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

1, Mar 31, 2012

The Promises we make to ourselves, failure and excuses

Filed under: Human nature — admin @ 12:20 am

We are nearly three months down this year’s calendar. I checked my 2012 New Year Resolution last week. I was discouraged to find that I have not kept up with any items on the list. I think I have become one of the statistics on the failure-to-keep promise list.

While experiencing the failure in keeping my promise to myself, I found one interesting phenomenon. Every time I am aware of this failure, I can always come up with excuses for myself. And I found some kind of cheap comfort in these excuses, even if I know I am cheating myself.

Isn’t something that we all share, like part of our nature? Or is it just me? I don’t know the answer. But I know many people have not kept up their New Year Resolutions, which, of course, should not be my excuse for my failure, that is, if I don’t want to be like everybody else.

1, Mar 30, 2012

Time to Remove No Child Left Behind Act

Filed under: American Culture,Education — admin @ 12:04 am

Make no mistake here. No child left behind is a very lofty idea and very enlightening, too. But if the government metes out punishment on the schools and teachers whose students fail in state math and reading tests, this policy is no longer laudable.

The real danger of punishing teachers for students’ failure on tests come when teachers, for fear of losing their jobs, focus their time and energy on testing preparation instead of on learning. This reminds me so much of the practice in China. The end result is generating a bunch of students who are experts in taking tests but are weak in various ability.

Schools are important, but ultimately they are important only in the sense that they are to prepare students for the time when students no longer need school.

1, Mar 29, 2012

Unexpected Challenges that a Writer Faces, Part II

Filed under: Writing — admin @ 12:12 am

I can’t believe I have learned so much by being a contributing columnist. Not on writing skills but on the impact of writing and the importance of being a writer with a good quality of mind.

One more thing that I have learned is: — it is nearly impossible to engage in really intelligent dialogue. You write something serious and hope people will respond to the topic with some intelligent input.

But no. Readers often come with prejudice, which drives them to either ignore or attack you personally. Meanwhile, your message is seldom taken seriously. Often, if they don’t like the author, they would find the most effective hurting language for that author.

Internet expression gives one the opportunity to cover their true identity by either registering a fake name or even a fake gender. After that, there is no stopping to people whose animosity knows no boundary. Under the mask, no civility is necessary. Everything goes. This is the most tasking moment on a writer’s character.

Still, I have found it interesting to write and observe how people react. Because people are amazingly predictable. I mean when I write about health care reform, I can see how people will react. Indeed, they never act differently from what I have expected.

1, Mar 28, 2012

Weight, Habit, the longer, the harder to get rid of

Filed under: Emotional Intelligence — admin @ 12:02 am

Yesterday I went out with my daughter in the evening. It was nice and cool outside. I shared this experience with her on the way.

An acquaintance of mine told me she worked hard to lose weight but was not successful. “It is hard, you know,” she told me. I could see she did try to eat healthy and stay active, but still showing no sign of improvement.

This reminds me of what I learned about fluff pounds, which are the temporary weight gain you get during holiday seasons when you eat too much food for a day or two. Good thing about fluff pounds is they will be gone in 1-2 days IF you return to your health diet and make timely effort to get rid of the extra pounds.

On the other hand, if you wait for a week or so and do nothing about fluff pounds, it will be harder to lose than if you work on them in a day or two. The unpleasant fact is the longer you keep your fluff pounds, the hard it will be to take them off. By the time they are no longer fluff pounds, they tend to stay in your body relatively permanently. That’s what happened to my acquaintance.

I told my daughter, “Same thing can be said of habit. The younger you are, the easy it is for you to form good habits.”

1, Mar 27, 2012

Happy 17th Birthday!

Filed under: Daughter — admin @ 12:59 am

Last week, during the time when my son had his birthday, I asked my daughter what she wanted to do for her birthday, which is five days after her brother’s. She said she did not want to have any birthday activities and did not even want me to mention it. Because she doesn’t want to get old.

Last weekend, while on the way to the library, we talked about it. I asked her if she remembered the word that I told her on her 13th birthday.
“You said ‘you are 13 only once,'” she said.
“Then I said the same thing on your 14th, 15th, and 16th birthday,” I said.
“Thanks for reminding me,” she said.

