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

1, Aug 31, 2010

What LA Public School Really Needs in Order to Completely Turn around

Filed under: American Culture,Education — admin @ 12:26 am

On the Sunday of 8/22/2010, I read an article by CHRISTINA HOAG, Associated Press writer, “LA unveils $578M school, costliest in the nation.” Here are some facts that make the whole story absolutely ridiculous.

(1) The new building will house the same old group of teachers who have created 50% dropout rate and one of the lowest performance schools in the U.S.
(2) Schools with worst performance are often rewarded with the highest funding – New York City has a $235 million campus; New Brunswick, NJ, a $185 million high school.
(3) This came in the time when nearly 3,000 teachers were laid off, with many needed programs slashed.

The assumption behind this colossal spending is people attribute the poor school performance to lack of good facilities, instead of honestly confronting the real issues of parental responsibilities, the student’s lack of interest and any much-needed work ethics, and on top of its all, the whole culture that breeds the main student body .

I don’t have ready data to back up this but I strongly believe on the average the U.S. public schools spend far more than the average schools in China, yet the performance and achievement are depressingly lower here in the U.S.

Let’s face this simple fact: education is not something you can buy. Emphasis on education is inherent in a culture. You find it in most of Asian and Jewish cultures. Without a thorough cleaning of the whole culture involving predominantly Hispanic and black student body, this bleak situation will remain stubbornly hopeless, regardless how many millions are poured into these schools. It will only get worse as this student body grows bigger.

1, Aug 30, 2010

Sleep, Health, School and Work Performance

Filed under: Health — admin @ 1:32 am

On 7/21/2010, I saw a sleep quiz on MedicineNet site. I took it and shared it with my daughter. I post the result on the site so that we can learn something about sleep deprivation.

(1) If you cut back on the sleep you need by just one hour, your body will adjust. FALSE
Shortchanging yourself by one hour of sleep a night doesn’t seem like a big deal. But this “sleep debt” can accumulate over time, leading to problem sleepiness. Even if you think you feel fine, sleep debt can significantly impair thinking and performance. It can also lower your mood. When sleep debt leads to memory and concentration problems, you’re more likely to make mistakes on the job or at school.

(2) Women who juggle work and family are most likely to fall asleep while driving. FALSE
Crashes in which the driver falls asleep are most common among young male drivers. In one large study, more than 50% of fall-asleep crashes involved a driver 25 or younger. Drowsy driving is a significant problem. In a national 2009 poll, 28% of respondents reported that they drive while drowsy at least once a month.

(3) Poor sleep may cause you to lose weight. FALSE
Just the opposite: There’s a link between poor sleep and weight gain. Scientists have discovered that sleep loss can boost appetite by altering the behavior of hormones that regulate metabolism, such as leptin and ghrelin. As a result, sleep-deprived people may have more cravings for foods rich in calories and carbohydrates, leading to increased weight.

(4) Lack of sleep can hurt your relationships. TRUE
Chronic lack of sleep can cause fatigue, lethargy, and irritability. It can even contribute to depression. Such mood changes can create problems in your relationships.

(5) Too little sleep can lead to high blood pressure. TRUE
Usually, blood pressure decreases while people sleep, but interrupted sleep can interfere with this normal reduction, paving the way for high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems.

(6) Not enough sleep can cause diabetes to develop. TRUE
Poor sleep impairs the body’s ability to use insulin, which can eventually cause diabetes. One study found that people who get fewer than six hours of sleep are prone to abnormal blood sugar levels. Several hormones that regulate the body’s use of energy are released during sleep. Too little sleep, or interrupted sleep, can disrupt this process.

(7) During sleep, your body shuts down to rest. FALSE
Sleep is actually an active process. Although your metabolic rate slows and your body does get rest, some brain activity increases dramatically. In REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, many parts of the brain are as active as they are during wakefulness. During sleep, the brain is “recharged.” In addition, your endocrine system secretes larger amounts of certain hormones during sleep, such as growth hormone. In the “deep sleep” stages, your body experiences the most restorative effects of sleep.

1, Aug 29, 2010

A Thought on German HIV Singer Nadja Benaissa

Filed under: Crime — admin @ 12:01 am

On 26 August 2010, I learned of this piece of news about 28-year-old Nadja Benaissa, that is, she has been given a two-year suspended prison sentence. This is like a slap on her hand when she could have been given up to 10 years in prison. But, she has already been severely punished by this publicity, with or without court-imposed sentence.

Her crime: she knew of her HIV status, but she chose to keep it a secret and have unprotected sex with at least three men, not at the same time though. Benaissa was found guilty on one count of causing grievous bodily harm and two of attempted bodily harm, even though she denied deliberately infecting anyone.

