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

1, Feb 10, 2012

Good Reading Habit Helps Improve Writing Skill

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:21 am

Last weekend, my daughter spent a large chunk of her time reading a novel for an essay competition. To be sure, she likes the novel very much and would like to spend as much time on it as I allow.

Being a fun-spoiler, I kept reminding her of not reading for fun. “If you want to write a good essay afterward, you have to start thinking about it while you are reading it. You have to engage in active reading.” I kept talking, even though I was sure I did not have all her ears.

Later I shared this view with a friend of mine. One way to develop a good writing skill is to cultivate a good reading habit, that is, engaging in active reading.

For most people, they read with their eyes, especially fictions. Active reading means you read with your eyes, head and hands.

With your head, you debate or argue with the author, you think or figure out the author’s intention, like what is his purpose of creating this or that character, what does he try to say through his character, are you convinced by him, etc.

With your hand, you write down what you think or jot down notes while reading or mark down places you enjoy most.

When you read with your eyes, head, and hands, you read critically and effectively. With this enhanced critical thinking ability, writing will come easily. By the way, this was the method that I employed when I worked on my Ph.D dissertation. It works like magic.

1, Feb 1, 2012

Reading Madam Secretary: A Wonderful Lady

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:46 am

I read Madam Secretary: A Memoir by Madeleine Albright early January. I was very much impressed by her experience. She was in one sense a pioneer and an inspiration. She grew up during the time when women’s place was at home, serving their husbands and children. Even though, she did her best to play her role, she managed to get her Ph.D., and after divorce, moved on to live a very fulfilled life. Here are some of the notes from the book.

After giving birth to her twice babies, her life was changed. “So began a new segment in my life, one defined by formula, diapers, rattles, burps, teething, hugs, frequent weight checks, visits to the doctor, and shrieking, splashing baths. I was so proud of my beautiful and good daughters; I was also growing frustrated because I wanted to make full use of my education.” p. 52

“Twice in two years, I have had to leave good jobs with good futures to follow my husband’s path. And that was even before I had children. Now, even to get a job, I would have to find and hire a dependent nurse and pay her perhaps more than I could make myself. Perhaps I am being overly pessimistic. Perhaps I could go out tomorrow and get a job as a typist. The next question is, why bother? Do I want a job merely to have a job, or do Iwant to work in order to be doing something worthwhile?”

“I must admit though that I feel somewhat like a pioneer. I am not satisfied to sit back for the rest of my life and contemplate in which order to clean the rooms. I want to find a solution and still feel that somehow it must be possible to be a responsible mother, a good wife and have an intellectually satisfying job.” p. 53

While her babies were small, she could not land on a full-time job. When her hope of getting a journalist job was gone, she enrolled in a graduate program at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies — “Even though I participated in these activities, I did so part-time because I had begun graduate work at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. I had given up hope of a career in journalism but I thought I might follow my father’s lead and become a college professor. I was taking the full load of five courses, plus Russian.” p. 54

She later continued her graduate at Columbia University. “In addition to working toward my Ph.D., I decided to try to obtain a certificate from the university’s Russian Institute.” p. 56

All this hard work had prepared her for the role that she later assumed, that is, being the first female Secretary of State of the U.S., taking the path that most women in her generation not even dared to imagine.

1, Dec 18, 2011

Reading Not For the Sake of Reading

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:48 am

While at office hearing people talk about Christmas shopping, I mentioned getting some books for Christmas as I believe books are gifts of ideas and wisdom… Before I finished my thought on books, my colleague was hurriedly letting me know that everybody in her family read and read a lot as if reading was a cool thing to do and that she was not un-cool.

To be sure, I also emphasized reading to my children, not because it is cool though and definitely not read for the sake of reading.

While reading opens a window to the world larger than your physical surrounding, it both entertains and enlightens the readers.

I have told my children to always engage dialogue or argument with the author, or pick one author against another, to learn, to distinguish, to grow, and to become wiser and better… because of reading.

1, Dec 14, 2011

“Reading Makes a Full Person”

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:01 am

Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.” — Francis Bacon

Yesterday, I had a nice long chat with an old classmate of mine back in kindergarden years. She spends most of her time reading non-fictions in Chinese. Books certainly have kept her company and made her a wise and happy person.

