On Thanksgiving evening, we went to a friend’s house for a small gathering, where I talked to two interesting young Chinese girls.
The first one came to the States at age 12. She merged into American culture and has made an excellent adaptation — graduated from a KU master program, has an American boyfriend and got a job three years ago.
The second one came to the States at age 16. After over 5 years here, she told me she planned to go back to China after college graduation because she was not used to life here. When asked if she had already found a job in China, she said no. She insisted she was too old when she came to the US and would never be able to assimilate into American culture.
On the surface, it may seem the age makes the difference, the younger you are, the easy it is to adapt to the new environment. As a matter of fact, age is not the decisive factor.
What really makes the difference here is their personality. While the first one has an outgoing personality, the second one is just the opposite. She is introvert to the point of not talking to anyone at all when we first saw her. During the party, she spent most of the time either watching TV or on her laptop.
Life might be easier and happier for an introvert person if she stays within her familiar zone without having to venture out. Then again, are we missing something out in life if we never step out of our comfort zone?
The day before Thanksgiving a friend of mine emailed me this writing. I thought it rather thought provoking and a bit shocking. I shared the story with both of my children and my sister’s son in Houston. Of course, I have to tell the story to my children as their Chinese is not up to the task.
The article tells the transformation and life experience of three persons. In the beginning, the three of them are not that far apart. In a matter of a decade, the gap among them has glaringly widened. The article is rather long. I like the above part.
Some students think school grades are not that important. But they fail to realize that seeking excellence in whatever they do is a habit. Being lazy, making least efforts, coasting away each day is also a habit. The effect of this habit compounds daily.
It is like two persons starting at the same point and heading two opposite directions. Time will wide the distance. And eventually the day will come when you see this distance and realize it is this daily habit that creates the vast distance among people. Of course, when people look back, they will be amazed to realize that they were so close at the beginning. The tragic part is they cannot turn back clock and relive the lost youth.
During this holiday season, we see how local retail stores like bestbuy, Walmart, Microcenter, etc adapt, evolve, and compete in the ever thriving e-commerce culture.
All these retailed stores have their online stores and have local store pickup option if customers place an order online. Many of them have price matching and deal guarantee policy. Some even have same-day delivery policy, with a little bit of extra cost.
All these new policies serve to provide the benefits of the low price of e-commerce and the convenience of local stores, resulting in positioning them well in the competition with Amazon and other online only stores. Without constantly adjusting their policies accordingly, they might lose customers and go out of business.
A business and a national party are very much like an organism. In the face of heated competitions for survival, they have no choice but to adapt, change and evolve. This often reminds me of people who survive well in time of economic downturn.
Normally I don’t get involved in conversation about shopping, but not this time. As my desktop pc is broken and my son is not home to fix it, and my 13 inch screen laptop seems too small for my eye, I am considering a large screen laptop.
I would like to have an 18.4 inch laptop, but the price is too formidable, around $2000. So I decided to go for the next biggest screen, 17.3 inch, under $500 Black Friday price. The reason I give myself for this expense is I will do more writing from now on. And I will do so at home instead of using office computer.
My colleague bought a MacBook Pro laptop for herself not long ago. She suggested that I go for a Mac. I told her I also bought a 13-inch Mac Air for my daughter because her Mac was broken, but I was not going to buy one for me. The 17-inch MacBook is also around $2000. I don’t have a good excuse for this luxury for myself.
With this new large screen laptop, I must work hard to make it worthwhile.
Back to work today after four days Thanksgiving break.
Yesterday evening we watched evening news over dinner table. Holiday shopping frenzy has been top news for the past few days. We watched people crowded in the store with cartload of goods as if things were given out free. It is so crazy.
I don’t understand why people have to shop so much for the holiday. Do people need all these stuffs? For the record, Christmas present exchange is not a tradition in my household.
I stand firm against this materialistic part of American culture. There are too many wants in people’s life. Most people here shop not because they need but because of their endless wants.
I like things simple, easy to follow and to keep it up. Here are 5 of the best workouts that I read on 11/15/2012 from Harvard Medical School newsletter.