After I learned of her troubled youth years – drug addict at the age of 14, pregnant at 16, and HIV-positive at 17 – I no longer feel as bitter toward her as before. What I see is a girl emerging from a turbulent teenage years, from a life of youth and follies, young and stupid, and trying to put behind her that shameful chapter in her life. Just as I see in many people that I know of who once had some eventful and rather wasteful teenager years.

Our past follies and youthful imprudences are like an invisible debt to us. At some point in our lives, we all have to pay for this. For Benaissa, the debt of those wanton youth years — her HIV — will follow her throughout her whole life. Sometimes, we can deceive ourselves into believing that we can put behind our past and turn a brand new page, as if what happened in the past had never happened. But as Benaissa’s recent abrasion with law shows, our past is like our shadow. It will follow us till our last day.

1, Aug 28, 2010

Lack of Proper Enforcement of Meeting Etiquette

Filed under: work — admin @ 12:10 am

On 7/19/2010 we had a SIV at one of our clinics. It is one of those days when I feel displeased by some rude behavior. The meeting with our future monitor was made rather unpleasant to both the speaker and all of us because of one compulsive participant. She is compulsive in that she has to jump out barking out something, for whatever the speaker said. Even when she couldn’t think of anything to say, she paraphrased what the speaker just said to confirm her understanding. She whispered loudly with others when she was not interrupting the speaker.

It is unfortunate to all of us that she does not know that she should allow the speaker to finish his sentence before blurting out hers, no matter how useless her words are. She has never learned to raise her hand when she feels the urge to replace the speaker’s voice. She routinely interrupts speaker at will.

This rude meeting behavior openly shows disrespect for the speaker and shamelessly forces everybody in the meeting to focus attention on her instead of on the speaker.

A meeting is not supposed to be an arena for people to showcase themselves or to grab people’s attention or to emphasize how incompetent the speaker is.

The sad part is not that she fails to follow the standard meeting etiquette but she even feels jubilant and triumphant each time she thinks she beats out the speaker. Does it really take so much guts and maturity to behave like a real adult, instead of a three-year-old?

By the way, I wrote the above during the meeting.

1, Aug 27, 2010

College Expense, Children Appreciation and Parent Responsibility

Filed under: College — admin @ 12:19 am

Last Saturday, 8/21, we went to a friend’s house for a potluck. As usual, such a gathering consisted of healthy eating and talking; no alcohol and smoke, nice and clean. Since all three families have college kids to support at the moment, we inevitably moved from the topic of the economy to college expenses.

While very few American families give full financial support to their college-bound children, most Chinese families here try to relieve their children of any financial worries while the kids are in college. Even a Chinese neighbor of ours working at a restaurant satisfied whatever their college daughter wanted. As long as we can afford it, we don’t want our children to get student loans with a high interest rate and a heavy burden upon graduation.

To be sure, it is definitely a priviledge for the Chinese children to have such supportive and self-sacrificing parents. On the other hand, it is expected that children appreciate what their parents are willing to do for them. I have heard more than once that the children take for granted what the parents have done for them as if the parents just do what they should do. You find similar cases in China, too.

It is sad to hear such stories. On the other hand, it is up to the parents to teach their children to appreciate their parents’ support and not to take for granted their parents’ loving care.

1, Aug 26, 2010

Curiosity Plus Ignorance of HIPPA Hurt Deeply

Filed under: Crime — admin @ 12:44 am

“Huping Zhou of Los Angeles is the first defendant in the nation to receive a prison sentence for a HIPPA privacy violation.” I read this news from American Health Lawyers Association on 8/19/2010.

Zhou used to be a licensed cardiothoracic surgeon in China and a former UCLA Healthcare System research assistant. He was terminated there in November 2003. However, he still had access to patient health information and continued to access and read records of both his coworkers and celebrity patient records. Zhou acknowledged in his plea agreement that he had no legitimate reason for obtaining the personal information. Though no evidence has been found by the Department of Justice to suggest that Zhou abused or attempted to share or sell the information he illegally accessed, his illegal reading of private electronic medical records of celebrities and others earned him four months in federal prison, the first of its kind in U.S. legal history. He also received a fine of $2000, in addition to his jail time.

You would think Zhou has not done any harm or damage to anybody, just trying to satisfy his morbid curiosity. Also, there are thousand of others who have done and are still doing the same thing as Zhou did. Still, a rule violation is a violation. Nothing can change the nature of his crime. Hopefully, he could use these 4 months jail time to reflect and make a new start once he is out of it.

