Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Happier and Interesting

The Tuesday (Nov 28, 2006) issue of the free daily newspaper here, tbt, carried a news article entitled “How to be happier”. Citing a variety of research experiments, the article enumerated several simple exercises that we can engage on a daily basis. I’ve tried each within the short span (actually more than an hour) of blogging here as listed below:

Think of 3 good things that happened during the day and analyzed why they occurred.
1) Our order of the silver-colored Canon SLR Camera arrived today as promised by because they have a reputation to upkeep.
2) Received an email from back home regarding a potential consultancy stint because I keep my contacts intact.
3) Upon return from his trip back to his homeland, my Turkish colleague brought pistachio and hazel nuts to the office to share (And my wife loves them). All because I work in a great firm that values good people and recruits them wherever they may be.

Discover your personal strengths, choose the five most prominent, then everyday for a week, apply one or more of these strengths in a new way.
1) I blog, and vary my theme from day to day, hence aPleasant Surprise(s).
2) I do numerical modeling, and just learn a new one today, BOUSS-2D. Never mind if you don’t know what it is. The important thing is for me to know how to use it wisely and to clients’ satisfaction.
3) I read, and stumble upon a piece of interesting news that I will blog later on here.
4) I treat my daughter as my peer, and she starts to share her stuff with me. Like today, she told me she will participate in the Winter Wonderland the school organizes this Friday where she will make goo (?) with elementary school kids.
5) I love my wife, and so she has become the copy editor of my blog lest my momentary lapse of mental clarity introduce things that are not for public consumption into my blog, a reality check of sort.

Work on savoring the pleasing things in life.
Seeing the diversity of traffic to my blog, for one. Reading comments on my blog for another. It seems my life has become more blog-centric by the day.

Write down what you want to be remembered for, and bring daily activities in line with what’s really important.
A loving husband by my wife; an even-handed father by my kids; a responsible and responsive professional by my colleagues; an approachable friend by my peers; and a smiling man by any stranger. And to all that, just be myself.

Regularly practice random acts of kindness.
Let's see, yes, letting an on-coming car come into my lane first. You see, we usually cut through a residential area on the way home when ferrying my daughter after school. Often, there are cars parked by the road side, taking up more than half of one lane and making two lane traffic difficult. Usually, the rule of thumb is just like approaching a 4-way junction, first in first out. But sometimes we do come across a particularly patient driver who stops first and waves us by. So today I did the same, and was acknowledged for the courteous move, a simple wave of the hand and a slight nod.

It does feel good, to be engaged in any of the above activities. Try some yourself.

Now, for the interesting news. The headline reads Global warming case goes to Supreme Court. The byline is “Watchdog groups, 12 states call for U.S. regulation of greenhouse gases”.

It pits environmental groups and a dozen states as the plaintiff (known as Massachusetts) against EPA, along with 10 states, four motor vehicle trade associations and two coalitions of utility companies and other industries as the defendents (known as EPA), contending that the “U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s mandate to shield Americans from harmful pollution includes putting limits on car, truck and power plant emissions that have been shown to hasten climate change” within the ambit of the Federal Clean Air Act, in a pivotal case before the Supreme Court.

On the other hand, the defendants' stand is that “carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring gas that does not fit the U.S. Clean Air Act’s definition of a pollutant”.

And the protagonists:
On the plaintiff side: Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington state; the cities of Washington D.C., New York and Baltimore; the government of American Samoa; and 13 environmental groups.

On the defendant side: EPA, Michigan, Texas, Idaho, North Dakota, Utah, South Dakota, Alaska, Kansas, Nebraska and Ohio, and numerous industry groups, including the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents nine car makers including the so-called “Big Three.”

See whether you’re surprised by any of the state entries in either camp, other than Texas of course. This case is interesting to me because this is the first time I’m seeing states on opposite sides of a court case. Wonder whether the people have any say in the professed stands adopted by the litigant states. And now the bummer, “a ruling is expected by the middle of next year”.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Cyber Monday Blues

Did you find that the Internet was a tad slower than usual this morning? I did, at 6am, and it was actually a lot more sluggish. I could not log in to gmail nor hotmail. So I ended up using Yahoo mail. Fortunately, I subscribe to these three web mail systems just for an eventuality like this.

