Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Latest Personal Happenings - Mar 09

1. Working out - I went to gym with my wife two nights in a row. It's nice to feel sore here and there with such long break from working out. Though the sessions last about an hour, I felt good afterwards, very rejuvenating! Hope to keep up with such habit whenever we are free in the evening.

2. My son - My son learns talking very well. He can recognize pretty much 1-10, A-Z, and pronounce 85-90% of them. I've a lot of fun playing with him. Just that, he started to have bad temper. Also, he doesn't eat well, very picky without any reason or consistency. Also, he started to dance while listening to kiddy songs. His aunt bought him a toy that play many of those kiddy songs like London Bridge is falling down, MacDonald's Farm, Itsy Bitsy Spider, etc. He would pick songs by skipping them and start dancing, turning his body, and prancing his butt...very cute!

3. Gadget - Still paying lots of attention on news about upcoming release iphone. So far, I'm sure I will buy it as soon as it is out. I think I will like it very much, beside the entertainment which actually is being fulfilling nicely by my ipod classic 5.0, I think the iphone can really help me on managing my other misc stuff in personal life much better, like making appointments, recordkeeping, planning, etc. Just can't wait to get it.

4. Reading - I start to pick up books again in spite of my tight daily routine schedule on things. I usually do my reading on subway on the way home while listening to my ipod. Cos, usually, I read free newspaper during the morning trip. I'm still reading the 'Freakanomics' by Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner. I love it. I bought 2 more books lately - 'The Undercover Economist' by Tim Harford, and "The Economic Naturalist - Why Economics Explains Almost Everything" by Robert H Frank. I'm gonna take my time enjoying these books, though I can only read few pages each day.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Book Shopping Mentality

In my previous blog, I was talking about my reading hobby. Besides, reading things on internet and borrowing from library, the natural way to get books is going to buy them. For here, I won’t go too to much about shopping the books in bookstore or in Amazon. I’m talking about is what book would I wanna buy these days and why?

I don’t have unlimited amount of money and space at home. Therefore, these are legit concerns for me in shopping for books. Also, as I grow older, I learn from past experience. For example, I won't go to bookfairs no more. Especially, when I found out that those books that I bought in last bookfair have not been read yet. What is the point? For me, I love books in spite of the convenience and my acceptance of ebook. Put the ‘green’ stuff aside that it kills trees to print books and all that for a moment, it is nice to own books. That's why there are even 'fake' books that can be found for decoration purpose. I mean those looked as real with nice hardcover, but actually are blank. However, my experience is that books are one of the bulky and heaviest items in home-moving. The packaging part is easy, but it did take up a lot of space. Therefore, I do have to really think before I buy any books these days.

There are certain categories of books that I won’t buy anymore and I will tell you why. The following is my ‘no-no’ list:
Fictions – I don’t care how big a seller it is, DaVicci Code? Harry Potter? I’m sorry. Don’t get me wrong that I don’t like story books. For example, I did enjoy reading those books from late Michael Crichton back in my college days. Nowadays, other than I won’t have time to read them, even if I do, will I go back to reread them again and again? I really doubt that. So, read them once and they will be useless to me. Thus, it is not economical to buy these books.
Coffee table books – Well, I don’t have a coffee table at home, even if I do, I would put my feet on it rather than stocking these oversize, overprice, heavy hardcopy books. Regardless how nice those pics are, I just think that I can get those pics online. What they can include in one book would never been enough in terms of numbers.
Books with lots of data – Many of these books have data or statistics, they may have charts, graphic, etc. Well, I can get more up-to-date data online and maybe in data format as well, it would be more usual that way.
Tech manuals – Same as the above, data in these books are dated. Technology info these days should be transmitted and stored in virtual world for constant update and easy access. Who will want an user guide for Window 2000 at home this day?
Other types of DIY manual – like cooking, fishing, etc. I can find them online with videos as well. Why bother?
Short articles books – those like collection of blogs, jokes and humor articles. Stuff like that. Same, I can find them online.