Looking ahead, Zhou’s record of incarceration will follow him wherever he goes, almost totally ruining his career in healthcare at least in the U.S. I believe the ruling of the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Central District of California not only establishes a legal precedent but also dispatches a clear warning to all medical practice of the severe consequence of what some considers a mere misdemeanor offense. A law is a law, no matter how trivial it is.

1, Aug 25, 2010

Words for My Children from An Interview with God, 2

Filed under: children — admin @ 12:59 am

Continue with this person’s dreamed interview with.
God’s hand took mine and we were silent for a while. And then I asked…
“As a parent, what are some of life’s lessons you want your children to learn?”

“To learn they cannot make anyone love them. All they can do is let themselves be loved.”
“To learn that it is not good to compare themselves to others.”
“To learn to forgive by practicing forgiveness.”
“To learn that it only takes a few seconds to open profound wounds in those they love, and it can take many years to heal them.”
“To learn that a rich person is not one who has the most, but is one who needs the least.”
“To learn that there are people who love them dearly, but simply have not yet learned how to express or show their feelings.”
“To learn that two people can look at the same thing and see it differently.”
“To learn that it is not enough that they forgive one another, but they must also forgive themselves.”

“Thank you for your time,” I said humbly.
“Is there anything else you would like your children to know?”
God smiled and said, “Just know that I am here… always.”
-author unknown

Too bad my children have to learn a lot more than this, if not from me, from TV, Internet, their friends, and schools. As for the last sentence — “Just know that I am here… always,” that’s one of the options if it works. Just remember not to close your mind to this options.

1, Aug 24, 2010

Words for My Children from An Interview with God

Filed under: children — admin @ 12:50 am

During the weekend of 7/17/2010, I read an email from a friend of mine. She sent me a link to a video of a fictionalized interview with God. It happens in a person’s dream, in which a person had an interview with God. It is interesting to see how a person expresses his view of human existence via the mouth of God, though it is not the first time people use dream to express themselves. It was beautifully written. Hence, I post it here.

I dreamed I had an interview with God.
“So you would like to interview me?” God asked.
“If you have the time” I said.
God smiled. “My time is eternity. What questions do you have in mind for me?”
“What surprises you most about humankind?” I asked.
God answered…
“That they get bored with childhood, they rush to grow up, and then long to be children again.”
“That they lose their health to make money…and then lose their money to restore their health.”
“That by thinking anxiously about the future, they forget the present, such that they live in neither the present nor the future.”
“That they live as if they will never die, and die as though they had never lived.”

Indeed, life is full of paradoxes. To be continued…

1, Aug 23, 2010

A Summer Plan that Did Not Turn Out Well

Filed under: Daughter — admin @ 12:56 am

Recently, I found out a note that I wrote to my daughter two years ago, on 5/30/2008 regarding her summer plan. She took an independent study course that summer.

Today is the first day of your summer break. Please keep in mind you are a middle school student now and your summer break should be different from your previous one. Here are two things that I hope you will do:
(1) Please stick to your summer plan
(2) Please keep track of the progress of your work
For the first two weeks, I will check with you everyday after I get back from work. After that, if you have done your daily work in due time, I will check with you on weekly basis, then monthly basis. Gradually, you should be able to take care of your own study.

That summer she did write a detailed summer plan but did not follow through on her promise from very beginning. My initial checks on her progress had proved rather toothless and fruitless, thus I gave up checking. I remember I could not take care of her summer school all by myself, so she had to stay home, doing this independent study. But that did not turn out well. It is not pleasant to look back at those days. Still, I post it here and hope my daughter will do better than this 2008 summer in the future.

1, Aug 22, 2010

Socio-Economic Status and One’s Waistline II

Filed under: Health — admin @ 12:51 am

Now we know people who have been overweight since adolescence are more likely to forsake college, to be on welfare, unhappy and unemployed, and even to live alone. Next people will try to find answer to this finding.

Some explain that overweight children suffer from inferior complex and low self-esteem. Yale psychologist Kelly Brownell has found “overweight people are 26 times more likely to report discrimination than their normal-weight counterparts” …”overweight kids are far more likely to report being teased” by teachers, classmates, and even their own families. And “discrimination against overweight individuals has increased 66% despite the fact that more adults are becoming overweight.” “The social climate and our toxic food environment is so disastrous that more and more people are having trouble resisting it…” “Changing the environment is key to solving the problem. ” Right. Go ahead blaming others for our own problems and the problem will be gone if other people change. It sounds so logic, right?

My daughter read the article, commenting that those problems of unemployment, not going to college, on welfare, and overweight have the same root cause — lack of self-control and self-discipline. If they cannot control how much they eat and get themselves out of shape, how can you expect them to have the needed discipline to go through rigid higher education and go up social status? Someone got to have the will power to delay oral gratification and stop adding those extra embarrassing pounds first.