I think the unusually heavy traffic this morning has something to do with the Cyber Monday phenomenon, one which I came to know about just recently. But I wasn’t planning on doing any online shopping today as I’ve already got what I needed (not what I wanted) on Black Friday, at

And my order was delivered this afternoon, a pleasant surprise. And I submitted the e-rebates within minutes, online. The rebate amount actually came to more than half of the purchase cost. So I saved time and the hassle on Friday, and was rewarded with a prompt delivery of the order and a quick submission of the rebates online today.

This is really convenient, and relaxing. No mail-in rebates. I think shopping the Staples way should be my MO from now on.

Coincidentally, I took today off, ostensibly to get over the holiday hangover, if there is such a thing. So I and my wife took a leisurely stroll in our apartment complex, taking in the greenery that lines our route and soothes our nerves.

On the first image, the center spots a shorter palm sandwiched between two tall palms. We have a similar type of the shorter palm back in Malaysia too, but an even shorter variety. Back home, the pointed tips of the long slender leaf blades are covered with egg shells to prevent accidental poking of body parts whose owners have come into contact with them unwittingly.

This was followed by a cruise along the Bayshore Boulevard, feasting our eyes on the morning splendor, and infusing our minds with the serenity that will only ensue after the morning rush hour traffic.

We ended up at Ballast Point, beautifully landscaped and marked by a wooded jetty extending into the bay. There were few visitors at this hour: an old man resting on a park bench and gazing forlornly into the horizon; and a lady positioning her camera on the railing aimed at the mist shrouded downtown cityscape beyond the bay. We took a similar shot, but from a vantage position at the shore end of the jetty, framing the distant cityscape comprising numerous concrete high rises between two woody ones. You would have to look real hard to discern the outline of the cityscape because of the light background.

We returned considerably invigorated, my wife’s Monday Blues largely dissipated. Thus recharged, I’m ready to take on what the remaining week has in store for me.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

From Happiness, to Happy Feet, to HappyNews

One of the Malaysian Chinese daily e-newspapers that we frequently read to monitor the pulse of Malaysia is Sin Chew Jit Pau, which has an English version. Then two days ago we came across an article “Life Is At Its Best When We Are Thankful” by Craig Harris reproduced from

My curiosity pricked, I looked up the website and was pleasantly surprised. So from blogging about happiness, to Happy Feet, we arrived at Happynews.

But before I proceed, let’s take a moment to ponder what Criag said:

Without hope, life would not be worth living and being thankful reminds us of the hope we have.”

So in one breath, that’s the gist of the Thanksgiving spirit.

Real News. Compelling Stories. Always Positive. That’s the credo of

Have a happy search. That’s the tagline for the search box.

Report happy news. That’s the challenge on the left side bar.

In contrast, Unhappy News. And the list of the major news stations follows.

All these about sum up the philosophy of the happy-news-only news website set up in July 2005.

They are not sorry about “looking for happy stories only” nor are they apologetic in believing that "much of the traditional media ... reports a disproportionate amount of negative news.” So they “are trying to balance the scales back out”.

And they do this through Citizen Reporters who “go out and interview people for direct quotes, to find anecdotes, and cover events in their backyards and communities that may not grab the attention of standard media outlets. This fresh and immediate perspective is the added value Citizen Journalism brings our readers.”

And who comprise this corps of citizen journalists? Your average Joe on the street really. "Teachers, bus drivers, mothers, fathers, community volunteers, beginning writers, college students, friends, just about anyone who wants to share local stories with the world".

Then there are “professional freelance journalists also feel compelled to contribute stories to our site.” And to complete the basket of news getters: "We also pull all the positive news stories we can from the Associated Press and other wire services".

Then the clincher: Does have a hidden agenda? Their answer: "There is no hidden agenda. We have no religious or political agenda at all. We are simply dedicated to bringing more happy news into the world for people of all races, creeds, and religions to enjoy".