I know she does not need a reminder this time. So I said instead “Happy birthday. Remember what I said before. Time flies. The only way to get more out of our limited time is to put more value into your time.” This way we won’t regret when we look back years later.

Still, she did celebrate her birthday with a friend last Friday.
Happy birthday, my dearest daughter!

1, Mar 26, 2012

Battle over Obama’s Healthcare Reform Goes to the Supreme Court

Filed under: American Culture,Presidents — admin @ 12:58 am

The single biggest accomplishment in President Obama’s presidency so far seems to be his Affordable Care Act (ACA). And even that has been the target of the most hostile attack from his political opponents.

His opponents hate him so much that it seems they would totally eviscerate him if they got a chance. While the ferocity and the relentless nature of the attack on the president are extremely unfair and unjustified, they make me wonder why things have reached to this point.

There exist many explanations, but for some reason, I got the impression that the president has been too weak in facing his opponents, which has sent a wrong message.

American political arena is one of the ugliest, the most gruesome and hideous battleground, on which the strong bullies the weak. There is absolutely no room for civility. To survive this battleground, the weak must be strong and stare down any attack. No compromise whatsoever. Otherwise, your opponents think you are weak and strike you until you are dead politically.

This seems to be what is happening now in America. From very beginning, President Obama has been too polite and too conciliatory to his opponents, yielding too much, and overreaching too much to the other side of the aisle.

I am not optimistic about the outcome of the coming election. One thing I am sure, this first black president will leave tons of materials for historians and political scientists to talk about and for us to learn from.

1, Mar 25, 2012

One Harsh Reality of Becoming a Doctor

Filed under: Career — admin @ 12:11 am

“Thousands Of Doctors Don’t Get Residencies, Competitive Field Leaves Many With Degree But No Practice” By Dr. Anthony Youn Special to CNN. I read this news on 3/19/2012.

The author first tells the story of a man in his early 30s, who “obtained his medical degree from a school in Eastern Europe prior to immigrating to the United States. Now he spends his days cleaning surgical instruments and his nights working in a restaurant.”

He dreamed of becoming a surgeon when he told the author “Someday I’ll be a surgeon, just like you.”

The author writes, “I watch Sam meticulously clean and rinse the surgical instruments, his hands moving steadily and purposefully. There is not an ounce of unused motion. The fluidity and grace in his hands remind me of my surgical mentors. Then the sad realization hits me. It doesn’t matter how much Sam wants it. He will never be a surgeon.”

Without residency, an M.D. cannot be a practicing physician. For those who cannot find residency for a few years either end up working in a research lab or quit medical field completely. It is sad to see them giving up the dream of being a doctor after going through years of training.

1, Mar 24, 2012

Unexpected Challenges that a Writer Faces

Filed under: Writing — admin @ 12:13 am

I have learned from my role as a free lancer contributing columnist that there are many unexpected challenges facing any writer. Here is one of them.

Resist the temptation to lower yourself. Very often, when I see some nasty comments like personal attacks or comments with the intention to hurt you as much as possible, I feel a strong urge to reply with vengeance.

e.g. one comment from a female reader who always comes out as the meanest one wrote “Have read a few of your articles and your not improving…is there a time limit?” I was thinking of telling her how stupid she is when she doesn’t even know the correct grammar should be “you are” instead of “your.” Or asking her “What’s the purpose of your comment? Do you just enjoy hurting people? Are you so sick as to get pleasure by hurting people? Go see a doctor if your mind is so sick.”.. Or “shut your stupid mouth if you don’t have anything nice to spit out of your stupid head.”

In fact, I have many strong offensive words ready to throw back at her. Then I can see the impact of her hostility on me and how it has already changed me. I can also see the smile on her face if I do, because this is exactly what she expects me to do. To get me down to her level — this might be her ultimate intention. I bet she would feel extremely frustrated if I remain untouched by her mean-spirited comments.

I know the most effective response is silence. By ignoring her, I send a message telling her she is not worthy of any attention. Except this time, I was not able to send my best response. That is, I left these words for myself, “One of the biggest challenges in life is not to punish yourself by other people’s weaknesses.” I am glad I have not said “by other people’s stupidity and animosity.”

1, Mar 23, 2012

“It seems to be human nature to aim high and fall short.”