1. Swimming. You might call swimming the perfect workout. The buoyancy of the water supports your body and takes the strain off painful joints so you can move them more fluidly.
2. Tai Chi. Tai chi — a Chinese martial art that incorporates movement and relaxation — is good for both body and mind. In fact, it’s been called “meditation in motion.”
3. Strength training. Lifting light weights won’t bulk up your muscles, but it will keep them strong. “If you don’t use muscles, they will lose their strength over time.”
4. Walking. Walking is simple yet powerful. It can help you stay trim, improve cholesterol levels, strengthen bones, keep blood pressure in check, lift your mood and lower your risk for a number of diseases.
5. Kegel exercises. These exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder. Strong pelvic floor muscles can go a long way toward preventing incontinence.
To do a Kegel exercise correctly, squeeze and release the muscles you would use to stop urination or keep from passing gas. Alternate quick squeezes and releases with longer contractions that you hold for 10 seconds, release, and then relax for 10 seconds. Work up to three 3 sets of 10-15 Kegel exercises each day.
As long as you’re doing some form of aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, and you include two days of strength training a week, you can consider yourself an “active” person.
On 10/27/2012, we went to Kansas City Art Institute for the National Portfolio Day. On the way back, my daughter said she was not going to major in art or to be an artist.
At that time, I didn’t know exactly what caused her to change her mind. Later when I asked her what she wanted to pursue now. She has not decided yet, which is perfectly normal.
I have repeatedly told my daughter — “You might not know what you want to pursue now, but I want you to keep in mind one thing, no matter what you decide or not decide, you must not waste time, sitting around idly, without actively seeking and enriching yourself, waiting for the day when you find your passion.”
“All you have in life is time. You know time is the only thing that once it is gone, it will never come back. Always try to get most out of the time you put in.”
Continued from yesterday… This is the translation of yesterday’s posting on Matsubara Yasumichi’s spiritual aspect in healthcare, of which he created three do-not rules.
(1) Do not force yourself. Don’t overreach yourself or bite off more than you can chew or do unconventional thing.
(2) Do not waste, which means value time and everything around you, appreciate other people’s kindness.
(3) Do not be lazy. Try to do it yourself instead of letting others to do it for you. No matter how old you are, be enthusiastic about learning.
Never mind about his self-contradictions. I like the second rule best, for it opens my eyes to something that I once failed to see. That is, I used to consider not wasting as mainly not wasting time and money, when in fact not wasting means a lot broader than this.
Only when we go about our daily life with a grateful attitude can we truly count our blessing and appreciate everything we enjoy daily — our health, friendship, good relations, days when our children are with us, what others have done for us, or even the sunny days, etc.
This is my special message for this Thanksgiving day!
On 11/13/2012, a friend of mine sent me this piece on Matsubara Yasumichi, a Japanese Buddhist master. Below is part of it. I will interpret it tomorrow.
On 11/1/2012, I read this piece of information from Harvard Medical School newsletter. “A good, balanced diet — one that includes a variety of unrefined carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, with an emphasis on vegetables, whole grains, and healthy oils — will help keep you healthy. Eating well also provides optimum fuel for your body and can help keep you firing on all cylinders.”
Don’t we already know this? Why not candy and other simple sugars? Here’s the link among the three: fatigue, sugar, and weight gain.
Candy and sugars give you a quick burst of energy, but the burst won’t last long. In fact, as the energy quickly fades, it leaves you feeling depleted and craving for more candy or sugar-type food, which inevitably leads to weight gain. This reminds me of a classmate of mine back in Bowling Green, Ohio. He became obese from eating donuts while driving himself insanely through Ph.D dissertation process. Trust me it doesn’t take much to get to that stage.
On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats are slow cookers, supplying the reserves and energy that you can draw on throughout the day.
Here are a few take home messages:
(1) If you want to keep your energy up and steady without weight gain, limit refined sugar and starches to the minimum.
(2) Take small meals and snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. Keep in mind large meals can cause food coma, leading you feel sluggish instead of energizing you.