While I don’t have as much time as she does, I try to read whenever I can. At office, while people are chatting over the most trivial matters, I turn to my books. I make a point of not wasting my time on small talks.

I know my books always leave me thinking. And I am a happy person as long as my mind is actively engaged. One only needs to remember Francis Bacon’s word on reading.

1, Sep 29, 2011

The Inevitable Death of Daisy Miller, Her Beauty, Stupidity, and Recklessness

Filed under: Reading — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 12:33 am

I read this book sometime in summer — Daisy Miller: A Study by Henry James. On the surface, the book seems to present a contrast between the sophisticated European culture and the innocent, uncultured, and natural American one represented by Daisy Miller. The innocent one seems to be victimized by being misunderstood, ridiculed and rejected by her compatriots, the European-Americans.

On another level, it appears like another story in which an innocent girl was ruined by a man, like Tess in Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. However, my reading of the book reveals a different message. Rather than blaming others, I see Daisy Miller has all the ingredients to qualify her for her early death.

She is dangerously careless and heedless, always acting on impulse, and most unwisely rebellious and impudent. On top of it all, she does not have the mental capacity to distinguish between the real gentleman and the fake one.

Hence, against the warning of some good-will friends, she followed a handsome Italian, a phony gentleman, to a place plagued by Roman fever late at night. As it is fully expected, this typical I-do-what-I-want girl contracted this fever and met her death soon after that.

The book, out around 1878, is still relevant today in light of the fatal consequence of these qualities possessed by Daisy Miller.

1, Jul 28, 2011

On Creativity and Eccentricity, Part II

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:21 am

Here’s how you get your score:
(1) Count the number of YES to question 1, 3, 4. Add those to the number of NO to question 2, 5. Higher scores are more indicator of creative thinking patten. 5 is the maximum.

(2) Count the number of YES for question 6 through 10. Higher scores makes it more likely that you have schizotypal personality, which is associated with odd or eccentric behavior.

Here are some fast facts from the article about creative eccentrics:
(1) People who are highly creative often have odd thoughts and behaviors — vice versa.
(2) Both creativity and eccentricity may be the result of genetic variations that increase cognitive disinhibition–the brain’s failure to filter our extraneous information.
(3) When unfiltered information reaches conscious awareness in the brains of people who are highly intelligent and can process this information without being overwhelmed, it may lead to exceptional insights and sensations.

I am so delighted in learning that there are something good about being creative-eccentric.

1, Jul 27, 2011

On Creativity and Eccentricity, Part I

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:18 am

On 5/28/2011, Saturday afternoon, once again, I found myself sitting at the diner section of HyVee waiting for my daughter’s drawing lesson. I picked up Scientific American Mind, May-June 2011 issue, and read “The Unleashed Mind: Highly creative people often seem weirder than the rest of us. Now researchers know why,” by Shelley Carson. It is an interesting article. It provides a list of question testing how creative or eccentric you are. Try for yourself and see if you are a Creative Eccentric?

(1) Do you often have ideas without knowing where they came from?
(2) Do you consider yourself a highly logic person?
(3) Do you often think or speak metaphors?
(4) Do you have a broad range of interests?
(5) Do you have trouble spending time alone without turning on the TV or other electronic devices?
(6) Do you believe in telepathic communication?
(7) Have you ever felt the presence of someone in the room with you when you knew you were alone?
(8) Do you believe that your dreams may sometimes be previews of future events?
(9) Do you believe that certain events or objects are signs that may have been provided to help you make important decisions?
(10) Do you believe there may be forces at work in the world that cannot be detected with scientific instruments?
(11) Do you often feel like a square peg in a round hole?
To be continued…

1, Jun 30, 2011

Connected: The Interactions Between Your Associations and You, Part V

Filed under: Reading,Women — admin @ 12:33 am

Continue with my notes on this wonderful book, CONNECTED: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler, 2009. I first posted my reading notes on this book toward the end of February of this year. Here’s something rather interesting regarding the impact of widowhood on men and women.

The finding is men suffer more from widowhood effect than women, that is, many of them die not long after their wives passed away.