That’s said. The books that I really will buy are those that are “re-readable”. Not necessary tools or manual, but more of things that are inspiring and useful. E.g. like Bible, Seven Habits, First Aids, etc, that sort of topics. Not sure if it sounds kind of vague, but still that’s what I’m going for.

Of course, I’m only talking about these are what I will buy for ‘myself’. As a parent, there are books that I just have to get for my son, that’s a different story.


I love to read. I think I picked up this habit when I was in my fourth grade. One day, I just happen to start reading articles in newspaper. Since then, it became a habit to read regularly for leisure. I’d clearly distinguished the difference between reading for leisure and reading for school. Cos, the materials were different and so did my mentality.

As a kid, I was very curious of the world, certainly it was from a very kiddy point of view. Anything that I found interesting, I would read. I think I began to read for information and knowing things, more than learning or for entertaining. For example, I was interested in paranormal or mystery stuff back then. I would read articles or books about UFO, Loch Ness monsters, and ghosts. Cos, those books would tell me something that I don’t know. Certainly, I did read comic books, but I was not into novels until I began junior high, when I start to read sci-fi novels. Also, I would read maps, books about civilizations, dinosaurs, weapons, etc, typical boy stuff.

Source of my books were mostly from library, I did buy some books, but shopping for books would be a totally separate topic that I will blog next time. When I first went to my school’s library, I was so excited! I simply would walk from aisle to aisle, shelf by shelf to check out what were there. Then, I began to learn some categories of knowledge that I’d no idea for. When I was a kid, I needed to take a general science course. I didn’t know science could be broken down into biology, chemistry, physics, etc. When I went to bookstore that was even shocking to me. The books were newer and cleaner. There were even more categories available. That was incredible to me!

As I grow older, I’ve been reading continuously for leisure. I would simply pick up almost anything of books, just to see what they were all about. Certainly, that didn’t make me into expert of any kind. However, I think I did read hundreds of books when I was younger. Novels of different kinds, mostly sci-fi, but I also would read Wu-Xai, crime, legal and few love stories. However, my favor books were informative non-fiction books.

Reading takes time, I read less and less as my life moved on to different stages. From being a full-time student who had ample of time to having a full-time job, from being single to having a life partner, from marriage without children to being a dad, spending time to read a book became a luxury that is so hard to afford. I think I had only read 2 books last year.

However, thank God for internet! It helps me tremendously in terms of reading. Cos, besides books, I love to read magazines or short articles. So, with internet, I can stay inform conveniently and be able to stay in touch with not just news, but news analysis of all sorts. Now, with blogs, that’s even better. Considering my tight daily schedule, I just don’t have much time to ‘feel’ the social pulse on what the world’s view of topics. Yes, I spend half hour of so to watch late night news, but what are people think about that news? I would not know, as I don’t listen to radios anymore. Reading blog is such a good way to know what others’ opinion of the world. I love that.

Looking forward to my future, I think about a ‘cycle’. I will have to go back to read basic school books again! When my son grows older, I think I would need to refresh my knowledge while helping him on school works. Surely, the mentality is different than when I was in his place. Nonetheless, building up a habit of reading will definitely be my hope for my son. Cos, nothing is better than sharing thoughts after reading something in common and discuss. I wouldn’t know what he will love to read for now, but we will see….

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Pope and condom

Pope Benedict XVI is visiting Africa. The most prominent news from his current visit is about his objection of using condom in AIDS prevention. As we all know AIDS is one of the top causes of death on that continent. Certainly, as the figure head of the Catholic Church, he has to defend the standpoint of the institution on the topic of sex. To my limited knowledge, from the Church’s point of view, sex between opposite sexes should only occur after marriage and for the purpose of breeding. That’s it. Anything that doesn’t fit that narrow purpose is forbidden, though as we all know human beings have sex for many reasons besides that. So, even the existence of condom, as a contraceptive instrument, is principally against the Catholic’s belief.

I think principle is one thing, but reality is usually the other. That’s one of the reasons why I’m not a fan of religious institution. People are dying, yes, you can teach them your belief which can prevent AIDS or other sexual diseases. However, meanwhile, is it too much to ask to adopt a ‘preventive and life-saving’ tool that can save innocent people before they ‘learn’ to behave? I don’t see the Church against the procession of guns or firearms which are also lethal. That’s just ridiculous and hypocrite from my point of view.

