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

1, Oct 31, 2015

Make friends and be Healthy children at school and at home

Filed under: children,Education — admin @ 11:16 am

I read this article today Healthy School Year and thought of sharing with parents here, even though some of us already knew this, even though my children have all left home. It is a good one and I wouldn’t let go any good one without sharing it here.

“Grades may matter less than parents think By Natasha Persaud Feeling socially connected as a child could be more important to future happiness than good grades, according to new research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies. The Australian study tracked more than 800 men and women for 32 years, from age 3 onward, to discover pathways to adult wellbeing. Their model of wellbeing involved values such as:
(1) believing life is meaningful,
(2) social involvement at work and at play,
(3) having coping skills,
(4) and kindness and trust.
Remarkably, economic security wasn’t included because previous research suggests it’s not that important to happiness.

Why Parents and BFFs (Best Friends) Matter During childhood, parents and teachers assessed whether participants were confident, well-liked by peers or excluded from activities. During adolescence, the now teenagers performed self-assessments that gauged personal strengths, friendship quality, parental support, participation in groups and overall life satisfaction. Having someone to talk to if they had a problem or felt upset was very important.

Why should social interactions early in life matter? The study authors posit that it promotes healthy ways of relating to oneself, others and the world. The research, while preliminary, might be eye-opening for parents. While grades are important, fostering a good relationship with your son or daughter is more so. Likewise, helping your child form positive friendships may help him or her enjoy a truly good life later on.”
End of the article.

1, Oct 29, 2015

Do your best but don’t aim at perfection

Filed under: Career,Emotional Intelligence — admin @ 3:21 pm

I read this from Harvard Medical School newsletter. “Trying to be perfect can cause anxiety.” Below is the article. I shared it with a colleague of mine today.

“No one is “perfect.” Yet many people struggle to be, which can trigger a cascade of anxieties.
Perfectionism may be a strong suit or a stumbling block, depending on how it’s channeled, as clinical psychologist Jeff Szymanski explains. Dr. Szymanski is an associate instructor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and executive director of the International OCD Foundation.

“The core of all perfectionism is the intention to do something well,” says Dr. Szymanski. “If you can keep your eye on intention and desired outcome, adjusting your strategy when needed, you’re fine…. But when you can’t tolerate making a mistake, when your strategy is to make no mistakes, that’s when perfectionism starts veering off in the wrong direction.” In its most severe form, perfectionism can leave you unable to complete any task for fear of making a mistake.

To help you prioritize the projects and activities that mean the most to you and keep your personal strategy in line, Dr. Szymanski has shared the following exercise:
What do you find valuable in life? What would you want 50 years of your life to represent? If that seems overwhelming, think about where you want to put your energies for the next five years.

Think about your current goals and projects, and assign them priorities. Use the letters “ABCF” to help you decide where you want to excel (A), be above average (B), or be average (C), and what you can let go of (F). For example:

• A (100% effort): This is reserved for what’s most important to you. For example, if your career is most valuable, your goals might be to impress the boss, make sure clients are happy, put out good products at work.

• B (above average, maybe 80% effort): Perhaps you like playing golf or tennis or want to learn a new language. You enjoy these activities, but have no plans to go pro.

• C (average effort): Perhaps having a clean home is important, too. But how often does your home need to be cleaned? People aren’t coming to see it every day. Could you just clean up on the weekends? Or focus on a few rooms that get the most traffic?
• F (no effort): Time-consumers that don’t advance your values or bring you pleasure — for example, lining up all your hangers or folding all your clothes in a specific way. Do you have any tasks that, upon reflection, don’t really matter — you’ve just done them one way for so long that you’re on autopilot? These deserve to be pruned.”

1, Oct 24, 2015

Reading, a rarity now, writing, even worse

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:03 am

Yesterday I shared with some of my acquaintances, former classmates, friends on wechat my posting “Reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.”

I also shared it with my daughter. She always enjoys reading what I write. She encourages me to read and write more. In fact, she insists on being the first reader of my writing. Sometimes, I do feel encouraged. One old friend of mine is the same way.

I shared with a colleague of mine, hoping she would pick up this book. Sometimes, I wish I were part of a book club so that I will have a place to talk about what I read with others.

1, Oct 23, 2015

Reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Filed under: Book — admin @ 10:48 am

“In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.” –The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.

Although days have passed since I closed this book, I still can’t stop thinking about it.

It is a war time memoir of two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, about the events, love, hate, life and death, from 1939 to the end of World War II. The story is told through flashback in 1995, with Vianne reflecting upon those harrowing years living under Nazi occupation.

“In war we find out who we are.” Indeed, some French people became “collaborators”, helping Nazi to round up and deport Jewish people.

