Year of the Horse

Happy New Year!

Few Chinese Horoscope books contain overall prognostications for the year. In my large collection of these books, one of the few that does is the first edition of Theodora Lau’s The Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes, published in 1979. Unfortunately, in the later editions of this book, her overall predictions for each year have been removed.

To provide my friends with this interesting information, here is Ms. Lau’s overall forecast for the Year of the Horse, plus her predictions for how individuals will fare this year, given the animal that represents their birth year. (To determine what animal you are, see my table of animals for birth dates.)

The Year of the Horse

January 31, 2014 – February 18, 2015

A lively and high‑spirited year for all. Life will be hectic and punctuated with adventures. People will find themselves reckless, romantic and carefree. A definite time for advancement. We will find it quite agreeable to keep in step with the delightful Horse.

This will be a time when decisions and projects will be incorporated at high speed and with efficiency. Action will be the key word. Everything is on the go and we should take care not to drive ourselves too hard. It will be a rewarding but exhausting year.

Exhilarating yet frustrating at times, this year’s pace will tax our reserve energies and leave us feeling depleted. It is a good time for letting off steam and doing all the whimsical things you ever dreamed about. Listen to your senses. The wind may be changing constantly, but once you have picked up the scent, follow your intuitions.

Planning and procrastinating will be shoved aside. The impulsive influence of the Horse, coupled with his self‑confidence, will dictate our actions and emotions. Industry, production and the world’s economy will be on an upswing. Tempers, too, may be a bit frayed in areas of diplomacy and politics. But good humor will prevail.

Brace yourselves, the volatile Horse will quicken our pulses and bring tension and stress into our everyday lives. The Horse’s tempo is fast, his disposition sanguine but erratic. But in spite of everything, we will retain his common sense approach toward money matters. An excellent time to strike out on your own. There will be freedom of movement this year. Be brave, bold and shocking.

How you will fare in the Year of the Horse

Rat  A difficult time is in store for the Rat. He has to be very conservative in assessments or business commitments as the year of the Horse forces him to entertain, waste money or become engaged in lawsuits. He may run into debt or be unable to get back money due him. Love affairs may not turn out well at this time.

Ox  An unsettled year for the Ox. Unhappy love or financial affairs beset him and he could have financial setbacks or be involved in accidents. Illness can also cause unexpected delays and make him unable to honor his commitments. Darkest clouds should pass by autumn. A time for him to consolidate or make conservative estimates.

Tiger  A very good and happy year ‑ Things will go smoothly for the Tiger. Promotions and recognition are in store. It will be an easy time to make money, and the Tiger will even be able to save money or receive additional income. There will be celebrations as good news is received at home.

Rabbit  A good year in store for the Rabbit, as his luck will come from meeting helpful people who will be happy to use their influence for his benefit. The Rabbit will not experience any big upheaval or illness this year and thus be able to recoup previous losses. He may have much traveling or entertaining to do.

Dragon  A year mixed with uncertainty and unpleasant surprises for the Dragon. Some news could upset or change his life temporarily, although problems in general tend to work themselves out if he is not too headstrong or aggressive. He will find this year an uneasy time as real and imaginary worries beset him.

Snake  An energetic time for the Snake native. He must refrain from being emotional and hasty if he wants all his hopes to be fulfilled. Unsettled problems and worries affect his health. All in all, he will succeed admirably this year. His troubles are temporary.

Horse  A good and prosperous year for the Horse. Recognition or promotion brings him satisfaction and happiness. Plans are realized without much effort and he will be lucky playing his hunches. A year in which the Horse is also susceptible to contagious disease, so he must not visit sick people or expose himself unnecessarily. He must not break friendships or partnerships this year.

Sheep  Smooth and tranquil year. The Sheep faces no large problems at home or work. He can get control behind the scenes and overcome obstacles in his path. A slight illness or infection indicated, but in general he will prosper this year. Some problem that has troubled him in the past will turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Monkey  A fair year for the Monkey although he is still faced with worries and frustrations. His difficulties will be able to work themselves out if he does not rock the boat and agrees to lower his expectations a bit. A year to join the opposition when it becomes clear he cannot beat them. He must be conservative and observant to succeed.

