One in the west, the other in the east


Yesterday, my son and his girlfriend flew to California to join their friends for a week of fun there. He called home yesterday evening before the plane took off. As always, I am so glad he called.

Early this morning, we left for the airport to send my daughter to Pittsburgh, PA, for a three-week summer program.

Yesterday evening, I took her out to pick up some of the items that she needed for the trip. While on the car, I told my daughter to make good use of her time at home now as she will find it a privilege when she looks back years later.

“You will not have this carefree, all-study-time once you are on your own and after you work. See how many vacation days your brother has now.” I told her.

It is always like this. We begin to really appreciate what we have until after it is gone. Same can be said of our children. I miss them greatly when they are so far away.



Nine Health Risks, part II


5. Constantly running a humidifier.
Those little steam machines can be a life saver for parents with a stuffed-up kid who can’t sleep, but using them too often might make things worse.

6. Certain antibacterial soaps and toothpastes.
Triclosan is a germ killer found in a lot of antibacterial hand soaps, body washes, and even some brand-name cavity-control toothpastes. But the American Medical Association recommends against the use of triclosan in our homes, because it may encourage the development of scary bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.

7. X-ray airport scanners.
You know those “backscatter” full-body X-ray machines at airport security gates? Europe banned them several months ago because of health concerns, but the machines are still in use in some airports in the States.

8. Colon “cleansing.”
Celebs may swear by this kind of thing, but colonics and colon-cleansing pills could be dangerous, our experts said. The intestines are self-cleaning, so unless you’re getting a colonoscopy, there’s no reason to sweep the whole thing out.

9. Ready-to-feed canned baby formula.
Bisphenol A (BPA) isn’t only found in plastic–it’s also used to line the inside of cans to keep bacteria out. And according to tests conducted by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, one of the foods that ends up most contaminated with BPA is canned liquid infant formula.



Nine Health Risks, part I


On 5/31/2012, the day before I left for China, my son sent me this article — “9 Health Risks that Aren’t Worth Taking” By Melinda Wenner Moyer, REDBOOK. Here are from this article.

1. Holding your cell phone up to your ear. Although the overall risk is still very low, research suggests that people who have spent the past decade or more frequently talking on their cell phones in the traditional way are more likely to develop brain tumors.

2. PVC shower curtains.
That funky, chemical-y smell of new polyvinyl chloride (PVC) shower curtains comes from volatile organic compounds, which may be carcinogenic over time and can cause nausea and headaches in the short term, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

3. Microwaving in plastic.
Heat releases some of the chemical building blocks in plastic, sending them into whatever food or drink you’re warming up. One such chemical, bisphenol A (BPA), “can mimic the effects of estrogen in the body, potentially leading to issues like premature puberty and breast or testicular cancer.”

4. Flea and tick collars.
Adults who play with a cat or dog while it’s wearing a flea and tick collar are exposed to up to 500 times the Environmental Protection Agency’s safe level of pesticides.

To be continued…



Participation is success: an erroneous claim


My daughter and I talked about it on 5/30. We both have heard of this and have watched how some parents clapped their hands for their children’s effort, like throwing a basketball even though it did not get into the hoop or playing a game even though their team did not win.

I told my daughter if you participate, make every effort to win. Don’t participate for the sake of participation.

After all, the purpose of competition is to filter out the losers and those who make greatest efforts can win. It doesn’t give you a good feeling if you always watch others claim the trophies. In the long run, participating without ever winning anything will hurt the self-esteem of this participant.



The taste of sweetness is enhanced with a touch of bitter taste


During the week of my return from China, I felt the full force of concentrated attack of allergy, cough, and jet lag. For the whole week, I was miserable and not productive at all. I was keenly aware of it. All the time I kept telling myself that I would double my effort after I recovered from this distressed situation.

Last Friday evening, when I took my daughter to a local store, I told her, “You know people can better appreciate sweetness after they have tasted a tiny bit of bitterness. Same can be said of health. You often don’t know the value of your good health until you are sick. Or you don’t know how to save until you are in need of money.”

Sometimes, it takes something opposite for us to appreciate that something.



