Monday, November 12, 2007

Top Ten Free eBook Websites

1. Project Gutenberg:
2. The Online Books Page:   
Listing over 25,000 free books on the Web. The site is hosted by the University of Pennsylvania Library.
Over 2,000 free ebooks & free magazines. Most of them can be downloaded directly.
4. PlanetPDF
Classics works of Literature.
5. University of California, eScholarship Edition:
The eScholarship Editions collection includes almost 2000 books from academic presses on a range of topics, including art, science, history, music, religion, and fiction.
6. University of Adelaide Library’s collection of Web books:
The collection includes classic works of Literature, Philosophy, Science, and History.
Some new ebooks. Rapidshare download links. Copyright is a problem.
8. The National Academies Press:
Read more than 3,000 books online FREE!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Sun Also Rises Vocabulary



1. A visual signaling apparatus with flags, lights, or mechanically moving arms, as one used on a railroad.
2. A visual system for sending information by means of two flags that are held one in each hand, using an alphabetic code based on the position of the signaler's arms.
tr. & intr.v. sem·a·phored, sem·a·phor·ing, sem·a·phores
To send (a message) or to signal by semaphore.

he's a garter snapper.'

"Hello, you bums," he said.
1. A tramp; a vagrant.
2. A lazy or shiftless person, especially one who seeks to live solely by the support of others.
3. An incompetent, insignificant, or obnoxious person: The batter called the pitcher a bum.
4. One who is devoted to a particular activity or milieu: a beach bum.
v. bummed, bum·ming, bums
1. To live by begging and scavenging from place to place. Often used with around.
2. To loaf.
1. To acquire by begging; cadge.
2. Slang To depress, dishearten, or dismay. Often used with out.
1. Inferior; worthless: gave me bum advice; did a bum job of fixing the car.
2. Disabled; malfunctioning: a bum shoulder.
3. Unfavorable or unfair: got a bum deal on my final grade for the course.
4. Unpleasant; lousy: had a bum time at the party.

"You mustn't misunderstand, Jake, it was absolutely platonic with the secretary."
adj. often platonic Transcending physical desire and tending toward the purely spiritual or ideal: platonic love.

live by the sword shall perish by the sword


1. A staff member of a hotel or apartment complex who assists guests or residents, as by handling the storage of luggage, taking and delivering messages, and making reservations for tours.
2. A person, especially in France, who lives in an apartment house, attends the entrance, and serves as a janitor.

Let's not talk. Talking's all bilge.
Bilge -- Slang Stupid talk or writing; nonsense.


"Tight, Jake. I was tight."
tight -- Slang Intoxicated; drunk.

"You're pie-eyed."
pie-eyed -- Slang Intoxicated; drunk;

a craftsman who stuffs and mounts the skins of animals for display


"I slept like a log."

100 BEST NOVELS (picked by TIME's critics)

The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow

All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren

American Pastoral by Philip Roth

An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser

Animal Farm by George Orwell -- (I finished this book. Highly recommended!)

Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

The Assistant by Bernard Malamud

At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien

Atonement by Ian McEwan

Beloved by Toni Morrison

The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

Call It Sleep by Henry Roth

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell

The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

A Death in the Family by James Agee

The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen

Deliverance by James Dickey

Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone

Falconer by John Cheever

The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessig

Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald -- (I read this too.)

A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh

The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene

Herzog by Saul Bellow

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul

I, Claudius by Robert Graves

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Light in August by William Faulkner

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein

Loving by Henry Green

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

Money by Martin Amis

The Moviegoer by Walker Percy

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Naked Lunch by William Burroughs

Native Son by Richard Wright

Neuromancer by William Gibson

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

1984 by George Orwell

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski

Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

A Passage to India by E.M. Forster

Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion

Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth

Posession by A.S. Byatt

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

Rabbit, Run by John Updike

Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow

The Recognitions by William Gaddis

Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

The Sportswriter by Richard Ford

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John LeCarre

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway -- (I'm halfway reading this book.)

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee -- (I read the book and watched the movie. Both are great.)

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

Ubik by Philip K. Dick

Under the Net by Iris Murdoch

Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowrey

Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons

White Noise by Don DeLillo

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Tomorrow morning hubby will have his PhD research proposal defense. Hopefully, everything is going to be fine.

Sunday, September 30, 2007


Finally, my laptop collapsed totally!

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Smiling is infectious; you catch it like the flu,
When someone smiled at me today, I started smiling too.
I passed around the corner and someone saw my grin
When he smiled I realized I'd passed it on to him.
I thought about that smile then i realized its worth,
A single smile, just like mine could travel round the earth.
So, if you feel a smile begin, don't leave it undetected
Let's start and epidemic quick, and get the world infected!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Something new to me...

