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

1, May 27, 2014

Money, travel, and regret or no regret

Filed under: children,Life — admin @ 9:15 am

Early last Sunday morning, 5/25, a friend of ours and her whole family went on a three-week tour in some European countries. While they have been to Europe many times, our family has never been there once. I felt a bit sad that we were not able to go while both of my children were home with us. The trip really is expensive. Compared to some of the Chinese here, we are relatively less affluent, which is why we have not travelled outside the country as much as some of our friends. I told my son that I felt like a loser, in economical sense. I feel my children have been deprived of a lot of fun in their childhood because of this.

Shortly after I was laid off from Sprint, I had opportunities to go back IT job and maintain my IT salary if I were willing to travel to other places and take on short-term contract positions. But if I did, it would mean leaving the children behind. So I chose to give up these opportunities and stay with them till they are able to be on their own, believing I could always made money but the children needed me for only these few years. I am glad I have made this decision. Still, I feel like finding lame excuses for my financial failure in life.

No matter what happened, I have tried my best to provide a protective and well-guided life to both of my children. When looking back, the only big comfort to me is to see both of them have turned out well-bred and well-educated and are well on their way to a much better life than mine.

I regret not having traveled widely while my children were home with me, but no regret for my past decision.

1, May 24, 2014

Read in order to be a better and understanding people

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 7:17 pm

I don’t remember where I read this or who said this. I thought of this while making origami for a colleague of mine today–
The purpose of literature is to realize other people really exist.
That is, through reading we get to know more people, their lives and their experience. With this understanding, we will hopefully become less self-centered and more sympathetic and understanding, and eventually can co-exist peacefully with others. Isn’t that a wonderful thought?

1, May 22, 2014

Here are the steps to lower Alzheimer’s risk

Filed under: Brain — admin @ 12:51 am

I know there is nothing new about this. Still, every time I read something along this line from Harvard Medical School (HMS) newsletter, I feel the urge to share it here. I especially wish my children will pay attention to this as their paternal grandfather was inflicted with senile dementia in his early 70s.

Here are the 5 steps to lower Alzheimer’s risk from HMS:
(1) Maintain a healthy weight. Cut back on calories and increase physical activity if you need to shed some pounds.

(2) Check your waistline. To accurately measure your waistline, use a tape measure around the narrowest portion of your waist (usually at the height of the navel and lowest rib). A National Institutes of Health panel recommends waist measurements of no more than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men.

(3) Eat mindfully. Emphasize colorful, vitamin-packed vegetables and fruits; whole grains; protein sources such as fish, lean poultry, tofu, and beans and other legumes; plus healthy fats. Cut down on unnecessary calories from sweets, sodas, refined grains like white bread or white rice, unhealthy fats, fried and fast foods, and mindless snacking. Keep a close eye on portion sizes, too.

(4) Exercise regularly. This simple step does great things for your body. Regular physical activity helps control weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. Moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise (walking, swimming, biking, rowing), can also help chip away total body fat and abdominal fat over time. Aim for 2 1/2 to 5 hours weekly of brisk walking (at 4 mph). Or try a vigorous exercise like jogging (at 6 mph) for half that time.

(5) Keep an eye on important health numbers. In addition to watching your weight and waistline, ask your doctor whether your cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and blood sugar are within healthy ranges. Exercise, weight loss if needed, and medications (if necessary) can help keep these numbers on target.

Of course, I have to add this last and the most important activity: use your brain daily. Yes, use if you don’t want to lose.

1, May 21, 2014

The most peaceful and joyful moments that I once enjoyed

Filed under: children — admin @ 9:42 am

It is Wednesday morning, 5/21/2014. Right now I am sitting in my office, all by myself, with the monitor in the monitor room. Quiet and alone, seemingly peaceful and undisturbed by anything outside. Still, I think of my children, of the time I spent with them when they were little and when they are home. How peaceful and relaxing these moments were. How heavenly happy and joyful I was when I was with them.

Work is not stressful here and people at my new office are nice and friendly. Still, I’d rather spend my time at home with my children. I don’t want to analyze myself and find out why I don’t enjoy myself at work. This is how I feel now.

1, May 19, 2014

An ideal family or what a relationship between two should be

Filed under: family — admin @ 12:44 am

This is from a friend of mine. It is all well said, yet I have not seen anything like that from what I observe among my friends and acquaintances. In fact, the opposite is what I know of. Well, this is at least what an ideal family or relationship should be.

(1) The couple should pay attention to the changes in, the strength of and the positive words articulated by each other.
(2) There should be less complaint, less blame-game, less misunderstanding in a family.
(3) Think more of what each other has done. Truly appreciate each other’s strength. Understand each other’s situation. Forgive each other’s weakness.
(4) Words should be often said inside a family:
-Thank you.
-I am sorry I made a mistake.
-I believe you.
-I am proud of you.
-I love you.
(5) The couple should try to have a common life’s goal, environment of living, conversation topic, and friends.
Finally, there is no right or wrong in a family. There is only harmony and lack of harmony. Family is the place where love dominates not reason.

1, May 18, 2014

Do something everyday and make it a habit

Filed under: Career,Success — admin @ 12:06 am

I read this article “Write Code Every Day” by John Resig before my daughter came back. I was going to share with her after she came back. This is once again written by someone who, apart from his day job, has side project or hobby or something he dreams of pursuing but it is not without a heavy dose of will power to make it happen.

