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

1, Feb 29, 2012

Many People Do Not Survive Retirement

Filed under: Happiness — admin @ 12:24 am

Last Saturday, 2/25, while my daughter was with a school activity at JCCC, I went to the main library to seek help from the tax preparation volunteers. I got there shortly after 9 AM, right after the library opened. Still, I was late and ended up being the last one on the list.

While I was waiting for my turn, the front desk guy sat by me, eager to chat with me. When we talked about retirement savings, he came out with these words, which was a bit surprising.

“Many people do not survive retirement,” he said. I asked what he meant. He said, “Statistics show there is a very high percentage of people who die within one year of retirement.” This is shocking. “Why?” I asked.

“Because retirement upset their routine. They don’t know what to do with their lives. Also, many people keep working until they either get cancer or are too sick and weak to work.” He gave some example to prove to me.

Upset routine? It reminds me of yesterday’s posting. It is rather sad when you have worked hard and planned for retirement, yet in the end, you cannot survive it.

1, Feb 28, 2012

My Best Mood Boost Comes From…

Filed under: Emotional Intelligence — admin @ 12:55 am

ON 2/22/2012, I read this interesting poll on medscape site. The poll question goes like this. My best mood boost comes from–
No.1 Maintaining a routine that fits me
No.2 Changing up my ensemble
No.3 Shaking up the routine
No.4 Exercising

The result:
62% of response vote for exercising
27% for No.1
6% for No.3
5% for No.2

Of course, the winner is exercise. Because we all should have known by now the benefit of exercise on our brains. And we also know following the same routines allows us to live with the old habits, go through the same pattern of familiar daily activities, no risk, no surprise, and of course routines provide comfort.

What surprises me most here is the impact on our mood when we shake up our routine and change up ensemble. There must be something that is biologically hard-wired in us and that makes us stick to the old routines, the familiar environment and avert the strange experience. Is this also the effect of inertia in us? This leaves me all the more respectful of those who choose a different path and challenge themselves with the unknown and uncertainty in life.

1, Feb 27, 2012

S is for Self-Esteem: Essential for all the other Secrets

Filed under: Success — admin @ 12:11 am

This is part of the notes taken on 1/14/2008. I know it was four years ago. It was from The Psychology of Achievement — Six keys to Personal Power by Brian Tracy. The author uses the acronym SECRET to summarize the six keys of success.

S for Sense of purpose, having a mission in life, setting clear specific goals.
E for Excellence, a commitment to superior execution in life and in whatever you are engaged in.
C for Contribution, good performance, make your working self more valuable to others.
R for Responsibility, you are the master of your life and fate, dare to take responsibility.
E for Effort, the basic rule of life, sowing and reaping, no pain, no gain; focus and concentrate
T for Time management, using your time, talents and abilities efficiently, getting more things done in the limited time.

A seventh bonus key to success is to realize that high self-esteem is essential for all the other secrets. S is also for self-esteem. How good you feel about yourself depends upon you. It is the basis of your effectiveness in all areas of your life and impacts all the other keys to personal and career success.

1, Feb 26, 2012

Good Readers and Understanding Characters

Filed under: Writing — admin @ 12:07 am

Continue on being a good reader…
Reading is like writing, in that it involves a good understanding of many things, such as, setting, development of character, plot, ending. There are different genres of books, even among fictions.

For some people, they like a book because of its charater. The character is so well-written that he or she remains with us long after we close the book, like the hero in “To Kill a Mockingbird” or in “Anna Karenina.”  When I was small, I preferred this kind of books. For a long time, the characters in the book were like my invisible friends.

For some other people, they prefer mysteries and thrillers which are not good at character development when their main purpose is to solve a mystery and they move fast to the solution. These readers are more interested in the solving of the mystery, like reading Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. If you want to study character development, stay away from books like this. I believe real good books always provide readers with unforgettable characters.

There are normally two kinds of characters: flat one and round one. The flat one is predictable, that is, there is no surprise. His actions are always consistent to his character. You know he is a good guy, so without exception he does good things at every turn of event. Of course, if he is a bad guy, he is bad all the way to the end, like characters in Tess of the d’Urbervilles.