When you are in a foreign country, it is important to know how to refer to different ethnic groups in a polite way. For example in the United State, it is fine to refer Americans as white people or African Americans as black people. But it is often offensive to call black people as Negroes in the U.S. However, few days ago I learnt something new from a Brazilian. He said in Brazil "Negro" is a respecful word in contrast to "Black". Also, Asian group in Brazil is identified as "Yellow people", which many Asian (especially Koreans) in the United State feel being insulted. In general, be aware of using impolite terms to denote ethnic groups in foreign countries.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Glass Castle

Well, I have finished reading The Glass Castle – a memoir by Jeannette Walls. Before elaborating further about this book, I asked myself a question: How I came to read this book? I recalled that I have no intention to buy this book; it was an additional to another book -- Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows. In order to get free shipping from Amazon, I had to make a minimum purchase of $25. Harry Potter 7 cost $17.99, so I needed to buy another book for at least $7. I would rather spend money for buyinbooks than for shipping fees). Among the recommended books on, The Glass Castle caught my eyes. (WHY??) The price was not the main reason I selected this book. It was the highly rated-review that influenced my decision. Now, after I finished reading the book, I want to say, "I am not regret buying and reading this book. Conversely, I am pleased I have read such a well-written memoir."

Before this book, my friend who read a dozen memoirs told me one day that she personally does not like to read memoir anymore. The reason she gave was that every memoir has the same goal – tell you about the writer. The authors will first tell the readers about their past experience (99% focused on the worst of their lives), and then the writers will tell the readers how they have overcame those difficulties and became successful. Well, I do not want to discuss and justify my friend’s statement any further.

Jeannette Wall did a good job in putting together her childhood memory into such an enthralling story. Growing up in a dysfunctional family with three siblings, Jeannette has a dishonest and destructive father and a mother that did not want the responsibility of raising a family. Jeannette and her siblings learned to take care of themselves, protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York.

Jeannette is a talented writer as well as a fantastic storyteller. I was incredibly touched by her story. After finishing her book, I could still feel the anger inside me about her irresponsible, selfish parents.(EXPAND...HOW WERE THE DISHONEST AND DESTRUCTIVE) This is a piece of great writing; I have no doubt to recommend this book to other. (WHY??)

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Moving house is so so painful. The whole process of packing, moving, unpacking, cleaning the old apartment takes me nearly a week. I feel myself have disconnected from outside world - without internet, i could not read news (Malaysia news especially), check emails, chat with friends, write blog, and also I could not read my friends' blogs. Fortunately the internet service will be installed in my new apartment on Saturday, then my life will back to normal again. Friends, I will back to the loop soon. See ya.

Monday, July 30, 2007

I got them finally!

Finally, a postman knocked my apartment's door at 3pm today. I was laying in the bed while hubby went to open the door. He then passed the box to me and wanted me to open the box by myself. I opened the box, got the book, and walked out from the bedroom to the living room. Hubby knew that I couldn't wait to start the big project, so he quickily said: "Don't forget to cook the rice tonight huh." Hihi ... I have already sat comfortably on the chair and turned the book to page 1.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Waiting is Torture …. Ahhhh!

While every Potter’s fan is enjoying Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I am still waiting for the shipment from Amazon. I regret not ordering the book earlier. I also regret buying the book online – if not, I could just pick up a book from a nearby bookstore. Waiting is painful! During the period of waiting, I have to curb myself from reading any reviews about the Potter book, so that I can discover the story and the ending by myself. I don’t want to let any resources to spoil the excitement. But… the enticement is so strong. I don’t know for how long I can still refrain myself. Please, Amazon, send me the book in no time.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Monday, June 18, 2007

PA Greenwood Furnace

Last Saturday, hubby and I went hiking again with Alice and Brian at Pennsylvania Greenwood Furnace. We used two hours to finish a 6-mile-trail (around 10 km). Along the trail, I learned a lot of new knowledge from Brian who has wide-ranging knowledge about animals, birds, plants, geography, English literature, and maybe some others talents that I have not yet discovered. Anyway, along the trail we talked from plants to trees and from animals and birds. Now I can recognize some tree species and have more understanding about them. The Hemlock - Pennsylvania State tree - is an evergreen tree that has small cones and short dark leaves. Since Hemlocks do not lose their needles, they symbolize faith in immortality. Tulip tree that has flowers that resemble tulip flowers is Indiana's State tree. Early morning in the wood, we listened to various sounds from singing birds. Although I still cannot differentiate which song is sung by which bird, I am glad at least my ears are sensitive to birds' songs. We were lucky enough to listen to a beautiful, flutelike song from Wood Thrush (click to listen). Finally, my biggest satisfaction and excitement about the hike was I saw a whitetail deer in the wood for the first time. She is a pretty and lively creature that constantly alert and vigilant to her surroundings. I hope next time I will have chance to see male deer that have a pair of antlers. Also, I wish I can see black bears walking in the wood in the new future.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


After taken antibiotics, my swollen eyelid (or they call it sty) is much better now. Now, I have a total different understanding about sty. From my old knowledge, I thought sty would transmit the virus to other people, so I should avoid seeing people in their eyes. Also, I should tie a black thread on the middle finger to prevent transmission. These are archaic thinking before the invention of advance medicine. I don't know why but I have started to inquiry about my past belief since I came to this country. I will not deny that this environment has influenced the way I think. My mind inclines to scientific thinking now.