“Last fall, work on my coding side projects came to a head: I wasn’t making adequate progress and I couldn’t find a way to get more done without sacrificing my ability to do effective work at Khan Academy. There were a few major problems with how I was working on my side projects. I was primarily working on them during the weekends and sometimes in the evenings during the week. This is a strategy that does not work well for me, as it turns out. I was burdened with an incredible amount of stress to try and complete as much high quality work as possible during the weekend (and if I was unable to it felt like a failure). This was a problem as there’s no guarantee that every weekend will be free – nor that I’ll want to program all day for two days (removing any chance of relaxation or doing anything fun).

There’s also the issue that a week between working on some code is a long time, it’s very easy to forget what you were working on or what you left off on (even if you keep notes). Not to mention if you miss a weekend you end up with a two week gap as a result. That massive multi-week context switch can be deadly (I’ve had many side projects die due to attention starvation like that).

Inspired by the incredible work that Jennifer Dewalt completed last year, in which she taught herself programming by building 180 web sites in 180 days, I felt compelled to try a similar tactic: working on my side projects every single day.”

Illustration by Steven ResigI decided to set a couple rules for myself:
I must write code every day. I can write docs, or blog posts, or other things but it must be in addition to the code that I write.

It must be useful code. No tweaking indentation, no code re-formatting, and if at all possible no refactoring. (All these things are permitted, but not as the exclusive work of the day.)
All code must be written before midnight.
The code must be Open Source and up on Github.

Some of these rules were arbitrary. The code doesn’t technically need to be written before midnight of the day of but I wanted to avoid staying up too late writing sloppy code. Neither does the code have to be Open Source or up on Github. This just forced me to be more mindful of the code that I was writing (thinking about reusability and deciding to create modules earlier in the process).

Thus far I’ve been very successful, I’m nearing 20 weeks of consecutive work. I wanted to write about it as it’s completely changed how I code and has had a substantial impact upon my life and psyche.
With this in mind a number of interesting things happened as a result of this change in habit:
Minimum viable code. I was forced to write code for no less than 30 minutes a day. (It’s really hard to write meaningful code in less time, especially after remembering where you left off the day before.) Some week days I work a little bit more (usually no more than an hour) and on weekends I’m sometimes able to work a full day.”

1, May 17, 2014

Easier said than done, always, even in ancient times

Filed under: Emotional Intelligence — admin @ 1:45 am

Read this story about Su Dongpo, a famous poet in Song Dynasty. Laugh at yourself first before you laugh at Su. Find someone to translate it for you if you so want to know it. I don’t have time for it now.
easy said than done

1, May 16, 2014

How to avoid these stupid things

Filed under: Emotional Intelligence — admin @ 1:01 am

I dug out this article and was ready to throw it away when something happened lately and that reminded me one of the stupid things mentioned in this article. I am sure I have posted this one before. Still, it doesn’t hurt to post it again just to remind people to avoid them. Here are these stupid things. For details, please go to the original article.

1. Whose Fault it is
2. Celebrity and Sports Gossip
3. Sexual Jealousy
4. Being Right
5. National Politics
6. Trying to Impress Other People
8. Being Offended
9. The Fact that I skipped Number 7 on this list
10. Buying a Bunch of “Nice” Stuff
11. Waiting in line for 36 hours to buy some new product the day it’s released
12. Hiding Your Flaws

1, May 14, 2014

We all need to get started everyday

Filed under: Career — admin @ 12:04 am

Getting Started Is Everything” by Adam Pash, someone who has a day job and a plan to work on his hobby after work but seldom puts his plan to action.

“Nothing’s better than sinking your teeth into a satisfying after-hours side project—or what I guess most people may just call a hobby. But after 10 hours at work, it’s not always easy to muster the energy to switch off your TV and go to work on your project. The trick I use is simple, self-evident, and it works. Getting started is everything.”

Sound familiar? Yes, like you and me, he takes forever to even get started, finds all kinds of excuses to postpone starting the project he has in mind. Thus, with each passing days, so passed whatever dream that we may initially have, till having no time and energy left for anything but cooking, cleaning and resting. Well, not he, but many people. That’s why I share his article here.

1, May 13, 2014

Tricks to cut cooling costs

Filed under: Money — admin @ 12:03 am

On May 2014 issue of Money magazine, there is a page on energy savings during hot summer. Here are some tips:

Three habits of the energy efficient:
1) Use the shades to block solar heat.
2) Keep the air flowing by leaving the doors and vents open. Don’t put furniture in front of the vent.
3) Open windows strategically. If it is humid, your system will have to work hard to remove the moisture.

More tips:
1) Clear the condenser by pruning back shrubs and ground covers at least a foot away from your outdoor A/C equipment.
2) Get a checkup: have a technician service your central-air system every year or two.
3) Replace filters, install new filters at least twice a year.
4) Plant a tree on the south or west side of your home.
5) Tighten ducts, hire an energy efficiency contractor to seal and insulate attic ducts.
6) Install ceiling fans.
7) Upgrade, if your A/C is more than 10 years old and you are in a hot summer, replacement will pay for itself quickly.

