Sunday, December 24, 2006

Class Matters

Chapter 1: Shadowy Line That Still Divide

Today, in a country of all sorts are awash in luxuries, people’s status has become harder to read from their outward appearance. The contours of class have blurred; some said they have disappeared. But in fact, class is still a powerful force in American life. Education, child rearing, health, and life span are linked tightly to class. Although in America merit has replace the old system of inherited privilege, a paradox lies at the heart of this new American meritocracy is that merit is actually partly class-based. Parent with money, education, and connections cultivate in their children the habits that the meritocracy rewards.

New research on mobility – how readily people move up or down the ladder of prosperity and status – shows there is far less of it than most people believe. The mobility in America is lower than Britain, France, Canada, some Scandinavian countries. The rise in income inequality has widening the gulf between the rich and the poor. While most people think that American is the land of opportunity, they do not realize that the mobility seems to have stagnated – the have-mores are always rich; the have-nots are always poor.

Chapter 2: Health

Three New Yorkers with three different social classes (architect, utility worker, and maid) faced a single common threat – heart attack. But in the months that followed, their experiences diverged. Comparing to the maid, the architect and the utility worker spent lesser time to recuperate. Class informed everything from the circumstances of their heart attacks to the emergency care each received, the households they returned to, and the jobs they hoped to resume. In the United States, class is a potent force in health and longevity. The more education and income people have, the less likely they are to have and die of heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and many types of cancers. They are almost invariably in the best position to learn new information early, modify their behavior, take advantage of the latest treatments, and have the cost covered by insurance.

Chapter 3: Marriage

Marriage that cross class boundary is another interesting topic discussed in Class Matters. People who marry across class lines are actually moving outside their comfort zones, into the uncharted territory of partners with a different level of wealth and education, and often, a different set of assumptions about things like manners, food, and child-rearing. In cross-class marriages, one partner will usually have more money, more options, and, almost inevitably, more power in the relationship. While most of the marriages used to involve men marrying women with less education, in America, study have found, the pattern has flipped where more women marrying men with less schooling – the combination most likely to end in divorce.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A Matter of Definition

What Makes a Civil War, and Who Declares It So? -- New York Times (Baghdad, Nov. 25)

Is Iraq in a civil war? This is a good question. There is no answer to this question yet, because it is still a hot issue being debated among politicians, policy analysts, leaders, scholars, historians, writers, news reporters, and many others. Some said Iraq war should have been called a civil war a long time ago, but other disagreed.

This is an interesting article, isn’t it? Let’s see how these people define civil war:

Online Merriam-Webster – a war between opposing groups within a country

Iraq is mired in civil war:

Scholarly definition – (1) the warring groups must be from the same country and fighting for control of the political center, control over a separatist state or to force a major change in policy.
(2) at least 1,000 people must have been killed in total, with at least 100 from each side. (At least 50,000 reportedly killed since March 2003 in Iraq.)
(3) civil war is always a sovereign government
(4) many insurgencies and ethnic or sectarian wars are also civil wars. (Iraq civil war has elements of both an insurgencies and a sectarian war.)

Civil war does not apply in Iraq war:

Bush administration – this is no obvious political vision on the part of the Sunni-led insurgent groups
John Keegan, the British writer of war histories - the feuding groups must be vying for national authority, have leaders who publicly announce what they are fighting for and clash in set-piece battles while wearing uniforms, among other things

At last, why should we care how it is defined, if we all agree that the violence is unacceptable? Mr. Laitin, the Stanford professor answers: There is a scientific community that studies civil wars, and understands their dynamics and how they, in general, end. This research is valuable to our nation’s security.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Black Friday

Today is Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in the United States. It is known as the busiest retail shopping of the year in terms of customers traffic. In this day, most of the retailers start their business in the early morning and offer massive discount on their products. Due to the limited discount items, a lot of customers line up in front of the mall as early as 2:00 a.m.

In recent year, a new term Cyber Monday is created referring to Monday immediately following Black Friday. It marks the beginning of online shopping season.

The controversy of this biggest shopping day is Buy Nothing Day. Some anti-consumption activists demonstrate on this day to protest against the wasteful consumption habit of First World Countries.

This is the United States -- some can not resist the attraction from materialistic world, other prefers an austere style of life in this abundance country.