I just think that the reason why certain religions can exist and prosperous over time is because their principles are universal and can stand the test of time. One way for that is to be a bit ambiguous that provide room for interpretation in the change of time and places. Also, as a religion, for God sake, they should promote the high moral standards on the one hand, and try to protect lives on the other hands. Unless, they think that certain people deserve death, but who gives the institute the right to judge?

Therefore, I think people should look after themselves. If they believe in God, that’s fine, they pray, learn the beliefs from Holy texts and think. Then, do what you think is right for you and others. Don’t just follow to what the big guy has said, particularly not word for word. Cos, ultimately, it is all about your relationship with God, your love ones, not the institution.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I've been feeling down in recent days. As usual, it is triggered by a 'combo' of factors: family, job, finance, health, etc. None of them are at critical situation that dominant the others. However, when all of them have got me concerns one way or the other, the overall feeling is just not good. I'm experienced in dealing with my emotion, clearing my thoughts and motivating myself. So, I"m not too worry about that. Just as of this moment, I've not been self-motivated to that point to restart my 'engine'. So, my mind is 'grinding', and not feeling well. Hopefully, I won't make large avoidable mistakes before I get better.....

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Monday, March 16, 2009

Don't dig your own grave

As a parent, I can't help but think about how to bring my kid up, what to teach him and how to teach him. Hard skills and knowledge are not easy, but there are many proven ways to obtain that. Like if you want your kid to learn kung fu, you can take him to a local dojo or send him to Shaolin temple. If you want to learn programming, you can self-learn by picking up books, or take courses, just to practice and practice.

For soft skills, that's the hard part. Cos, many of them are easy to understand, but hard to practice consistently, and let alone master them. For example, how to get along with people around you. It is something studied since human beings exist on earth. Talk about relationship, as long as we need to live with people, we can't stay away from it. The worse case is that there are not only many 'theories' in soft skills, many of them are complicated by who the practitioners and the target people are. For example, kids are taught to be honest. But kids have their own characters, when we think about the consequence of being honest, it may not be always good to oneself, especially the punishment for being honest for bad things done whether that was intentionally or not. Also, who do we should tell the truths to? To a priest anonymously, or point your own nose tips and say 'yes! I did it!'?

I think the most difficult part about teaching a kid is about relationship with the opposite sex. Yes, many folks would say kids nowadays are so smart and rebellious that they would not need or listen to what you are going to tell them. They make do the opposite and don't even bother listening to what we said. Well, they got their points, but I doubt any parent would simply not trying to convey their own set of ideology about those of kind boy-girl relationships to their kids. To my ideal situation, I would say the best scenario is that my son is intelligent enough to pick up what's work for him from all sources. Yes, I admit that I'm not a good example or great lecturer on this topic. So, though I will still try to share what I think with my kid in a more subtle way rather than outright 'I told you so' lecture, I would prefer him to digest information from all sources to make up his mind for what should work for him.

I don't even want to think about what would be the worst case scenario for that. I opine that just based one source of information, regardless of how good it may be, it is just not enough to deal with the possible variation of relationship situations. Also, learning from his personal own mistakes will be very painful in many aspects. I would say, just "don't dig your own grave!"

When, I don't know if the following things make sense or not, just wanna think some of them may be what I'm gonna share with my kid in future:

- You can crazy in love with a girl, but don't spoil her to a point that you lose who you are.
- There must be respects 'mutually'. If she doesn't buy it, just retreat.
- Saying 'no' doesn't mean you are wrong. Don't love someone that doesn't deserve your love.
- Don't try to change someone's character. Cos, you will fail.
- Sometimes, it is better to be alone than with someone who make you unhappy.
- There are always more than one side in each story. So, be a good listener and think, don't just talk.
- Love takes time, but lust doesn't take that long. So, think about consequence before you act.
- Conflicts are unavoidable, unless she is a dummy and you want her to be one. No, she won't be one. On the other hand, don't let her to treat you like a dummy.
- Consensus is the key. If you can reach one with your life partner, and you are happy with the consensus. You are blessed!
- Try to look at good things, not just the bad ones. Don't be stupid enough to look for bad things in good things. If you can't find one, it is because there is none. Even if there is, probably those are good things in other people's eyes, not you. So, those are still not good things.
- Love is blind, so you should try to spend some minutes/hours in your day try not to love, but to think from a third person's point of view to analyze what you are doing. Be your own teacher, teach yourself lessons. It is not psycho, it is simply helpful.
- Don't take on other's trouble unless there is a solid mutual commitment.

