When my daughter and I go out walking or shopping, we often see this phenomenon — slender and fit walkers pass by like a gust of wind, light as swallows, cheerful and full of life. On the other hand, we also notice the sluggish moves of overweight folks with grumpy and phlegmatic expressions, reluctantly waddling along.
Last weekend, while watching a program showing weight loss, I told my daughter of the effects of a vicious cycle – the more body fat a person carries around him, the more lethargic he feels, the more stagnant he would like to stay. This naturally leads to more buildup of body fat, which only perpetuates this overweight-to-sluggishness cycle, ending up in this unhealthy state of obesity.
Therefore, it is very crucial not to start this cycle in the first place if you care to stay happy and healthy.
A friend of mine at the skating ground once asked me how I taught my children financial responsibility. I told her I taught them with my daily activities. They know so well that they don’t need to be specifically told. The following instances reveal a lot.
I shared this joke my daughter on the weekend before mid-autumn festival. A person needs to send a coat overseas. He takes out the buttons from the coat before sending so that it would weigh less and cost less. My daughter said, “That must be you, mom.” I am flattered. In fact, I am not as resourceful as this person.
On the same day, my daughter and I went to Border’s bookstore. When she saw me carrying a small cup of coffee, she said, “Let me guess. It must be free.” Yes, she was right. It was a free gift sent to me by Border’s on my birthday. She knows I always carry my own tea cup when we go there.
Both my daughter and I have read more than once Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. There is so much to learn in this little book.
One theme that might not have been picked up as the main one, often returns to me. That is, the conflict and contrast between ideals and reality, as fully demonstrated in George Milton’s repeated narrative of their shared dream, the one in which he and Lennie Small would own a piece of land and live there peacefully, free from any outside harm and danger.
The more I think of it, the more strongly I feel that this theme reflects a larger reality than it appears to. For many people, they have their dreams at some point in their lives, yet, like George and Lennie, their dreams all have gone up in smoke because they do not have the will power to get closer to their dreams.
On 9/24/2010, a Friday afternoon, when we drove back from Ice Sport, my daughter and I talked with great enthusiasm about her dream and her short-term goal at this point of her life. I told her, “In medical field, we have a saying, ‘If it’s not written, it hasn’t happened’ After we get back home, you must commit it in writing and follow it through. After all, we don’t want our dreams to end up like that of George and Lennie’s.”
On the Sunday of 7/18, while I was waiting for my daughter’s skating lesson, I was reading a book by Atul Gawende, Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science, 2002. I shared with my daughter on the way back the residence experience that is detailed at the beginning of the book. Here are some notes from the book.
On talent and practice, “Surgeons, as a group, adhere to a curious egalitarianism. They believe in practice, not talent… Skill, surgeons believe, can be taught; tenacity cannot.”
“There have now been many studies of elite performers–international violinists, chess grand masters, professional ice-skaters, mathematicians, and so forth — and the biggest differences researchers find between them and lesser performers is the cumulative amount of deliberate practice they have had. Indeed, the most important talent may be for practice itself.”
“…the most important way in which innate factors play a role may be in one’s willingness to engage in sustained training.” Top performers, more than others, have the will to keep practice even if they dislike it.
The early part of this book reminds me of my posting on 8/2/2010 “Common Traits Found in Three Geniuses.”
On 9/18/2010, a Saturday afternoon, I was reading Psychology Today while waiting for my daughter’s art lesson. As always, I find many interesting reads here.
There is one article called “It’s so loud. I can’t hear my budget” by Emily Anthes. It answers a question that has puzzled me since 2008. During that year I frequented places like Aeropostale with my daughter. While she took time trying clothes, I was waiting outside, deeply disturbed by the loud ‘music’ or rather noise pollution in the store. I felt so miserable by the deafening noice that I kept asking her to hurry up, “Get a piece and let’s get out of this place.” I even asked the salesperson to turn down the volume. He told me it was company’s policy throughout all stores nationwide to set noise at this level.
Emily Anthes’ article finally reveals the ulterior purpose behind the deafening noice.
(1) The loud music creates a permanent party atmosphere. Loud music means party, fun, cool clothes, and youth. “If it’s too loud, you’re too old.”