(3) Remember it doesn’t take much to feed your brain. A piece of fruit or a few nuts should do the job. Always have healthy snack around and keep out of sight the sugar snacks.
(4) Lunch is in the middle of the day. The key word is SMALL, unless you want a afternoon nap.
I learn this from Harvard Medical School newsletter. We know bone-weakening is an inevitable part of aging process. The best you can do to protect your bones is to build the highest bone density possible by your 30s and minimizing bone loss after that.
You might think it too late for you now. Well, we learn from the expert that there is still much you can do to preserve the bone you have.
(1) Daily weight-bearing exercise, like walking, is the best medicine.
(2) Getting enough calcium and vitamin D.
Calcium is an important nutrient for building bone and slowing the pace of bone loss. But too much calcium or dairy products may be unhealthy. In addition to calcium, there are other nutrients and foods that help keep your bones strong..
With age, the intestines absorb less calcium from the diet, and the kidneys seem to be less efficient at conserving calcium. As a result, your body can steal calcium from bone for a variety of important metabolic functions.
In building bone, calcium has an indispensable assistant: vitamin D. This vitamin helps the body absorb calcium, and some researchers think that increasing vitamin D can help prevent osteoporosis.
If possible, a small amount of sun exposure can help your body manufacture its own vitamin D — about five to 30 minutes of sunlight between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. twice a week to your face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen will enable you to make enough of the vitamin.
I know many people will be eating like there is no tomorrow during holiday season. Here are some advices from Harvard Medical School on how to fight heartburn.
Heartburn is a common problem. It’s caused by the backwash of stomach acid into the esophagus, the tube connecting the mouth and stomach. This is formally called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). More than just a minor discomfort, heartburn can significantly reduce quality of life. “Heartburn can cause damage to the esophagus and even increase the risk of cancer if ignored and untreated,” says Dr. William Kormos, editor in chief of Harvard Men’s Health Watch and a primary care physician at Massachusetts General Hospital.
(1) Eat in a heartburn-smart way
Large meals put pressure on the muscle that normally helps keep stomach contents from backing up into the esophagus. The more you eat, the longer it takes for the stomach to empty, which contributes to reflux. Try smaller, more frequent meals and don’t wolf down your food.
(2) Avoid late-night eating
Having a meal or snack within three hours of lying down to sleep can worsen reflux, causing heartburn. Leave enough time for the stomach to clear out.
(3) Don’t exercise right after meals
Give your stomach time to empty; wait a couple of hours. But don’t just lie down either, which will worsen reflux.
(4) Sleep on an incline
Raising your torso up a bit with a wedge-shaped cushion may ease nighttime heartburn. Wedges are available from medical supply companies and some home goods stores. Don’t just prop your head and shoulders up with pillows. Doing so can increase pressure on the stomach by curling you up at the waist.
(5) Identify and avoid foods associated with heartburn
Common offenders include fatty foods, spicy foods, tomatoes, garlic, milk, coffee, tea, cola, peppermint, and chocolate. Carbonated beverages cause belching, which also causes reflux.
(6) Chew sugarless gum after a meal
Chewing gum promotes salivation, which helps neutralize acid, soothes the esophagus, and washes acid back down to the stomach. Avoid peppermint gum, which may trigger heartburn more than other flavors.
(7) Rule out medication side effects
Ask your doctor or pharmacist whether any of the medications you take might cause pain resembling heartburn or contribute to reflux.
(8) Lose weight if you need to
Being overweight puts more pressure on the stomach and pushes stomach contents into the esophagus. Tight fitting clothing and belts that come with weight gain may also be a factor.
On 11/5/2012, one colleague of mine forwarded to me an email from a monitor regarding one of our studies, which itself is an annoying thing. On the email subject, he refers to one subject at our clinic while in the body of his email, he talks about a different subject not even located in our clinics. I wrote back to him asking him to clear up which subject he is talking about.
I said “By the way, our site number is 041. Appreciate it if you get the site correct before sending it.” I knew I was not being nice when I wrote this but I was pretty upset when some monitors throw upon us data discrepancies with their own glaring discrepancies in the email.