Whoop, that’s a tough call.

1, Aug 21, 2010

Socio-Economic Status and One’s Waistline I

Filed under: Health — admin @ 12:03 am

I knew there is a link between the two. This is confirmed by TARA PARKER-POPE’s article “Extra Weight Adds to Economic Woes” on 7/22/2010, carried by New York Times.

“Years of being overweight not only contributes to health problems but also to a person’s economic woes, new research suggests. Adults who have been overweight since high school are more likely to be unemployed or on welfare than those who gained weight gradually during their 20s and 30s, according to a study published in The American Journal of Epidemiology. People who have been persistently overweight since high school are also more likely to be single at 40 and have no more than a high school education, compared with those who have gained weight slowly over time, the study showed.” The lead author, Philippa J. Clarke of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, said they were looking at “the social and economic consequences of being persistently overweight” in their study.

Even more worrisome is the existence of the link between education and overweight problem, that is “people with less educated parents were more likely to be overweight at a young age. But even controlling for parents’ lower socioeconomic status, the researchers found that the persistently overweight experienced more economic hardship than those who gained weight slowly over time, suggesting that weight status also can predict economic status.”

On the other hand, the encouraging news is “good grades in high school lowered a student’s risk for being persistently overweight as an adult.” The implication is maintaining a constant good school performance is one of the keys to maintain healthy weight and thus another possible key to the rise in society later on in one’s life.

Now we are fully aware of the potential insidious damage posed by those extra pounds to our social and economic future. Considering this fact, it is up to the parents to make sure that children are on the healthy side during their years at home.

1, Aug 20, 2010

Parents Create Positive Background Noise for Their Children

Filed under: Parenting 101 — admin @ 12:35 am

On 7/16/2010, a nice Friday afternoon, my daughter took a long nap after school. She woke up to tell me that she had a dream in which she had some rough time with me. To be sure, the words that I say in her dream are what I often say to her in daily life.

This reminds me of the background music that is softly played all the time in my office, so much so that some of the lyrics keep ringing in my ears even after I am not in the office. I know background noise serves certain purpose, like creating relaxing atmosphere. Whatever purpose it serves, it certainly has left something indelible in my head.

My words surface in my daughter’s dream reminds me of this office background noise. As parents, we inevitably create a voice ringing in the back of children’s minds. They are like this background noise, exerting influence even after the source of this noise is cut off. My daughter often says to me before I say anything, “I know what you are going to say if I do this.” See background noise works like magic.

1, Aug 19, 2010

My Experience with Time Warner Road Runner Service

Filed under: work — Tags: , — admin @ 12:52 am

We have been out of internet service since last weekend due to the broken modem. I contacted Time Warner about it and was told that a technician would come over today between 5 to 7 PM, the earliest possible date.

Since my daughter has piano lesson on Thursday at 5, I called yesterday to see if they could narrow the window to 6 to 7 PM.

First of all, it took me over 30 minutes to finally get hold of someone over the phone. The Time Warner guy told me he could not change the window. If I could not make it, he could get me some other day. That seemed to be the last straw. I had already waited for a few days and he still would not be flexible enough to accommodate me.

I told him I was going to close my account and look for other high speed internet services. He told me he would connect me to their customer service girl, who proved to be worse than I imagined.

She said, “You are free to go to other companies, but you will have to wait for several days no matter where you go. You can’t just get it whenever you want.” Though she yielded to my request a little bit and pushed back the window for today, her attitude was far from apologetic and friendly. In fact, her attitude was so unfriendly that I felt like having tasted something worse than anything you can imagine.

We have been Time Warner customer for many years. This is the first time their modem gave us trouble. Had I looked around for other companies this Monday instead of waiting and calling for a change of time, I could have avoided such an unpleasant encounter with Time Warner folks. Now I learn my lesson.

1, Aug 18, 2010

Avoid Rush Hour the Night Before

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:14 am

On the Monday morning of 7/12/2010, after one week break, my daughter started the first day of the second session of summer school. She got up at 6 AM, busy getting things ready. Finally we hopped on the car at 6:34. By the time, we got off highway 35, it was 6:47. Five minutes later, we passed Quivira and had less than 1/4 miles to go. Normally we have reached school by 6:52. Today, because we were about 5 minutes behind, we had to wait for 7 minutes before we could reach the dropping spot. It was 6:59 when she stepped out of the car.

I don’t know where the classroom is and how much she has to go before she enters her classroom. But I know clearly we could have avoided all the morning rush if she had got her clothes, school notes, and school bag ready the night before. The next morning we left at 6:30 AM and arrived at 6:49. I hope my children can learn a lesson from what happened on this morning.