Time to move…


By next month, I will have worked at the clinic level for five years. Since early this year, I thought I should move to something else.

For one thing, I don’t see any room for improvement and further development if I keep staying here. I need some challenge to keep me going.

For another, I don’t like the hierarchical nature in the clinic. I am comfortably with more egalitarian work environment.

Hence, I decided to try getting into our IT department. I kept looking for any openings within our system. Right before I left for China, I sent my application for one opening in our IT department. I had the first round of interview on 5/30.

I was told that they just started giving interviews. In fact, I was the first one to be interviewed and they didn’t know how many they would interview. I didn’t feel good toward one of the guys. In fact, I had a feeling that it would not turn out right. Indeed, it didn’t. My daughter said, “Good. Now you can concentrate on your writing.” Big comfort!



“A nurse makes more money than a doctor”


Things went smoothly after my rough encounter with security persons. The plane left Kansas at 11 AM on 6/1 and arrived Chicago at about 12:30 noon. An hour later, I left Chicago for Hong Kong. The plane landed at about 6 PM on 6/2. I was lucky enough to have an aisle seat.

Sitting by my right side was a middle-aged American who was on his way to Taiwan with a group of 6 Americans. When I told him I went back once a year to see my mother, he said his mother lived an hour from him and he also saw her once a year. “Guess I should see her more often,” he said.

After sitting for a while, I decided to stretch my legs. I was standing by two American girls in their 30s. They came from Virginia, went to Hong Kong for a week of meeting. Another guy in his late 30s was reading Dancing with Max: A Mother and Son Who Broke Free by Emily Colson.

That man has a son who has autism disorder, the same problem as Max. From there, the conversation moved to parenting. The man complained about his ex-wife who poured all her life into the care of her children. The man has five children, whom he called “It’s a zoo.”

He complained about his second wife that, being a physician, she put all her time into her work. “Never become a doctor,” was his advice. “A nurse makes more money than a doctor, even if she does not have the long medical training. The country will soon face a shortage of doctors,” said he. Interesting!



Peanut butter and hazelnut spread


On 6/1, the morning I left for China, I had some unexpected issues with people at the airport security check. I carried in my carry-on luggage a few bottles of peanut butter and two large jars of hazelnut spread. I was told they were considered liquid and thus could not be carried on the airplane.

Soon I found out it was no use arguing with them about the liquid nature of peanut butter. They seemed not to have a second and patience listening to me. They gave me two choices: either surrender them to the government or ship them as another check-in luggage.

A woman, acting like a boss there, told me to decide immediately. Her rudeness was both intolerable and unforgettable. Immediately I figured out it would cost more to keep them. So, I decided to go without them. At least I have learned something.



Happy 4th anniversary!


Now I don’t even ask myself why I have kept writing. I don’t even find it necessary for any big cosmological question.

It is just like the reason of existence for any religious belief. The fact it can exist for so long, 4 full years, validates its legitimacy.

The blog site is first and foremost the place where people express themselves, share with the world ideas, beliefs, and daily occurrences, a mean of keeping updated to friends far and near. Occasionally, I sent the link to a blog entry to my children or to my friends, as if they had not read them.

When I flip back to the old blogs, I am glad I have written and have kept up my promise. And it gives me a good feeling. I am sure my children will be proud of me someday because of this.

Happy 4th birthday!



Good Habit will make life a lot easy


I found this piece laid open for a long time. The topic looks familiar but I am not sure if I have posted it before. Here it is, again if I have.

Many people know what they should do but find it hard to drag themselves through the day actually doing it. Life could be a hardship, a challenge, and of course could be a joy at the same time. We need courage all the time to move on.

I see it in myself and see it in my children. It is so easy to coast each day, day in day out, without any progress, going with the flow, with the crowd and ending up being one of the crowd. But if you want to go upstream and lead the crowd, you need to exert yourself.

Life will be made a lot easy if you get into a habit of doing the right thing, that is, giving your best in the most efficient way. With this habit, you don’t fight resistance when you try your best. All you need to do is follow your good habit.

I have told my daughter so many times that she has built some kind of resistence, even though she agrees with what I say.



