Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cryptic language

Here is example of the use of cryptic language by experts (Full disclosure: me included):

The question is why nosebleeds most often afflict young children.

The answer given by one otolaryngologist is "digital and other manipulation is the usual cause."

Translation: nose-picking or putting foreign objects in the nose.


Question of the day

What are the implications of the lack of conscience?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Horns and Cape (Extended version)

One day, a creature woke up with two (ugly) horns growing on its head. Why in the world did someone do this to me?, the creature wondered. I was given two ugly horns on my head and the tribe leader said I can no longer live here. "Go find a new habitat." That is the command given to me.

Broken hearted, confused, depressed, the creature had no choice but to do what it was told (all in the while with two shiny ugly horns on its head.) The creature aimlessly walked, walked, and walked until it came across another promising habitat. It talked to the caretaker and the first thing the caretaker said is: "Why in the world did you have those two ugly horns on your head?" Although the creature wishes that nobody would notice the two ugly horns, the creature was compelled to be honest and answer the question. It said "I was told that I have not contributed enough to the tribe and I have not carried independent tribe building activities." "But look, I listed all the wonderful things I have done at that tribe ... look please and you will see that I am a good creature and worthy bringing in to your tribe."

Despite the begs and pleas, the caretaker finally said "No, I don't think I can. With those two ugly horns on your head, we will not be able to take you in." The creature sank deeper into its sorrow and helplessness. What if I cannot find a new habitat? What will happen to me?

Months have passed .... One day, the creature fell asleep under a big banyan tree. This time, it woke up with a beautiful cape with magical power growing on its back. The creature thought to itself... "Wow, I have been given magical power. I hope everybody can see it."

It looks around to see if there are other creatures around so it can show off its wonderful cape. Unfortunately, no one was around. So, it decided to take a walk. It came across one old creature resting near a big rock. The creature excitedly approached the old creature and asked: "Do you see the wonderful cape I have on my back?" The old creature replied "What cape? I only see your two shiny ugly horns on your head."

A creature is confused ... Has it become an ugly creature that nobody wants to welcome? OR Has it become a great creature with magical power to change the world?

What should it think of itself now?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Horns and Cape

One day, a creature woke up with two (ugly) horns growing on its head.

The next day, a creature woke up with a (beautiful) cape with magical power growing on its back.
A creature is confused ... Has it become an ugly creature that nobody wants to talk to? OR Has it become a great creature with magical power to change the world?

What should it think of itself now?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Vision of development from a quality of life perspective

Poverty has proved to be one of the most difficult social problems to solve. Of course, there are many different approaches to address this issue that plague the progress of our society. Some people believe in, what I call, "the economic" approach. This way of thinking addresses poverty by using whatever ways to help the impoverished increase their income. The underlying assumption is that higher income will bring purchasing power and lift people out of poverty. Others believe in ,what I call, "the quality of life" approach. This way of thinking generally believes that it is important to focus on well-being as an outcome. As such, ways to address poverty may not necessarily emphasize on growing income. Solutions may include quality education, affordable health care, good career path, etc.

For example, Charles Kenny, a development economist argued in the recent article in the NY Times (link to article) that "the biggest success in development has not been making people richer but, rather, has been making the things that really matter — things like health and education — cheaper and more widely available."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A boy and a red balloon

We often hear a story of a kid and a balloon told from a kid's perspective. Now, let's hear it from a different voice, a balloon.

A red balloon is happy because finally it finds an owner, a nice little boy
A red balloon accompanies the boy everywhere he goes ... just following along, bubbly and happy

After a few days ....
A red balloon finds that it has become smaller, less shiny, and full of wrinkles
Before long, a boy did the unthinkable ... letting go of the red balloon
A red balloon is lost, scared, sad, confused ... It wonders where that nice little boy goes?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Here and Now

Breathing in ... Breathing out
Breathing in ... Breathing out
I am blooming as a flower
I am fresh as the dew
I am solid as a mountain
I am firm as the earth
I am free

Plum Village, France


Some words of wisdom from Aristotle:

  • Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.
  • "Eudaimonia" -- Humans can attain eudaimonia by fulfilling their potential.

What makes "Organization" GREAT

Here is a story of how one medical doctor discovers answers to the question "what makes a hospital great (i.e., excellent patient care)?"

Here is the link to the full article in the New York Times.

  • She used to think that hospitals have great results because their surgeon are so good at their operations.
  • She discovered from her own experience and from reading the latest study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine that, in fact, investing in new technology and acquiring superstar surgeons may not be the top reason to why hospitals reap great results.
  • Instead, improving patient care require investing in and focusing on cultivating the culture of the organization.
  • What kind of culture? "A culture in which there is a cohesive organizational vision that focused on communication and support of all the efforts to improve care."
  • Dr. Bradley, one of the the investigators said "We have to focus on the relationship inside the hospital and be committed to making the organization work. It isn't expensive and it isn't rocket science, but it requires a real commitment from everyone."
I can't help but wonder if this is true for other kinds of organizations as well.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Managers and their influence on employee's quality of work life

What are the three main reasons people leave a workplace? According to this article in the Times, here they are:
  1. They don't feel a connection to the mission of an organization or sense that their work matters.
  2. They don't really like or respect their co-workers
  3. They have a terrible boss
Some places could have all three of these issues. I would also add that, in some cases, people who face with these circumstances decide NOT to leave a workplace. Perhaps, this could be more detrimental to an organization as a whole.

