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

1, Feb 28, 2013

Trash picker, catalogs, and dreams

Filed under: Life — admin @ 12:07 am

1st prize contemporary issues by Micah Albert

It seems so incongruent when we mention dream together with a picture like this. People often associate dreams with something unrealistically beautiful and ideal. This picture is anything but that.

I don’t know who she is or what specifically her life looks like or what is going on in her mind when she is reading the catalog among trashes or what dream she might have. I do know that people live a different life. And I am sure that’s not the kind of life most people want to lead.

This picture reminds me of those humanities who live in a totally different environment from me, that we should count our blessings for having been delivered from this environment, that, whenever we can, it is our responsibility to alleviate our fellow human beings from miseries and hardships that have been inflicted on them.

P.S. I talked to my daughter about this picture and my thought on it. She said dream could make things happen, if not this generation, life would be better for the next. Without dream and effort, things would remain the same for generations.

1, Feb 27, 2013

Thought on Girl scout fund raising

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

It didn’t start when someone knocked at our door selling Thin Mints. Nor did it occur to me when a colleague walked around hawking those cookies on her child’s behalf. It suddenly dawned on me when I noticed some extremely overweight adults helping young girls sell cookies outside the Walmart store.

Sometimes people sell homemade cookies for fundraisers, since there are rewards for top sellers. Some parents simply buy many boxes of these cookies in order to help their children meet the target.

When I put together these facts, it didn’t make sense: cookies, young girls, overweight adults, and America’s obesity epidemic. Even if girl scouts management was said to try to reduce fat in their cookies, cookies are the last thing we need if we want to overcome our weight problem. Why can’t people sell something else, in addition to cookies? Are cookies really the only thing that will sell?

Even in fundraising or in doing any kind of charity work, we need to learn to be innovative and creative, and to be so at an early age, like combining fundraising with something else, something more challenging and healthy than selling cookies, like helping girls come up with healthy and nutrious recipes, like growing plants or doing some craft work during holiday seasons and selling them for fund raising, like mixing with boys in their fundraising activities. I am sure boys also have fundraising task. In this process, the girls can learn something other than making cookies. I am sure there are many things that people can learn to make and sell.

One last thing that is a bit disturbing is the fact that the only thing that I, as an outsider, know of girl scout is about girl scout cookies, as if that’s the only thing they are good at or they are expected to be good at. That’s purely a view of an outsider. I am sure the insiders would argue with me on this.

On the other hand, I never hear of boy scouts selling cookies. On the contrary, I have heard of many fun things that boys scouts are doing. Do we have a different expectations when it comes to scout’s gender? Or are we enforcing gender stereotypes by preparing our girls to be cookie-makers/homemakers?

For our nation’s girls to grow up meeting the challenge of the future, girl scouts organizers should prepare girls to be anything but cookies makers or cookies sellers.

1, Feb 26, 2013

When other people’s children died…

Filed under: children — admin @ 12:15 am

Photo of the year by Paul Hansen

It was a sad and gloomy day when I saw this picture, the crying adults carrying little bodies seemingly so tranquil. True I don’t know these people, still I feel the pain of the adults. I hate to think further because it hurts when I think of the fact that these innocent children died so young.

1, Feb 25, 2013

Education without opportunities means waste of money and time

Filed under: College — admin @ 12:09 am

I am so preoccupied with education that I never let go anything on this topic before my eyes, though I am sure I have read this and probably have written on it before. Huffpost Business reports on 1/29/2013, “Half Of Recent College Grads Work Jobs That Don’t Require A Degree” by William McGuinness.

The Center for College Affordability and Productivity concludes in its report that while college-educated Americans are less likely to collect unemployment, many of the jobs they do have aren’t worth the price of their diplomas.

The harsh reality about college degree and employment is: “of 41.7 million working college graduates in 2010, about 48 percent of the class of 2010 work jobs that require less than a bachelor’s degree, and 38 percent of those polled didn’t even need high school diplomas.”

The data calls into question a national education platform that says higher education is better in an economy that favors college graduates. But when people spend a large amount of money on education, the country is not capable of providing adequate opportunities for the college graduates.