The explanation is this. “… it may be that when men die, the things they brought to the marriage that had the greatest impact on their spouse’s health, namely money, is still around, such as a house and a pension. Conversely, when women die, the thing they brought to a marriage that most affect their partners’ health, namely, emotional support, a connection to others, and a well-run home, disappears. Widowed men often find themselves cut off from the social world and lacking social support.” I believe some men will challenge this finding by arguing against the importance of women in their lives.

1, Jun 11, 2011

The Wit and Wisdom of Benjamin Franklin

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:57 am

On 1/5/2011, while at office helping with the new hire training, I felt a bit bored and took up magazine The Saturday Evening Post, 3/2004 issue. There is a page on the wit and wisdom of Benjamin Franklin. Some of them are indeed wise and worth noting.

On greediness –Avarice and happiness never saw each other; how then should they become acquainted?
Wealth is not he that has it, but he that enjoys it.

On Christmas celebration –How many observe Christ’s birthday, How few his precepts! O, ‘its easier to keep holidays than Commandments.

On laziness —Sloth (like rust) consumes faster than labour wears: the used key is always bright.

On facing one’s mistakes– How few there are who have courage enough to own their faults, or resolution enough to mend them!
To err is human, to repent divine, to persist devilish.

On being calm –He that can compose himself, is wiser than he that composes books! If passion drives, let reason hold the reins.

On forgiving–Doing an injury puts you below your enemy; revenging one makes you but even with him; forgiving it sets you above him.

On honesty–Avoid dishonest gain; no price can recompence the pangs of vice. Who has deceiv’d thee so oft as thy self?

1, Feb 28, 2011

Connected: The Interactions Between Your Associations and You, Part IV

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:24 am

Continue with reading notes from this book.
Three Degrees of Influence Rule: Our friends and their friends and their friends affect our happiness!
1. Happy and unhappy people cluster among themselves
2. Unhappy people are on periphery of the network
3. A person is 15% more likely to be happy if directly connected to a happy person (1st degree)
4. At 2nd degrees 10% more likely to be happy
5. At 3rd degrees 6% more likely to be happy
6. Each unhappy friend deceases the likelihood of happiness 7%
7. An increase of $10,000 of income per year yields only a 2% increase chance in happiness. Compare that to a 15% chance from a happy friend and a 6-10% from someone you may have never met, but to whom you are indirectly tied!

Alone in the Crowd, loneliness is a discrepancy between the desire for connection and the actual connections–spreads according to the three degrees rule. Each extra friend reduces the frequency of loneliness by 2 days per year (the average person feels lonely 48 days per year).

Strong ties affect people more deeply. Weak ties often link more people. People need both strong and weak ties in order to network successfully. Mix of strong ties to previous collaborators and weak ties for fresh faces balances rapport, organization, and creative ability.

Weak Ties = More potential connections! They may not be strong, but they open more doors. e.g. one has many friends but very few close ones. People with many connections (both strong and weak) are more likely to be at the center of a social network.

1, Feb 27, 2011

Connected: The Interactions Between Your Associations and You, Part III

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:16 am

This posting consists of reading notes from this book.
We determine the structure of our network: how many people we are connected to. We influence the density of interconnections between friends and family. We control how “central” we are within the social network.

Some surprising findings regarding family feelings,
1. The strongest path was from daughters to parents
2. Parents had little affect on daughter
3. Fathers had a significant affect on wives and sons (What this means … when a father returns grumpy from work the whole household soon becomes miserable)… Ouch…

Even more surprising is this finding — happiness, it’s in the Genes. Long term happiness is affected by:
50% genes
10% circumstance (i.e. quality of life)
40% attitude (what you think and do)
I surely wish I have this in my gene and let the rest work its way toward building my happiness.

1, Feb 26, 2011

Connected: The Interactions Between Your Associations and You, Part II

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:07 am

The good part about the book is you can choose not to be a passive product of your environment by actively exerting influence upon your friends and those you associate with.

“If we are affected by our embeddedness in social networks and influenced by others who are closely or distantly tied to us, we necessarily lose some power over our own decision. … But the flip side of this realization is that people can transcend themselves and their own limitations. In this book, we argue that our interconnection is not only a natural and necessary part of our lives but also a force for good. Just as brains can do things that no single neuron can do, so can social networks do things that no single person can do.”