So if you need a daily dose of happy news to prop you up, to tide you over the day, to feel good about life in general, to have hope, this is definitely one website you want to keep in your Favorites/Bookmarks.

Better still, if you wish to be proactive and make a difference, and have a journalistic bend that needs expression but have not ventured forth because of a perceived lack of a worthy cause, sign up as a citizen journalist like Craig.

Me? Visit often to find out.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Dancing Is Just Like Singing With Your Body

There has been a spate of cartoon movies released this year. Off the top of my head I can count the following that we have rented from the BlockBuster Video: Ice Age: The Meltdown, Cars, Monster House, and Over the Hedge. Except for perhaps Monster House, the others are hilarious replete with cute animals and definitely at the apex as far as cartoon entertainment goes.

For some reasons, human cartoon characters appear to be somewhat less “entertaining” when compared to the animal genre, at least for me. Somehow human cartoon characters lack the verve, the spontaneity, and the element of surprise the way the storyline evolves and thickens. Maybe it’s the familiarity (we are after all humans), which tends to breed contempt, so it’s easy to see through the façade, the make-believe. Anyway that’s only my take.

Previously we have seen the docu-movie, the March of the Penguins, describing the way Emperor Penguins treat their young, and perhaps a role model for the humans, their spouses, which is decidedly monogamous. That goes to show that the animal kingdom can teach us humans a thing or two too.

Then we watched the trailer for the cartoon version, with more twists than one, Happy Feet, that started been shown in cartoon DVDs since early in the year. And we fell in love with the animated penguins, all tapping away in unison, instantly.

So we waited, and waited, for the official release of the movie. Months after months went by and before we know it, it’s November.

With much anticipation, we chose to watch Happy Feet on Black Friday (read here), and at the only IMAX theatre in town, at Channelside. Touted as the ultimate movie experience, IMAX features “crystal clear images up to eight stories high, and wrap-around digital surround sound”. And we were not disappointed. The full blast sound sensation (especially when the penguins are tapping their feet to a crescendo), the “think big” picture quality, the reclining seat with an unobstructed view of the entire screen. The only downside, if there is one, is it’s not in 3D, thereby not maximizing the impact that IMAX can deliver. But the admission charged is commensurate at $7 per head compared to $12 for a 3D screening [Correction: My wife just showed me the ticket stubs today (Dec 2, 2006) and they show $12, each. I must have read the total as $28 (there were 4 of us in the party) instead of $48. So I stand corrected].

Now, if you have not seen the movie and like most people, do not like the element of surprise, the unknown, the suspense, to be spoilt by what I'm going to blog next about the movie, you're hereby forewarned to stop right here, and to continue after you've seen the movie to see whether you share my enthusiasm for the Happy Feet. Otherwise, read on.

Back to the movie, the main character is Mumble (see right image), which spots the voice of Elijah Wood, and is born with a pair of happy feet that could not resist launching into a tapping mode at the slightest provocation. In the end, through its heroics, its steadfastness in not changing its tapping way, and its tenacity and determination to get to the bottom of the scarcity of fish resources brought about by the wanton over-fishing activities of Mr. Being, he was able to transform the entire Emperor penguin population into accepting dancing to complement singing, the hitherto only traditional criterion used to judge whether a juvenile penguin has come of age, as the twin hallmark of a proud penguin tribe. The Happy Feet have prevailed.

Then there is the Fab Five, the five Spanish-mouthing penguins belonging to a shorter penguin species (see right image), led by the irrepressible Ramon. Ramon’s voice belongs to none other than the ever popular and my favorite, Robin Williams. Their rapid succession of delivery, interjecting each other at will but without disrupting the flow of the dialog, and careening off tangent and then coming back with greater gusto, is enough to leave the audience in stitches. I particularly like the amigo accents, which kind of threw me off in placing the voice of Ramon.

Then there is Dr. Lovelace, the only one which has a sense of the cause of the impending doom and which led Mumble to its ultimate encounter with Mr. Being. And yes, this is Robin Williams again, using his signature voice just like the Genie in Aladdin.

