Month: January 2010

Reading incentive

My kids love to read. So I don’t worry about them not reading or not reading enough. 

But I am concerned that they don’t read broadly enough. They read almost exclusively fiction. I am a nonfiction reader. 

I wanted to encourage them to read more nonfiction books, especially biographies. I think at this young age, they can learn a lot of important lessons and wisdom from other successful people. Through reading life stories of famous people, they learn how to overcome poverty and challenges, how to work hard in order to become successful and reach your dreams. 

Today I had an idea and announced it to my kids. 

Whoever reads 1000 pages of nonfiction books will get an ice cream at the library. 

I don’t uaually buy my kids treats, so an ice cream at the library is a nice treat and a big deal for them. They were both excited and motivated. They couldn’t wait to go to the library today. 

In the afternoon we went to the Washington County Library in Woodbury. They checked out a whole bag of books, about 40 biographies. All of my son’s books are about athletes. My daughter’s books are about artists, musicians, writers, etc. 

And they started reading intensely. 

In 2-3 hours, Andy has already finished 400 pages. I don’t know about Amy, she hasn’t tallied her totals yet. She is a fast reader. I won’t be surprised by her high number. 

Some of the juvenile books Andy read are really easy. The page numbers add up quickly. 

I was glad to hear a comment Andy made after he read about 10 books. He said he liked reading those biographies. 

Now I am getting concerned that I will owe them too many ice creams by next Sunday when we visit the library again. 

For sure, going to the library will be more exciting for them than it used to be.

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Living food

 

 

Today I found in my basement two cabbages I bought at Farmer’s Market.

Back in October 2009, I bought quite a few of cabbages at Farmer’s Market when the produce was fresh and the price was unbeatable. These are the last two left.

As you can see from the pictures, the cabbages are still good. They have also grown.

Both have grown at the bottom. One has grown on the top as well, actually from inside out.

Can you imagine what the cabbage would look or smell like if it had been cooked and left out for three months?

It would be really gross.

Also imagine a raw potato alongside a cooked one, the raw potato will last for weeks and even sprout whereas the cooked potato will spoil in a few days.

Here lies the difference between living food and dead food.

It reminds me of what I read in Hallelujah Diet a few years ago.

To show the difference between a food that is DEAD and one that is ALIVE, the author Rev. George Malkmus suggests this little experiment.

Use 5 raw carrots. Place one in water and watch it grow. It will grow, because it is still in its living form.

It’s true. Sometimes I find the carrots left in the fridge for a while will grow roots.

Now take the remaining 4 raw carrots, and cook them. Cook one in boiling water. Cook the second carrot in a steamer. Cook the third carrot in the oven, and the fourth in a microwave.

Now take each of those cooked carrots and place them in the water as with the first raw carrot, and watch them grow.

Will these cooked carrots grow? Of course not! Why? Because the heat of cooking killed the life force (enzymes) within those carrots!

When we cook our food, we destroy all enzymatic activity, that is, the life within that carrot has been destroyed, along with a high percentage of its nutrients. 

Our body is comprised of trillions of living cells. These living cells are constantly in the process of dying and replacing themselves with new cells. The quality of the new cells is totally dependent on the building materials – the food we put into our body.

Dead (cooked) food cannot provide the proper building materials with which to build a new, healthy, vital, vibrant, living cell.

A healthy cell and a healthy body need living foods, foods which are still in their natural raw, living forms. Living foods are more nutritious because they still have all of their vitamins, minerals, and enzymes which will be destroyed in the cooking process.

People who eat living food are more alert, have more energy and need less sleep.

When I was growing up in China, I didn’t eat much raw food. Almost all vegetables were cooked. The only raw food I ate was probably cucumbers, tomatoes and carrots, in addition to fruit.

Now I am trying to eat more living raw food.

I always like fruit. I eat different kinds of fruit every day.

In terms of vegetables, now I can also eat raw celeries, cabbages, etc. During the summer, I eat salad every day from my own garden.

I hardly eat meat any more. I still like seafood, but I am eating less of seafood too.

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What dads and moms need to know

I recently read the book “What Dads Need to know about Daughters / What Moms Need to know about Sons” by John and Helen Burns.

The Burns are internationally known speakers on marriage, family, and relationships. They also pastor Relate Church, a thriving family church with three worship centres in the Vancouver area.

The book provides advices on how to raise sons and daughters to become healthy, mature, and loving adults.

One of the ideas talked about in the book is to have a regualr parent-child date to foster a close relationship and friendship. I knew that and read about it many times. But I haven’t put it into practice yet.

I know I should. It is a great idea.

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Intentional Living & Valentine contest

I don’t watch TV, but I like to listen to talk shows on radio.

My favorite radio station is KTIS AM 900 Faith Radio in Twin Cities. My radio at home, in my office or in my car is set to this station all the time.