Anyway, my new understanding about sty is that it is an infection of the eyelid caused by glands (or cells) that secrete from our skin that lubricate the eye. This is a common infection that sometimes will resolve on its own other times antibiotics are required. Although this is just a small matter, I learned a lesson from this experience. Learning is not confined by place and time; knowledge is somewhere surrounding us where we can grasp easily. Pay a little more attention to everyday life that you call it "tedious", you will find out that life is exciting and has richer meanings than you have ever thought.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


"Y'know, I was going to fix that truck this weekend"
"People in this world have gone crazy, y'know?"
"I'm not very good at public speaking, y'know. Like I get nervous y'know."

Are these sentences sounded familiar to you? Are you saying this filler word - you know - too? To be honest, I do include this expression into my speaking to sound like a native. It was not until I read a grammar book yesterday that I realized I picked up a wrong English term.

You know is a vacuous expression that has been spreading (in speech) like the most virulent cancer for decades. It is described as one of the most far-reaching, depressing, and disfiguring conversation wherever you go.

But it was left to Barney Oldfield, a retired air force colonel, to launch a vigorous campaign against you knows. In 1997 Colonel Oldfield offered a $1,000 scholarship to the Nebraska student who submitted a tape recording of a radio or television broadcast the most you know in fifteen minutes. The first year's winner submitted a tape with forty-one you knows in four minutes, thirty-eight seconds. The next year, a fifth grader took the prize. His tape had sixty-four you know. After that, the contest had been continued for several years.

"Y'know, have you know in your conversation is not a good practice."
"I know it now! So, I determine want to toss out this inane expression."

Idiomatic Expressions

Following are some sayings that i collected from my previous reading:-

  • Resilience speaks louder than despair.
  • Poor oral and written communication skills are rampant no matter what the student educational background or college ranking.
  • No matter how busy you may think you are you must find time for reading now, or surrender yourself to self-ignorance.
  • Greatness inspires envy, envy engenders spite, spite spawns lies.
  • Take advantage of the opportunities, no matter how few they were.
  • The potential to save lives makes the risk worthwhile.
  • It is by studying others that we learn about ourselves.
  • If we witness injustice or the violation of another human being's rights it's our duty to take the gloves off and speak up -- even if it hurts some feelings.
  • Exercise can chase off the blues.
  • The cause [of quarell] was so trivial that the whole thing was a pure waste of breath.
  • Hustle -- you can't survive without it. A quitter never win; a winner never quit. It's easy to be ordinary, but it take guts to excel.
  • The Unied States is still the dominant force in technology innovation, productivity and profits. But American don't quite realize how fast the rest of the world is catching up.
  • "Accept what you are able to do and what you are not able to do.Accept the past as past, without denying it or discarding it. Learn to forgive yourself and to forgive others.Don't assume that it's too late to get involve." -- Tuesday with Morrie, Mitch Albom (1958)
  • Americans becoming a postindustrial society that specializes in consumption and leisure.
  • No worker from a rich country can equal the energy of someone trying to move out of poverty.
  • History is more than just a quilt or a stick of furniture. It's time to use history to understand and appreciate the role of change in our lives.
  • When you forgive someone, it doesn't excuse his actions; it frees you from stress and suffering.
  • When she was just a few weeks old, and I was rocking her because she was crying. I just looked at her and said:
"Chelsea, you're never been a baby before, and I've never been a mother before, and we're just going to have to help each other get through this." -- Hillary Rodham Clinton
  • Putting yourself in the moccassins of the victim.
  • Everything worth doing is worth doing right.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Black Moshannon State Park

Alice, Brian, hubby, and I explored an 18-mile trail network in Black Moshannon State Park Trails this morning. The park is located in Centre County on PA Route 504, and it takes about 30 minutes driving time from State College. The park covers 3,394 acres of forests and wetlands that provide recreational opportunities for thousands of visitors. Besides hiking, other outdoor recreation activities that visitors can explore include boating, bicycling, fishing, camping, picnicking, hunting (special season), and ice sports (winter).