It turns out Google has a project called "Oxygen". They have more than 100,000 observations about Google managers across more than 100 variables. More importantly, Google uses the results as a feedback to develop training modules for their worst-performing managers. In the end, Google came up with 8 good behaviors:

Measure of progress

Another day, another article that supports a broad idea that we, as a collective, cannot go on and measure our progress by relying solely on those measures of economic growth such as GDP. It is important to view progress from a holistic life point of view. One of a promising measure is "happiness index". Here is a link to the Op-Ed article in the Times by Roger Cohen.

Some of the direct quotes and evidence from the article are:
  • "We can't go on like this, running only to stand still, making things faster and faster, consuming more and more food (with consequent pressures on prices); that somehow a wold of more than seven billion people is going to have to downshift to make it, revise its criteria of what constitutes well-being."
  • Britain will begin measuring how Britons' happiness by asking the citizens to respond on a scale of 0 to 10 on 4 questions:
  1. How happy did you feel yesterday?
  2. How anxious did you feel yesterday?
  3. How satisfied are you with your life nowadays?
  4. To what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?
  • Although it is a step forward to shift from focusing on financial prosperity to the idea of overall well-being, we still need to make sure that what we learn from well-being links to policy making.

Move on

Stop worrying where you're going, move on
If you can know where you're going, you've gone
Just keep moving on.

Move on!
Move on!

Stop worrying if your vision is new.
Let others make that decision . . .
they usually do!
You keep moving on.
Look at what you want,
Not at what you are
Not at what you'll be ...

"Move On", From Sunday in the Park with George

Friday, March 11, 2011

Modesty and Self

David Brooks wrote an interesting Op-Ed article in the NYTimes today. Here is the link to the article.

My takeaway from reading this article is that by emphasizing too much on "self" and "self accomplishment", we may lose an importance of collectives and the meaning of our lives and values towards making progress at the collective level.

Here are some quotes from the article:
  • Brooks questioned whether there is a link between a magnification of self and a declining saliency of the virtues associated with citizenship. He argued: "Citizenship, after all, is built on an awareness that we are not all that special but are, instead, enmeshed in a common enterprise, Our lives are given meaning by the service we supply to the nation."

Evidence-based health vs. Evidence-based medicine

The article in the Times on the quest to find appropriate medical care to achieve quality patient care is fascinating. Here is the link to the article.

  • Chen, a medical doctor, who wrote the article suggests that the evidence-based medicine that focuses on patient care at the clinical premise only is not good enough to promote quality health care. We need a more integrated approach that takes a special care of a patient's life as a whole (at home, at office, etc.).
  • It refers to an article in the Journal of General Internal Medicine that espouses the concept of evidence-based health.
  • So, what is evidence-based health? It is an idea that "primary care providers and community and public health workers would no longer work alone but together in a coordinated efforts that would extend from the exam room to the home."
  • The journal article discusses the initiative in Vermont called "the Blueprint for Health" that has successfully coordinated the care of 60,000 patients.
  • Here are some excerpts of how this initiative works and some proof of success: "Community health teams that include nurses, social workers and behavioral health counselors spend time both within doctors' practices and out in the community, tackling care-related obstacles like transportation, insurance applications and even housing and unemployment. While the program is still relatively young, hospital admissions and emergency department visits have dropped, resulting in lower monthly costs per person."
  • This holistic perspective towards health care looks very promising. It will be interesting to see if it can be scalable and achievable in other locations.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Nothingness .... Emptiness?

Nothingness ... Being free?

Nothingness ... Hopeless?

Nothingness ... Meaningless?

Nothingness ... Impermanence?

Nothingness ... Absolute truth?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Measure of human character

"The difference between how a person treats the powerless versus the powerful is as good a measure of human character as I know.", said Robert I. Sutton in his book "The No Asshole Rule"

Driving by wire

What do you want from a car? This question seems to have been in the mind of car companies lately. Maureen Dowd, a columnist at the New York Times, has a very interesting article on this topic. Her title is pretty provocative: Have you driven a smartphone lately?

It seems that car companies want us to have fully immersive technology-driven car driving experience. Here is a set of evidence from Dowd's article:
  • Ford Sync lets you sync up to apps, reading Tweeter feeds to you
  • MyFord Touch plays your iPod on demand and reads your texts to you including emoticons
  • Ford is working on an avatar Eva with a face, yes a face, and voice of a woman on the dashboard who can us e-mail, update our schedule, recite articles from newspapers, guide us to the restaurant and recommend selection from iPod
Do we want all these technology driven experience while driving a car? Or do we just want to arrive safely at the destination, wherever that may be?