I read an article on 4/9/2012 “Marine Sgt. Gary Stein fights losing battle over free speech rights.”
“A United States Marine Corps Administrative Separation Board recommended that Sgt. Gary Stein face a less than honorable discharge for criticizing President Obama on Facebook.”
Sgt. Gary Stein learned it the hard way that “When you join the military or other government service, you give up certain rights, including freedom of speech and expression. You are not allowed to advocate for certain issues or criticize policies or personnel in a public forum.”
In fact, there is no absolute freedom of speech no matter where you are. I heard of some people posting negative comments on her work place and got fired because of this. You got to be very careful when you voice your opinion on the internet. The consequence could be very costly.
This is one of those laughable moments that I want to remember. On midwest voices, I wrote an article on 4/7/2012 “History will be the final judge on our first black president.” When I wrote it, I knew some readers would jump out and bark out something.
I am amazed that some readers simply cannot hold themselves from being nasty. Here’s one example on this part of my writing “healthcare reform — universal health care, the 30-plus-year dream of the Democratic party, could still wait.”
Here’s the comment — “Your willingness to display your lack of knowledge of our political history is rather astounding.” So nice.
The first thought that came to me was to write something equally nasty. Then I laughed at myself and stopped there. So far I have held my ground and kept my silence on comments like this.
On 4/10, I posted “Mitt Romney’s homework.” I thought my piece is very mild, factual and neutral. But one reader who never fails to show up with something nasty — jumped out again, leaving a comment longer than my original piece. His whole purpose is to browbeat me psychologically and mentally. His choice of words serve to send this message — you are so stupid. Why don’t you shut up… Too bad I refuse to be browbeat. Again, I have said nothing.
P.S. a friend of mine asked me “Don’t you get angry over these comments?” No, not that I am any better than anyone. I only need to remember that life is too short to be wasted on hating someone. Yes, not wasting time is my answer.
Today is my sister’s birthday. I talked to her a few day before. She is always busy as she devotes all her non-working hours to her son’s education.
To be sure, her son is not as smart as she wishes. But given her guidance and persistent effort, he is very much up to the grade, which really proves hard work can make up to certain extent.
I told my sister of two things that have helped her son. (1) He listens to her and does what she asks. This is a huge help. (2) He knows working hard is the only way for him to get ahead, so he has been putting strong efforts at his study and has seen the fruitful result of his diligence.
Hard work will pay off for everybody.
Happy birthday to my sister!
I remember when my son was little, I taught him math. As the result he could do multiplication when he first entered primary school. When he got good grades, I told him it was because he was smart. “If you are smart, you are supposed to be ahead so that you can help those lagging behind.” With this story, he has lived up to this belief and has succeeded in graduating from one of the top institutions of higher education majoring in mathematics. Even if, at some point in his life, he is behind others, with this story, he is more likely to see himself in front of a group.
To be sure, this story-telling practice is not a modern invention. Humankind started telling stories since the most remote past in human history. Before written languages were invented, story-telling was the primitive and primary means that humans passed on to the next generation knowledge, experience and values.
Good stories, like the one told by this Jewish boy, play a positive role in a child’s life, as they are crucial in forming a high self-esteem in a child and contributing to his success. Nothing boosts a child’s self-esteem more than winning a hard-to-win competition or living up to a high expectation or solving a hard-to-crack problem or having met a tough challenge.
On the other hand, nothing ruins a child’s self-esteem and exerts long-term damages on his life more than starting his life with no story or sad story like telling him that he has not measured up because he is not that smart or because he is a loser or because he is not worthy.
To be sure, we all write our story with our life’s experience. Be it an epic voyage or a colorful journey, our story all starts from our first home, with our parents being the first narrators.
In the broadest sense, the stories that the parents tell the children define what is, what should be, and what shall be. They shape the way children see the world, explain cause and effect, give meanings to their experience now and later.
Furthermore, these stories embody the values that the parents hold and hope to pass on to their children. Sociologists call this social construction of reality. That is, we live in the world of reality that is initially constructed by our parents and is taken over by us as we grow older.
The stories always have heroes or heroines who are expected to conquer a mountain or to take a journey or to fight a battle or to reach a goal or to fulfill a promise or to complete a mission or to live up to an expectation. They invariably follow one of the master plots of all novels, that is, the hero of the story is going to take the journey.