1, May 12, 2014

Put your distractions in another room when you are serious with your work

Filed under: Emotional Intelligence,work — admin @ 12:57 am

My daughter came back on 5/9, last Friday evening. Her connection flight from Chicago back to KS was delayed for nearly 4 hours.

We went to upgrade her phone the next day, Saturday morning. She got an iphone5s, the latest model on the market. After we got back home, I went to Walmart to get a protective case for her phone. When I came back, I saw my daughter working on her project. I asked her, “Where’s your phone? I got this case for it.” She said it was in another room. Her brother told her to put any distraction in another room so that she could concentrate better.

1, May 11, 2014

Make peace for your dear life. Here’s why

Filed under: Health — admin @ 12:01 am

I must share this article, “Frequent arguments with family and friends linked with greater risk of death.” This is a scary alarm as I am sure nobody wants an early death.

The article starts like this “For middle-age adults, frequent arguments with partners, relatives or neighbors may increase the risk of death, according to a new study.”

“After analyzing this data, the researchers concluded that frequent worries or demands created by partners and/or children were linked to a 50 to 100 percent increased risk of death from all causes.

Men were more vulnerable than women to worries and demands from their partners. … men tend to have smaller networks, which may mean that stress in their relationships has a larger impact – but it remains unclear why men are at a higher risk.

Given these findings, researchers concluded that conflict management skills may help curb premature death related to social relationship stressors.”

1, May 10, 2014

Notes from reading Original Goodness…

Filed under: Life,Reading — admin @ 12:07 am

Original Goodness: Strategies for Uncovering Your Hidden Spiritual Resources by Eknath Easwaran, 1989. I bought this book in spring of 1992 at Bowling Green State University. I don’t know why I bought it and even read it. There must be a need for this book at that time. Or I must have a strong sense to master the original goodness.

Before my daughter gets back home, of course, I cleaned the house once again, as if I hadn’t done it for a long time. I tried to get rid of some book, this one being one of them. I not only read this book but also left underlines throughout the book. Below are part of what I have underlined.

The book has 229 pages. My original plan is to get rid of the book after I finish taking down the notes. But as I was typing, I changed my mind, at least for now. I plan to keep the book for my children, even after I have taken most of the underlined notes. Let’s see what they will do with it. For now, let’s try to enjoy these reading notes.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
“Our supreme purpose in life is not to make a fortune, nor to pursue pleasure, nor to write our name on history, but to discover this spark of the divine that is in our hearts.” p. 9

“Though we are born of human clay, it reminds us, each of us has the latent capacity to reach and grow toward heaven until we shine with the reflected glory of our maker.” p. 10

“… It was as if they [shoppers] had come looking for something to want — something that might fill a nameless need, even if only for a moment…” p. 13

“Making things, buying and selling them, piling them up, repairing them, trying to figure out how to get rid of them permanently: for sensitive people, boredom with this carnival cycle began some time ago. A consumer culture is not the goal of life.” p. 13

“…wealth, possessions, power, and pleasure have never brought lasting satisfaction to any human being. Our needs go too deep to be satisfied by anything that comes and goes. Nothing but spiritual fulfillment can fill the void in our hearts.” p. 14

“…for a person who can think only of himself, someone who explodes when things do not go her way, is fragile, alienated, and very lonely individual. …In the end, it is this driving sense of separateness — I, I, I; my need, my wants, apart from all the rest of life — that is responsible for all the wars in history, all the violence, all the exploitation of other human beings, and even the exploitation of the planet that threatens our future today.” p. 19

“We want to love and to be loved. We want happiness and fulfillment,… We want a place in life, a way of belonging, a sense of purpose, the achievement of worthy goals — whatever it takes; otherwise life is an empty show.” p. 19

“…what we say we believe in is not so important; what matters is what we actually do — and,…what we actually are. ‘As we think in our hearts, so we are.'” p. 23

“…meditation is essentially an interior discipline.” p. 25

Meditation “is the regular, systematic training of attention to turn inward and dwell continuously on a single focus within consciousness, until,… we become so absorbed in the object of our contemplation that while we are meditating, we forget ourselves completely. In that moment, when we may be said to be empty of ourselves, we are utterly full of what we are dwelling on…we become what we meditate on.

“Meditation,…means training the mind: teaching our thoughts to go where we tell them and to obey themselves while they are there…” p. 26

“…when you have this kind of mastery over your attention in everything you do, you have a genius for life itself: unshakable security, clear judgment, deep personal relationships, compassion that no adversity can break down.” p. 26

“…we see not so much with the eyes as with the mind, for it is the mind that arranges and interprets the information of the senses according to its own conditioning.” [I would say head instead of mind] p. 33

“It is in the mind that we experience life, and the mind is never really clear.” ??? p. 37

“…the mind is often compared to a lake, whose waters become clouded with mud when the lake is agitated. Only when the murk of our thoughts, desires, and passions settles does the mind become calm and clear.” [use head instead of mind] p. 39

“We behold that which we are, and we are that which we behold. As a man is, so he sees.” p. 40

“Intellectual study cannot be of much help in this transformation. Only meditation, the systematic turning inward of attention, can take us deep into consciousness where the obstacles to a pure heart hide.” p. 43

On humility, “Whenever we get swept away by a selfish urge or a wave of anger, we are in hell; we can almost feel the sulfurous fumes of insecurity and fear. If we get so angry that we can’t sleep, we are overnight guests in hell’s hotel.” p. 53

