Email courtesy


Sometimes you send an email, which is important. Of course, you would expect a reply at least confirming the receipt of your email. But when that reply never comes, you are left there staring at your inbox and wondering if you should re-send your email.

This is what happened to me on 7/16, Monday morning when I was expected to submit something via email. I did it once, then I did it again when I didn’t see it in the sent folder. Of course, the third time I did it with an apology and a hearty laughter.

The person on the other end must be annoyed over the bombardment of the same thing. “Gee, that woman must be too bored.”

I share this experience with my daughter. Be polite and send a reply to the sender if it contains some information that needs your acknowledgement.



A friend’s email has been hacked and abused


This is what I received this morning. It is a good practice to always try to contact the person by all means before you actually do what the email asks you to do.



One of those great moments — women’s cycling road race


Yesterday morning, my daughter and I watched NBC coverage of the 2012 Olympic game — women’s road race, cycling road. We cheered enthusiastically as we watched Marianne Vos of the Netherlands won the gold medal for this event.

It is said that “Her success was such that it is easier to name the races she didn’t win than those she did.”

The Road Race course is 250km (155 miles) for men, 140km (87 miles) for women. It was made more difficult when the cyclists had to race in rain.

As we watched the exciting event, we fully realized that it takes tremendous mental power and physical stamina to win that medal and taste the super sweetness of victory. No pain, no gain. True in all fields.



Tips on dealing with difficult persons, part II


Continued from yesterday. The author offers some tactics on dealing with these unreasonable, crazy people. They are self-defense mechanisms. Some of them really work!

1) Minimize time with them. Minimizing your exposure to pathology goes a long, long way.

2) Keep it logical. Keep communications fact-based, using minimal details.

3) Don’t drink around them. That’s easy.

4) Focus on them in conversation. A way to avoid being the target of demeaning comments, manipulation or having your words twisted is to say as little as possible.

Offer minimal information and get them talking about themselves (if you have to be around them or talk to them, that is)—they are a far safer conversation subject than you are.

5) Give up the dream that they will one day be the person you wish they’d be. Giving up the hope and fully accepting this person for who they really are can be an unbelievable relief after what is sometimes a lifetime of wishing.

6) Stay away from topics that get you into trouble. Before going into an interaction with a difficult person, review in your mind the topics that invite attack and be proactive about avoiding them.

7) Don’t try to get them to see your point of view. Don’t try to explain yourself or try to get them to understand you and empathize with your perspective. They won’t, and you’ll just feel worse for trying.

8) Create a distraction. If you absolutely have to spend time with someone who typically upsets you, try to be around them in circumstances that offer some sort of distraction.

I love these great tips! Real lifesavers!



Tips on dealing with difficult persons, part I


During the weekend of 7/14, I bumped into an article “Don’t Try to Reason with Unreasonable People — Simple strategies for dealing with mean or crazy people” by Susan Biali, M.D. I list this under happiness category because you won’t be happy if you don’t know how to deal with unreasonable yet also unavoidable people.

The title of the article looks interesting. The author presents a list of “unreasonable people,” who certainly seem capable of ruining your happiness and even life.

(1) Those you can’t have a reasonable conversation with; they somehow twist your words or totally confuse you and then tell you that you’re the one who doesn’t know how to communicate

(2) People who make subtly or overtly demeaning comments or say cutting things to you disguised as a “joke”

(3) Those that don’t respect boundaries and seem to enjoy stepping all over one after you’ve placed it

(4) The types that aren’t willing to consider your point of view or listen to your side of things (or just stare at you blankly, or laugh, or explode, when you try to explain “how you feel”)

(5) Liars
(6) Bullies
(7) Manipulators
(8) Verbal or emotional abusers (these can also range from subtle to overt)

(9) People who leave you feeling bad, sad, shaky or feeling sick in the pit of your stomach

(10) “Crazymakers,” a.k.a. people who provoke you into acting crazy or unbalanced, when your behavior across the rest of your life is proof that you’re not

(11) The excessively charming who are too good to be true and have an ulterior motive.

Life is so interesting and spicy because of these people.