Our mission in this morning was to hike a 6-mile trail (around 10 km). Without doubt, we accomplished it, and our record was 2 hours (Whao!!). The consequence of this attainment is that I have footsore now. However, I enjoyed the feeling of walking in the wood - cold fresh air, wet grass, beautiful birds songs, blooming wild flowers and plants (wild blueberries and strawberries are blooming), and reading wildlife signs (such as tracks and droppings ... haha, this is fun!). I hope we will go hiking again in another 2-3 weeks. At that time, our mission will be ... eating blueberries and strawberries!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Interior vs. Exterior

In the book club meeting today we discussed Harper Lee's famous novel To Kill a Mockingbird. One of the scenes in chapter 12 was about Capulnia helped Jem and Scout dressed up nicely for church. Then I raised a question: Why do people have to dress up nice for church? Arthemesia answered my question. She said, "This is because people want to show their vanities to the God." Well, perhaps she is right, but I still don't understand why is it so important to show vanity to the God. In my country, we care about human interior more than exterior. In other words, humbleness, sincerity, and respect to the God is much more important than how they dress. We do have clothing codes for every religion in my country, for instance, Taoists and Buddhists should wear clean and appropriate dresses in temples, whereas Muslim has its special dress codes for Islamic women, like clothing must cover the entire body and must hang loose so that the shape of the body is not apparent. After all, I do not mean to compare the dress code of every religion because I know every religion has its own rules. I am just currious why people wear what they do.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

U.S. History Terms


The belief that slavery should be abolished.

Alien and Sedition Acts

Laws passed during the second presidency (John Adams) that restricted public activities of radicals who sympathized with the French (who were fighting the British in Europe.)


Things and houses built before the Civil War (ante=before, bellum=war).

Articles of Confederation

The 1782 agreement among the states before the Constitution was signed in 1789.

Battle of Bull Run

The first battle of the Civil War. The Confederates won.

Battle of Bunker Hill

The first battle of the Revolutionary War. The British won.

Bill of Rights

The first ten amendments to the Constitution, giving freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly and limiting search and criminal laws.

Boston Tea Party

In 1773 colonists threw tea shipment into the harbor, an act moving toward Revolutionary War.

Civil War

1861-1865, between the Union (northern states) and the Confederacy (southern states). The Union won.

Declaration of Independence

This declares the U.S. independent of the British king; adopted July 4, 1776.

Emancipation Proclamation

President Lincoln declared all slaves to be free, 1863.

French and Indian War

British fought French in America 1754-1763. The British won and kept Canada. Some French people moved to Louisiana.


The greatest Civil War battle and a turning point. The Union won.


The first English settlement in America; Virginia, 1607.

Lewis and Clark Expedition

President Jefferson sent two explorers to the north-west (later Washington state) to see what he bought from France.

Mason-Dixon Line

Essentially was the division between northern (free) and southern (slaveholding) states.

New Amsterdam

City founded by the Dutch in 17th century; no called New York.

Plymouth Rock

Landing site for early Pilgrim on the Mayflower in 1620.

Revolutionary War

The thirteen American colonies fought the British for independence 1775-1781. The French helped. Official end was the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

(From The Vocabulary Teacher's Book of Lists. 2004, Edward B. Fry)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The onset of summer holiday

Fifteen weeks of summer holiday is pretty long, but time flies like an arrow if one doesn't weigh it carefully. One week has been passed and what have I done? I asked myself. Well, I went to the biggest book sales of the year in State College, gathered together with my language partner who will soon move to Texas for goods, attend a training course and a friend's birthday party, and did a little of preparation for summer ESL classes. I think in overall I have gained something for everything that I did in the past week. First, I got few inexpensive books from the book sales. Second, I attend a really good training course which was given by a well-known professor from San Francisco State University. I admired her vigor in doing education works while she is fighting the stubborn disease -- Cancer. Then, in the farewell party with my language partner, I got a new language partner who is her good friend. Last but not least, I learned to play Bridge, a card game, in the birthday party (no money was involved in the game, so it was not gambling ... hihi). That's all I did in the past week and I am looking forward to a productive new week.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Life is beauty

Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is bliss, taste it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Primary Election 2007 of Pennsylvania

I have just learned a lesson in Primary Election in the United State. This lessson was given not in the classroom but at the poll. Tuesday, May 15, is Primary Election Day here in Pennsylvanian, my Brasilian friend and her husband and I had gone through the whole process of voting with Alice Clark, a resident of State College. So I knew who she voted for, but I won't tell you :-p

A Primary Election is an election held to decide which candidates will be on the November general election ballot. Having closed primary election here in State College, voters may vote in a party's primary only if they are registered members of that party. Independents cannot participate. They are two things impressed me about this election. The first is that citizens of this country are given the right to vote for Justice of the Supreme Court, Judge of the Superrior Court, Sheriff, Treasurer, and other important positions (refer to the sample ballot for more detail). It this is amazing. But, on the other hand, I wonder about the reliability of the decision make by the grass-roots. The second, judges in this country need to participate in a political party. In this case, I wonder how a judges can make decision indifferently. Well, these are just some foods for thought.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Reflections on life 生命的倒影

Our life cannot always be full of happiness but it can always be full of love!