These stories make up a large part of one’s childhood experiences. The memories of these early life experiences will continuously be interpreted by the child as he grows. They lay the foundation for beliefs about oneself and one’s self-confidence, convincing the child’s general competence or incompetence.
These childhood experiences can be translated into a set of assumptions about oneself and an explanation of why one succeeds or fails.
To be continued…
This is the second column that I am going to write for our local paper. I would like to share it with my readers here first.
When I was teaching sociology courses in 1990s, there were a few Jewish boys who were top students in my class. Still, they wanted to be better than the best. Once I asked one of them, “You are already the best. Why do you still work so hard?”
He answered, “You know, since God gave me such a smart head, I would waste it if I don’t use it.” With this belief and this positive attitude, this boy will without a doubt claim top prize no matter where he goes in the future.
Sociologists call it self-fulfilling prophecy. That is, if you believe you are smart, you act on your belief by working hard. And of course, the hard work will reward you top prize, which further confirm your belief.
As a teacher and a parent, I have been marveled at the power of belief on the one hand. On the other hand, I was wondering how this idea got into his head? Who told him God had given him a smart head instead of a dumb one?
We all know it was not from God directly. It was most likely from his parents or rather from the stories that his parents told him when he was little. It is this story that has motivated him to work hard and it will continue exerting impact throughout his life.
To be continued…
On 4/6, while my daughter was not home that Friday evening, I found some time calling a young relative of mine in Texas, then chatting with a friend in Alabama. She told me she took baby aspirin every day. She knows it is good for heart health but she doesn’t know exactly why. I just learned about heart health that week. So I shared the following with her.
There are three types of heart attack.
(1) The first type is caused by slow build up of plaque, which eventually blocks blood flow to vessels that supply the heart with oxygen. This in turn causes chest pain or angina. Its diagnosis can be made with treadmill or angiogram.
(2) The second type is caused by inflammation in the arteries; half of all heart attacks occur in people with desirable cholesterol levels. This is where we need baby aspirin. It helps prevent inflammation.
(3) The third type is caused by arrhythmias, that is, erratic heart beat which often causes sudden death. It may account for half of the 500,000 heart attack deaths each year; sudden death happens unless a defibrillator is on hand;
Knowledge is power. Ignorance can cost life.
P.S. my daughter is leaving for Albuquerque, New Mexico today with her school for this year’s Acadec. They will be back on Saturday. It reminds me of the 2007 Acadec in Hawaii when my son went there with the school.
“Smoking has been identified as the primary reason for the gap in healthy life expectancy between rich and poor. Among men, smoking is responsible for over half the excess risk of premature death between the social classes.”
“Smoking is the principal cause of the inequalities in death rates between rich and poor. Put simply, smoking is a public health disaster.” Alan Milburn, Secretary of State for Health, posted on nice.org.uk site
The smoking habit is more often found among lower class than among upper and middle class. Very often, this habit is passed on from parents to the children. Same pattern can be said of alcoholism, drug addiction and other undesirable habits. Look at Whitney Houston’s daughter.
It is extremely crucial that parents rid themselves of any bad habits if we don’t want to see them in our children.
We have learned so much of Rick Santorum’s three-year-old daughter, Isabella who was born with a rare genetic condition call Trisomy 18.
The disease, referring to a baby born with three number 18 chromosomes, is often fatal. That is, most of them die within the first year of their lives. Before the baby dies, she/he often suffers from “kidney problems, heart defects, developmental delays, and issues with the intestinal tract and esophagus.”
Good news is Trisomy 18 can be screened and diagnosed during pregnancy. The question is why people keep bringing into the world babies with severe genetic disease.
In cases like this, I often wonder whether the parents have made the right decision or done the right thing to the baby. I believe by bringing a baby to this world, first and foremost, the parents should have the happiness of the baby in their minds and do everything to give a happy life.
If the baby comes here only to suffer from various disease and to die soon, what is the quality of life for this baby? How can she be happy when she is consistently tortured with life-threatening disease? Do parents bring them to the world for their own happiness or religious belief or what? If that’s the case, I would think these parents are the most selfish ones.
