World Events

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I am undergoing self-censorship lately.

Everything I write, before I publish it, I just hit the delete key. I need more practice here. After the completion of my memoir, writing is getting farther from me. Well, in the past few months, my interest in global affairs is growing  tremendously. Thanks to my first European trip last November, I am more aware of European current events such as Greek financial crisis. Thanks to my first European trip, I take heed of British politics as well as anything French. I am teaching myself French. I am reading a biography about Marquis de Lafayette–this is the first historical non-fiction in English I have read with gusto. On July 14, I even celebrated Bastille Day at the French embassy in the U.S. Turning myself into a Francophile is really a joy!

Last week I attended a lecture at Library of Congress with two former U.S. Secretary of State–Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell. Despite the fact that I was seated in the wing of a full auditorium where only live TV streaming was available, I was awakened to some diplomatic viewpoints made by Madame Albright in particular. Am I now interested in foreign service? Yes I am. It’s quite a daunting but challenging career. A saying that I learn long time ago says it well. Don’t wait for changes but take action to make changes.

On July 14 at the French Embassy I watched a remarkable environmental documentary film–“Ice and the Sky”–by Luc Jacquet. The stunning images and thought-provoking script of the film really moves me. Yes, the power of humans against adversity is immense. If everyone believes he or she can make changes, the world will change significantly too, either good or bad.

At the moment, my mind is in turmoil, in a good way though. I must have grown up over the past few years. I am now thinking about taking a greater responsibility as a citizen on this blue plannet. I am learning every day, from Bosnia War to Iran nuclear program, from Japanese history to China’s role on the international stage, my quest for knowledge can be insane. Just like a line in “Ice and the Sky” says, “forage, comprendre, forage, compredre (drilling, understand, drilling, understand)”, scientists are never tired of their exploration in Antarctica.

I am not going to self-censor my zest for knowledge. This is a good film review about the documentary film. I strongly recommend to watch it.

A Lake Gazer

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You may have heard about the Great Lakes in North America. Well, not far away from the Five Great Lakes—Lake Ontario and Lake Erie to be exact—lies a pattern of beautiful smaller lakes in the west-central section of New York State in America. The total of eleven pristine lakes spread like fingers across the region, thus, they are known as the Finger Lakes.

As an old saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the gazer. I dare to say everyone who has visited the Finger Lakes will marvel at their tranquility and grace. I am one of these lake gazers. My recent visit to the Finger Lakes deepens my love for this fertile land, which nourishes acres of farmland, and mile after mile of vineyards. Centuries ago, Native Americans settled around these lakes. Their legend is echoed in the names of these fresh water lakes: Conesus, Hemlock, Canadice, Honeoye, Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneka, Cayuga, Owasco, Skaneateles, and Otisco.

I spent two days exploring the biggest Finger Lakes—Cayuga Lake and Seneka Lake. The Indian name Cayuga means “Boat Landing”, and Seneka means “Place of the Stone” or “Stoney Place”. These two big lakes are also the most visited ones. Tens of thousands of tourists and summer residents flood in the lake region starting from the Memorial Day weekend, which falls on the last Monday of each May. In May, the lake region is blanketed with lush greenery. From endless fields to rolling hills, from grape vines that are at a teenager’s height in orderly rows to the dense towering trees that canopy the mountain range, each and every perspective offers varied shades of green. The flickering leaves in the sun and the dancing branches in the breeze, together with a palette of flowers, really infatuate me.

Just when I am bathing in the sea of green and colors, a silver belt in between two mountain ranges shines in front of me. The silver belt is the sparkling water in the lakes. The closer I approach it, the more it enthralls me. From the map you will see both Cayuga Lake (to the east) and Seneka Lake (to the west) are long and thin and next to one another. There is a canal in the north tip connecting both lakes. The Cayuga Seneca Canal connects these two lakes to the Erie Canal which runs through the Finger Lakes to the north. Each lake is connected by rivers ultimately leading into Lake Ontario that borders between Canada and the United States.

