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