It is a waste of both money and time for a college graduate to end up with a job that only a high school degree will do.

1, Feb 24, 2013

Snow day, people layoff, cold and unfortunate

Filed under: work — admin @ 12:28 am

Last Thursday was a very unpleasant day for me. The snow came down thick and fast as the day went. Normally it takes me 10 minutes to get to the office, but I was on the road for over 30 minutes that day.

As snow accumulated, the clinic manager communicated to us that the clinic would close at noon and the employees could go home then. But if they did, they would have to use their vacation hours, which was ridiculous. I thought the company should reward those who braved the snow and made it to the office. Many employees were unhappy with the announcement.

That day I also learned the details about one colleague who was told to go home and never come back again. She has diabetes disease and is in the process of some treatment. She was let go because she fell asleep on the job. She is single, in her 50s, and not in good health. It is sad and dreadful when I think of her situation.

Two unpleasant things in one day. That’s enough.

1, Feb 23, 2013

Brain health: keep busy and keep connected

Filed under: Brain — admin @ 12:32 am

On 2/2/13, I read this piece on brain health from Harvard Medical School newsletter, that is, two simple ways to keep our brains sharp and fresh.

(1) Keep busy and engaged
The MacArthur Foundation Study on Successful Aging, a long-term study of aging in America, found that education level was the strongest predictor of mental capacity as people aged. The more education, the more likely an individual was to maintain his or her memory and thinking skills. People who engaged in complex work had a lower risk of memory loss than people whose jobs were less intellectually demanding.

It is nice to know that “intellectual enrichment and learning stimulate the brain to make more connections. The more connections, the more resilient the brain. That’s how a lifelong habit of learning and engaging in mentally challenging activities—like learning a new language or craft—can help keep the brain in shape.”

(2) Stay connected socially
Establishing and maintaining close ties with others is another way to maintain mental skills and memory. There are several ways that social engagement may do this. Social interaction and mentally engaging activities often go hand in hand. Social relationships can also provide support during stressful times, reducing the damaging effects that stress can have on the brain.

Social support can come from relationships with family members, friends, relatives, or caregivers, as well as from a religious community or other organized group. Meaningful, socially engaging activities may prove especially helpful.

1, Feb 22, 2013

Write more and often and you will see the benefit

Filed under: Writing — admin @ 12:52 am

Yesterday, I was doing something like trashing the writing skill, as if it has no value at all since it cannot feed one’s stomach.

Today, I would argue, no matter how useless writing is in term of bringing home paychecks, writing is something you need to do, if you want to grow and advance. Why?

First of all, writing is recording. It makes up for our short memory.

Secondly, writing clarifies our thought. That thought clarification process is good to our brain. I guess we all care about the quality of our brain, especially when we advance in age.

Thirdly, writing is sharing. Either your reveal or conceal yourself through writing, you always open a window for readers to get to know you.

Fourthly, the more you write, the better writer you will become. pas moi, though. Isn’t it great that you can write well?

So, keep on writing whenever you can.

1, Feb 21, 2013

A good writing skill is far from enough if you want to make a living

Filed under: Career — admin @ 12:30 am

While I have been talking about the difficulties of writing over reading, this might not be entirely true. As I read more, I got the impression that writing comes really easy to some people. They can write naturally and of course with ease.

I have found many young people pouring out quality articles instantly, contrairement à moi. They are like the author mentioned in yesterday’s posting, well-educated in humanities yet living in poverty.

This makes me think about writing and college major. What’s the use of a good writing if you cannot make a living with that skill? I would say a good writing skill is just an instrument or even a healthy hobby. You really need something more, that is, some more useful skills or tools in order to make a living.

1, Feb 20, 2013

Nothing is guaranteed to you when you go to a college

Filed under: Career,College — admin @ 12:17 am

On 2/14/2013, Valentine’s Day, I read this sad story about a college graduate applying for food stampts. “Young, Privileged, and Applying for Food Stamps,” by Karina Briski, 5/29/2012

She has a Bachelor degree in Sociology, which, according to her, “has fed many early curiosities, giving me the adequate chops for things like fighting cultural myopism, defending Marxism, and buying my professors’ books.” All these fun stuffs but nothing practical or nothing that could bring in paychecks.