Book: Class Matters

Class Matters is a book about real human being, showing the harsh inequalities in the larger society due to the class disparities. This book is a binder of the acclaimed New York Times Series on social class in America. In Class Matters, a team of New York Times reporters explores the ways in which class – defined as a combination of income, education, wealth, and occupation – influences destiny in a society. Class Matters is truly essential reading for anyone concerned about the future of their beloved family, especially their children. Although this book is mainly about American society, its implications will benefit the way we live our lives.

I would like to share my reading with those who read this blog. I will give a brief summary and comment on each of my reading. There are altogether fourteen chapters in this book. So, feel free to send me a reminder if I keep you waiting too long. I am kind of lazy sometimes.

** The complete “Class Matters” newspaper series is available at

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Unspoken Behavioral Rules of Americans

New York Time -- Nov 16, 2006

How do you feel when people get within
necking distance [distance of kissing & embracing] of you when they speak? Or when strangers who stand very near to you on line? Or when people who take the bathroom stall next to yours when every other one is available? Perhaps people from different cultures require different range of distance to each other. However, Americans, conquerors of the wild frontier, generally prefer more personal space than people from any other cultures. They will likely angle and inch their bodies away from anyone they feel breached their buffer zone.

Scientiests have recently found new evidence in a cyber game about this unwritten rules of personal space. Researchers found that some of the avatars' (digital representations of the humans that control them) physical behavior was
in keeping [conformity or harmony] with studies how humans protect their personal space. In other words, the digital beings adhered to some unspoken behavioral rules of humans even though they were but pixels on a screen.

I myself figured this out from my daily life experience. Most of the customers in a department store will say "excuse me" when they walk pass someone who is also at the same aisle, even though they will not brush agaist each other's backsides. This is because they do not want to disturb his or her personal space. Being an expatriate [One who has taken up residence in a foreign country], I accept and learn American way by saying "excuse me" when I need to walk pass someone who is in a close distance with me.


*sit or stand equidistant from one another like birds on a wire

*dub - to give a name to facetiously or playfully; nickname

*leer - sly or insinuating glance [the man is leering at you]
*entrench - fix in strong position
*overture - to present or make an offer or proposal to [the man's overtures of friendship...]
*critter - living creature [being touched by a strange critter]

Monday, November 13, 2006

Masquerade Ball

We were invited to a masquerade ball on last Saturday night. It was new to me; I have never attended this kind of party before. Participants attended in costume or dressed, usually including a mask. In the party, masked guests enjoyed eating, drinking, talking, and dancing. I didn't like dancing because I felt awkward with my clumsy body movements. On the whole, it was fun and I was glad to experience something new.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Hooked, Shore Anglers Catch the Sunset, and Perhaps a Bluefish

New York Time - October 21, 2006

Every year in October, while the parks and forests were packed with people who came to see fall foliage scene, there was a throng of people headed to Truman's Beach in New York to see fuchsia sunsets and cast the lines into the Sound. Although it was hardly beach weather, a cold breeze was kicking up a surf on Long Island Sound, anglers were oblivious to it all, locked in combat with bluefish and grinning for ear to ear.
  • angler ~ person who fishes with a hook on a line
  • seagulls were screeching overhead ~ make harsh shrill cry
  • oblivious ~ forgetful
  • grin/smile from ear to ear ~ to look extremely happy
  • it's suffering of an exquisite kind ~ delicately beautiful
  • fuchsia sunsets ~ bright purplish red color
  • some anglers were skunked but couldn't have been happier sharing the beach with other ~ to defeat overwhelmingly, especially by keeping from scoring
  • creek chubs ~ fresh water fish
  • the anglers cast the line ~ to throw (something, especially something light)
  • one quarry in mind ~ an object of pursuit
  • tread (trot, trodden) ~ to walk on, over, or along

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

OK, O.K., Ok, ok, okay

OK is the English term that being used ubiquitously since globalization. I guess no one will disagree with me on this point. However, have you ever thought about what does this abbreviation stand for? And where does this expression come from? Perhaps many people have the same thought as me: such a trivial word does not need to pay much attention.

Until recently, Tom brought in these questions to our short story class, given that the word OK recurred many times in the story. According to his note, the origin of OK is based on a joke of sorts. During the 1830s there was a humoristic fashion in Boston newspapers to reduce a phrase to initials and supply an explanation in parentheses. Sometimes the abbreviations were misspelled to add to the humor. In March 1839, OK was appeared in print as an abbreviation for “all correct”, the joke being that neither the O nor the K was correct.