Filed under: Emotional Intelligence — admin @ 12:04 am

On 3/14/2012, after work, I went to Barnes and Noble’s where my daughter was doing something. I read Scientific American Mind magazine, which we used to subscribe when my son was home. There is an article on Mar/April issue, “The Secrets of Self-Improvement: Meet Your Goals with Research-Proven Tips and Techniques” by Marina Krakovsky.

“It seems to be human nature to aim high and fall short.” Well, the title looks attractive. The article details some tips that can help you on the track to your goal.

(1) Maintain realistic expectations
–visualize your success along with the specific obstacles you will face.
–avoid situations that trigger the habit or behavior that you want to break away from.
–forgive yourself if you slip up. Keep moving forward.

(2) Find what motivates you most
–think about how making this change will help you become the person you aspire to be.
–try to come up with fun ways to work toward your goal.
–imagine how achieving your aim might strengthen you.
–find a way to measure your progress and track your accomplishments

(3) Take baby steps
–set short-term, achievable objectives that add up to big change

(4) Formulate action plans
–prepare yourself for specific situations “If I want to quit….. I will say”
–frame your intention as positive actions
–picture yourself carrying out your plans

1, Mar 22, 2012

Happy 23rd Birthday!

Filed under: Son — admin @ 12:35 am

This is what I write to my son on his birthday —

When you were five years old, you stayed in China for over a year. You came back in March 1995. When you first went to school in Fort Wayne, IN, later that year, I was worried that you were not used to school in America because Dad kept recalling how miserable he was when he went to school. But you bravely waved your little hand, went straight to school and proved that there was really no need to worry. I still remember vividly the little image of the six-year-old with a large school bag in your back. When I think back, you actually showed a remarkable ability to adjust to the environment. I think this ability has helped you in your college years.

Now, every time I talk to you, you are always busy. To many people, being busy seems to be a good thing. Because it means job security, which is their top concern in this bad economic time. I know it means a different thing to you. But no matter how busy you are at office, I hope you can keep its impact on your life to the minimum.

On your special day, while wishing you a happy birthday, I am sending you this Chinese saying — “Don’t just pull the cart without looking at the road.” In other words, don’t lose sight of the big picture, or, don’t just see the trees without seeing the forest. Keep an eye on the industry’s trends and development.

The big picture include knowledge on  (1) Companies –profiles of new and mature companies, strategic alliances, mergers and acquisitions; (2) Money –Where it is going, that is, where top investors are placing their bets and who is raising funds, corporate financing, both public and private; (3) Scientific milestones and breakthroughs, the latest, the cutting edges, the innovations and discoveries, the emerging technologies; (4) Sometimes, it helps a leader to identify opportunities and threats when he knows what his competitors are doing.

Happy birthday and enjoy the bachelor party in Vancouver!

1, Mar 21, 2012

Health Advice from a Friend

Filed under: Health — admin @ 12:49 am

A friend of mine sent to me this and other health related writings. Here’s a summary of its main idea.

(1) Learn how to live a healthy life. Don’t die of ignorance.
(2) Don’t punish yourself with other people’s weakness. Don’t get mad. Don’t let madness control you for over 5 minutes.
(3) It’s very important to be in good mood. You are not likely to get sick if you are optimistic and with positive attitude.

1, Mar 20, 2012

Spring Fever in March, Weather goes Wired

Filed under: Miscellaneous — admin @ 12:52 am

On 3/13/2012, Tuesday noon, I went home to send my daughter to the main library where she had a school activity. The outside temperature was about 80 degree, but it felt like mid-summer. Of course, the noon drive reminded me of the time when my children went to summer school and I went to get them home from wherever the summer school was held.

But that was in June and July, not in March. I remember a week after my son was born, toward the end of March, we had a huge snow in Ohio back in 1989.

There is definitely something wrong with our weather pattern. This year it seems winter has never shown up at all, then summer heat is hitting in March, way too early. I can’t imagine how it feels like when real summer comes.

1, Mar 19, 2012

Whitney Houston’s Death and Her Daughter

Filed under: Mother — admin @ 12:18 am

I always feel it is unforgivable that Whitney Houston should have left her 19-year-old daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, at the time when her daughter needs her most.

It is especially sad when Bobbi told Oprah Winfrey that “Sometimes it’s so surreal. I still walk into the house, like, ‘Mom?’ But I’ve accepted it,” she said. Really? Has she already accepted the reality that there is no more Mom in her life?