After graduation, she spent over three years chasing entry-level work with nonprofits. She saw no success after some more years, though she has “gotten really good at scraping the gunk off of ketchup bottles.” Having failed on nearly all fronts, she turned to government handouts.

Her failure to make a decent living after a college education comes from the myth that many have held, that is, “the educated middle class as automatic recipients of middle class incomes” and “the assumption that college is some great equalizer (was it ever?).”

I hope college students keep this in mind, that is, nothing is guaranteed when you go to a college or when you graduate from a college. Your major, your hard work, your network, your connections, and your accomplishments during these four college years all play key parts in the outcome and in the life beyond college.

1, Feb 19, 2013

Your dreams, goals and their functions in motivating you

Filed under: Reading,Success — admin @ 12:12 am

Reading Sonia Sotomayor
This is the book that I was reading on 2/13/2013. I was thinking of copying the following here, but it is easier to copy this way.

1, Feb 18, 2013

Saturday encounter at Central Library

Filed under: Life — admin @ 12:35 am

Last Saturday, I went to our Central library in the morning, to get some help for filing tax return. There I met a Chinese couple in their 60s. They were there for the same purpose.

This was the first time that they came to library for tax help. Since their English is not adequate, I helped them with some of the forms.

The man came from Taiwan to the United States in 1979, having worked all the time on Chinese restaurant and his wife, the second one to be sure, was on the same line. They have been here for so many years and worked hard all these years, yet they don’t seem to be affluent in their lives. And they really carried the appearance of a life of hardship.

As I went through their tax forms, I felt sad and was wondering how they could live on this little. While we need to work hard in our lives, we really need another form of hard work, definitely not this restaurant one. Of course, after I got back, I shared this story with my daughter.

1, Feb 17, 2013

Strength training: what you need and how long

Filed under: Health — admin @ 12:43 am

Strength training encompasses any of the following:
1) Free weights, such as barbells and dumbbells.
2) Ankle cuffs and vests containing different increments of weight.
3) Resistance (elastic) bands of varying length and tension that you flex using your arms and legs.
4) Exercises that use your body weight to create resistance against gravity.

A beginner’s strength-building workout takes as little as 20 minutes, and you won’t need to grunt, strain, or sweat like a cartoon bodybuilder. The key is developing a well-rounded program, performing the exercises with good form, and being consistent. You will experience noticeable gains in strength within four to eight weeks.

Good luck!

1, Feb 16, 2013

Strength Training: key to live longer and better

Filed under: Exercise — admin @ 12:28 am

So we are told. According to Harvard Medical School, several studies have attested that strength training, as well as aerobic exercise, can help you manage and sometimes prevent conditions as varied as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and osteoporosis. It can also protect vitality, make everyday tasks more manageable, and help you maintain a healthy weight.

What often overlooked is the value of strength-building exercises. Once you reach your 50s and beyond, strength (or resistance) training is critical to preserving the ability to perform the most ordinary activities of daily living — and to maintain an active and independent lifestyle.

The average 30-year-old will lose about a quarter of his or her muscle strength by age 70 and half of it by age 90. “Just doing aerobic exercise is not adequate,” says Dr. Robert Schreiber, physician-in-chief at Hebrew SeniorLife and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Unless you are doing strength training, you will become weaker and less functional.”

1, Feb 15, 2013

Barnes & Noble’s is following Border’s footstep

Filed under: Economy — admin @ 12:52 am

On 2/6/2013, I read a rather sad story on The Wall Street Journal “B&N Aims To Whittle Its Stores For Years”– Mitchell Klipper, chief executive of Barnes & Noble’s, says the bookstore will close a third of its stores in the next decade. This further confirms the decline of the physical book stores when facing competitions from online bookstores like Amazon.

First, we saw Border’s bookstores lost its battle in the Internet age. Now, the inevitable thing seems to happen to Barnes & Noble bookstore.

It is sad as we have spent so many hours in these bookstores and so many good memories are associated with these places. And now they are on the road to be history. What can you do? Nothing.

