Tuesday, November 23, 2010
From 7-year-old Cassie Eng who collected 34,002 pennies in the Pennies for Peace project at her birthday party.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Nathaniel, the main character in the book, is not a mentally ill musician but a musician with mental illness.
"It's a subtle but significant difference, recognizing the person before the condition."
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Today's thought is inspired by what I read in the book "The Soloist":
"Do not worry about far-off future. Just get off the street safely and be thankful. Honor your mother and father. Don't be disrespectful to people, be good and maybe life will take care of itself."
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
The story of her cell, HeLa cell, is remarkable in science history. Her cell is a big part of several scientific discoveries and new drugs that cure diseases and save lives. Some of these discoveries include drugs for treating leukemia, influenza, and Parkinson's disease, among others.
However, these scientific triumphs come with tremendous personal cost to her family. It creates confusion, anger, and sadness among her children when the woman behind the cell has not received the honor that she deserves. More important, when pharmaceutical companies and labs make money off Hela cells, her family lives in poverty and cannot afford health insurance.
How can the medical field let this happen?
In the 1970s, Ted Slavin who was born a hemophiliac was exposed to the hepatitis B virus from donor blood many times over. However, he never knew it until much later that he has extremely high concentrations of hepatitis B antibodies.
Here is where Slavin's story departs from Moore's story. Slavin's doctor "told him that his body is producing something extremely valuable (Skloot, 2010, p .202)." This is because pharmaceutical companies were willing to pay high amount of money for a supply of antibodies to produce a vaccine for Hepatitis B.
Slavin contacted laboratories and pharmaceutical companies and several of them are interested in buying his antibodies. His intention is for someone to cure Hepatitis B.
He wrote a letter to Nobel-prize winning virologist, Baruch Blumberg, and offered him unlimited free use of his blood for research. This is a critical event. Slavin and Blumberg had a years-long partnership. Eventually, Blumberg found the link between Hepatitis B and liver cancer. He succeeded at creating the first hepatitis B.
Later, Slavin recruited other people and started a company, Essential Biologicals.
There are many critical events in Slavin's story that make the turns of the events very different from Moore's story. Part of it is because his doctor is truthful and honest with him.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
I am reading a book with a title "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot. I want to share three human stories from this book. Let's start with the first story of John Moore.
At the age of thirty-one, John Moore had hairy-cell leukemia, which is a rare and deadly cancer that filled his spleen with malignant blood cells. He was treated by a prominent cancer researcher, Dr. David Golde, at UCLA. The doctor removed his spleen and asked him to visit UCLA for follow-up exams. By that time, he already moved to Seattle and he had to fly to L.A. for these appointments. So, he thought about visiting a doctor in Seattle instead of making frequent trips to L.A. This is when the story unfolds.
"When Moore told Golde he wanted to start doing his follow-ups closer to home, Golde offered to pay for the plane tickets and put him up in style at the Beverly Wilshire."
Of course, Moore thinks that is strange. Until one day, a nurse gave him a new consent form to sign. He circled "do" to voluntarily grant the university all rights in his cell line and any other potential product might be developed from his blood or bone marrow. On his next visit, he changed his mind and now he circled "do not". Golde called him twice asking him to come back to change his consent form. They also mailed the form to his home with a sticky note "circle I do".
Moore then sent the form to a lawyer who discovered that Golde has been developing and marketing a cell line called Mo.
Moore said "It was very dehumanizing to be thought of as Mo, to be referred to as Mo in the medical records: Saw Mo today. All of a sudden I was not the person Golde was putting his arm around, I was Mo, I was the cell line, like a piece of meat."
To make a long story short, Moore's cells are valuable because they produce rare proteins that could be used to treat infections and cancer. They also carried a rare virus that can potentially be used to develop vaccine for HIV.
Moore's case went up to the Supreme Court of California. At the end, he lost his case. The Supreme Court argued that "when tissues are removed from your body, with or without your consent, any claim you might have had to owning them vanishes. When you leave tissues in a doctor's office or a lab, you abandon them as a waste, any anyone can take your garbage and sell it."
Do we need to take advantage of people for the advancement of science?
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
NPR had an article with a title "And iPhone makes three: Marriage in the digital age". In particular, the argument at the heart of the married couples in the story has to do with "a spouse whose body may be right there but whose mind is off in cyberspace".
I can't help but wonder how this affects our quality of relationships and well-being.