(2) “People make more impulsive purchase when they are overstimulated. Loud volume leads to sensory overload, which weakens self-control. Overload makes people move into less deliberate mode of decision making. People might be more likely to be lured by discounts on items that they might not really want, and susceptible to other influences.”
As a dutiful consumer, I feel fooled and manipulated. I wish people can see through this trick and become wiser. As my daughter suggests, “Put on your ear plugs if you have to go to those stores.”
In the past, I have constantly alerted my children of the potential damages to their hearing when they use ear-buds with high volume, even though I don’t have any scientific backup for my statement. On 8/18/2010, my eye was caught by the large headline “Study: 1 in 5 US teenagers has slight hearing loss,” written by CARLA K. JOHNSON, AP Medical Writer Carla K. Johnson, Ap Medical Writer, on Tue Aug 17, 2010. I have practically the whole report copied here just to emphasize the severity of the matter.
“… the problem has increased substantially in recent years, a new national study has found. Some experts are urging teenagers to turn down the volume on their digital music players, … They warn that slight hearing loss can cause problems in school and set the stage for hearing aids in later life.”
“Most of the hearing loss was “slight,” defined as inability to hear at 16 to 24 decibels — or sounds such as a whisper or rustling leaves. A teenager with slight hearing loss might not be able to hear water dripping or his mother whispering ‘good night.'”
“While the researchers didn’t single out iPods or any other device for blame, they found a significant increase in high-frequency hearing loss, which they said may indicate that noise caused the problems. And they cited a 2010 Australian study that linked use of personal listening devices with a 70 percent increased risk of hearing loss in children.
“Today’s young people are listening [to music] longer, more than twice as long as previous generations, said Brian Fligor, an audiologist at Children’s Hospital Boston. The older technologies had limited battery life and limited music storage, he said.”
“One of Brian Fligor’s patients, 17-year-old Matthew Brady of Foxborough, Mass., recently was diagnosed with mild hearing loss. He has trouble hearing his friends in the school cafeteria. He ends up faking comprehension. “I laugh when they laugh,” he said. Brian Fligor believes Brady’s muffled hearing was caused by listening to an iPod turned up too loud and for too long.
“Some young people turn their digital players up to levels that would exceed federal workplace exposure limits, said Fligor. In Fligor’s own study of about 200 New York college students, more than half listened to music at 85 decibels or louder. That’s about as loud as a hair dryer or a vacuum cleaner.
“Habitual listening at those levels can turn microscopic hair cells in the inner ear into scar tissue, Fligor said.”
My daughter and I have been listening to the singing of this song by Jackie Chan and others. She has found it inspiring. Hence, I post both Chinese and its translation here.
Stand up..my love is as high as a mountain
You can expect something when you start running…
While my future is written at the starting point,
There is no success or fail at the finish line.
Stand up.. my love is as deep as ocean.
Excelling goes beyond this moment…
The excitement of running is still here
Tears are the celebration of victory.
I read this piece from Medscape Medical News, “Waist Circumference Linked to All-Cause Mortality in Older Adults,” written by Dr. Laurie Barclay on August 9, 2010. It was based on the results of a large US cohort study reported in the August 9/23 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
“[WC], a measure of abdominal obesity, is associated with higher mortality independent of [BMI],” write Eric J. Jacobs, PhD, from the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, Georgia, and colleagues. “Less is known about the association between WC and mortality within categories of BMI or for the very high levels of WC that are now common.” Risk for mortality was more than doubled for very high levels of WC after adjustment for BMI and other risk factors. Within all categories of BMI, WC was positively associated with mortality.
Another similar study was carried out by Dr. Preethi Srikanthan and his team from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. The result shows waist-to-hip circumference ratio (WHR) may be a better predictor of all-cause mortality in older adults vs body mass index (BMI), reported in the October issue of the Annals of Epidemiology. “This is one of the first studies to show that relative waist size does matter in older adults, even if BMI does not matter.”
Regardless of any research flaws that you might challenge, it is surely a wise thing to keep your weight down and waistline small if you care to live a long and healthy life.
This is a fit topic for back-to-school week. On 8/13/2010, I read an article — “More college students mentally ill: The number of college students with severe mental illness, including those on psychiatric medications, is rising.” by Shari Roan, carried on Los Angeles Times. The report was based on the data presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Assn. in San Diego in August 2010, with the lead author of the study, John Guthman of Hofstra University.