Rooster  A trying time. The Rooster must not expect too much too soon as he will meet many obstacles in his path this year. He will pun through if he is not misguided by favorable preliminary results that could turn sour later on. A time to play politics or employ diplomacy, as he will have to make unwilling compromises with his enemies. His work scene is likely to be quarrelsome or unhappy. Some good news indicated in his family.

Dog  A year of expansion and progress for the Dog. Promotions and real financial gains are indicated and he will be at the peak of his power and luck. Some unhappy news at home or loss of a small belonging is indicated. He will entertain or travel a lot this year. This is a time in which the Dog will have to use his mind a lot.

Boar  A good year for the Boar if he avoids speculation or entrusting his money to newfound friends. Benefits formerly withheld from him will now come from all directions and past problems turn into blessings in disguise. Fortunate and prosperous year for his family and career.


Urbana University: 2013 Fall Commencement Address

Urbana University

Fall 2013 Commencement Address

“Lessons of a Lifetime”

Roderick G. W. Chu

December 14, 2013


President Peterson, Chair Polsley, Rev, Coffman, Provost Hasan, Mr. Workman and your fellow members of the Urbana University fall graduating class of 2013, Trustees, Faculty, Staff, Alumni, family and friends …

On this very special day for our graduates, their families, faculty, and the many others who have been so instrumental in helping them reach this achievement; on a weekend we will remember as challenging us with warnings of severe winter weather; in a week the world paused to remember the life and example of an extraordinary man dedicated to harmony, equal opportunity, democracy, and learning: I am honored to receive this degree and to join the ranks of you graduating today as an Urbana alumnus.

Lessons of a Lifetime

Honorary degrees are somewhat like a “Lifetime Achievement Award” issued by the Academy. Indeed, I guess I have achieved a lot during my life.

I am a child of immigrant parents who came from China to America as teenagers with very little. They worked hard and sacrificed to provide me the best education I could get.

I pursued my career, first in management consulting, rising ultimately to become a worldwide managing partner in Accenture, the world’s largest technology consulting firm, and making enough money to live comfortably for a lifetime. I accepted the opportunity serve as the Commissioner of the New York State Dept. of Taxation & Finance – second largest tax department in the nation – at the ripe old age of 34. I later moved to Ohio to oversee the policies and activities of its 140 public and private college and university campuses as the Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents. In the process, I became one of the highest-ranking Chinese-Americans in government and education at the time.

By any measure, I have led a successful life. I’ve lived the American Dream.

I’ve learned a lot in that journey – and I’m sure I have more lessons to come. As you leave Urbana today to set on your journey, I’d like to share a few of the key lessons I’ve learned so far.

To do that, I’ll need this banana.

Urbana University

Before I get to that, though, let me ask “Why should you bother listening to what I have to say?” – other than the fact that you are gracious, well-mannered, and polite, and I occupy this traditional segment of your commencement program and you don’t have much else to do – other than perhaps texting your friends.

You who are graduating here today and your family, friends, Urbana faculty and staff who have guided and supported you – this is YOUR day.

Recognizing that fact, I came to visit your campus 3 weeks ago to talk to some of your fellow students, faculty, staff, and trustees.

In that visit, I learned a bit about what makes Urbana such a special place – and thank you, Josh Brown, for showing me around campus!

Many of you chose Urbana because you could be student athletes – Blue Knights. You have developed something extra from your engagement in sports that you don’t typically get from sitting in classrooms: your character – determination, perseverance, experiencing the rewards that come from hard work and postponing gratification.

You’ve formed close bonds with your faculty, being comfortable texting them even in the wee hours of the morning – a practice many of you might continue long after you leave here.

You’ve grown through your liberal education, recognizing that everything is connected; learning not just how to tackle and solve problems, but to see things differently, to ask the relevant questions, to seek out and find the problems.

You’ve become part of this warm, caring place where people are committed enough to you and your future to keep challenging you, yet at the same time to stay focused on your individual needs – be it advice, coaching, a kind word, or just a piece of chocolate – to let you build the confidence you need to realize the potential you’ve always had.


With your Urbana education and experiences, you leave here, like Johnny Appleseed, with the challenge to better the world – or at least your part of it.