He who is blind to the view of our souls, will not enjoy and see life as it is.

The more you plan, the less likely you will experience chance, therefore live life to the fullest.

A true friend is one who holds your hand and thus touches your heart.

When we get married, we won’t know what lies ahead. Until we hit the waves of life at sea.

Life is reality without an eraser!

Nothing in the future, will correct those moments that you have missed in the past.

Don’t waste time with someone who won’t support you in time of need.

Always look at the bright side of life. If there is no bright side, wait until the future turns to light.

Don’t cry over what has happened in the past, but be happy that you could enjoy the moment.

Always remember the words from a true friend: “I’ll be there for you”

Work, as if you don’t need money. 工作,要像你並不需要錢那樣
Love, as if nobody has hurt you. 愛,就像並沒有人傷害過你一樣
Dance, as if nobody was watching you. 舞,就像沒有人正在看你那樣
Sing, as if nobody was listening. 唱,就像沒有人正在聽那樣
Live, as if this was paradise on earth. 生活,就像是地上的樂園那樣

Don’t dispair, the nicest things will happen to you when you least expect them...

And remember: “Everything that happens, happens for a reason!”

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Special Exhibition Gallery

After reading the short story "Everyday use" from an African American author, Alice Walker, Tom organized a trip for our class to the Palmer Museum in the Penn State University last Tuesday. His wife, Ann, escorted eight of us to the exhibition gallery entitled Family Legacies. Ann, an artist, is a volunteer in the museum. She patiently explained one master piece following by another master piece in great details. I learned a lot of new information fromn her explication. The gallery exhibits the art of mother Betye and daughters Lexzley and Alison Saar who share passion for transforming found objects and materials in their richly evocative art. Influenced by their mixed-race heritage, (African American, European, and Native American), the three artists explore issues related to family, identity, race, and gender. In one of the art piece showing two girls, one with white skin and black straight hair, another with black skin and black curly hair, Lezley Saar wrote "I find contradictions more interesting than looking at the world in terms of black and white."

  • A votive candle is a small, typically white or beeswax yellow, candle, originally intended to be burnt as a votive offering in a religious ceremony.
  • Snowball's chance in hell: No chance at all, as in He hasn't a snowball's chance in hell of getting there in two hours. This idiom, nearly always used negatively, alludes to the traditional view of hell as extremely hot, causing snow to melt at once.
  • Elizabeth Keckley, a black woman, was Mrs. Lincoln's seamstress.
  • Thomas Jefferson had a mistress after his wife died. His mistress was a black woman and they had a daughter named Harriet Hemings.
  • Mulatto: a term of Spanish or Portuguese origin usually describing a person with significant amounts of both white European and black African ancestry.
  • Book: In Darkest Africa, by Henry M. Stanley

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

“The Personal Touch” vs. “Thief”

The Personal Touch” by Chet Williamson and “Thief” by Robley Wilson Jr. are two considerably different stories. One sets the scene at home and the other takes place in an airport. One is about subscription renewal and the other is about a pickpocket. However, when comparing the themes of each story, similarity arises. Invasion of privacy is the common theme of both stories. As seen, both protagonists in each story and the events of each plot reveal how intrusion happens in our everyday life.

In “The Personal Touch”, the author uses subscription renewal letters as a course to discover the protagonist Joe Priddy’s misconducts and the consequence that he must payoff. The story begins with a Snoop Magazine subscription renewal letter that Joe received. He is irritated with the message that tries to appear personal, but indeed is a computer-typed message. He replies to the subscription renewal letter in a nasty manner. In return, there is a steep bill that he needs to pay. The magazine company holds a picture of his indulgence in tasting forbidden fruit and knows the exact money that he squirrels away from his wife. Joe is unfaithful to his wife; not only has he an affair with another woman, he watches a girl undress in an apartment. By using snoop technology, he invades a girl’s privacy, and he, however, never expects that the magazine company will use the same strategy to pry into his affair. This lesson makes him learn about the feeling of a victim in an invasion case.

In Robley Wilson Jr.’s “Thief”, the story develops around a business man who is waiting in the airport for his flight to leave. In this busy place, a young black-haired woman catches his eye. He stares at that woman and his mind is filled with lascivious imaginations. The woman becomes aware of the harassment, but she ignores him. Often, a man is off his guard when temptation has arisen. At least, this theory is applicable to the protagonist in the story. When he feels the brunette jostling him from behind, he is startled at first, and then disregards it and smiles at her. He does not realize that the brunette has picked his pocket, until he cannot find his wallet. A series of events that happens in the airport makes his life a chaos (or into a chaotic): first, he has to clear his name from incrimination, and then he has to cancel and reapply for all the documents and identifications in his billfold. Paradoxically, his billfold is returned to him intact in the mail two weeks later. The best way to explain this situation is that the brunette wants to give him a lesson for the invasion he did.