Originally spelled with period –-O.K. is derived from OK club, which supported Martin van Buren’s 1840 campaign for reelection. Because he was born in the Kinderhook, New York, Van Buren was nicknamed Old Kinderhook, and the abbreviation O.K. proved eminently suitable for political slogans.

Because it is so widely used, the "okay" spelling of it appeared in British writing in the 1860s. In the 20th century, "okay" has come to be in everyday use among English speakers, and borrowed by non-English speakers.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Monarch Butterfly Migration

Being brought up in a tropical country, I have no idea about hibernation and migration that happen in four-season counties. Three years ago, I experienced the first snow in my life, in the mean time, I got the first lesson about animals hibernation and birds migration.

Today, in Barb's class, we read a science article about Monarch Butterfly migration. Whoa! Butterfly migration -- I didn't know about this before (hubby is correct, I am lack of reading). Every year at this moment, millions of Monarchs migrate between Mexico and the United States and Canada. They migrate more than 3,000 miles back and forth to winter homes. I wonder how these paper-thin wings and delicate bodies Monarchs can survive the rigors of long distance travel?

Monarchs don't have map -- so how do they know where they are going? Nobody knows the answer. Some have suggested they use the sun, mountains, and other landmarks to guide their homing system. One of the entomologist claimed that Monarchs are one of the few creatures on earth that can orient themselves both in latitude and longitude. When the sun at their latitude drops to about 57 degrees above the southern horizon, all Monarchs start migrating. But, so far, Monarch migration remains one of the great mysteries of the natural world.

We as human beings have to admit that when it comes to dealing with winter, a lot of creatures on the earth seem an awful smarter than humans. While we are shivering in the dark and griping about the weather, they simply head for a warmer climate.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Stepping Stone

This is a country-western song sung by Lari White from the album "Country Cares for Kids II". I like this song very much because of its meaningful lyric. I wonder, it is a stumbling block or a stepping stone that we have faced so far in our life? To a pessimist, a problem is always a stumbling block; while to an optimist, an obstacle can be treated as a stepping stone. The fact is that stumbling block is not a stepping stone by nature. One has to work persistently and diligently in order to transform from a bad situation to a good one. To me, no matter it is a stumbling block or a stepping stone, we should always look from the bright side of life... Otherwise, life is too tough, dream is too far....

(Lari White, Craig Wiseman, David Kent)

Here I am at another dead end,
Stopped in my tracks again,
Closer than I've ever been to where I wanna be,
A broken heart standing in my way,
Big as life on a real bad day,
But making lemons into lemonade,
Ain't nothing new to me.

(No) This ain't no stumbling block,
It's just a stepping stone,
I'm gonna climb right up on top,
And take a good look at where I'm going,
And it ain't gonna slow me down,
Hold me back or turn me around,
This ain't no stumbling block, it/this ain't no stumbling block,
This ain't no stumbling block, it's just a stepping
(a stepping stone).

Now looking back I realize
How hard it is to recognize,
Opportunity in disguise as some calamity,
So I ain't gonna cuss my luck,
Every time a door slams shut,
I know a window's gonna open up,
Just as long as I believe.

Repeat Chorus

Stepping Stone
Oh, oh, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh, oh


stepping stone: a step towards reaching your goal
stumbling block: an obstacle in the way of reaching your goal
to be at a dead end: unable to continue
to be close to (far from) where I want to be
to get (be) stopped in your tracks: unable to continue, at a dead end
something "standing in your way": an obstacle, stumbling block
something good or bad is "big as life"
to make lemons into lemonade: to turn a problem into an opportunity
to take a good look at something: to look closely and deeply at something
every time a door slams, another one opens: A problem can end up being an opportunity
to cuss my luck: to complain about my situation or bad luck
that's nothing new: that's not unusual and not surprising
to hold me back: prevent or stop me from doing what I want

If you stop struggling, then you stop life.
~Huey Newton~

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Hutterites is a minority ethnic group in America. They are Anabaptist farmers and ranchers - close cousins of the Amish (another Anabaptist Christian group in the United States) - who, after centuries of persecution in Europe, found religious freedom in North America in the 1870s.