Monday, November 1, 2010
According to the recent article in the New York Times, it looks like the virtual fence project under the Department of Homeland Security is much likely to fail. The project was originally estimated at $7.6 billion. The work by Boeing is to put up a series of towers and sensors to spot trepassers along the 2,000 miles of U.S. border.
So far, with $1 billion spent, we have less than 50 miles of these virtual fence done. Oh well...
Sunday, October 31, 2010
It is amazing to see an increasing number of ways that iPads are used among adults and children with disability.
- Text-to-speech applications for patients with spinal cord injury to browse the Internet.
- Applications to teach autistic children basic skills such as brushing teeth
Con: Need human fingers to touch screen, touch screen technology can sometimes be too sensitive
Several questions remain to be studied:
- What is the effectiveness of iPad for people with disability?
- What is the efficacy of different design alternatives for different kinds of disabilities?
Here is a link to the full story on the New York Times.
Here is a link to another story on the Wall Street Journal.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
A beautiful poem by Thich Nhat Hanh:
Do not say I depart tomorrow,
for even today I still arrive.
Look deeply: I arrive in every moment,
to be a bud on a branch,
to be a tiny bird with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the hearth of a flower,
to be jewel hiding itself in a stone.
I still arrive in order to laugh and to cry
in order to fear and to hope.
the rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.
I am the may fly metamorphosing
on the surface of a river,
and I am the bird, which when spring comes,
arrives in time to eat the mayfly.
I am the frog, swimming happily
in the clear waters of my pond,
and I am the grass-snake who,
approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.
I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly
weapons to Uganda.
I am the 12 year old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable
of seeing and and loving.
I am a member of the politburo
with plenty of power in my hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his
“debt of blood” to my people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.
My joy is like spring so warm it makes
flowers bloom in all walks of life.
My pain like a river of tears, so full it
fills up the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and my laughs at once,
So that I can see that my joy and my pain are one.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
that so the doors of my heart can be left open,
the doors of compassion.
Friday, October 29, 2010
"In order for chickens to produce more eggs, the farmers create artificial days and nights. They use indoor lighting to create a shorter day and a shorter night so that the chickens believe that twenty-four hours have passed, and then they produce more eggs. There is a lot of anger, a lot of frustration, and much suffering in the chickens. They express their anger and frustration by attacking the chickens next to them. They use their beaks to peck and wound each other. They cause each other to bleed, to suffer, and to die."
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
According to the Dalai Lama, leaders should respect three values in their decision making:
- Dependent origination: The law of cause and effect or action and consequences. Competent leaders should think deeply and holistically about consequences of their decisions before making actual decisions.
- Interdependence: All our actions and decisions have effects on ourselves and on others.
- Impermanence: This concept is sometimes referred to as "emptiness". It means that things keep changing. This belief helps all leaders not to become victims of adherence to ideas, profits, losses, etc.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Here is an interesting argument about the downside of "artificial" and "unfortunate" division among disciplines. This is what I learn from the book "Happiness Quantified: A Satisfaction Calculus Approach". Although they talk about traditional disciplines like economics, psychology, etc., the lessons can be applied to more recently established disciplines like information systems and computer sciences.
Why artificial? -- "Because it is hard to argue that economics has nothing to do with sociology or psychology, or the other way around." (p.1)
Why unfortunate? -- "Because these artificial scientific boundaries make it difficult to make a complete study of phenomena that have economic, sociological, and psychological aspects." (p.1)
Perhaps, this strikes at the core of what "interdisciplinary" program needs to do:
- Break down the invisible walls between disciplines
- Respect different approaches, theories, and methods to examine a phenomenon
Monday, October 18, 2010
How much weight should we put on "human rationality" when it comes to scientific research? The answer is "it depends on which discipline we are taking about." Let's investigate what we can learn from Psychology and Economics by looking at the two recent articles in the NYTimes.
- Magic by Numbers: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/17/opinion/17gilbert.html?_r=1&src=me&ref=homepage
- The X Factor of Economics -- People: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/17/weekinreview/17segal.html?scp=2&sq=economics&st=cse
- Daniel Gilbert, a psychologist at Harvard, made an argument that there are certain numbers such as 7, 10, 24 that may dominate our thinking, decisions, and ultimately our behaviors. For example, why do we have to take antibiotics for 7 days? Gilbert argued: "A recent study of antibiotic treatment published in a leading medical journal began by noting that “the usual treatment recommendation of 7 to 10 days for uncomplicated pneumonia is not based on scientific evidence” and went on to show that an abbreviated course of three days was every bit as effective as the usual course of eight."