When the authors were asked “Are we better off if we stay away from friends with negative habits?” they answered,

“No. Stay connected! Although bad things can spread through networks, the overall effect of a close personal connection is usually positive. On the average, every friend makes us healthier and happier. So instead of dumping friends who do things we don’t want to copy, we should work to influence them to change.”

I love this book because I don’t need to dump some of my old friends.

1, Feb 25, 2011

Connected: The Interactions Between Your Associations and You, Part I

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:58 am

Last Sunday, 2/20, while my daughter was at Barnes & Noble’s, I picked up this book, CONNECTED: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler, 2009. The message of the book is clearly given — people are the products of their environment. If you want to know that person, take a close look at his circle of friends. As a Chinese saying goes,

However, to me, the strength of the book lies in its promise of some meaning and directions for social changes. When the authors were asked “Can people work to change their neighborhood environment to create positive effects on themselves and their community?” the answer from the authors is,

“Yes, absolutely! Make good behavior visible. A vast amount of research shows that we copy others and we shape our ideas about what is acceptable behavior when we see how others behave. Gandhi said, ‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world.’ But this really starts much closer to home: you must be the change you wish to see in your social network. If you want your friends to be healthy, make healthy choices yourself. And, as it turns out, this bounces back and helps you too.”

Same thing can be said of a parent. Whatever a parent wants to see in her children, be that whatever herself. It is so lovely true!

1, Feb 4, 2011

Travelling, Reading, and Listening to Music

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:01 am

“Travelling is using money to pull your physical self out of daily routine and into a new experience and a different level of existence. Reading is one kind of travelling, so is listening to music. It facilitates your soul to travel beyond your physical presence. A writer once commented, the benchmark of a great person is his/her ability to transcend his present life and into another realm of state.”

This piece was graciously sent to me by a friend of mine on 1/24/2011. It was so truly expressed. Since not many of us can afford to travel as much as we wish outside our immediate world, reading and music make up the difference. So, grab a book and let your soul fly and soar in an unlimited realm of your own creation.

1, Jan 4, 2011

Education of Heart and Soul and Development of Character

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:28 am

During the Thanksgiving week, I took up this book again as it is rather informative as how to get into a good college. According to the author, Gao Yanding, it takes a good design to complete the task of a child’s K to 12 education and good education is the must to one’s success. To be sure, he is a wonderful and dedicated father.

I give tons of credit to the author for such a large quantity of helpful microscopic details. Yet, I always have sensed that something is missing in the book, something about giving the child a wholesome education on his heart and soul, character and personality. No mapping is complete without taking care of this.

Consider these — what will happen if the child is not admitted into a good college? What will he do beyond classroom if he is in? How can we prepare the child so that he will be capable of meeting challenges, defeat, failure, frustration and obstacle inevitably awaiting for him in his life’s journey? What is the ultimate goal of all this schooling? etc.

I believe a child is successful if he is equipped with a high level of responsibility, an independent mind, a strong body and tough character, with due accomplishments, and the maturity and the readiness to face the world. Such a person is a success even if he/she has not entered a good college. Because these qualities will help him beyond the door of a college. Otherwise, he won’t go far even if he has mapped into Harvard campus.

1, Nov 10, 2010

Modern Scholars Audio Books Where Great Professors Teach You

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:16 am

I have been enjoying listening to great books while working at office. On 9/1/2010, my colleague asked me what I was listening to. I mentioned to her Modern Scholar lectures. I showed her the course list from Modern Scholar website. “Since I don’t have much time for reading, I can always work and listen at the same time,” I explained to her. I did not share with her why I chose these lectures instead of something else.

These lectures, offered by great professors in their fields, free to public via public library, have been wonderful companions to my daily work. With their words ringing in my ears, it always gives me a warm fuzzy feeling knowing that I am with some professors while at work. Other than learning from these lectures, it also serves as an escape from daily mundaneness into a place I thought I belong.