“Hell is no metaphor and neither is heaven. Hell and heaven are states of consciousness. Doesn’t Jesus say the kingdom of heaven is within? And mental states are real — in fact, in some ways they are even more ‘thing’ than things…if I said something unkind and you couldn’t stop thinking

about it, your resentment might burn for years. It might even aggravate your ulcer.” p. 54

“…when you go on saying ‘I’m a sinner,…’ you’re actually thinking of yourself as a sinner. You expect yourself to do wrong thing. I like to emphasize original goodness: ‘I’m a saint,…” p. 54

“We don’t have to have somebody punish us for doing wrong; we punish ourselves. Sin its own punishment…anger is its own punishment.” p. 54

“…dwelling on yourself is its own punishment. All of us find ourselves a fascinating, satisfying subject to contemplate…until the results begin to accumulate… the person who thinks about himself all the time, who can scarcely think about anything except in connection with his own needs, becomes the most wretched creature on earth. Nothing really goes the way he wants, and that preoccupation with himself that seemed so pleasant and natural becomes a wall that keeps everyone else outside. It’s a lonely, tormented life. Perhaps the most painful irony is that this wretchedness too is just dwelling on oneself. Once a habit is formed, the mind cannot stop, even when it makes us miserable.” p. 55

“All these habits of mind that can make life hell,…can be traced to one central flaw of attention. To call it self-preoccupation comes close: the habit of dwelling on my needs, my desires, my plans, my fears. The more deeply ingrained this pattern of thinking is,…the more we make ourselves a little island isolated from the rest of life, with all the unhappiness that has to follow.” p. 55

On Self-forgetfulness: “All of us have tasted the freedom and happiness that self-forgetfulness brings,… In watching a good game of tennis or becoming engrossed in a novel,…the satisfaction comes not so much from what we are watching or reading as from the act of absorption itself…” p. 60

“…there is only one way to be completely happy, and that is to forget ourselves in working for others. It’s a perplexing paradox: so long as we try to make ourselves happy, life places obstacles in our path. But the moment we turn away from ourselves to make others happy, our troubles melt away.” p. 61

“…in that absorption all the burdens a person might carry in such work were lifted from his shoulders …” p. 62

“As preoccupation with ourselves diminishes, security builds. We find we have greater patience – and not just with others, but with ourselves as well. Things that used to cause stress and agitation no longer ruffle us, and people we used to find difficult start to show a brighter side.” p. 66

“When there is no past, then no ghosts from the past …, no anger or resentment – can come to make your life miserable… It is not that you forget what happened yesterday when you lose the bond with the past; you just don’t think about yesterday.” p. 66

“…the unburdening of the memory.”

“It is heaven to be free of worry about tomorrow. I have many responsibilities, but I don’t worry about them. I plan, I work hard, but I don’t get anxious about results. When you develop this marvelous capacity to hold attention steady on the present, like a flame of a candle in a windless place, most anxieties evaporate. There is no reason to worry about what tomorrow may bring. If you live today completely in love – hating no one, hurting no one, serving all – then tomorrow has to be good, whatever comes.” p. 67

On Slowing down:
“All negative thoughts are fast. Fear, resentment, greed, and jealousy rush through the mind at a hundred miles per hour. At such speeds we cannot turn, cannot stop, cannot keep from crashing into people.” p. 67

“Fast thinking has implications for the body too. People whose thoughts spin faster and faster become victims of the speed habit of their minds.

“This kind of turmoil takes a heavy toll on health, and evidence suggests that emotional instability may leave the body more vulnerable to illness and reduce its capacity for healing. Uncontrollable anger … seems to be associated with hypertension and heart disease and is a component in severe breathing problems.” 68

On Putting Others First: “A third way to dissolve the strata of self-centered conditioning is by learning to think of other people’s needs before our own. This is perhaps …the most rewarding challenge on the spiritual path.” p. 70

“Putting others first is an infectious example that affects everybody around… All of us maintain a free university of our own, where we teach by what we are. Especially where children are concerned, the home is a 7-day-a-week school of education for living.” p. 71

“…the very best way to change someone is to begin with your own example.” p. 71

When people use hurtful words to you, “if you remember not to retaliate in words and actions, eventually you will find it impossible even to think hurtful thoughts.” p. 75

On Simplicity: we need to remind ourselves “that the real meaning of simplicity is singling out what is worth living for, then shaping our lives around what matters and letting go of everything else. Thoreau tells us, ‘I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.'” p. 79

“Simple living is the art of using minimum means to attain maximum results – just the opposite of what happens when we get caught up in the obsessions of a consumer society.” p. 80

“To enjoy everything, desire to get joy from nothing.” p. 81

On Patience: “Even immersing ourselves in hobbies, intellectual pursuits, or relationships can be attempts to create a little world where beauty and harmony are permanent, where disorder and distress cannot enter.” p. 98

“Training the mind to stay steady brings another precious benefit: it protects us from the physiological impact of negative emotions and stress.” p. 100

“…full health is more than just the absence of disease. It means a dynamic harmony of body and mind which allows us to live at our full physical, emotional, and spiritual potential.” p. 101

“…it is not so much events that subject us to stress as the way we perceive and interpret those events. …stress is defined as a relationship between the person and the environment that is appraised by the person as taxing or exceeding his or her resources and endangering his
or her well-being.