1, Aug 17, 2010

A Peek into Coming Attractions

Filed under: American Culture — admin @ 12:48 am

On the Saturday of 8/14/2010, we had a family over for a dinner gathering. Their first daughter and mine grew up together. We talked about their generation, the second generation, born and grown up on this land, embraced the cultural values and the best of both sides, given all the opportunities to make it here. Most of them have worked very hard from early age, highly accomplished in many aspects.

Later I told my daughter that I anticipated an unprecedentedly high visibility of Asian Americans from her generation, first time in U.S. history. I know many of them have gone to the top-notch institutes of higher education and there is no doubt that some of them will play key roles in the positions they occupy, regardless which field they enter.

As their generation merge into American society, we will definitely see more and more eminent Asian-American scientists, politicians, CEO, businesspersons, and of course, more Asian-American philanthropists. This is a peek into coming attractions.

As the parents of this exciting new generation, we are both awed and humbled by this great history-making process. More than anything else, we are honored.

1, Aug 16, 2010

Poor Cardiac Output Correlates to Low Brain Volume

Filed under: Health — admin @ 12:50 am

School will start tomorrow.
Now we have one more reason to keep our hearts strong and healthy — for our dear heads. On 8/2/2010, I read a report by Serena Gordon carried on Bloomberg Businessweek. The lead author of the study is Angela Jefferson, an associate professor of neurology at the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Boston University School of Medicine. The main finding is heart health is related to brain health.

“People with the highest cardiac output for their body size (cardiac index), meaning those with the greatest blood flow from their heart, tended to have more brain volume, which generally indicates a healthier brain. In fact, the researchers said that people with the lowest cardiac output showed nearly two more years of brain aging than did those with the highest cardiac output.”

“Those with the lowest cardiac index and the middle group both had smaller brain volumes than those with the highest cardiac index,” said Jefferson.

“The health of the heart and circulatory system are increasingly being linked to the health of the brain. Poor heart health has been linked to neuropsychological impairments and dementia, according to background information in the study.”

Key point to take home is: anything that is good to your heart is also good to your brain; anything that is bad to your heart is bad to your brain, too.

1, Aug 15, 2010

Spoiled Teens Bite the Hands that Feed Them

Filed under: Parenting 101 — admin @ 12:24 am

On 7/6/2010, I read an article by Michele Borba, Ed.,D. “Surefire Ways to Turn OFF Your Teen.” The article starts with this statement, “Talking with an adolescent can be like walking through a minefield. At any moment you could be asking what you thought was a simple, sincere question only to find it triggering an explosive response… often seems to backfire because of the type of questions asked.” The author goes on listing “7 Deadly Questions to Never Ask an Adolescent.” These questions are,

1: “So, how was your day?”
2: “Why didn’t you tell the kid to leave you alone????”
3: “What was she wearing?”
4: “Why are you sooooo sensitive?”
5: “Why did you do that?” (Even worse: “What were you thinking?”)
6: “Why didn’t you just say no????”
7: “Why don’t you just get over it and move on?”

This is pathetically preposterous! I feel awfully sorry for those parents who are literally abused and tyrannized at the hand of their spoiled teens.

No.1, I don’t see anything wrong with any of these questions. Nothing offensive to me.

No.2, even if a parent asks a “wrong” or “unwise” question, does it warrant the explosive response from the teen child? Don’t parents deserve due respect? Why do these teens have zero tolerance toward their parents?

No.3, the fact that teenagers go through touchy, sensitive stage is not the excuse for their lack of respect toward their parents who are as much human as themselves.

No.4, why is it that parents ask the child “How was your day” and the child never cares to ask his/her parents the same question? I am fed up with the selfishness of these teens, as if the whole world turns around them. For all their lives, the parents have loved and cared for them, but they have not learned to love and care their parents. Isn’t that ridiculously wrong?

To be sure, teens with problems are tiny minorities. Even with these problematic teens, parents still need to put their foot firmly on the ground and not allow the teen to trample upon them. They deserve better treatment than this.

What I see is nothing but a bunch of spoiled teens who have not learned the proper way of communicating with their parents, who do not care hurting their parents, and who are actually the products of bad parenting, so tragically popular now.

1, Aug 14, 2010

Exercise Good for Body and Brain

Filed under: Health — admin @ 12:07 am

On the Saturday of 7/3/2010, while my daughter was at her drawing lesson, I was reading at a nearby HyVee store. The lesson runs an hour and a half. I took up Psychology Today magazine, June 2010 issue. Here’s some notes on the importance of exercise for our brain by Avigail Gordon.