We know Bobbi was so shattered over her mother’s sudden death that she had to be sent to hospital several times following her loss of Houston.

I always wonder if life would be different for both of them if Whitney Houston had not had this infamous drug addiction.

1, Mar 18, 2012

French President Sarkozy’s Son Threw Tomatoes at a Policewoman

Filed under: Parenting 101,Politics — admin @ 12:18 am

On 3/13/2012, I read an interesting news about French President Sarkozy who apologizes for his son’s throwing tomato prank.

His 15-year-old son Louis Sarkozy and a friend “chucked a tomato and a pellet at the policewoman from the Elysee Palace, police sources said.”

I feel a bit disappointed when I learned of this. I used to think Sarkozy is a great politician and must be an equally great parent to his children. At least, he must be a good role model for them.

I guess not. People can be great politician and a not-so-great parent at the same time. I guess probably because he is too busy with big matters and has ignored his children’s proper upbringing.

1, Mar 17, 2012

There Won’t Be Anything Worth Taking if You Wait Till Last Minute

Filed under: Career — admin @ 12:52 am

On 3/10, the weekend before the start of spring break, I spoke with a friend of mine over the phone. She was worried about her child’s summer intern and I told her I was concerned with my daughter’s, too.

To be sure, one should start looking at the beginning of the spring semester for a paid summer intern position. It is too late if you have not found one by the beginning of spring break.

Her child is in third year of college and mine third year of high school. For college graduates, a good internship is extremely important in landing a good job upon graduation. The third summer is the last chance for this activity. That’s why my friend is so worried.

For high schoolers, a good summer intern experience provides many opportunities for enhancing one’s resume for college application. If you cannot find a paid intern, you can always find an unpaid one, which is practically the same thing as volunteering. Volunteering is a good experience, but it has to be a different kind of volunteering, not the one in which you simply put in your time.

I hope my daughter can learn a lesson from this experience and avoid this last-minute anxiety.

1, Mar 16, 2012

The Devil Wears Prada, What Left After Laughter

Filed under: Fun — admin @ 12:52 am

On 3/9, Friday evening, the first day of spring break for my daughter, I watched a movie with her, The Devil Wears Prada, as I had promised.

According to Wikipedia, the story is about “a young woman who, freshly graduated from college, is hired as a personal assistant to a powerful fashion magazine editor, a job that becomes hellish as she struggles to keep up with her boss’s capricious and demeaning requests.”

Of course, the movie is much more than this. The young woman, Andrea Sachs, works for that powerful and extremely fastidious boss, Miranda, because ” if she manages to work for Miranda for a year, she can have her select pick of jobs within the magazine industry.” But just at the point when she finally wins the hard-to-earned approval from her boss, she walks away from her boss.

After watching it, we couldn’t help making comments on it. “I would not put up with things like this in order to succeed,” I said. But sometimes, “it is okay to put up with whatever comes your way or swallow one’s pride in order to succeed. But it is never okay to push away other people or step over friends on your way to success.” This is the reason why Andrea leaves her boss. This is also the reason why I don’t want my children to become successful this way.

1, Mar 15, 2012

Narration, Narrator, First Person or Third Person

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:43 am

This is one of those postings dedicated to reading or rather how to be an active reader.

We learned narrator as early as our elementary school years. We know there are two main types: first person using “I” or third person, also known as omniscent narrator.

My understanding of the charateristics of first person narrator is this. It is subjective, intimate like talking to the readers, more revealing of the activities inside the charater’s mind, and more authentic sometimes. But first person narrator is always very limited to how much the first person can tell.

The characteristics of third person narrator is, of course, more objective than the first person, more distant from the readers, indirect revealing of the inner activities of the character, more speculative sometimes, giving broader view than first person narrator. Of course, the omniscent narrator seems to be everywhere and is able to observe much more than the first person narrator.

As I said before, a good reader always asks question when he/she reads. In this case, your question will be this — why does the author use first person or third person narrator in the book? What would happen if you switch the narrator from first person to third person or vice versa? This is a good exercise if you want to get more out of a book.

1, Mar 14, 2012

Men are Richer and More Powerful than Women

Filed under: Women — admin @ 12:49 am

On 3/8/2012, a monitor from Portland Oregon came. I mentioned to her International Women’s Day. To my surprise, she had never heard of this. She did not even know March was Women’s history month. I thought people from west coast must be less provincial than folks in midwest.