“In 1998, 93% of the students seeking counseling were diagnosed with one mental disorder, compared to 96% of students in 2009.”
Here are two kinds of problems that college students might possibly face. That is, from what I can observe.
First of all, not all the college kids can adjust well to life away from home. When they suddenly find their freedom, they don’t know what to do with it, or they will feel lonely, isolated and are unable to make new friends when they are cut off from the old ones.
Secondly, the stress of college courses is new to nearly all of them. Some will freak out when they feel too much overwhelmed with the course load. I learned of a student from China here who failed in one after another course and simply locked himself in his apartment, going deeper into his despair and depression.
To be sure, college life, once in lifetime, away from home, surrounded by young and handsome and hopefuls, should be fun and enjoyable. You would assume so. But with the rising cases of depression and mental disorder, parents should get the warning message and start realizing that life is not as carefree as we imagine. We still need to check on them to make sure they are in good mental and emotional shape, even if they are away from home.
I read a report on 9/16/2010, not a pleasant one when the mid-term election is drawing near. On the other hand, it is not surprised to learn that “The number of people in poverty in 2009 was the largest in the 51 years for which the US government has been publishing estimates. The figures show a sharp rise in poverty since the beginning of the US recession in December 2007. Among the working-age population, ages 18 to 65, poverty rose from 11.7% to 12.9%, the highest level since the 1960s… The number of people in poverty increased by nearly 4m – to 43.6m – between 2008 and 2009, officials said.”
There is one interesting fact in the report on Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the US: 2009. That is, the report “indicates Americans of Asian origin are the richest, while black people are the poorest.” I am sure the white would come up the richest if you only counted the Jews.
This seems to be self-evident when you look at the dominant population in institutions of higher education and those of incarceration. You can write tons of books on the differences between these two ethnic groups, suffice it to say that one salient difference is that of culture.
While Asian Americans live in a culture that is gravitated toward financial success, whatever that is, black people must have something missing in their culture that can help them in that direction. To be sure, we are all products of our culture.
During the weekend of 9/19/2010, while my daughter was preparing for a French test the next Monday, she thought it so boring. Three things came to my mind: French, one of my children’s violin teachers, and yes, intangible asset.
That violin teacher majored in musical instruments in college. By the time she was teaching my son, she had a job teaching French while giving private violin lessons. Obviously, she could not find a full time employment with her college major and had to exploit other assets that she could find in herself. From what I could see, she would find more future with this French teaching position than her violin skill.
To be sure, we want to avoid getting ourselves in such a situation in the first place. But you never know what will happen and whatever you learn today, learn it well. It will come in handy someday. Of course, I shared my thought with my daughter, which immediately lifted her spirit.
I was surprised to learn that one of my co-workers suffered from kidney stones last week. I thought adults in their 50s or older are more likely to be afflicted by this type of disease. She is only a few years older than my son. Then I thought of the young relative of ours who used to study here and went back in May of this year. He needs to be watchful because his uric acid level is high, and that was the result of a high-protein diet. Back home, when I shared this with my daughter, she said, “That’s nothing new. There is a kid, 16-year-old, in our school having kidney stones.”
I learned that the number of kidney stones patients in the United States has been increasing over the past 30 years. It actually is not a surprise when we realize our kidneys function as a filter and waste excretion and the quality of food intake is directly related to what goes into the this filter. Because of unhealthy eating habit among younger generation today, more young people suffer from the disease that is supposed to reserve for older folks. Hence, Mayo clinic recommends the following lifestyle change as its prevention.
(1) Drink water throughout the day. People who live in hot, dry climates and those who exercise frequently may need to drink even more water to produce enough urine.
(2) Eat fewer oxalate-rich foods. These include rhubarb, beets, okra, spinach, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, tea, chocolate and soy products.
(3) Choose a diet low in salt and animal protein. Reduce the amount of salt you eat and choose non-animal protein sources, such as nuts and legumes.
I hope my children and their generation would listen to this advice.
This is a reading from Bloomberg Businessweek, 6/22/2010, “Facebook Gamers Are Frequent Players.” I am not surprised to learn of the following facts.