At the end, Happy Feet triumphed as the ecologically conscious Mr. Being imposed a moratorium of fishing around the Antarctic region, thereby preserving the food source for penguins and other aquatic life.

We walked out of the theatre smiling and with ever a slight spring in our gait.

Thanks to all the people behind the making of Happy Feet. Now we truly understand that dancing is just like singing with your body, the famous line of Mumble when teaching his Dad to dance.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Table of Contents: The Thanksgiving Way

So Thanksgiving Day 2006 is now history, but Black Friday 2006 has just started. But that will be the subject of another blog.

Here and now, I want to just simply recount the main event of Thanksgiving Day 2006: having a traditional turkey meal. The place: Bill and Ling’s home at Temple Terrace (Ling, left, is shown in the first image here with my wife). The time: 2pm. The company (in addition to Bill and Ling): Our family and another family from China.

For our contribution, my wife cooked her favorite dish: vegetable with taufoo, shrimps, and mushroom, and we added a fruit cake bought from SweetBay. We arrived at the door just before 2pm with our younger pair of children (read here).

Bill looked the same as ever, genteel and warm while Ling looked slightly on the emaciated side, having gone through some rough patch this year. The two cats were nowhere to be seen, probably prowling their territory outside the house.

And the Chinese family numbers four but spanning three generations. Straddling the generation divide is the couple, Luh and Ning. Then there is the grandma, Mdm. Chen, and the granddaughter, Shan, in her 7th grade.

After placing our food contribution on the well laid out table complete with ten chairs around it, we hitched up a conversion with the Chinese family, me and Luh, and my wife with Mdm. Chen, while Ling, Bill, Ning and Shan were busy setting out the table with food items, alternating between crowding the kitchen and arranging the dishes on the table and shuffling in between.

On the table, the centerpiece was of course the roasted turkey, the splendid handiwork of the gracious hostess, Ling. And I got myself a drumstick that wound up in my stomach in no time as it was after 2pm, way past my normal lunch hour at noon (however, in the giddy moment of partaking of the sumptious roasted turkey, I forgot to snap a shot of the bird prepared to a golden skin tone).

Bill (seen left in the image here, with Luh handing over Bill's cup (the larger one) and Mrs. Chen looking on), on the other hand, was pacing himself, taking his time with his food sampling pursuit. Good for him as I soon found myself stuffed beyond further intake.

To add variety to the food ingesting routine, Ling wanted each of us to say what we were thankful for. Nothing earth-shattering really, just the normal fare of great family, nice company, and good food all round while my list is already available for public scrutiny here.

There was warm camaraderie around the table, like old friends getting together after all those years of not keeping in touch due to a variety of reasons. Each of us took turn to share our experiences, the generation gap sidestepped, the family hierarchy suspended. With food aplenty, this was indeed a table of contents, an apt description of those that both filled out hearts metaphorically, and stomach literally.

After the hearty meal, we sauntered en masse to the boardwalk by the Hillsborough River, retracing the steps we took two years ago on exactly the same day and same time, but in expanded company.

The route was a tree-lined one, and Bill was kind enough to share his arboreal knowledge to the uninitiated like me. He pointed out to me the Ear Tree, because it sheds seeds that resemble human ears, the Rain Tree, because when the pink seeds at the tip of branches drop, it’s like a rain. Then there is the Silk Floss Tree that has thorn-line side growths on its trunk to ward off predator. Several Oak trees are dying because of beetle attack, the beetles having bored into the trunk and consumed the sap, leaving behind a wilting trunk with pieces of bark on the verge of flaking off. It was a sorry sight, a majestic oak succumbing to little critters. But such is the natural selection in accordance with the law of the jungle: the survival of the fittest.

The water stage at the Hillsborough River was lower than normal, revealing much of the tree stumps that line the river bank. According to Bill, these are the roots of the Cypress trees which are found further away from the bank, and are a means for the trees to “breathe” under waterlogged conditions.