The next day she was here again. We chatted a little bit about women’s status in America. I said to her “Think this way, women make up more than half of the total population, yet they represent less than 17% in US congress. That’s why we see the ridiculous things like having all these men decide whether or not women can have abortion or contraception.”

She said it was because men were richer and more powerful than women. True, one needs to have money and power to get into politics. But why is it so? Is it because men are more capable, or more intelligent, or more aggressive? Is this the root cause of all gender inequality? I cannot bring myself to accept this. Can you?

1, Mar 13, 2012

Resiliency Quiz Shows How Well You Bounce Back, Part II

Filed under: Emotional Intelligence — admin @ 12:10 am

Here are the quiz.

Rate yourself from 1 to 5, that is from strongly disagree to strongly agree
(1) In a crisis or chaotic situation, I calm myself and focus on taking useful actions.
(2) I am usually optimistic. I see difficulties as temporary, expecting to overcome them.
(3) I can tolerate high levels of uncertainty and ambiguity.
(4) I adapt quickly to new developments. I am good at bouncing back from difficulties.
(5) I am playful. I can see the funny side of rough situations and can laugh at myself.

(6) I am able to recover emotionally from losses and setbacks. I have friends I can talk with. I can express my feelings to others and can ask for help.
(7) I feel self-confident, appreciate myself, and have a healthy concept of who I am.
(8) I am curious. I ask questions. I want to know how things work. I like to try new ways of doing things.
(9) I learn valuable lessons from my experiences and from the experiences of others.
(10) I am good at solving problems. I can think in analytical, creative, or practical ways.

(11) I am good at making things work well. I am often asked to lead groups and projects.
(12) I am very flexible. I feel comfortable with my paradoxical complexity. I am optimistic and pessimistic, trusting and cautious, unselfish and selfish, and so forth.
(13) I am always myself, but I have noticed that I am different in different situations.
(14) I prefer to work without a written job description. I am more effective when I am free to do what I think is best in each situation.
(15) I read people well and trust my intuition.

(16) I am a good listener, I have good empathy skills.
(17) I don’t judge others, and I am comfortable with many kinds of people.
(18) I am very durable. I hold up well during tough times. I work well with others, but I also have an independent spirit.
(19) I have been made stronger and better by difficult experiences.
(20) I have converted misfortune into good luck and found benefits in bad experiences.

I got this result, “You are more resilient than most. You are probably able to handle most of life’s challenges well.” I am wondering if everybody got the same thing.

1, Mar 12, 2012

Resiliency Quiz Shows How Well You Bounce Back, Part 1

Filed under: Emotional Intelligence — admin @ 12:58 am

On 3/8/2012, I took a resiliency quiz provided in chapter two in book The Resiliency Advantage by Al Siebert. It reveals how well one bounces back from setbacks, loss, stressful situations, frustration, and any unexpected or unfortunate or unhappy events in life.

People who are resilient recover quickly from disruptive change, illness, or misfortune without being overwhelmed or acting in destructive ways.

The quiz calculates your score based on the statements you choose. The calculation is based on those personality factors—such as flexibility, self-confidence, creativity, and ability to learn from experience—that make people more resilient.

Continued tomorrow…

1, Mar 11, 2012

Andrew Breitbart, the 43-Year-Old, an Unexpected Death

Filed under: Life — admin @ 12:16 am

A few weeks ago, I learned that one of my uncles passed away at age 75, of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. A few days ago, I learned his wife, my aunt suffered from something similar to transient ischemic attack (TIA), like a mini stroke.

I have long before learned that my aunt’s family had a rather unhealthy lifestyle. They would eat to their heart content whatever they like, without caring for the consequence.

Now we learned of the unexpected death of this famous conservative activist at the early age of 43, seemingly of heart failure.

At this age, who would expect this would happen. I guess people at this age do not pay due attention to their health simply because they have never expected death could occur to them at age 43. A heavy lesson to all.

1, Mar 10, 2012

A Doctor’s Life Cut Short by Cancer

Filed under: Cancer — admin @ 12:34 am

Once again, I read this news in our internal circulation. A dentist, age 50, was in excellent health, being a doctor and having been careful about diet and nutrition. He was shocked when he learned that he had stage 4 colon cancer. He died four months after the initial diagnosis.