(1) About 90% of fans of Zynga Game Network’s “FarmVille”—and games made by other providers offered on Facebook—return daily to play one game or another.
(2) 28% of respondents said they play once a day,
(3) 62% play multiple times daily.
(4) More than half of respondents saying they play “FarmVille” every day — the most popular game of Facebook.
(5) “The more time people spend on such games as ‘FarmVille,’ the harder it is for them to switch to a different diversion.”
(6) The game gets 64 million monthly active users, according to Inside Social Games data.
(7) Consumers in the U.S. will spend $1.6 billion this year on virtual goods, according to ThinkEquity.
A lot of things can be extrapolated from these facts. First of all, one cannot but notice that gaming is addictive, more so than anything good like reading bible. I mean we cannot say 90% of fans read bible every day and 62% read it multiple times. Secondly, when people don’t have money in their lives, where do you expect them to go other than finding this inexpensive entertainment online with virtual money?
Thirdly, one step further, those addicted to the FarmVille most likely do not have anything near to the real farm or property to manage in real life. In other word, they somewhat belong to the social groups that are deprived or underprivileged to the point that they have to find the satisfaction of having their dream realized online in one of their FarmVille — a bit pathetic but not far from truth.
Once again, the way we spend our disposable time reveals so much about us.
Time and date: 11:30 PM, 7/27/2010
Place: Downtown Oakland, California, eight miles east of San Francisco.
Event: Jinghong Kang, 45-year-old father of three and a computer engineer from Fairfax, VA was gunned down by two robbers who escaped with $17.
Motive: “The motive appears to be ‘an attempted robbery gone bad.'” Kang handed over the $17 he had on him, police said, but the men shot him anyway.
When I told my sister of this crime, she searched online and said “Oakland is a crime-plagued area. He should not have gone there at that hour.” Even someone in China knows better than going to that place at that hour.
The city of Oakland, CA has been plagued with typical big-city social problems including “high unemployment, widespread poverty, and an elevated rate of violent crime.” The city is famous for the 2009 shooting of Oakland police officers. The worst part is some Oakland residents called this criminal Lovelle Mixon a hero. Imagine that place!
I wouldn’t say leaving some places to the criminals and never ever going there, but always use your judgment when you have to visit places like Oakland.
From Time magazine Verbatim page, 9/13/2010 issue, I read a quote of Ichiro Ozawa, a member of the governing Democratic Party of Japan.
“I like Americans, but they are somewhat monocellular. When I talk with Americans, I often wonder why they are so simpleminded. ” So adorable, not!
The quote brought to my mind one of the phenomena in modern world, that is, the fast rise of Japan in the matter of two decades. I am sure there have been many books written on this topic; and nice to say I have not read any of them.
But as far as I can see, without even dipping into any research, there are two things that are essential for a country’s economical growth and that are characteristic of Japan — highly educated work force and conservative saving behavior, that is, savings for security in the future, rather than spending to the maximum for the present, or living on borrowed money. Sounds so familiar, right?
Look at Americans, its woeful state of education now and consider the distinctive winning features in Japanese culture and society, one would not be surprised over Ozawa’s unflattering comments on Americans.
For most Americans, this is not a question at all — they will start working and paying on their student loans. Actually, they start job-hunting at least one semester prior to that big day. In fact, this should not be an issue at all.
Yes, it is an issue and a serious one for some Chinese college graduates, mostly in China and Taiwan. I have become acquainted with not a few of such graduates.
Nearly all of them have this or that excuse staying at home, out of school and unemployed. This is very undesirable, even if they are preparing for graduate exams like GRE or GMAT.
First, stay-home unemployed –it doesn’t look good on your resume. You want to make all your adult time accountable. Even better, you want to impress your future employers with some experience you are proud of, such as, internship or volunteer or affiliated with a real company or start-on-your-own-feet or anything to show you are a responsible, aspiring and highly motivated young individual.
Second, these stay-homes need to realize that eventually they will have to seek employment and they will be better positioned if they have some work experience in whatever form they can find. Upon college graduation, they have both knowledge and the time to garner valuable work experience.
Thirdly, it agonizes them more than anything when they see their college classmates have moved on while they seem to be wasting time.
Finally, do not waste time. They have no excuse, whatsoever, not to maximize their time upon college graduation, to write new chapters to their glorious careers.