1, Feb 14, 2013

Paul Ryan, a highly effective politician, part II

Filed under: politician — admin @ 12:33 am

Ryan majored in economics and political science as an undergraduate, so he quickly decided that the Budget Committee was where he wanted to be.

Following the advices of Barney Frank and Bill Thomas, he threw himself into the world of economic policy wonks, consulting with experts whenever he needed and doing whatever he could to get knowledgeable on the topic.

By 2007, the beginning of his fifth term, he had worked his way up to the highest position available to a Republican on the Democratic-controlled House Budget Committee: ranking member, the title not only giving one prestige and authority but also access to the actuaries and economists at the Congressional Budget Office.

By 2011, Ryan became the Chairperson of the House Budget Committee. He was only 41 years old. Ryan has provided a living example on how to climb up his career ladder in the shortest possible time.

1, Feb 13, 2013

Paul Ryan, a highly effective politician, part I

Filed under: politician,Reading — admin @ 12:27 am

Last month, while reading The Price of Politics by Bob Woodward, 2012, I shared this part with my daughter. It talks about Paul Ryan and how he rose so quickly as a politician. Here’s what Bod Woodward wrote of him, pp. 82-84.

Paul Ryan was 29 years old when he first became the member of the US House of Representative. He believed his most important challenge was learning how to be an effective lawmaker, and he began charting a path right away. Having lost his father at the age of 16, he had always sought mentors, … Now he reached out again, asking a number of the House’s senior members to breakfast or lunch, seeking guidance.

There were two persons from whom he benefited most. The first one was Barney Frank. Though they were ideological opposites, Frank gave him what Ryan considered the best advice he got about how to be an effective congressman. Be a specialist, Frank told him, not a generalist. Focus on one set of issues. Get on the committee that you care about, and then learn more about the topic than anybody else.

Second, Bill Thomas told him to talk to all the experts you can find, and read everything you can. Know these things inside and out so that you really know what you are talking about whenever you talk.
To be continued…

1, Feb 12, 2013

Avoid mindless eating and overeating

Filed under: Healthy diet — admin @ 12:54 am

This piece of information was sent to me a few weeks ago, but I forgot who sent it. Here they are — 6 Tricks to avoid mindless eating and overeating

(1) Take Smaller Sips Research consistently shows that taking in a smaller amount of liquid helps you consume less. And the latest study confirms that not only do people drink more when they sip big, they also underestimate how much they drank, researchers reported in the journal PloS One.

(2) Pick Something Stinky Foods with a strong smell may help curb your portion control, according to a 2012 study in Flavor.

(3) Choose A Contrasting Color Want to eat less of those mashed potatoes? Don’t pick a white plate. Choosing a container with a color that contrasts the food helps you heap less on to begin with, according to a study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

(4) Use chopstick or a Vibrating Fork. The HAPIfork helps users from eating too fast by vibrating as soon as it senses too many bites per minute, thanks to its smart sensor.

(5) Eat On A Smaller Plate Eating off a small plate can help trick you into thinking you’re eating more than you really are — and that can reduce your consumption by 20 percent.

(6) Dim The Lights And The Music. A study of fast food restaurants found that adding softer lights and music inspired customers to eat 175 fewer calories per meal — an 18 percent decrease — than if they were in the restaurant’s normal environment. Why not try it at home?

1, Feb 11, 2013

Reading and surfing the net is easy, writing is difficult.

Filed under: Writing — admin @ 12:24 am

Last weekend, I talked to my daughter about writing. I also reminded myself. That is, it is easy to read and spend your time surfing around on the Internet. The hard part is when you start writing.

As with everything in life, if it is easy, everybody does it and; if it is difficult, everybody tries to avoid it. If it is difficult for you, it is also difficult for everybody else.

But you know what, opportunities decrease and the chances for growth shrink wherever tasks are easy and everybody wants to jump in. Therefore, if you want to rise above the crowd, you have to go the other direction of the crowd instead of following the crowd.

1, Feb 10, 2013

Happy Chinese New Year, the Year of Snake

Filed under: Holiday — admin @ 12:45 am

Happy Chinese New Year Feb 10 2013

1, Feb 9, 2013

An Interesting office interlude

Filed under: work — admin @ 12:46 am

On 1/30/2013, the boss who supervises the whole old entity wrote to us, “Reminder of the retirement reception for …, …, which will be held at … from 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm tomorrow afternoon (1/31).”