Both sisters had stood the ordeal of the war. They are vastly different in personality, yet both are brave in their own way and both have suffered excruciatingly gut-wrenching experiences at the hands of their Nazi occupants.

Isabelle, code named the Nightingale, chose the dangerous task of shepherding crashed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees Mountains to Spain, saving over 117 men. The seemingly weak Vianne risks her life to protect her own children and those of her Jewish neighbors.

The climax of Vianne’s greatest sacrifice comes when she allows herself to be raped by the hated German soldier who billets at her house in exchange for the promise that he would not harm her children.

On this, Isabelle said, “What I learned in the camps, …They couldn’t touch my heart. They couldn’t change who I was inside. My body, they broke that in the first days, but not my heart… Whatever he did, it was to your body, but your body will heal…”

The next great sacrifice comes when Julien, their father, learns that Isabelle was captured and tortured. The Nazis tried to make her reveal the identity of Nightingale. Julien turned himself in as Nightingale so that his daughter could be released. For this, he was summarily executed.

Many words rush to mind when I try to grasp the theme of this book — courage, strength, sacrifice, bravery, endurance, motherly love. But none of these words are powerful enough to describe these extraordinary, unforgettable people.

1, Oct 21, 2015

Don’t expect perfection of others; tolerate other people’s oversights

Filed under: Emotional Intelligence — admin @ 8:49 pm

This happened on 10/20/2015 when a colleague of mine had one of her impatient moments. During a teleconference, they emailed us PowerPoint slides for us to go with the conference. She became frustrated when she couldn’t open the attached slides. Blood rushed to her head as she acted out her frustration. She was raving about things like “If I need it for my job, I should have it in my computer.” She almost banged her mouse on the desk.

It turned out PowerPoint application was not installed on her computer. I have it on my computer. So I immediately converted the slides into pdf file and emailed it to her.

I can’t believe some people are so short in patience and quick at building up steam and letting it out. They remind me of a terrible two-year-old. The funny thing is this kind of behavior seems to be the norm around my workplace.

They expect perfection of others. They expect to have all their ducks lined up in a row for them. They have zero tolerance of other people’s slightest oversight. Even if they know nobody is perfect, including themselves, they still won’t compromise their expectations.

This is what I shared with my daughter and hope she remembers it.
(1) Don’t expect perfection of others.
(2) Tolerate and forgive other people’s flaws and oversights.
(3) Develop problem-solving skill.

1, Oct 14, 2015

One day in Paris, part 7, September 8, 2015

Filed under: Travel — admin @ 8:04 am

On the morning of 9/8, we felt a bit sad when we realized that today would be our last day in Paris. We would leave for Charles De Gaulle Airport the next morning.

Every day when we went out early in the morning, the street was rather empty. As the day went by, we saw more people out and on the run. One interesting thing we observed in Paris is, except early in the morning, we can always see people sitting outdoor in some eatery. They are conveniently situated outside cafes, and the rows of clean chairs and tables outside all seem to face pedestrians, like front row seats.

I remember sitting in a place called Café Français, right around the Bastille fortress. As we ate, my daughter and I people-watched and made discreet comments in Chinese. The locals appear to drink profusely, smoke publicly and have a seemingly endless amount of time for chatting.

One interesting phenomenon about these eateries is that their chairs almost always face streetward. At first, I thought this arrangement was meant to facilitate people-watching (like what we did). Nope. We started throwing out random guesses later. At one time, I said perhaps they were afraid that someone would either grab their bags or assault them from street, because petty crime tends to be higher in large, touristic cities. My daughter posited that having a single row of chairs per row of tables was meant to save space.

My daughter planned to go to Jeu de Paume and a few other art galleries. She said Jeu de Paume was an art center for modern and postmodern photography. According to the map I checked, it is located in the northeast corner of the Place de la Concorde. That area seems lined up with a few other famous places of interest. I was much more eager to see the Place de la Concorde than postmodern photography.

When we got off the bus at Concorde, we landed on its northwest corner, which we didn’t know at the time, so we fell back on old tricks — asking people. We stumbled onto a policeman, but it turned out he wasn’t sure where Jeu de Paume was. Still, he was eager to be helpful and directed us to go further north along the Avenue Gabriel. We did, but it turned out the direct opposite of where we ought to have headed.

As we meandered further away from the Place de la Concorde, I felt something was off. The Avenue Gabriel seemed quiet and relatively deserted compared to other museums we had visited. Jeu de Paume was supposedly just off the Concorde. Time to ask people again.

Strangely, there weren’t really other pedestrians around except for a group of policemen standing and chatting on the north side of the Avenue Gabriel. We were on the south side of the Avenue.

As we crossed the Avenue, they all stopped talking and turned to us, seemingly on high alert. They were armed to the teeth! They didn’t know where Jeu de Paume was neither. “That must be a really tiny museum,” I said to myself. One of them, a smart one, used his cellphone to google it and found it for us.