Exercise not only helps muscles expand but also help your brain grow. New research confirms that doing aerobic exercise for 30 minutes, 3 times a week can enlarge the hippocampus, a part of the brain that regulates emotion and memory. But particularly exciting is the discovery that significant hippocampal growth occurs not only in healthy participants but also in those with schizophrenia.

Sounds like a miracle drug. Hence, work up for your body and brain.

1, Aug 13, 2010

Stay Away from Depression, Dementia, and Alzheimer’s

Filed under: Health — admin @ 12:43 am

On July 6, 2010, I read an article on depression and the increased risk of dementia. “Having depression may nearly double the risk of developing dementia later in life, new research suggests. Experts know that the two conditions often co-exist, but it is not clear if one actually leads to the other. Now two studies published in the American Journal Neurology suggest depression does mean dementia is more likely, although they do not show why.”

Depression at a younger age is probably a significant risk factor for dementia. “Inflammation of brain tissue that occurs when a person is depressed might contribute to dementia. Certain proteins found in the brain that increase with depression may also increase the risk of developing dementia.”

This is not a surprise when we have known that people with depression show a shrunk hippocampus. This was confirmed in 1999 by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. They found that a key brain region is significantly smaller in people who have suffered from clinical depression. Reporting in the June 15 1999 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, they say people who have been depressed have smaller volumes in a seahorse-shaped brain structure called the hippocampus that is important in learning and memory. 3-D MRI was used to confirm a volume loss only in those who had been depressed.

Well, from all that I read on the topic, I am convinced that one way of keeping our brains sharp and shine is to make all efforts to stay sunny and cheerful. Read comics or silly jokes or do whatever works to keep yourself upbeat everyday.

To my dear readers and my children, make a point of doing something everyday that can guarantee to yank out that hearty laughter from bottom of your heart.

1, Aug 12, 2010

Five Simple Ways People Become Victims of Scams

Filed under: Crime — admin @ 12:39 am

BBC carried an article on 6/15/2010 on the experience of playwright Alan Bennett and how he lost his wallet, with £1,500 while being helped by pickpockets. First, someone aquirted ice cream on Bennett, next he was offered to have it cleaned off from his coat. And in a second his fat purse is no more. He became a victim of the classic “distraction” scam.

Below are some common-used tricks by pocket-pickers.
This is a classic scam in which a person will do something funny like squirting mustard dip or ketchup just to get the attention of his victims. As the thief helps clean up the mess, an opportunity is created for him to steal something valuable from his victim.

This is another “distraction” technique. It often takes a team to complete the task. A couple may come over to take a picture of you. While you explain to the person how to use the camera, the third one takes this opportunity to do the stealing.

As you are getting off the escalator, the person in front of you drops some coins and tries to pick them up. This will create some chaos, a bit jam and jumble, and best of all, an opportunity for the thief to do his job. It turns out the person in front and behind you are the thieves-team.

Never underestimate the cleverness of the thief. An experienced thief knows how to manipulate you into acting a certain way so that he can do his job in a split-second. As you are entering your PIN on the charge pad, then you feel a tap on the shoulder and the person behind you asks if you have dropped something on the floor. As you turn to take a look, you create an opportunity in which something valuable from your purse is really dropped forever.

Because people get a good feeling by helping others, they are willing to lend a helping hand to those in need. This eagerness to help opens another channel for the thievies to creep in.

Keep in mind all these small tricks.

1, Aug 11, 2010

History Should Make One Wise

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:08 am

Next year my daughter is going to take European history class. Meanwhile, we just learned that a high school friend of my son majors in history at Wash-U. My daughter asked me what was the use of learning history. I told her of the word of Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626).

“Reading makes a full man; conversation a ready man; and writing an exact man. And therefore, if a man writes little, he needs to have a great memory; if he converses little, he needs to have a present wit: and if he reads little, he needs to have much cunning, to seem to know, that he does not. Histories make men wise ; poets witty; the mathematics subtile; natural philosophy deep; moral grave; logic and rhetoric able to contend.”

You may be wondering why history makes one wise. When you study history, you have to be able to think in term of time and space and understand events and their relationships, then search for the answer for why event happened the way it is. History enhances your research and critical thinking ability and of course writing ability, too. Plus, it is so much fun reading about history. After all, don’t you want to know the rise and fall of Roman Empire?

1, Aug 10, 2010

Family Rules from an Ancient Chinese Father

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:58 am

During fourth of July long weekend, I grabbed a book on ancient Chinese teaching and bumped into this piece. To be sure, it is a fairly long one. I refrain from torturing my daughter into memorizing the whole piece. Instead, I asked her to learn a tiny part of it.