The Fountainhead essay contest and proud parents


When I heard the news that my daughter’s The Fountainhead essay contest had won finalist prize, I was very happy for her and proud of her. I thought it quite an achievement considering the large quantity of submission for this contest. We were told they received over 4000 essay entries this year.

Immediately I shared it with my circle of friends. This reminds me of my father. He used to keep my writings and took them out when friends came over. Oh boy, he was beaming with proud smile. I am sure he would be very proud of her if he were here.

I told a friend of mine “Now it’s my turn.”



Religion, secular communities, and your happiness


We have learned that people with a religious belief are happier than those without. One of the reason for their well being is religious institution (church) that provides a support system.

Now we learn that this is true only if the society they belong to values religion highly. In very secular society like China, this may not be true.

I read this early this year. “For atheists and the growing ranks of unaffiliated individuals, these findings bode well. Scientists are now finding that secular communities of like-minded people can offer similar social support.”

The take-home message is this — it doesn’t matter whether or not you belong to a church or something similar, establishing a strong social support is the key to your level of happiness.



Sleep’s secret repair and other functions


I read this article back on 4/15/2012. It is from Scientific American Mind, May/June issue “Sleep’s secret repairs” “Slumber may loosen the links that undergird knowledge, restoring the brain daily to a vibrant, flexible state” by Jason Castro.

“Emerging evidence suggests that sleep also serves as a reset button, loosening connections throughout the brain to put this organ back in a state in which learning can take place.”

I thought of my two children when I read this piece.



How not to have these regrets


I read this article a few weeks ago –“Top five regrets of the dying” written by Bronnie Ware, a hospice nurse. She listed the most common regrets of the dying patients. The article was posted on her Inspiration an Chai website. The top five regrets are:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
In other words, most people don’t have the courage to live a life true to him/herself. That is a rather sad case as you think of the fact that we got only one life to live.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
That is to say, people have worked too hard and have let life go by without enjoying it.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Does it mean most people have concealed instead of expressing their feelings?

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
By the end of the day, friends make it to the list.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Think of this, most people don’t think they have had a happy life.

The author ends with these words “Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.”

The list of regrets reveals things that people care most by the end of their lives and things that truly makes people happy. It is not surprising that people, having too much of “eat, drink, smoke, or even sex,” care more about something spiritual and emotional, that is, their unfulfilled dreams, lost friends, and being true to themselves.

Now, the question is how not to have these regrets.



Six secrets to your career sucesss


I read this back in 2006. I am not sure if I have ever written anything on this topic. Before I trash this piece of note, I am going to share it here.

“Six career secrets you won’t learn in school ” by Alexandra Levit.
(1) Develop a marketable corporate person. Think of yourself as a publicist with the task of promoting yourself.
(2) Establish profitable relationship. Business networking.
(3) Master transferable skills like goal setting, effective  communication and time management, like your emotional intelligence.
(4) Stay motivated despite trying circumstances
(5) Get people to cooperate.
(6) Be proactive about your career growth. After all, it is your career and no one but you should take care of it all the time



Summer programs, activities benefit the children


I am so glad that my daughter had a wonderful time at CM in Pittsburgh. The more I talk with her, the more I am convinced of the benefits of summer program or activities on the children.

If it is financially affordable, high school students should participate summer camp or summer program or any summer activities away from home out of town.

It is an opportunity for the teenagers to learn to be independent, adapting to a new environment, dealing with and interacting with strangers. Kids become mature faster in this out in the world experience.

I was not surprised to learn from my daughter that there were plenty of Asian kids like her in this summer program, which meant Asian parents are more willing to invest in their children’s education. In fact, my daughter’s roommate was a girl from Xi’an, China. Of course, she met and made friend with many ABCs like her.



My daughter came back yesterday…


The day before my daughter left Pittsburgh, she did not sleep, spending the whole night packing and chatting with friends.

Yesterday morning, I set my alarm at 4 AM, which is 5 AM eastern time. I called her, making sure she was up and getting ready for the trip. To my surprise, she was already on the bus to the airport. She told me she left school around 4 AM.

That was scary. I can’t imagine how she dragged two pieces of luggage plus a backpack and a portfolio bag to the bus station. Her flight was at 8 AM. She would be super early when she got off the bus, found United Airline, got her boarding passes, and reached the departure terminal/gate.