If you like learning and knowledge, you belong to the community of learners and scholars, that is, folks at universities. I wish my children could see the benefits of these audio books and lectures and find time for them later in their lives.

1, Sep 28, 2010

The Dream Theme in Of Mice and Men

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:21 am

Both my daughter and I have read more than once Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. There is so much to learn in this little book.

One theme that might not have been picked up as the main one, often returns to me. That is, the conflict and contrast between ideals and reality, as fully demonstrated in George Milton’s repeated narrative of their shared dream, the one in which he and Lennie Small would own a piece of land and live there peacefully, free from any outside harm and danger.

The more I think of it, the more strongly I feel that this theme reflects a larger reality than it appears to. For many people, they have their dreams at some point in their lives, yet, like George and Lennie, their dreams all have gone up in smoke because they do not have the will power to get closer to their dreams.

On 9/24/2010, a Friday afternoon, when we drove back from Ice Sport, my daughter and I talked with great enthusiasm about her dream and her short-term goal at this point of her life. I told her, “In medical field, we have a saying, ‘If it’s not written, it hasn’t happened’ After we get back home, you must commit it in writing and follow it through. After all, we don’t want our dreams to end up like that of George and Lennie’s.”

1, Sep 27, 2010

Skills Can be Taught; Tenacity Cannot

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:40 am

On the Sunday of 7/18, while I was waiting for my daughter’s skating lesson, I was reading a book by Atul Gawende, Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science, 2002. I shared with my daughter on the way back the residence experience that is detailed at the beginning of the book. Here are some notes from the book.

On talent and practice, “Surgeons, as a group, adhere to a curious egalitarianism. They believe in practice, not talent… Skill, surgeons believe, can be taught; tenacity cannot.”

There have now been many studies of elite performers–international violinists, chess grand masters, professional ice-skaters, mathematicians, and so forth — and the biggest differences researchers find between them and lesser performers is the cumulative amount of deliberate practice they have had. Indeed, the most important talent may be for practice itself.”

“…the most important way in which innate factors play a role may be in one’s willingness to engage in sustained training.” Top performers, more than others, have the will to keep practice even if they dislike it.

The early part of this book reminds me of my posting on 8/2/2010 “Common Traits Found in Three Geniuses.”

1, Aug 2, 2010

The Common Traits Found in Three Geniuses

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:47 am

While waiting for my daughter’s art class at her teacher’s house on 6/19/2010, I was reading a very interesting article carried on the New Yorker August 2, 1999, “The Physical Genius: What do Wayne Gretzky, Yo-Yo Ma, and a brain surgeon named Charlie Wilson have in common?” by Malcolm Gladwell. Driving on the way back home, I was excited about the article and was eager sharing it with her.

The article details the traits shared by these three genius in sports, music and brain surgery. Though engaged in different fields, they will excel in tasks involving high-demand percetual motor abilities. Here are their common traits.

(1) They are all extremely dedicated to their respective field, having spent long hours practicing. This tendency show itself at a very early age. Thus, these geniuses have applied greater diligence to perfecting their skills, nothing of the myth that they are just talented and can produce great work effortlessly.

(2) They all engage in the unique use of imagery. “What psychologists study people who are expert at motor tasks, they find that almost all of them use their imaginations in a very particular and sophisticated way… Yo-Yo Ma told me that he remembers riding on a bus, at the age of seven, and solving a difficult musical problem by visualizing himself playing the piece on the cello.”

(3) These geniuses are extremely intolerant of their own mistakes, no matter how small. They are seeking perfection. “They were the best. They had the ability to rethink everything that they’d done and imagine how they might have done it differently.”

Nothing extraordinary comes by accident. Now you know what you have to do if you want to be the best. For further reading on this article, see the New Yorker archive online,

1, Jul 18, 2010

Learn to Appreciate Truth, Kindness, and Beauty in Books

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:13 am

On 6/23/2010, my daughter was reading a novel for school. While talking to her about this book, I mentioned to her To Kill a Mockingbird. Most children of her age do not enjoy reading To Kill a Mockingbird. They gravitate toward books like Twilight.

I told my daughter it was high time that she appreciated the true beauty found in the books she reads. “The main character, Atticus, embodies so many fine qualities. Don’t you see beauty in all this? Beauty is not appearance. True beauty is found in people like Atticus.” said I.