One of my favorite talk shows is Intentional Living by Dr. Randy Carlson at 3:06 pm on weekdays and 10:06 am on Saturdays.

The program used to be called Parent Talk On Call With Dr. Randy Carlson. In the last couple of years it was changed to Intentional Living.

I enjoy listening to Dr. Randy’s biblical teaching on parenting, marriages, relationships and intentional living. His advices and comments are practical and common sense, with insight and wisdom.

Dr. Randy is the author of several books, including:

  • The Power of One Thing: How to Intentionally Change Your Life
  • Starved for Affection
  • Unlocking The Secrets Of Your Childhood Memories
  • Father Memories: How to Discover the Unique Powerful and Lasting Impact Your Father Has on Your Adult Life and Relationships

Today I heard about the Intentional Valentine Contest on his radio. You can go to his Intentional Living website and enter to win the grand prize of a trip for two to the Intentional Living Marriage & Parenting Conference – with free roundtrip airfare, lodging and admission to the conference.

Plus you can enter to win Dr. Randy’s books. Two of his latest books will be given away each day starting February 1 through February 11.

You might not win anything if you enter the contest, but if you check out his website and listen to his radio program on KTIS AM 900, I think you will learn something.

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Mindfulness in practice

Every night after I say "Good night. I love you!" to my kids, I usually hurry to the computer room to do my stuff, i. e., emailing, reading and writing.

But last night, after my son Andy went to bed and I said "Good night. I love you!" I stayed and sat down next to him in the dark bedroom for a few minutes. 

Without my saying anything, my son started to share something happened to him at school. 

A classmate, a bully and a trouble maker, scratched Andy’s neck with his fingernails. He reported the incident to the teacher. Later the assistant principal came to talk to the student. 

I said: "Andy, you did the right thing. I am proud of you."

Then I also told him: "It’s not good to bully other kids and make troubles. That kid is a bully and a trouble maker. But let’s have some sympathy and compassion for him. He must have experienced some troubles and difficulties in life. If he had grown up in a nice family with loving parents, he won’t have become a troubled kid and a trouble maker in the first place. This kid doesn’t get the love and attention he needs at home. So he makes troubles at school to get attention. He is not a bad kid, he is just a victim of a troubled family. So try to be nice to him. OK?"

Andy responded: "OK." 

I left the room, with a sense of satisfaction, because I just practiced mindful living. 

Had I hurried to leave and go do my own things, I would have missed the conversation and moment of sharing with my son. 

We talked for only a few minutes, but it was a meaningful moment. 

I realized I need to slow down and practice more mindful living, so I won’t miss important moments like this in life.

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Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a topic that has always interested me.

Today I had a chance to participate in a brief presentation by Judith Lies from Seeds of Mindfulness on mindfulness-based stress reduction.

Mindfulness is being in the present moment, having our mind and body in the same place at the same time.

The Chinese character "nian" for mindfulness is composed of "jin" (now) and "xin" (heart, mind). It means to "reflect, think; to study, learn by heart, remember; recite, read" – to live in the now, with heart and mind.

When we are engaged in a hobby, when we are focused on doing something we really like, we often forget the time. That’s when we are practicing mindfulness.

Mindfulness means our mind is focused on the present, not on the past or the future. We live in the present without judgment and expectation, without being in the fight or flight, reactive mode which causes stress in life.

During the presentation we spent a few minutes on meditation. It resulted in a relaxed and peaceful feeling.

I wish I could spend some time every day practicing mindfulness meditation. That will be really good for my body, mind and spirit.

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Making photo magnets

My kids are doing basketball this school year. Recently they got their basketball photos back. I bought them a package that includes a team picture, a couple of individual pictures and a bottom.

My son was not so happy because I didn’t buy the package with a photo magnet.  

Why should I? I can make one so easily myself.

So today, since my kids have no school and I have the day off, we made some photo magnets together.

I asked my kids to select any birthday or school pictures they like and want to make them into photo magnets for fridge. 

I am one of those people who saves everything for reuse and recycle. I have saved a lot of magnets that businesses give away at conferences and events. I use them mainly to make photo magnets.

First I select the appropriate size of magnet for the photo. Next, I peel off the business card from the magnet. If there is enough adhesive left and the surface is still sticky, I can simply put the photo directly on the magnet. If the surface is not sticky, then I use a glue stick to glue the photo on the magnet.  

It takes less than five minutes to make one. It’s really simple and easy.   

Now my kids are happy that their basketball pictures are on the fridge, along with some of their other photos. 

As you can see from the following photo, our fridge is very cluttered with photo magnets. But it looks nice. The photos make a pleasurable display on our fridge. Guests to our house are always attracted to that fridge area to look at the pictures.

