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

1, Nov 30, 2009

High School– the Crazy Years Before Graduation

Filed under: children — admin @ 12:23 am

A few days ago, a high school friend of mine exchanged notes with me on high school children, each of us having one with the same grade. Both of us feel exhausted over these children. Before my son left for college, he was the most busy person in the family. Now is my daughter’s turn or should be hers. But as it is, I seem to be that busy person. Up at 6 and off for work at 6:15, this way I can be home around 3 PM and be with my daughter. Each day ends with me feeling on the brink of breakdown. Good thing she appreciates it greatly now.

I told my daughter, “In a sense, getting ready for college is more crucial than getting a job.” If you fail to get one job or even a hundred offers, you forever have the second chance, as long as you don’t give up. College application is an once-in-life chance. If you fail to be admitted into your dream place for your bachelor, too bad, no more second time for the majority of people. You can only try getting there for your master or Ph.D. later in your life, as my son will do.

This is also the most busy years for parents. As the children approach graduation, parents realize time’s running out and feel the urgency of getting them ready for the big leap out of their first nest. Once they leave their first home, you can see they become more and more independent and moving faster and farther away from home. And as their world, full of new friends and all kinds of ventures, is moving farther away from yours, those precious moments prior to their high school graduation are also becoming distant memory.

With this thought, I appreciate driving her to art class, piano lesson, her friend’s home, library, bookstore, community service center, and even clothes shopping.

1, Nov 29, 2009

Equality and Sincerity are Keys to Meaningful Dialogue

Filed under: work — admin @ 12:57 am

This happened nearly a year ago or even earlier than that, before my partner moved away. She was explaining something to me that I already knew. The phrase that I learned back in China came to my mind — don’t try to teach your Grandma how to suck eggs — and it was so funny that I couldn’t help showing smile on my face.

She caught me smiling and asked “Why do you smile? Tell me.” “I was trying to figure out what you think,” was my answered. “What am I thinking now? Tell me,” she asked.

The way she asked sounded like ordering me, but I could see she was intrigued. Nosy plus bossy. Still, I would not tell her. “If there is one person who truly knows what you are thinking, that person is you.” “No, I want to know what you think,” insisted she. “Nothing. I was thinking of nothing,” with that I left for my room.

I find it hard to forget this piece of dialogue. It reveals so much about people. Why do people care to know what others think of them? Does it matter that much? Didn’t she know that I would not tell her the truth if I let myself open my mouth? Couldn’t she see her own arrogance and condescending attitude when she talked to me, which blocked any sincere conversation?

Honest, this attitude brought smile on my face in the first place. For my children, treating people as equal is the key to any meaningful dialogue or conversation, regardless where you are, at home or at work.

P.S. 6/30/2010, this person was transferred to another office a few month before this entry. Now she does not work in our research department, though in the same clinic.

1, Nov 28, 2009

Bad Economies and New Ways of Fund Raising

Filed under: Miscellaneous — admin @ 12:36 am

While dining at a friend’s house on Thanksgiving evening, we talked about economies and how money was in short supply everywhere from college, to work place, and to government. From here, the topic moved to police fundraising efforts.

One guest told of this incident. When she was making a right turn on red light, she came to a full stop for a second or two. Not long enough. That earned her a ticket of nearly $200. She argued that she did bring her car to a full stop but was of no avail. Boy, she was so upset. Who wouldn’t?

Another guest told of an incident happened to his friend in Los Angeles. One evening, after he got on the highway, he just followed one car as he was heading home. After about 20 minutes, the car in front of him suddently stopped and started siren, sound and light. He stopped his car as the police approached him, asking him why he was following a police car. He said he did not recognize the car ahead was a police car and he was just going home. As he was explaining, a fine of $100 was written and handed to him. Way to rob an innocent person legitimately.

Another incident happened at the intersession of College and Antioch. Going westward on College, there is a steep downward slope right after the traffic light. It is so easy to run over the limit. Here a police once issued a fine of nearly $200 to one guest at the table.

I record these unfortunate losses so that readers will be wiser on the road.

1, Nov 27, 2009

Traditional Role of Women in Modern Time

Filed under: Women — admin @ 12:16 am

The division of labor in the pre-modern family demands wives to play an overall care-taker role to all family members when men work or fight or hunt outside and women stay home snugly. Men have a very rough day outside, bringing home food, protecting women and children with their muscle and bravery. They come back home expecting safe, care and even pampering by their wives whose mission of life is to serve.

In modern time, technology and education equip women with equal ability and opportunity to work and compete, when muscle and bravery are not required in nearly all decent-pay jobs. With high divorce rate, women find it necessary to be economically independent. Moreover, given equal opportunities and education, many women work outside not only for more financial security but seeking personal fulfillment. Hence, the traditional role of women as care-giver in the family is not applicable any more. With everything being equal, modern family should emphasize mutual respect, understanding and loving care to each other.