His family set up in his memory Thomas P. O’Sullivan IV Foundation to supports research, education, advocacy and early detection of colorectal cancer. This is the only organization in the area dedicated to this form of cancer. The foundation is funded primarily through the annual proceeds of the Tom O’Sullivan Golf Classic.

Stories like this often serve as a reminder of the importance of early detection of any type of cancer.

1, Mar 9, 2012

An Interesting Encounter with Naturally Slim

Filed under: Miscellaneous — admin @ 12:21 am

On 2/23/2012, I posted on my site the notes that I took from watching Naturally Slim video. On 3/1, I received a comment left on the posting, asking me to contact her.

As soon as I read the comment, I contacted her with the following, “I am taking your course online right now. I like it very much and share my notes with my daughter. From there, I thought of some of my friends who often visit my site, … I hope you don’t mind my sharing the notes on my site.”

I also told her I could take it off, if she so wished. Indeed, she did want me to remove the notes from the site. I respected her wish and did it accordingly.

Last Sunday, 3/4, just to check if there is any response if I talk something not related to profit, I wrote to her of my involvement with children’s education and related issues because I knew she must be working with many women who happen to be mothers.

Of course, one should not expect to hear from her any more because there is really nothing to gain from further contact. Indeed, that has been the case. The end. I thought it an interesting encounter.

1, Mar 8, 2012

Celebrating International Women’s Day, A Long Way to Go

Filed under: Holiday,Women — admin @ 12:32 am

The recent national debate on contraceptive and the ranting with extreme language by Rush Limbaugh against Sandra Fluke, a student representative serve to remind us that women still have a long way to go before achieving full equal treatment.

Whether it is contraception or abortion, the burden always rests on women, as if there were consequence only for women and nothing at all for men, as if only women need to act responsibly but not men. That partially explains why there are so many single-parent families headed by women, and so many of this type living in poverty.

The assumption behind this belief is erroneous at best, pernicious at worst. It calls for awakening of more women and their continuing fight for more gender equality.

1, Mar 7, 2012

National Sleep Awareness week, so we were told

Filed under: Health — admin @ 12:50 am
Yesterday, I received an internal email about National Sleep Awareness week. I have not heard of this until that moment, though I think it beneficial to have this reminder. Here are the main points about sleep.
(1) Aim for 6-8 hours of sleep every day
(2) Good sleep helps keep your heart healthy, makes you feel better
(3) Sleep is the time for the body to repair itself. “Your body needs the extra protein molecules that your body produces while you’re sleeping. It helps strengthen your ability to fight infection and stay healthy. These molecules help your immune system mend your body at a cellular level when you are stressed or have been exposed to compromising elements such as pollutants and infectious bacteria.”
(4) Sleep improves your memory.
(5) Sleep reduces your chances of diabetes. “Lack of sleep may lead to type 2 diabetes by affecting how your body processes glucose, which is the carbohydrate your cells use for fuel.”
(6) Sleep helps control weight problem. The argument goes sleep helps regulate the hormones that affect and control your appetite. You tend to overeat when the hormones go wired.
(7) Sleep reduces the occurrence of mood disorders. You are likely to feel grumpy when you have not had enough sleep.

1, Mar 6, 2012

The Most Precious Gifts that a Parent Can Give to the Children

Filed under: Parenting 101 — admin @ 12:56 am

My first writing came out on 3/3 KCStar newspaper. To my surprise, I received some emails from work. I have to confess that I myself seldom read newspaper and thought others were like me, going online for any news, without ever buying the newspaper.

I feel encouraged by the nice compliments that they sent to me. One person thanks me for the gentle reminder of parents responsibilities to their children. Of course, that article also reminds people of sacrifice that their parents made for them.

One friend even asked if I were the mother in the story. Of course not. But I do share one thing with that mother, that is, the gift that I give to my children. That gift is time. Considering life is nothing but time, time is the most precious gift that a parent can give to the children. Yes, there is another gift that a parent can always give to the children, that is, be a good role model.

1, Mar 5, 2012

What I Have Learned from Being a Contributing Columnist

Filed under: Writing — admin @ 12:52 am

It’s been nearly two months since I became a contributing columnist for the local newspaper opinion section. It has been an interesting learning experience for me.