I told her to take a nap while waiting. Of course, that was all I could think of at the moment.

She made a transfer in Newark, NY. Originally, the flight should leave at 12 noon, but it delayed again and again until about 4 PM. I was worried about my daughter as I kept thinking of the previous sleepless night that she had.

Finally, she made it back at about 6 PM. She told me she had a wonderful time there, learning new things and making new friends, having a taste of college life, etc. That makes all the hardship worthwhile and tolerable.



Saying the obvious: the Benefits of Exercise


This is from an article that I read last month on the benefits of exercise. I know it is saying something that we all know. Still, I like to repeat it here.

What can improve your mood, boost your ability to fend off infection, and lower your risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and colon cancer?

The answer is regular exercise. It may seem too good to be true, but it’s not. Hundreds of studies conducted over the past 50 years demonstrate that exercise helps you feel better and live longer.

Don’t we know it already? Still, we don’t exercise enough every day.



On the way to Beijing…


From Hong Kong to Beijing, I took Dragon Air. It was a three-hour flight. There were two young Chinese students sitting to my left.

They seem to come from rather well-off families, each holding an ipad and playing games most of the time. I chatted with them and learned that both of them were college students in London. They came back for summer break, one back to home in Xi’an, the other in a small town in Shangdong province.

The one sitting next to me is 23 years old. Both of them major in finance. They look well-fed and clothed, leading a seemingly carefree life. They really look younger than their age.

One of the boys asked if I was a teacher. He said I looked like coming from America. He asked me when I first went to America. I told him “Before you were born.” Indeed, both of them are about my son’s ago. Yet, they are so different.

When I asked them their plan after graduation, both of them wanted to continue for graduate study. “What will you do after that?” I asked. “Look for job,” one answered without enthusiasm. I got an impression that graduate study partially served for postponing job-hunting.



Tips for hot days from Harvard Medical School, part IV


The fourth but not the last tip is the protection of your eyes.

As we age, problems with eyesight become more common. Despite this, many people are not conscientious about caring for their eyes. Learn how to recognize the risk factors and symptoms of specific eye diseases — cataract, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy — and what steps you can take to prevent or treat them before your vision deteriorates further.

The ultraviolet rays in sunlight can damage your eyes every bit as much as your skin. The cornea is at particular risk. Even a single intense exposure can cause photokeratitis, or sun blindness. The symptoms are pain and light sensitivity, often accompanied by redness, tearing, and uncontrollable blinking. Fortunately, the cornea will usually repair itself in 12 to 48 hours.

But repeated low-level ultraviolet exposure can cause cumulative damage to the lens, ultimately resulting in cataracts. Sunglasses will prevent both problems if they have high-quality lenses that screen out UV rays.

Avoid lenses that are rated as “cosmetic.” Instead, look for sunglasses rated “general purpose” that absorb at least 95% of ultraviolet B rays and 60% of ultraviolet A. For intense exposures, turn to glasses with a “special purpose” rating; they absorb 99% of UVB.

There are some more tips and bug bites and plants problems, which I am not going to carry here.



Tips for hot days from Harvard Medical School, part III


The third tip is to wear light-colored and loose garments.
Take it easy. Walk instead of jogging. Take breaks and quit early. Don’t exercise in extreme heat and humidity. If it’s humid and above 80° or 85°, take a day off or head for the pool — or an air-conditioned health club.

Drink plenty of water. Drink 6 to 8 ounces of cool water before you get started, and pause frequently to drink. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, drink again on your way to the shower.

Stay cool at home.

Listen to your body. Don’t force yourself.

Fatigue, weakness, confusion, lightheadedness, nausea, labored breathing, chest discomfort, or a rapid or erratic pulse can all be signs of trouble. If you feel ill, get into a cool place and drink plenty of water. If you don’t improve promptly, get help.



Tips for hot days from Harvard Medical School, part II


The second tip is on heat and humidity. This is more a common sense.

Your metabolism always generates heat, and when you exercise, your muscles crank out 20 times more. That’s okay if body heat can pass out into cool air. As the temperature rises, though, cooling becomes difficult, even impossible.

