Reading The Lessons of History by Durant, Part IV


On instincts, habits, feelings and human nature: different habits and feelings grow out of different instinct. “Their totality is the nature of man.”

According to the authors, “known history shows little alteration in the conduct of mankind.” That is, we behave pretty much the same as our ancestors four thousand years ago. Even though the means and instruments have changed, the motives and ends remain the same throughout human history.

There are always these six pair of instincts: to act or rest; to acquire or give; to fight or flight; to associate or privacy; to mate or reject; to offer or resent parental care. You find these instincts among human beings, regardless of culture and social class. As long as you are human beings, you exhibit these instincts.

Evolution in man has been social rather than biological. “It has proceeded not by heritable variations in the species, but mostly by economic, political, intellectual, and moral innovation transmitted to individuals and generations by imitation, custom, or education.”



Reading The Lessons of History by Durant, Part III


In case you want to keep a copy of the Table of Character Elements, so nicely arranged by the author, I have the screenshot of that below. You can see clearly the six pairs of instincts with their associated habits and feelings.

Table of Charactr elememts

More later.



Reading The Lessons of History by Durant, Part II


Table of Character Elements
For each of the positive instincts, there is a negative one. Associated with the positive and negative instincts are positive and negative habits and feelings.

Positive Instincts:
1. Action
2. Fight
3. Acquisition
4. Association
5, Mating
6. Parental care

Negative instincts:
1. Sleep
2. Flight
3. Avoidance
4. Privacy
5. Refusal
6. Filial dependence

Habits associated with positive instincts:
On Action: Play, Work, Curiosity, Manipulation, Thought, Innovation, Art
On Fight: Approach, Competition, Pugnacity, Mastery,
On Acquisition: Eating, Hoarding, Property
On Association: Communication, Seeking approval, Generosity
On Mating: Sexual activity, Courtship
On Parental Care: Homemaking

Habits associated with negative instincts:
On Sleep: Rest, Sloth, Indifference, Hesitation, Dreaming, Imitation, Disorder
On Flight: Retreat, Cooperation, Timidity, Submission
On Avoidance: Rejection, Spending, Poverty,
On Privacy: Solitude, Fearing disapproval, Selfishness
On Refusal: Sexual perversion, blushing
On Filial dependence: Filial rebellion

Feelings associated with positive instincts
On Action: Buoyancy, Energy, Eagerness, Wonder, Absorption, Resolution, Aesthetic feeling
On Fight: Courage, Rivalry, Anger, Pride
On Acquisition: Hunger, Greed, Possessiveness
On Association: sociability, vanity, kindliness
On Mating: Sexual imagination, sexual love
On Parental Care: parental love

Feelings associated with negative instincts
On Sleep: fatigue, inertia, boredom, doubt, vacuity, acceptance, confusion
On Flight: anxiety, friendliness, fear, humility
On Avoidance: disgust, prodigality, insecurity
On Privacy: secretiveness, shyness, hostility
On Refusal: Sexual neurosis, modesty
On Filial dependence: filial resentment

More tomorrow…



Reading The Lessons of History by Durant, Part I


One of my favorite books is The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant. I have read it more than once. Not because I have a bad memory, like I’ll forget it all once I close the book, but because good books always worth re-reading. I will post my notes from the book here.

On Chapter V, Character and History, the authors start “Society is founded not on the ideals but on the nature of man, and the constitution of man rewrites the constitutions of states.” Talk about biological basis of society! Very interesting!

The authors define human nature as “the fundamental tendencies and feelings of mankind.” They call instincts “most basic tendencies.” They believe “human beings are normally equipped by ‘nature’ (here meaning heredity) with six positive and six negative instincts, whose function it is to preserve the individual, the family, the group, or the species” In other words, people are born with these instincts.

The interesting part is the author’s description of human nature through their “Table of Character Elements” with 6 positive and 6 negative instincts.
To be continued tomorrow…



Trying to be politically correct in public


We had our monthly meeting yesterday at another clinic, for that I need to drive eastbound instead of west. Once I followed my auto-pilot during one of these meetings and headed west instead of east. Of course, I ended up skipping that month’s meeting.