First of all, writing takes more than skills, more than time, more than language, more than anything else. It takes courage to stand by what you believe.

Secondly, it is better to stay away from politics, much as I like to write on the topic.  Because, if you are like me, you will have a hard time forgetting some of the scathing comments left on your writings. I am not a fighter and definitely don’t possess the fighting fire of Andrew Breitbart. Hence, it’s safe to stay away from the political fire.

Thirdly, while it is easy for you to stay cool and talk about the principle that you uphold when you are not challenged, it is difficult to keep your cool, your principle and your nice civility when you are challenged. There are so many times that I feel a strong urge to punch back with equal nastiness and mean-spirited tongue. That’s the moment that I find myself turning into someone that I don’t want to see and that shocks myself.

Finally, on the bright side, I believe being a contributing columnist is a good exercise and opportunity to always keep oneself above the pettiness, the judgement, and the bias that one is likely to be trapped in. It is really a challenge to always stay above.

1, Mar 4, 2012

We have more time, energy and better memory when we were young

Filed under: Education — admin @ 12:38 am

Last Saturday morning I sent my daughter to a school competition at JCCC at 7:30 AM and then came back home, got ready for library’s tax service at 9 AM. I did not get back until after 3 PM. Thus the whole morning was gone without my usual morning exercise.

Toward evening, I walked to a neighborhood Walmart to make up for the missed morning exercise. I came back from the walk, feeling very tired, more so than normal morning walk or run.

After I came back, I told my daughter and asked her if she understand why I felt so tired. She said it was because I was already tired by the end of the day. On the other hand, I should not feel tired in the morning after a night’s rest and morning walk only serves to refresh me up.

Her words make me think of this. Isn’t it also true that in learning that it is easy for people to learn new stuffs when they are young. We have more time and energy and better memory during our younger years. Children are much better equipped for learning. It will be a huge waste if we don’t make the most of these so-called “Golden Time.”

1, Mar 3, 2012

Money always means time

Filed under: Time management — admin @ 12:37 am

On 2/22/2012, my son told me about a credit card offer and asked if it was worthwhile having an extra issue like this. I agree it is a good offer, but I thought it a bit waste of time trying to manage many credit cards. As it is with me now, I try to simplify my life so that I will have less things to worry and more time and energy on what I want to do.

I told him not to go for it, that is, if he has more important issues than this. Also, I thought by giving it up, it will help him get in the habit of focusing on bigger prize. One can always squeeze some savings elsewhere for that amount. Money always means time. You want to get more out of your limited time.

I keep telling myself to focus on the major things in life, but given my current situation, I have to worry many minor things. At the same time, I constantly try to rise above and focus on something bigger than this. I wish my children’s life will be a whole lot simpler than mine so that they can be more focused.

I wish someone told me this when I was young so that I could have avoided wasting my time and energy on some very trivial issues and could have used them on what was really important.

1, Mar 2, 2012

Reading and Master Plots

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:30 am

There seems unlimited number of fictions. I have not read as much as I would like, yet from what I have read so far, there are roughly two master plots, even if there are numerous seemingly different versions of these two master plots.

Here are the two master plots to most of the stories, which goes like this stranger-comes or hero-goes.

(1) A stranger comes to town plot, and life is not the same again. e.g. a family has been living in this town for three generations and have remained unchanged until last Monday when an uncle of the family came…. Another version goes like this, once upon a time, a family of three little pigs live peacefully. Then one day, a big wolf comes…

(2) The hero takes the journey plot, for a conquest or search for root or for self-identity or for something that worth seeking, in the process of which the hero is transformed. The journey is a process that can be either physical or emotional or spiritual. or e.g. there are many journey stories, like Red Riding Hood, Odyssey, Lord of the Ring, Harry Potter, Jane Eyre. There are plenty of novels that record the journey of the hero conquering adversity, going from one stage to a higher one, from immaturity to maturity, from weak to strong, etc.

It is a good exercise to find out which master plot a novel belongs to by simply asking: stranger or a journey? With stranger coming to town plot, your next question is to find out the changes this stranger is going to bring about. With hero taking journey plot, you will concentrate on tracing the development and changes that the hero is going through, how he sets out the journey, what his initial goal is, how he is transformed in the process.

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