Consumers got to be careful…


After I came back from China on 6/18/2012, I went through the mails that arrived during my absence. One of them is from the Great Western Bank. The letter notifies me of an insufficient fund and the fee of $33. Before I left for China, I wrote a check of $4030 to a summer program. This check was bounced back.

I was a bit shocked as I remembered clearly that I redeemed $4,000 from Edward Jones 529 fund and deposited them into my bank account in mid May. On further check, I found out that the bank by mistake deposited $40 into my account instead of $4,000.

Yesterday I went to the bank with all the evidence of my deposit. Luckily the bank keeps an image of all the paper transactions. It’s been nearly a month since my deposit. I am very much puzzled why the bank did not discover this mistake sooner. What would happen if I had not discovered this and had not
brought it to their attention?



While good habits yield lifelong benefit, bad ones do the opposite


On 5/23, I worked on an expired patient who was 58 at the time of death, of lung cancer, with over 40 years smoking history. Like many hard-to-quit smokers, she started smoking when she was a teenager.

One of my co-workers has tried getting rid of smoking many times and still has not succeeded. I can see how hard it is for her to quit. From this I think of the long-term impact of habits on our lives.

It is very hard to change one’s habits, good or bad, once they have been formed early in one’s life. The impacts of those habits developed in our early years will reach over half a century. Hence, it is extremely important to get into good habit when a person is young. Life will be easy if you end up with many good habits and no bad ones.


Hold no grudge against anyone


On 5/19, a friend of mine called about something that upset her at home. I told her not to let it bother her if she could do nothing about it. I also shared with her the following about Obama.

I remember reading a book about President Obama. The author said Obama holds no grudge against any of his former political opponents, if it bears no weight at present. That is, he would not harbor ill feelings toward anyone who used to be against him because it is not relevant to what he is concerned at the present.

Of course, you can see from this that President Obama is a very practical person. Essentially, if you want to go for big things in life, you have to be this practical and focus your time and energy on what is relevant and important, and learn to forget and let go any past irrelevant grievances.



“Everyone else looks after his own interests…”


On 4/30, we received an internal email from our director of operation. She has been with the practice for 10 years and is leaving for another company by the end of the month. It was so nice that she gave a month’s notice.

Well, it seems normal for people to jump from one position to another when there are some big changes in a company, especially when a merger of two companies inevitably creates duplicates and sooner or later the duplicates will be removed. Rather than waiting to be laid off, these people seek out their own different path first.

One colleague comment, “Well, everyone looks after his own interest.” True. Another asked “Who’s the next one?” Still, her departure came as a shock to me, as I used to see that person as the permanent fixture of the company. I think I am still very much the product of old culture.



Cholesterol-lowering foods — Good to your health


Here’s what I learned from a study in The Journal of the American Medical Association (Aug.24/31, 2011).

A vegetarian diet emphasizing a “portfolio” of cholesterol-lowering foods did a better job of reducing low-density lipoprotein — the so-called “bad” cholesterol — than a low-saturated-fat vegetarian diet.

All participants in the study followed a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Those in the portfolio group were told to emphasize four specific types of cholesterol-lowering foods in their diets — soluble fiber, nuts, soy protein, and margarines enriched with plant sterols — while those in the low-saturated fat group were told to avoid these foods.

For someone eating 2,000 calories per day, a portfolio diet would aim to provide the following amounts of these cholesterol-lowering foods:

Soluble fiber: 18 grams per day of fiber from foods such as oatmeal, oat bran, barley, peas, beans, lentils, psyllium, and vegetables such as okra and eggplant

Nuts: one ounce, or about one handful, per day

Soy protein: 42.8 grams per day from soy-based foods such as soy milk, tofu, and soy meat substitutes (four ounces of tofu contains 9.4 grams of soy protein; eight ounces of regular soy milk contains six grams of soy protein)

Plant-sterol-enriched margarine: 1.8 grams per day (1 to 2 tablespoons, depending on the product)



Avoid things that make you feel bad


Feeling good is one of the key ingredients to good health. I remember when I was in graduate school, the moment I found myself rather depressed was right after I finished a term paper or completed a big project or the end of a semester.