Not long ago, I re-read Willa Cather’s novel, My Antonie. It is one of my favorites. I cannot say exactly why. It may be because of that feeling of nostalgia for something in the distant past, intangible but very present now.
When Jim Burden, the main character of the book, first comes to Black Hawk, rural area in Nebraska, he finds complete happiness in the vast prairie and feels connected to Mother Nature.
“… I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness, to be dissolve into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep” — My Antonie, p. 17.
I mentioned this to my daughter. I said people must feel this complete contentment when they finally find the source of their happiness. It can be anything that can give one this feeling. In this case, it is the prairie. “Follow your path and find your source of happiness,” I told her. “And when you finally find it, you will be as happy as Jim when he is laying under the sun at that moment.”
Sometime I heard this explanation when I talked to some young people, as if this could explain why they had not done what they should have. This often occur among young people who are used to having everything well arranged for them or receive instruction for every step they take.
I can’t even begin to tell you how much I don’t like this explanation! What does this mean to me?
(1) It means not taking initiative.
(2) It means not taking personal responsibility
(3) It means lack of independence
(4) It means inertia, waiting to be pushed
(5) It means following orders instead of leading the way
(6) It means mental laziness, allowing others to do thinking for you
(7) It means handing over the control of your life to others
(8) It means anything but success.
Don’t wait for others to tell you what you should do. In fact, you should resent this idea in your bone. You should ask yourself why I should listen to us when I have my own ideas. If you think your idea is not as good as that of others, ask yourself why.
On 4/7/2012, I learned of the news that Thomas Kinkade, a famous landscape artist born in 1958, died suddenly in Los Gatos of natural causes.
I am sure many people, like me, would like to know how he died or what is it that killed. I searched and learned from wikipedia the definition of death by natural causes.
As “recorded by coroners and on death certificates and associated documents,” it is caused by natural agents: usually an illness or an internal malfunction of the body, as opposed to death of unnatural causes. The unnatural one is caused by either accident or homicide or suicide, anything but disease or old age.
When a man of 54-year-old died at his home, we always think of something else, not of natural cause. Rich and famous as he was, nature has taken him away as relentlessly as she has done and will do to all humans.
On 4/7, a Saturday, my daughter went to Wichita with her school the day before. I found myself suddenly having total control of my time. I seldom feel this way when my daughter is home. I always ask her what her plan is, either taking her to where she wants to go or staying home attending her needs. She is a high school junior now. I don’t mind staying around when she is home. After all she will be leaving for college in one year.
On that Saturday, I started with morning exercise, followed by house-cleaning. Too much of it! I also needed to get the yard ready for vegetable plants. But after house-cleaning, I felt like energy having been totally consumed. Time for re-charging. I didn’t felt like doing anything but resting, with a book in my hand.
I did plan to do a lot of things, like catching up on some of the writing and reading or going to grocery store. But either I became exhausted too soon or I was too slow to get anything done. I simply couldn’t complete the tasks on my to-do list. I am glad I have too much to do. Being busy is better than having nothing to do.
I have bought an air ticket to China on 3/1, the day after a friend of mine told me of the ticket sale. I have been thinking of contacting my old colleagues in China Daily in Beijing. So on 4/5, I contacted two of them who are here in the States. I was hoping they would write back to me. But it seems I have lost contact with them, too.
This reminds me of a college classmate of mine with whom I lost contact for over 20 years. We seemed to share a lot in our personality. But for some reason, we lost each other again and again. So there goes another one.
While I make new friends no matter where I go, be it in China or in Ohio or in Indiana or in Virginia or here in Kansas, I still miss those who have been part of my life, especially in my younger years.
“Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?” — I wish not.
I read this survey medscape “Profiles in Happiness: Which Physicians Enjoy Life Most?” by Carol Peckham, 03/22/2012.
The characteristics of the happiest physician include the following.
(1) Live the American dream.
(2) Born in the United States
(3) Of normal weight and excellent health.
(4) Exercises 4 or more times a week
(5) Having1 or 2 drinks a day, and doesn’t smoke.
(6) Being in great financial shape, with more than adequate savings and no debt.
(7) Married, actively practices his faith, and volunteers for his religious organization.