“…those who know how to keep their mind on an even keel will respond to life’s challenges with calmness, alertness, and even eagerness… what makes the difference is not personality type but evenness of mind.” p. 104

“…keeping calm in the face of excitement is even harder. Pleasure makes the mind race too…” p. 105

One possible connection between stress and illness is that psychological stress drains energy – energy that the body needs to stay vital, resist disease, and heal.” p. 106

“…no physical regimen can counteract the energy-wasting habits of the mind.” p. 106

“Human beings do not need excitement; they need meaning, purpose, a higher goal and some way of getting there. Without these, for those who are sensitive, life may soon lose its value.” p. 108

“‘Will I get a chance to help others?’ All that is important is that you can make a contribution; that is what gives life meaning and value.” p. 110

“…patience is not only a mental virtue; it is an asset even for physical health.” p. 111

“…if you can strengthen your patience to such a degree that other people’s behavior never upsets you, your heart, lungs, and nervous system will be on vacation.” p. 112

“Patience attains everything. Through patience, every goal can be reached.” p. 112

“Patience means self-mastery: the capacity to hold on and remain loving in a difficult situation when every atom of your being wants to turn and run.” p. 113

Instead of asking ‘Please give me more patience,’ keep in mind help always comes from within.

“We do not really get satisfaction out of hurting people who hurt us. We have simply fallen into the habit of brooding on wrongs done to us, blowing them up to the proportions of enormous antipathies, until we finally explode.” p. 127

“…personal suffering always comes from self-will…Nothing burns in hell except self-will.” p. 127

“Goodness may taste bitter at first, but it is found at last to be immortal wine.” p. 128

“Compulsive thought patterns exists only so long as we support them with our belief in their power to propel us into action…If we are bothered by certain thoughts, we should remind ourselves that it is we who rent out the precious space within the mind…If we shut the door of the mind right in their face, they will soon tire of knocking.” p. 133

“…just as chemicals in the air around us can bring on ailments like cancer, there are thoughts in the unconscious which can pollute our inner atmosphere and bring on illness in mind and even body.” p. 133

“Judge not that ye be not judged” Jesus. When we keep pointing a finger of judgment at others, we are teaching our mind a lasting habit of condemnation. Sooner or later, that finger of judgment will be aimed at ourselves.” p. 135

“I don’t make any demand on life at all. All I need is opportunities for giving, which life has no power to withhold.” p. 146

On Mercy:
“When we are kind, tender, compassionate, and forgiving, we get a glimpse of the healing power of this reservoir of mercy within.” p. 150

“As we sow, so we reap.”

“Indulging in anger in pointing a poison-tipped arrow inward, aimed straight at ourselves. It taints our thinking, poisons our feelings, turns our relationships adversarial. If we continue to think resentful thoughts, mistrust spreads in consciousness like some toxic underground chemical until we have a permanent disposition for suspicion.” p. 153

“Energy conservation is the basis of spiritual engineering, for vital energy provides the power we need to tap the infinite source of goodness and mercy that lies at the core of consciousness.” 154

…a close connection between mental states and longevity..

“Security, compassion, patience, forgiveness — all these are accompanied by a relatively slow breathing rhythm and heart rate. Positive states of mind like these conserve energy and lengthen the life span, leaving a reserve of resilience and resistance for facing challenges.” p. 155

“Learning to control attention is the key to gaining access to this energy and using it wisely. …the ability to direct attention is the very root of judgment, character and will.” p. 155

“…the best way to help our young people discover and harness their inner resources is by teaching them to master their attention, beginning with our own example. Giving children our full attention is the best way to make them secure; and with the steadiness that comes from a trained mind, we will not lose faith when they run into the problems that young people run into everywhere.” p. 156

“Most of us carry strong personal attachments and sincerely believe that we love deeply. But when we are emotionally entangled with someone, we cannot really be aware of that person’s needs or how we affect his life. Our preoccupation is with ourselves: that our feelings not be violated and that our wants be fulfilled.” p. 158

“…anything that depletes energy reserves regularly is likely to take a toll on health.” p. 159

“What we are looking for in others is generally what we find. ‘Such as we are inwardly, so we judge outwardly,’ Thomas Kempis said.” p. 162

“The memory of past letdowns can weigh down any sensitive human being, making trust an elusive commodity to acquire. Worst of all, when negative memories cast a shadow of mistrust over our relationships, we lack the vitality we need to withdraw our attention and act with kindness, as if those shadows were not there.” p. 162

“In the heart of every human being lies a noble response to anyone who will neither retaliate nor retreat: a deep, intuitive recognition that here is someone who sees in us all the inalienable good in human nature.” p. 170

Always remember what life is for.