A round character is just the opposite. That is, he is full of surprises and the unexpected. And these surprises do not appear too far-fetched. Sometimes, he is presented as a heartless villian in the beginning, then as the story goes, he is showed as the opposite to the initial villian, like Anton Chekhov’s The Lady With The Dog.

As far as I know, most characters are flat and predictable. A good exercise on analyzing character is to trace the development of the character and ask yourself why you like or dislike the main character.

1, Feb 25, 2012

Tax Preparation: Learn To Do It Yourself

Filed under: Money — admin @ 12:48 am

On 1/21, Saturday morning, while my daughter was still at Manhattan, KS, I went to an eye doctor for annual eye check. From there I went to Liberty Tax service to have an estimate of cost and the amount either we owe or we have overpaid on our federal tax.

The person serving me talked with Indian accent, punched in numbers into his tax return software, and in less than half an hour came back with the result. I was surprised to see his bill of over $300 for his service and that was after the coupon and discount. Plus, I was disappointed that he has not reduced the amount of tax that we owed. I know there must be some tax loops that I am not aware of and that can open a big door for shrinking tax dollars.

I thanked him and let him know that I would do some research myself to see if I could come up with a better deal. He looked unhappy and told me no matter where I went I wouldn’t get any better deal than this and in fact I should have paid more if without him. He kept talking while I thanked him all the same, and left his empty office.

I know this is the only time when tax preparers get most of their revenue during the whole year. It makes financial sense to maximize one’s profit during tax reason. Still, I can’t see why he charged over $300 for his half an hour work when he even failed to meet my expectation. I am not sure what I have learned from this experience but I think I did a right thing walking out of his office.

1, Feb 24, 2012

Easy Said Than Done, Easy Planning Than Implementing

Filed under: Life — admin @ 12:06 am

On 2/16, last Thursday, when I talked to my mother over the Skype, she shared with me an article about New Year Resolutions. I told her many articles that I have read here on how to keep your resolution. The so-called 5-minute enthusiasm seems an universal problem.

My mother quoted the above saying, emphasizing that people from ancient time to now, from China to America all have this problem, all because saying is easy than doing. We all know too well that it is far too easy to write a resolution or a plan. In fact, everything seems easy before the actual implementation.

1, Feb 23, 2012

Notes from Naturally Slim Program

Filed under: Health — admin @ 12:39 am

Our company offered some health programs. One of them is Naturally Slim, which claims to beat all the existing diet programs.

P.S. 3/2/2012 This is the fourth week of my participation of the program and I have already benefited from it. I removed these notes, as I believe you will get the full benefit by personally participating in it. For any questions, you can go to Naturally Slim website.


1, Feb 22, 2012

Hidden Risk Factors of Heart Disease

Filed under: Health — admin @ 12:04 am

This is from our internal circulation on health. You might think the factors must include overweight, smoking, drinking, or overwork. Actually, there are some factors that I have never heard of before. So here they are for my readers.

First, “Too much or too little sleep can increase blood pressure and levels of stress hormones,” says Jennifer Mieres, M.D., a spokesperson for the American Heart Association. Over time, this stress can wear on the heart.

Second, if you have gum disease. “While the link is not clear, it may be that the inflammation from gum disease allows bacteria to enter the mouth’s blood vessels, travel into the coronary artery vessels, and narrow the passages. This reduces blood flow.

Third, depression is a risk factor. It “can cause abnormal heart rhythms, elevated blood pressure, and faster blood clotting, all of which tax the heart.”

Fourth, if you’ve been diagnosed with certain autoimmune conditions. “The biological mechanisms and causes of these diseases still are not clear, but they may be related to inflammation.”

Fifth, you feel tired and sluggish. “Lower hemoglobin levels force the heart to work harder, which means it wears out sooner. “Anemia can be a key risk factor, especially as women start getting close to menopause and their periods become irregular and they’re living with lower hemoglobin levels.”

Sixth, your mother had a bad heart. “Children typically spend more time with their mothers than with their fathers. Mothers with heart disease are more likely to smoke, have a poor diet, and/or be inactive, which can influence the behavior in offspring and increase their risk.”