I wrote to her the next morning, “Is it possible to have a part of the reception during lunch time? Some people start the day early here and will be out of the office by 4:30 PM, even though they would like to be part of the reception for ….”

This is the first time that I wrote to her since she replaced the old one. I think I represent a group of people whose office hours are between 7 and 3:30 PM or 7:30 and 4 PM.

I know the old boss always writes back, but I am not sure if this one will. This is an interesting interlude in an otherwise boring day. For the record, as I expected she never wrote back.

1, Feb 8, 2013

Decoding food labels, tips from Harvard Medical School

Filed under: Healthy diet — admin @ 12:41 am

Do you want to transform your eating habits into a program of nutritious and delicious food choices that can last a lifetime? Here are some tips from Harvard Medical School newsletter that uses the latest results of nutrition science and that promises to “take you by the hand as you learn to eat for heart health, longevity, energy, and vitality.” What a heart-warming feeling!

5 ways to make food labels work for you:
1. Size matters. Serving size is always the first item on the label. All other information is based on that serving size. The servings per container tell you know how many portions are in the whole box, package, or can. Beware: many packages contain more than one serving. Look at your orange juice for example. If the label says 125 calories per 8 ounce serving and your breakfast includes a 16 ounce glass of OJ, then you’ve taken in 250 calories from the juice alone. (About as many calories as you’d find in many chocolate bars.)

2. Look for fat: Check the saturated fat and trans fat content of the food. For a general healthful diet, keep saturated fat and cholesterol low and avoid trans fats altogether. Look for foods that have 0 grams (g) of trans fat and are lowest in saturated fat and cholesterol. Try to stay away from foods that have the words “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” in the ingredients list. Foods made with healthy unsaturated oils (olive, canola, safflower, etc.) are better bets.

3. Is it worth its salt? Compare the sodium content to the calories per serving. To keep your salt intake in check, consider products in which the sodium content is less than or equal to the calories per serving. For a food with 250 calories per serving, ideally the sodium content should be no more than 250 mg. If you need to seriously restrict your salt intake consider the low-sodium, low-salt, or unsalted versions.

4. Figure out the fiber. Aim for foods that have 5 g of fiber per serving, or at least one gram of fiber for every 10 grams of carbohydrate

5. Stay away from added sugars: Sugar, no matter what it’s called, contains almost no nutrients other than pure carbohydrate. A heavy sugar intake fills you up with empty calories, keeps you from eating healthy foods, and stresses your body’s ability to maintain a healthy blood sugar level. Steer clear of foods that have sugar, honey, molasses, corn syrup, corn sugar, fructose, or high-fructose corn syrup among the first three ingredients. Other names for sugar include agave nectar, brown sugar, cane sugar, corn sweetener, dextrose, maltose, fruit juice concentrate, and glucose.

1, Feb 7, 2013

Hyperthyroidism: watch out for an overactive thyroid

Filed under: Health — admin @ 12:35 am

Two friends of mine have thyroid problem in recent years. So I started paying attention to this topic. On 1/19/13, I read this from Harvard Medical School newsletter, “Know the signs of an overactive thyroid.”

Most people are unaware of the profound impact of this tiny hormone-producing gland on overall health and the well-being of human beings, specifically its influence on our metabolism. Either over (hyperthyroidism) or underproduction (hoperthyroidism) of thyroid hormone can cause huge problems.

The risk of hyperthyroidism increases with age. The diagnosis of thyroid disease can be particularly tricky in older people as they don’t always show the same symptoms as the young patients do.

Typical signs of an overactive thyroid with the symptoms experienced by younger patients include:
increased sweating,
heat tolerance,
hand tremors,
excessive thirst, and
increased appetite.

Older persons with hyperthyroidism are more likely than a younger person with the disease to develop —
Heart failure
Atrial fibrillation
Excessive weight loss

Life will be tough for senior folks if they have problems with their thyroid. Stay healthy!