However, this traditional role of women is still emphasized today in that women are expected to serve and pamper their husbands as if it were okay for men to behave like children in the family and never needed to mature and grow up. Who cares how much stress it would be on women when they have to tough it out both at work in business world and at home, babying their husbands. Indeed, isn’t it true that women are supposed to be super-beings, taking care of their career, their children’s education and upbringing, and their big husband-child when most likely this “big child” is even older than the wife-mother! Yes, young wives are so much desirable among old men. Luckily, this is not difficult to achieve for most of women.

1, Nov 26, 2009

Ten Things We Are Thankful on this Thanksgiving Day

Filed under: Holiday — admin @ 12:26 am

I sent this picture to a colleague of mine, challenging her to come up with 10 things that she is thankful. She is a cheerful soul, a joy to be around. I wanted to know how she can keep her cheerful mood all the time. She replied, “Yes, I can think of more than ten — My family, Freedom, Home, Food, Car, Job, Health, Co-workers, Friends, Clean water to drink, Paved roads, Air we breath, Electricity, Gas, Oil, Schools, Electronics, Astronauts, Military”

I am so glad I have asked. So I learn her ingredients of being happy and cheerful. Indeed, there are so many things that we take for granted in our daily life and seldom count our blessings for their presence.

A friend of mine at work sent me this list, “Family, Friends, Communication, Laughter, Memory, my home, animals, technology, transportation, love.” Here are mine, “family, friends, my health, wisdom, maturity, intellectual power, and ability to articulate intelligently, ability to lift up spirit for others when needed, and the mood and ability to appreciate the beauty of this world.” In fact, we will have a gathering with a family friend this weekend.

Thanksgiving allows us the time to stop, reflect and be grateful for all that we have. Hopefully, we can do this exercise more often so that we will be more content with what we have instead of longing for more and more, especially in the month following Thanksgiving.

PS. I am thankful for my daughter. Very often, when everybody, except me, is at the table over some delicious food, my daughter always calls out, “Mom, come and eat.”

1, Nov 25, 2009

Features and Rotten Behavior of Bad Eggs in Work Place

Filed under: work — admin @ 12:57 am

I read from U.S. News and World Report on 11/13 an article about undesirable co-workers.

1. They dump last-minute work on people when they could have avoided doing so.
2. Complain about people without telling them directly.
3. Exude negativity, finding faults in whatever others say, in the habit of negating any input.
4. Bring personal life to the office in ways that make people uncomfortable.
5. Being chronically defensive, so that nobody will bother to tell them when they make mistakes.

What a short and sweet list! That’s already stink enough for being one bad egg. I am too familiar with people demonstrating all of the above. They are best at making a hell of your day. They are so much miserable to be around. One co-worker of mine is very touchy and inflammable at a hint of a mistake that she makes so that I once suggested jokingly that that bad egg should go to other clinics. In Chinese, lao hu pi hu me bu de — they are like tigers whose buttocks are untouchable.

For my children, get rid of any of these traits if you find yourself so unpleasantly possessing any of them. Otherwise, remain free from them. I will make sure they read this and avoid them in their future work. Even better, they might never find themselves in the similar work environment as I do.

1, Nov 24, 2009

Telomeres, Telomerase and News on Health and Longevity

Filed under: Health — admin @ 12:09 am

Two days before Thanksgiving big dinner night, here are two pieces of news on health and longevity.

As people age, telomeres shorten and cells become more susceptible to dying. The damage and death of cells cause aging and disease in people. Telomerase repairs and lengthens telomeres, which cap and protect the ends of chromosomes housing DNA.

(1) Telomeres. “There is a clear link between living to 100 and inheriting a hyperactive version of an enzyme that prevents cells from ageing, researchers say. Scientists from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the US say centenarian Ashkenazi Jews have this mutant gene. They found that 86 very old people and their children had higher levels of telomerase which protects the DNA.”

(2) Good news — healthy eating and exercise may boost telomerase. “Taking more exercise and eating the right foods may help increase levels of an enzyme vital for guarding against age-related cell damage, work suggests. Among 24 men asked to adopt healthy lifestyle changes for a US study in The Lancet Oncology, levels of telomerase increased by 29% on average.

On the other hand, unhealthy habits, such as smoking, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle “are associated with shorter-than-average telomeres.” Think of health while gobbling at Thanksgiving table or any eating occasions.

1, Nov 23, 2009

Impudence Marks an Otherwise Boring Office

Filed under: work — admin @ 12:59 am

The lack of civility and too much insolent behavior seem to charaterize some part of office experience, unforgetful and endless source of amusement.

It happened a few months ago, still every time I think of it, I find it interesting and worth recording. Seeing me taking the leadership workshop, some co-worker asked me why I took it, was it because I wanted to be a supervisor. The question was put forward with a mixture of curiosity and ridicule. Indeed, isn’t that absurd that I should ever take a leadership workshop when I am perceived as somene to be led, one of the herd, instead of a lead of the herd?