There was an interesting episode during this meeting. At some point when people complained about the other section of research, the manager said “On the note of political correctness, I have no comment on this.”

I kept thinking about this after the meeting as I know this manager did make comments on similar topic outside the meeting without the need to be politically correct.

Talk about freedom of speech and openness or fear of the openness and what you can say in private and cannot in public or at a meeting!



What I was thinking at office…when I was not crazily busy


On 4/23, the editor from the journal that accepted my article notified me that they were going to publish my writing on June 2013 issue. Wow, it took nearly half a year for one to go out.

Yesterday, 4/24, my mind was fully occupied with the idea and I was very anxious to start my second one. But we had a monitor yesterday. Besides, I had to get ready for next week’s two monitor visits. Whenever I got a second, I searched the internet looking for topics for my next article.

The month April is running out soon. I set the deadline for nailing down the topic, which is before I leave for China in mid May.



Keys to high performance, Part II


Continued from 4/21 posting.

(1) Pursue what you love. Passion is an incredible motivator. It fuels focus, resilience, and perseverance.

(2) Do the hardest work first. We all move instinctively toward pleasure and away from pain. Most great performers, Ericsson and others have found, delay gratification and take on the difficult work of practice in the mornings, before they do anything else. That’s when most of us have the most energy and the fewest distractions.

(3) Practice Intensely, without interruption for short periods of no longer than 90 minutes and then take a break.

(4) Seek expert feedback, in intermittent doses. The simpler and more precise the feedback, the more equipped you are to make adjustments.

(5) Take regular renewal breaks. Relaxing after intense effort not only provides an opportunity to rejuvenate, but also to metabolize and embed learning.

(6) Ritualize practice. Will and discipline are wildly overrated. As the researcher Roy Baumeister has found, none of us have very much of it. The best way to insure you’ll take on difficult tasks is to ritualize them — build specific, inviolable times at which you do them, so that over time you do them without having to squander energy thinking about them.



This year’s Academic Decathlon in Minneapolis


My daughter will leave with her school for Minneapolis, Minnesota to participate this year’s Academic Decathlon. It will be held from April 25–27, 2013.

Her high school, Shawnee Mission South, scored 37,712 points at state level, which stands highest and qualifies it to go for national competition. But SMS is no match to a high school in California. Granada Hills Charter High School makes 51,590 points.

Since this is her last time for this type of event, I hope she has a good time in Minneapolis.



Celebrating Earth Day 2013


Today is Earth Day.

The idea of celebrating the Earth Day started on 9/20/1969 when Gaylord Nelson, a Democratic senator from Wisconsin, gave a publicized speech in Seattle in which he remarked, “I am convinced that the same concern the youth of this nation took in changing this nation’s priorities on the war in Vietnam and on civil rights can be shown for the problem of the environment. That is why I plan to see to it that a national teach-in is held.” Nelson had been pushing environmental issues for some years.

On 4/22/1970, the teach-in was called Earth Day. Earth Day had won many victories: it led to the Clean Air Act of 1970, the Clean Water Act of 1972, and the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and to the creation, just eight months after the event, of the Environmental Protection Agency.

For more information on this, read Adam Rome’s “The Genius of Earth Day: How a 1970 Teach-in Unexpectedly Made the First Green Generation” (Hill & Wang).

Celebrating Earth Day today and everyday.



Keys to high performance, part I


“The 6 Keys To Being Awesome At Everything” written by Tony Schwartz, 11/6/2010, published on Business Insider. I read this article before, but dug it out before 4/8 as I was doing cleaning up to get house ready for another adult to come back. Here are part of the article.

“We’ve found, in our work with executives at dozens of organizations, that it’s possible to build any given skill or capacity in the same systematic way we do a muscle: push past your comfort zone, and then rest. Aristotle had it exactly right 2000 years ago: “We are what we repeatedly do.” By relying on highly specific practices, we’ve seen our clients dramatically improve skills ranging from empathy, to focus, to creativity, to summoning positive emotions, to deeply relaxing.