(8) Mostly over 60 years of age
Those of the unhappiest physician are the following.
(1) Being in poor health, and being obese
(2) Exercises less than once a week
(3) In his mid-50s
(4) Came to the United States as an adult
(5) Finances are in terrible shape; no savings and unmanageable debt.
(6) Being separated and doesn’t volunteer
(7) Has a spiritual belief but doesn’t attend any services.
Not surprisingly, ordinary people and physicians share a lot in their values. That is, they all feel happy when they enjoy good health, financial security, or involve in group activities.
I read this from Time magazine on 1/16/2012, “The Reason for Recess. Children who are more physically active may do better in school,” as if I had not known this for years. Still, I post this one because I don’t see enough exercise in high school students.
When First Lady Michelle Obama advocated “Let’s move,” I think her main intention was attacking childhood obesity. This article reviews numerous research of exercise and our brain.
Data support the findings that “linked exercise with greater productivity and fewer sick days among adults.” According to Center for Disease Control, students need one hour of physical activity everyday to remain healthy.
The short message is — be physically active not just for your body but also for your brain, no matter what age group you are in.
My sister told me her son used to ask her about his math problem. Sometimes, the boy understood it but still needed his mother’s confirmation. It sounds like he needs more confidence in his own ability. This reminds me of an incident when my son was about three years old.
When he was small, I used to buy lego toy for him, big block at first. I could see he was trying to piece two together. If one side was not working, he turned and tried the other side. After some twisting, he finally plugged one block on another. He was happy figuring out by himself.
Around age three, I started buying small size lego, which was more challenging. At first, I showed him examples by piecing them together to make a car or a house. He was sitting there watching me and would not trying making something by himself.
What happened was he thought he could not make something as I did or could not make as well as I did, so he would rather have me build and then he would play with what I built.
When I looked back, I realized a trap that parents are likely to fall into. On the one hand, parents want to help their children; on the other hand, if they help too much, it is very easy to overwhelm the children with parents’ ability, which can potentially defeat the child’s desire to try or damage their confidence in themselves.
It’s better to leave children alone and let them figure out how to play. Sometimes, by doing too much for the children in the name of love, the parents accidentally deprive the children of the opportunity to play and learn and to build their confidence in doing things by themselves.
On this case where a black boy was killed by a white Hispanic, it is rather disturbing to see white and black holding vastly different views.
One of my white colleagues complained of massive protest against Sanford Police handling of the killing. “We don’t know what happened. Why did media describe Zimmerman as the killer? Why do all these people jump the gun? There will never be a fair trial for Zimmerman.”
I can hear in my head the voices of the black demonstrators — Yes, this much we know — an unarmed black boy was killed by a white man, that the police set the killer free without further investigation. It is the police who first jumped the gun by deciding Zimmerman was not guilty of the murder. Without this massive protest, we would never be able to bring the criminal to justice. The police would not set the killer free if the killer were a black and the victim were a white…
I don’t think people will ever agree with each other because of their vast differences in race and experience.
In the evening of 4/1/2012, a friend of mine called. Her first child is about the same age as my daughter. Two of her children go to private school.
From our conversation, I could tell that she was not happy with her children’s school efforts so far. I shared with her my understanding of school and one’s success in life.
To be sure, school is important. It is the place where a person is first judged and evaluated. A good college opens door to many opportunities and important connections. In a way, nothing can compare to the friendships formed in college. These college connections can be hugely helpful.
Yet, keep in mind school is not everything. No matter how best a school is claimed to be, no school can guarantee your future success. To a large extent, it will depend on the students whether or not she can make full use of her college years to develop herself.
When my daughter came back from her classmate’s house, I shared this view with her again.
Third principle: No thing is just one thing; there are always at least 2 sides to every interaction. I recently read a column arguing that it was unethical for those of us who had jobs in a period of economic difficulty to continue spending when others are unemployed. But the reality is that every dollar of my expenditure is a dollar of income coming in for someone else. If there’s less total spending, there’s also by definition less total income.
Fourth principle: The law of unanticipated influences. We can see this with a concept from chaos theory called the butterly effect. In chaos theory, hypothetically, a butterly on one side of the world can flap its wings and, through a chain of causation that’s totally unpredictable, cause a hurricane on the opposite side of the world.