- What is such a big deal about the amount of pills to take or the length of time to take them? The answer is it has implications on healing costs if each of us is taking a few pills too many to cure our diseases. On the other hand, if we take too few, it may create the superbugs that can prove to be more detrimental to human kind in the far future.
- My take is our decisions and behaviors do not always follow the law of rationality and rational calculus. In some cases, heuristics win over rational thinking not only in our every day life but also in science.
- The NYTimes article started out with an interesting observation about economists. Why they do not always agree on key questions such as which policy decisions we should take? and what are the impacts of important policy such as the $787 billion stimulus? These are important questions that guide fiscal and other national policies.
- The answer is economists look at complex phenomena i.e., a country's economy. As Solow argued "It (the stimulus bill) has run its course over the past year and a half, but it is not an isolated event. One thousand other things were happening that had an effect on employment and real G.D.P.,” a measure of a nation’s total output adjusted for changes in prices. “You want to trace the effect of one of a very large number of significant causal effects, and that’s a very hard thing to do.”
- For economists to predict/explain complex economic outcomes, they have to make a strong assumption on "human rationality". Prof. Ariely from Duke University argued: “But there’s a good reason that human irrationality isn’t part of the standard economic models, and this gets to the dilemma of economics. If you have a simple problem, you can offer a simple solution. But the economy is a hugely complex problem. So we either simplify the problem and offer a solution, or embrace the complexity and do nothing.”
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Wisdom from "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" ......
The Grinch hated Christmas! .....
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
An interesting argument from the New York Times reader:
"All pain caused by humanity can always be synthesized down to ego and greed.
There is no action taken by an individual, and thus collectively by civilization, that is leading us away from enlightenment that cannot be attributed to these two destructive motivations, ego and greed.
It is only by making choices that resist these temptations that humanity has a chance of survival, and any one of us has a chance of living a life of peace and joy."
Monday, October 11, 2010
Friday, October 8, 2010
I am drawn to the dialogue between Russell and Mr. Frederickson when they first met. Here how it goes:
Russell: Good afternoon. Are you in need of any assistance today, sir?
Carl Fredricksen: No.
Russell: I could help you cross the street.
Carl Fredricksen: No.
Russell: I could help you cross your yard?
Carl Fredricksen: No.
Russell: I could help you cross...
Carl Fredricksen: No!
[closes the door on Russell's foot]
Here is a summary of Zen Shorts:
"Michael," said Karl. "There's a really big bear in the backyard." This is how three children meet Stillwater, a giant panda who moves into the neighborhood and tells amazing tales. To Addie he tells a story about the value of material goods. To Michael he pushes the boundaries of good and bad. And to Karl he demonstrates what it means to hold on to frustration.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
This is a story about a black person (who is a professor at Brown University). He has to ride an AMTRACK train from New York city to Providence. Over the four years period, he learned that the seat next to him is almost always empty. Nobody really wants to sit next to him. Why?
His conclusion is "because I can’t accept the bounty of an extra seat without remembering why it’s empty, without wondering if its emptiness isn’t something quite sad. And quite dangerous, also, if left unexamined. "
Very disturbing evidence of why we tend to focus more on our differences than our similarities as human beings.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Rahm Emanuel is a departing chief of staff for President Obama. He left the white house to pursue a campaign for a mayor of the city of Chicago.
Here is what David Brooks summarizes Rahm Emanuel as the person he knows:
"Any smart pat of butter would spot him at 100 yards and flee. That’s because Rahm is completely in touch with his affections and aversions. He knows who and what he loves — Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, the city of Chicago — and there is nothing hedged about his devotion to those things. He may be a professional tactician, but he speaks the language of loyalty and commitment, not the language of calculations and self-interest. "
"I’m writing this appreciation of Rahm because success has a way of depersonalizing its beneficiaries. From the moment kids are asked to subdue their passions in order to get straight As to the time they arrive at a company and are asked to work 70 hours a week climbing the ladder, people have an incentive to suppress their passions and prune their souls. "
"That’s especially true in Washington, a town with more than its fair share of former hall monitors, a place where politicians engage in these pantomime gestures of faux friendship and become promotable, hollowed-out caricatures of themselves. "
Monday, October 4, 2010
"The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him"
Sunday, October 3, 2010
"No matter what part of the world we come from, we are all basically the same human beings. We all seek happiness and try to avoid suffering. We have the same basic human needs and is concerns. All of us human beings want freedom and the right to determine our own destiny as individuals and as peoples. That is human nature."
