Connected: The Interactions Between Your Associations and You, Part V


Continue with my notes on this wonderful book, CONNECTED: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler, 2009. I first posted my reading notes on this book toward the end of February of this year. Here’s something rather interesting regarding the impact of widowhood on men and women.

The finding is men suffer more from widowhood effect than women, that is, many of them die not long after their wives passed away.

The explanation is this. “… it may be that when men die, the things they brought to the marriage that had the greatest impact on their spouse’s health, namely money, is still around, such as a house and a pension. Conversely, when women die, the thing they brought to a marriage that most affect their partners’ health, namely, emotional support, a connection to others, and a well-run home, disappears. Widowed men often find themselves cut off from the social world and lacking social support.” I believe some men will challenge this finding by arguing against the importance of women in their lives.



Eight Time Saving Tips


I read an article by Tracy Erb Middleton, “Sneaky Time-Saving Tips to Use All Day Long” on 6/5/2011. I found them helpful for both of my children, especially my son when he just started working and found time pressing.

1. Defrost and Dash–
Before you go to bed, get ready tomorrow’s breakfast-to-go.

2. Reroute Your Commute–
To shorten your commute time by 10 percent, avoid time-consuming left-hand turns on busy two-way streets by taking right turns instead.

3. Take Five–
Focus on something for 25 minutes without interruption, then take a five-minute breather before diving back in. A pause can actually help you move faster.

4. Shop Smarter– don’t waste too much time shopping around

5. Use the OHIO Method–
OHIO stands for “Only Handle It Once”– and it’s the best way to tackle e-mails and voicemails.

6. Manage Drive-bys
Keeping a spare chair and candy dish at your office desk invites visitors to linger.

7. Burn More Fat in Less Time
Eight to 12 minutes of intense intervals can burn as many calories as 25 to 30 minutes of constant moderate-exertion exercise.

8. Move the Clock
Waking up a mere 15 minutes earlier pads your morning with precious time to leisurely drink your coffee as you open mail or pick out what to wear. To keep from hitting the snooze button, put your clock away from your bed.



Higher Goal Will Result in Greater Efforts and Increase in Ability



This was sent to me by a friend of mine on 3/15/2011. This seems a common sense that if we set a higher goal, we will outperform ourselves in order to reach our goal. In the meantime, we raise ourselves to a high level. Here’s the translation.

When setting a goal, always set it 10 percent higher than our reach. At first, you might have to take more efforts, but after some practice, you will improve yourself. After you got used to this goal, you raise your goal by 10 percent and go extra miles to reach it. This way, before you realize it, you will become an extraordinary individual.



Yes, It is Possible to Control Yourself! Part IV


Fortunately, it is possible to strengthen our mental resources and turn our impulses for good. The following are tips and methods which can help bolster self-control.

(1) Become aware of the risks and long-term negative consequences of undesirable behavior.
(2) Increase your personal engagement by, e.g. telling friends or family members about your goals.

(3) Transform abstract overarching objective into reachable intermediate milestones.
(4) Take pleasure in achieving partial success and reaching intermediate milestones.

(5) Formulate “If then” resolution to deal with critical situations.
(6) Replace old habits with new good ones.

(7) Change your impulses by learning to associate the mere sight or thought of temptations with negative stimuli. e.g. chocolate with a pig.
(8) Identify situations that poses a particular risks and avoid them as much as possible.

(9) Train your working memory.
(10) Plan enough breaks and relax periods to prevent depletion of your mental resources.

Finally, know yourself and proactively avoid damaging temptations of all forms.



Count on Your friends When You are Away from Home


Early yesterday morning, the whole family went to the airport to send my son and daughter off, one to Boston, the other to Michigan. Both had transfer in Chicago. After I got back with both of them being away, I felt like having a preview of what life would be like in two years. It is really scary.

This is the first time that my daughter left home alone. On the way to the airport, I kept pumping advices into her. Of course, safety is always my top concern. Next, take good care of yourself so that you don’t get sick.