Yet, I must confess, for the last few decades, we who have graduated before you have left that world with much more to make better. We Baby Boomers and Gen Xers have been so focused on our own need for immediate gratification and amassing personal wealth that we’re leaving our succeeding generations with trillions of dollars of debt, immeasurable environmental damage, a crumbling infrastructure, and governments in which our elected officials feel they can’t even talk civilly with each other, let alone develop answers to our most pressing problems.

Your college degree today is not the guarantee of success that mine was over 4 decades ago. Your degree is only a ticket to enable you to compete.

On this, your graduation day, I don’t mean to deliver a downer of a message, for there is, indeed, great hope in what I have to say.

You are, after all, members of the best-educated generation America has ever seen. You have a passion and commitment to help others that reflect the values and ideals of a prior generation of Americans: the one Tom Brokaw labeled “The Greatest Generation.”

What will you do, though, with that education, that passion, that commitment, to address the challenges you are inheriting?

In the issue of The Lancer announcing my selection as your commencement speaker, your fellow graduating student Zach Iiames, stated his hope that I would “deliver a speech that is honest and real.” Well, Zach, be careful what you ask for, for you may get it.

Lessons & advice

If you are to fix the mess that prior generations are leaving behind, you are going to have to work hard – really hard.

The experience that most of you have had at Urbana, though, shows that you know how to work hard. I’m afraid that you’re just going to have to keep that up. These are not simple problems we are leaving you – after all, if they were simple, we would have solved them by now.

So in addition to working hard, you’re going to have to be smart.

Your professors and years at Urbana have taught you how to learn. But with knowledge doubling every 2-5 years in most fields, about half of what you’ve learned since starting at Urbana may already obsolete.

So you’ll need to keep learning. To do so, you’ll need to be thoughtful. You’ll need to keep an open mind. You’ll need to think critically. Don’t let yourself be lulled into thoughts and actions made on autopilot.

As I said, you’ll need to keep learning. I certainly have. Remember my banana? Of course, I’ve eaten bananas almost my entire life: A wonderful fruit, with delicious flesh that comes in its own handy, stay-fresh wrapper. Getting it out, though, is sometimes a challenge. The stem is quite hard when it’s not very ripe.

Well, just last year, I learned there’s another way to open a banana: Turn it around, pinch each side of the nipple end, and pull. Voila! It’s said that this method was discovered by observing monkeys eat bananas; monkeys don’t have energy to waste on inefficient methods.

Now if you already knew about bananas, come see me after the Commencement and ask me about the new way I just learned to eat an apple!

Keep an open mind and don’t be lulled into doing things the way you’ve always done them.

But the problems I spoke of are a lot bigger than opening bananas. Most recently, I’ve been studying research in human behavior, behavioral economics, learning theory, and spiritual growth. Look for the problems that need solving – for example, creating a new economy that unlike the one you’re inheriting, is efficient, fair, and sustainable for future generations.

To put a new spin on an old saying, you will need to work both harder and smarter.

You’ll also need to figure out what you’re working harder and smarter for. Is it to make a lot of money? That certainly was my answer when I left college. But here’s something I’ve learned in the 42 years since I left grad school: The root of success is not money.

Money doesn’t buy happiness.

I’ve read a lot of research in the past few years that concludes that chasing money to increase happiness is a losing game. Beyond a point of basic subsistence, when asked how much money do people think it would take to make them happy, there’s a surprisingly universal answer: Twice what I have now. Unfortunately, you never reach that point. For if you’re fortunate to get twice what you have now, that becomes another base point for needing twice as much. Seeking happiness through money becomes a never-ending rat race for twice as much.

Alas, this everlasting quest for ever more – consumerism – has become the lynchpin of our capitalist system. But the dirty little secret is that increased consumption doesn’t make us happier.

America is the wealthiest nation in the world, but studies on happiness find that we’re way down in the pack in terms of our individual and collective national happiness. We have the world’s biggest economy, based on the stuff we consume, but I’ve learned that the old maxim “he who dies with the most toys wins” just isn’t true. I have a beautiful house in New Albany, full of a lifetime’s collection of “stuff” that doesn’t make me inherently any happier than I was with my teeny apartment in NY with far less “stuff.”

My advice to you: Collect experiences, not things. Don’t get trapped in the money-grubbing rat race. Look for what makes you truly happy and gives meaning to your life.