Honest, I think it takes some naive guts and brainless bravery to even come out with this question. I could easily detect the thinly veiled contempt shown on the face of the speaker. I appreciate the honesty and frankness. Not really unpleasant when you are so entertained. I am too used to it. It is called adaptation. For now, I feel so much better for having explained to that person the difference between leaders and managers. “Em, interesting,” was the answer. That means I have taught someone something new, like it or not. Even more intriguing.

End of a passing thought for this Monday morning.

1, Nov 22, 2009

Parents and Adult Children, Two Worlds Are Far Apart

Filed under: children — admin @ 12:34 am

On Saturday morning, I took my daughter to Union Station for a high school science seminar. This time the topic was on global warming. It was exciting seeing so many high schoolers gathering here. Every time I talk to my son over the phone, I always have this overwhelming sense of campus life, imagining his college life full of young blood, activities, competitions, fun and friends. By contrast, it must be super boring to return to his Kansas home, without anything to brighten his day or lift up his spirit. Our worlds are not just far apart, but also vastly different. Not much we can do to narrow the gap. Still, we will have him coming back for a brief Thanksgiving break, a nice little break before he will hurl full speed toward the big finals.

One of our relatives is coming to visit us. Her son plans to meet his mother at Chicago airport by driving there with his friend. But the young man’s uncle is displeased, because he wants to go with his nephew. The young man must believe it is so much fun being with his friend instead of having his uncle around, truly reminding me of my son. My only concern is I don’t trust the young man’s driving and it would save us lots of trouble if she could get off the plane in Kansas. Otherwise, it is better to let young people have their fun in their own world. Of course, it takes some maturity and a lot of common sense to understand, accept and appreciate the young people’s world.

1, Nov 21, 2009

The Dedicated Doctors at Our Clinic

Filed under: work — admin @ 12:51 am

Yesterday I went back home around 3 PM, then took my daughter to skating place. On the way back home, we passed my work place, so I stopped by to take care of some small business. It was nearly 6 PM. I was surprised to see at least two doctors were still hard at work on patients’ charts. I realized one of them came to the office around 7 AM in the morning. Indeed, no exaggeration, I feel like seeing Lei Feng back to life.

I thought of the department meeting on Thursday when the manager emphasized the observing of proper lunch break, that is, do not take too long break. Talk about work place culture, I realize there are surely good exceptions. There are people of two extremes — the dedicated few with noble souls who only care about patients and their work on one side of spectrum; and people who can’t wait for the end of their 8 working hours and leave on the other side. I have see a co-worker left office at the moment when a patient called. “Let them leave a message. I need to go home.”

I wish I were one of these dedicated few. As it is, I am not. I can only record this observation and someday share it with my children, hoping they will have a chance in the future.

1, Nov 20, 2009

Treating Adult Children as Adults

Filed under: children — admin @ 12:54 am

On 11/16, this Monday evening, I talked to a relative of mine over the Skype, whose son is currently in the US. To be sure, she is greatly concerned over her adult child. “I am determined not to support him any more after his graduation,” said she. She further asked me what I thought of it. I told her, “Well, it is not proper for me to say anything to him since he is a 26-year-old adult.”

“Say it to him. Say whatever you want to say to him. Don’t be afraid. You should give him a lesson. He doesn’t listen to me, but he will listen to you.” Quickly came her encouragement. She thought I would not say anything because he was not my child. She missed my point by a wide margin. Even if I am his senior, he is not a child and we are equal in this sense. To be sure, he is not far from being 30, I need to respect him and should not volunteer my advice as if he were a little kid willingly accepting lectures from adults. We parents should have left him alone even after his college graduation.

My relative’s attitude reminds me of my experience with my parents after I reached adulthood. I don’t want to play that role myself. I remember clearly how resentful I was when my parents lectured me and still treated me as less-than-adult even in my early 20s. Not until I left for America did I finally enjoy freedom from parental lectures and supervision, though most of them were given out of their loving hearts. Out of respect for them, I often just listened and made no comments. Outside home, I enjoyed conversations with other adults who treated me as equal. A friend of mine here told me how unpleasant she felt when her parents continued talking down to her like she were a child each time she went back to China. For this reason, she doesn’t want to go back to her parents.

From my own experience, I believe strongly in treating adult children as equal, with due respect and trust them, letting them make their own decisions and go on their own life’s journey. Trust me they will respect you more because of this.

1, Nov 19, 2009

Kick a Habit — the Great American Smokeout

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:59 am

“Every year, on the third Thursday of November, smokers across the nation take part in the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout® by smoking less or quitting for the day on the third Thursday of November. The event challenges people to stop using tobacco.” — Thus, I was told.

I read something on the subject and share its insight here. “Many experts believe smoking is only about 10% physical addiction and a whopping 90% psychological addiction. Your body will recover fairly quickly from nicotine withdrawals (the worst symptoms usually abate in three days or less), but your psychological dependency on cigarettes can be much more difficult to defeat.”