My work is never boring when I have to meet, observe, and reflect upon monitors of all backgrounds. Sometimes, when I flip through their business cards, their faces flash back like a movie, vivid and interesting.
On the Monday morning of 7/12/2010, we had a study initiation visit from a monitor on behalf of a pharmaceutical company. This monitor majored in marine biology and had done tons of research in this area before he made the switch to the field of clinical research associate (CRA) five years ago. He looks sharp and sounds highly intelligent.
I imagine it must be interesting to study marine lives, with vast ocean of water to dive in. As I listened to him, I was wondering why he made a career change to that of CRA. Life of a CRA consists of the hardship of traveling and burying your head among patient’s charts and CRFs, an extremely boring one comparing to an exciting life among marine beings, the broadness of the ocean and the endless diversity of lives deep down there. It is fascinating even to think of it.
He must have the passion for marine lives when he first dived in it. Then why did he quit? The only reason that I can come up is money. To be sure, a senior CRA can easily make up to 6-digit earnings, which not many pure researchers can even dream of. Once again, this brings up to my mind the question of combining your passion and earning potential.
On 7/14/2010, we had another monitor who said part of her job was pure “torture.” But she said she could put up with it for now. I am amazed how much we have to compromise in regard to our comfort when we set our hearts on grabbing more and more.
I shared my thought on these monitors with my daughter during one of our evening walks. She agrees that it is a hard-to-find combination in real life.
Recently, Jon Venables, one of the killers of James Bulger, found himself under public eyes again as he did in 1993. 17 years ago, 10-year-old Jon Venables became the youngest killer in UK history. He and Robert Thompson abducted and killed 2-year-old James Bulger. The two killers were convicted that year and were sentenced to only 8 years. Both were set free when they hit age 18, under the condition of their license. The license includes, among others, a ban on returning to Merseyside without written permission in specific circumstances.
First of all, under age killers should be treated more severely than this. The severe punishment will serve as a warning to any potential young criminals and should become part of parenting advice so that both parents and the children will be well-versed on the consequence of crime of this nature. A killer should at least become a lifer (lifetime in prison) no matter how young that killer is.
Lastly, parents should never let down their guard even among the seemingly harmless 10-year-old children.
During the long labor day weekend, we went to a friend’s house for a gathering. My friend has three children with two currently in a private school. She told me one of the reasons for their leaving public school is this — she does not like the unreasonable restrictions imposed in public schools. She herself grew up in China where strict rules dominated everywhere. She disliked these rules so much that she did not want her children to go through her experience.
This brought me back to my high school days, filled with not so pleasant memories. I remember one boy who often acted like he was above the rest of us. Once he presided over a meeting — too many of these meetings — and I was supposed to listen with all my ears, but somehow, I saw him as nothing but a mouthpiece of the teacher. Why should I listen to him? I did not even care about listening to the teacher. With this, I started writing from memory the poems from the Dream of Red Chamber, not that I like this novel but because I thought anything was better than listening to someone I found hard to respect. Because of this aberration, I was publicly criticized.
My daughter said I was quite of rebel. Not exactly, because I never thought of replacing that boy. A rebel would first observe those who lead, then contemplate how to replace them.
I read a piece of news from BBC News on 9/8/2010, by Sean Coughlan, “More than one in four of the entire population of England is now in education or training, according to figures from the government. There are about 14.5 million people in nursery, school, post-16 courses, vocational training and university. Tough jobs market has seen record numbers staying in education.”
To be sure, UK is not the only country that sees the rising number of people in education. It represents an international trend, as people everywhere face the challenge of bad economic time, a changed workforce, and most of all, fierce global competitions.
Two questions that came to my mind.
(1) The cost of this education with regard to money and time. Some of the bills are picked up by government, some are taken care of by parents. Most people get student loans.
(2) The job prospect of education, that is, how much we will benefit from enduring the heavy cost of education. After all, there is no guarantee of anything in terms of job or whatever you desire, regardless how high your degree might be.
I am sure most people go through this cost-benefit analysis when they decide to go through extra years and cost of training and education and believe that the benefits will outweigh the costs in the end. This must have motivated many who seek graduate education abroad.