Figuring out what you’re working harder and smarter for may change during your life. In fact, I hope it does, for that would indicate your are continuing to grow in your understanding of yourself and taking charge of creating your own life instead of letting your life be driven by “isms”– capitalism, consumerism, conservatism, liberalism, Liberatarianism, or the many other “isms” – that are set by others.

As you do figure these things out, you may eventually recognize that fulfillment comes from thinking of and serving others instead of just yourself.

We’ve heard it all our lives, especially at this time of the year: “Tis better to give than to receive.” But honestly, I went through a lot of my life thinking how foolish this aphorism was.

Yet the exhortation to be generous is as old as the Bible and as new as current research.

When you finally recognize that questing for “twice what I have now” is a losing proposition, you’ll find the joys of giving – of your money, your time, your passions – to someone or something other than yourself is fundamental to building deep personal happiness.

Alas, as we’ve all seen, from the financial antics of those on Wall Street to the buying of political influence in Washington for corporate gain, there are some who don’t recognize this reality.

But there are many others with whom we’ve been blessed with having in our own lives – our parents, our families, our teachers and professors, our neighbors, and friends – who through their generosity have found this answer and made themselves happier through their love, support, and caring for us and others.


I know that almost no one remembers what speakers said at their graduation – I certainly don’t – though some of you might remember the lesson of my banana. So if some day you wonder who spoke at your graduation and what was said, instead of trying to remember me, Google Ashton Kutcher – the celebrity who was the first with a million Twitter followers – and his acceptance speech at the Teen Choice Awards, and you’ll get a very tweetable Cliff Notes version of my lessons: Work hard. Be smart. Be thoughtful. Be generous.

As you leave Urbana, with testy memories of Rose in Brown Hall, but knowing you can now safely touch the Rock after dark, I offer you my congratulations and best wishes for finding happiness and living up to your potential of making your community, your state, your nation, and the world better places to be.

Thank you and Godspeed.

Looking Deeper: Who Will Profit from a U.S. Loan Default?

Washington StalemateIt’s been awhile since I’ve shared serious thoughts, but the absurdity of the current political stalemate in Washington that may lead to a loan default by the U.S. roused me to share these.

Since the sub-prime mortgage debacle, I’ve been awaiting the next scam that will enable Wall Street tycoons to get richer while making the rest of us poorer. I fear I’ve found it in the current stalemate in Washington and the impending crisis over a failure to raise our national debt ceiling. With all the expert concerns about not raising the debt ceiling (see, for example, Bruce Bartlett’s article in the NY Times), why are politicians playing with fire? Is it because some of them really want to destroy our government? Is it because John Boehner simply wants to keep his job as Speaker – or that others fear a crazier right-wing Republican may replace him? Is it because Democrats are merely petulant? On the surface, these explanations are attractive enough to garner a knee-jerk following, but there may be a deeper game afoot here.

It’s getting more and more difficult to make huge amounts of money in our free market system. After all, new laws and regulations stem old schemes, so new schemes must be invented in a more restricted market. But here’s a simple fact: Whenever there is a financial crisis, not everyone loses; some win – and sometimes win very big, especially when the crisis is enormous. Just look at all the new billionaires who came out of the multi-trillion dollar world mortgage debacle.

So how about disrupting the world’s economic system by having the U.S. default on its debts? That certainly sounds like it would be a big enough crisis to provide a new opportunity for some to make vast fortunes while the rest of the world loses. With unlimited political contributions – our country’s form of legalized bribery – market movers and shakers can buy politicians to do their bidding and cause such a crisis.

Is this a grand conspiracy theory? No, it doesn’t take a conspiracy for politicians to be complicit. Lobbyists and big contributors have access and deliver rational-sounding arguments to elected officials. And politicians and their staff don’t need – or care – to look deeper, beyond those arguments, as long as those contributions keep coming to meet their primary objective: staying in power. Indeed, given the extreme polarization of our political system, it appears each side hears only what they want to hear, listening solely to their own side’s news media.

Given the stakes at hand here – both for the potential big winners and many losers – I fear we’re all being fooled by increasingly strident statements that keep us from seeing what may be the more fundamental objective at play: providing a diversion for another massive theft of our money by a few at an enormous cost to the many. In football, we’d call it a “head fake.”

The ownership of the media by a few, focused interests helps ensure that probing reporters and analysts don’t investigate or discuss such possibilities.

