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Archive for January, 2010

(Pic: The Huffington Post)

President Obama delivered his State of the Union address Wednesday night. Here are among the words that stood out for me:

  • “And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that sixty votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership.”

Hard lesson to learn in life: there is no point in being nice or magnanimous to people who don’t want to work with you, or who want to define you.

  • “Abroad, America’s greatest source of strength has always been our ideals. The same is true at home. We find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution: the notion that we are all created equal, that no matter who you are or what you look like, if you abide by the law you should be protected by it; that if you adhere to our common values you should be treated no different than anyone else.”

The perennial truth: The promise of equality, or at least the striving and the dedication towards this ideal, is the best thing about America.

(Cartoon courtesy of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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Michelle Obama...loves the brooch (Pic: Sipa)

The first year of the Obama presidency might bring mixed reviews for Obama’s performance as a President. One thing though has remained fairly constant: Michelle Obama has remained a popular First Lady.

She seems to be a genuine, warm person. Her style has been closely watched, and undoubtedly, she has brought back the brooch as a desirable fashion accessory.

There is an endearing, old world kind of charm about brooches, and it is even more fascinating that it has been given a new lease of life by a barrier-breaking woman like Michelle.

So, here are a few illustrations of how the brooch has given an extra dash  to the First Lady’s outfits.

Pic: Huffington Post

Pic: AFP/Getty Images

Pic: AP

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  • The carnation is the birth month flower for January. A birth month flower, or also known as a birth flower, is a flower symbol for the month of someone’s birth.
  • The carnation is the kind of simple beauty that everybody loves. It can be relied on to fit almost any floral bouquet or decoration, and is easily found in both East and West.
  • I’ve taken the photo of my January teacup with a can of Carnation evaporated milk, a product which has continuously used this flower as its symbol since its early days. The milk has always been a favorite in our family, and personally I do maintain that it’s still the best type of milk to add to one’s tea.
  • The carnation is the national flower of Spain, and is the state flower of Ohio.
  • Happy Birthday to all the January people out there.

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The three main keys to happiness are: our social connections, how to handle negative emotions, and finding our own sources of happiness and resilience.

That seems to be the premise of  a three-part series This Emotional Life televised at the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) channel earlier this week.  Hosted by Harvard psychologist and author Professor Daniel Gilbert, it features talks with experts on these issues as well as personal stories from ordinary people and thoughts from celebrities.  http://www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife/series

The gist of the first episode is that one main component of our happiness is the success of our social relationships especially in relation to family, friends and our romantic partnerships. In the segment about friends, it is interesting to hear actor/comedian Chevy Chase raises the question of how many friends he has. He says: “Three. I don’t have a lot of friends.”

Chase talks about friends and how he met his wife. (Pic:PBS)

Chase talks about friends and how he met his wife. (Pic: PBS)

One would think that with his fame and success, he would have more. But then there are various types or levels of friendships. It is easy to find good-times friends, and some people tend to equate an acquaintance as a friendship. Chase is probably talking about the genuine or lasting kind of connection. It brings to mind this quote that I like: “”A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.”

The second episode discusses the emotions that can be obstacles to happiness such as anger, fear, depression and the tools that can help us regulate these emotions. The last episode “Rethinking Happiness”, which to me is the most interesting one, explores what is happiness and how can we attain it.

A study with art posters showed people's adaptability.

A study with art posters showed people's adaptability.

It points out that for thousands of years, happiness was a subject explored by poets and philosophers, but in the last few decades, psychologists and scientists have used scientific approaches to study it. In one study, participants in a room were asked to choose an art poster. One group was told that their decision was irreversible, while the other group was told that they could exchange the poster for another one at any time.

After that, they were told to rank the posters, and the people who couldn’t change their posters liked them more than the other group. The lesson from this study is that humans are pretty good at adapting: “People find ways to like things when they are stuck with them. When we don’t like our circumstances, we change the way we think about those circumstances”.

On the whole, the series is a mix of  things that we already know as well as new and fresh insight.

The search for happiness can be simple, elusive, fulfilling, frustrating, or all of these, and will continue to fascinate us.

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