This is what I kept telling both of them — you have your parents when you are at home, but away from home, you will have to count on your friends if you are in need of help. That means you must make some friends after you leave home. Create your own circles. Parents cannot be with you all the time.

I still remember when my 17-year-old son returned home from Russia, safe and sound, excited and full of words about his experience. Hopefully, through this experience, my daughter will make a big step forward in terms of maturity, independence, and responsibility.



Yes, It is Possible to Control Yourself! Part III


There are two different information-processing systems in our brain fighting for control of our response to temptation.

(1) Our impulsive self makes fast associations– vending machine equals to chocolate and to the pleasurable experience of its taste. It scans the environment for potentially pleasurable stimuli and sets habitual actions in motion… Impulses aim at immediate gratification, often at the cost of long-term objectives.

(2) Reflective thought draws on reasoning and planning; it comes into play whenever someone sets a long-term goal. It helps us hold back instant gain in order to pursue a long-term objective. Compared with impulses, reflection is resource-intensive, demanding time and memory. It affords us a good measure of control over our actions.

Here we see the dichotomy between impulsive and reason, short-term and long-term, which may well be the dividing line between losers and winners.
To be continued…



Old-Fashioned Advice Still Holds Value


Tomorrow my daughter will fly to a summer camp in Michigan and my son will fly back to Boston for the new position. And I will leave for China on the coming Sunday.

It is a short stay and a very enjoyable one. We already have a lot of good time together, though I know I will never have enough of this good time. Still, a man got to do what he got to do.

Before he leaves, I make sure he keeps in mind the key points that I made on his graduation date. I told him they might be old-fashioned advice, but they are still very much valued. You won’t go wrong if you could follow them.

(1) Be a good person.
(2) Never lose sight of the large picture of life.
(3) Learning is a lifetime endeavour.
(4) Always see greatness in others and find improvement in yourself.
(5) You are valued not by how much you possess but by how much you give.



Yes, It is Possible to Control Yourself! Part II


“Mental strain, stress and the influence of alcohol can impair an individual’s ability to bypass temptation.” Fatigue and stress can exhaust cognitive resources, such as working memory and will power, and render us less able to withstand temptation.

My daughter has this experience. When she is tired during those midnight hours, she is very prone to wandering away on the internet and easily going down to next morning over some homework, which she could get it over in much less time. When she is not stressed out during the day, she can better concentrate and not yield to the temptation of the short-term fun of internet surfing. This also explains why people tend to gain weight when they stay late at night.

Self-control is the exertion of will power in the interest of long-term objectives.” The two key elements are will power and long-term. This reminds me of marshmallow experiment and delay gratification. Without will power and long-term view, a person easily succumbs to the temptation of the moment for the meager short-term gain.
To be continued…



Happy Birthday, Momwrite!


More than once, I was asked this question, “How do you find time to write and post everyday?” The answer is: I don’t do it everyday, though the post comes out on daily basis.

I have to admit that on some day I seem to have endless words in my mind that are ready to be put on the screen; on some other days, I don’t feel like writing or even doing anything at all. For once I was thinking of posting whenever I feel like it, then let days passed without when I am not in the mood. But I never take that route because I know my readers would rather see it everyday, though not very long. This has since been my principle: short and sweet everyday.

In the end, the actual post producing process is like this. Everytime I have something to say but not feel like writing, I jot it down on a small notepad which I carry with me all the time. When I have time and feel like it, I sit down and start writing. I cross out the note and tear off the page after writing. Sometimes, I write 5 or 6 or more postings at one sitting. Then I schedule them for some future days to come out.

As the years turn, the focus of my attention shifts from children to other stuffs which include health, education, politics, career, economy, and anything that may interest or puzzle me like Obama.



Yes, It is Possible to Control Yourself! Part I


On 4/30/2011, the last day of the month, like every Saturday afternoon, I was sitting at HyVee’s dining center, reading magazines and waiting for my daughter’s drawing lesson nearby.