The main idea of the first part is the following.
(1) Get up early. Clean around and put things in order. Go to bed early. Make sure the door is locked and the windows are closed. The key point is to do something useful after you get out of bed as opposed to watching TV or playing games or surfing the net mindlessly.

(2) At each meal, you should alway remember they don’t come by easily. There are lots of works involved in the making of your clothes. The main point is: nothing comes by easily. Do not waste anything.

(3) While you prepare for the rainy days, you should start digging well before you feel thirsty. The message is self-explanatory, that is, you save for the time when you need it urgently.

To be sure, this is not the first time that I drill these messages into their heads. I know repetition always works.

1, Aug 9, 2010

How to Avoid Ruining Your Work Reputation

Filed under: work — admin @ 12:29 am

There is an interesting article written by Liz Wolgemuth, On 4/29/2010, “How to Ruin Your Work Reputation Slowly” The article starts like this, “It isn’t hard to ruin your reputation online these days–blogging about your boss, Twittering about your customers, posting Facebook pictures that involve copious amounts of alcohol and otherwise inappropriate props.”

While we don’t have many chances to make major mistakes and total the job of ruining our reputation, we do face the possibilities of chipping away our professional image in the workplace, by behaving a little bit unprofessionally.

First line of breakdown: communications skills, written and oral ones, and the content of your communication, especially the sensitive area of email. The trick of a good communication is to get into the habit of using formal language and avoid any non-work related content. Another trick: email as less as possible.

Second line, your behavior in public or at meetings, another danger zone. Better qualities to display at the meeting are attentiveness and inquisitiveness. Interrupt your boss or embarrass the boss in a meeting will quickly earn you a bad reputation.

Third one, a good working relationships with your manager. This is a tricky one. The trick is not to openly nurturing a good relationship with your boss. Because you run the risk of ruining your relationships with coworkers. After all, you don’t want to be known as a boot-licker.

1, Aug 8, 2010

Two Years Anniversary of 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

Filed under: China — admin @ 12:18 am

Nothing touches me more than the immense hospitality and friendliness of the Chinese people in extending their warm-hearted welcome to people all over the world; the eagerness to contribute and volunteer, and the scale of participation unsurpassed and unseen in any land provided a sharp contrast to the culture and custom in most western countries. We are so used to the custom of respecting and expecting privacy, keeping a polite and cold social distance so that we never offer help without being asked. We learn to keep ourselves to ourselves and to live in our isolated dwelling. To be fair, people in U.S. are friendly and ready to help if you ask, but the distance is sacredly observed and preserved. Below is what I believe is the theme song of 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

The doors of our houses are widely open to friends, far and wide.
No matter where you are from, you are our guests. Make yourself at home.
Welcome back friends, old and new. We will have a lot to catch up.
The evergreen trees here have witnessed the friendship of the past.
They will see you leaving us with fond memory rooted in our rich culture and tradition.
Beijing welcomes you, providing you endless opportunities, with her boundless energy.
Beijing welcomes you to share with you all under the sun, letting you break records in our land.
Beijing welcomes you, touching you like beautiful music, providing you the chance to surpass yourself
Beijing welcomes you. You will make it in this land as long as you dream great.
Miracle will take place as long as you have the courage to pursue it.

1, Aug 7, 2010

How to Be a Better Backseat Driver

Filed under: Parenting 101 — admin @ 12:20 am

Continued from yesterday’s posting. That article provides three advice to those who feel a strong urge to issue instructions.

(1) When you feel you have to say something, take a deep breath before you criticize. Hopefully, a deep breath could hold your tongue back to where it belongs.

(2) Imagine how you would react if the tables were turned. In fact, a lot of problems can dissolve if we can put ourselves in other’s shoes.

(3) Give advice to those who truly appreciate it. In this case, your advice is not unwanted and unwelcome any more. Keep your advice to yourself, no matter how valuable it may seem to you, if the listener refuses to lend your a ear.

1, Aug 6, 2010

Don’t Be a Backseat Driver Parent

Filed under: Parenting 101 — admin @ 12:09 am

This is also from reading Psychology Today on 7/3/2010. There is an article on the psychology of unwanted backseat drivers, which reminds me of being the parent of a teenage child.

A backseat driver is defined as the person who dispenses “helpful advice – in car or elsewhere” and who often ends up being annoying, not to mention distracting and totally unwelcome.

Backseat drivers are like parents, however well-intentioned, likely to provoke irritation. The implication of backdrivers is this– I don’t trust you to handle this on your own.