As we said merci and was ready to cross the Avenue, one police told us to keep clear from north side. I asked “pourquoi?” We learned beyond that tall wall is Ambassade des Etats Unis d’Amerique! Wow, the US embassy! The surrounding is heavily barricaded and the policemen acted like they were facing imminent danger at any second. No wander they were on high alert when they saw us crossing the Avenue; no wonder there weren’t many people around.

Years ago, I went to the US embassy in Beijing. It looked like a country fair or flea market with plenty of people loitering outside or doing business. It did not look drastically different from its surroundings. The gate guards looked normal and relaxed. I guess for the US embassy there is much more to guard against in Paris than in Beijing.

We left Jeu de Paume and headed for our next destination. I must say the scene outside Jeu de Paume was more entertaining to me than what I saw inside.

We went to an area where there was a concentration of art galleries, one next to the other, either for one individual artist or for a handful of them. Many of them seemed very interested in selling rather than exhibiting. To me, the prices they asked seemed exorbitant. “Good luck on that,” I said to myself.

The highlight of the day was meeting with my high school best friend at her apartment in the area of Invalides. Her own daughter was visiting her, too. Since my daughter is a vegetarian for this year (from one birthday to the next), she served a special dish for me–escargo! She prepared two kinds of dumplings for us, one with veggie filling another kind with meat. The homemade meal was especially delicious to us because we had been eating outside all these days in Paris.

Of course, as we have learned, no French meal is complete without some kind of alcohol. She dished out a variety of drinks. I tried to stay away from it for fear of looking like a drunkard because I have low tolerance for alcohol. My daughter had her share of the fun and even took with her a small bottle of Cointreau. We had a wonderful dinner and a very enjoyable gathering at her apartment.

That concluded our Paris adventure! The next day we would be heading home. Already I started feeling homesick for Paris!

1, Oct 10, 2015

One day in Paris, part 6, September 7, 2015

Filed under: Travel — admin @ 8:24 pm

This was how we started every day in Paris — an early rise, the application of toiletries, and a croissant from one of the bakeries near our bus stop. A friend of mine later asked how I could remember Paris’ street names. What I would do to prepare for each day was simple: I studied the map, found out which bus route we would take, and recorded all relevant street names on a notepad. Then off we went with the map and the notepad.

Even with that level of preparation, we almost never reached our location without getting lost once or twice. When we looked back on those days, it was so much fun and such an adventure.

On 9/7, my daughter planned to visit three places: the Cité de la Mode et du Design, the Cité de l’architecture et du Patrimoine, and the Palais de Tokyo. We would go to the fashion and design school first.

As always, the directions on the map was as clear as daylight– we would hop on a bus and get off at Gare de Lyon which is not far from the Seine river. We would cross the river and the museum would be right off the bridge.

I had a clear picture in my head of the location of Gare de Lyon and the river, but with a cloudy day, we couldn’t tell which direction we were headed in after we emerged from the metro. We walked and walked and still couldn’t see the river. The station couldn’t be that far. So we stopped, asked a passer-by and learned we were heading north when we needed to go southward.

After lots of merci’s, we turned toward the river. Meanwhile, we laughed and told each other, “See, good thing we asked someone, otherwise, we’d never see the right river.”

After crossing the Seine, we got lost again because the Cité de la Mode et du Design was nowhere in sight. I remembered it was not far from and to the east of the bridge, but the roads looked so perplexing. We walked a little while before we decided to stop and ask people again.

It turns out the museum was right off the Pont Charles de Gaulle. When we were wandering around the north side of the river, we crossed the Pont d’Austerlitz, which is far west of the de Gaulle bridge.

While my daughter was having her fun time in the galleries, I climbed up to the roof where a variety of vegetables, flowers, and even fruit trees were grown. I sat down on a bench, resting my tired feet and enjoying the panoramic view over the Seine. At that moment, Mao’s poem surfaced, “You can’t be considered a true man if you cannot reach the top of the Great Wall.” Funny that I gave myself a pat on the back as if I had climbed that height.

From there, we took a bus to our next museum, the Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine. From the map, we knew the architecture museum was not far from Guimet, the Asian art museum. But trust me, that didn’t make it any easier to find.

Eventually, we arrived after walking back and forth on the Avenue de President Wilson. I felt like I had completed a whole month’s worth of exercise in less than one day. Once inside, I grabbed a chair in the cafe and spent the next few hours there. My daughter jokingly said, “It seems like the first thing you try to spot in a museum is a chair.” That is absolutely true.

It was around 7:30 pm after our dinner. My daughter still planned to visit the Palais de Tokyo. It is conveniently in the same neighborhood, so off we went. I really find it hard to enjoy contemporary art, so I told my daughter to go inside while I was at the cafe and gift shop.