So well said! Smoking is actually like all habits, like computer gaming, internet surfing. Habits are hard to break because of our strong psychological addiction and dependency. In fact, all of our deeply-rooted habit has psychological base which makes so stubborn to break.

Experts on it suggest doing a self-analysis before taking any habit-changing moves. Make a list with two columns. Label column one “Why I Do it” and label column two “Why I Want To Quit Doing it.”

In column one, list all the reasons and benefits you can remember as to why you started doing it in the first place. In column two, list all the benefits and advantages that you can think of if you quit doing it.

The more reason and benefits that you can think of for column two, the more mental and will power you can harness and the more motivated you are in breaking from the old habit. I think this self-analysis is very important for anyone to break any undesirable habit. I shared it with my daughter — we all live through each day, driven mostly by habits. Some habits lead you to succeed, while others lead you to the opposite direction. Be watchful of your habits if you care where you are heading.

1, Nov 18, 2009

Holiday Season and Shopping in Material-Oriented Culture

Filed under: American Culture — admin @ 12:42 am

Yesterday, two monitors showed up at the same time because of a scheduling error. Since we only have one room for monitor and cannot put monitors from two companies in the same room, I placed one in my office, which turned out fine. That is, both got what they wanted and left happily. The one in my office was so happy that she took us to lunch at Cheese-cake factory.

Every time the topic moved into shopping, I found myself very much out of it. As I was sitting there and looked around, people all looked well-fed and clothed and in need of nothing. Yet, as holiday season is approaching, people at my office are still so enthusiastic about shopping, flipping through ads at break room and trying to find some good deals.

I told my daughter, not the first time though, Christmas shopping is not part of the tradition in our family. Holiday is the occasion for joy of family reunion, not a burden or excuse for spending and creating tons of holiday wastes. So was it before when they were small, so is it now, and so shall it be in the future. I remember so fondly how my daughter, almost 10 years ago, pitched in money at Salvation Army stands during holiday season. Every time she heard the bell, she stretched her arm and said, “Mom, money.”

1, Nov 17, 2009

Job, Socioeconomical Status and Longevity

Filed under: Health — admin @ 12:29 am

This is not new any more as this study came out over two years ago, yet I still like to emphasize the reason for the wide gap in life expectancies between rich and poor, with professionals enjoying far longer lives than their low-skilled manual laboring beings.

You would think sedentary lifestyle of office dwellers is not as benefitial to your health as doing manual labor. Moving around doing manual work should increase blood circulation, reduce body fat, boost your health and prolong your life. Well, the opposite is true.

Many others factors contribute to this gap. To be sure, sedentary lifestyle itself is not helpful to our health. In fact, sitting without enough moving accelerates the aging process. What really helps is money factor, that is, the more money one has, the more health-benefits one can buy. Health benefits include healthy lifestyle with healthy foods, time and money for recreation or fitness center membership, long vacations, money for more medical attentions, long time with one’s family and friends, more leisure and entertaining activities, more freedom and control over one’s life yielding high level of satisfaction and fulfillment.

How dreadful to find oneself unable to afford a healthy lifestyle!

1, Nov 16, 2009

Vulnerable Populations in Clinic Research

Filed under: Clinical Research — admin @ 12:19 am

I studied Code of Federal Regulations on clinic trials and learned that special attention should be given to the problems of clinic research involving vulnerable populations, such as children, prisoners, pregnant women, handicapped, or mentally disabled persons, or economically or educationally disadvantaged persons.

First of all, I used to think of vulnerable populations consisting of children, senior beings, and physically or mentally handicapped beings. I need to digest the fact that being less educated and having less money put one in the category of vulnerability. It makes sense if you think this way — when one does not have money, one is limited in his choice of healthcare or even worse no care at all, and thus he is likely to get into any clinic trials that promise the type of health he cannot afford otherwise. They “are likely to be vulnerable to coersion or undue influence.” So dreadful to be in that situation.

Secondly, I am impressed by the choice of words in CFR, which shows sensitivity toward these groups of social beings. Instead of saying people with mental retardation, we call them mentally disabled. We don’t use the word poor and less educated, we call them “economically or educationally disadvantaged persons.” So cute!

1, Nov 15, 2009

A Blind Man and His Guide Dog, A Touching Ending 2

Filed under: Random Thoughts — admin @ 12:45 am

At this moment, the blind man smiles, turned to the Angel, saying, “Finally I bring my dog to the Heaven. What I am worried most is he doesn’t wanted to go to Heaven, just wants to be with me. That’s why I want to make this decision for him. Please take care of him.” The Angel was dumbfounded.

The blind man looks at his dog with a longing eye, saying “This is the best way to get him to Heaven. He will be in Heaven if I tell him to go a few step further. Yet, he has been with me for so many years and this is the first time that I ever see him, I wish I could have more time watching him. That’s why I have walked so slowly. I would like watching him forever, but he should go to Heaven now. Please take care of him.”