Hutterites are a communal people, where the colony owns all assets. So there’s no private property, no personal bank accounts, few personal belonging – and little privacy. They live rigidly structured lives that leave little room for individual expression. They do use computers and high-tech machinery; however, they speak an old Austrian German dialect, sew their own clothes, and shun television, radio, or anything else that might let in the temptations of worldly materialism.

This ethnic group is found in North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Washington, and Montana. Its population in America is 9 000 people approximately. People are sustained through agriculture and manufacturing. They are mostly crop producers and have fair-sized farms. They also raise a large amount of livestock. These people embody the pioneer spirit but live entirely removed from the modern world. They practice their living principle: Live simply, share everything, and trust in God.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
~Leonardo DaVinci~

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


This morning after hubby left home at about 8:30, I was getting worried and my heart was beating faster. Time passed so slow; I didn't know what to do. Took the cellphone out of the room, turned the sound louder, and put it on the table near to me. Then, I decided to do laundry. Collecting all the clothes and without forgetting to bring along the cellphone, I went down to the laundry room, which located at the basement of the building. When I came back to my apartment, I put the cellphone back on the table again. I sat at the table and started reading a book, although I knew that my mind was a millon miles away. "Ring! Ring!" My phone rang at 11:30a.m and the words "Hubby Office" appeared on the screen.

"Hello, hubby, how's everything?"
"I passed."

His answer allayed my worried and anxiety immediately. I am so happy. My husband passed his candidacy exam. He is a PhD candidate now.

At home, hubby shared with me his experience when answering the questions that asking by four professors from Geography Department. I found two questions asking by a Physical Geography professor were rather interested. Following are that two questions and answers:-
  1. Which mammal exists only in one place in the world?
  2. Why there are same species of plants exist in Chile, South Africa, and Australia?
Answer 1 is marsupial mammals in Australia -- Kangaroo.
Answer 2
is few millions years ago, these three places were connected at one point, and because of the tectonic plate movement that caused the lithosphere of the earth was divided into a small number of plates which float and travel independently over the mantle.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal:
it is the courage to continue that counts.

~ Winston Churchill ~

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

September 11, 2006 -- The 5th Anniversary

Back to Sept. 11, 2001, my husband (he was my boyfriend at that time) and I were listening to BBC broadcast after came back from dinner. Breaking news came over the radio a couple minutes before 9:00p.m (Malaysia Time) announced that a flight crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City. Both of us were shocked by the terrific news. At first, we looked at each other suspiciously because we were not confident with what we had listened. And then, in no time, we moved closer to the radio and paid full attention to the news. Short after we were sure with what we had heard, the reporter announced a second flight crashed into second building of WTC, this time, both of us were too astonished to speak.

A year ago, my husband and I came to this immigrant country -- The United States to pursuit our dream. Coincidentally, we are living in Pennsylvania State, which is a neighbor state of New Jersey. It takes approximately 5 hours from State College to New York City. Recently, we went to New York City for vacation. In the hot summer day, at the ground zero, we were not alone, there were plenty of tourists just like us... looked at the huge empty space, surveyed the buildings that still erect in the air, read the heroes rolls on the wall, and imagined the tragedy happened five years ago....

About a month ago, we went to cinema to see the movie that we had long waiting -- World Trade Center. To our surprised, some of our American friends refused to see and discuss about this movie. Perhaps they just do not want to revive the sad memories that have been kept at the innermost of their hearts. I can understand their feeling; however, I think it is important for American young generation and also people in the world to see this movie. 9/11 is a tragedy that should not be forgotten but needs to be remembered and passed on to our future generations. We should learn from this expensive experience, and understand the role of change in our lives.

Life can only be understood backward,
but it must be lived forward.

~Soren Kierkegaard~

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

An Aussie, A Briton, and A Yankee -- Three Fatal Tragedies!

A couple days ago, I was taken aback by the fatal news of "Crocodile Hunter" who was killed by venomous tail barb of stingray at Batt Reef, Cairns, Australia. Steve Irwin, a committed conservationist, was shooting a series called "Ocean's Deadliest" while the mishap happened.

This freak accident made me recalled other two heroes who encountered the similar fate as Irwin. They were James Miller, a film producer & director, and Timothy Treadwell, an environmentalist and bear enthusiast. Miller was shot dead by Israel
soldiers while making a documentary in Palestinian area, and Treadwell was killed and partially eaten by bear during his visit in Alaska. What the coincidence among these three men was their fatal deaths were recorded in the cameras. Miller and Treadwell's tragedies have been filmed into documentaries with the titles Death in Gaza, and Grizzly Man respectively. I strongly recommend these two documentaries. WORTH WATCHING!!!