  

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Keep organized with three ring binders

I love three ring binders. They are a life saver for me. I use them to keep my life organized. I also use them to keep my kids’ life organized.

I use three ring binders and sheet protectors to keep related items together. For examples:

• My published articles in newspapers or magazines

• All the appliance manuals

• Retirement and financial statements

• Recipes

For each of my two children, I gave them a three ring binder with plastic sleeves when they were born. I have been building a portfolio for each of them.

Each binder contains important documents from the birth to present – birth certificate, graduation certificate, school report cards, test results, yearbooks, awards, letters from teachers, etc.

My son‘s first binder was full when he finished 5th grade at age 11. So when he started 6th grade at Lake Middle School last year, I gave him a new binder. The transition from elementary to middle school was the perfect time to start a new binder.

I have a few binders that contain all their birthday or school pictures.

Another binder for frequent use contains all current information about their after school activities, practice and game schedules for sport. The binder keeps all papers in one place and is handy when I need to know quickly when and what about their activities.

When my kids grow up and leave home, each will have a portfolio to take with them, their life summarized in a few binders, neatly and orderly.

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Lost, but not found

Last Saturday morning my son had basketball game at Cottage Grove Middle School. After the game he left the gym quickly to make room for the next game. Some how he forgot his pair of basketball shoes in the gym or in the hall outside of the gym.

He found he lost his shoes the following Tuesday when he needed it for practice and the shoes were not in his gym bag.

I wasn’t worried about it. I was confident that we would be able to find the shoes in the lost and found area at school.

Today we went back for another game at the same location. We searched the lost and found, looked inside and outside of the two big bins, but to our disappointment, the shoes were no where to be found.

It was a new pair of shoes my son bought less than a month ago. He wore it only a few times indoors during basketball playing. So it was still like new.

We were both disappointed.

I was disappointed, not only because the lost shoes cost $40, but also by the fact that someone would take it.

Hopefully it was taken unintentionally.

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The top 10 things children really want

An article posted online at Lifehack on December 29, 2009 titled: 
"The Top 10 Things Children Really Want Their Parents to Do With Them" is worthing sharing here.

Many moms today feel as if they are not good mothers unless they are racing around, shuttling their children from lessons to practices, and back to lessons again. What do you think matters most to your children? You driving them to lessons and practices? Or the smile and hug you greet them with after school?

If you guessed the latter, you are correct.

Here is a list of the top 10 things students around the world said they desire most from their mothers.

  1. Come into my bedroom at night, tuck me in and sing me a song. Also tell me stories about when you were little.
  2. Give me hugs and kisses and sit and talk with me privately.
  3. Spend quality time just with me, not with my brothers and sisters around.
  4. Give me nutritious food so I can grow up healthy.
  5. At dinner talk about what we could do together on the weekend.
  6. At night talk to me about anything: love, school, family etc.
  7. Let me play outside a lot.
  8. Cuddle under a blanket and watch our favorite TV show together.
  9. Discipline me. It makes me feel like you care.
  10. Leave special messages in my desk or lunch bag.

Children are incredibly wise and tend to see the world more simply than we do. Perhaps it is time we start taking their advice.  

Maybe we would all feel a little less stressed and be satisfied with the fact that doing little things really is… good enough.

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The four Ps of successful advocacy

In an article I read today on library advocacy by Tom Storey titled “Widening the library’s circle of influence,” the author talks about the four Ps of successful advocacy: passion, planning, partnerships, promotion.

If you want to be successful, you have to have a deep-rooted belief in your cause and a passion for what you advocate. The passion is like the fire that initiates and keeps you energized in working toward your goal of changing lives, changing communities and changing the world.

Passion alone doesn’t take you very far. You also need a detailed plan, a long-term vision and short-term, achievable goals. Without planning and taking steps one at a time, you can not be effective.

Then you need to partner with businesses and corporations to support your advocacy work. Connect with corporations whose giving strategy and philanthropy goals are in alignment with your cause. Help them do well while doing good.

Last, don’t forget to promote what you advocate for using any media and technologies. Spread the word. The more people know about your cause, the more attention and support you will get. The more attention and support you get, the more successful you will be as an advocate.

In the end, you can expect the fifth P – Payoff. 

I think these four Ps can be applied to any advocacy work you do.

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Crazy schedule

Sport is not something I like. I don’t do any sports and don’t watch sports. My knowledge about sports is so limited that is unbelievable.

For example, I have lived in Woodbury since 2001. And I didn’t know that WAA is part of Woodbury High School until ERAA came into existence last year.

Naturally my two kids are not into sports a lot.

They went through the swimming lessons through the Community Education and graduated at their highest level. That’s about all the sport they have done.

They both don’t like swimming. They did it because I made them to. I think swimming a basic life skill they need in life.

Last summer they played basketball in our driveway after they got a basketball hoop. They liked it.