Here’s my list of things or occasions that make me feel bad.
1) when I feel like drifting away each day without a goal;
2) when I realize I have been busy but have not accomplished anything;
3) when I don’t know what to do with my time;
4) when I lose a competition and realize my time and efforts have yielded no result;
5) when I give up some plan but have not formulated a new one to replace it;
6) when I feel trapped in one position and see no future, no life, no way out;
7) when I feel hopeless no matter what I do;
8) when I am physically sick.

I shared with my daughter this piece right after I wrote it. She said she wholly agreed with me. Find out what makes you feel bad and make plans to avoid putting yourself in that moment.



Learn problem-solving skills, avoid too much complaints


On 5/17/2012, on the way to Sonic drive through restaurant, I shared with my daughter an experience that I had that day at office.

One of my colleagues had some issues with computer that day. She could not print a document from our network. I told her a roundabout way to avoid network, that is, save that file on her local computer, then print that local copy. She would not take it, insisting that she should be able to print anything simply by hit the print icon.

She spent nearly an hour calling helpdesk, to no avail. Later, I helped her print it without going through the network. She spent next hour talking to manager, then another colleague, complaining about this issue.

I told my daughter, “To those who can solve the problem, this is not an issue at all. Instead of complaining about an issue, we should learn to resolve it ourselves. You turn to helpdesk only after you have tried but failed to resolve it.”



Cool facts from Harvard Health Publications on weight problem, 2


Continued from yesterday
Here are five tips to create a healthful diet that you can enjoy.
1) Learn to think about food in a new way. Years ago, meat and potatoes were the American ideal. Now we know that vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and fish are best.

2) Experiment with new recipes and meal plans. Be creative and take chances. Instead of dreading your new diet, have fun with it.

3) Change slowly. By the time you are 40, you’ll have eaten some 40,000 meals—and lots of snacks besides. Give yourself time to change, targeting one item a week.

Start with breakfast, switching from eggs, bacon, donuts, white toast, or bagels to oatmeal or bran cereal and fruit. If you just can’t spare 10 minutes for a sit-down breakfast, grab high-fiber cereal bars instead of donuts or muffins.

Next, try out salads, low-fat yogurt or low-fat cottage cheese, tuna or peanut butter sandwiches, and fruit for lunch.

Snack on unsalted nuts, trail mix, fruit, raw veggies, Rye Krisp, or graham crackers. Try eating a few handfuls of a crunchy fiber cereal such as Kashi, or nibble on a cereal bar.

For dinner, experiment with fish, skinless poultry, beans, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and, of course, salads and veggies.

Fruit and low-fat frozen desserts are examples of desirable after-dinner treats. And there’s nothing wrong with the occasional cake, pie, or chocolates as long as the portions are moderate.

4) Be relaxed about your diet. You will never find a perfect food. Not everything on your plate needs to have a higher purpose. Take your tastes and preferences into account. If roast beef is your favorite food, it is okay to eat it—but try to make it a Sunday treat instead of a daily staple. The choices are your—and the better your overall diet, the more “wiggle room” you’ll have to indulge your passions.

5) Take a long-range view. Don’t get down on yourself if you slip up or “cheat” from time to time. Don’t worry about every meal, much less every mouthful. Your nutritional peaks and valleys will balance out if your overall dietary pattern is sound.



Cool facts from Harvard Health Publications on weight problem


On 5/16/2012, I learned some not cool facts from Harvard Health Publications.

1. What you eat affects your appearance, your energy and comfort, and—above all—your health.

2. America is on the wrong track. 2 out of 3 are overweight or obese.

Diabetes and high blood pressure are on the rise. Heart attacks, strokes, and cancer are distressingly common. Many factors contribute to these complex problems, but the basic reasons are simple: we eat too much, we choose the wrong foods, and we don’t get enough exercise.

3. Scientists know what diet is best for health. The fine print has changed and is likely to change some more, but the key facts are in.