On that day, I read the current issue of Scientific American Mind magazine, May/June 2011, article “Control Yourself!” by Wihelm Hofmann and Malte Friese. I found it interesting and helpful to most of us who need self-discipline to get things done. Hence, I took some notes. Here they are.

“Withstanding temptation takes self-discipline–no easy tricks when immediate gratification plumbs our sense of well-being. But it is well worth the effort. Self-control saves us and other people from embarrassing or, worse, damaging consequences.”

The damaging consequences go far beyond those embarrassing moments when we have one too many and our tongues go out of control. So many foolish things can be accomplished when we let go of our self-discipline and let our pleasure-seeking impulses take control. One small example is when we fool away a large chunk of the day aimlessly surfing the internet and allow it happen everyday. Imagine how much you could accomplish if you put to good use of these hundred of hours.
To be continued…



Brain Decay and Extreme Careers


On 1/17, I had the day off, happily. I read an article on Psychology Today, Feb 2011 issue. It talks about the potential brain degeneration of those who exclusively use one part of their brains.

A new study in Neuropsychologia found, “Science nerds and artsy type may be at risk of lopsided brain decay. One form of brain dementia appears to effect the brain region least used in a person’s career.”

The frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is associated with uninhibited behavior and language deficits. It tends to affect brain asymmetrically. FTLD-afflicted patient often had extreme careers.

“They were composers, cartographers –professions that tended to have specific skills in one area.” e.g. math skills are focused in the left side of the brain, so those in number-heavy profession show degeneration first in the right hemisphere.



Foundation for the Future


Last week, when my son tried to convince my daughter of the benefit of running, he said, “You need to build a foundation now. You will need a good body for the hard work in college.” When did he learn this?

Indeed, these teenage years should be spent in the way so that you will emerge a strong and independent individual with the body ready for the adulthood strive for success. Those are the years for laying a rock-solid foundation in character, mind and body.

On the other hand, when we see some grossly overweight young people, we know the problem started in their early years and has not been well addressed during their teenage years.

Alas, these words have provided so much food for thought for parents.



Know Thyself and Manage Your Time Well


On 4/24/2011, around 5 PM, seeing my daughter taking her late afternoon nap, I said to myself, “Here she goes again.” That is, she always feels tired around this time of the day and then positions herself well for a nap. As the result, she will push back her night time sleeping. What often happens during those midnight hours is she cannot concentrate on her study and gets distracted easily.

I often tell my daughter — know yourself, which means know when you can work most efficiently so that you can better manage your study and make best use of your time.

We all have our prime time of the day. Know yourself so that you can avoid fighting an uphill battle when you are least likely to win it. Know yourself so that you can play to your strengths instead of your weaknesses.

Same can be said of studying while listening to songs. If you find yourself more into the lyrics of the song than into your study, you are better off shutting it off or choosing a piece of light music if you need a background noise.



Want to Be a Doctor, Follow Your Passion Not Money


Today is the last day of our company’s legal existence. June 20th marks the first day of our employment with KUMC. I will also start working at another location next Monday.

The KU buyout does not make as much impact on us as it does on the physicians. With our company, the physicians were independent partners. After buyout, they become employees like us, losing their independence. No cry. This seems to be the trend among physicians if they want to stay profitably employed.

When I was wondering about their status, I thought of the conversation with another Chinese parent last Saturday when I was waiting for my daughter’s drawing lesson. She asked me about taking medical field. I told her we must let the children decide on this and the decision must be this: they must have passion for medicine, nothing else worthies the effort and the sacrifice. There are two key factors involved: the number of years that must be spent on medical education and the shrinking salary of future physicians.



An Idle Mind Leaves Room for Trouble and Disaster


When I heard over the radio on 6/11 that Rep. Anthony Weiner, under pressure to resign because of the scandal, announced that he was entering professional treatment at an undisclosed location and requested a leave of absence from Congress. He acted as if he could not control his libido and had to resort to professional help. I don’t think he is that sick. He must have plenty of idle time for those horrible acts.