So when ERAA began to offer basketball in the fall, I signed both of them up for the sport, my son in the in-house 6th grade boy’s team and my daughter in the 4th grade girl’s team.

I didn’t know at the time that we would get ourselves into a crazy schedule.

My daughter’s practice usually starts at 6 pm and ends at 7:15 pm, and my son’s practice starts at 7:15 pm and ends at 8:30 pm. And they are at two different schools in two different directions, one at Liberty Ridge Elementary and one at Cottage Grove Elementary. The schools are not close to each other.

When we did the swimming lessons through Community Education, both my son and daughter had lessons at the same time and in the same location, even though they were at different levels. So it was predictable and convenient.

But now with basketball, they have different practice time and location. And they change every week. They are unpredictable and inconvenient for us. It really makes our life more hectic and stressful.

I don’t know how other parents handle multiple sports with multiply kids in the family, especially the traveling kinds. I have enough with just two kids in one sport.

Now I can better understand when I hear other parents talking about crazy schedules because of their kids’ involvement with various sports.

Yes, it is crazy.

I wish when ERAA schedule practice times and locations, there is a way that they could take sibling situation into consideration to make the schedule less crazy for participants.

Well, it’s probably not realistic, just my wishful thinking.

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Too much of a good thing?

Three days ago, I said in this blog that I have two kids who love reading. I am happy and proud that I have instilled in them the love for reading. 

I don’t have problem getting my kids to read. My son Andy reads when he has books he likes, while my daughter Amy reads like non stop. She never runs out of books. 

My problem is to get her to stop reading sometimes. 

Just before bed time the other night, I asked Amy to come back to the bathroom to floss her teeth. She walked in with one book in her hand. Then She tried to clean her teeth while reading at the same time. When the book was taken away, she got frustrated and started to cry. 

Sometimes she is a little too much and too deep into reading that she doesn’t want to stop. 

"One more page," or "One more chapter," seems like the most used phrase out of her mouth. Then her one page or one chapter turns into several pages or chapters. She is still not moving. 

Is too much of a good thing turning into a problem? I wonder. 

If it’s a problem, I feel it’s a good problem to have. 

I believe reading is a cornerstone to success. Great and successful people are people who love to read, love to learn and love to grow and change. 

As long as my kids love to read, I am confident that they will do well in school and also do well later in life.

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Google tips and tricks

As Internet users, we are all familiar with Google, the most popular search engine. We use Google on a regular basis, maybe even several times a day, to find information.

Google is not only popular, it’s also powerful. With Google, we can not only find information, we can also do it in a very quick, easy and convenient way.

Here are a few examples to demonstrate the power of Google – how it can be used to make finding information quickly, easily and conveniently.

1. Dictionary definitions

No need to pull the dictionary from the shelf and look up a word. The fast way to look up the definition of a word or phrase is to simply use the "define:" command in Google search box.

Example: define:earthquake

2. Weather

To see the weather for many U.S. and worldwide cities, type "weather" followed by the city and state, U.S. zip code, or city and country.

Example: weather st. paul

3. Time

To see the time in many cities around the world, type in "time" and the name of the city.

Example: time in Beijing (searched at 1:34 pm CST)
Google results: 3:34am Tuesday (CST) – Time in Beijing, China

4. Maps

To get a map of a location, type in the name or U.S. zip code of the location and the word "map" Google will bring up a map of that location. Clicking on the map will take you to a larger version on Google Maps.

Example: Minneapolis map

5. Phone Listing

You can get the name and address associated with a phone number if you enter the phone number in the Google search. However, if the number is not publicly listed, then you will not get any information.

Example: 123-456-7890

6. Area Code Lookup

If all you need to do is to look-up the area code for a phone number, just enter the 3-digit area code and Google will tell you where it’s from.

Example: 651

7. Stock quotes

To see current market data for a given company or fund, enter a valid ticker symbol as your search term and Google will give you the current financial information and a quick thumb-nail chart for the stock.

Example: Cce  

8. Sports scores

To see scores and schedules for sports teams type the team name or league name into the search box. This is enabled for many leagues including the National Basketball Association, National Football League, National Hockey League, and Major League Baseball.

Example: san francisco 49ers

9. Flight status

Instead of call the airline or go to the airline website to check flight status, you can simply enter the airline and flight number:

Example: NWA 620 (or Delta flight 171)

10. Package tracking

You can track USPS, UPS, and FedEx packages by typing the tracking number directly into the search box. Google will return results that include quick links to easily track the status of your shipment.

Example: 1Z9999W99999999999

11 Patent numbers

To search for U.S. patents, enter the word "patent" followed by the patent number into the Google search box and hit the Enter key or click the Google Search button.