4. Good eating is not a punishment, but an opportunity. If you know why it’s important and what to do, you’ll find it enjoyable and satisfying. And if you establish an overall pattern of healthful nutrition, you’ll have plenty of wiggle room to savor the treats that matter most to you.



Self-Esteem and Mental Health


Around the time when I was working on my second column for midwest voices, I bumped into a writing talking about the relationship between low self-esteem and mental health problem. Interesting.

The author associated low self-esteem with many mental health problems. The two can feed off each other in a vicious circle. That is, low self-esteem can lead to depressed state, the more you depressed you become, the lower is self-esteem, and the more you avoid activities that could help to build-up esteem.

It makes sense that we tend to avoid activities that we think we are not good at. I remember I was told or I got the impression that I was a bad singer. Someone even told me not to ruin her ears by singing aloud. I took it to heart and started whistling and playing flute instead of singing aloud. As the result, the more I avoided it, the worse I became and it is no surprise if my confidence over my voice hit bottom, which is one step short of depression.

Oh boy, one can never overemphasize the negative impact of low self-esteem on a person, his mental health, spirit, mood, and life.



There are four things that you cannot recover…


I received this from a friend of mine in New York on 5/15/2012.

There are four things that you cannot recover. Well, not really, with the exception of the last one.
1) The stone…after the throw
2) The word…after it’s said
3) The occasion…after the loss
4) The time…after it’s gone
Did anyone ever tell you just how special you? The light that you emit might even light a star.
Did anyone ever tell you how important you make others feel? Somebody out there is smiling about love that is so real.
Did anyone ever tell you that many times when they were sad your email made them smile a bit, in fact it made them glad?
For the time you spend sending things and sharing whatever you find, there are no words to thank you, but somebody thinks you’re fine.
I believe that without a friend you are missing out a lot in life.


Some Fun Facts of Physician Earnings


Around the end of April, I read an article from Medscape on comparing Compensation Across 25 Specialties. There are some interesting facts.

The 2012 physician income:
$315,000 radiologists and orthopedic surgeons
$314,000 cardiologists
$309,000 anesthesiologists
$309,000 urologists
bottom-earning specialties in 2012’s survey were pediatrics, family medicine, and internal medicine.

Male physicians across all specialties earned about 40% more than female physicians. In primary care, men earned 23% more. Those figures are fairly consistent with Medscape’s 2011 survey data. However, the gap in income is narrower in some specialties.

As in Medscape’s 2011 survey, the highest-earning physicians practice in the North Central region, comprising Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and South and North Dakota; the mean income of physicians there is $234,000.



One Needs both Extraordinary Talent and Persistence


On 5/13, my sister told me over Skype of this Chinese saying. The main idea is this. Since ancient time, a successful person possesses not only extraordinary ability but also strong will that enables him to persist in spite of all the obstacles.

She meant to tell me that strong will played as crucial part in one’s success as talent. I took it as an encouragement to my children, as I believe both of them are rather average in their ability. In fact, people with extraordinary talent are hard to find. For most people, the key to succeed lie in this second factor.



Wealth, Humanity, and Injustice


I read this piece of news on 4/7, “The Delhi child servant scandal that has outraged India, Plight of 13-year-old locked in house while employers went on holiday sparks revulsion.” The perpectrators in this case are Dr Sanjay Verma and Dr Sumita Verma.

“It was the 13-year-old maid’s desperate cries for help that finally alerted neighbours to her plight. She was standing, sobbing, on the balcony of the upmarket Delhi apartment. Her employers had locked her in, she said, and gone on holiday. Finally rescued by a firefighter, she told a tale that prompted a widespread display of national revulsion.”

“Her employers – middle-class doctors Sanjay and Sumita Verma – had “bought” her from an agency, which had in turn bought her from her uncle. She was hungry, she said, because they barely fed her. She received no pay and was regularly beaten. Their latest act of cruelty had been to lock her in and go on holiday to Thailand.”

Stories like this always fill my heart with indignation and make me wonder — how could it be possible that two educated doctors should treat other human beings so inhumanly? Aren’t we supposed to know better than treating others like animals, especially in a religious country like India?