So here we go again. Another bubble may be about to burst, and this time before we’ve had a chance to recover from the last one. I just wish I were knowledgeable enough to know how to take financial advantage of this one.

Year of the Snake

Snake drawingHappy New Year!

Few Chinese Horoscope books contain overall prognostications for the year. In my large collection of these books, one of the few that does is the first edition of Theodora Lau’s The Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes, published in 1979. Unfortunately, in the later editions of this book, her overall predictions for each year have been removed.

To provide my friends with this interesting information, here is Ms. Lau’s overall forecast for the Year of the Snake, plus her predictions for how individuals will fare this year, given the animal that represents their birth year. (To determine what animal you are, see my table of animals for birth dates.)

The Year of the Snake
February 10, 20013 – January 30, 2014

A year for reflection, planning and searching answers. A good time for shrewd dealings, political affairs and coups d’etat. People will be more likely to scheme and ponder over matters before acting on them. An auspicious year for commerce and industry. Solutions and compromises can be arrived at, but not without some mutual distrust at first. The Snake likes to resolve his differences one way or another. If he fails and things cannot be peacefully settled, then he will declare war.

Looking back into history, we find that the year of the Snake has never been tranquil. Perhaps this is because it is the strongest negative force in the cycle and it follows the Dragon year, which is the strongest positive one. Many disasters which had their beginning in the year of the Dragon tend to culminate in he year of the Snake. These two signs are very closely related and the calamities of the Snake years often resulted from excesses committed during the Dragon’s reign.

This will be a lively time for romance, courtship and scandals of all sorts. A good year to pursue he arts. Fashion will become more elegant and fluid; music and the theater will blossom; and people will strive for a more sophisticated life. Notable contributions will also be made by science and technology.

The venerable wisdom of the Snake will be evident in many facets of our life, particularly in those requiring decisions. Although everything may look refreshingly quiet on the surface, the year of the Snake is always unpredictable. The Snake’s cool and collected front hides the deep and mysterious ways of his nature, It should be noted that once the Snake uncoils to strike, he moves like lightning and nothing can stop him. Similarly, changes that occur during the Snake’s year can be as sudden and devastating.
Tread lightly and be more cautious this year. Gambling and speculation is strictly taboo. The consequences will be over-whelming The Snake is not merciful.

Whatever else happens, the Snake will give us faith in our convictions and coerce us to act and to act forcefully during his reign. This is not a year for fence-sitters.

How you will fare in the Year of the Snake

Rat A mixed year. The Rat has to be very careful in making investments or important decisions. A big illness or some loss of money will cast gloom over him. His luck will turn for the better toward the end of the year and he may be able to recoup some losses.

Ox Good times predicted for the Ox person. He will find it easy to make money. Things are all within his reach this year. On the darker side, he may suffer from a misunderstanding with some associate or find that some friend betrays his confidence. All his problems can be resolved if he is open to discussion.

Tiger A fair year for the Tiger. No large losses or gains foreseen and his life could be tranquil if he is cautious enough not to get caught up in the affairs of others. His progress will be steady and his illnesses minor. Most of his disappointments will cone from persons of the opposite sex.

Rabbit Not much tangible progress for the Rabbit during this year. He may have to travel or be faced with difficulties from several directions. A change of residence or career is also indicated as he tries to consolidate or better his current position. He could also find less time to spend with his family or be faced with many unplanned expenses.

Dragon A lucky year for the Dragon’s business endeavors. His plans still go smoothly although he meets minor opposition. He may have some personal or romantic problems as home life and love life are neglected by him.

Snake A fair year for the Snake although he may feel that his achievements are not up to expectations. It is a year for him to bide his time and not make sudden changes. Patience and a cool head are essential if he is to keep himself out of trouble. Business misunderstanding, romantic problems or a slight injury to the body are foreseen. His gains are modest but he is going to be more concerned with securing his position or retaining control.

Horse A busy, involved year that brings taxing demands on the Horse’s time and energy. Difficulties come from partners or friends and delays are caused by unseen obstacles. He will find support in his family but cannot expect a great deal of achievement in spite of all his efforts.

Sheep A good year as the Sheep regains power, position and popularity. New and influential people help him and he will travel or receive some additional income. Bad tidings may delay his progress temporarily but his goals will be accomplished in the end.