Seven, you’re taking steroids. Because “steroids increase blood pressure, lipids, and blood glucose, thus increasing the risk of heart disease. Since steroids change the potassium balance in the heart muscle’s cells, they may be the root cause of atrial fibrillation.”

1, Feb 21, 2012

Good Writers Must First be Good Readers

Filed under: Writing — admin @ 12:42 am

Continue with my effort at improving writing…
I believe I mentioned something like this in my last posting on writing, that is, you must be a good reader before you can be a good writer. Well, I might have gone too far in making this statement. But I have to put it this way in order to cause your attention to the importance of critical reading.

I have emphasized active reading, which involves eyes, hand, and head, instead of passive, pure-for-fun reading. I have also emphasized the importance of developing analytical and critical thinking ability through active reading.

I am going to devote several postings on how to read critically. The active reading starts with asking questions, try to formulate your own answers before you move on to find the answers in the book. Furthermore, you can do a bit comparison between your answers and those of the author’s.

e.g. when you read a book that starts with this–“Mr and Mrs hubble moved into this old house in this crowded corner of the city five years ago.” You should ask “Where were they before this move?” “What happened to them at the moment of their moving?” “Why did they move?” “Why did they move into an old house instead of a new one?” “What will happend to them in this old house?” “Is this a haunted old house?” “How will their lives change because of the move?” Finally, of course, you should ask “Why moved into this crowded corner of the city?” Sound like a poor neighborhood, right?

As an exercise, you should try to come up with your own answers before finding the author’s. If the author does not answer these questions, you can further ask why.
more later…

1, Feb 20, 2012

Tricks to Keep Your New Year Resolution

Filed under: Emotional Intelligence — admin @ 12:32 am

I read this early this year from London Express. Here are some of the tips on keeping our grand promises at the beginning of the year.

(1) Be realistic. Most of resolutions are about breaking bad habits and creating new ones. Just as constant dripping wears away a stone, so will our constant effort and daily attention help us reach our goal.
(2) Get organized. Be strategic. For example, in order to curb “comfort eating,” have an alternative ready to meet your next craving.
(3) Visualize success. Hold that sparkling vision of a new you and hold it everyday of the year.

Below is from our office’s internal circulation on how to implement New Year Resolution.

(1) Set more specific and realistic goals. Commit to doing something everyday to reach your goal
(2) Don’t beat yourself up. There is a reason we only make New Year’s Resolution once a year —
they can’t be accomplished all in one day. Realize that anything worth doing takes time
(3) Celebrate the little accomplishments. Find a way to reward yourself for a good job done
(4) Get support. Find people who will support you as well as remind you to get back on your feet
when you have fallen short.
(5) Make plans in advance and with others. This way, you are less likely to give up.

If you don’t want to set and forget, come back to your promise at a fix date every month. There is nobody out there checking you, hence you got only yourself to check on you. Isn’t that scary?

1, Feb 19, 2012

Book Industry, a Not So Bright Future

Filed under: Career — admin @ 12:55 am

My daughter and I went to Barnes & Noble’s again on 1/29, Sunday morning. Since the end of last Christmas, there has been a pile of clearance stuffs at the bookstore. In fact, there seems endless of them from time to time, either out of season or no longer marketable.

I often stopped by, trying to see if I could help the store by picking up some of them. On that day, as usual, I stopped and took up some books. There were novels, travel guides, some theory books, even some Christmas season stuffs. I could see myself throwing these books somewhere in my house if I bought them, and the idea of bringing more books back took me to the boxes of books that I already have and I have planned to donate.

Enough for that. I have decided that I am not really interested in these books and better off without them. As I walked away from the clearance corner, I couldn’t help thinking of the future of book industry, with so many books, so few buyers, and so many people like me who spend more time on the Internet reading online than book-reading. While bookstores are great place for people to study and to do some reading, it shudders me when I think of Border’s and the not-so-bright future of the existing ones.