I would like to share this view with the young graduates or would-be graduates —
If you don’t want to waste whatever it might have cost you to get your education, be genuinely active in job-hunting at least six months prior to graduation. After graduation, if you still don’t have an offer, keep searching or doing something until you find one. The longer you stay unemployed, the less valuable is your degree, and of course the more miserable you will suffer. Trust me, your hard-earned diploma depreciates faster than a used car. You have to seize the moment and face the global challenge.
I once post an entry on how to find assets inside yourself. Here’s a good example. Last Sunday, 8/29/2010, between 4 to 6 PM, while waiting for my daughter’s skating, I had a nice chat with the mother of another skater. I learned something about a figure skating coach there.
He has a master degree in one field. I don’t think he has found a job in the area of his major. Figure skating is his hobby, so is his piano. He also has become very skillful in both of his hobbies, so much so that he is currently giving private skating lessons at the rate of $60 an hour with his schedule fully packed everyday. Yes, he also gives private piano lessons, with the same rate.
I share his experience with my daughter. Intead of saying I don’t have any skills to get me a job, search inside you and see if you have something valuable to share with others. That something might open up an opportunity. This is the first lesson that we can learn from him.
The second one is on those extracurrilum activities that the children engage, such as music, art, sport, foreign language, etc. While the parents invest in money, the children invest in time. While the children have fun doing these, they also want to get something out of it. The only way to guarantee the highest return on this investment is to do your best in whatever you are involved in, so that years later, if there is a need, you can always explore this return like this skating coach.
On 7/27/2010, before I headed for Overland Park Botanical Garden, I read an article by Kathleen Doheny on how to fight fatigue. She listed 6 ways to boost your energy. Here they are.
1: Reach for healthy energy food, not candy bar
2: Eat a high-carb, high-fiber breakfast
3: Take breaks, making break time a habit can keep your energy up for long span
4: Get moving, “Walking is an energizer”
5: Take 5 and Meditate, a 3-minute quiet time doing nothing
6: Get moving continued…
It is helpful to kick the day off with a quiet moment of meditation while still in bed, then continue with short meditation breaks throughout the day. To be constantly energized, it is better to be surrounded with positive forces and avoid negativity whenever possible, as negative factors tend to drain away your energy and make your life stressful.
My daughter has been consecutively under two art teachers since 2006. On 9/4, Saturday afternnon, 5:30 to 7 PM, I went inside the house of her art teacher, I was very much impressed by the teacher’s own art work. To be sure, both of her art teachers, educated in China, are art masters. One is in her 50s, the other a decade younger, yet for some reason, both live a rather precarious life, giving private art lessons without a stable income.
The thought of these art teachers makes me think of the another side of learning. One not only needs to learn a skill, but also needs to know the business side of one’s skill, that is, how to market/advertise one’s skill, the two complementing each other. Basically, you need to know how to benefit others with your skill so that your skill will reward you in many ways.
I am sure the two art teachers would be much well-off if their marketing skill were as good as their skill in art. Don’t ask me how to market their art skill. It is up to the artists themselves to figure this out.
By the end of the day, without the business acuity to sell your art or whatever you claim to have, you will never be able to give full play to your skills or to convert your skills into something else.
Contined from yesterday.
(11) As of 2007, the bottom 80 percent of American households held about 7% of the liquid financial assets.
(12) The bottom 50 percent of income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth. [The country has seen an increasing army of low-income workers]
(13) Average Wall Street bonuses for 2009 were up 17 percent when compared with 2008.
(14) In the United States, the average federal worker now earns 60% MORE than the average worker in the private sector.
(15) The top 1 percent of U.S. households own nearly twice as much of America’s corporate wealth as they did just 15 years ago.
(16) In America today, the average time needed to find a job has risen to a record 35.2 weeks.
(17) More than 40 percent of Americans who actually are employed are now working in service jobs, which are often very low paying. [Service section seems to be the dumping ground or default place for anybody fall from middle class.]
(18) For the first time in U.S. history, more than 40 million Americans are on food stamps, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that number will go up to 43 million Americans in 2011.
(19) This is what American workers now must compete against: in China a garment worker makes approximately 86 cents an hour and in Cambodia a garment worker makes approximately 22 cents an hour. [This is partly the result of globalization. Americans have to compete globally instead of feeding itself by reaping the fruits of labor from third-world countries.]