Unsurprisingly, there were some Chinese in the cafe. One young couple was talking in Chinese, so I greeted the girl in Chinese, in an attempt to make small talk. She aloofly answered, “What can I do for you?”, to which I responded, “Nothing.”

After they left, another group of Chinese came over and I was able to chat with a few of them. We left the museum around 10 PM. I knew my daughter wanted to stay longer, but I thought it was not safe to be outside too late.

I started writing this day’s events on October 7, exactly a month after these events. When looking back, I had such a fond memory of our days in Paris.

1, Oct 6, 2015

An otherwise interesting piece of communication

Filed under: Communication — admin @ 2:52 pm

Today a colleague of mine at another location told my sidekick that one physician’s certain account had expired. Since my sidekick was busy, I took it over.

I contacted that person. Here’s the email exchange between us.

I said, “I just talked to Dr. … about his expired … account. He said he would renew it on Thursday morning.”
The other person said, “Does he have the paperwork or do I need to resend?”
Me, “I don’t know what he has. Perhaps it will help if you could resend it.”
The other one sent 3 docs, saying “Attached are the forms he needs to renew his …”
Me, “I will email back to you the three documents after he signs and dates on them. What else does he need to do after that?”
The other one, “I will need the original documents.”

She didn’t answer my question. I will send the original to you, then what next? I guess that person thinks it’s none of my business to know what to do next. I would be contacted if there was a need. Interesting. So I stopped here.

If I ask others to help me with something like this, I would write this. “If he still has the documents, please ask him to review, sign and date on them. If he doesn’t have them, let me know and I will resend them. Please send them back to me the original after he has done so. I will take care of the rest after I receive the original.”

1, Oct 3, 2015

Reading The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Filed under: Book — admin @ 12:53 am

The novel “debuted at number one on the The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers of 2015 list (combined print and e-book) dated February 1, 2015, and remained in the top position for 13 consecutive weeks.”

The plot is rather straightforward, centered around three women and one man.
Tom, a charming liar;
Rachel, Tom’s ex-wife;
Anna, Tom’s ex-mistress and current wife;
Megan, Tom’s current mistress;
All three are Tom’s victims. Tom cheated on Rachel when he started having an affair with Anna. Tom cheated on Anna with Megan. Tom then murders Megan, who is pregnant with his baby. Rachel finds out and confronts Tom who attempts to also kill Rachel. The story ends with Rachel killing Tom in self-defense.

Rachel, the protagonist, seems the most unlikely heroine. When you first read the book, you can’t help lamenting the wretched life that she is leading–an alcoholic, unable to tell what’s real because of frequent blackouts, fat, lying, frazzled, unemployed. And because of these qualities, she is devoid of self-respect and self-value.

The cathartic part is in the end she finally sees through Tom’s manipulation and finds the strength at a critical moment to save herself. She also wins over and discovers a most unlikely ally in Anna. I think she turns out to be a true heroine when she brings justice for all three of them.

1, Oct 2, 2015

Exercise and the Quality of your Life

Filed under: Exercise,Healthy aging — admin @ 6:30 pm

I will not let go anything from Harvard Medical School, even if I have read it many times. Here’s one on exercise and the quality of your life.

“Exercise not only helps you live longer — it helps you live better. In addition to making your heart and muscles stronger and fending off a host of diseases, it can also improve your mental and emotional functioning and even bolster your productivity. Exercise can improve your quality of life.

1. Wards off depression: While a few laps around the block can’t solve serious emotional difficulties, researchers know there is a strong link between regular exercise and improved mood. Aerobic exercise prompts the release of mood-lifting hormones, which relieve stress and promote a sense of well-being. In addition, the rhythmic muscle contractions that take place in almost all types of exercise can increase levels of the brain chemical serotonin, which combats negative feelings.

2. Sharpens wits: Physical activity boosts blood flow to the brain, which may help maintain brain function. It also promotes good lung function, a characteristic of people whose memories and mental acuity remain strong as they age. While all types of physical activity help keep your mind sharp, many studies have shown that aerobic exercise, in particular, successfully improves cognitive function.

3. Improves sleep: Regular aerobic exercise provides three important sleep benefits: it helps you fall asleep faster, spend more time in deep sleep, and awaken less during the night. In fact, exercise is the only known way for healthy adults to boost the amount of deep sleep they get — and deep sleep is essential for your body to renew and repair itself.

4. Protects mobility and vitality: Regular exercise can slow the natural decline in physical performance that occurs as you age. By staying active, older adults can actually keep their cardiovascular fitness, metabolism, and muscle function in line with those of much younger people. And many studies have shown that people who were more active at midlife were able to preserve their mobility — and therefore, their independence — as they aged.

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