”

Take the report this way — exercise at any age will in general make you less likely to be victim of breast cancer.

1, Oct 5, 2009

One of The Most Abominable Crimes Against Children

Filed under: Crime — admin @ 12:08 am

I can’t believe “Precious“, a rather morbid and pathetical movie, won a top prize at Toronto Film Festival. I see in the story the most horrible crime against children and the failure of the society to protect children from their bestial parents.

The movie is based on the 1996 novel Push by Sapphire, rated R(restricted) for child abuse including sexual assault, and pervasive language, to be released on 11/6/2009. The heroine, the lost and downtrodden in the world of real hell, has all the necessary ingredients of the most abject and wretched human existence, just like the 1982 novel Color Purple by Alice Walker.

The 16-year-old black protagonist growing up in Harlem is all of the following —
HIV positive,
giving birth to the first child when she was 12 years old,
pregnant again at 16, both made possible by her father,
dropping school during 9th grade because of pregnancy,
her father = drug addict, AIDS invalid, and started raping his daughter since she was three years old,
her mother = AIDS invalid, physically and mentally abuses her daughter,
all of them living off our dear Uncle Sam and your tax dollar.

The protagonist somehow was enlightened when she read The Color Purple. Yes, she finally found somebody whose miserable existence seems to match that of her own.

I must confess that I am not familiar with the culture and the kind of life depicted in the novel. Even though these social problems and issues do exist and demand our attention, I would think them as being fit topics for social workers, government, sociologists or anyone determined to make a change to that culture. It is more proper to be committed in the form of documentary film. It is definitely too disturbing as entertainment to the eyes and minds of normal people.

I cannot say what the social impact that the movie of crime against the children has to exert upon the viewers or the moral consciousness of the parents who live off raping their daughters or abusing their children. At any rate, this is a crime that needs to deal with not an entertainment for relaxation. Just wondering how Obama thinks of those African-American parents in the movie.

1, Oct 4, 2009

Love and the Danger of Over-Mothering

Filed under: Mother — admin @ 12:30 am

One can understand mothering as acting as mother, giving tender, loving and nurturing care to the child by someone in the role of mother. This someone can be either mom or dad. One would assume one would not go wrong, at least not too far wrong, as long as one acts out of love. Wrong assumption.

As with everything that is supposedly to be good or out of good intention, it definitely goes to its opposite if one overdoes it. And even if one believes one acts out of genuine maternal love, one should realize that it takes some grain of wisdom to bring about desirable result, regardless of one’s initial intention.

Here are the damages brought upon by over-mothering or mothering without the support of adequate wisdom. I see too many examples of over-mothering and think it necessary to dedicate a posting on this topic.

(1) Do as much as one can for the children even if the children can do it, depriving children the opportunities to learn and do by themselve. A child can never develop into a strong and capable adult if he/she is protected like a little chick, always under the wing of the hen.

(2) Show over-concern and over-attention when assigning a task to a child. Such over-concern reveals more distrust than anything else, deflating whatever self-confidence that child might have in the first place.

(3) When a mother throws a strong figure, exercising control, influence and authority, or anything opposite to democratic style, the end result is a flat wimpy loser, which is the reflection of a failed parenting. So tragically true.

(4) Beyond age 3, any babying, pampering, cradling, in the name of love, serves more for mother’s psychological or emotional need for being hugged and cradled than that of the child. More than anything else, a child needs a psychologically healthy parent to grow into a normal healthy adult.

Alas, I have more than ever before realized so much is needed to be a good and wise parent and so few of them are seen in real life.

1, Oct 3, 2009

Mid-Autumn Festival in America

Filed under: Holiday — admin @ 12:02 am

This is the 25th moon cake festival that I spent in America, of course away from my family in Beijing. There are tens of thousands of Chinese here in America, who are like me, doing whatever entertaining for ourselves on this day. Good thing the festival of this year falls on a weekend.

We have invited a Chinese family, whom we have known back in Ohio in 1993, for a dumpling get-together. They bring moon cakes and we prepare some dishes; their eldest one is the same age as my youngest one. Both of them go to volunteer at the same community service center on Saturday morning. My friend in New York told me they would have a little party today with the girl that both of us know of.

My daughter called her brother, giving him good wishes on moon cake day. He was in a meeting.

I am sure most of us once in a while feel the same way as the poem very well describes. Yet, as thousands of our country folks here, we are so resilient and we can always create a home away from home and enjoy each other’s company on occasions like this.

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