One ubiquitous sight is the cascading Spanish Moss from the tree branches. However, unlike Mistletoe (you know, the ornamental plant as part of the Christmas decoration where two persons standing under it by happenstance are supposed to kiss each other), which is a parasitic plant that attaches itself to a tree and draws nutrients from the host, Spanish Moss uses the tree branches only as physical support but otherwise generates its own intake requirements from the air and the rain for sustenance.

According to Bill, the Spanish Moss came aboard ships in the Spanish armada when they came to the New World. In fact, right at this very spot there is a piece of history as shown on a signage post that displays that account. I was only close enough to get the year, about 250 years ago, but Bill filled me in on the details.

Apparently, the mast of a Spanish ship broke (Bill suspected it was due to the laden weight of the Spanish Moss) in the vicinity and it had to stop for repair. From then on the Spanish Moss flourished.

The “trek” ended at the end of a timber boat landing pier, and we had the photos to prove it. Segregated into an all-girls and all-boys shot in turn, we were all beaming into the camera in our own best postures. For some reasons, the girls stayed close to the ground by either sitting or squatting while the boys (some old but perhaps still young at heart) stood erect, preferring to stand in attention to the serenity, the mirror-like river surface, the clumps of trees in the middle of the river, the birds roosting near the river bank, their long pink beaks poking the shallow depth, and to the thin line of people strolling along.

Back to the house, the promenading having shaved off some of the “stuffy feel” of the stomach, we attacked the desserts with renewed vigor. There were fruit cake, apple pie, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, cut pineapples, and sugar cookies prepared by Shan. To go with that, Ling brewed a pot of Jasmine tea, its characteristic aroma arousing the olfactory sense.

As far as food feast goes, it can’t get any better than that. So is the company, we all exchanging tales. No pretenses. No judgment. Just humans interacting at the basic level: listening and be listened to.

Soon it was time to part company. Contact information was exchanged, and vows to keeping in touch and meeting again in similar circumstances made. Then we all drove off into the sunset, Bill and Ling bidding us goodbye in front of the woody arch formed from Bougainvillea, casting two lone figures in the shadow of the bamboo trees because of the fading light brought forth early by the impending Winter.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Compliments, Chocolate, Camera, and Companion: the 4Cs That Made My Day

“Your son is amazing. And I want to meet his parents,” so said a vivacious young man standing next to our S and in came his hand through the car window, shaking my wife’s and my hand in turn forcefully.

The scene was along Inner Road just before the junction with SW 13th St in the UF Campus. The occasion, just after our son’s Math class at 3.50pm yesterday when we were there to take him back to Tampa for the Thanksgiving holidays.

This is the very first time that a peer of one of our children has complimented one of our children so openly to our face, one made so joyously and without reservations. Since joining UF this past Fall as a freshman and staying in Hume Hall, we kind of surmised our S has continued his tradition of helping fellow classmates while in High School ( we know that for a fact as we have his High School Year Book, or the rather hilarious scribbling imprinted thereon by his friends) and has made a great bunch of friends both in class and in the residence hall (including his knitting cohorts).

But this is totally unexpected, a completely pleasant surprise. So if you could pardon the exuberance of a pair of proud parents, thanks, Peter Hong, for making our day.

But, there is more. Outside Hume Hall, our S emerged from his dorm and handed over a box of gift to his Mom. You see, yesterday was my wife’s birthday. And our S remembered. And he knew what kind of gift that would make his Mom happy: a boxful of chocolate. And from Godiva, the Chocolatier people, at that.

All our children have said “Happy Birthday” to their Mom, either through telephones (from Malaysia and Oregon) and in person. The greetings have also come from her siblings in Australia and Malaysia.

Buddhism emphasizes filial piety to the parents, and mutual love and respect among the siblings, as the foundation and necessary condition to fostering a just society, a well-administered nation, and a peaceful world.

When we first moved here three years ago, we were apprehensive that the Asian ala Buddhist values that we have tried to instill in our children, both by word and by deed, could have a chance of being usurped by some of the less than desirable Western values such as hedonism and individuality at its extreme.