The last for not but not least....there is always a second choice in things. You are the driver of your own car, don't let the road should you where you have to go ahead. You often can STOP, and may even U turn. So, even there looks like there is only one way ahead. No! It isn't.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

My 18 months old son

My son is almost 18 months old. Time just flies. He is just adorable at this age. I’ve kept reminding my wife that we should spending more time to enjoy being with our son this year. When he grows older, he will be different. Cos, our son is really different day by day.

He picks up words quickly, after telling him 2 or 3 times, he can repeat after ourselves, and he does that sometimes without our special attention. He is just like a sponge of knowledge. That’s why one of my friends told me the other day that we should keep him from watching TV as long as we can, not even commercials. That’s very true. To these days, I still don’t know where did he pick up the term ‘Television’? When we said that term, he would point to our LCD in the living room. Honest to God, none of us intentionally taught him that word. Since he likes to watch TV, we just don’t turn that on unless we want to watch news shows. Also, we would mention the term ‘TV’, rather than ‘Television’, so he won’t know what we are talking about.

The other day when we were talking to the teacher in our son’s playgroup, she was very surprise when we told her that our son can not only recognize but also repeat almost all alphabets. Well, so far, he can almost say it out loud almost all of them, except D, E and Z. He is also a bit confused of E and F, and keeps saying the E is F. Certainly, his tongue and vocal structure is still developing, he still lacking in making certain sounds, like S and X, he still hasn’t been able to say them correctly. For 1 to 10, his ‘8’ is the accurate one, but the rest are fine that at least I can tell he pronounces them differently. Anyway, I’m very happy with what he can do so far.

Certainly, developments of different aspects proceed differently. He is learning how to use his mini-toilet bowl. That takes time. Also, he is still not very good with telling the difference in color. I don’t think he is color-blind. I think it has something to do with the fact that there are so many colors and he just got them mix up. Also, he can’t walk down stairs yet. Anyway, just playing with him and watching him make my day!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Use our senses

When the economy was good, most of us indulged in our works and enjoy our leisure time with family and friends. It was actually okay to be ignorant of the society, let alone the world out there. Though I'm not one of them, many folks did live those lives. That's why there are many people who didn't know world events or knowledge beyond what the stupid headlines or topics in casual chats in front of water fountain.

When the economy was bad, many folks can still live the life mentioned above as long as they still have a job. Certainly, the job security is an issue and people will start paying more attention to the local economy. As local economy is closely tied to the global one, the latest recession (or possible depression) really get many people anxious. The recent nosedive of major stocks in the local stock index does get on many people's nerves. Yes, that's still unrealized losses, but come on, how many folks' wealth are in real paper money under their mattress? So, I think that the tanking of market will really further dampening the local retail market as the only brighter spot in the local economy so far. That's deemed to be changing.
Many folks are asking 'why?' but what they get in return is hearsay and soundbites from the media. How many will really spend sometimes to read and think? Not the majority, it is said that folks with all the information accessible at their fingertips and not use it to find out more. They may see, but they don't 'read', they may hear, but they don't 'listen'. It is just sad! Cos, a lot of behavior changes are usually triggered by social events related to political, economical, or health. The current economic catastrophe should be a triggering event that make people think, especially the sense of value, what is important to that live. What they did? what they are doing? and what they should have done? will all affect what they will do in future.