Invasion of property is condemned everywhere. Sexual harassment is a kind of invasion because body is one person’s property. The actions of both married reprobates trespass beyond accepted boundaries. The final moral message that the two authors want to convey through these stories is that people get their comeuppance for transgression.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Cry Uncle (or Say Uncle)

Meaning: Concede defeat

  1. The Serbs want the Bosnians to cry uncle.
  2. If you say uncle right now, I'll let you go first in the next game.
It seems that while "crying uncle" is today regarded as an Americanism, its origins go all the way back to the Roman Empire. Roman children, when beset by a bully, would be forced to say "Patrue, mi Patruissimo," or "Uncle, my best Uncle," in order to surrender and be freed.
As to precisely "why" bullies force their victims to "cry uncle," opinions vary. It may be that the ritual is simply a way of making the victim call out for help from a grownup, thus proving his or her helplessness. Alternatively, it may have started as a way of forcing the victim to grant the bully a title of respect -- in Roman times, your father's brother was accorded nearly the same power and status as your father. The form of "uncle" used in the Latin phrase ("patrue") tends to support this theory, inasmuch as it specifically denoted your paternal uncle, as opposed to the brother of your mother ("avunculus"), who occupied a somewhat lower rung in patrilineal Roman society.

Chinese Wall

Definition :
  1. a fortification 1,500 miles long built across northern China in the 3rd century BC; is 1,500 miles long and averages 6 meters in width
  2. A barrier, especially one that seriously hinders communication or understanding. ["still believe a Chinese wall can exist between public and private selves"]
  3. In business, Chinese Wall is a barrier against information flows between different divisions or operating groups within banks and securities firms. Examples include a policy barrier between the trust department from making investment decisions based on any substantive inside information that may come into the possession of other bank departments. The term also refers to barriers against information flows between corporate finance and equity research and trading operations.
Potential phrase origins

The term Chinese wall is said to have originated after the catastrophic stock market crash of 1929, when the largely unregulated United States market suffered a 40% drop between September and October. According to one theory, the crash resulted from inflated stock values created by price manipulation and insider trading. After the crash, Congress passed a law mandating the separation of commercial and investment banks, in an attempt to prevent conflict of interest. Rather than enforcing physical or corporate separation, however, the law only mandated that policies must be in place to create a logical division between these segments.

Chinese wall is usually said to be a reference to the Great Wall of China, erected over 2000 years ago to protect inhabitants from invaders. However, other theories exist. In a Wikipedia entry, for example, the author argues that the term probably derives from a diplomatic contrivance of the Late Imperial period in China: "...if a junior mandarin saw a senior mandarin on the road he was expected to bow and present his compliments. In Beijing this tended to happen quite a lot and so traffic was frequently blocked. Instead mandarins came up with a method of pretending they did not see each other on the road by the clever placing of a retainer with an umbrella. Because they did not "see" each other, they were not obliged to stop." (~excepts from

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Harbinger of Spring

After months of sluggish, frigid winter, today the temperature hit 45°F (about 7°C) in State College. Weather is getting warmer. If you look at the sky, you will see our feathered friends flying in formation shaped liked the alphabet “V” back to north. This is the sign of fast-approaching spring season. I cannot tell you how much I have missed the vernal sunshine, colorful flowers, the scent of grass in the air, and the chirping sound of birds. The earth is coming to life again!

“In the spring time, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.”

Willian Shakespeare

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Novel: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd


The story is set in the 1960s in Sylvan, just after the civil rights bill has been passed. A 14-year-old white girl Lily Owens is haunted by the accidental death of her mother 10 years ago. She lives with her cold, brutal, sadistic father on a peach farm. During her childhood, Rosaleen, a good-hearted and strong African American woman, is her only companion and acts as her "stand-in mother." One day in July 1964, Rosaleen goes to town to register to vote and insults three racists of the town. She is arrested, beaten up, and hospitalized. Lily decides to rescue Rosaleen and they flee to Tiburon, a town that Lily believes her mother had a connection to. In Tiburon, the black Mary labels on the honey jars lead them to Boatwright sisters named August, June, and May. August, the beekeeper, generously takes in Lily and Rosaleen. In their home, Lily recaptures the ideas of religion and racism, and also finds the long-lost maternal love. Irresistibly, she is infatuated with a young man, a black man.

My Opinion:

I like the story of this book in the way the author presents the wisdom about life:

  • Prejudice is always caused by a lack of understanding. The author shows how life experience has changed Lily’s thinking towards Blacks and June’s negative impression towards Lily.
  • The power of love can break the barriers between humans – Lily expresses her loves toward Rosaleen and Zach, while August shows her care for Deborah and Lily.
  • Lily forgives herself for her involvement in her mother’s accidental death and also forgives her father who treats her badly.