(20) Approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010 – the highest rate in 20 years.
(21) Despite the financial crisis, the number of millionaires in the United States rose a whopping 16 percent to 7.8 million in 2009.
(22) The top 10 percent of Americans now earn around 50 percent of our national income.
The above figures show clearly the middle-class is shrinking and the American society is gradually taking the shape of hourglass. It also reveals the economic behavior of most of Americans. I keep telling my children to put aside at least 10% of their paycheck and never spend it all. If anything, this is one of the economic lessons that we can learn from the above statistics.
The following is from Michael Snyder’s article “The Middle Class in America Is Radically Shrinking, Here Are the Stats to Prove it” posted on 7/15/2010. My comments are inside [my comment]
(1) 83 percent of all U.S. stocks are in the hands of 1 percent of the people.
(2) 61 percent of Americans “always or usually” live paycheck to paycheck, which was up from 49 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 2007. [This tells a lot. First, it confirms that these people use up all their paychecks, leaving nothing for rainy days. So lack of common sense for so many people! Second, probably some of them could put aside 5% of their paycheck but they choose not to. Third, if they have not put aside at least 5% of their paycheck, their mentality is: live for today and let devil take care of tomorrow. Imagine this!]
(3) 66 percent of the income growth between 2001 and 2007 went to the top 1% of all Americans.
(4) 36 percent of Americans say that they don’t contribute anything to retirement savings.
(5) A staggering 43 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved up for retirement.
(6) 24 percent of American workers say that they have postponed their planned retirement age in the past year. [For both No.5 & 6, if you religiously put aside at least 5% of your paycheck each pay period, you would have more in your retirement and would not have to keep on working beyond retirement age. Sadly to say, for most people have chosen a different lifestyle.]
(7) Over 1.4 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009, which represented a 32 percent increase over 2008.
(8) Only the top 5 percent of U.S. households have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975.
(9) For the first time in U.S. history, banks own a greater share of residential housing net worth in the United States than all individual Americans put together.
(10) In 1950, the ratio of the average executive’s paycheck to the average worker’s paycheck was about 30 to 1. Since the year 2000, that ratio has exploded to between 300 to 500 to one.
To be continued…
Some of my friends asked for my son’s resume so that they would know how to help their children for college application. I told my son of this. He made some comments, which is very sensible. He said, “You must have your own dream. Find out your own passions. Life is too short to live other people’s dream and not your own.” I wish parents can take heed of this advice.
On one Saturday afternoon, I read Success magazine while waiting for my daughter’s art lesson. There is an article asking “How Have You Reinvented Yourself?” The answers are below.
24% answered started my own business
22% managed stress better and focus on the present
31% lost weight
17% took control of my finance
6% devoted more time to the family
I have been surprised by seeing how electronic gadgets control and waste our lives stealthily without our noticing it. I have observed people pouring a huge chunk of time surfing or texting or emailing, so much so that sometimes I had to stand waiting or repeating myself when the other person was busy emailing or texting while talking to me.
I have seen a sad case of poor time management in which a person used unproportionately large amount of time for a small task with unsatisfactory result. I learned of some addictive college students have to quit school. All because of having the bad company of a computer and internet.
Every time I see or hear about how people are consumed by these modern gadgets and how their drive, dream and hope are rendered hopeless and irrelevant in the midst of this internet/computer addiction, I feel greatly challenged by the presence of this great time-killer, hope-crusher and energy-drainer in the form of technologies. I want to write about it, attempting to warn myself and my children. There are a few very simple mechanisms to avoid being a slave of these gadgets.
(1) Check and answer non-urgent emails once a day only and turn off any IM or Skype. Do not allow these non-urgent communications interrupt your work. Keeping in mind you are not going to get anything done if you allow yourself to be interrupted by constantly dipping in and out of mailbox or IM.
(2) Stick to your plan religiously, granting no exception to yourself, absolutely. This is very important, as we know very well that too many exceptions create a rule. Of course, you must have a plan first. Remember no plan means plan to fail.
(3) Set a fix amount of time for internet fun time. Take away this indulgence when time is up.
(4) Do a reality check after you are on the internet for some times.
Once you are away from home either in college or at work, you have nobody but yourself watching over you. Be a good time manager.