1, Feb 18, 2012

How to Work with Monitors Or Not

Filed under: work — admin @ 12:35 am

This happened again on 1/23 and 1/24. Monitors from two studies emailed me asking me to work on some issues related to my patients and get them resolved a.s.p.s because there would be an immediate database lock. I went to their systems only to find the pages that I was supposed to work on were frozen, so I emailed back, informing them the status of these pages.

Upon receiving my emails, the monitors went to the related person to unfreeze the pages for me, then emailed me back, intending me to work on them a.s.p.s.

I felt like having wasted my time helping them to find out what their systems allow me to do when I expected these monitors to figure out this first before writing to me.

At first, I was upset and felt like being pushed around. I wrote to a project manager about this. I finished writing a grumpy email but I did not send as I knew exactly what that manager would say and would ask me to do. As it happened in the past, the manager would ask me to do what the monitors request.

Here’s my passive aggressiveness. Next time when a monitor asks me to do something, I will first ignore it. Upon second email, I will ask if the pages are ready for work. I will go to their system only after I hear from them the second or third time. Never waste time on starting working immediately. This was written when I felt being thrown around.

1, Feb 17, 2012

New Year Resolution, Different Approach to Life and Happiness

Filed under: Happiness — admin @ 12:28 am

On 2/6/2012, I shared my New Year Resolution with a friend of mine, in that I sound more ambitious this year than before. Mainly because I want to keep myself busy and start getting myself more involved. I must be sub-consciously thinking of preparing for the time when my daughter leaves for college and I will find myself having too much time on hand after work. I want to involve in something instead of spending time thinking and wondering what my daughter is doing.

That friend said, “I only focus on small things like, a good book, a new film, an interesting dinner. You do plan on a yearly basis. And me: daily basis.”

Upon hearing these words, I realized there are something missing in my New Year Resolution, that is, learn how to enjoy life with good friends, family, and everything I have in life.  “Most important,” this friend said, “we all enjoy what we do.”

He is absolutely right. Each of us may have our own way of living and our definition of happiness. But we all share one common denominator, that is, a good health, the basis for everything else.

1, Feb 16, 2012

“I don’t know”-the Answer Children Give When They Are Too Lazy to Think

Filed under: children — admin @ 12:23 am

It is funny how children are alike in their behavior. On 2/6, a friend of mine told me that her child gave many I-dont-know answers when she tried to make him think by asking questions.

It sounds so familiar as I see the same pattern from my daughter. Every time when she is too lazy to think, she would come out with IDK. Sometimes when I push for more question, she would tell me to leave her alone, a more direct way of telling me “It is not that I don’t know but that I just don’t want to think.”

As parents who know what is best for their children, instead of giving up, we should insist on doing the right thing. We might change our questions or change topics or ask when is the best time to talk or simply explain one more time the benefit of using our brain. Do anything to set children think. Do anything is better than giving up our efforts.

1, Feb 15, 2012

What Do You Get for Working Hard?

Filed under: Life — admin @ 12:22 am

Last weekend, when I was at Barnes & Noble’s in Town center, I met an acquaintance of mine. I know someone from her work place went to our clinic. So I asked her about this patient. From there, she started talking about the importance of enjoying oneself while we can. She talked as if it was all futile to try our best in life. “What’s the use of working so hard without enjoying yourself?” she asked. “What do you get for all your hard work? Nothing.”

Sound rather discouraging, right? As if all your efforts were for nothing. On the way back home, I shared this view with my daughter. I told her “Even if our future is uncertain and there is no guarantee that we can reach our goal, whatever that may be, still we need to make efforts and need to try our best. Because that’s the only sure way to get closer to our goal and to make the most out of our life. That should also make you happy.”

For both of my children, if they don’t try, they will never know if they can make it or not. Only by trying their best can they have the hope of accomplishing something. Other than reaching your set goal, you get excitement and an enriched experience for working hard. After all, life is a process and an experience. You want your experience to be as rich as you can possibly make.

Of course, there is a risk in venturing out, like if you quit your well-paid job and start your own company, the risk is your own company might not succeed as you expected and you might not be able to find a good job as the one you gave up. Still, it’s better to take the risk while you are young, even if you could fail. So be it.