With that, the blind man tells the dog to go ahead. The second the dog reaches the gate, his master heads down to the Hell as light as a feather. Seeing this, the dog makes a sharp turn and chases his master. The Angel, eaten with deep remorse, attempts at catching the dog. But the dog with the purest and kindest soul in the world runs faster than the Angel. Eventually and happily he is with his master again, protecting him even in Hell, leaving the Angel behind who realizes the two souls are forever inseparable.

The story is so lovely and touching. I am as speechless as the Angel, not this one though.

1, Nov 14, 2009

A Blind Man and His Guide Dog: A Sad Beginning 1

Filed under: Random Thoughts — admin @ 12:46 am

Thanks to a dear friend of mine for this interesting story.

Once upon a time, there are a blind man and his guide dog. Both of them, being hit by a truck, died tragically. As they were on their way to Heaven, an angel stopped them with this,
“There is only one spot in Heaven, therefore one of you must go to Hell.”
“Since my dog does not understand the meaning of Heaven, can I decide on his behalf?” the blind man asks.
“No, all souls are equal,” says the Angel with contempt. “We decide this through a race, whoever reach the gate first can go to Heaven. Now that you are dead, you won’t be blind any more. He who has the purest soul and kindest heart goes fastest.” says the angel.

Thus starts the race. The angel thought the blind man would make a desperate dash to the gate. But the opposite turns out to be true. The blind man walks slowly. And surprisingly, the guide dog walks by his master at an equal snail pace. It suddenly dawns on the Angel that the guide dog, being in his profession for so many years, has got into the habit of being closeby its master. Even worse, this devilish master takes advantage of his dog’s loyalty. When they are near to the end, he will tell his dog to stop, then he will be the first to reach the gate. The angel feels sorry for the dog, calling out loudly, “You have devoted all your life to your master. He is not blind now and does not need your guide. Run, run to the gate.”

As if her words fall on deaf ears, both of them walk as slowly as before, just like they were walking on a street. Exactly as the angel has expected, as they are just a few steps from the Heaven’s gate, the master tells his dog to sit. The angel looks at the master with aversion, … expecting the worst will happen.
To be continued…

1, Nov 13, 2009

No Vacation Nation — the Richest or Poorest?

Filed under: American Culture — admin @ 12:31 am

On 10/22 posting, I mentioned from my previous reading that “Europeans work less and enjoy more vacation than Americans do.” Last weekend, I read an article, published in 2007, referring America as “No-Vacation Nation.” The article reviews a report on international vacation and holiday laws.

The big discovery is “the United States is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee its workers any paid vacation or holidays. As a result, 1 in 4 U.S. workers do not receive any paid vacation or paid holidays. The lack of paid vacation and paid holidays in the U.S. is particularly acute for lower-wage and part-time workers, and for employees of small businesses.”

What does it say about American culture, a culture of workaholics or what? Do we really work harder and longer but enjoy less than Europeans? Sounds like Americans are more like merry-go-around money-generated beings. So pathetic! At best for the poor only.

See the original article, “European Economic and Employment Policy Brief,”

1, Nov 12, 2009

A Culture of Procedural Rules Everywhere, Anywhere

Filed under: work — admin @ 12:41 am

Something happened in the nature of deviating from standard practice by at least two people at work place on 11/3. We expected two monitors for our company this week for one study. One was sick, so the other asked us to see if she could come to our site on the day she was not scheduled to and we had monitors from another company on that day. I told monitor no. Mostly because a monitor should always make schedule change via project managers, which she did not.

Meanwhile, one colleague of mine went ahead checking to see if we could accommodate monitors from two companies. This happened before where monitor short-circuited PM and went to the clinic directly for site visit. I remember how upset the PM was over this bypass. So I tried to stay out of it as much as I could, as I was more concerned with proper procedure than efficiency.

Indeed, oh how she was upset from her email that I opened the next morning — reiterating to both monitor and us that she was “still to be the primary contact for scheduling monitor visits.” The other co-worker couldn’t understand why the PM made a big deal of it. You would think it more efficient if a shortcut is found and taken, but you violate procedural rules.

It is very important to keep in mind that American society is dominated by procedural rules. An extreme case is a murderer could be set free if the prosecutor violates procedural rules in the process. A criminal must be proved guilty by the legal procedure. Work place in America over-emphasizes the proper procedure for any work process, resulting in lack of flexibility sometimes, or sacrificing substance and efficiency. Be fully aware of these procedural rules. Violation of this could offend people and get into trouble even if you have every good intention of getting a job done.