He returned with this “My apologies. I was copying and pasting since I have several sites that needed SAE follow up. Please forgive this oversight. It is subject …” I was going to ignore him without further wasting time on him.
But being a busy person as I am, I sent him this “BTW, if you want people to take your email seriously and get back to you, it is better not to mess it up with this kind of oversight.” I know most people simply trash his email without even a look at the content. And of course, I will not forget to share this with my daughter.
Before my son quit his job, he always called home on his way from work in the evening. Normally we could hear the background traffic noise. As he was busy at work and also back in his apartment, he used the time on the way back to call home.
Now he is working from home. He calls back when he takes a break from his work. I can hear from his voice that he is tired, having worked for a long stretch of time.
On 11/4/2012, Sunday afternoon, he called home during one of his work breaks. After the call, I told my daughter, “Your brother always remembers to call back whenever he has a second. I hope you will be like your brother when you are away for college.” She nodded her agreement.
On 11/3, Saturday evening, we went to a friend’s house for a dinner gathering. Present were some Chinese professionals. One of them was going to China next week. She said her relatives in China asked for coach bags.
Many of them knew where people could get genuine good price coach bag. I had to admit that I had never heard of coach bag. One of the ladies showed me one through her iphone.
Honestly, I don’t see any difference between these bags and those sold at Walmart, other than the coach sign and the price difference. I learned that people would starve themselves in order to save enough money for this coach sign as it is seen as a status symbol.
Does it matter that much to have this status symbol? Is there a real status or do real status need a symbol? I have never thought of that.
This is from Philippians 4:8 —
Finally, brethren, whatsoever is true, whatsoever is honest, whatsoever is just, whatsoever is pure, whatsoever is lovely, whatsoever is of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
I don’t have the quotation mark for this quote because I have found all kinds of version for this quote. I simply quote it from memory to get the main idea here.
For some reason, this is my favorite quote from the Bible. I have not questioned myself why I need to think of these things. Perhaps it does give a superb good feeling when I think of this. Or perhaps, whatsoever is true, honest, just, pure, and lovely are things that I find comforting. Or perhaps the thought of these things is comforting. Or perhaps these are the things that truly worth pursuing.
Whatever it is, I wish my children can memorize this quote and then benefit from this.
On 10/25, a Thursday morning, I twisted my back by accident. The damage to my back lasted for several weeks. At first it was hard to bear the pain. A few days seemed to have taken the edge off its initial attack.
All the time I have not taken a day off, as I want to save my vacation days for the time when my son comes back or when my daughter needs me to or when I go back to China.
On 11/2, a Friday morning, after I reached my office, my daughter called, saying she had a headache and did not want to go to school in the morning. I knew she had a party that Friday evening.
“If you cannot go to school, you cannot go to the party in the evening, too,” I said. She protested strongly. In the end, she had what she wanted: excuse from school in the morning, yes for the party that day. I asked her to write down what happened that day, as I am more worried about her college years.
On the morning of 11/8, my daughter said she was not feeling well with her stomach and wanted to stay home. I told her to go to school and I would get her back if she could not get through the day. She did what I said and everything turned out well that day.
On 11/10/2012, Saturday morning, I went to a science seminar with my daughter at Union Station. The topic is on the process of building acquatics, that is, swimming pool. After that, I asked my daughter what she learned from it. She said nothing as she thought the topic is boring.
The lecturer, Kyle Cawley, first gave a rather broad stroke of the process of pool building. It consists of four phases:
Next, he went through each phase in great details. He talked about design parameters: concept development, project schedule metric, construction budget and operation budget.
The design involves engineering design, civil layout, design code and regulations on health, mechanical design, pipelines and in and out pump system. With some all-year-round open outdoor pool, there is heating and cooling system. Of course, he presented some complicated design blue print.
The last phase– construction involves bidding, equipment review, testing, observation, and payment. He also talked about the construction materials like cement and steel.
I think the lecture is rather interesting. I have learned that it actually takes a huge amount of work before the actual construction of a seemingly simple swimming pool.