Example: Patent 5123123

12. Mathematical calculations

Example: 99 times 99
Google results: 99 times 99 = 9801

Example: 2+3+5
Google results: 2 + 3 + 5 = 10

Example: 48512 * 1.02
Google results: 48 512 * 1.02 = 49 482.24

13. Currency conversion

Example: 100 GBP in USD
Google results: 100 British pounds = 163.37 U.S. dollars

14. Measurement conversion

Example: 32F in C
Goog results: 32 degrees Fahrenheit = 0 degrees Celsius

Example: 1 meter= ?inches
Google results: 1 meter = 39.3700787 inches

15. Song lyric

To find the lyric of a song, typing :lyric after a song title.

Example: amazing grace:lyric

16. Earthquakes

To see information about recent earthquakes in a specific area type "earthquake" followed by the city and state or U.S. zip code. For recent earthquake activity around the world simply type "earthquake" in the search box.

Example: earthquake Haiti

What else can Google do? I am wondering.

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Amy’s piano recital

Today my daughter Amy had her winter piano recital at Mt. Olivet School of Music in Minneapolis where her teacher Ms. Yao teaches.

Ms. Yao comes to Woodbury on Saturdays and gives piano lessons to several students in my neighborhood.

Amy did well at the recital.

"Some kids made mistakes, but I didn’t make any." That’s her own reason for having done well.

Amy started piano lesson when she was 5 years old, around the time she started kindergarten. In the last five years, a lot of money and time and energy have been invested into giving her a good music education.

These five years have not been easy, because it has not been easy to get her to practice every day, especially at the beginning.

Amy would much prefer to read or do something else than to practice piano. We went through a lot of battles, tears, yelling, frustrations, and bribery. All kinds of methods and tricks were used to get her to practice.

I am glad we didn’t give up with Amy.

Today, when I asked her: "Do you want to quit piano now if you have the choice?"

She said: "No. I like to play for fun. I just don’t like to practice."

I can’t blame her for that. Which kid would like to practice something over and over every day instead of playing and doing something funner?

I am just glad that she likes to play piano now.

          

As an update to an early article published in Woodbury Bulletin, my son Andy quit piano at the end of 2008. He chose to play clarinet in the school band. I had to let him quit since he really didn’t like piano.

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The right to write

After I dropped off my kids at Macalester College for their Chinese School in the afternoon, I headed to the Half Price Books store on Ford Parkway in St. Paul. There I came across the book by Julia Cameron: The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life.  

Julia is the author who wrote The Artist’s Way that I mentioned in a previous blog posting.

I read part of the book right there.

The book consists of over 40 personal essays on various topics of writing. Each topic begins with an "invitation" and concludes with a tool or exercise.

One of the exercises I like is to write down 50 things you are proud of about yourself. What does this list tell you about the things you value the most?

Later at home, I tried to do this exercise. It’s not hard for me, but it’s not easy either. I don’t have any problem to start, but I haven’t finished listing all 50 things yet. 

Some of the things I came up with that I am proud of about myself include: 

Even though English is not my native language. I have become good at it. 

I wrote a weekly column for Woodbury Bulletin for three years. 

I have been writing this blog since November 2009 and have not missed a day. 

I have raised two kids who love reading. 

I encouraged my daughter to submit her poems to the Minnesota State Fair and she won the first place. 

From this short list one can easily tell what I value most. 

I think this is an excellent exercise that everyone should take some time to do it. What things are you proud of yourself for? 

In Cameron’s mind, people who like writing are the luckiest people in the world. In this sense, I consider myself one of the luckiest people. 

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A story about resilience

A friend emailed me this video by China Central Television [http://space.tv.cctv.com/video/VIDE1257937105961887]

It tells an amazing story about a 47 year-old, one-arm man He Tianwu who makes a living by scaling the 6500-feet Mt. Huashan almost every day for the last 10 years to support his family with kids and aging parents. He carries a straw basket loaded with about 100 pounds of supplies from the bottom to the top of the mountain.

When I searched the Internet for info about the story, I found this article written in English by Ching-Ching Ni, a Los Angeles Times staff writer.

The same article is also available here on one screen via Seattle Times. 

Read the article first and then watch the video, it will give you a better understanding.

He Tianwu is an ordinary farmer-turned-laborer in China, but he is a man with resilience and strong will power, a man with honor and respect.

I think if He can survive and make it with his physical limitation and in that harsh condition, many people in this country who are facing difficulties in life now can survive and make it too.

I felt very grateful and more content after I watched the video. 

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Sway

Last weekend I read the book "Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior" by Ori and Rom Brafman (2008) for a book club I participate in. 

The book explores several of the psychological forces that derail rational thinking and cause irrational behavior in human beings. Across different countries and cultures, different people are being swayed in similar ways. We are all susceptible to the sway of irrational behaviors.