This is true in economics: No event ever takes place in a bubble; a change in any one part of an economic system is going to have ripple effects, often in far removed places.
Fifth principle: The law of unintended consequences. In our interconnected world, our actions are always going to have multiple consequences. A number of cities have installed red light cameras, which take a photograph of the license plate of any car that enters an intersection after the light has turned red. The unintended consequence is an increase in accident when cars try to make a sudden stop at the traffic light.
Sixth principle: No one is, and no one ever can be, in complete control. If you apply an incentive to some subset of 6 billion complexly interrelated people, whose interactions are totally unforeseeable and have unintended consequences, and then predict the final result, that would be monumental. To go further and try to control that outcome would be utterly impossible.
Sounds interesting, right? Will share more later.
On 4/1/2012, I watched one of the Great Courses that I bought the day before. The course title is Thinking like an Economist: A Guide to Rational Decision Making. Well, I know it is a bit late for me to learn to think rationally. Still, I couldn’t resist the temptation of some improvement.
The lecture starts with a brief review of the 6 foundation principles of economic thinking, which I think rather interesting. Below are the from the lecture.
First principle: People respond to incentives. No premise is more central: If you reward a behavior, people will do more of it and more intensely; if you penalize it, they’ll do less of it.
Second principle: There is no such thing as a free lunch. It sounds silly, but that expression captures a lot of economic thought. Any use of time or limited resources for one purpose is an opportunity forever gone to use them for another.
More of anything always means less of something else; and it’s that option that you had to give up that economists call opportunity cost.
To be continued…
A good note taking can help you work efficiently on book report. Hence, it is very helpful to get into a good note taking habit.
(1) Avoid highlighting or underlining. You actually cheat yourself with underlining the text as if you have known the underlined part by finding this shortcut. Sometimes you think you underline the key point, but the underlined parts become meaningless when they are out of context. Sometimes, you forget why you underlined it. Don’t ever rely on the underlined part. Remember you don’t know the underlined part until it becomes part of you.
(2) Use either a note card or post note for your comments and your thoughts on the part you want to underline. Or you paraphrase the text on the note card. Allow the sentence go through your head and make it your own words.
(3) Use ( ) on the text for your referring citations.
A month after my son was born, I resumed my school work. First of all, I took up the task of preparing for the oral exam. All my PhD. committee members were present for this exam, in which they would ask me questions regarding the 50 books that I was supposed to be familiar with.
It was a real challenge to read through the 50 books in one month. I used inspection reading method, in which I read through introduction, table of content, index, publisher and scholarly book reviews, book summary at the beginning of each chapter, and of course the conclusion.
After that, I basically picked and chose which chapters and even which pages that I needed to read carefully in order to pass the exam. I saved lots of time by skipping many unimportant parts in these books.
While reading, I took notes and formulated my thought and argument on the issue, and also thought about other authors’ position on the same topic, if I could remember them. By comparison with other authors, you engaged in more dialogues among authors and thus made reading more fun and fruitful.
To be continued…
When I watched my daughter working on her social science reading, I thought of the time when she is in college and the amount of reading required in most humanity fields. A young relative of mine is currently in an MBA program, which also requires plenty of heavy readings. So I started thinking of giving some advice on how to read efficiently.
(1) Start reading introduction, abstract, book reviews, and conclusions. This way you have some idea of what you are getting at. Life gets easier if you know what to expect.
(2) Divide and conquer. Always use this method when you face a thick and abstruse book. You will feel more manageable, less intimidating once you chop it into small pieces.
(3) Read fast. Never read word for word, line by line. When you read slowly, you might know the meaning of all the words but fail to grasp the meaning of the sentence, of the paragraph, of the whole book. Remember you read in order to understand the author’s message, to interpret and evaluate the book. Fast reading can help you not to get lost.
There is one exception here when you read in order to memorize. If you read history textbook for some historical facts, use index to locate them and write down on the note card.
To be continued…
Last weekend, a friend of mine came over with her child. She mentioned a boy whom we know of. He was admitted into UC Berkeley, which is an accomplishment in itself.
As my son was out of college last year and my daughter is going to college next year, the talk of college reminded me of so many things that children need to consider.