1, Nov 11, 2009

Drug, Nicotine, Cell phone, Internet — Anything Can Be Addicted

Filed under: Technologies — admin @ 12:39 am

On 6/9/2009 and 7/31/2009, I touched the topic of social networking. Yesterday, while at work, one of my colleagues and I talked about cell phone usage. It is almost unbelievable that my high-school child does not have a cell phone. She said she wished her daughter did not have it because she was almost addicted to it now. Once she left home forgetting her cell phone. She cried and had to have her parent send the phone to her. I have learned kids are a lot quiet in class now, yes quietly texting each other, new pattern of classroom behavior. I also learned that parents often told school to contact their children via their cell phones. I have seen with my own eyes how people spend large chunks of time on contacting and connecting, as if their whole lives were dependent upon it. I have also known some teenagers addicted to Japanese comics.

Starting from elememtary school, children are taught against substance abuse and nicotine addiction. I am wondering when our school will be aware of an equally damaging addiction and a threat to quality education — the psychological and even emotional dependence upon social networking and other forms of technologies– computer game, Internet surfing, texting, IMing, emailing, and even cell phone.

1, Nov 10, 2009

Another Evaluation of Work Place Culture

Filed under: work — admin @ 12:06 am

I was asked to give my observations of the culture of our company. I started with some disclaimant to any observations, which include the following.

(1) What one observes is the culture of one department, which does not necessarily represent the whole companies.

(2) It is further restricted by the small scale of people that come into contact with one person on daily basis, which means this small scale is not representative of the whole department.

(3) Any personal perception is very much biased, thus very subjective and unreliable, taken with some reservation.

Keeping this in mind, here are my observations of our clinic:
(1) Most people at our clinic have the good intention of doing the right thing everyday. But that does not mean they actually do what they intend to do.

(2) People are overwhelmingly cheerful and happy with their work, as indicated by the scarcity of complaints.

(3) Most people are very strictly business-like and professional, especially the doctors who never waste breath talking with others.

(4) There are persistent isolated negative forces around some particular persons who tend to blame others, gossip behind people, deviate from the standard practice. Then, again, wherever there is social group, such forces are inevitable.

I throw out these observation, without expecting to be a tiny bit understood by whoever read it.

1, Nov 9, 2009

Careers Guidance Started at Age 10

Filed under: Career — admin @ 12:17 am

Last weekend, I read with great interests a piece of news about British education, which might be a model for many countries that try to increase the employment opportunities for people from lower income background.

“Children as young as 10 are to be offered careers guidance under a government scheme in England. The programme, which aims to broaden the horizons and raise the aspirations of children from deprived backgrounds, is to be piloted in seven local areas… careers advice will continue up to the age of 18.”

“Universities and firms will give pupils a glimpse of what it is like working and learning in adulthood, as part of a broader new careers strategy.”

As a matter of fact, most children need guidance of this kind sometimes before they turn 18. In America, from what I learn from my children’s experience, children are exposed to a day or two to events like career day, which allows children to meet doctors, lawyers, nurse, etc, ask questions and learn what it is like to be in that role.

It will be of tremendous help if children are given constant career guidance, which will surely help better focus and channel their time and energe on what they are interested in and what their aptitudes are.

Then again, it is up to the policy-makers or politicians to determine where money will go and where they want to improve. When money and resource are drained by the wars, education and other social welfare programs are forever relegated to the bottom of a to-do list. In that case, it is up to the parents to provide this guidance if the parents themselves are thus qualified.

1, Nov 8, 2009

Parents Are Responsible for the Kind of Children They Bring Up

Filed under: Parenting 101 — admin @ 12:06 am

Another busy weekend rushed by.
As usual, Saturday morning was devoted to community service. Well spent. Afternoon saw me trying to catch up with some work left from the weekday, like paying bills, going to library, doing some groceries shopping. Sunday afternoon was reserved for figure-skating.

Last Friday evening, I took my daughter to Barnes & Noble’s bookstore and stayed there till it closed. After we got back home, I called my relative in China again talking about child education. We were so amazed that children take so much after their parents.

You can almost say that whatever parents are, so are the children. Well, with exceptions, of course. A mother loves cooking and the same hobby is found in her child. My relative said she was pretty much home-bound, as if she were under self-imposed invisible home arrest, never having wandered afar. Now she saw herself in her child, who upon graduation prefers to stay closeby. Whereas I never hesitated leaving home for anywhere I need to, no matter how far it was, so is my son who went to Russia in his third year of high school, then to South Africa in college, next planning to venture into another unfamiliar land, being eager to have new experience.

I would not say it is genetic. Rather, the children are products of multiple social and cultural factors — our life experience (living example), their upbringing, the socializing process heavily influenced by the people they contact with on daily basis. Yesterday, I talked to my daughter again about the movie Precious (2009). See my October 5th, 2009 posting on this. The movie is very disturbing as we see the undesirable consequence of bad parenting and environment in the protagonist of the movie. It is not that the children take after their parents, but that the parents bring up the children using their own actions and life experience.

1, Nov 7, 2009

Another Tragedy, Another Shooting

Filed under: Crime — admin @ 12:53 am

“A US Army major has opened fire on fellow soldiers at the Fort Hood military base in Texas, killing 13 people and injuring 30,” according to officials, 11/5/2009.