On Peacemaking,
“Peace is not an absence of war. It is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, trust, and justice.” Spinoza. … We must actively cultivate peace as a virtue, trying to make it a permanent state of mind.” p. 177

There is a vital connection between the peace or violence in our minds and the conditions that exist outside. When our mind is hostile, it sees hostility everywhere, and we act on what we see. … Acting in anger is not just the result of an agitated mind; it is also a cause, provoking retaliation from others and further agitation from others and further agitation in our own mind. If negative behavior becomes habitual, we find ourselves chronically in a negative frame of mind and continually entangled in pointless conflicts – just the opposite of peaceful and pacifying.” p. 178

It doesn’t really need a reason to lose its temper; anger is its chronic state. … They are simply people whose minds have been conditioned to get angry, usually because they cannot get their own way. Instead of benevolence, they have developed a habit of hostility.” p. 178

If your mind is not trained to make peace at home, how can you hope to promote peace on a larger scale? p. 179

Stirring up passions, provoking animosity, and polarizing opposition may sometimes produce short-term gains, but it cannot produce long-term beneficial results because it only clouds minds and hurt both sides. p. 179

When push comes to shove, unless we have trained ourselves to harness our anger – to put it to work to heal the situation instead of aggravating it – it is monumentally difficult for most of us to resist the impulse to retaliate. p. 180

“We behold that which we are, and we are that which we behold.” If we have an angry mind, we will see life as full of anger; if we have a suspicious mind, we will see causes for suspicious all around… p. 180

…use the right means and not worry about the outcome.

Instead of blaming our problems on some intrinsic flaw in human nature, we must squarely take responsibility for our actions as human beings capable of rational thought. p. 183

Trust is a measure of your depth of faith in the nobility of human nature, of your depth of love for all. If you expect the worst from someone, the worst is what you will usually get. Expect the best and people will respond. p. 184

When you give toys to children, or allow them to buy them for themselves, you have to consider that you are not just giving them something to entertain them; you are giving them an instrument that may influence their thinking and living for decades. p. 190

On desire:
“You are what your deep, driving desire is.
As your deep, driving desire is, so is your will.
As your will is, so is your deed.
As your deed is, so is your destiny.” — Perennial Philosophy p. 205

When we think we decide to buy something, go somewhere, see someone, all too often the choice is being made not by us, but by unconscious desires. p. 205

…indulging such desires for a moment of dash of wickedness, like smoke and drug, only leaves us hungrier than before, and a moment stretching to a day, a month, and many years… Keep in mind there is no long-lasting joy in yielding to a compulsive desire. p. 207

All yielding can do is give us a little respite from desire’s demands – and make them stronger the next time. Joy comes not from yielding, but from gaining freedom from them, freedom to choose. p. 207

There is combativeness in our makeup not so we can fight others, but so we can take on these urges and see how much satisfaction we get in beating them. p. 208

Compulsive desires are part of the human condition, but today we have an additional problem: for almost all of us, our desires are exceptionally well trained. p. 208

The end.

1, May 8, 2014

The power of hope…

Filed under: Emotional Intelligence — admin @ 1:13 am

From Forbes, Thought of the Day, 5/7/2014

“There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, no tonic so powerful as expectation of something tomorrow.” — Orison S. Marden

1, May 7, 2014

Learning new skills, the biggest boost to senior brain

Filed under: Brain — admin @ 1:48 am

On 5/5/2014, I heard this news on NRP when I was walking in the morning. “Seniors who learned more difficult skills like digital photography and Photoshop showed the greatest improvement in memory.” Research shows “Only people who learned a new skill had significant [brain] gains.” “The greatest improvement was for the people who learned digital photography and Photoshop.” It must be the most challenging of all activities.

The article is based on this research — “The Impact of Sustained Engagement on Cognitive Function in Older Adults: The Synapse Project.” Below is the abstract of the article.

“In the research reported here, we tested the hypothesis that sustained engagement in learning new skills that activated working memory, episodic memory, and reasoning over a period of 3 months would enhance cognitive function in older adults. In three conditions with high cognitive demands, participants learned to quilt, learned digital photography, or engaged in both activities for an average of 16.51 hr a week for 3 months.

Results at posttest indicated that episodic memory was enhanced in these productive-engagement conditions relative to receptive-engagement conditions, in which participants either engaged in nonintellectual activities with a social group or performed low-demand cognitive tasks with no social contact. The findings suggest that sustained engagement in cognitively demanding, novel activities enhances memory function in older adulthood, but, somewhat surprisingly, we found limited cognitive benefits of sustained engagement in social activities.”

1, May 6, 2014

Building wealth, according to money magazine, Part II

Filed under: Emotional Intelligence,Money — admin @ 1:44 am

Tip 101: pick a clean start day. And then bet on seeing it through. I think it works for setting any goals.

It’s one thing that you know what you should do; it’s another to actually do it. What is harder is to act.

Research suggests that you are more likely to start working toward a goal on days that mark a dividing line. Such as, more people start dieting on New Year’s Day. A clear start date makes people feel disconnected from their past imperfections and promote a big-picture view of life.

Find a tool to track your progress toward your goal and even commit yourself to putting some money on the line, if you fail to reach your goal. More people hit their goals when they have money at stake.

1, May 5, 2014

Building wealth, according to money magazine

Filed under: Money — admin @ 12:38 am

I spent some time on May 2014 issue of Money magazine during the first weekend after I got back from China. The cover story of this issue is “101 ways to build wealth.” So many ways! Of course, I was intrigued to find out what they are. After flipping through them, I have picked a few of them which might be helpful.