The evaporation of sweat can also take away lots of body heat, but as the humidity rises, this too becomes difficult, then impossible. Heat that can’t be shed externally remains trapped in the body.

That’s when problems develop. Some are mild (muscle cramps), others serious (heat exhaustion), and some can be lethal (heat stroke).

Avoid sunlight. Schedule your outdoor activity in the early morning or the evening to avoid direct sunlight and always take advantage of the cooler temperatures.



Tips for hot days from Harvard Medical School, part I


I read this article yesterday from Harvard Medical School, “Health tips for the dog days of summer.”

Of course, the first tip is on protecting your skin. Because “over time, sun exposure will build up to increase your risk of melanomas and other skin cancers. Sun exposure will also produce premature aging and wrinkling of your skin.”

“Sunlight contains two forms of ultraviolet energy, UVA and UVB. Use a sunscreen that will protect you from both. Most products are effective against UVB, but many fail against UVA. Look for a “broad-spectrum” sunscreen; ingredients such as avobenzone and ecamsule are good for UVA, while oxybenzone and octocrylene add UVB protection. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide protect against both. Many sunscreen brands contain a mix of ingredients that provides protection against UVA and UVB.”

“Above all, don’t let sunscreen give you a false sense of security. The only foolproof protection is to avoid sunlight as much as possible. Stay in the shade when you can, especially between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest. Try to stay away from reflective surfaces. Wear a hat with a big brim, pants, and long sleeves.”



20 guidelines for healthful and enjoyable eating for everybody


Here are 20 guidelines for healthful and enjoyable eating for people with diabetes and anyone else who wants to eat healthfully. I think this is from some important health journal.

1. Eat a variety of foods; since no single food is perfect, you need a balanced mix of foods to get all the nutrients your body requires.

2. Eat more vegetable products and fewer animal products.

3. Eat more fresh and homemade foods and fewer processed foods. Avoid fast food and junk food. You know what they are.

4. Choose your fats wisely. Cut down on meat, the skin of poultry, whole-fat dairy products, stick margarine, fried foods, processed snack foods, and commercial baked goods made with trans fats. Think about dressings, sauces, and cooking oil. Use olive or canola oil to cook whenever possible, and moisten your bread with olive oil or soft margarine. Get “good fats” from fish and nuts.

5. Choose your carbs wisely. Cut down on simple sugars; remember that sodas, sports energy drinks, and fruit juices are loaded with sugar. Cut down on highly refined products made with white flour. Favor whole-grain, coarsely ground, unrefined products. Don’t be fooled by dark-colored bread or by labels that boast of unbleached flour, wheat grain, or multigrain flour.

Instead, look for whole grain as the first ingredient, and read the fine print to learn the fiber content of a portion; more is better. Learn to like bran cereal, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Consider fiber supplements if you can’t get enough from foods.

6. Consume at least three cups of non- or low-fat dairy products a day.

7. Eat protein in moderation. Favor fish and skinless poultry. Experiment with soy and beans as a protein source. Aim for 5½ ounces of protein-rich foods a day; count ¼ cup of cooked beans or tofu, ½ ounce of nuts or seeds, or one egg as equivalent to 1 ounce of cooked fish or cooked lean meat or poultry.

8. Restrict your sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day, particularly if your blood pressure is borderline or high, by reducing your use of table salt and processed foods such as canned soup and juices, luncheon meats, condiments, frozen dinners, cheese, tomato sauce, and snack foods. People with blood pressure above 120/80 mm Hg should aim for 1,500 mg a day, as should anyone above age 50.

9. Eat more potassium-rich foods, such as citrus fruits, bananas, and other fruits and vegetables. Eat more calcium-rich foods such as low-fat dairy products, broccoli, spinach, and tofu (but don’t take calcium supplements to boost your daily intake above 1,200 mg).

10. Eat more grain products, especially whole-grain products, aiming for at least 6 ounces a day. Count 1 cup of dry cereal; ½ cup of cooked cereal, rice, or pasta; or one slice of bread as 1 ounce. Whole grains and brown rice should provide at least half your grains; the more, the better.

11. Eat more vegetables, especially deep-green and yellow-orange vegetables. Aim for at least five servings a day. Count 1 cup of raw leafy greens, ½ cup of cooked or raw vegetables, or ½ cup of vegetable juice as one portion.

