Books read in 2017 Q1

It is time to post the first book report of 2017, now that three months are already behind us. My goal this year is to read 50 books, 20 of which from shelves at home. I only finished 11 in Q1 , a little behind schedule. I am quite optimistic about reaching the goal though, considering how many ‘currently-reading’ ones I have at the moment.

Here are the books I finished in the first quarter:

  1. Passenger to Frankfurt by Agatha Christie
  2. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel & Blake Masters
  3. The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars by Dava Sobel
  4. The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun by Paul Hattaway & Brother Yun
  5. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami
  6. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
  7. The Leopard by Jo Nesbø
  8. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
  9. Good Leaders Ask Great Questions: Your Foundation for Successful Leadership by John Maxwell
  10. Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben
  11. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Four of these books are from shelves at home (behind the goal of 20 as well). As usual, the books on this list are quite diverse in terms of genre, time frame, and author’s nationality. My two favorites are #6 and #8 – truly outstanding and highly recommend. I don’t like #1 and #10, while all the others are good in one way or another.

Keep reading… till the next report. 🙂

Books 2017Q1


A Good 2016, A Better 2017


My year 2016 has been quite busy and productive, although I didn’t accomplish all the goals I set out at the beginning of the year:

  • Read 50 books. Done. I finished 50 books and here are the book reports: Q1; Q2; Q3; Q4. Interestingly, the average length of this year (2016)’s books is 343 pages, almost the same as last year (2015)’s 342. In both years the longest book I read was by Stephen King.
  • Visit 5 new countries. Done. I actually visited 8 new countries: Netherlands, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia.
  • Swim 80 times (average 1.5 times a week). Partially done. I swam 50 times, average once a week. But I started doing Hot Yoga this year and attended classes in a studio 7 times. On average I walked 5,080 steps a day, falling short of last year’s 7,000.
  • Publish 50 blog posts (on Saturdays). Not done – only posted 18 posts, even fewer than last year’s 28.
  • Lose 5 pounds. Not done – my weight at the end of the year was the same as the beginning of the year. At least I didn’t gain pounds.

Seems only the travel and reading goals were accomplished, same as last year. It is a clear indication of where my passion is. 🙂 Here is this year’s travelogue:

  • January. New York City, NY (work); Cruise on Windsurf, Caribbean
  • April. Charlottesville, VA
  • May. San Antonio, TX; Carlsbad, NM
  • July. Amsterdam; Belgrade; Montenegro; Dubrovnik; Frankfurt. Trip Brief
  • October. New York City, NY (work)
  • November. Mystic, CT; New England

Now here are my goals for 2017, not much different from 2016:

  • Read 50 books, 20 of which from shelves at home
  • Visit 3 new countries
  • Swim 80 times (average 1.5 times a week); yoga at home everyday
  • Publish 40 blog posts
  • Lose 5 pounds

I am looking forward to a better year ahead – closer to God, healthier, happier, wiser…

Books read in 2016 Q4

On this last day of 2016, I am ready to post the Q4 book report. I did manage to finish 11 books this quarter, therefore reached my goal of 50 for the year. Plan to keep the same goal for 2017, although the genre and format of the books are likely to change. 🙂

Here are the books I finished in the past three months:

  1. The Redeemer by Jo Nesbø
  2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  3. Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best from Your People by Edward Hallowell
  4. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  5. The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
  6. Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth
  7. Fool’s Gold: How the Bold Dream of a Small Tribe at J.P. Morgan Was Corrupted by Wall Street Greed and Unleashed a Catastrophe by Gillian Tett
  8. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  9. The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell
  10. Talking from 9 to 5: How Women’s and Men’s Conversational Styles Affect Who Gets Heard, Who Gets Credit, and What Gets Done at Work by Deborah Tannen
  11. Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World by David Kent

I enjoyed most books on this list, especially #6, #8, and #11. I learned a lot from #7 and #10. The only book that I don’t like is #9.

Currently I am reading a few interesting books which will hopefully end up in the 2017 Q1 report, including a big one that should be counted as 6 books. 🙂 Stay tuned.


Books read in 2016 Q3

It suddenly occurred to me yesterday that we were already five days into the fourth quarter of the year, and I totally forgot about posting my Q3 book report, as well as a few other things that I do on a quarterly basis. Life had been busy this summer, so I only finished 11 books in Q3, which makes a total of 39 books this year, still ahead of schedule to reach the goal of 50. Looking good.

Here are the books I finished in the past three months:

  1. The Burning Room by Michael Connelly
  2. The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement by David Brooks
  3. Darkest Fear by Harlan Coben
  4. The Running Man by Richard Bachman (Stephen King)
  5. The Clocks by Agatha Christie
  6. I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
  7. 1Q84 Book 3 by Haruki Murakami
  8. Last Year’s Resolution by Robert Lampros
  9. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  10. Border Music by Robert James Waller
  11. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

The books on this list go from extremely boring (#10) to very good (#9), and everywhere in-between. The three nonfiction books on this list (#2, #6, #11) are all interesting and informative.

Only need to finish 11 more books in Q4 to reach my goal. Rather than starting new books, maybe I should work on those that I started but have not been actively reading. Will see how it goes. Keep reading…



EY Connect Day – Part III

Time flies and it is our firm’s annual day of service to the community again! Since I had such a great experience last year, I chose to go back to the same nursing home to volunteer on September 30th. Here are the stories from a year ago: Part I; Part II.