The article treats wealth building as a series of projects taken over the period of one’s life:
Project 1: lay a base
Project 2: expand
Project 3: refine
Project 4: reconstruct

Tip 1: Don’t sweat the investment at first–saving trumps savvy. Investment choices don’t matter much initially. “about 20% of your true total wealth, including future pay, is likely to be in financial assets at age 35. So even if you lose 30% in your 401k, that is an overall hit of less than 7%. You can recover. Get started, and give yourself a year or two to learn to be an investor.

Tip 2: Spend less to enjoy more. Focus on using your dollars in the way most likely to make you happy. When you buy a luxurious coffeemaker–“you are more likely to feel buyer’s remorse when you go high-end. One reason: you will soon feel annoyed by the effort required to learn to use the extra bells and whistles.

Tip 3: when you are young, go Roth IRA

Tip 9: Ignore this one habit of the young and the rich: the most active traders earned 7% less per year than the ones who tended to stand pat.

Tip 12-14: build around three cheap funds: 40% on U.S. stock market index fund; 40% on bond market index fund; 20% on foreign stock index fund.

Tip 15: invest in a team, not a star. Stick with stellar funds run by a disciplined committees, not a single manager.

Tip 16: Get more by doing less. By trying to outsmart the market, overly active investor usually dig themselves into a hole.

Tip 17: Do something by “doing nothing.” Tossing in an option is called “Doing nothing.” “This small addition to your set of choices will subtly remind you of your goal and help you stay disciplined.”

Tip 18: Investing with your head, not your heart. Don’t make any financial decisions with a forlon heart. When feeling lonely or socially isolated, you are more apt to take bigger risks with your money. So delay important financial decisions following a breakup or a falling-out with friends or family.

Tip 22: protect your portfolio like Buffett: build moat. “determining the competitive advantage of any given company and, above all, the durability of that advantage,” said Buffett. Wide moat describes firms with products, services, or business models that can stand the test of time.

Tip 27: diversify your tax exposure. Everyone should put some money in a Roth IRA. With a Roth, you take the tax hit up front but get to pull money out tax-free at retirement.

Tip 28: cash is a poor choice for a long-term investment.

Tip 32: put your adviser under a bright-scope.” You need to know more than just their fees and disciplinary record. Check brightscope.com

Tip 33: pay next to nothing for basic help. Don’t overpay. Check some internet based advisers.

Tip 34: learn the ABCs of 529s to save for education

Tip 37: build in safeguards. Want an investment that will keep you safe in times of trouble? Seek out funds that over the past decade have lost less than the broad market in months when stocks have tumbled, while still outperforming over the past 10 years.

Tip 48: buy the smallest house in the best neighborhood you can afford.

Tip 50: fight tomorrow’s war today. Safeguard your cash with I bonds, government bonds.

Tip 51: defend your bonds with TIPS–Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities. VIPSX

Tip 53: forget the usual hedges. Investors have traditionally turned to hard assets such as real estate and commodities to guard against inflation. History shows these tools are barely as effective as cash.

Tip 54: utilize the best retirement plan you’ve never heard of. Use HSA, health saving account, where money grows tax-sheltered, and withdrawals for medical expenses are tax-free.

Tip 57: automating your payments use makes life easier, but study shows that nothing promotes saving more than paying the old-fashioned way. Very often you are not aware of how much you have overspent with automatic payment arrangement.

Tip 58-59: bring some joy back to investing. Let loose by taking a flier on these stocks with some play money–Linkedin, skyworks, etc.

Tip 61: go for McSaving, not McMansion. Amount you’d save by buying a $300k instead of $375k house is $162k, if you put $75k down and take out a 30-year 4.4% mortgage. Squeeze out as much savings as possible by purchasing a modest property at the lower end of your range, instead of buying the maximum that you can afford.

Tip 62: grab a second paycheck by earning rental income. Own a second house for renting.

Tip 66-68: use funds to tap high tax-exempt municipal bonds, 2% for intermediate-maturity issues vs. an after-tax equivalent of about 1.5% for regular bonds. For short-term money, use Vanguard Limited Term (VMLTX), Vanguard Intermediate Term Tax Exempt (VMITX), iShares National AMT-Free Muni Bonds (MUB).

Tip 71: avoid parental bailouts: your kids’ college debt shouldn’t exceed a year of post-grad pay.

Tip 74: diversity for income: 32% for US high-quality bonds, such as Vanguard Total Bond Fund; 18% international and high-yield bonds, such as Vanguard Total International Bond; 25% large US companies with dividends; 10% international stocks with dividends…

Tip 77: make sure you have this hedge: one reason to own foreign stocks is that currency fluctuations can boost returns and add to diversification.

Tip 80: if you have enough in your IRA to leave to the next generation, but worry junior will cash it out, set up a trusteed IRA.

Tip 81: stretch those legs–and stretch your dollars. The healthier you are, the less of your nest egg you will need to spend as chronic disease can be costly.

Tip 82: if you are not qualified for Roth IRA, make a contribution to a non-deductible IRA, then immediately covert to a Roth.

Tip 85: put your portfolio in buckets, that is, segment your nest egg based on when you need the money.

Tip 91: move to a smaller house and average school district when your children have left.

To be continued next day with the last tip.