1, Feb 14, 2012

Edward Jones, Devonshire, and IRS Troubles

Filed under: Finance — admin @ 12:53 am

This happened in the past and it happens again this year. In the past, Edward Jones sent a 1099 form to IRS reporting an “Uncosted Proceeds” that we had gained, which is both erroneous and irresponsible. IRS chased us down handing us a huge bill plus penalty and interest for failing to report this amount of income. This so-called uncosted proceeds is a redemption that we made from our investment.

The amount reported represents the interests and the capital that we initially invested with after-tax saving. When I contacted Edward Jones about this reporting, I was told that since I transferred money from an outside account, they didn’t know the initial cost base of my investment. That’s why they use the term “Uncosted.” I told EJ the term was very misleading and open to interpretation. To an average person, it means nothing but a gain that has not costed us anything, which is not the fact.

But it is useless to argue with EJ. Because, according to IRS, it is up to me to provide all the documents and to prove we don’t owe the amount of tax that IRS demands. The initial investment was made as early as year 2000. EJ has created a hell of trouble for me. I told EJ that I was going to spread the word and let everybody know the great job the EJ has done to me.

Below is the 1099 form Devonshire Associate has sent to IRS for the so-called “Nonemployee compensation” in the amount of $6550. It means we have to pay tax on this compensation. In reality, this amount is a refund for a deposit we put in. Now, don’t they know refund and compensation are two totally different things? Of course, they do. Classifying it as a compensation to us means an expense to them, which they can claim for tax reduction as business expense. I guess they look at my foreign sound name and expect us to be so dumb that we cannot figure out what to do with it and leave it to IRS to hang us down years later.

The take-home message for all is you cannot trust any company to do the right thing or to take care of your interest. You got to watch closely what these companies send to IRS if you want to avoid any potential troubles.



1, Feb 13, 2012

Comments, Emails, Challenges Facing Columnists

Filed under: Writing — admin @ 12:06 am

On 2/2/2012, a fellow columnist sent me a round of applauds for my “willingness to dive in and tackle some tricky issues. In fact, you make it look easy!” She told me she had enjoyed reading my postings and was impressed.

I revealed to her that it has not been easy for me when it comes to choosing the right topic. There are some tricky things that I have to consider before anything else.

Number one, I cannot write for the sake of writing or posting for the sake of posting. If I don’t have anything worthy sharing, it is better to go without. While writing takes my time, reading takes readers’ time. A writer should know better than wasting readers’ time by dumping out meaningless stuffs.

Number two, the content must be politically correct, not offending to anybody. It is too naive to take for real the myth of freedom of speech. This is hard for me.

Number three, while it is nearly impossible to dodge personal attacks from those who disagree with you, it is a challenge to hold yourself back when you see such an attack and feel a strong urge to fight back. My political views go against the mainstream one popularly held in Kansas. The only way to avoid these mean-spirited attacks is to remain silent or not to say what I truly believe. Not possible in either case.

After reading some comments, I have discovered a nearly universal rule. That is, people don’t say anything if they agree with you. When they leave comments, I bet it is always because they have something too nasty to keep to themselves. That’s why I don’t like reading comments and I mark some of them as negative, hoping the editors will take them off.

1, Feb 12, 2012

Parental Guidance and Children Resistance

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:48 am

Criticizing your children’s work can be rather unpleasant to both you and your children. For some parents, they simply quit playing that role, for the peace of all. They’d rather spend some quality fun time with their children.

“Let the teacher do the job of giving criticism. Kids listen to their teachers,” said one parent. Actually, kids don’t rebel or act out their discontent to their teachers as they do to their parents.

Talks like this always bring to my mind memories of my father asking me to write book reports or movie reviews. The most disagreeable part is what happened after the first writing. To be sure, my father was never content with my first draft, much as I tried to please him. He always came up with suggestions and criticism and always asked me to revise it.

He insisted that the first paragraph was like a door which should tell readers what was inside the room. Next I should keep my promise by focusing on the topic mentioned in the first paragraph. If I jumped from one paragraph to another abruptly, he would show me how to glide through paragraphs seamlessly with the proper connection.