However, I disfavor with the following:

  • The story gets tedious when Lily is reluctant to come clean with August. I really dislike Lily’s character because she is too good in lying and she likes to keep everything inside of her. What’s more, I tired of her whining.
  • The story about May’s suicide is oversimplified. It is inconvincibly to have so many things happened in 20 minutes – walk out from the house to the river, come out with an idea of suicide, write a note, and suicide. Furthermore, there is no indication of May’s tendency to commit suicide.
  • T. Ray gives in too easily to let Lily stay in August’s place.
  • The relationship between Lily and Zach is unclear at the end of the story.

There are a couple of favorite quotes from the book that I like most:

  • … women made the best beekeepers because they have a special ability built into them to love creatures that sting – it comes from years of loving children and husbands.
  • “…, some things don’t matter that much, Lily…. How big is that in the overall schema of life? But lifting a person’s heart – now, that matters. The whole problem with people is –”, “… the problem is they know what matters, but they don’t choose it. You know how hard that is, Lily?...”

For further detail about the book, please refer to:

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Major Change of Daylight Saving in the USA

New Federal Law—Springing Forward in March, Back in November

Beginning in 2007, a new federal law is in effect. The federal goverment annouced extending Daylight Saving Time (DST) by about a month. This year DST will start the second Sunday of March (3/11/2007) and end on the first Sunday of November (11/4/2007). Arizona and Hawaii do not use daylight saving time.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Charity Auction

I was lucky to have a chance to attend a charity auction in State College. It was a biannual fundraising dinner held by Global Connections, a community non-profit organization. Generally the event was divided into two sections – the Silent and Live auctions. At 6 o'clock in the evening, guests were starting to arrive in the Ramada Inn conference room. Each of the guests was given with a personal bid number. They then walked around in the conference room to look at more than fifty auction items that were nicely displayed. The starting price and the minimum increased price were written on a sheet of paper near to a particular item. If a guest interested in an item, instead of her name, she would write down her bid number and the price that she would like to bid for on the sheet of paper. The whole process of silent auction took two hours. It ended at 8 o'clock, and the highest listed bidder won the prize. For Live auction, it took place after the guests had enjoyed their dinners. Auction catalogs were printed and distributed before the event got started. For the auction was conducted orally for people to hear, an eloquent auctioneer was needed. Again, the highest bidder won the prize. There were altogether 10 auction items in this section. All the bidders would pay the money and carried their items back home after the program. To encourage more people doing charity, the U.S. government offers tax reduction on the money that people spend for charity purposes.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Westerner vs. Easterner

There are very dramatic social-psychological differences between East Asians as a group and people of European culture as a group.

- East Asians live in an interdependent world in which the self is part of a larger whole;
- Westerners live in a world in which the self is a unitary free agent.

- Easterners value success and achievement in good part because they reflect well on the groups they belong to;
- Westerners value these things because they are badges of personal merit.

- Easterners value fitting in and engage in self-criticism to make sure that they do so;
- Westerners value individuality and strive to make themselves look good.

- Easterners are highly attuned to the feeling of others and interpersonal harmony;
- Westerners are more concerned with knowing themselves and are prepared to sacrifice harmony for fairness.

-Easterners are accepting of hierarchy and group control;
- Westerners are more likely to prefer equality and scope for personal action.

- Asian avoid controversy and debate;
- Westerners have faith in the rhetoric of argumentation in arenas from the law to politics to science.

(Richard E. Nisbett, 2003. The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Thinks Differently ... and Why)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Emperor vs. King

"Is there any different between an Emperor and a King? Or they are actually the same, and it is just a matter of terminology?" asks a student in Tom's short story class, while we are talking "The Emperor's New Clothes."

I thought it is a terminology matter, but I am wrong! According to Wikipedia, an emperor is a (male) monarch, usually the sovereign ruler of an empire or another type of imperial realm, while king is a (male) monarch, or head of state. Emperors are generally recognized to be above kings in honor and rank. Empress and queen are the feminine forms of emperor and king respectively.

However, Czar, Tzar, and Tsar are the titles of former emperor of Russia. Kaiser is refered to German and Austrian emperors.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Story Review: A Visit of Charity

In a technology prevailing world, most people are in favor of computing electronic mail. Many electronic mail users are probably familiar with “Eudora” – an email client. However, not many of them know that the software is actually named after a Southern writer Eudora Welty. The program is developed by Steve Dorner who was inspired by Welty’s short story “Why I love at the P.O.” Eudora Welty was one among few renowned American female writers, and she was also a successful photographer. In her 92 years, she published a number of novels, short stories, photographs, essays, and one children's book. Welty uses her gift of literacy to express sympathy with human difficulties – illness, old age, poverty, and ignorance. These can be seen in the short story “A Visit of Charity.” In the story, Welty provokes thought about selfishness, callousness, negligence, and dehumanization through an ironic tone. The title itself is rather a paradox. Charity means to show kindness, humanity, and social conscience toward people in need. Nevertheless, neither the protagonist Marian nor society possesses these values.