I just think people should spend more time to use their sense to find out what is going on in the society and in the world. That can help them to understand the 'rings in the chain' that link events together. See what can be done, at least on a personal level. For example, should we live a more 'green' life? That can save us money, save the environment at the same time. Especially after I became a parent, this just get me thinking more about what kind of life he will live in future. What kind of things that we are doing now and what would they lead to in future? Before doing anything, use our senses to link ourselves to the world, then think! That's what I'm trying to say....

Friday, March 6, 2009



There are many financial companies offering advice to working folks for retirement planning. If you don't wanna bother by those commission hogging experts. We can always DIY by picking up books or searching the net to find information to plan for retirement.

Unless we are civil workers who can still get funds from the government after being retired until death. Most folks are worried about how they gonna live during retirement. The usual concern is that we don't want ourselves outlive our money, not the other way around. Though some folks believe that the most success life is that you can spend your last dime on the day you die. However, unless we kill ourselves (well, most sane people won't), we don't know when we will die. So, most of us are just working on the other end - managing our money so we can afford to live when we don't have income anymore.

Do we really have ZERO income after we retire from our job? Well, if we have 'nice' kids, they may give you some pocket money. The government will still provide few cents as a nice gesture if it is not broke. However, the above two options are not very reliable or dependable. The best way is to taking care ourselves on our own if we can. We can invest in stocks and bonds to get dividends, interests, or simply profit. Or, conservatively, put in deposits or some capital-saving accounts, so we can have relatively reliable source of funds to live. Of course, nothing is really guaranteed. Like I saw the news few weeks back, a man in his nineties coming out of retirement from teaching profession to become a clerk in a local supermarket because he loss most of his retirement funds in the subprime crisis. Imagine that! living 30 years of retired life and has to get back to work again! Thank God that he got a job, but still, I don't think it is something that most of us wanna face.

I'm not an expert of such. However, one of my hope is that I can continue to work as long as I can. To be honest, I've never thought of early retirement even when the economy was good. Do I enjoy working? Well, it is a matter a relativity. I don't need a job to prove my value. I'm sure I can find enough things to occupy my time and my mind if I don't have a job. However, being working is not a bad thing. As long as the job with dignity, and I'm comfortable with. Sure, all kinds of emotion, up and downs are happening during the working hours. Cos, we can't guarantee that won't happen without a job. What really matter is that we can have a respectful life that we feel comfortable in. For others, may be retired in their 40s and go travel the world. For me, I wish I can do that, but I'm worry about having to come out of retirement and couldn't find a job when I need to. So, it is better to stay in the workforce if I can. I can always enjoy my life in after work hours and in the weekends.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


There have been news about teenagers and celebrities on drugs lately. Well, drug is nothing new, it has been with human beings for thousands of year. It has never gone away, and it won't as long as human exists. What should be thought about is to study why somebody use it, but some don't, and how to manage it.

In the old old days, even for now, folks on drugs because they give them pleasure. The major difference between nowadays and back then are the knowledge of health effects and legal implication of drugs.

Back in the history, the rich did drugs for leisure, to bond with others, a mere social event. On a personal level, they found drugs pleasurable and help them to relax. For the poor, drugs are simply a way out of their miserable reality. Regardless the rich or the poor, they didn't know the long term medical problem that they would have when they were addicted to drugs. So, part of that was ignorance. Also, they were indulged in the short term pleasure. They just didn't want to think about the future. Besides, there were not that many rules on drugs. The matter was really whether you could get it or not. The rules are more to do with the financial aspect of it. Like should the government tax on it, who could distribute them, etc.

Nowadays, people's addiction to drugs for similar reasons at the personal level like our ancestors. The difference is that there are tremendous amount of medical studies and proof that drugs are harmful to our body. If you wanna die young, and suffered a long period of time of miserable pain, rejected by society and broke, then do drugs. Otherwise, better not even touch them. Also, there are the legal aspects that monitor the production, distribution, and usage of drugs. With the illegal stamps on most of them, it creates an economy around drugs, that make people die for/of drugs without even taking them themselves.