As with any indiscriminate killing, this one is equally senseless and appalling, thundering out of blue sky. The irony is these soldiers were on their way to kill in a foreign land were stopped and killed by one of them in their homeland. We might never know the exact motive behind this extreme action, yet we do know this is not the first time killing takes place among army comrades and it is the second mass killing in two years. In fact, shootings on US land have been on the rise in recent years due to economic downturn aggravated by the wars.

The imminent departure for the battle zone might have sparked the ignition, but in this case many other contributing factors must have helped push beyond the limit of human sanity and worked together toward this violent outburst. This mass-shooting reminds me of the Virginia Tech shooting, also by a minority, Seung-Hui Cho, in 2007. And just as that shooting, there were some foreboding signs, which were shrugged off as insignificant until after the event.

—He was said to have “faced harassment over his ‘Middle Eastern ethnicity’ and had been trying to leave the army.”
—He “listed his birthplace as Arlington, Virginia, but his nationality as Palestinian” — identity issue.
—He “wanted out of the military, and they would not let him leave, even after he offered to repay.”
—He “did not make many friends” — a loner.
—He “often got into arguments with military colleagues who supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan” — anti-war stand.

It is not just another mourning for the dead, but also another case, another statistics for psychologists, sociologist, criminologists and everyone of us to mull over in the years to come.

1, Nov 6, 2009

Justice will rule with a Funny Modern Twist

Filed under: Random Thoughts — admin @ 12:17 am

This is too funny to be passed without sharing — A happy ending or a justice has done with a modern twist. You have all heard of this ancient story of golden ax. This time it is thimble that slips into the river by accident. The tailor’s cry touches God who first retrieves a gold one with precious pearl, to which she negates, next a silver one with jade, turns down again. In the end, for her honesty, she is rewarded with three thimbles — gold, silver and her own bronze one.

A few years later while the tailor and her husband walk by the river, her husband slips into river by accident and is going to drown. God shows up again upon hearing her cry. He fishes out a famous male movie star, to which the woman claims as her husband. “You lie! He is not your husband!” the angry God said. “God, please forgive me for lying. I have to lie because you will fish out another big movie star if I don’t lie. I am not strong. I will be exhausted to death if I have to serve three men.” God accepts her reasoning and get her husband back.

Suddenly the husband pushes his wife into river and asks God, “I am strong, please get my wife back.” To which, he is punished with three women, supposedly being the most unwelcome ones.

1, Nov 5, 2009

A Realistic Book on American Work Place Culture 2

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:48 am

Quotes from the book,
“We are fractious and over paid. Our mornings lacked promise. At least those of us who smoked had something to look forward to at ten-fifteen. Most of us likes most of everyone, a few of us hated specific individuals, one or two people loved everyone and everything. Those who loved everyone were unanimously reviled.” p. 3

“It bored us every day. Our boredom was ongoing, a collective boredom, and it would never die because we would never die.” p. 4

Might it be true, … that we were callous, unfeeling individuals, incapable of sympathy, and full of spite toward people for no reason other than their proximity and familiarity? We had these sudden revelations that employment, the daily nine-to-five, was driving us far from our better selves. Shall we quit? Would that solve it? Or were those qualities innate, dooming us to nastiness and paucity of spirit?” p. 5-6.

“We love killing time and had perfected several way of doing so. We wandered the hallways carrying papers that indicated some mission of business when in reality we were in search of free candy. We refilled our coffee mugs on floors we didn’t belong on…” p. 28

“The cardinal rule of advertising has always been, make your communication dumb enough for an eight grader to understand.” Quoted from another person, ‘It’s true that there’s a twelve-year-old mentality in America. Every six-year-old has it.’ p. 48

We liked wasting time, but almost nothing was more annoying than having our wasted time wasted on something not worthy wasting it on.” p. 53

“The people with whom we spend the most time are those we know the least. And yet, somehow, they’re the ones we know better than anyone else.”

“We would listen with only one ear, and with one eye always over our shoulders, in case we needed to bolt back to our desks and commence the charade that our workload was as strong as ever, because only then would we not be laid off.”

1, Nov 4, 2009

A Realistic Book on American Work Place Culture 1

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:46 am

I have just managed through a book called Then We Came to the End: A Novel by Joshua Ferris, 2007. How I dislike the content of the book. It is said that “Americans spend more time with coworkers than with their families.” That is, more time at work than at home. Can you imagine that!

The book describes the daily engagements of office cubicle dwellers. The descriptions are so pathetically realistic and unflattering, revealing everything we don’t want to see in ourselves or we want to escape from, yet sadly to say, the author seems to show us that there is a bit of us in his descriptions. No wonder the book is said to be “A small, angry book about work.”