“A Visit of Charity” is a story about a fourteen-year-old girl, Marian, who visits two old women in a nursing home. The purpose of her visit is to earn a three-point for her score in Campfire Girl. By bringing a potted plant to the nursing home, she can earn an extra one point, or a double point is counted if she brings a bible and reads it to the old ladies. Marian brings with her a potted plant. In the nursing home, she is so shocked by the inferior environs and two cantankerous old ladies. During her brief stay, she is peculiar, and her mind cannot function properly. She loses the abilities to think, see, speak, and hear clearly. She has a strong impulse to run away from this strange place, and strange elderly women. At the end, Marian leaves a crying old woman and an imploring old woman untouched. She gets back an apple she has hidden under a tree and runs to catch the bus to go home.

The story takes place on a very cold winter day at a nursing home, where the building is described as “whitewashed brick and reflected the winter sunlight like a block of ice” and is beautified by “prickly dark shrub.” These scenes imply the absence of affection and warmth from a society towards forsaken elderly people in the nursing home. Marian is the protagonist of the story. She is a self-centered person. She is concerned about the progress of her Campfire Girl points more than anything. Her visit is clearly insincere when she tells the nurse at the desk, “I’m a Campfire Girl… I have to pay a visit to some old ladies.” When the nurse asks if she is acquainted with any persons there, she answers, “No-but-that is, any of them will do.” The potted plant is more evidence that shows Marian’s selfishness. Instead of bringing fruits or other more practical and sincere presents, Marian chooses to bring a potted plant that can earn her one extra point. However, compared to the previous campfire girl who has brought a bible during her visit, Marian is considered to have a little self-awareness for she does not choose to bring a bible that can earn more extra points for her. Welty sarcastically suggests that people who use bibles as the tools for self-gaining are indeed those who are overly preoccupied with their own benefits. Their actions fly in the face of sanctification.

Marian, however, has dehumanized the two old women unconsciously too. She associates the sound of an old lady to a sheep’s bleating and the hand of another old lady to a bird's claw. When entering the tiny dark room, she is frightened by her own creative imagination, where she is being caught in a robbers’ cave. After all, these hallucinations are caused by Marian’s lack of preparation. Welty’s description of Marian’s reactions also shows the disrespect of teenagers or society toward elder generation. Through the story, Welty dramatizes the isolation life in the nursing home. In the mid-morning, the hall is quiet and the doors are closed. This suggests that most of the residents are staying in their tiny rooms with their roommates only; no one trespasses other people boundaries. Too much furniture in the room indicates that the ladies spend plenty of time in the room, and they do not socialize with other residents in the public area in the nursing home. Therefore, it is not surprising that the two old women always argue with each other. Perhaps arguing is one of the few things if it is not the only thing they can do in a day. Also, if they are not isolated, why does Addie feel miserable on her birthday, and why does nobody help to celebrate Addie’s birthday?

After listening to Addie’s dissatisfaction about her roommate and knowing that today is Addie’s birthday, Marian seems to have experienced an epiphany. She begins to realize something about the old ladies. For the first time, she asks a question, a question that refers to Addie, not a sheep, “How old are you?” Although Addie refuses to answer the question, she indeed feels warmhearted and so she cries. Needless to say, it must have been a long time since any one was concerned about her existence. Marian’s simple question means a lot to poor Addie. Unfortunately, Marian’s epiphany is too short. She becomes untouched again to the other old woman who is imploring her for a penny. Perhaps she is just confused with feeling that she has never had before – sympathy. Finally, a red apple appears at the end of the story. It is traditionally a symbol of love or knowledge. Marian retrieves a red apple from a tree implying the ignition of love from the bottom of her heart towards elderly people. Or it also can imply the knowledge she has gained from her visit to the nursing home.

“A Visit of Charity” is a story that has a moral message to the readers. The author conveys through the story the inhumane treatment in nursing homes. The nursing home lacks amenities for elderly people. The condition of the room is comparable to a jail – small, wet, dark, and closed door. A nurse acts more like a jail guard than a compassionate professional. Welty portrays Marian as an individual person or as a whole society that is insensitive to the welfare of elderly people. People in society was used to living in their own comfort zones and neglect the inferior lives of unfortunate people. The story uses campfire girls who pay visits to the nursing home for self-benefits as a mirror of the selfishness and dehumanization of society in reality. The epiphany of Marian in the story is actually a symbolic of readers’ awareness of human difficulties.