Brideshead Revisited: Dream of Lost Nobility


During the week of 4/23 when my daughter was with her school team in Albuquerque, NM, I read the novel Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. The book was chosen by Time magazine as one of the one hundred best English-language novels from 1923 to the present.

The novel touches many themes, like Catholicism, old English nobility, wasted youth, etc. What strikes me most is the feeling of emptiness in the lives of members of this decedent noble family.

It reminds me of sayings like “young and foolish” or “young and stupid.” The youthful years seem to be the time for idleness and purposeless and drifting away like rootless weeds.

The young characters in the novel remind me of the main characters in Chinese novel The Dream of Red Chamber, who never have to make a living and who fool away their lives as if there were no tomorrow.

To be honest, I didn’t finish the 340-page novel, even if the language is rather beautiful. I must be too realistic or practical to indulge in any dream of lost nobility.



Technologies, Distraction, New Challenge to Time Management


Technologies can be a double-edged sword. They make life easy on the one hand, take away our lives on the other hand.

Just look at the technologies around us now, from TV to computer to cell phone. TV certainly has informed, entertained and educated us for many decades. The use of computer and cell phone have benefited our lives in more ways than we can count.

In turn, each new technology is also a new distracter, grabbing our attention and providing more excuse for us to delay doing what we should do.

They also hurt us by taking away our precious time when we sit for hours in front of a TV set or on the Internet or cell phone chatting.

They pose a new challenge to anyone who wants to get more things done in the shortest possible time.



The moment, the memory, catch it now or lose it soon


“How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?…
How do you keep a wave upon the sand?…
How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?”

I have found thoughts fleeting in my head, which, if not caught instantly, disappear faster than they arrive, leaving no clue at all.  Isn’t it true with everything? Nothing stay long unless we make an effort to pin it down. It is more so recently than before. Perhaps it is because of too much information flying before our eyes. Or perhaps it is a sign of early onset of senior dementia, which I hope not.

That’s why there is a saying that goes like this, the worst pencil is better than the best memory. This is why I keep telling my children to commit it to writing their agenda or plan or list of action or tasks.



Charles Colson, one of the casualties of Watergate


On the weekend of 4/22, I learned of the death of Charles Colson, the former special counsel to President Richard Nixon. He was infamous for being unscrupulous in helping Nixon with re-election.

Another infamous casualty of Watergate is Attorney General John Mitchell. Both of them shared the same problem with Richard Nixon, that is, shamelessly lying and knowingly violating the law, which brought about the final downfall of all of them.

Watergate scandal provides a rich and unique lesson for everybody. The best and the most exciting book on Watergate scandal is All the President’s Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, 1974. It is a must for anyone who wants to understand this scandal.



The cost of going to medical school


The idea of checking this cost hit me when I learned two friends of my daughter’s expressed the intention of becoming a doctor. There are two types of cost: real cost like tuition and living expenses and potential or implicit cost.

To be sure, medical training takes at least eleven years — 4 years undergraduate, 4 years medical school, 3 residency, another 3 years if you want to get into a specialty.

The potential costs include the cost of time and the lost opportunities during these years. Imagine if you put to good use these years after college graduation, instead of devoting them to medical training, how much monetary value you could have accumulated in 7 to 10 years? The extreme success example is Mark Zuckerburg. If you add this unrealized monetary value to the actual cost of medical training, the total cost of becoming a doctor could run up to over a million.

The opportunity lost means you give up the opportunity of doing something else when you dedicate a decade of your life exclusively for medical training. As some people say, “Life is a buffet,” you taste a bit of everything. You could live a richer, happier and more interesting life.

The sad truth is most people have neither taken the time going through medical training nor put to good use of the time they saved for not having that training. That’s why most of people end up being financially poorer than a doctor.



Celebrating International Children’s Day


I have so many fond memories associated with this holiday — childhood, carefree, roaming around in summer. They come back every year on this date. The above song is one of them. This was during my elementary school years, we sang this song on June first International Children’s Day.  And we sang it while we were in a boat! I don’t remember the detail, but I do miss the complete joy that I had at that time. Alas, it’s been half a century since then.

Happy International Children’s Day to all children!


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