12. Eat more fruits, aiming for at least four servings a day. Count one medium-size piece of fruit; ½ cup of fresh, frozen, or canned fruit; or ½ cup of fruit juice as one portion.

13. Eat more fish, aiming for at least two 4-ounce servings each week. Remember to broil, bake, or grill instead of frying.

14. If you choose to eat red meat, try to reduce your intake to two 4-ounce servings per week. Avoid “prime” and other fatty meats, processed meats, and liver. Switch to chicken and turkey, always removing the skin. Be sure your meat and poultry are cooked to 160° or more, but not charred.

15. Eat eggs sparingly; aim for an average of no more than one egg yolk per day, including those used in cooking and baking. Use egg substitutes whenever possible.

16. Include seeds and unsalted nuts in your diet. Nuts have been linked to a reduced risk of cardiac death, but since they are high in calories, moderation is the watchword.

17. Use vegetable oils in moderation, favoring olive and canola oils. Reduce your intake of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, palm oil, and coconut milk.

18. If you choose to use alcohol, drink sparingly. Men should not average more than two drinks per day, women one a day. Count 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1½ ounces of liquor as one drink. Never drive or operate machinery after drinking.

19. Adjust your caloric intake and exercise level to maintain a desirable body weight. If you need to reduce, aim for gradual weight loss by lowering your caloric intake and increasing your exercise level.

20. Avoid fad diets and extreme or unconventional nutritional schemes. If it’s too good to be true, it’s not true. And remember that these guidelines are intended for healthy people; people with medical problems should consult their doctors to develop individualized nutritional plans.



When you are considering a law degree…


On 4/19/2012 issue of Time magazine, there is an article talking about supply and demand of lawyer. As job market for lawyers is shrinking, number of people taking law school admission tests declines, too. The “$150,000 they would have to invest in a law degree might be better spent elsewhere.”

Yet, in the time of economic downturn, college graduates might want to go to law school when they cannot find a suitable employment. The bad news is when they eventually reach the market, they will depress wages, which could set them back for a long time. It is called “cobweb model.”

The technology advances also threaten to lower the cost of legal services. The article raises the question of the value of a law degree.

I thought of two of my friends whose children were considering this path. If people go into the law for big earnings, it’s better to think twice.



Advice for future Daughter-in-laws


This is what I read from a magazine while I was in China. It is a challenge to maintain a normal relationship between mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws. Hence, it is wise to avoid the following before marriage.

(1) Postpone meeting your in-laws as long as possible.

(2) Don’t get into the habit of buying expensive stuffs for your future in-laws, as this tends to develop an expectation on their part.

(3) Don’t offer to do too much household. Instead of appreciating your hard work at home, they tend to take it for granted, as if this is what you SHOULD do.

(4) Don’t talk about your family to your in-law family. You never know how your in-laws interpret the stories in your family.

(5) Don’t stay too long in your in-laws house, as if you were eager to sell yourself cheaply. Keep your distance.

(6) Don’t stay overnight in in-laws’ house.

(7) Spend as much time as possible with your family, as this is where you belong and where people truly love you.

(8) Say NO and show your displeasure when needed. When you perceive a hint of disrespect from your in-laws, don’t just eat dirt and say nothing. Your silence might be understood as being weak and easy to bully around. By polite and modest, but not humble to the point of losing your personal integrity.

(9) Never spend too much money on your in-laws family, even when there is a need.



The girl that I met on my way back


On my way back to Kansas, I was lucky again to have an aisle seat. The man sitting by the window was heading for LA where his 24-year-old daughter was in a Ph.D. program at University of South California. He thought I was a visiting parent, too.

The girl sitting to my left was a 19-year-old ABC from Seattle. She was a sophomore at a small liberal art college in Colorado. She majored in political science and sociology, planning to work for some NGO. She said she would work with the poor people to narrow the inequality in the world. She realized she would be poor all her life as she would work as volunteer most of the time.

I asked her what her parents thought of her choice. “They are not happy about it, but they know once I made up my mind, they would have to accept it.”