However, actual development has proved that these concerns are unfounded. The years spent in constantly imbuing them with the right values patterned after the Confucian school since young have left a deep-seated imprint in their psyche that they are able to hold steadfast to them while exposed to the incessant bombardment of western culture on a daily basis: through TV, through newspapers, and through personal encounters.

The best part is they have absorbed the good that the western culture has to offer: standing up to one’s views and conviction. In a typical Asian home, it used to be unimaginable that a son/daughter will dare to express his/her counter views, less so using the same tone of voice of the elders. My children are a living proof that time has changed (perhaps they have inherited a “less-than-obedient” streak from me as I had walked out once from my “at times overbearing” father in a moment of heightened agitation; but I’ve never loved my father less for that).

Now we have to reason with them, and that’s what it will take to change their views. No more talking down, no more “do as I say”. And the good part is I’ve no problem with that.

On the drive home, we were greeted by the beautiful sunset along the way. My wife has always excelled in taking photo shoots, but using an analog camera. Since we switched to a digital one, she has more or less relegated the “shooting” role to us, contented at being the “target”, if you know what I mean.

I guess everybody has to adjust to a digital world sooner or later. She is now quite at ease at surfing the Internet, a proof that necessity is the mother of adjustment, and immersion is the way to a digital style of life, at least some aspects of that.

Fascinated by the splendor of the tapestry of sunset color set against the horizon above the moving tree line (actually the car was moving), she took up the digital camera and all I heard (I have to focus on the road ahead as the drive was punctuated by alternate slowing down, sometimes complete momentary stoppage, and accelerating) was the camera clicking away. Does she know what she is doing, with a digital camera?

And here are some shots from her efforts. Enjoy the rich mix of the blending color that only a fleeting sunset will offer, with discrete tree silhouettes in one and a solitary signage post in another. While one of the streaks (the brighter one) is obviously the reflection from the flash on the window pane, the other is real, like the trace left behind by a shooting star, a momentary flash of brilliance that adds a variant to the sunset sky. So judge for yourself. I don’t know about you, but I am definitely proud of my wife, whose artistic talents and level-headed approach to life’s issues have never ceased to amaze me despite our more than 28 years of married journey.

Have a great Thanksgiving Season!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Cheapest Books, Anyone?

The advent of the Internet has ushered in a new and convenient way of shopping for the lowest price of practically any item that has utility value. First, there was an upsurge of traditional chain stores establishing alternate online presence, the so-called click and mortar mode of business operations. Then to make sense of the myriad offerings in terms of price selection, it was just a matter of time before some enterprising souls saw and seized the opportunities to offer price comparison services, the aggregator websites that scour the cyberspace for bargain prices on request.

Thus we have for the travel industry and for the hospitality sector, just to name two examples. How far then can the publishing and entertainment media be far behind?

Upstarts are born everyday, despite the dot com bust that seems to have bottomed out. Some have gone on to better things while some have seen better days, languishing in the doldrums as the competition for niche markets is fierce. Even advertising one’s service offering website has taken on a new urgency, the cyber-entrepreneurs resorting to various means to get noticed.

Well, I did not know one of the ways until today: through invitation emails to bloggers to blog about them. And that’s what I’m about to do now, at the invitation of the webmaster of the book price comparison site: that has recently undergone a redesign.

The website compares prices of books, DVDs and CDs, and maintains a list of vendors from which the prices are gleaned real time. of course I wouldn’t be talking about it until I’ve tried it to see for myself whether the site lives up to the triple claims of “free, objective, and easy-to-use".

The search page is reminiscent of the Google search page, with the search box centrally located relatively uncluttered. Below that are listed the categories from Arts and Photography to Travel. Clicking on any category will instantly bring on the list of books, ten per page. For example, I clicked on Religion and Spirituality and noticed a book that I would like to read on the very first page: Life After Death: The Burden of Proof by Deepak Chopra.