The common causes of irrational behavior mentioned in the book are: loss aversion, commitment, value attribution, overly confident in our abilities and overly optimistic about the future, label people, fairness,  the monetary incentives (self-interest) vs. the altruistic motivation (other interest), peer pressure in group dynamic, etc.

Sometimes we make irrational decision to avoid a potential loss, to keep our commitment and stay the course, or just to be fair in the process. 

Sometimes we behave irrationally based on the value we attribute to people or things, or how we are labeled by others, or because we are under peer pressure and don’t want to be the dissenters in a group setting. 

Or we act in a stupid way because we think we are better or smarter than others. 

In recent years we have seen plenty of irrational behavior in politics, in finance and entertainment sectors. When media reveal some shocking news. We often ask the same question: "How could this individual who is really smart be so stupid and do things like this?" 

I guess one explanation according to this book is they are overly confident in their abilities to keep things in secret and they probably think: "I am above everyone else. I will never get caught." 

We are all being swayed and make irrational decisions, more or less. As we become aware of the forces that could derail rational thinking, hopefully we can behave less irrational.

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Fighting email spam

Like most email users, I receive unsolicited, unauthorized and unwanted messages – in other words, spam.

Email Spam is the online equivalent of the junk mail we receive in our postal mailbox. They are just annoying.

There is no way you can stop email spam, but there are things you can do to reduce the amount of spam.

One thing you can do is to limit the public use of your email address. Be careful when you post your email address on your web page or online message boards.  

Another strategy is to use two email addresses. Use one email address (the one you get from your ISP or a free email from Yahoo or Google) for private use and give it out only to close families and friends. Use to another email address for all your public activities, such as to make online purchase, to register for website access, to post public messages.

Most email programs have spam filter. Use spam filter to automatically send all spam messages to the spam folder. However, it’s a good idea to check the spam folder before you empty it. I have found legitimate messages in my spam folder.

If the above steps don’t reduce your spam mail, you can also consider an anti-spam software program. You can find free anti-spam software on the Internet.

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Brown bag opportunity for local businesses

I am on the Health & Wellness Committee at Mn/DOT. We are putting together a series of “brown bag learning seminars” for our employees this spring.

We are interested in topics such as getting organized, decluttering, Feng-shui, alternative medicine, etc.

If any businesses in Woodbury and Twin Cities are interested in doing an one-hour presentation on any health and wellness related topics, please contact me and I can send you a Presentation Request Form for review.

Once your presentation request is approved by the Committee, it will be advertised to all State of Minnesota agencies. It would give you some great exposure for your business. There is a potential of your information reaching over 1,000 Mn/DOT employees alone, and thousands of other state employees as well. 

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions: qin.tang @ state.mn.us.

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My son’s proud moment

My 6th grade son came home from school really excited today. He was all smiling when he walked in the door.

He had just finished the last meet of the Minnesota Junior High School Math League and was the first place scorer in South Washington County Division for the 2009-2010 season. His team from Lake Middle School also won the first place.

He was proud to show us his medal.

I was proud for his achievement too.

But from my perspective, winning the first place is all relative. Just because you are in the first place this time doesn’t mean you are the best and you will be in the first place next time. There will always be people who are better than you.

Work diligently, do your best and strive for the best based on your ability, and don’t focus too much on the result of the competition, is what I think a balanced attitude. Then when we face either success or failure in any competition, we won’t be too prideful or disappointed.

We are successful when we are better today than yesterday. We should be proud of any progress no matter what placement we are. If we only compare ourselves with others and use our placement as a standard to measure our value and abilities, then we can easily become very prideful or disappointed.

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Read the Bible through in 2010

With the start of the new year, my home church Spirit of Life in Woodbury is challenging the congregation to read the Bible through in 2010.

"The Bible reading should take about 15 minutes of your day, but will provide spiritual food to sustain us in this world we live in," our Pastor Frank Sanders said in the email.

He also sent out a daily Bible reading schedule to help us stay on track.

Honestly, I have not been disciplined enough to read the Bible every day on my own. Time just flies by so fast every day.

After dinner and then after my kids go to bed, I check my email, do some reading, some writing, and some surfing on the Internet, without much notice, it’s already past midnight. I have to make myself go to bed so I can get up early the next day to go to work.

Bible reading is nothing urgent. I can do it tomorrow. Tomorrow often becomes another tomorrow, and another tomorrow.

With this new challenge, I want to commit myself to it. I’ll try my best to follow the daily Bible reading schedule and read through it this year.

Our challenge started a week behind the schedule. Today I spent a few hours reading and have almost caught up.

Please wish me good luck for the rest of the year 2010 and pray for me and my church for meeting the challenge successfully!

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In peace

This afternoon, on the way home from my kids’ Chinese School at Macalester College, the traffic on eastbound Interstate 94 was backed up. It took more than 10 minutes to get on highway from Sneilling.