On 11/9, just three days after President Obama’s re-election, we learned the resignation of CIA director David Petraeus over an extra-marital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.
These Chinese words came to my mind as I watched the news on TV. Of course, Bill Clinton’s affair surfaced in my head, too. He was full of remorse and penitence when he announced his decision to step down. I feel sad that a general ended his highly luminary career in such a disgrace.
Here’s the highlights in his career.
Graduated from West Point in 1974
Commander of Multinational Force Iraq, Feb 2007 to Sept 2008
Commander of International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Afghanistan, July 2010 to July 2011
CIA director in Sept 2011 to 11/9/2012
I cannot understand how a hero or a President falls before a beauty instead of his enemy. Here’s another lesson for people to learn and to remember.
Fast-tracking talent from one of the articles:
(1) Abilities matter. They are malleable, however, and need to be cultivated.
(2) Society needs to provide opportunities for intellectual enrichment to all students to ferret our hidden talents.
(3) Psychological strengthens such as persistence, social skills and strategic risk taking are determining factors in the successful development of talent.
To achieve greatness in many realms requires extraordinary creativity, grit, passion, and social skills. Creativity, the ability to come up with novel, useful and elegant ideas or ways of doing things, has a long historical association with giftedness. …at the essence are mental processes such as metaphorical thinking, tolerance for complexity, and flexibility in problem solving.
We read so many times words like motivation, persistence, hard work, strong will and efforts. The trick is how to get a person motivated and move on at high speed toward a set goal without any supervision. Where does this motivation come from?
Again on the relationship between genius and motivation.
“Giftedness has long been associated with high levels of intrinsic motivation–that is, engaging in a task for the sake of learning. They enjoy extrinsic factors like trophies, scholarships and other forms of recognitions.
“High achievers may have exceptional task commitment, meaning they are willing to engage in study and practice that, though not necessarily enjoyable, is instrumental to improvement.
One again, one author mentions the importance of devoting hours of hard practice. Research has shown it takes about 10,000 hours of guided study or practice to reach levels of expertise in most domains. In other words, there is no other tricks but only hard work.
Another author laments that Americans do not denote as much value to learning as to sports. “There are cheer leaders for athlectic greatness but seldom for academic achievement.”
On the other hand, becoming Olympic champion requires much more than just athletic prowess. To succeed in any field, people need the strong will power to focus, mental toughness, drive, optimism and emotional control.
In an article inside this issue of Scientific American Mind— “So you want to be a genius?” the author, Daisy Yuhas emphasizes a person’s motivation in his/her success. He argues that when it comes to cultivating genius, talent matters but motivation may matter more.
Without it, the long, difficult hours of practice that elevate some people above the rest of us are excruciating. But where does such stamina come from, and can we have some, too? Psychologists have identified three critical elements that support motivation, all of which you can tweak to your benefit.
(1) Autonomy–you gain motivation when you feel in charge
(2) Values–motivation also blossoms when you stay true to your beliefs and values
(3) Competence–as you devote more time to an activity, you notice your skills improve, and you gain a sense of competence.
To be continued…
During the weekend of 10/27 and 28, I went to Barne & Noble’s bookstore to buy a book for my daughter. There I stayed for some times to read Scientific American Mind magazine, Nov 2012 issue.
As you can see from its cover, this issue is dedicated to the topic of genius, the making and predicting of a genius. Many studies either repeat or confirm what we already know, that is genius is 1 percent inspiration plus 99 percent perspiration.
“Many researcher have argued that exceptional achievement can be boiled down simply to hard work — about 10,000 hours of it. Studies of eminent scientists in the 1950s supported this view by underscoring the individual’s capacity for endurance, concentration and commitment to effortful practice.”
To be continued…
Today marks the end of 2012 election, and trust me it also marks the beginning of a new battle. Just as the inauguration of President Obama’s first term saw the secret gathering of the powerful republican figures, vowing to throw the new president out of White House at any cost — blocking all his efforts, disabling his administration, etc.
I am sure the same thing will happen again. I sincerely hope it is the same group of republicans, except President Obama will leave the White House by 2016 on his own term.