It would be nice if the child can get into a top-notch college. But if the child cannot make full use of this to advance his/her career, it is like wasting the opportunity.
“On the first day you enter the college, you should think about and prepare for the day you leave it. Believe me that date comes sooner than you expected.” This much I have told my son. This I will also tell my daughter.
P.S. my daughter is going to Wichita today with her school team, right after school this afternoon.
One of my colleagues has very low threshold for stress and pressure. She would get flare-up if she perceives a lot of work. Many people feel overwhelmed by too many tasks on hand. Some simply give up trying.
On the other hand, some people feel depressed when they suddenly find themselves having nothing to do with their time. Having nothing to do tend to create a sense of meaninglessness, as if life had no purpose. This often happens among people who just retire or right after you complete a big project.
To be sure, for some people, their minds are so delicate that they need to maintain a well-balanced work load, not too busy, not too free.
While my daughter tends to feel overwhelmed by having too much things to take care of, I have the tendency to go the opposite way.
Last weekend, I read the story of Shonnie Medina from Discover magazine, a young beautiful Hispano woman (a member of a New Mexican ethnic group descended from Native Americans and Spanish colonials) and how she died of breast cancer at age of 28. The cancer that killed Medina was caused by a genetic mutation.
What struck me is the doctors’ opinion on what killed her. “Being headstrong or unreasonable was the quality that the doctors in Alamosa and Denver blamed for her death—for Shonnie was right about dying young. She carried in her cells a dangerous genetic mutation and died when she was 28, after refusing surgery for her aggressive, inherited breast cancer. Jealous of her body, oblivious to the gene, she insisted on another style of care.”
Shonnie Medina’s story reminds me of some patients that I have worked with. One of them died at age 40 of breast cancer. She had it when she was 31 years old. After surgery and chemo, she refused hormone therapy because she wanted to have more children. After 8 years, the tumor came back with a vengeance and took her life the next year.
I would say being headstrong and unreasonable could kill many patients like Shonnie.
When George Zimmerman presented his side of story of the killing, did Sanford police examine the body of Trayvon Martin to find any signs of a desperate struggle prior to being killed? Did the police get a forensic exam to see where the shot got into the body, how far the shot came from? The results of these exams could very well prove the truthfulness of GZ’s story.
Now we heard two pieces of news: (1) from Richard Kurts, funeral director, who said Martin’s body showed no signs of struggle; (2) from police video of GZ being arrested. In the video, GZ appears uninjured on night of shooting, no bleeding nose or bruising from the close fight with a desperate dead man.
If the police had carried out these exams, why haven’t we heard anything about it so far? If the police had not done any of these exams, why hadn’t them? Why did the police accept the words of the killer without further investigation? Did police try to protect GZ under the excuse of Stand Your Ground law? If yes, why? If not, why didn’t the police further investigate this crime? At this point, I am left with no choice but this final question: Is it because the dead person was a black boy and deserved what he got?
From the handling of Trayvon Martin’s dead, I have seen one pernicious consequence of Stand Your Ground law. That is, it provides the police with an excuse to treat killers differently.
It means seeking common ground on large issues and let go minor differences among people.
I have found from my role as contributing columnist there are some people who seem in their nature very antagonistic. No matter what you write, they can always pick a fight and come up with something very negative. And very often they comments are full of personal attacks like this “This pundit is incorrect again. (for the umpteenth time IMO)”
When I talked to my daughter about this, I summed up the damaging effects of such negativity.
(1) It creates a rather unpleasant reading experience. I always feel dreadful reading these comments.
(2) It put people on the defensive as soon as you start attacking them.
(3) Worst of all, be antagonistic never helps clarify the issue.
(4) It only serves to fuel up negative feelings against each other.
I think of daily interactions with people and I think of this Chinese saying.
This is what I gave to my son on his birthday on 3/22. The literary meaning is “Don’t just pull the cart without looking at the road.” I know it is a good one for my son, but I was not sure if I have pulled the true meaning out of it, so I asked a friend of mine.
That friend told me “vision is the key for how far a person will go. With short sight, a person will never reach the high point to see the best picture in the world.”
I agree that vision is the key. No matter what we are engaged in everyday, we should not lose sight of our vision. This is how people like Jeremy Lin won in life.