Later my son found out why after he checked the news on the Internet.

A male jumped to his death from the Marion Street bridge. No more details were released by the police at this time.

I cross this brige almost every day on my way home from work.

Both my son and daughter commented: "I would rather die in peace than commit suicide."

Who won’t say and do that in the normal state of mind? Who would take such a drastic action if not in a hopeless and helpless situation or out of the mind?

The man didn’t die in peace, but I pray that his soul is resting in peace now, finally free from any sorrow and pain of this earthly life.

An interesting lesson

My 6th grade son at Lake Middle School is doing the Academic Triathlon for the first time this school year.

Today he had his second meet. Seven teams of 5th and 6th graders from different schools in the District took part in the meet at Grey Cloud Elementary in Cottage Grove.

I didn’t know anything about the Academic Triathlon. It was my first time to go to the meet and watch their performance for the PARTY in a box. It was quite interesting.

Between performances, parents were asked to answer some of the same questions that the teams had done. They were very challenging. You have to think fast and be knowledgeable in different subjects.

My 4th grader daughter did better than I. At least two times she was the first in the audience to raise hand and got the correct answer. She was rewarded with pieces of chocolate as prizes.

My son loves to read newspapers and watch news and sports on TV. I often become irritated when he spends too much time doing that.

After the meet today, he said to me: "Mom, see it’s good to read newspapers and watch TV. I can learn about current events."

He has a good point.

His team won second place (actually tie for the first place).

I feel my kids are smarter than I. I am sure it will become more clear as they get older. 

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A kind word or deed goes a long way

I have been working on creating a reading corner in the library where I work.

Today two building maintenance/repair guys came to the library to remove unneeded tables and file cabinet, relocate equipments and a public work station to create the space we need for the reading corner. They spent more than half of the day working and got the job done.

I know what they did today is nothing special. It is something they do every day. It’s their job. But at the end of the day, before I left the office, I sent them an email to thank them for what they did.

We all want to feel appreciated and valued, no matter what we do.

If others did something for you, whether it’s their job or a favor, always say a sincerely thank-you. They will remember your kind word and be happy to help you again in the future.

A kind word goes a long way.

Likewise, a kind deed goes a long way too.

A few months ago, a new family moved into the vacant house across the street. Because of the cold weather, I am always inside the house and never met the family.

During the Christmas holiday, I intentionally prepared some treats, walked over to the house to say hello and wish them happy holiday.

We had a brief conversation at the door. It turned out that the family came back from China after working there for 3 years for 3M. Their daughter is in college majoring in Chinese. As a Chinese, I am looking forward to warm weather and more conversations with them. They are a really nice family.

A few days later, the family brought us treats and to wish a happy new year.

Today they came over to our house with their snow blower to help shovel the snow in our driveway. How nice of them! I called to thank them after I found that out.

I am thankful for what others did for me today and for remembering to say thank-you when others do something for me.

Diversity in workplace

The United States has traditionally been known as a melting pot. We have a diverse population. People from all different countries come here and make home in this country.

I have a diverse background myself.

I grew up in the south of China and went to college in the northern China in Beijing. I lived and studied five years in Germany. In 1991 I came to the US. I have worked in the public, academic and special libraries since I graduated with my master’s in library science.

In the 19 years I have lived here, I personally have never felt being discriminated because of my race and ethnic backgrounds.

Most of my personal friends in Woodbury are from my home country. I do hear some of my friends talking about their kids being discriminated in schools, in sport activities or feeling themselves being discriminated in the society.

We have different experiences.

I don’t feel being discriminated while others so. It could be the reality. But it could also be that some people are more sensitive and others like myself are not so.

Whatever our personal experiences are, I am sure discrimination, prejudice, misunderstanding do exist in this country and in any organization, more or less. It’s up to each individual to make changes for the better.

So this week when I saw that my organization is recruiting members for the Diversity Council, I thought about it.

Today I submitted my letter of interest. I am interested in diversity issues at workplace, as well as in the society.

If I can help do something, like bring people together to present and learn about different countries and cultures, we can know more about people and customs from other countries. Then we can have a better understanding of each other and more tolerance with each other despite our differences.

This would help make our organization a better place to work and our society a better place to live.

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Take on the 29-Day Giving Challenge

Two days ago I wrote about the book I was reading titled "29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change your Life."

Today I finished reading it and signed up on the 29-Day Giving Challenge website. Now I have officially become a member of that community. 

It’s not that I want to post and let the whole world know what I do every day during the 29 days of challenge. But I do want to make it official that I have taken on the giving challenge, and also to make myself more accountable. 

Cami Walker’s book and story has inspired me to take on the giving challenge. I want to challenge myself to give mindfully, with intention, and to open my mind and heart.

What I’d most like to receive? Surprises, transformation, abundance, a more intentional and purposeful life.