1, Feb 6, 2013

Trading daily commute with treadmill

Filed under: Exercise — admin @ 12:08 am

January 18, 2013 was the last day for a colleague of mine at our work place. She quit working with us, taking a home-based job with a pay cut.

She lives in Lee’s Summit. The daily 90-minute commute from home to work not only costs time and gas but also creates stress on her. So her decision was to change her job.

Now with this home-based job, she said she would use the time thus saved everyday on treadmill. Great for her. I wish I could get this deal.

1, Feb 5, 2013

Knowledge is health; ignorance kills

Filed under: Health — admin @ 12:43 am

On 1/6/2012, I read this article “Poll: Few Americans know all the risks of obesity” by LAURAN NEERGAARD and JENNIFER AGIESTA, AP.

“Carrying too many pounds may lead to or worsen some types of cancer, arthritis, sleep apnea, even infertility. But a new poll suggests few Americans realize the links.”

“Ask about the most serious consequences, and more than 7 in 10 Americans can correctly tick off heart disease and diabetes. Heart disease is the nation’s leading killer,…”

“Only 7 percent of people surveyed mentioned cancer, although doctors long have known that fat increases the risk of developing cancers of the colon, breast, prostate, uterus and certain other sites. Plus, being overweight can make it harder to spot tumors early and to treat them.”

“About 15 percent of people knew obesity can contribute to arthritis, a vicious cycle as the joint pain then makes it harder to exercise and shed pounds.”

The list goes on…
We know there is a large overlapping between cancer morbidity and social class, that is, the lower the social class, the higher the cancer morbidity. Now we should see one between ignorance and health or lack of health.

1, Feb 4, 2013

You cannot afford to get sick at work

Filed under: Economy,work — admin @ 12:48 am

On 1/25/2013, a Friday morning, I learned that one of my colleagues was let go by the HR because of her excessive sick leave days.

This colleague fell and broke her shoulder bone, which required some surgeries to fix the bones. I don’t know the details of her condition but I know she is single and has been worried about the medical bills and her job security.

I thought she needed not to worry as there must be some kind of law protecting people like her. “How can the company fire you when you are sick and specially need income to cover all the cost thus incurred?”

Well, by the end of the day, a company is not a charity place. I guess I was too naive. Still, the news made that Friday a really sad day for me when I think of the fact that people just cannot afford to be sick. When you are sick, the company multiplies your miseries by cutting off your income. That hurts especially if you are single and have no other income.

1, Feb 3, 2013

More advice to senior citizens

Filed under: Healthy aging — admin @ 12:45 am

Advice to senior citizens
Seven things seniors should be aware of
(1) Do not be greedy
(2) Do not nag
(3) Do not live in the memory of the past
(4) Do not be opinionated
(5) Do not complain
(6) Do not regret
(7) Do what you want to do regardless of what others think

1, Feb 2, 2013

Six longevity factors for senior citizens

Filed under: Healthy aging — admin @ 12:44 am

Longevity factors
Six factors are said to have key impacts on human longevity
(1) human relationship
(2) Personality, including these personality traits: have a positive attitude toward life and aging, out-going, optimistic, easy-going, sociable, expressive, with a strong sense of responsibility
(3) Career
(4) Healthy habits and lifestyle
(5) Stay away from unhealthy habit
(6) In company with healthy people

1, Feb 1, 2013

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell at home

Filed under: children — admin @ 12:23 am

During the MLK long weekend, a friend of mine called and we chatted for a while. After that, I kept thinking of what she said about her attitude toward her daughter. She told me they adopted this Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy at home in regard to her daughter. If the daughter doesn’t tell her something, she does not ask.

For example, her daughter, who can drive, once said she would go to library and didn’t come back until after 10 PM. My friend didn’t ask where her daughter went, even though she knew the library closed at 9 PM.

“If I don’t ask, everybody goes his own business and peace prevails. If I ask her, there must be unpleasant encounter and that makes everybody unhappy.”

I think it sad this way. I would not allow this with my children as I firmly believe keeping an open communication is the key to better understanding and a good relationship between parents and their children.

By the way, when I told my daughter this on 1/22 while we were at the doctor’s office, she said “Auntie…is wise in doing this.” She might be right, though it is quite a different view from mine!

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