I think that at a personal level, people should not take drugs. Cos, most people are weak, though they deny it, drugs do have an addictive effect. However, I don't think it should be treated as a illegal act. Cos, I think it is better to look at it as a medical and moral problem rather than a legal issue. I would say if you take drugs, your body will go haywire, and will not function properly. So, you need medical attention to help you quit. From a moral point of view, you do drugs and make yourself incapable to perform your own duties on an acceptable manner. You should be shameful to yourself, your family, and as a member of the society. Taking drugs should be made it as a sinful or shameful act like committed adultery or prostitution. They would be more appropriate and effective in terms of prevention. At least, as long as drugs are legal, it will destroy the drug economy and the current resources that are spent on dealing with the problem can be allocated better on medical treatment and prevention. Certainly, certain drugs on certain medical usage should be monitored, regulated and acceptable.

I don't think my view is new, but certainly mine is not in line with the mainstream. Sometimes, I think it doesn't hurt to step back and think out of the box, especially for some problems that seems to have no void solution.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ideas that may "change" the world - #2

Problem - Racial Discrimination
Suggestion - Governments provide economic benefits to racially mixed births
Rationale -
- Number of racially mixed marriages have increase over years, and so do the number of births from those couples. However, economic incentives do help people to have kids. It applies to same-race couples as well. So, it should work towards mixed couples too.
- If there are getting more racially mixed people in the world, I think it is the ultimate solution to the problem. Yes, education can help, but when your parents, and grandparents are from different races, it doesn't really make any sense to discriminate anyone. At least not by their races.
- Racial issues usually happen to society that are more of 'black' and 'white', or I would say more 'color-distintive' society. However, if there is a 'rainbow' of colors in the population, and they are the majority. Things should be better.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Ideas that may "change" the world - #1

Problem - Erosion of the wild and global food shortage
Suggestion - Mandatory field trips to slaughter house and alternative-nutrients presentation for all ten years old and their parents in developed countries
Rationale -

- Many people don't know how to they get their meats, except going to supermarkets.
- According to some studies, many people find the treating of animals, the ways the are housed, transported, and slaughtered are so appalling that, they eat less meats, and some even become vegetarians.
- If the animals are shown to be treated nicely, the kids will find the too adorable to be killed for food. On the contrary, when the animals are treated badly, the suffering that they go through will make people have second thoughts about consuming them.
- 10 years are old enough to understand things and before they hit the puberty that will consume large sum of meats.
- Parents need to be there, so they see things first hand, cos what kids will eat has a lot to do with parent's choice, so the presentation can provide them alternatives to meats.
- People in developed countries are relatively larger meat consumers than people in developing countries.
- This suggestion is trying to reduce the demand side of the equation.
Besides deforestation for wood supply, many natural wilderness are destroyed for herding of livestocks. Also, farmlands have been eroded due to the more lucative business of using land for animals farms.
- A same piece of land can provide larger volume of plant-based foods than meat. So, more people can be fed.

Ideas that may "change" the world - Preface

Obama talks about "Change". I believe in "Change" as well, just as the name of blog has shown. But why there are changes? I'm not talking about those changes due to natural causes, or something initiated by third parties. Rather, I'm talking about Changes that we want to carry out, something we are hoping for.

Such changes are usually happen when we recognize that there are problems. Those problems that we see could be no issue to the others. Like high gas prices would be a problem to drivers, but it is not an issue to environmentalists who want to develop alternative energies. So, after we define what the problem is (as a point A), then the next step is to see where point B is. Namely, what do we want to change to. Cos, point B is not necessary better than point A. So, we need to define what point B is carefully and make sure that is achievable. Otherwise, we are going nowhere. If point B is not realistic, then we may end up at point C that could be far worse than point A.

After we lay out what point A and point B are. Then, we need to draft how do we get from A to B. There could be more than one path, so there must be pros and cons for each that would need to be analyzed and weighed. Then, pick the best choice.

Sometimes, the problem that one person recognize could be shared by many others. It is a fact that no way all folks will agree on the selected path. Thus, for some large scale problem, what we can hope for is to pick the path that will benefit most people in number.

After all the illustrations above, I would like to suggest some wild (could be weird) solutions to some problems that I recognize. They are not in any particular order of importance, just some thoughts I wanna share...