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Writing – a gift to yourself

In 2006, I joined a group of people at Woodbury United Methodist Church for a 12-week study of the book "The Artist’s Way: a Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity" by Julia Cameron.

The 12-week program helps to recover our creativity from a variety of blocks, including limiting beliefs, fear, self-sabotage, jealousy, guilt, addictions, and other inhibiting forces, replacing them with artistic confidence and productivity. It also helps to discover ways to link creativity to spirituality.

One of the daily assignment is to write morning pages. We are required to write every day. We can write about anything and everything. It is a way to declutter our mind and allow the creativity to flow freely.

It was a great study and experience for me. Prior to that, I hardly wrote, didn’t even keep a journal. After the study, I started to write regularly.

I gave the book study a lot of credit to the creative transformation that happened to me in 2006.

Today I got an email from a friend who wants to write about her childhood memories but is concerned about offending her families and relatives.

I encourage her to write if she feels like writing. It’s a gift to herself.

By writing down our feelings, thoughts, and memories, we can free our mind and let go of our past, of any fear, anger, or other negative emotions. Then we can offer forgiveness and move on with our life.

If you feel stuck in your life and desire more creativity, consider this suggestion – pick up a pen and a journal and start writing, whatever comes to your mind. Make this a gift to yourself for the new year.

Don’t be concerned about offending others and what others might think. You don’t have to show your writing to anyone if you don’t feel comfortable.

You are doing it for yourself, to let go of the past and move on.

Make writing a gift to yourself in the new year!

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29Gifts – a giving challenge

Several weeks ago I read about a new book titled "29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change your Life."

Not long after that, I spotted that book on the new book shelf in the Washington County Library. I checked it out and started reading.

Today I picked up the book again and spent my whole afternoon reading it.

The book is about Cami Walker. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis one month after her wedding day, and the life she knew changed forever.

Then she received an uncommon prescription from an African medicine woman: give away 29 gifts in 29 days. "By giving, you are focusing on what you have to offer others, inviting more abundance into your life."

The gifts can be anything, but the giving has to be both authentic and mindful.

The book details Cami’s 29 gifts and giving journey.

Her acts of kindness were transformative. By Day 29, not only had her health and happiness turned around, but she had also embarked on creating a worldwide giving movement – the online 29-Day Giving Challenge.

The book is an easy read with an inspiring story.

I was inspired to take up the challenge.

With the beginning of the new year, this is the perfect time to start the challenge.

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Reading – New Year’s resolution

I enjoy reading. I read whenever I have time every day. My problem is not lack of desire to read, but lack of time. I have more books on my to-read list then I have time for it.

For people who don’t have the time, but more importantly the habit and motivation to read, here is an idea for you to try.

Join an online book club!

You can sign up for the free email book club founded by Suzanne Beecher at http://www.dearreader.com. Through this book club over 350,000 people read 5-minutes a day.  

When you sign up, you will be connected to the Washington County Library online book clubs.

Every day, Monday through Friday, you will receive in you email a five-minute selection from a chapter of a book. By the end of the week, you’ll have read two to three chapters.

Each week you can sample two to three chapters of a different book. This will help you find the book you really like and motivate you to finish reading the whole book.

I hope you will make reading part of your New Year’s resolutions!

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My way to start the New Year

Today, besides going to the last holiday party or the first one in 2010 in the evening, I spent my day calling and emailing families and friends to wish a happy and healthy New Year.

My calling or emailing started soon after the calendar turned to 2010. I called my parents and relatives in China.

After a few hours of sleep, I started emailing or calling relatives and friends I have not contacted for a few years, people I got to know through my reading or writing, friends in town, teachers for my kids, etc.

I couldn’t contact everyone who came to my mind, but I did do quite a few.

And my first day ended with my webcam video call with my brother in China.

It felt good to let people know that I am thinking of them, and to drop a quick note to express my best wish or gratitude for them.

I think it’s a great way to start a new year to keep in touch with the people who came to our lives for one reason or another.

The beginning of the New year is a great time to strengthen or mend relationships, renew friendships and to express gratitude for people who are nice and helpful to us.

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Celebrate New Year

I had New Year’s Eve party at a friend’s home. Several families got together to celebrate the coming of New Year.

We made dumplings together.

In northern China, it’s a tradition to eat dumplings (Jiaozi) for New Year. We had a lot of food again.

After dinner some played Chinese Mahjong, some played poker, ping-pong or Wii game. I enjoyed conversations with friends.

We partied past midnight and into the New Year!

Now the parties are over, it’s time to think about how to lose the weight that I put on since Thanksgiving :-)

Wish everyone a Happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

   We made lots of dumplings.

 

The dumplings can be boiled in water (shui jiao) or fried (potstickers).

  Eggrolls

 Green onion pancake

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