All after all, these three men died doing what they loved best. They died young, but thier lives were much much meaningful than 6.5 billions people in the world.

Every man dies. Not every man really lives.
~ William Wallace, Braveheart~

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Recently, I read a book entitled The Great Gatsby. This is a book that highly recommended by many people, including my teacher in Short Story Class. The Great Gatsby is generally conceded to be F. Scott Fitzgerald's finest novel and one of the key books of the twentieth century. I like the story and enjoy the plot of the book. Yet, I can not grasp the gist of the story after finishing the whole book. Sigh! Why? What are the important points in this book that made it so famous? The only way to find out the answer is read another book entitled Twentieth Century Interpretations of The Great Gatsby which I am currently reading.

What I want to say in today's blog is that in the Interpretations book, there is a letter writen by Fitzgerald to his daughter two years before his death. In that letter, Fitzgerald judged his early life and marriage. As a wife of a man who is impassioned in doing research, I have a deeper thought after reading the letter. Here, I quote the paragraph from the book:
"When I was your age I lived with a great dream. The dream grew and I learned how to speak of it and make people listen. Then the dream divided one day when I decided to marry you mother after all, even though I knew she was spoiled and meant no good to me. I was sorry immediately I had married her, but being patient in those days, made the best of it and got to love her in another way. You came along and for a long time we made quite a long of happiness out of our lives. But I was a man divided -- she wanted me to work too much for her and not enough for my dream. She realized too late that work was dignity, and the only dignity, and tried to atone for it by working herself, but it was too late and she broke and is broken forever."

I do not love a man who is zealous for nothing.
~Oliver Goldsmith~

Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day

I have been thinking about creating a blog long long time ago, but a thought that never put into action is still a thought. Finally, I make up my mind this morning that I want to start my blog with the title -- Labor Day!

Today, September 04, 2006, the beginning of new schooling semester of Penn State University is also the workers' holiday in the United States. Workers' Day, or Labor Day (also used interchangeably as May Day) is celebrated internationally as a commemoration of the Haymarket Riot of 1886 in Chicago, and a celebration of the social and economic achievements of the internationa labor movement.

Reminiscing the history of Labor Day, a series of riots and battles for social justice had finally earned an eight-hour work day around the world. In the 1880s, millions of Europe immigrants were glad to take jobs in the factories and mines in America "where the streets were paved with gold." However, the immigrants soon learned that they were exploited to work twelve or fourteen or even sixteen hours a day. In order to ask for an eight-hour work day from employers, workers formed unions so they could be stronger. Some owners agreed. But most of the large companies did not agree. The unions planned to strike on May 1, 1886, and named the plan as "the May Day Movement." On May 1 and the following three days, clashed between workers and polices were carried out and caused a number of workers and polices died.

In other counties, the May Day movement continued. May Day became the workers' holiday all around the world. In the United States, a more peaceful time in September became the workers' holiday. The eight-hour work day for workers did not become law until 1935 .

Justice without force is powerless;
force without justice is tyrannical.

~Blaise Pascal~

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Women's Equality Day

The above title caught my eyes when I was reading American Voanews. I was astonished by its strong and powerful title. Equality of right between man and woman is an ideology that women are still pursuing in 21scentury. This phenomena is the same in every place, including the United State. American women are still struggling in the pool of inequality.

In America, August 26th is celebrated as Women’s Equality Day to commemorate the anniversary of women winning the right to vote. Following 16 countries had already guaranteed women’s right to vote, in 1920 America became country number seventeen that granted women the right to vote. llinois, Wisconsin and Michigan were the first states to pass the law.

Women’s Equality Day founder Rep. Bella Abzug asked Congress to design August 26th as Women Equality Day. “Women have been trained to speak softly and carry a lipstick. These days are over. I prefer the word "homemaker" because "housewife" always implies that there may be a wife someplace else.”

Other countries had already guaranteed women's right to vote before the campaign was won in the United States:

New Zealand (1893), Australia (1902), Finland (1906), Norway (1913), Denmark (1915), USSR (1917), Canada (1918), Germany (1918), Poland (1918), Austria (1919), Belgium (1919), Great Britain (1919), Ireland (1919), Luxembourg (1919), the Netherlands (1919), Sweden (1919)