Well, in reality, the silver belt of water can be either Cayuga Lake or the Seneka Lake as both of them lie between two evenly moderate high grounds. However, the statistics show with 40 miles in length and 96 miles of shoreline, Cayuga is the longest of the Finger Lakes and the lowest to sea level; whereas Seneka is the deepest of the Finger Lakes at the maximum depth of 618 feet. Image that a 62-floor tall building could stand underwater!

To visit Cayuga Lake, you won’t miss its largest city—Ithaca, which is home of one of the Ivy League schools—Cornell University. Do you know Connell’s campus overlooks Cayuga Lake? As its Alma Mater sings, “Far above Cayuga’s waters, with its waves of blue, stands our noble Alma Mater, glorious to view. Lift the chorus, speed it onward, loud her praises tell. Hail to thee, our Alma Mater! Hail, all hail, Cornell!” On this trip I happen to see the proud Cornell graduates in their red-and-black caps and gowns, welcomed by joyous families and friends with bouquets in hand.

The Finger Lakes area is New York State’s largest wine producing region. In fact, the area’s wine trails are very popular. These trails showcase local wineries and tastings are often not limited to just wine—beer, juices, ciders and mead can be sipped throughout the region. It is interesting to know that Seneca Lake seldom freezes in winter. Therefore, there are more wineries along Seneca Lake than any other Finger Lake. And if you need a break from numerous water sports in the lakes—fishing, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, you name it—the Wine Trail, Cheese Trail and Brew Trail may satisfy your sense of taste.

I conclude my lake ride along the Y-shape Keuka Lake. Keuka Lake is the only Finger Lake with an outlet into another Finger Lake—Seneca Lake. Gazing at the crystal clear water and hearing the rhythmic waves rocking against the stony beach, I feel as placid and reflective as the lake. Lake-effect weather is well known in the Finger Lakes area. Perhaps these lakes are as influential to the atmosphere as to humans. This lake gazer is truly hooked.

Keuka 1 Keuka 4 Seneka 1 Seneka 2 Seneka 3 Seneka 7 Seneka 8 Taughanock Falls 2 Cayuga 2 Enfield Glen 6 green 1

Published magazine article–Delectable Paris

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Crazy English Teens May 2015


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By Karen Zhang

(Printed version on April 2015 issue of Crazy English Speaker. Stay tuned!)

Do you still remember when you were vaccinated when you were a baby? Chances are you have no clue about it except you may have bawled during inoculation. Then one day, when you’re old enough and you check your birth certificate, you learn back then you had received a range of shots to prevent tetanus, polio, meningitis and measles. Aren’t you thankful that you’ve lived in a good health? I certainly am.

In China, together with several other immunization shots, measles vaccination is mandatory. So it is in the United States. However, American parents seem to be more doubtful about the effect of vaccination than the Chinese. The recent Disneyland measles outbreak has spoken for itself. A report found most of the victims who had infected measles were in fact unvaccinated.

I was shocked to learn that some American parents chose to forgo vaccination given to their underage children based on their religious and unscientific concerns. Some of them fear immunization will be detrimental to their infants’ fledgling immune system. And some others, like the religious Amish people, view immunization as putting faith in man over their god.

The opposition, however, blames the anti-vaccination parents for creating a public health risk. After all, the virus can live on a surface or hang in the air for as long as two hours after an infected person has coughed or sneezed. Even though the U.S. health authorities require infants at 12 months old to receive the first dose of measles vaccine, there are still many a disobeyer across the country.

After the measles outbreak, amid heated debate, law makers finally begin to make changes about vaccination. For example, in California where the outbreak started, new legislation is proposed to outlaw waivers that allow parents to exempt their children from receiving basic vaccinations for religious or personal reasons. In some states, kindergartens and lower-grades schools even ban kids who have not received measles vaccination from classes.

Don’t these measures come too late? The Disneyland outbreak has already spread beyond the theme parks from the onset of 59 confirmed cases to over 100 cases around the country. But as a saying goes, it’s better late than never. American parents should really think twice when making decision about vaccination for their kids. After all, it concerns more than the health of an individual but of the public.