We divided up into three groups for the morning session: group 1 to play Jeopardy and volleyball with the residents; group 2 to do gardening in the yard; and group 3 to paint walls of a hallway in the building. I participated the group 1 activities last year (see my previous posts) and had no green fingers whatsoever, so I joined the wall-painting group.

The tasks gave me a sense of accomplishment as the light green walls gradually disappeared under a new white coat. And I interacted with two residents. One was half sitting and half lying on a bed in his room, facing the door that was open to the hallway where we were painting. I said hi the first time I saw him, and he said it was really nice of us to do this. He watched us with interest and had a big smile on his face all the time. The other was a woman ‘walking’ her wheelchair – tapping her feet on the floor to move the wheelchair with her. She said “good job” the first time she passed through us, then she kept circling back, at least 5 times. I suspect she was walking laps as her morning exercises.

I went to the activity room where the volleyball game was taking place. I was so happy to see Edith and Jenny were still playing, at age 102 and 100 respectively. I didn’t see Ruth at first, then she came in just when I was asking about her. A few of us had a good chat. I asked “what book are you reading now?” She immediately reached behind her wheelchair and pulled out Dead Wake by Eric Larson. The staff there told me that Ruth is a World War II veteran, spoke five languages, and admired by grateful scientists and writers from Isaac Asimov to Carl Sagan during her years at Library of Congress. I was deeply awed once again.

After lunch, we cut colorful papers into flower/leave/pumpkin shapes for their holiday decorations. Some of my colleagues did more gardening, a few of them went around the hallways to update the bulletin boards, several girls did manicure for residents. Edith was very happy with her bright red nails. A lady with India origin got pink ones. She was okay at first but suddenly went into distress, mumbling in her native language. Luckily one of our volunteers knew the language and was able to speak with her and calmed her down. Good to have a diverse team!

It was a wonderful day. We interacted with residents and brought energy and fun into their lives; we got some tasks done that otherwise would have fallen on the shoulders of the staff; and we networked among ourselves, who are in various groups from different offices. EY Connect Day is such an inspiring event and I am proud to be part of it. Last year more than 16,600 EY volunteers logged over 105,000 hours across the Americas on this day, let’s see what the numbers are for this year!



I don’t take photos of people much, but here are a few that really touch me. Hope you like them as much as I do.

The first one is from a hiking trip on Old Rag Mountain in Virginia. The trail is about 7 miles round-trip with elevation of 2,200 ft. There is 1 mile of rock scramble near the peak and that is where this photo was taken.img_2330They are my friends and they are happy. I believe they will share the burdens of daily life together, with cheerfulness in their hearts and smiles on their faces…

I have been to Chicago twice and found myself in heavy rain both times. They are my friends as well, walking ahead of me in the stormy downtown.yellowstone_0530-003Yes, hold each other and hold tight, never let go. Walk together, step by step, through the calm, through the storm…

This next one was from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. It is where Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia meet. It is also the intersection of Potomac River and Shenandoah River, a beautiful place.img_1094I like the color of this photo, as well as the lyrics of a Chinese song that always comes to my mind when I see it. “Growing old together is the most romantic thing that I can think of”. Two hearts become harmonious after so many years together – they can communicate without saying a word. Just sit in a park, on a beach, or in rocking chairs at their front porch, feel and enjoy…

I like trees, and I like these two standing in Stanley Park of Vancouver, BC, Canada. img_3658It is beautiful (maybe a little sad) to stay like this. Always together, forever apart…

[Daily Post – Together]


R U Smiling?

Many people told me that they liked the “ru.smiln” that I used as my email account, various IDs, and the blog URL here. Since my first name is Ru and last name initial is S, they thought it was quite clever as well. Actually I didn’t come up with it myself. It found me.

It was in the winter of 2005, my mood was very low those days – stressful work, hopeless dissertation, failed marriage, seriously sick father. Everyday was a struggle. One morning, I woke up and saw a grayish overcast sky, I was immediately filled with despair and didn’t want to go to work at all. But I did anyway because it was the right thing to do. I drove out and stopped at the first traffic light, and the plate of the car in front of me was ‘RU SMILN’. My heart was struck to the core and tears rolled down my face at once, even before my brain got a chance to react. I knew clearly it was God speaking to me, “smile, my child, just because you are mine”. If it were simply ‘SMILN’, I wouldn’t feel much, but my name was there staring at me! God came to cheer me up even without my praying for it. His eyes were upon me and knew how I felt. I cried all the way in the car that morning, and smiled through my tears at the same time. I made up my mind to let God see my smile no matter what happens, because I am an obedient child and I trust Him; I will also show my smile to the enemies – my God loves me so much, what can you do to defeat me?

Not until months later did I realize the car plate actually was ‘are you smiling’, not really my name RU. God worked in amazing ways to get His personal message across. And I started to use “ru.smiln” as a constant reminder of His love for me.

God carried me through that darkest period of my life and kept blessing me in many ways since then. As time went by, I gradually became content and proud. I took things for granted and didn’t put Him front and center in my life anymore, but His love never left me. My heart started to turn toward Him again recently. I was listening to old worship songs while driving last night, darkness all around me. As I prayed and sang to God, many scenes in the past flashed through my mind. His peace and love once again filled me. Fear not, for the joy of the Lord is my strength. In a world of uncertainty, God and His love alone is everlasting.