“Like everyone who studies performance, I’m indebted to the extraordinary Anders Ericsson, arguably the world’s leading researcher into high performance. For more than two decades, Ericsson has been making the case that it’s not inherited talent which determines how good we become at something, but rather how hard we’re willing to work — something he calls “deliberate practice.” Numerous researchers now agree that 10,000 hours of such practice as the minimum necessary to achieve expertise in any complex domain.”
Continued…



Tips to keep your strength training safe


Again, these were offered via Harvard Medical School newsletter. The following tips are said to keep your strength training safe and effective.

1. Warm up and cool down for five to 10 minutes. Walking is a fine way to warm up; stretching is an excellent way to cool down.

2. Focus on form, not weight. Align your body correctly and move smoothly through each exercise. Poor form can prompt injuries and slow gains. When learning a strength training routine, many experts suggest starting with no weight, or very light weight. Concentrate on slow, smooth lifts and equally controlled descents while isolating a muscle group.

3. Working at the right tempo helps you stay in control rather than compromise strength gains through momentum. For example, count to three while lowering a weight, hold, then count to three while raising it to the starting position.

4. Pay attention to your breathing during your workouts. Exhale as you work against resistance by lifting, pushing, or pulling; inhale as you release.

5. Keep challenging muscles by slowly increasing weight or resistance. The right weight for you differs depending on the exercise. Choose a weight that tires the targeted muscle or muscles by the last two repetitions while still allowing you to maintain good form.

6. Stick with your routine — working all the major muscles of your body two or three times a week is ideal. You can choose to do one full-body strength workout two or three times a week, or you may break your strength workout into upper- and lower-body components. In that case, be sure you perform each component two or three times a week.

7. Give muscles time off. Strength training causes tiny tears in muscle tissue. These tears aren’t harmful, but they are important: muscles grow stronger as the tears knit up. Always give your muscles at least 48 hours to recover before your next strength training session.



Add strength training to your weekly exercise


So we were told via Harvard Medical School newsletter.
Strength or resistance training challenges your muscles with a stronger-than-usual counterforce. The simple and easy-to-follow strength trainings include
–pushing against a wall or
–lifting a dumbbell or
–pulling on a resistance band.

Using progressively heavier weights or increasing resistance makes muscles stronger. This kind of exercise increases muscle mass, tones muscles, and strengthens bones. It also helps you maintain the strength you need for everyday activities — lifting groceries, climbing stairs, rising from a chair, or rushing for the bus.

The current national guidelines for physical activity recommend strengthening exercises for all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms) at least twice a week. One set — usually 8 to 12 repetitions of the same movement — per session is effective, though some evidence suggests that two to three sets may be better. Your muscles need at least 48 hours to recover between strength training sessions.



The high dropout rate of US college students cost billions


I am all about college education now because my daughter is going for one of them this fall.

Last week I read this article written about a year ago, “11 Public Universities with the Worst Graduation Rates” by BLAIRE BRIODY, The Fiscal Times.

“Just 56 percent of college students complete four-year degrees within six years, according to a 2011 Harvard Graduate School of Education study. Among the 18 developed countries in the OECD, the U.S. was dead last for the percentage of students who completed college once they started it ― even behind Slovakia.”

“An American Institutes for Research report last year estimated that college dropouts cost the nation $4.5 billion in lost earnings and taxes.”

The reasons for college dropout ranges from the cost to unpreparedness. Even for those who complete college education, many of them are burdened with debt, equipped with few skills and employment opportunities. Some call America’s for-profit universities “dropout factories.”

This provides both parents and college-bound students a serious food for thought.



16.2% youth unemployment rate for millennial generation


Last week I read about Millennial Jobs Report for March 2013 from Generation Opportunity site: 16.2% youth unemployment rate.