Saturday, October 2, 2010
"You need to contemplate ... that you must die ... When you have done so, you will pay more attention to the deeper aspects of life; you will focus on the way that karma works--the ways your own actions bring about specific effects. When you recognize that ..., you will determine what is important ..."
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Some workplaces are designed in a way that people who work there act like orphans in an orphanage.
- That is, bigger/older boys take away toys from smaller/younger boys.
- Everyone cries for attention from caretakers.
- Everyone operates in a survival mode.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Powerful messages from Steven Colbert from his answer to the question of "why he donates his time to the migrant farm workers out of all possible causes":
“I like talking about people who don’t have any power, and it seems like one of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who come and do our work but don’t have any rights themselves,” he said. “Migrant workers suffer and have no rights.”
"Remember then that there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side. For these, my dear boy, are the answers to what is most important in this world."
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
There is an interesting article on NPR web site today. Here is the link to the full article: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130023318.
Here is what I learn from this article:
- Under the U.N. Charter, states have the right to go to war if they come under an "armed attack" from another state. This is a traditional way to determine when a country can engage in a war against another country. However, this definition does not help a country answers a question of "should it go to war when it experiences cyberattacks on its networks?"
- Some people argue that it depends on "the underlying purpose" of an attack. If it is a deliberate attempt to destroy computer networks. Then, what is the extent of damage that warrants a wage of war?
- Another piece of important treaty is the Hague and Geneva conventions. They require militaries to minimize the damage to civilians in wartime.
- So, when you engage in cyberwars, this means that you cannot incur damages to private networks.
- Several questions remain: (1) how can we determine consequences of cyberattacks?, (2) what actions are considered out of line and illegal in cyberattacks?, (3) how can we catch (real) attackers considering the anonymous nature of the Internet?
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
These few days, world leaders are gathered to discuss the progress and future plan of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. The important speech came from Bhutan's prime minister. Here are a few things that he said:
- "Since happiness is the ultimate desire of every citizen, it must be the purpose of development to create the conditions for happiness. This requires a proper balance of consumption, leisure, good governance, and attentiveness to nature, biodiversity, and environmental sustainability."
- Seeking a more holistic indicator of development that transcends the "materialism" of Gross Domestic Product, Gross National Happiness measures four criteria -- sustainable development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, conservation of the environment, and good governance.
- "It does not demand much imagination intelligence," the prime minster told the summit, "to understand that endless pursuit of material growth in a world with limited natural resources within a delicately balanced ecology is just not sustainable -- that it is dangerous and stupid."
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Friday, September 3, 2010
I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled "The Power Trip". Here what it has to say about people in power:
- According to the article, people give authority to people whom they genuinely like. In other words, people who climb up to a powerful position are those nice people.
- However, once they rise to the top, they change. "When you give people power, they basically start acting like fools. They flirt inappropriately, tease in a hostile fashion, and become totally impulsive." said Professor Keltner.
- Why does power lead people engage in unethical behaviors (think Bill Clinton with Monica Lewinsky or Blogojevich's bribe case or Mark Hurd's expense account fudging here)? Psychologists argued that one of the main problems with authority is that "it makes us less sympathetic to the concerns and emotion of others."
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
What are the differences between a good leader and a great leader?
(1) A great leader is not afraid to make the "right" decision no matter how controversial that decision may be.
(2) A great leader is not afraid to admit his/her mistakes.
Monday, August 30, 2010
Having a strong belief that you are doing the right thing is important to maintain the focus on what is important. It also helps with perseverance.
Example: Mortenson sent 580 letters to try to get money to build a school in a remote village in Pakistan. "Six months had passed since Mortenson had sent the first of the 580 letters and finally he got his one and only response. Tom Brokaw, like Mortenson, was an alumnus of the University of South Dakota. ... Brokaw sent a check of one hundred dollars and a note wishing him luck. And one by one, letters arrived from foundations like hammer blows to his hopes, notifying Mortenson that all sixteen grant applications had been rejected."
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Greg Mortenson, the author of Three Cups of Tea gave a very powerful answer to the question of "What motivates him to dedicate himself to educate children in Pakistan and Afghanistan?":
"The answer is simple: When I look into the eyes of the children in Pakistan and Afghanistan, I see the eyes of my own children full of wonder--and hope that we each do our part to leave them a legacy of peace instead of the perpetual cycle of violence, war, terrorism, racism, exploitation, and bigotry that we have yet to conquer."