Atticus exemplified kindness, compassion, and forgiveness when he makes an effort to be polite and kind to Mr. Dubose even though Dubose has not been nice to him and his children. He stands by what he believes and shows great courage when he stays at the jailhouse to protect Tom Robinson, the wrongly accused black man, from the white mob attack, even though he knows the danger and risk involved.

He uses Mrs. Dubose as an example of true courage to show his children that courage does not mean a man with a gun. Courage means you fight for what you believe is right, whether or not you will win in the end. What a great father!

Remember the song performed by Teng Lijun– “The story of the small town?” It includes all the truth, kindness, and beauty valued in life. I hope my children can reach a deeper appreciation of what people value in life.

P.S. I realize I sound so old-fashioned, like someone from your history book.

1, Jun 1, 2010

Don’t Turn Silver Spoon in Their Mouths into Silver Dagger in Their Backs

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:05 am

Happy International Children’s Day! How I miss those fun days.

Every wealthy Chinese parents should read this book, Life Is What You Make It: Find Your Own Path to Fulfillment, by Peter Buffett, the son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett.

Instead of yielding to the dominant material culture and wasting his time wallowing in riches and wealth like many Chinese fu-er-dai rich-second-generation, Peter Buffett beat out his own path as a musician and then a writer, seeking out for spiritual fulfillment. He pursues his own passions, lives out his own dream, and has achieved his own accomplishment which no money and wealth can buy. See my posting on China’s fu-er-dai, 5/6/2010.

According to Peter, if children of wealthy parents allow the silver spoon in their mouths to control their lives, that silver spoon will become a “silver dagger in your back” and makes it impossible for any attempt at personal achievement. Thus, wealth ruins more than helps the next generation.

It is an absolute must for wealthy parents on this International Children’s Day.

1, May 14, 2010

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Re-read with My Children Part 4

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:23 am

I once felt sympathetic for Dr. Jekyll, believing that he was gripped by the inner devil in the form of Mr. Hyde. Lately, I thought of the murder of Sir Danvers Carew, a respectful member of parliament by Mr. Hyde and Dr. Jekyll’s reaction to this murder.

When he handed to his friend Utterson a forged letter of Mr. Hyde, he was cheating his long-time friend, which is unforgiving and despicable. On this thought, my sympathy for Jekyll evaporates in thin air. Jekyll the murderer is a crowdly villian and deserves nothing less than this horrible ending. Nothing comes from nothing. Jekyll has done numerous harm and damages to people and society. He is also responsible for Dr. Lanyon’s death. There is no escape that he shall end this way.

Remember the rule: bad deeds always yield bad return. Thus happily we see the bad guy meet his shameful end.

1, Mar 31, 2010

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Re-read with My Children Part III

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:44 am

On the way back from my daughter’s art class, I mentioned to her another possible ending for Dr. Jekyll.

“Dr. Jekyll starts his downfall with Mr. Hyde all by himself without ever telling anyone. Do you think there will be a different ending if Dr. Jekyll confides his problem to his close friend before it is too late for him?” After all, his friend can help him by taking away the transformation drug or treat his addiction to Mr. Hyde like we treat drug-addicts today.

“No, I don’t think so. I think he will not tell his friend, as he does not want his friends to see the other side of him. Plus, I think he is bad in the beginning,” said she. Indeed, Dr. Jekyll first ushers into his life Mr. Hyde so that he can find an output for his gaiety life. Still, I would think he has the desire to be both good and bad and even in the end he still wants to be Dr. Jekyll. Thus, if it is possible, he could end up as Dr. Jekyll. He is helpless when Mr. Hyde gets stronger than Dr. Jekyll and that’s the moment when a friend might make a difference.

This might be a lesson that the author has no intention of giving; nonetheless we can learn from this book. That is, ask for help when you reach the point where you cannot help yourself. Better losing face now than the final inevitable showdown. Of course, the best policy is to never give Mr. Hyde a chance to be alive.