The psychologist explains that when the backseat drivers exercise unwanted authorities, they are often acting out of their own fear of the unknown. They offer unsolicited advice in an attempt to combat their own feelings of powerlessness.

Psychologists often make things sound more serious than they really are. At least, I am getting better at finding out when I should zip up my mouth to a teenage child, much as I am eager to dispense my well-thought-out advice. In fact, I have learned being a backseat-driver-parent more often than not means asking for trouble.

1, Aug 5, 2010

No Tree, No Shade; No Pain, No Gain

Filed under: Parenting 101 — admin @ 12:25 am

On Memorial Monday, 5/31, I took my daughter to a local hair service store. The day was hot and uncomfortable. When I tried but failed to find a shaded spot for my car, I made this comment, “When people seek shade under a scorching sun, they need to remember how much work that has been involved in developing a big tree with a huge lovely shade. Can you think of the analogy of tree shade?” I further asked her.

“I know what it is. You are thinking of parenting and the filial duties that children will do toward their parents when the parents are old. Only when you have done a good job of parenting can you enjoy the loving care of the children,” said she.

“Wow, excellent,” said I. “Serious? You have mentioned this before,” said she. I am sure I have. And here I am talking about the same thing again. No pain, no gain. No free lunch under the blue sky, for parents and for all of us, especially for children.

1, Aug 4, 2010

The Temptation and the Danger of Stupid Behavior in a Fun Crowd

Filed under: work — admin @ 12:03 am

During a conversation among some nurses on Monday 8/2/2010, I heard that they had a party last weekend and one of them got drunk. I heard that girl saying “Party was no fun without getting drunk.” Another asked if she drove after that. “No. Can’t put the two together,” she said.

I thought of another party in which one of my co-workers spit out a large quantity of stupid vulgar expressions, most horrifying to all present, which I believe she would rather keep to herself if she had not over-drunk at the party. Her stupidity at the party provides fertile food for gossips long after the party and of course embarrassment to her children at least. This behavior makes me think of sociological theories on crowd mentality and herd behavior.

For some people, it seems the larger the crowd, the crazier they become and the more they let loose of themselves. It reminds me of the behavior of a three-year-old who acts up and seems out of control when there are guests in the house. It is funny some adults never outgrow kindergarten behavior.

Don’t make a fool of yourself while having a good time. Remember losing control is no fun.

1, Aug 3, 2010

A Woman with an Extraordinary Ability

Filed under: work — admin @ 12:41 am

On 7/2, while my colleague and I were talking about one monitor from PRA, she told me of her experience with that company, specifically her unpleasant one with her boss there.

From the conversation I learned one trick of getting rid of an employee is to write up high expectations for his/her performance. If that employee fails to meet the high benchmark, fire that person. My colleague used to be a boss with a dozen employees under her. When her boss asked her to play this trick on two of her persons, she thought it unfair and refused to follow. As the result, her boss fired her.

Many people complained of her boss, a woman with an extraordinary controlling finesse, but nobody could do anything about her. Here’s what she did in order to get her way. She engaged in indecent relationships with nearly all the upper level management so that they were afraid that she might file sexual harassment lawsuit if they fired her.

Who says life is boring. This is nothing but boring if you happen to meet a boss like this one.

1, Aug 2, 2010

The Common Traits Found in Three Geniuses

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:47 am

While waiting for my daughter’s art class at her teacher’s house on 6/19/2010, I was reading a very interesting article carried on the New Yorker August 2, 1999, “The Physical Genius: What do Wayne Gretzky, Yo-Yo Ma, and a brain surgeon named Charlie Wilson have in common?” by Malcolm Gladwell. Driving on the way back home, I was excited about the article and was eager sharing it with her.

The article details the traits shared by these three genius in sports, music and brain surgery. Though engaged in different fields, they will excel in tasks involving high-demand percetual motor abilities. Here are their common traits.

(1) They are all extremely dedicated to their respective field, having spent long hours practicing. This tendency show itself at a very early age. Thus, these geniuses have applied greater diligence to perfecting their skills, nothing of the myth that they are just talented and can produce great work effortlessly.

(2) They all engage in the unique use of imagery. “What psychologists study people who are expert at motor tasks, they find that almost all of them use their imaginations in a very particular and sophisticated way… Yo-Yo Ma told me that he remembers riding on a bus, at the age of seven, and solving a difficult musical problem by visualizing himself playing the piece on the cello.”

(3) These geniuses are extremely intolerant of their own mistakes, no matter how small. They are seeking perfection. “They were the best. They had the ability to rethink everything that they’d done and imagine how they might have done it differently.”

Nothing extraordinary comes by accident. Now you know what you have to do if you want to be the best. For further reading on this article, see the New Yorker archive online,

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