The youth unemployment rate for 18-29 year olds specifically for March 2013 is 11.7 percent non-seasonally adjusted (NSA).
–rate for African-Americans for March 2013 is 20.1% (NSA);
–rate for Hispanics for March 2013 is 12.6% (NSA);
–rate for women for March 2013 is 10% (NSA).

The declining labor force participation rate has created an additional 1.7 million young adults that are not counted as “unemployed” by the U.S. Department of Labor because they are not in the labor force, that is, those young people have given up looking for work due to the lack of jobs.

If the labor force participation rates were factored into the 18-29 youth unemployment calculation, the actual 18-29-unemployment rate would rise to 16.2 percent (NSA).

The conclusion is: job opportunities remain scarce for young people after years of debt-fueled government spending.



New education guideline: children must learn about evolution


The end of new Dark Age.
This is how I felt when I read on 4/9 an article from New York Times site, “New Guidelines Call for Broad Changes in Science Education.” Two key points will mark the end of Dark Age in America, if they are followed.

(1) On Climate change: “Educators unveiled new guidelines on Tuesday that call for sweeping changes in the way science is taught in the United States -including, for the first time, a recommendation that climate change be taught as early as middle school.”

(2) On evolution: “The guidelines also take a firm stand that children must learn about evolution, the central organizing idea in the biological sciences for more than a century, but one that still provokes a backlash among some religious conservatives.”

The guidelines, known as the Next Generation Science Standards, are the first broad national recommendations for science instruction since 1996. They were developed by a consortium of 26 state governments and several groups representing scientists and teachers.

This is only a guideline. I don’t expect all people will accept and follow it. Still, it’s a progress.



Nobody notices you unless you have done something extraordinary


On 4/3, my daughter needed to get to school at 7 AM for a long field trip. After I dropped her off there, I went to the office a little bit late. I was in the break room having my breakfast and seeing more people coming in at this time. I noticed that most people passed me by as if I were not there, except one doctor who knows me well. We chat when we have a chance.

I remember one doctor who left our clinic early this year. I knew she had a little girl. Before she left, I shared with her some of my writings on parenting. She read it and was full of praise and respect when she talked to me later. I could see a change of attitude in her. How strange it is or perhaps it should be this way.

The boring nature of our daily work tends to breed slight or brush-off or cold shoulder among the familiar faces, especially in this environment. Only your accomplishments can make people change their attitude.



Economic downturn hits everybody


During the weekend of 4/6, while my daughter was out of town, I read this article —
Law School Graduates Continue to Face Brutal Entry-Level Market

“The Class of 2012 outcome data shed considerable light on how difficult the job market remains for law school graduates.

“These graduates fared 1% better than last year’s graduates in lawyer jobs: 56.2% of 2012 graduates were employed in full-time, long-term lawyer jobs. Exclude jobs funded by the law schools from this figure and it is 55.1%.

“A devastating 27.7% were either underemployed (short-term or part-time job, or non-professional) or not employed (unemployed or pursuing an additional degree). The national non-response rate was 2.6%.”



Depression and illness, which comes first?


From the Harvard Medical School newsletter, I learned that sometimes the root of depression is physical illness. Interesting to know.

Depression is more than a passing bout of sadness or dejection, or feeling down in the dumps. It can leave you feeling continuously burdened and can sap the joy out of once-pleasurable activities.

Sometimes, a physical illness can trigger depression. When that happens, depression can affect the course of a physical disease. This seems an chicken-or-egg story. Two common thyroid disorders are well known to affect mood.

If the thyroid makes too much hormone (hyperthyroidism), manic symptoms can result. If the gland makes too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism), exhaustion and depression can appear. Treating thyroid disease can often relieve the mood problems.

The take-home message is that if you have depression, or think you might, a thorough physical exam and careful medical history could help pinpoint a physical source of the problem — and the most appropriate treatment.



Bad time hit the underpriviledged and the elderly hardest


Ouch! I learned this piece of news about the suicide of an Italian couple due to financial trouble. The news came from CNN in Rome.