His aberration so unfit his position reminds me of not only people in similar situation but also one high school girl. She is the stepdaughter of a friend of mine. When she was in high school, she was totally disengaged in class or any school work. To fill up the vacancy in her mind, she racked her brains seeking male companies and ended up hooking up with a young male convict. She must be bored to death.

For some reason, the proverb comes to my mind when I heard cases like Weiner, that is, “An idle brain is the devil’s workshop” or “An idle mind is the devil’s playground.” Maybe the problem with all those trouble-makers is they have too much idle time on their hands. Maybe the trick to keep people out of trouble is to keep their minds crazily busy over their goals, if they have one or anything that is better than Weiner’s indiscretion.



Parents Hurt Their Children in the Name of Love


On 11/24/2010, the day before Thanksgiving, I had a nice chat with a young relative of mine in China. From the talk, I became once again keenly aware of some of the problems that many Chinese parents unfortunately share. That is, parents make decision for their children, especially their adult children, from college major to the children’s future job.

The direct consequence of this practice is this: the children never learn to take responsibility. Here’s a handy example, the parents of a young man decided that the man should go abroad for a few years study. Upon the completion of abroad study, it is up to the parents’ to find a job for the young man since it is initially parents’ decision.

I would think the parents have hurt their child much more than helping him. Alas, when will these parents learn to trust their children, if ever!
————————
P.S. my son’s flight back was scheduled to arrive at 11 PM Monday evening. The flight was delayed. He arrived around 1 AM Tuesday morning.



College Major and Career Change


On 4/22/2011, I was at our SW site working with a monitor from Ohio. This monitor from Ohio has a PhD in microbiology and immunology. He also has a long and colorful career full of ups and downs.

While listening to his career change history, I was impressed by his diligence and unremitting efforts. On the other hand, I feel bad as it means some kind of waste if he learned microbiology and ended up doing monitoring work. An ex-colleague of mine without a college degree was thinking of becoming a monitor, which is totally possible.

These two people make me think about career and education and how to avoid wasting time. I myself have made two career changes rather involuntorily. I wish I had known better to avoid these changes.



Yahoo! Email Disaster, Technology and Dependability



This is the third time that I was not able to get into my yahoo! mail. Only this time I was anxiously waiting for an email from a book editor and the problem seems lasting longer than I could tolerate.

I searched everywhere on my computer for a copy of his email with his email address so that I could inform him of my yahoo! trouble. No luck. I trusted technology so much that I saved all my important emails in Yahoo! mail server without a backup in my own computer!

Last week, a colleague of mine told me the meaning of IOWA. With that total trust in technology, now I feel like one of them — Idiots out wandering around. Not really, as I have now learned my lesson and steered away from Yahoo! and keep a backup of anything that is too important to be relegated to others.



One of the ill-advices that I received on my job


A piece of recent history.
When I first started the job in 7/2007, one colleague told me that the best teacher for all questions was monitor, who should be the expert on the protocol he/she was working on.

This I did follow faithfully. I saved all my questions for the monitor, which turned out to be a huge mistake. The monitor told the manager how stupid and ignorant I was for my position and how she wasted all the time educating me, etc.

I didn’t know that monitor was supposed to do SDV at the site and their time was very much limited as the sponsor paid for the trip to the site. They would not want to waste time on educating me. I was supposed to hide instead of to show my incompetency. I was lucky that I still had the job after that.

Now I realize very often the opposite is true. Instead of getting answers from the monitor, I often provide ones for them. The more I work with them, the more I see through them.

Some of them simply act as if they knew everything, which turned out to be nothing but a mask covering their true ignorance. I should always work with a questioning mind. This is something nobody told me in the beginning.



The Wit and Wisdom of Benjamin Franklin


On 1/5/2011, while at office helping with the new hire training, I felt a bit bored and took up magazine The Saturday Evening Post, 3/2004 issue. There is a page on the wit and wisdom of Benjamin Franklin. Some of them are indeed wise and worth noting.

On greediness –Avarice and happiness never saw each other; how then should they become acquainted?
Wealth is not he that has it, but he that enjoys it.

On Christmas celebration –How many observe Christ’s birthday, How few his precepts! O, ‘its easier to keep holidays than Commandments.

On laziness —Sloth (like rust) consumes faster than labour wears: the used key is always bright.

On facing one’s mistakes– How few there are who have courage enough to own their faults, or resolution enough to mend them!
To err is human, to repent divine, to persist devilish.

On being calm –He that can compose himself, is wiser than he that composes books! If passion drives, let reason hold the reins.

On forgiving–Doing an injury puts you below your enemy; revenging one makes you but even with him; forgiving it sets you above him.

On honesty–Avoid dishonest gain; no price can recompence the pangs of vice. Who has deceiv’d thee so oft as thy self?



When the Weather Was Too Hot to Stay Inside


On 6/6, a hot Sunday afternoon, I drove my daughter to the local library around 2 PM. We felt the scorching sun relentlessly burning our skin and our whole body, making our lives so uncomfortable.

As we approached the library, I told my daughter there must be plenty of people because of the hot weather. She thought my idea was funny. I told her of our life in Ohio when her brother was a baby.

We lived in an apartment without central air conditioning system. Some people bought window air conditioner, but we didn’t because of the appliance and electricity cost. Remember we were students living on scholarship. With weather like this, I often sought shelter from the heat by taking my son to our school or to the library or to stores and came back after the sun had gone to bed. Sometimes, he played there and then took a nap while I was doing my school work.

My daughter said she was lucky she were not there. Still, I would not miss the opportunity to share with her this part of family experience.



The Influence of People Around Us


I place this posting in the category of emotional intelligence because we choose whoever we want to be with and our company in turn comes back influencing us.

We had a site initiation visit from a pharmaceutical company on 4/11/2011. The company sent four people over for the task. One of them is a PharmD and the director leading their biotech oncology clinical research and development. They talked about our study drug, the design and the study protocol.

The person talked with such an intelligence and clarity that it was almost refreshing hearing her explanation.

When I reflected the meeting and these intelligent speakers, I felt motivated and wanted to make more time for my pet project, which was started in 2008. I have no doubt that I could have made more progress if I were working with these people. It reminds me of the invisible influence of people around us.



The Fall of Rep. Anthony Weiner, Not Stupidity But Character


The married Weiner acknowledged he had engaged in inappropriate contact with six women over three years through social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook and occasionally over the phone.

We all know Rep. Anthony Weiner is not smart enough to be this stupid. No, it is not his stupidity that has brought him down, though calling him stupid is too gentle on him.

It is the lack of that unshakable quality in his character that finally defeats him. Call it morality or the basic ability to distinguish right from wrong. That’s why I keep telling my children this — the higher you want to rise, the more solid your moral foundation must be. This must be solidly built in your character and become an integral part of your whole being, so that you won’t go awry no matter where you are. Otherwise, you will fall eventually, no matter how high you have achieved.



Words from MIT Commencement 2011


“If your dreams do not intimidate you, they are not big enough.”

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it’s happened.”

Anshul Bhagi gave salute and presentation of the class gift, at the end of which he quoted a poem by Rudyard Kipling, part of it actually.

IF by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Anshul changed the ending to “you’ll be an MIT alumnus, my son.”



MIT Commencement Address by Ursula Burns and Others


To be sure, the whole MIT commencement process was very inspiring. I hope that all the participants feel this way. The speech made by Ursula Burns was one of these moments. Below are the quotes from her speech.

“Keep it real, keep it short.”
“Do not be discourageous… extenuate the positive, eliminate the negative
“Have fun–do the career that gives you pleasure.
“Change but be true to yourself in the process

Set your sights on changing the world

“Leaving this planet a little bit better than you found it. Believe in something larger than yourself. Make a difference. Live life so that at the end of your journey, you will know your time here were well spent, that you left behind more than you take away.

“Don’t do anything that won’t make your mother proud.”



The Boston Trip, Unforgettable


We got back from Boston yesterday. It was a very unforgettable and eventful trip.