It is amazing that I still remember all these, even if, as you can imagine, I resented doing any of those extra work at that time. Again, looking back, we must admit that parents always try to do the right thing for the children in the long run, even though it is unpleasant at the moment.

1, Feb 11, 2012

“Anything worth anything at all requires practice and patience”

Filed under: Emotional Intelligence — admin @ 12:46 am

On 2/6/2012, I started working on the tasks that I set for myself on my New Year Resolution of 2012. One of them is to learn Tai-chi. The next day I shared it with a friend of mine at office. She talked about learning Tai-chi last summer and has not started yet. She asked me if I took classes from some Tai-chi master.

I told her it was home schooling, self-taught by following the video. I figure if I cannot learn it from a video, I would be too dumb to follow a class instructor. One-on-one instrutor is more expensive than piano teacher. I think if it is a challenge, it is a good one and I believe I can take it on. Just as I learned roller skating a few years ago.

She said, “Anything worth anything at all requires practice and patience, I think. If it is too easy, you give it up too fast and it doesn’t mean as much.”

I shared this view with my daughter. She agreed with my colleague. In fact, she is going to be my cheerleader in my endeavor.

By the way, there are 24 forms in simple tai-chi. It took me two days to learn the first one. At this rate, it will take 48 days (24×2) to learn all of them. 48 days can pass very fast even if we don’t learn anything. I thought I might put a little bit value into them and get something out of them.

1, Feb 10, 2012

Good Reading Habit Helps Improve Writing Skill

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:21 am

Last weekend, my daughter spent a large chunk of her time reading a novel for an essay competition. To be sure, she likes the novel very much and would like to spend as much time on it as I allow.

Being a fun-spoiler, I kept reminding her of not reading for fun. “If you want to write a good essay afterward, you have to start thinking about it while you are reading it. You have to engage in active reading.” I kept talking, even though I was sure I did not have all her ears.

Later I shared this view with a friend of mine. One way to develop a good writing skill is to cultivate a good reading habit, that is, engaging in active reading.

For most people, they read with their eyes, especially fictions. Active reading means you read with your eyes, head and hands.

With your head, you debate or argue with the author, you think or figure out the author’s intention, like what is his purpose of creating this or that character, what does he try to say through his character, are you convinced by him, etc.

With your hand, you write down what you think or jot down notes while reading or mark down places you enjoy most.

When you read with your eyes, head, and hands, you read critically and effectively. With this enhanced critical thinking ability, writing will come easily. By the way, this was the method that I employed when I worked on my Ph.D dissertation. It works like magic.

1, Feb 9, 2012

“If I were a poor woman…”

Filed under: Women — admin @ 12:09 am

During the debate on Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure cutting funding to Planned Parenthood, I wrote the following for the midwest voices. But my daughter said it was not a proper format. So, here it is.

First one,
If I were a poor woman…
I would know that I have fewer life choices than my wealthy sisters.
If I had an unwanted pregnancy,
I would know that I cannot afford to have an abortion anywhere I want.
But it doesn’t matter, for
There is always that unfailing safety net for my baby.
Should this safety net be broken,
I’d compile a list of pro-life activists.
I’d go door-to-door seeking their help, for I figure
They would care for the born ones as much as those unborn.
I’d teach my baby to be a pro-lifer, and
Welcome more of the same in the future.
Let us be happy in the provided net of safety for life.

Second one,
If I were a poor woman…
I would know that I have limited choices in life.
I would know that I cannot depend on others to give me more choices
I would know that I cannot count on others to take care of me and my babies.
I’d try to avoid unwanted accidents.
Should I be unfortunate enough to have an accident,
I’d seek help among pro-choice activists.
I’d work hard and learn skills, for
I would want to be independent and to have more choices.
If I climbed out of poverty,
I’d reach out to those
Who are like my former self
I’d be standing out for pro-choice.
I’d help my poor sisters to climb out of their safety net.

For those who wait for others to save them,
Go for the second choice, for
No net is as safe as your strong self.