The man was 62 years old and his wife 68 years old. “He was a clerk at a shoe company, though he hadn’t worked for some time. She was a retired artisan. Together, they had no more than 500 euros a month, from her pension, to live on.
On Friday (4/4), they were dead.” The wife’s elderly brother “threw himself into the Adriatic Sea soon after the news broke about his sister.”

It was a sad day when I read this. And for a long time, the news stuck in my mind.



Blackwater shootings in Iraq


For some reason, prior to April Fool’s day, I thought of Blackwater shootings in Baghdad on September 16, 2007. The incident left 17 Iraqi civilians dead and 20 people injured. It happened in Nisour Square, Baghdad, Iraq. They were killed by Blackwater Personal Security Detail.

Of course, Iraqi people were angry with the U.S. for the killing of the innocent people. In the end, no one was punished for the crime. This seems a small incident when you think of thousand of innocent Iraqi people who lost their lives during the Iraq war. Blackwater settled a lawsuit filed on behalf of six of the victims, for an undisclosed sum, on 1/6/2012.

Some Americans wonder why people in that part of the world harbor such a strong anti-American feeling, “We bring you democracy. We came here to liberate you,” said some Americans. But the dead cannot be forgotten. And death is what war means.



The effect of inertia, why we become what we are


On 3/30, I read something about why people stay at their job even though they don’t like it. A survey within a company indicates:
72% of people would rather work for themselves.
86% plan to actively look for a new job this year.
70% of employees in the company they work for and aren’t seeking it either.
58% of workers think they don’t need help in their careers and can figure it out for themselves.

The numbers tell us that out of 86% people who plan to look for a new job, only 2% are actively seeking job or looking for changes.

Some people say they are chained by the “Golden Handcuffs,” that is, the good pay and benefits. I would say they are very much the product of their own inertia, which is the only force that chains people to one place, one location, and one lifestyle.

Life is a lot richer than what we can possibly experience. Don’t let your inertia restrict you and limit you from developing your full potential.



The poorer, the less happy, the poorest, the least happy…


During the last weekend of March, I met this article while I was on the internet “Where Are the Country’s Least Happy and Healthy Americans? Of course, I was curious to know who are the happiest and least happy Americans.

As you have probably guessed, Hawaii is the happiest of all! The opposite to Hawaii is what they term “Sadness Belt,” which means those least happy states are all clustered in Central and Southern Appalachia, and the region’s neighboring states, with West Virginia (50) and Kentucky (49) being the saddest two states for the fourth year in a row.

The Well-Being Index compiles surveys in six categories:
1. Life Evaluation: how a person’s current life compares with their expectations
2. Emotional Health: deals with the respondent’s experiences and feelings on a given day
3. Physical Health: encompasses diseases, physical pain, sick days, body-mass index, etc.
4. Healthy Behavior: addresses both positive behaviors (i.e. exercise) and negative (i.e. smoking)
5. Work Environment: questions for workers on job satisfaction, treatment from superiors, etc.
6. Basic Access: includes access to food, housing, healthcare, etc.

There is no doubt that states that registered lowest in economy and education also show as lowest in happiness.



Will power, teach children to use it to get stronger


Part of a good parenting is to teach children how to have a strong will power, which is the key to his future success. One way of teaching them is to tell them what they should do and do it themselves. Such as, do your homework first right after you get back from school. Tell them this,

“I know you want to play and it is hard to do the right thing when you don’t want to. But guess what? this is the occasion to practice your will power. Don’t you want to be strong both physically and mentally? Will power is like muscle, the more you use it, the more you have, the stronger you are.”

By the way, if you give in every time the child asks for something, the child never learns to accept no.



Talked with friends, college cost and others


Another weekend edition.
I had a busy day yesterday–got up late in the morning, went out walking for an hour in the morning. Shortly after I got back, a friend of mine called about college expense.