I told her, “You might not be rich, but you shall be happy doing what you enjoy. Good luck.”

I have a sense that the girl must have had some rough time with her parents. She might also have some kind of prejudice thinking all Chinese parents are the same, defining success as top earners, including me.



The day I left Beijing…


Flash back to the day I left Beijing on 6/18/2012, less than a month ago. I got up early that day, had breakfast around 7 AM, left for the airport rather early.

By the time we arrived at the Beijing Capital International Airport, it was a little after 9 AM. Already there was a long line waiting for boarding pass and lugguge check-in. I was standing on the line while my mother and my sister were sitting on a nearby bench.

Everything went well with me that morning. After taking some pictures and saying goodbye to them, I was on my way passing both security check and custom.

When I finally dragged my feet to Gate E26, I felt tired, hungry and an overwhelming feeling of sadness, the kind of feeling that I had every time I was sitting at the airport.

I felt this way when I first left home in 1984. Here I was still in Beijing, yet after passing the guarded gate, there seemed no way for us to communicate, seemed like we lost contact with each other, more so as I was traveling far away from home. I could see my family stood there for a long time watching me out of sight.



Flexibility wins


If the mountain won’t move, build a road around it; If the road won’t turn, change your path.” — Master Zheng-Yan

This is what I read on 7/8, Sunday morning. I think the message is be flexible and resourceful. When a huge mountain blocks your path and won’t move out of your way, build a road aroud it; if the road won’t turn, take a different path.

Finally, if you are unable to even change your path, just transform your mind to accept reality.

Lu Xun, the famous Chinese writer once wrote, there is originally no road in the world. A road came into being after many people trod on it.

Be flexible also means to break your own ground instead of following the beaten track. Be the first one to tread on a path.



Avoid these seven activities immediately after meal


This was sent to me by a friend in New York on 5/6/2012. Rather interesting to know.
(1) Do not drink eat after eating
(2) Do not have cold drink after eating
(3) Do not smoke after eating
(4) Do not plunge into a sweaty workout after eating
(5) Do not take a shower or go swimming after eating
(6) Do not try to have bowel movement after eating
(7) Do not go to bed after eating

 



Looking back, six years ago…


That was the summer of 2006, when my son was 17, the summer before his high school senior year, he went to Russia for a summer internship. He funded the trip with the money he made through his internet venture.

After he came back, he told me some people missed home and spent lots of money calling home from Russia. Before he left, I told him to send me an email everyday so that I knew he was OK and that he did.

He told me he spent as much time as he could in lab doing experiment and writing research paper. As the result, he submitted the paper to two national science competitions and both reached semi-finalist level. In fact, he was the only one out of that year’s interns who completed and submitted a research paper.

When I looked back, I can’t believe he was so mature. I am sure he also missed home and also wanted to spend some time playing around in Russia. It has been five years since he moved out of home for college and then for work. Now I miss that summer when I knew he would return home in a few weeks.



Education in China, a challenge to parents in America


On the 4th of July holiday, I read an article on BBC, “China: The world’s cleverest country?” by Sean Coughlan BBC News education correspondent.

The article talks about the remarkable achievements in education in China as demonstrated in the highly-influential Pisa tests, the Programme for International Student Assessment, held every three years by the OECD.

The test results in China showed the “resilience” of pupils to succeed despite tough backgrounds – and the “high levels of equity” between rich and poor pupils.

It also shows strong commitment and investment individually and collectively in education, “investing in its future, rather than in current consumption.”

Asked about success, “In China, more than nine out of 10 children tell you: ‘It depends on the effort I invest and I can succeed if I study hard'” instead of luck or aptitude as we often hear in Western countries.

“They take on responsibility. They can overcome obstacles and say ‘I’m the owner of my own success’, rather than blaming it on the system,” as most low performers in America do.

“Education is a field dominated by beliefs and traditions, it’s inward looking. As a system you can find all kinds of excuses and explanations for not succeeding.” “It’s a terrible thing to take away the global perspective.”

On the question about “the rising stars in Asia, Mr Schleicher says it’s a philosophical difference – expecting all pupils to make the grade, rather than a “sorting mechanism” to find a chosen few.