A president can make a huge difference not only in this country but also globally. Imagine if Al Gore were the president instead of George W. Bush. The whole planet would have benefited if we had an environmental friendly president like Al Gore.
Then again, in the end, a president will be chosen by the democratic process. Mother Nature has no say in this process.
Both my mother and my sister in Beijing heard of Hurricane Sandy in New York and they asked about my son. I contacted him and felt relieved when I learned that, other than electricity cutoff, he was not much impacted by Sandy.
Since he has some friends in New York, his girlfriend, his business friend and he all went to his friend’s apartment, staying there even for the night.
I don’t know how three of them can manage to squeeze in his friend’s apartment, but I do feel good knowing he can always find way out when he is in a difficult situation. In situation like Sandy visit, we are so far away, he is left to rely on his own wits and resources. I am glad he has plenty of both.
On 10/25, when a colleague of mine from another office came over to do some work at our office, we talked about the time when she had her chemotherapy and radiation treatment for her breast cancer.
She was divorced at that time. So she was all alone facing work, treatment, heavy medical bills, and all other life’s challenges. She was thoroughly beaten by the chemo, so much so that she could hardly take care of herself. She had not filed her tax return for two years because she couldn’t do it.
She is the kind of woman who has been doing everything all by herself and was fiercely independent. The thought of asking for help had never cropped up in her head, even though she has two grown-up children and even though she needed help desperately.
I told her when she couldn’t handle it, she needed to surrender herself to others, her adult children. She knew she should but she was just not used to asking others.
I think it good to everybody if we move to the passenger seat when the driving becomes too difficult for us. After reading this, my daughter said she should be flexible. “Don’t worry, mom, I will be there for you.”
My son gave me his kindle reader last time he came back. I connected to Amazon, did some search in its kindle store, got some free books and a chess game.
At first I played against Kindle at level one just to challenge myself. Pretty soon, I beat Kindle at this level and moved to level two. At this level, I won some games and lost others.
Each time I lost the game, I told myself I would be careful next time and would win the game and then I would quit, as I have realized it cost a huge chunk of time and I had better things to do than fighting Kindle chess.
But that quit seldom happens like I plan. And one game leads to another, so goes the time, an hour and two. When I examine the whole process and the actual goings-on in my mind, I realize this is how addiction develops and takes root. And that is how hours slip away.
One has to watch out as it is so easy to develop addiction.
Of course, I always wish something good comes on my way or something representing the truth and the beauty of life. But in fact, what we cherish greatly — truth, kindness and beauty does not visit us as much as we wish. On the contrary, something like the above email visits us more frequently than its opposite. This is what I received on 10/25/2012.
Normally, I trash things like this. But this time, I thought of my daughter and many others who might not be familiar with scam like this type. I decided to keep one of them here.
I know some Chinese parents have to buy meals from restaurants everyday for their children because the children don’t eat Chinese food. I have told myself not to make this kind of exception for my children, though I often fail to keep my promise.
I have told my daughter that we try not to eat outside when we can cook at home. Because home-made meal is always economic and more healthy than most of American fast food. Normally we don’t go from home to a fast food restaurant. She knows that we are trying to save for her college expenses, which can potentially run up to $50K per year.
The day before yesterday, I took her to the Central library to check out some books for her school work. On the way there, she ate two mid-size apples and asked to stop at a McDonald’s nearby the library. She had two-third of a big mushroom, cheese burger from McDonald’s.
After 15 minutes in the library, she wanted to buy a snack from the vending machine, claiming she was hungry, which I did not believe. But she insisted she was hungry. I said we would have dinner at home and we would be back soon. But if she so insisted, I said I would buy this snack on the condition that she promised not to eat outside for a week. I tried to stop her tendency of asking to eat outside. This she did promised.
But on the way back home, she asked to buy a bubble tea at a Korean cafe. When I reminded her of her promise, she said “Oh yea, I forgot.”
Yesterday, when she went to Crispy Creme to apply for a job there, she asked if she could get a doughnut. There I reminded her again.