This should be a day of celebration upon U.S. exit from Iraq, at least for those who have dear ones fighting in Iraq. Still, I am in no mood for this sort of thing as I am bitterly disappointed over the President’s position on Iraq war. Obama is right that Iraq war has been a huge waste of money and lives when domestic needs are screamingly urgent. He wanted to keep his promise and stop this senseless waste. However, there is a sense of something not right in his speech, and he gave the impression that he stopped Iraq war mainly out of economic concern, totally void of any sense of justice, as if money is all he cares. One step further, if America were not in this desperate economic shape, he would not withdrawn the troops.
I don’t understand this. How could he fail to understand this simple fact — the war was absurdly waged on the assumption of the existence of the weapon of mass destruction. Since WMDs were not found, let’s just go home. If he understood it, why didn’t he say, “The war kills so many innocent lives who are as valuable as my dear daughters. It is morally wrong and unjustified!” Mistake made, time for correction. Why did he have to beautify the brutal acts of invasion, mass-killing and bombing with the lofty claim of building democracy and freedom for Iraqis.
Here are some basic facts about this war that should go down U.S. history —
Name of the war: “Operation Iraqi Freedom”
Start date: 19 March 2003.
Justification: existence of WMD
Place: oil rich land
(1) Loss of human lives, 4,421 US soldiers died, Iraqi civilian deaths, by month, according to IBC (Iraq Body Count), there have been between 97,568 and 106,466 civilian deaths up to July 2010. The Lancet journal in 2006 published an estimate of 654,965 excess Iraqi deaths related to the war of which 601,027 were caused by violence.
(2) Money squandered: according to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, the US will have spent almost $802bn on funding the war by the end of fiscal year 2011, with $747.6bn already appropriated. Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard’s Linda Bilmes put the true cost at $3 trillion once additional impacts on the US budget and economy are taken into account.
(3) War always creates a large army of displaced people and refugees. According to International Organization of Migration (IOM), U.S.-led war against Iraq displaced over 1.6 million Iraqis, 5.5% of the population, some skilled workers and professionals leaving the war-torn land for anywhere they could find security.
(4) Leaving behind a land totally devastated, ripped through by civil wars, a true Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, far away from the end of the long tunnel of dark miseries, insecurity and instability of the region.
(5) This unlawful invasion into another sovereign state severely tarnished the image of the United States as a nation of Peace Corps established by JFK. Instead, it exposed to the world the true color of an invader.
(6) Bringing home tens of thousands of war-wounded and traumatized U.S. soldiers, whose young hearts and souls have been thoroughly ravished by the bloody killing experience at war.
The only almost sensible comment that Obama made was this — the strength and the position of a nation in the world are maintained not only through invasion of others but also through its economic soundness. The latter is what U.S. needs at this moment. It takes a historian with true courage and integrity to tell future generations what accurately happened during those most shameful years in American history.
Last Sunday I took my daughter and a neighboring girl to skating. From their conversation I learned of two Chinese children who were excellent academically but were rejected by their dream places — MIT and Harvard. They are excellent at least in the eyes of their parents.
On Monday evening, the mother of this girl talked to me over the phone on how to get into a good college. Why were these children rejected, with their extraordinary academic achievements and plenty of extracurriculum activities? The following is what I shared with her. I would suggest parents read my postings under College for further ideas.
(1) Keep in mind one’s perfect SAT score plus a bunch of excellent AP results are only a referencce for the admission officers. They guarantee nothing, especially if the child is an Asian American and there are too many of this kind.
(2) Admission officers evaluate the whole person, qualities like responsibilities, independence, maturity, commitment, leadership, dream and ideals. From this grand schema, academic behavior is only a small part of the story.
(3) The children may have devoted a large chunk of time to extracurrilum activities, but what admission officers look for is they do it because they have passion for it, not because they feel obligated or they just want to impress the admission officers.
(4) In the end, this is what I want to tell both my neighbor and all parents — there is no one sure way to reach the top, no guarantee whatsoever, with so many uncertainties that are beyond our control. If a child is excellent, he/she will shine no matter where.
Finally, it is always nice to know that all roads lead to Rome. Just remember it is the child’s own journey and make sure the child enjoys his journey to his goal. As my son put it, life is too short to live other people’s dream.