Monkey A moderately happy year as the Monkey receives assistance from friends or support from his superiors. Good times are in store although there are some disputes at home. A year in which he must hold his tongue and avoid confrontation at all costs.

Rooster Still a fortunate year for the Rooster, as some progress is indicated and he is lucky enough to retain his good position. No large monetary gains foreseen this year, although he will be able to curtail his losses to an admirable degree. Freak accidents or malicious rumors are also likely this year and he should not take long or unnecessary journeys.

Dog A very good year. The Dog will still have to work hard but he will receive due recognition of his efforts. He will be lucky to his business investments and will have the support of the right people. A year for him to take things easy and enjoy his family life more. He will also benefit a lot from good advice or tips given to him at this time.

Boar A hectic and uneasy time for the Boar, although moderate success can be expected. He will be occupied with travel, aggressive speculation and joint ventures. He will also receive some sad news and have problems with the opposite sex. Setbacks will result mainly from overspending or extravagance.

From: The Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes by Theodora Lau, First Edition, 1979

Jet Lag

singapore_airlines_boeing_747If you’re concerned about getting jet lag, I have a few simple tips that might help you avoid it.

I’ve flown almost 2 million miles (alas, most of them before the airlines kept good records of mileage); in fact, during a 3-year period in the early 1990’s I was on an average of 1 airplane per day (they call us “road warriors”). I’d often have to fly half-way around the world for a 1-hour meeting in Singapore, or worse, fly overnight to London and be fresh enough to give a presentation after landing. Having to fly this kind of schedule internationally on business, I couldn’t afford to suffer jet lag, so I researched ways to conquer it.

The book at the time was the Anti-Jet Lag Diet. It was quite complex, calling for a 3-day preparation period of feasting and starving and providing many other rules. Today, there are many other books and websites on jet lag. I reduced it all down to 5 basic principles that have served me well in avoiding jet lag.

1. Don’t nap! Most important: On arriving at your destination, don’t nap, or you’ll have jet lag for a week. You can get to bed early (say 9 p.m.), but keep up and active until then.

2. On your day of travel and a couple of days after, take caffeine (coffee, tea, colas) ONLY at breakfast time of your destination. Caffeine resets your body clock; taking it only in the early morning will help that resetting.

3. Sunlight also resets your body clock, so let your eyes see sunlight from morning of your destination — open the window shades in the plane – until night. Don’t use sunglasses for the first couple of days.

4. Eat high protein breakfasts and lunches; low protein, high carbohydrate dinners. Proteins are hard to digest; carbs, fruits, and vegetables are easy. Your digestive system will be off-schedule with the time zone changes, so help it adjust by waking it up in the daytime and letting it rest at night. Proteins at dinner will have your stomach churning at 3 a.m., waking you and keeping you up.

5. Drinks lots of water on the plane. Jet travel is very dehydrating and dehydration will make jet lag worse. A corollary is not to drink alcohol on planes. But flying first class internationally, I always chose to drink their expensive wines and liquors and had no problems as long as I kept chugging water. Good flight attendants would always give me big bottles of water to keep me hydrated. Tougher to do so in coach, but you can always go the galley and ask for a cup of water.

A final tip: If you’re flying coach, buy and use blindfolds and ear plugs. (These are given away in the amenities kits provided in first and business class.) The jet noise is surprisingly loud – even though it’s “white noise” – and the ear plugs dampen the sound dramatically. The blindfold also keeps lights from interfering with your sleep. Using both will help you get a restful sleep.

That’s it. I hope these 5 simple rules (plus little tip) will help you avoid jet lag and so you too can say “I don’t do jet lag.”

Chinese Medicines for Colds, Allergies, and Coughs

Over the years, my friends and doctors have recommended a few Chinese medicines that I have found effective where Western medicines have not been. Of course, since I’m not a physician, I share these observations only as my own experiences. But when all other cures don’t seem to work, I sometime suggest that friends give these a try.