1, May 4, 2014

Trip to Beijing, April 2014

Filed under: China — admin @ 1:48 am

I left Kansas for Beijing on 4/12/2014 and arrived in Beijing on 4/14, having spent nearly 18 hours on the way.
4/12 3:48 pm departure from Kansas
5:55 pm arrival in Houston, TX
4/13 1:00 am departure from Houston
4/14 4:50 am arrival in Beijing

Back from Beijing, I departed at 3 pm on 4/29 and arrived in Houston at 3:40 pm local time on 4/29, nearly 14 hours long. I had to rush through border and luggage checks in the short transfer time as I needed to catch the transfer at 5:47 pm for Kansas. It took unusually long time for the border check at Houston airport. I was told it was a new international airport where people were not used to doing this. I got back to Kansas at 7:50 pm.

I had a wonderful time in Beijing this year for three reasons.
(1) My son came on 4/23 and left on 4/27. He went to a friend’s wedding in Hong Kong, from there to Thailand, Shanghai, Suzhou, then Beijing. It’s over 10 years when my son and I were both in Beijing. Of course, I was overjoyed to see him in Beijing.

(2) I met up with a high school, also college classmate, a good friend of mine whom I had not seen for over 30 years. To my surprise, she didn’t change much in terms of personality, the way she talks, etc. Of course, we all have aged physically.

(3) I had a great reunion with two boys of my middle and high school years for the first time since I left Tianjin in 1974. Of course, these four decades have left remarkable prints on all of us. I was too full to put into words when I saw them. One of the most handsome boys in the class has been transformed into what he himself called “a fat old man.” Actually, the other one is more so than this one. Still, we are what we used to be, though more relaxing and comfortable in our own skin. We talked, eagerly exchanging our life stories and the stories of our youth years. Like old friends, we felt nothing in between us, as if we hadn’t been separated for that long. Amazing!

1, May 3, 2014

What your tongue tells you about your health

Filed under: Health — admin @ 5:58 am

I used to think only traditional Chinese medicine studies a patient’s tongue, not any more until I read this article, “6 Things Your Tongue Tells You– It’s more than the doorman for your throat—it’s a diagnostic wonder tool” by PAIGE FOWLER.

Here are these six things, quoted from this article.

(1) The sign: Swollen grey/white balloon under your tongue
What it means: You could have a clogged salivary gland. When this occurs, something is blocking the tiny ducts so they can’t drain saliva, causing swelling, fluid build-up, and pain. One of the most common causes of a clogged duct is a salivary stone. “It’s a calcium deposit similar to a kidney stone,” says Mark Woff, D.D.S, chair of cariology and comprehensive care at New York University College of Dentistry. If it doesn’t go away on its own within a few days, make an appointment with your dentist—the deposit may need to be surgically removed.

(2) The sign: Sores with a halo around them
What it means: A healthy tongue is pink and relatively smooth with no lumps or bumps. If you notice any red or whitish patches, a spot with a red ring around it, white areas with a lace-like pattern, or an unhealing sore, alert your doctor or dentist—it could signal cancer. While rates of other types of cancer are on the decline, the incidence of oral cancer has increased approximately 25 percent over the past decade, possibly due to the rise in human papilloma virus (HPV), a risk factor for the disease.

(3) The sign: Thick red tongue
What it means: Check your diet—you could have a vitamin deficiency. Your tongue is one of the first places a vitamin B12 deficiency appears. The vitamin is essential for creating healthy red blood cells, and subpar levels can lead to anemia. With that disease, your tongue may feel sore and is sometimes said to appear “beefy.” If you eat a typical U.S. diet, you’re probably getting enough vitamin B12 since it’s mostly found in meat, poultry, milk, fish, and eggs. However, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan or have a digestive disorder such as celiac disease or Crohn’s disease, you may not be getting enough. Taking a multivitamin and eating fortified foods like cereal can help.

(4) The sign: Black, hairy-looking tongue
What it means: Did you recently take antibiotics? A course of the drugs can disrupt the normal bacteria in your yapper, causing an overgrowth that builds up on tiny round projections on your tongue called papillae. Instead of sloughing off like they normally do, the papillae can grow and give your tongue a hairy appearance. The good news: For the most part, it’s harmless and should go away on its own. However, the bacteria can cause bad breath and affect your ability to taste. “Brush your tongue really well with a toothbrush and toothpaste each day and you’ll help the normal flora return,” Dr. Wolff says.

(5) The sign: Swelling
What it means: Of all the symptoms to watch for, this requires the most immediate attention, since you could be having an allergic reaction. “It isn’t actually so much swelling of the tongue that occurs, but swelling of the airway behind the tongue that pushes the tongue forward, making it appear larger,” Dr. Wolff says. Without quick treatment, swelling in your mouth can block your airway and become life-threatening, Dr. Wolff adds. Seek medical attention right away.

(6) The sign: Dry, white glossy tongue
What it means: Dry mouth, or xerostomia, occurs when the mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva. This can cause uncomfortable dryness on the tongue and affect the balance of bacteria, which may cause a change in your tongue’s color and appearance. When left untreated, dry mouth can increase your risk of gum disease and tooth decay—normally, saliva deposits minerals that help keep your teeth healthy—and it may also increase your risk of oral infections. Drinking plenty of water and using a humidifier if you live in a dry environment can help. If dry mouth is a chronic problem, medications you take for allergies, high blood pressure, asthma, and other conditions may be to blame. Talk to your doc about switching prescriptions. You can also treat dry mouth with over-the-counter mouth rinses, which work like an artificial saliva substitute.

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