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
"Here in Pakistan and Afghanistan, we drink three cups of tea to do business; the first you are a stranger, the second you become a friend, and the third, you join our family, and for our family we are prepared to do anything -- even die."
"Three Cups of Tea" book
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Friday, August 13, 2010
Here is the full story published in the NewYork Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/13/us/13exonerate.html?ref=us.
His compensation of $2.2 million did not help him coping with several questions he has been facing:
- Why was he convicted 27 years ago?
- What should he do with the rest of his life?
- Here is the account of Mr. Green about his free life:
"Mr. Green, in the meantime, said the experience of freedom had “been a trip.” Just stepping in a grocery store or shopping for clothing at a mall overwhelms his senses, he said.
But the best years of his life are lost forever, he says. He wonders what happened to his girlfriend, whom he lost contact with after being sent to prison. He breaks down when talking about his mother’s death in 2006 and how he missed the funeral."
Thursday, July 29, 2010
"The only solution is for Americans to adjust our culture over time to our new media technologies. The information system gives us more data than ever before, faster than ever before. But we don’t yet have the wisdom in place to help us deal with it."
"In time, we will. The worst of the partisans will get their comeuppance and become cautionary tales for others. Public leaders will learn to be more transparent. We will teach our children not to rush to judgment. Technology will evolve to better expose fakers."
"We have to understand that no one can be defined by a single photograph, open-mike gaffe or sound bite. Not even our greatest leaders could have survived if they had to be taken to task for every poorly conceived utterance or youthful demonstration of immature political views. When it comes to politics in the age of Facebook, the killer app to stop the “gotcha” bullies won’t be a technological one — it will be a wiser, more forgiving culture."
Leo Rosten, 1908 - 1997
I got this quote from kiwanja.net. This life meaning makes a lot of sense. But I still struggle with the question of "what is the meaning of living?"
Monday, July 26, 2010
Here is an interesting quote from the NYtimes about what over 90,000+ classified documents reveal:
"The debate in Washington has focused on counterinsurgency and the big picture, but these documents show that complex policies are not going to work because no one knows how to implement them on the ground."
"The leak reveals what war is — a confused and dirty exercise where goals can be quickly lost in the confusion of an actual fight."
These quotes also apply to other situations such as an implementation of a new information system, a new interdisciplinary initiative, an enterprise architecture strategy, etc.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
What will you say if someone ask you a question: "what is the meaning of rain?"
Here is my answer:
Rain brings happiness on a hot and humid day.
Rain brings sadness on a cold and gray day.
I want a day that rain brings neither happiness nor sadness for me.
Will I ever have that day?
I find it interesting that when something bad, I mean very bad, happens to us. Events like sudden death of loved ones, hearing of fatal medical diagnostics, or job termination without good reasons. There are two common reactions that tend to pop up in our mind around these events.
- We think that there must be some clues to let us know that this event is coming.
- People who experience these catastrophic events in their lives tend to say these words in their mind "Doesn't the rest of the world notice what just happened to me!!!"
Here is Joan Didion's reflection on the moment of her husband, John Dunne's sudden death from cardiac arrest:
"It was in fact the ordinary nature of everything preceding the event that prevented me from truly believing it had happened, absorbing it, incorporating it, getting past it."
Here is Morrie Schwartz's reaction as told by Mitch Albom when he learned that he had ALS :
"Outside, the sun was shining and people were going about their business. A woman ran to put money in the parking meter. Another carried groceries. .... My old professor, meanwhile, was stunned by the normalcy of the day around him. Shouldn't the world stop? Don't they know what has happened to me?"
Sunday, June 20, 2010
I read a touching story from a daughter who lost both of her parents -- one in a long painful death to himself and to his family and the other in a graceful and peaceful death.
Here is the link to the full story in the NYTimes.
Here are the three lessons I learned from this story.
- As a society, we tend to focus on the discovery of new technologies (pacemakers in this story) but pay far less attention on use and its impact on people's lives (patients and their closed ones in this story).
- In almost every industry, companies focus on the business aspect of their products and services. Ethical thinking and ethical decisions are not much valued and practiced.
- Funding agencies focus their funding efforts on technology discovery and development but hardly support less glamorous studies on impacts of technology.