1, Feb 8, 2012

Be Your Child’s Role Model, So We Were Told

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:16 am

During the last weekend of last month, I told my daughter to find her own role model in life so that she has a better chance of staying on the right track in life. Not that I have doubt in her ability to keep doing the right thing but I want her to keep doing it no matter what happens.

I often talked to her about some famous people, hoping she could find something inspiring, but that day I was surprised that she told me I was her role model and so was her brother. That was a compliment. “Because you have your goal and have never given up,” she said. I guess there are more than that.

I am glad to learn this because it is not an easy task to be a role model to a teenage child. As children move into teenage years, we not only face cultural and generation gaps, but also are further challenged by the rebellious spirit of the youngsters. When the children see you as their role model, it means they accept you and the values you represent. What a delight when that happens!

1, Feb 7, 2012

Accelerated Program for Advanced Students

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:11 am

Last month we had a new doctor working at our clinic. She has a Chinese last name and physical features but not from China. I shared with my daughter my impression about this doctor. She is either very smart or very hardworking. Normally it takes 8 years of education, 4 years undergraduate plus 4 years medical school. She completed it all in 6 years in an accelerated 2 plus 4 BS/MD program. After that, she had 3 years of residence and 3 years of fellowship in her specialty. She looks like in her 20s.

You have to be really excellent in order to be accepted into any accelerated program. And you have to apply for this program. When my daughter was in elementary school, she was advanced in reading and math. She was reading 12-grade level books when she was a second grader. I should have done something like getting her into an accelerated program, but I don’t think neither I or her teacher had done anything to keep her challenged.

The teacher was following “No child left behind” policy. I should not count on her teacher to provide enough intellectual nutrients. I am sure things would be different if we had done something during her elementary school years.

1, Feb 6, 2012

Weather is the Safest and the Most Shallow Topic

Filed under: work — admin @ 12:09 am

The research team at our site has shrunk from 6 to 2 persons. Between two of us, there is very few in common. It is no exaggeration to say that we are as different as sky and the earth. Hence, the exchange between us, other than work-related topics, is very much limited to comments on weather, the only safe topic if we want to engage in a polite conversation. Can’t believe official interactions are so superficial.

For my part, I stop myself from any involving in any unnecessary communication because of its exceedingly frivolous and teenager-like nature.

I have found out lately that weather is most talked about between strangers. There must be something good about weather, otherwise people would not indulge in it so dearly. This is what I think about it.

(1) People can stay on the surface when they don’t know each other well. Weather is something everybody knows just a tiny bit.

(2) Weather is something everybody senses, knows, and likes to talk about.

(3) Weather is a neutral topic, void of any political color, running no risk of offending anybody.

Finally, of course, it is a bit tongue-in-cheek to stay on weather among colleagues. Let it be. So is the culture.

1, Feb 5, 2012

Teenage Years, The Most Challenging Ones in Parenting

Filed under: Parenting 101 — admin @ 12:07 am

A colleague of mine enjoys spending time with her young grandchildren, all under age two. When we talk about children, there seem to be a consensus, that is, we all agree the younger the children are, the easier it is for parents and the most difficult period is those teenage one.

Most people tend to focus on the rebellious part of teenagers, deliberately choosing east when you say “Go west.” Or they become adult-like physically but less than an adult mentally. As a parent, I often feel torn between the desire to encourage their independence, mentally at this point, by debating or arguing with them and the need to cultivate respect to adult and elderly without demanding total obedience to authority.

To be sure, debating with or even conversations with teenagers can be rather exhausting sometimes, so much so that you wish your teens could be a bit docile and just accept your authority. But in the long run, parents help their children to hone their debating skill and critical thinking ability, which will benefit them in their adult life.

It is so much easy to raise obedient children than one who always test your authority, argue or bargain with you on every issue. But you know what, for the future of our children, we should encourage debate, argument, bargaining instead of trying to knock the sharp angle off the children, rendering them incapable of nothing but succumbing to authority.

1, Feb 4, 2012

Enjoy the Present, the Happiest Moment of All

Filed under: Life — admin @ 12:11 am

On 1/30, a friend of mine sent me a long piece on healthy living. This is part of it. The rough translation is like this.