Her child was admitted by some great colleges but not the top three that she wanted most. The dreadful part is she has no scholarship at all, leaving her parents to cough out the whooping cost of $63,000 a year, $252,000 for four years if tuition remains unchanged. Guess what? The child cried because she was afraid that her parents would not pay for her graduate school. Whew!! Her parents sent her to private middle and high school, then are going to pay for her college. Way more than most parents are willing to pay.

The good news: my daughter’s event placed first at the State competition, but her school as the whole did not come out first. So she and her partner cannot go national for their individual event. What a pity!



Another Saturday, another out of town trip…


Yes, it is funny that I add this category for weekend edition. There is always something for weekend, something that we don’t do during week day. I will need to get visa for my daughter as a Chinese visa service is available today only.

My daughter is with her school for this year’s Science Olympiad competition at state level. I was told even if she is placed first for her individual event at the state level, which she did at regional level, she and her partner might not go national for that event. The school team that come out first at the state competition will go national.



Keep your stress level and blood pressure down…


I read this article on 3/21, from Harvard Medical School. The article looks familiar, which means I might have read it before and posted here. But then, if it is a good thing, it doesn’t hurt to read it again and again.

Here are seven ways that can help keep down our stress and blood pressure. Practice them when you find yourself tense and on edge.
(1) Get enough sleep. Inadequate or poor quality sleep can negatively affect your mood, mental alertness, energy level, and physical health.
(2) Learn relaxation techniques. Meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, deep breathing exercises, and yoga are powerful stress-busters.
(3) Strengthen your social network. Connect with others by taking a class, joining an organization, or participating in a support group.
(4) Hone your time-management skills. The more efficiently you can juggle work and family demands, the lower your stress level.
(5) Try to resolve stressful situations if you can. Don’t let stressful situations fester.
(6) Nurture yourself. Treat yourself to a massage. Truly savor an experience: for example, take a walk or a nap or listen to your favorite music.
(7) Ask for help, that is, if it is beyond the realm of self-help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your friends, and neighbors. If stress and anxiety persist, ask your doctor whether anti-anxiety medications could be helpful.



Small and steady stream runs long


With the other adult away from home right now, I have to enlist my daughtger’s help with household work. I asked her to wash the dishes since I do the cooking.

While she was washing, I told her a Chinese saying, small stream runs long “Xi-shui-chang-liu.” At first she didn’t understand what it meant.

When your water resource is limited, that water will last longer if you let it run in a small and steady manner than if you let it pour through the sink in as large quantity as it can. Same can be said of any resources.

Not wasting can help you go a long way.



Practice relaxation might help taming tension headache


Nothing makes your life more miserable or ruin your day more thoroughly than the consistent presence of a dull pain or a feeling of tightness around your head.

Beyond the basics of not skipping meals, having enough sleep, getting things done before deadlines, and not staring at computer screen for too long, here are one more trick that might work for you: relaxation techniques, so we are told by the expert.

“Physical and relaxation therapies can help stave off tension headaches, so long as you practice these techniques regularly. Physical approaches include applying a heating pad to your neck and shoulders to relax the muscles.”

“Exercising these muscles also helps, by strengthening and stretching them. Relaxation exercises that focus your attention on various parts of your body in order to relax and release tension and stress can also help.”



From a loving father


YanBin on parenting
This is from a friend of mine When we talked about parenting boys. I think it a simple statement showing a fatherly love for his daughter.



April Fool’s Day, how we often fool ourselves in real life


Not long ago, while I was working on a writing on student loan crisis, I bumped into this article –“Calculating a College Degree’s True Value.”

The article lists the salaries after graduation for 25 majors from the highest paid job (system engineering) to the lowest one (biology).

While I understand that not everybody is interested or is capable of taking the highest-paid major, it strikes me as pure dumbness or self-deceiving when some people take a heavy student loan and go for a major that doesn’t pay at all or that doesn’t even promise a job upon graduation.

It is one thing if your family can pay it all for your low-paid major. It is another thing when you get that major by taking out heavy student loan.

On this April Fool’s day, let us wish people stop fooling themselves when they go to college.


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