1, Mar 30, 2010

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Re-read with My Children Part II

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:01 am

At first Dr. Jekyll needs the drugs to metamorphose himself into Mr. Hyde. But as the transformation takes place frequently, Mr. Hyde gets stronger and bolder, so much so that he can initiate this transformation without the help of the drug. Eventually, Mr. Hyde, the evil part of us, takes total control over Dr. Jekyll and totally replaces him.

The author seems to tell his readers that there is a constant fight between the good and the evil within us. If we ever give the evil part a chance to express itself, as the days go by, it will gain strength, then it will tightly seize us like an addiction, and completely destroy us in the end.

This reminds me so much of drug or smoke addictions or any undesirable habits. The deeper a person allows himself to go down the addiction, the harder it will be to break away from it, and the sooner it will come when he meets the same fate as Dr. Jekyll.
To be continued tomorrow.

1, Mar 29, 2010

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Re-read with My Children Part I

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 1:51 am

Yes, we all have read or heard of R.L. Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. My daughter first read an adapted version when she was 8 years old. Lately when she read about psychology, she picked up this book again. I read it one more time with her so that we have a topic for some meaningful conversation.

On the surface the author tells his readers that we all consists of two parts — the good and kind one embodied in Dr. Jekyll and his bad and vicious opposite personified by Mr. Hyde — all in one person. We try to hide the depraved and anti-social part in us, thus the author calls this part of us Mr. Hyde.

I told my daughter the author wants to say a lot more than this surface message. She agrees, “Yes, in the end Mr. Hyde defeats Dr. Jekyll. It means the bad triumphs over the good, if you allow the bad to ever take place. You cannot let the bad things happen in the first place.”

To be continued tomorrow.

1, Feb 11, 2010

A Poem of Love and Tolerance

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:46 am

This is from Harvard Family Instruction book. It is a very touching piece, written by a daughter about her mother. Her father died in Vietnam when she was 4 years old and her mother raised her all by herself without ever getting remarried. After her mother died, the daughter found a poem written by her mother for her father. It goes like this,

“I remember —
When I borrowed and damaged your new car,
I thought you would be mad and scold at me, but you didn’t.
When I dragged you to the sea, you said it would rain, then it indeed rained,
I thought you would say “I told you so,” but you didn’t.
When I flirted with other boys,
I thought you would be jealous and enraged, but you didn’t.
When I smeared your new carpet with strawberry cake,
I thought you would think me annoying, but you didn’t.

There were so many so many things I thought you would do but you didn’t.
You tolerated me, you loved me, you protected me…
I once promised I would give back all that you gave me —
after you got back from battlefield —
But you never came back.

1, Dec 16, 2009

Be Your Own Mirror and Live Your Own Unique Life

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:41 am

When getting ready for a relative’s visit, I took up this book again, Harvard Family Instruction, and suddenly remembered that I should return the books to its owner. There are so many interesting stories that I simply do not have enough time to dwell upon them all.

Here’s one on Albert Einstein. He used to fool away most of his time with some children, resulting in having a few fails for his school. When his father talked to him about it, Einstein replied, “Why are you worried about it? Jack and Robert also have some fails. They also go fishing.”

Next his father told him a fable about two cats who dropped into a chimney and one of them smeared his face. When the clean-faced cat saw the dirt on the other cat, he thought his own face must be this dirty. So he went to the river and gave it a thorough scrub. However, the dirty-faced cat, seeing the clean face of his friend, believes his own face is as clean as that of his friend’s, going about the town proudly without ever a scrub.

“Albert,” said his father, “Nobody can be your mirror. You are your own mirror. If you use others as your mirror, you will eventually end up being an idiot like the dirty-faced cat.”

“I am unique and am not going to be as mediocre as others,” thus thought Einstein. The fable had since motivated Einstein to embark on his own unique and exceptionally outstanding life journey.

1, Nov 5, 2009

A Realistic Book on American Work Place Culture 2

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:48 am

Quotes from the book,
“We are fractious and over paid. Our mornings lacked promise. At least those of us who smoked had something to look forward to at ten-fifteen. Most of us likes most of everyone, a few of us hated specific individuals, one or two people loved everyone and everything. Those who loved everyone were unanimously reviled.” p. 3

“It bored us every day. Our boredom was ongoing, a collective boredom, and it would never die because we would never die.” p. 4

Might it be true, … that we were callous, unfeeling individuals, incapable of sympathy, and full of spite toward people for no reason other than their proximity and familiarity? We had these sudden revelations that employment, the daily nine-to-five, was driving us far from our better selves. Shall we quit? Would that solve it? Or were those qualities innate, dooming us to nastiness and paucity of spirit?” p. 5-6.