While the past is gone forever, the future is as unknown as mirage in the sky. The present moment is all we have. Treasure what you have and enjoy each day, which is the happiest and the most important of all.


1, Feb 3, 2012

Of Fame and Fortune, Which Do You Want?

Filed under: Success — admin @ 12:53 am

I once asked my children, “Of fame and fortune, which do you want?” One said fortune, the other fame. It is interesting to see they came out with different answer, even though with the same parenting. I certainly hope they will eventually get what they want, though I am not sure if they will want the same thing as they grow old.

When a person from the PR department learned of my being selected on the Midwest Voices panel, she immediately noticed related PR section, thinking she would do me a huge service by posting my name and picture on the intranet and on our internal circulation. Upon learning this, I told her I preferred not. She realized she did it without my permission and hurriedly took back her request.

Publicity always means extra attention and different interpretations.  It would be naive to assume all will be of kind intention. At least, I have not cultivated a love for too much attention.

Still, for most people, of two pursuits, fame will outlive fortune.

1, Feb 2, 2012

In Learning, Guard Against Auto-Pilot Brain

Filed under: Brain — admin @ 12:50 am

When I go to work every morning, I get on 435 west. But when we have our department meeting on the 4th Thursday every month at a different location, I need to get on 435 east. On one of these occasions, I allowed myself to follow auto-pilot and head west instead of east for the meeting.

In fact, in our daily life, we are more often guided by our auto-pilot than we realize. Anytime we do something out of sheer habit, without thinking, we are controlled by the auto-pilot.

Sometimes, we can save energy by having auto-pilot take control. But if you want to learn something new or to have new experience, new ideas, or try to think differently, or chart a new path, or break away from a habit, do everything to avoid auto-pilot brain. For, if you are nailed down and controlled by auto-pilot, you will lead a life like a hamster on an exercise wheel, chained, enclosed, restricted, and suffocating.

1, Feb 1, 2012

Reading Madam Secretary: A Wonderful Lady

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:46 am

I read Madam Secretary: A Memoir by Madeleine Albright early January. I was very much impressed by her experience. She was in one sense a pioneer and an inspiration. She grew up during the time when women’s place was at home, serving their husbands and children. Even though, she did her best to play her role, she managed to get her Ph.D., and after divorce, moved on to live a very fulfilled life. Here are some of the notes from the book.

After giving birth to her twice babies, her life was changed. “So began a new segment in my life, one defined by formula, diapers, rattles, burps, teething, hugs, frequent weight checks, visits to the doctor, and shrieking, splashing baths. I was so proud of my beautiful and good daughters; I was also growing frustrated because I wanted to make full use of my education.” p. 52

“Twice in two years, I have had to leave good jobs with good futures to follow my husband’s path. And that was even before I had children. Now, even to get a job, I would have to find and hire a dependent nurse and pay her perhaps more than I could make myself. Perhaps I am being overly pessimistic. Perhaps I could go out tomorrow and get a job as a typist. The next question is, why bother? Do I want a job merely to have a job, or do Iwant to work in order to be doing something worthwhile?”

“I must admit though that I feel somewhat like a pioneer. I am not satisfied to sit back for the rest of my life and contemplate in which order to clean the rooms. I want to find a solution and still feel that somehow it must be possible to be a responsible mother, a good wife and have an intellectually satisfying job.” p. 53

While her babies were small, she could not land on a full-time job. When her hope of getting a journalist job was gone, she enrolled in a graduate program at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies — “Even though I participated in these activities, I did so part-time because I had begun graduate work at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. I had given up hope of a career in journalism but I thought I might follow my father’s lead and become a college professor. I was taking the full load of five courses, plus Russian.” p. 54

She later continued her graduate at Columbia University. “In addition to working toward my Ph.D., I decided to try to obtain a certificate from the university’s Russian Institute.” p. 56

All this hard work had prepared her for the role that she later assumed, that is, being the first female Secretary of State of the U.S., taking the path that most women in her generation not even dared to imagine.

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