For Common Colds

Yin Chiao Tablets (Yin Qiao Jie Du Pian) battle the common cold. They are available in most Chinese food stores and all Chinese pharmacies, in a green & white box. They come in a brown tablet form and also as green sugar-coated pills. I’ve settled in with the brown tablets (at about $5 for 12 tubes of 8 tablets each, they’re cheaper than the pills). When I take it at the first sign of a cold (I take 4 tablets at a time), it chases away 90% of them with one dose. Alas, it works only when the cold first comes on; once a cold takes hold, Yin Chiao doesn’t do much. So once I notice a sniffle (typically before I go to bed), I take 4 Yin Chiao tablets with a 1/2 glass of water. If I awake with a sniffle (20% of the time), I take another 4 tablets. In about 1/2 of those cases, the cold will develop and the Yin Chiao doesn’t do anything to help. But, as I said, in most cases, the sniffles go away and no cold develops.

When I was in college, I took red Coricidin tablets at the first sign of a cold. They worked for me. Then there were years when I couldn’t find the red Coricidin in drug stores; they had white Coricidin, but they carried warnings about high blood pressure, so I didn’t take them. It looks like the red Coricidin is back, but now I use Yin Chiao instead.

Many years ago, when I complained to Dr. Cai (my Chinese acupuncture/massage therapist), of a cold I had stuffing up my sinuses, he massaged the acupressure points at the side of my nose with the base of his thumbs for several seconds. That immediately and miraculously relieved my nasal congestion. He taught me how to do this on myself.

For Hay Fever and Other Allergies

After I developed hay fever in recent years, Dr. Cai gave me several packets of Banlangen instant crystals. He told me to dissolve a packet in a cup of hot water and take 1 packet in the morning and 1 in the evening with food for about a week to relieve my allergy.

As a bonus, he said the Banlangen was also good for colds, as Yin Chiao tablets are. It certainly helped with my hay fever congestion, sneezes, and watery eyes. Sometimes, the relief was only for an hour or so, though.

I wasn’t able to find the particular brand of Banlangen he gave me (Banlangen Chong Ji), but I found  Fulang Banlangen Keli in the Chinese supermarkets in NYC, Westchester, and Columbus and it seems to work as well. It’s particularly inexpensive, with a bag of 15 packets selling for about $1.00-1.59.

For Coughs

When my Mom complained of a cough that wouldn’t go away, one of her friends sent her a bottle of African Sea Coconut syrup.

The verbiage on the package has changed over the years, but it’s always been in a red and yellow box. Mom and I have used it for persistent coughs. I’ve also given bottles to friends who have suffered coughs that wouldn’t go away for over a week. After just a few doses (1 tablespoon in 1/2 glass of hot water), the coughs have been cured.

One advantage of these Chinese medicines is that I haven’t suffered any side effects from them as I have with Western medicines such as antihistamines and cough syrups (both sometimes make me a little dizzy). They also seem to require fewer doses.

My Other Voice

Having grown up in NYC, I became accustomed to seeing great theater performances. Last night, I had the rare pleasure of seeing a Broadway show in formation, with the extra benefit of knowing something about the back story.

In his 7/29/2012 sermon at my church last Sunday, Pastor Kai Nilsen introduced a young man from our community who had been coming to our church. Alex Kip was a 2006 Gahanna Lincoln High School graduate who went on to my alma mater, the University of Michigan, to study Musical Theater. In his senior year, about to go to Broadway to pursue his craft, Alex came down with cancer that not only affected his singing voice, but gave him only a 15-30% chance of living. Alex fought and made it through, returned to Broadway, and, with the encouragement and help of a director, Ari Laura Kreith, started writing a play based on his story. After three table readings in NYC, he brought the play back to his high school and worked with Actors Equity and high school performers for a week to stage its first performance.

What a thrilling performance it was! The story was compelling. The glimpses we get of the great richness and power of Alex’s singing voice help us understand the crushing blow he must have felt in hearing that he may lose his singing voice forever ‒ a message that hit him as badly as the one that he may die. The reality of family life is presented with the poignancy of supportive love. Even knowing the outcome, I doubt there was a dry eye in the house.

This is a work in progress, with script changes being made daily. So as explained prior to the performance, the cast performed with scripts in hand. It wasn’t at all distracting, but a reminder to the audience that we were having a hand at forming this work. Our part became more active in the “talk back session” after the performance in which the audience provided comments and suggestions. What an unusual opportunity it was to see and hear how a play is created! The director explained that even the audience reaction during the performance offered them suggestions on adjusting the play.

NBC4 News in Columbus covered the show. Here’s the clip from their news broadcast last night:

See more about Alex and the production at his website: