Car, Transportation, Luxury, Vanity, Time and Life


On 9/26/2011, I told some of my colleagues that I had been car-shopping during the weekend. That started the conversation on car. I have learned that one co-worker owns an Audi, the other expressed the desire of buying one, but was deterred by the 6-digit price. To me, a car is nothing but a mean of transportation from A to B. I did not share with them my view, which might sound too foreign to them after all.

My idea of spending is this simple equation:
money = time; time = life.
Hence, the amount of money spent on something must be worthy of the amount of my time and life.

Nothing comes from nothing. You have to pay for whatever you desire. Comfort, luxury, vanity, and the final cost of money, time, life and health, all will balance out.

In my life, I compromise on many things, but never on time and some other major matters.



The Inevitable Death of Daisy Miller, Her Beauty, Stupidity, and Recklessness


I read this book sometime in summer — Daisy Miller: A Study by Henry James. On the surface, the book seems to present a contrast between the sophisticated European culture and the innocent, uncultured, and natural American one represented by Daisy Miller. The innocent one seems to be victimized by being misunderstood, ridiculed and rejected by her compatriots, the European-Americans.

On another level, it appears like another story in which an innocent girl was ruined by a man, like Tess in Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. However, my reading of the book reveals a different message. Rather than blaming others, I see Daisy Miller has all the ingredients to qualify her for her early death.

She is dangerously careless and heedless, always acting on impulse, and most unwisely rebellious and impudent. On top of it all, she does not have the mental capacity to distinguish between the real gentleman and the fake one.

Hence, against the warning of some good-will friends, she followed a handsome Italian, a phony gentleman, to a place plagued by Roman fever late at night. As it is fully expected, this typical I-do-what-I-want girl contracted this fever and met her death soon after that.

The book, out around 1878, is still relevant today in light of the fatal consequence of these qualities possessed by Daisy Miller.



Create a Healthy Environment for Yourself


On 8/18/2011, a friend of mine called me during lunch break, telling me she started feeling a lot better after she got back to work. She used to feel low when she was home, not without other reasons. Her complaints about her spouse reminded me of a conversation with a relative of mine who had similar experience.

However, instead of making complaints, she told me, “Some men seem to get worse as they age, either in temper or in whatever bad habits they might have. One way to look at this problem is, they become sick as they age, either mentally or psychologically.”

I told my friend, “If you can see him as being sick, you will not take his words for real.” After all, who would fight with a sick person? Nowadays people attach great weight to being healthy. They are also aware that feeling good or being in good mood is very crucial to their health. Yet, without a positive, sunny and cheerful environment, it is hard to maintain a high spirit and to feel good and healthy.

Instead of waiting for others to create this environment for us, I told my friend, it is up to us to create and maintain a positive and wholesome environment for ourselves. Call this win-win deal.



An Unforgettable Experience Working under a Chinese Boss


On the year I left Sprint, I found a job owned by a Chinese man. He started a company a decade ago, serving as the middle agent between Chinese suppliers and an American store here. The store placed an order and he searched through his friends in China for the best price. He maintained a database of goods, suppliers, price and transaction history.

This is the first time that I worked for a Chinese and in this field. He reminded me so much of the boss in China, the very unpleasant side. Still, the job sounded interesting as I saw the working of database and the amount of information that needed to be organized and analyzed.

But I did not have the chance to stay there for long because of one of his employees who back-stabbed me. He had three female employees, one Chinese, two Americans. It is this Chinese who for some reason did not like me and eventually sent me home.

However, I had a good working relationship with two American colleagues. About a year after I left, I learned from one of the Amerian colleagues that the company was ruined by the Chinese employee who drove me out.

This Chinese woman sold the company’s database to the American store, thus making it unnecessary for them to have this middle agent company to get its goods. In return, she got a management position at this American store.

This was carried out while the owner of the company was in China planning his second marriage with his young wife. The whole thing was unpredicted, devious and ugly-done.

I felt bad for the company’s owner. When he was as old as half a century, he lost his company and had to start all over for his daughter of the first marriage and the child of the second marriage.



Be Watchful of Abdominal Fat


During the month of March, I worked at the location where I first started working at back in 2005, then I left in 2007. I was surprised to see the changes in some of the people that I knew of. One colleague of mine has changed for the better, looking younger and slimmer, while others, more of these, seem double in size, which simply shocked me. Here’s some information on body fat.

People with apple shape tend to have abdominal fat, which may produce substances that contribute to inflammation throughout the body. This is linked to a higher risk of many kinds of disease. And, fat that collects around or near internal organs seems to pose a greater health risk than that which is just beneath the skin.

In general, you’re in risky territory if your waistline measures more than: 40 inches for a man, 35 inches for a woman. You have to figure out a way that work for you to shrink your waistline, if you are at high risk.



College Graduates: From Temp to Your Dream Job


On 8/10, when I was in Leawood library with my daughter, I saw a book called Save the Assistant: A Guide to Surviving and Thriving the Workplace by Lilit Marcus. The book cover shows a woman whose head is almost buried by all kinds of paper documents. The sight reminds me of my workplace.

I picked up the book and only went through the introduction. I told my daughter I like the author, though I don’t have the time for the whole book.

The author went to New York City after earning a bachelor degree in English from a state university. She applied for “every job that was even loosely related to what I wanted to do. In other words, I spent a lot of time tempting.”

She ended up being an assistant at a company, definitely not her dream job. The wonderful part about her is she could parlay her experience as an unwilling office assistant, start a website, write a book, and eventually rise above from ground zero. In a word, she finally got her dream job.

This author towers over those college graduates who fail to land on their dream jobs and eventually hold on forever to their temperary jobs.



A Forgotten School In a Remote Village in Sichuan, China


Early last month, a friend of mine emailed me a link to his son’s 8-day journey into a remote village in the southwestern corner of Sichuan, China, where Yi ethnic people live. As my daughter and I surfed through the pictures, both of us were appalled by the indigent scene of the school and children. Click twice to enlarge the image. I hope all of us could do something to bring some changes to their school and their lives.

More pictures



Parenting, Money, and Need for Re-education


On 5/20, I learned of the breakup of a young relative of ours with his girlfriend. On one of their date out, the girl bought a purse for 20,000 yuan, one third of her annual salary. The boy said jokingly, “Wow, with this spending, I am not sure I can support you in the future.” The girl was upset and told her mother of his words. The would-be mother-in-law told her daughter, “It’s none of his business. We spend our money.” This led to the final breakup.

I shared the story with my daughter. She agreed the girl was too extravagant. “You don’t spend that much on a purse even if you made $600,000 a year,” she said.

As a parent, I see clearly the hand of the girl’s mother in the whole thing. Number one, she is responsible for her daughter’s wastful spending. Number two is the fact she added fuel to the fire over the boy’s words, which hurt the feelings on both sides.

Secretly, I was hoping the boy could be more tactful in dealing with the girl, then further down the road, educate the girl and gradually free the girl from the undesirable influence of the mother on her. Then I think it too much for the boy to assume the role of re-educating the girl when he himself is not as mature as his age.



The Rich Set the Fashion; the Poor Follow


On 8/11/11, some of my colleagues talked about designer bag by Michael Kors. One of them loves it so much that she plans to buy one of them. After that I went to the website to take a look at them.

Wow, one little box-frame bag, size 4″Height x 4 1/2″Wide x 3 1/4″Deep cost $1,595. Most of them cost a few hundred dollars each. I am simply blind to any charm that they claim to possess. Instead, I feel repulsed when I see the price.

I simply don’t understand why people are willing to squander their hard-earned money on these designer bags. Thanks to these loyal customers, these top designers can exist in splendid style, driving limousines in town, living a life free from any concern or any need to work for a living. Why do people have to fall for this trick?

This once again reminds me of the saying — the rich set the fashion; the poor follow with their money.



Weight To Go or Easy to Gain, Hard to Lose



It would be cute if this were a little baby’s cutie tummy. We all know it is not.

Yesterday marked the end of 8-week long weight-to-go class. See my posting on 9/16 and 9/17. By the end of the class, we were asked how many pounds we have lost during these eight weeks. The majority reported between one and four pounds. For all these efforts, that meager weight loss really doesn’t make a dent to that extra layer around the middle. So pathetic.

Don’t we already know that weight, like all bad habits, is easy to obtain but hard to get rid of? Now you get the message — make extra effort to avoid putting yourself in that situation in the first place.



Tutoring, Experience and Much More


Yesterday was the first day of my daughter’s tutoring job. It was also her first job. She tutors algebra 2 to a high school junior in her school. The tutoring took place in a local library.

She knows that she would gain tremendously through this experience, in terms of tutoring, responsibility, interactions with others, which no money in the world can buy.

She was tired after school and even more so after tutoring. We both knew in the long run it was better than without.



Advice on Teen Success


I read an article from Success magazine about teen success offered by SuccessFoundation. Here are key points.

(1) Little things matter. Yes, you can see life as a tall building made of thousands of little brick things.
(2) Attitude is everything.
(3) Everything starts with small steps.
(4) There’s no such thing as failure.
(5) You must use the moment. If you miss this moment, there is no going back.
(6) You are always learning. Keep an open mind and absorb knowledge like sponge taking in water.
(7) You can make your dream come true. Your future is in your hand.
(8) Habits are powerful. It is so powerful that it can control your destiny with its invisible hand.



Greetings, Interactions, Make Differences


On the morning of 7/28/2011, as I left monitor room and passed through infusion room door, a doctor was going in. I said “Good morning” with my daily sunny and buoyant voice, even though I have heard plenty of negative comments on this Doc. He returned with a very faint “Hello.”

I told myself at that moment that I would tell my children never to greet people with so much lack of enthusiasm like this. It is better to always exuberate with warmth and sincerity, so that your greeting will really cheer people up or make their day. After all, we don’t have many chances in our lives to make difference in a big way. Why not do it everyday and create a positive atmosphere everywhere you go?



Exercise Traps from Weight to Go Program


Continue from yesterday’s posting on weight to go program. Weight-loss consists of two parts: eating and exercise. Here you can see the excuses for not having exercise.

Exercise traps or excuse:
(1) Would rather watch TV or surf the Internet
(2) Blame the weather, too hot or too cold
(3) “Don’t feel like it today”
(4) It is so boring…
(5) I am tired after a day’s work
(6) Prefer to sleep in instead of getting up early
(7) I got something better to do than this
(8) No time (number one excuse)
And many others… People can cheat themselves with numerous excuses and suffer from the consequence of these excuses.

Avoid the following types:
(1) Meal skipper
(2) Nighttime nibbler
(3) Convenient diner
(4) Fruitless feaster
(5) Steady snacker
(6) Hearty portioner
(7) Swing eater



Eating Traps from Weight to Go Program


The new company offers some programs for employees to earn BCBS points, with which you can redeem up to $250. One of the program is called “Weight to go.” It is a very long one provided once a week for 8 weeks during lunch time via Webnar. Below are the notes taken on 8/9/2011.

Eating traps:
There are many circumstances that may lead people to eat more or make poor eating choices. Watch for these moments.
(1) Finishing leftovers, don’t want to waste
(2) Watching TV while eating
(3) Special cravings
(4) Forget to bring lunch
(5) Skipped breakfast
(6) In a hurry or too busy for a healthy cooking
(7) The junk food is just over there
(8) Eating buffets
(9) Work through a meal
(10) Holiday season
(11) It is a party
(12) Need to reward myself with some comfort food
(13) Have not planned meals
(14) Eating while cooking
(15) Eating with a friend



Retire as Early as Possible, Start Taking Care of Yourself, Part II


It makes absolutely no sense to toil beyond age 60 and reaching 70 only to find oneself drop sick or even worse drop dead. I am sure in case like this the only beneficiary is U.S. government who does not have to waste a penny on your benefit. What a bless!

Against the advice given by the article, I believe the best strategy is to retire as early as possible, without having to stress out and burn away your life for that meager 30%.

Here’s a simple math: on the one side of equation is stay on till full retirement age + a high probability of poor health with a huge medical bills + 30% retirement benefit; on the other side is early retirement + time to take care of your body with a small medical bill – 30% retirement benefit. See how little that 30% counts?

When you have more time to take care of your dear body, you can have a better chance of living up to 100 and going strong from there. Plus, you can use a small percent of your early retirement benefit to invest and make more money. If your return is greater than 30%, hey, you beat Uncle Sam more than once, while having a good time!

All this is made possible by your total savings. If you are short on savings, too bad you have no choice but to toil till you drop. How dreadful to be poor!



Retire as Early as Possible, Start Taking Care of Yourself Part I


On 9/9/2011, while I was on a teleconference, I saw an article “5 Crucial Questions for Retirees.” The word crucial caught my attention more than anything else, because I want to make sure I have done the right thing all the way. Well, too late if I have not.

The first crucial issue is the time of retirement. The article advices people to stay on their positions till full retirement age, 67 or 70, whichever the government defines, instead of the earliest possible age, that is 62. The argument goes like this. If you start getting social security benefit at the earliest possible age, you only receive 70% of what you would get monthly if you were to stay till full retirement age. You will suffer a “permanent reduction” of your monthly social security benefit for the so-called early retirement.

The argument makes sense if you could live long enough to enjoy the full benefit. This is the key, which, sadly to say, no one can guarantee. When I look at our chemotherapy infusion room, with people in their 60s and 70s and their quality of life, I have no doubt that they would rather retire early and be able to enjoy what little life has left for them, however reduced is their benefit.
To be continued…



Happy Birthday Once More


The song goes like this --- " Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you...!


For the past five years, I have received a nice little birthday card on or before the day from my previous manager. She left before KU bought us over. One less on the list.



A Good Deed on a Friday Evening


Today is Mid-Autumn festival. I found no fitting story than this one for this occasion.

Last Friday evening, 9/9/2011, my daughter and I went to Macy’s on Metcalf Ave. There, we were approached by four 18-year-old UMKC students from Vietnam. They were here for less than three weeks.

From their apartment on KC plaza on 47th street in Missouri, they took a bus to this Macy’s on 95th street in Kansas. By the time they came out of the store, they couldn’t find any bus home. So I took them to my house in my small Toyota, then loaded them on my highlander and sent them back.

Both my daughter and I felt great after sending them back. We left our phone number in case they need help. I hope they can experience kindness among strangers in an alien land, just as the following Chinese saying goes.



A Decade After: Worse Than 9-11


Today marks the tenth anniversity of the 9-11 world trade center attack, the first time in American history that America was thus attacked. Are we better off now than a decade ago? Are you kidding?

People talked about that part of history. Yet, in their usual lack of reflection, most people never stop a second and reflect its far-reaching disastrous impact on us and other peoples now. Why we are in worse shape now than 2001?

Let me count the horrors happened because of 9-11:
(1) The bombing is horrible, yet even more horrible is American politicians used this as an excuse to start Iraqi war, the country having nothing to do with 9-11.

(2) The Iraqi war resulted in the death and wounded of both American soldiers and Iraqi civilians, millions of them.

(3) The war led the U.S. to the red ocean of debts, trillion of them, which rapidly drags the country down to the bottom.

America today reminds me of a nursery rhyme that I heard of when my children were little,

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.



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


A few days ago, I forwarded to my son my posting on 6/6/2011 on MIT commencement address by Ursula Burns. I hoped he could keep up the MIT spirit and not stay put in his position.

I wanted to tell him that it gives me an immence pleasure and pride when I mention him to my colleagues. But I didn’t. I think he knows how proud I am of him.

I told my colleagues how my son walked out of college debt-free and with a good job in New York. I knew I sounded like bragging and I shouldn’t, especially in front of some people whose children could not find jobs and had to move into their parents’ house after college.

“Don’t do anything that won’t make your mother proud.” — I don’t think this is the great motivation for young people to work hard. Still, I am as proud as a peacock because it is the right thing to do.



Internet, a Big Time Killer


On 5/30/2011, during the Memorial day off, my daughter told me one of her friends might get into medical field. We talked about time investment for this field. If one goes into medicine for money, this time investment might not be a wise one. I told my daughter I was going to check the internet about comparison of salary among different majors.

I got on the internet, first checked emails; there I found one from Microcenter on Memorial day sale. I was so intrigued that I opened its online ad page, where I found a digital camera for a good price. I needed a good one for our Boston trip. I further checked the quality and features of this camera and compared this with others.

It took me more than 30 minutes before I realized I needed to shut it down and do something else. So I did. Then I realized that I forgot why I turned on computer in the first place.

I told my daughter of this experience. “Does it sound like deja vu to you?” “Oh yes, I know what you mean,” she said. She agreed that it was so easy for us to drift away while on the internet. That’s how we kill time.

I told her, “Next time when you need to check on something, instead of hopping on the internet that moment, write it on a notepad, check it during your break. More important, use a timer.”



All Things Being Equal, Your Physical Strength Determines the Result


Now that my son has started the day-to-day office work in a metropolitan area in New York, I keep sending him, among others, advice on being healthy. Here’s one that I want to share with my readers.

In all kinds of competitions, physical or mental, all other things being equal, victory belongs to he/she who possess extraordinary physical strength. Call it excellent physical condition, prowess, the stamina to go the farthest, the endurance to endure whatever comes, the energy to last the longest.

Hence, keep fit, no matter how busy you are at your work. After all, nothing comes from nothing. Everything comes from a good health, to say the least.



Myth and Fact about Leader, Part II


Leaders and managers are separate roles, both being important but neither is necessary to the other.

Leadership focuses on basing actions on an envisioned future; motivating and influencing others; and deciding on, and then committing to, a direction. Management focuses on basing actions on past experience, matching resources to tasks, and following established methods and procedures.

Two examples of leaders:
“My dad’s company once refused to pay its workers a higher wage. My dad was one of the few who confronted management. He asked for what was fair, and he stood his ground. He became a leader, even though that was not his intention.”

“Rosa Parks was a black woman in a time and place where being black was often considered a crime. But when push came to shove, she did not let that stop her from doing what needed to be done. I think that is the essence of true leadership.”

Leaders fight for what is right. It is the desire to lead that makes the difference. You have to believe in something with every fiber of your being if you want to go from following to leading. The building blocks of a good leader: ethics, empathy, curiosity, vision, courage, and communication.



Myth and Fact about Leader, Part I


This is notes from leadership workshop. Unless your ideas about leadership are challenged, you might not even be aware that they are not factual. Some of the myths about leaders are:
(1) Only people in management can become leaders.
(2) Leaders must be charismatic.
(3) Leaders are born, not made.

The fact is, you don’t need to be in management to be a leader. What you do need is an idea, a vision for change, and the willingness and stamina to turn your idea into something real. What makes one a leader is not how she looks but the way she wholeheartedly commits herself to a vision and refuse to surrender to mediocrity, no matter where she finds herself.

You can lead if you answer YES to these questions.
(1) Do you think you might want to become a leader?
(2) Do people often ask you for solutions?
(3) Do your friends at work elect you as their spokesperson?
(4) Are you already a leader in other aspects of your life?
(5) When problems arise, do you come up with ideas for ways to solve those problems but hesitate to mention
your thoughts because you are not in charge?
To be continued…



Don’t Delay Seeking Your Advanced Degree


The new upper management that we will work under has a rather impressive title behind her name because of her PhD in pharmacy and an MBA. When we talked about it, a colleague of mine told me that she planned to take that path in the beginning, but too late now.

That colleague of mine has earned a BS in Pharmaceutical Sciences. She joined the research team about the same time as I did. To be sure, she is a very dedicated employee, devoting 200% of her time and energy to her work, trying to prove to all of us that she could do it all by herself. I once advised her on how to improve her personal intangible asset, like getting a high degree and developing her portable skills, which she had not listened. Now with the arrival of a new baby and herself moving into late-30s, she sounded regretful that she had not climbed higher than her bachelor degree and felt like a lifer in her current position.

Seasons come and go, then back again, but not your opportunities and your prime time in life. I told my children that they should try to get all the degrees that they intend to in their 20s. Don’t wait till they have a bunch of kids and responsibilities saddled on their shoulders.



Provide Advice and Guidance without Imposing Restrictions


The CEO in our practice says in our newsletter, “My job was to give the great people who worked for me a chance to be successful–to give them the tools to be successful–and let them flourish, even in hard times. Seth Godin says that the role of a supervisor is to be a librarian/coach, not a teacher/limiter/taskmaster. It’s the same with my kids I think. I do have to set boundaries occasionally, but in the long run it is about giving them the chance to try things, to be successful, but also to fail. My job is maybe to pick them up, or boost them up, but not to pre-judge what I think they cannot do.”

I can’t believe he could come out with so much wisdom. This tells a lot about both being a parent and being a boss. While employees need rules and policies, they also need room to grow and develop their full potential. Same can be said of children. It is a real challenge to the parents to provide children with advice and guidance without imposing undue amount of restriction and limitations at the same time.



If You Have To Make Money, Do It in Unconventional Way


On my 7/16/2011 posting, I mentioned a high schooler working almost 40 hours per week at a grocery store so that he could make monthly car payment. I have realized that I need further explantion here.

Number one, it is highly commendable that this teenager earned his own luxury instead of asking his parents, so much unlike many Chinese children of wealthy second generation.

Number two, in case you do need money, this is what I told my children — make it in a creative way instead of working as a grocery boy/girl. Don’t ask me how to be creative. It is totally your job to find it out.



Car Payments, Being Good Is Not Enough


On the evening of 5/25, the last day of school for my daughter, I took her to Target for a walk, as it was raining outside. While walking, we talked about many things.

I told her that one female colleague of mine back in 1999 at DMR Consulting group was hugely worried when there was layoff because she carried four car payments plus her house mortgage, four new cars: two for the couple, two for her daughters. Why did they have to have new cars when they could not afford them? We have never bought new cars. Our cars are all one-year-old pre-owned cars and we never got loan for our cars.

At some point, the topic changed to being a good person. She asked me why being a good person was not good enough. “Not doing bad thing is good, but it is a not-worth-mentioning good, because it is too easy to be this good. Also, people don’t simply accept what you claim. The difficult part is to prove you are good in a creative way. Remember, as with many things in life, the harder it is, the more credit you will be given.”



Write with Due Consideration and Proper Assumption


On 4/6/2011, I received a resume of someone from China. The sender asked me to polish this resume. I sent it back with some unfriendly comments because I felt a bit annoyed over the problems that I identified with it.

First, the resume is 8-page long. So inconsiderate and arrogant! I advised her to cut it down to two pages. Nobody has the time for or even interest in 8 pages of her life, unless the writer is some type of VIP like the president of the United States. Who does she think she is, as if she deserved that much of other’s time and attention? In fact, it turns me off by page two. Pick the few highlights in her life. Leave to her grandchildren the whole inventory of what she considers her past glories. Who cares!

Second, keep it professional and leave out any personal information, including DOB and picture. She is not looking for a boyfriend or anything of that nature. It is rather misleading and damaging to put out so much personal information. Is she trying to impress people with her look or what?

Third, the order of the layout should be (a) work experience and award (b) education instead of chronological one.

I felt impatient over her resume because I expected something better than this from a college professor of English in China. Yes, my tolerant threshold is rather low when it comes to the incompetence of supposedly competent professionals.


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