Serving others motivates us and gives meaning to our efforts


My daughter likes home-grown vegetables like cherry tomatoes and cucumbers. That practically is the incentive for me to grow them every year.

I enjoy watching her pick the red ripe cherry tomatoes and put it in her mouth. She likes cold cucumber dish. She has done a good job watering them while I was in China.

This year, with her being away for the summer program, I thought of her when I saw a ripe cucumber on the vine or a bunch of red cherry tomatoes. I wanted to wait till she gets back but I know they won’t wait for her, especially in this hot weather.

Sometimes, serving others motivates us and gives meaning to our efforts. Moreover, we are willing to serve when our service is appreciated.



Happy 4th of July, celebrating a day off


It is Wednesday and it is a day off work because it is 4th of July. A few days ago, a friend of mine asked us to go to her house today, but I called her yesterday to cancel it as it is terribly hot today.

My sister’s son in Houston told me last week that those Chinese who had been in the country for a long time had still not assimilated into the mainstream American culture. He went to some gatherings there and found no Americans in these Chinese gatherings.

He said he cared about being accepted by others and by the society. I didn’t try to persuade or argue with him. I think it takes time for him to be mature enough not to care how others think about him or whether or not he is being accepted by American society when he should concentrate on following his own path regardless of what others think. One can argue that the whole purpose of coming to America is the freedom to follow your own path, regardless of the environment.

For me, I am going to enjoy my day off today. I am happy as long as I accept myself.



Postpone doing what we should do


After I returned from China on 6/18, I went through the pile of mails that came during my absent days. There was one letter from Massachusetts Department of Revenue regarding my son’s 2011 tax return. I need to respond within 30 days, that is, before 7/6/2012.

This is a headache to me. So I postponed till last Sunday. Before tackling this matter, I cleaned the room, thinking I needed a big clean space to work on this. I delayed facing the issue until I found no more excuse for my delaying.

As soon as I got it over, I said to myself, “I have enough torture for the day. Now I deserve a break.” By that I meant doing something I enjoy. In fact, I spent more time before and after this tax return issue.

After the day was over, I thought to myself. Gee, why can’t I spend the whole time doing something I don’t enjoy but I should do? Now I can understand how my daughter feels sometimes.

P.S. I contacted my daughter yesterday evening. She was doing beautifully there with some new friends around. Glad it turned out this way.



Experience of Hardship in Younger Years


On the first day of my daughter’s arrival in Pittsburgh, PA on 6/30, she found the heat unbearable and was even considering of coming back. There was no air conditioner for summer program on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University.

As she is used to air-conditioned house and has never experienced hardships of any kind in her life, I can perfectly understand how she feels. I let her know it would be up to her to decide what she would do next. I even checked her air ticket back home for the next day.

At home, she has a low threshold for any physical discomfort. I thought it beneficial for young people to experience some hardship while they are young in order to prepare for any unexpected ones after they grow up.

There is a phrase in Chinese, chi-ku, which literally means eat bitterness, and which means “experience hardship.” As I see it, young people nowadays are well-provided, sheltered from any hardships, which is a good thing but like a plant growing up in a greenhouse, they are too tender to stand any possible tough life ahead, which is worrisome to me.



More college graduates have debt than have jobs


I heard this news on NPR on 5/10 about college graduates struggling to gain financial footing. To be sure, it is not a cheerful situation for many of them and its long-term impact is rather depressing.

First of all, “A new Rutgers University survey of those who graduated from college between 2006 and 2011 finds that just half of those grads are working full time.”

Second, the sad part is, as Cliff Zukin said, “More come out with debt than come out with jobs,” NPR interviewed Caitlin LaCour who graduated from Columbia College in Chicago in 2011. She earns just $10 an hour, which was far from enough to take care of her $100,000 student loan debt. So she had to take on a second part-time job at a shoe store, and then a third… She said “I got addicted to working. I just burned myself out, because I didn’t want to have to worry about not being able to pay my loans.”

Third, your college major plays a role. “An engineering grad from a top school, for example, can job-hop and get back to a higher earning level in three or four years, von Wachter says. But ‘students who come from smaller, less-well-known schools and have majors such as humanities or arts — they tend to have depressed career paths lasting for a very long time.'”


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