Th flight leaving Kansas for Newark was delayed for an hour. Hence, we were unable to catch the next flight from Newark to Boston on Thursday evening. The airline rescheduled our flight to next morning, which would be too late for the commencement.

It was after 11 PM, still we decided to get a rental car and drive to Boston over night instead of waiting for next morning flight. We almost had an ugly accident because of fatigue and sleepiness. Finally, we arrived in our friend’s house around 5 AM on Friday morning by car.

It took us a long time to find a parking spot. We got a parking ticket for expired meter parking. Traffic jam was unbearable in Boston.

Still, we had a good time attending the graduation ceremoney, being around with my son and meeting my son’s friends and his grilfriend’s family.



Graduation ceremony Part II


Back to Kansas today.

Some people might be wondering why these five points on 6/3 posting, instead of something on how to be successful in life.

While these points reflect what I value most in life, they were also written specifically for my son. First of all, I have no doubt that he will be successful in life. Hence, there is no need to further motivate him.

Secondly, success tends to go to one’s head if people forget the virtue of being humble. I also see the pivotal role of this virtue in maintaining great relationships.

Thirdly, success also means you are in the position to give, to reach out to those less fortunate, and to make diference, which will truly realize your true value to others and to society a whole.



Graduation ceremony Part I


MIT ceremonial mace
We are in Boston today, attending my son’s graduation commencement.

I told my daughter that I was going to write a short graduation commencement-speech for her brother. She has the following for her brother.
(1) Be happy
(2) Be kind to all
(3) Less is more
(4) Read children’s books
(5) Live everyday like it were your last day.

I know I could drag on for many pages and frighten away all readers. Not this time. I told my son, “You won’t go wrong if you can follow these five points.”

(1) Above anything else, be a good person, all the time, which is defined as being kind, honest, unselfish, and ethical; and link your efforts to a higher calling than a mere self-serving one. Thus you will not be easily deterred by any temporary setbacks or loss. This is the moral foundation of your success and happiness.

(2) Life is an epic journey. While treading steadily each day, never lose sight of the grand scheme of things.

(3) Learning is a lifetime endeavour. Find your own role model; always have a goal to pursue. Make a point of learning something new everyday.

(4) Our life journey is a humbling one. It takes a great heart to be able to always see the greatness in others and find improvement in yourself. This is the key to building great relationships with anyone and an essential ingredient to your personal happiness.

(5) Keep in mind by the end of the day you are valued not by how much you possess but by how much you give.

Finally, take good care of your body and soul.
Love, always.



You Must Constantly Aim High in Your Life


Today, we will fly to Boston in the afternoon to attend my son’s graduation ceremony. I was excited over the trip and the thought of the event. After getting the ticket on 4/6, I began looking forward to it. The excitement that I felt about the trip reminds me of the goal that we set for ourselves.

To be sure, people set different goals at different time in their lives. In order to be energized by your goal, you need to set a high goal. e.g. you won’t feel anything if you set your goal at your Neighborhood Wal-mart. If your destination is some place far away like San Francisco or Paris or Boston as in my case, you will feel more excited about getting there.

Similarly, if you target at a local community college, you won’t be as highly motivated and excited as targeting a top-notch institution.

In order to get excited, you must constantly aim high in your life. This way, you will always take out your best and bring out your full potential instead of fooling away your life.



Happy International Children’s Day


Enjoy International Children’s Day! Or enjoy the memory of it if you are too old for that.

June will be a busy month for us.
(1) We go to Boston tomorrow for my son’s graduation on Friday
(2) My son will come back on 6/13, from California
(3) Our company ceases to exist after being bought by KU and we all become KU employees on 6/20
(4) My daughter goes to a summer camp from 6/25 to 7/16
(5) I go to China from 6/26 to 7/12
And much more after I get there…

By the way, I went to another site for KU physicals as part of preparation for KU takeover. When I mentioned June first International Children’s Day, none of these nice folks have ever heard of this. “It would be nice to have a day for the children” said one of the nice ladies. What do you mean? There is already such a day. Only it is not observed in the U.S.


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