“We love killing time and had perfected several way of doing so. We wandered the hallways carrying papers that indicated some mission of business when in reality we were in search of free candy. We refilled our coffee mugs on floors we didn’t belong on…” p. 28

“The cardinal rule of advertising has always been, make your communication dumb enough for an eight grader to understand.” Quoted from another person, ‘It’s true that there’s a twelve-year-old mentality in America. Every six-year-old has it.’ p. 48

We liked wasting time, but almost nothing was more annoying than having our wasted time wasted on something not worthy wasting it on.” p. 53

“The people with whom we spend the most time are those we know the least. And yet, somehow, they’re the ones we know better than anyone else.”

“We would listen with only one ear, and with one eye always over our shoulders, in case we needed to bolt back to our desks and commence the charade that our workload was as strong as ever, because only then would we not be laid off.”

1, Nov 4, 2009

A Realistic Book on American Work Place Culture 1

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:46 am

I have just managed through a book called Then We Came to the End: A Novel by Joshua Ferris, 2007. How I dislike the content of the book. It is said that “Americans spend more time with coworkers than with their families.” That is, more time at work than at home. Can you imagine that!

The book describes the daily engagements of office cubicle dwellers. The descriptions are so pathetically realistic and unflattering, revealing everything we don’t want to see in ourselves or we want to escape from, yet sadly to say, the author seems to show us that there is a bit of us in his descriptions. No wonder the book is said to be “A small, angry book about work.”

In peace times, office is occupied with irritable, sarcastic, grumpy, gossipy, and absolutely frivolous beings, whose minds, deficient in ideals, dreams and aspirations, are shaped to think in group and act as one team. When business goes downward, fear and insecurity prevail, with everybody taking care of him/herself and devil taking the unfortunates.

The cubicle dwellers are thoroughly and hopelessly smothered with trivialities, drudgery, and pettiness, that absurdity seems to scream out at your face, making you wonder if white-collar work is meant to be this senseless, this soul-killing. The author expresses his discontent over this office life through the voice of one employee.

I talked to my daughter about this book. “It gives you a suffocating feeling,” I told her. “Then, why do you read it?” asked her. “I want to understand the work place culture in America,” was my answer. Also, I wish my children could read this sad little book someday and make all efforts to escape from this kind of existence. I shared the book with a colleague of mine who told me, “The book makes me depressing.” If it is not a real picture, it is at least uncomfortably close to the truth. Well, if truth is depressing, let it be.
To be continued …

1, Oct 25, 2009

Glenn Beck, Rise on Fear and Herd Mentality Part 2

Filed under: Reading — admin @ 12:05 am

An individual in a crowd —
–loses his/her individuality
–is irrational, impulsive, and irritable, with dead fixed mindset
–is under total control by emotions,
–has zero tolerance of any different views, with death-to-those-who-differ-from-me mentality,
–sees the world as absolute two colors: black and white, nothing in between
–tends to go to extremes, admitting no doubt or uncertainty
–behaves more like an animal or one of the Herd as Le Bon called,
–is quick to action, good or bad, which is exactly what the demagogues intend in the first place.
–will do something that he/she would not if he/she is not in the crowd
–serves as the best instrument for demagogues

The crowd can be powerful and destructive, so much as that sometime the juries had to genuflect to its power, as in the case of O.J Simpson trial. China’s Cultural Revolution offers classic example on the destructiveness of crowd behavior on the greatest scale.

Time is the crucial factor. The author believed the modern age was an era of crowds. Demagogues work their wonder in time of deep economic hardship. Demagogues always capitalize on fear and insecurity that are lurking in the minds of those who are in want of mental power. Now is the time for demagogues to rise and fly.

Avoid the crowd, if you don’t want to subordinate yourself to a downgrade level of existence.

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