In peace times, office is occupied with irritable, sarcastic, grumpy, gossipy, and absolutely frivolous beings, whose minds, deficient in ideals, dreams and aspirations, are shaped to think in group and act as one team. When business goes downward, fear and insecurity prevail, with everybody taking care of him/herself and devil taking the unfortunates.

The cubicle dwellers are thoroughly and hopelessly smothered with trivialities, drudgery, and pettiness, that absurdity seems to scream out at your face, making you wonder if white-collar work is meant to be this senseless, this soul-killing. The author expresses his discontent over this office life through the voice of one employee.

I talked to my daughter about this book. “It gives you a suffocating feeling,” I told her. “Then, why do you read it?” asked her. “I want to understand the work place culture in America,” was my answer. Also, I wish my children could read this sad little book someday and make all efforts to escape from this kind of existence. I shared the book with a colleague of mine who told me, “The book makes me depressing.” If it is not a real picture, it is at least uncomfortably close to the truth. Well, if truth is depressing, let it be.
To be continued …

1, Nov 3, 2009

Times are Different, So is the New Generation

Filed under: China — admin @ 12:46 am

Last Wednesday, a young relative of ours came over. While chatting about his future, I learned that one of his parents wants him to get a job here upon graduation, the other doesn’t care. For him, it is more comfortable going back to China. He still has not got over the hard life in America, after 3 and a half years.

I can understand perfectly the hardship and the challenge of finding a job and beat out your own path here. For a young man, that’s the fun part of it all. Nothing can compare to the true joy that one experiences in establishing one’s new world.

The new generation, a rather different one indeed. What about this ancient theme of going through trials and triumph in one’s life’s journey? I wish my children still believe that nothing is as majestic as this epic journey threading through one’s coming-of-age to independence and finally to finding one’s secure and glorious place in society, or better than this, in history. Life would be too boring to endure if it lacks any transcendental meaning.

There, finally put my children in the picture. For them, I write today.

1, Nov 2, 2009

Parents’ Career: A Hidden Reference Point for Children

Filed under: Career — admin @ 12:02 am

You may call parents providing role models for their children or as a Chinese saying nicely puts it, “Dragon begets dragon, phoenix begets phoenix.” Not always a good thing, though. See how this runs in the family of Kennedy and Bush.

An acquaintance of ours works at a local grocery store, her spouse working at a Chinese restaurant, both having been in their position for over a decade after they landed in Kansas. Their only child, in mid-20s, being a graduate from a local university, is happily employed at a US company, not far from home. They seem like having the perfect moment in their lives.

When I asked my children if they want to be like that. “Oh no, definitely not” was the answer, as if it were the most horrible thing that could happen to them. Actually, there is nothing wrong being so content in whatever position one has reached.

The thing that makes them cringe is actually their hidden reference reinforced by their growing up experience, the stories they were told in their early years. Children always aspire to rise up from the point of their parents. Never under-estimate how much children will refer back to their parents’ role model. For me, I still refer back to my parents and feel falling behind them, even after I have left them long ago. I told my children about their grandparents, which has served to inspire them.

Of course, as with any general rule, there are exceptions, where either children far exceed or far behind their parents’ in their accomplishments in society.

1, Nov 1, 2009

A Chinese Jewish Mother Wrote of Her Experience in Israel

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:25 am

A friend of mine in Los Angeles sent me a writing by a Jewish mother of three. Growing up and being educated in China, this Jewish mother immigrated to Israel early 1990s, with her three children.

The main idea of her writing is to proudly demonstrate how Jewish children are taught to make money, pay for what they get from earliest years of their lives, starting from their home. Before long, all of them, mother and her three children become shrewd business Jews. There is no free service even at home — the writer/mother gets paid for her household work done for the children, the youngest child receives payment from her two brothers for a Jewish drink. The children made egg-rolls at home and sold them at school. I’m wondering if the young children pay their rent for living at home.

It gives me a rather uneasy feeling after reading her writing, as if the whole gravity of living weighs on making money, the more, the better. Is it supposed to be this way? Have I missed anything in my upbringing of my children? To be sure, I have done so much for my children and have not charged them a penny. Or should I?

I used to believe home is the place where we work, like it or not, and don’t get paid in term of money, as long as it is our own home. It is more like a volunteer work, where we do for free, except very often we don’t do it willingly. Because household work can be backbreaking, especially after a day’s work. Still, for some reason, I find it hard to accept the concept that our children pay us for the service we render out of parental love and responsibility. In fact I don’t think it a desirable practice to charge children for our service as parents. If that were the case, I don’t really need to go out working, simply serve my children and get paid. I told my daughter of this, she thinks the practice goes too far, “It’s not like a family any more.” Well, certainly not a Chinese family.

On the other hand, we have to do household work, endless of it, much as we don’t like it. It seems unfair for parents to do them all while the children are capable of helping out. How can we make children pitch in voluntarily at home, if not using Jewish way? I don’t think I have done a good job in this area as my children never lend a helping hand when I expect them to.

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