I tried a few book searches off the top of my head. First, Fast Food Nation, which was an assigned reading during my daughter’s junior year in High School and has now been made into a movie. The price comparison came back instantly. Next I tried the popular author, John Grisham, and a list of his books was returned within a few seconds. Just to stretch the search, I typed in the name of a renowned coastal engineer, Robert G Dean, Professor Emeritus of the University of Florida, my alma mater. And two of his popular texts were returned on the first page.

So in a span of a few minutes, I’ve established that is easy to use, and objective in the sense that it is not affiliated to any of the major book chains and includes many of the online bookstores. There is no need to sign up, no particulars asked for, and definitely no charge.

Personally, I prefer buying books in a book store as part of the fun of buying books is browsing and reading chapters of the books before making a purchase decision. I’m a member of two local bookstores, Inkwood Books and Barnes and Noble. The other favorite haunt of mine is the local library book sales where relatively new books can be gotten at rock bottom prices.

So I have to admit that I’ll only make sporadic visits to But you could be different. And I wish you a pleasant surprise while making your cyber-visit to the website.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Wonders of the World: The Old, The New, and The Vote

I wonder how many of the Seven Wonders of the World (the ancient one that is) we can recall. For me, only two: The Pyramids of Egypt and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Lest you launch yourself into a futile memory scouring operation, here are the remaining five, courtesy of the news story entitled “List down to 21 Candidates to be New World Wonders” in today’s issue of Tampa Tribune (pg. 4 of the Travel section):

The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus
The Colossus of Rhodes
The Pharoh lighthouse off Alexandria.

Only the Pyramids survive today. Now there is a global effort to name the Seven Wonders of the present-day at the New 7 Wonders website. However, if you wish to nominate your dream wonders for consideration, you are out of luck, or rather too late, for the list has been pared down to the final 21 as displayed on the site.

On the other hand, you still have a say as to what the final Magnificent Seven would be, by popular vote. And everyone has a right to exercise his/her voting right in this only trans-boundary democratic election. The result will be announced on, when else, the only triple sevens of this millennium: 7.7.2007.

So browse through the individual description of each of the 21 candidates already prepared for you, complete with a brief history, its significance, and a two-word symbolism, and take your pick. Better still, visit the sites to gain a first-hand account if you have the wherewithal in order to make an informed decision.

Here I’ve taken the liberty to list, in alphabetical order (as is done at the site), the 21 candidate sites, just to whet your appetite:

  • The Acropolis of Athens (450 - 330 B.C.), Athens, Greece (Civilization and Democracy)

  • Alhambra (12th century) Granada, Spain (Dignity and Dialog)

  • Angkor (12th century) Cambodia (Beauty and Sanctity)

  • The Pyramid at Chichén Itzá (before 800 A.D.) Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico (Worship and Knowledge)

  • Christ Redeemer (1931) Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Welcoming and Openness)

  • The Roman Colosseum (70 - 82 A.D.) Rome, Italy (Joy and Suffering)

  • Statues of Easter Island (10th - 16th Century) Easter Island, Chile (Mystery and Awe)

  • The Eiffel Tower (1887 - 89) Paris, France (Challenge and Progress)

  • The Great Wall of China (220 B.C and 1368 - 1644 A.D.) China (Perseverance and Persistence)

  • The Hagia Sophia (532 - 537 A.D.) Istanbul, Turkey (Faith and Respect)

  • The Kiyomizu Temple (749 - 1855) Kyoto, Japan (Clarity and Serenity)

  • he Kremlin and Red Square (1156 - 1850) Moscow, Russia (Fortitude and Symbolism)

  • Machu Picchu (1460-1470), Peru (Community and Dedication)

  • Neuschwanstein Castle (1869 -1884) Schwangau, Germany (Fantasy and Imagination)

  • Petra (9 B.C. - 40 A.D.), Jordan (Engineering and Protection)

  • The Pyramids of Giza (2600 - 2500 B.C), Egypt (Immortality and Eternity)

  • The Statue of Liberty (1886) New York City, U.S.A. (Generosity and Hope)

  • Stonehenge (3000 B.C. - 1600 B.C.) Amesbury, United Kingdom (Intrigue and Endurance)

  • Sydney Opera House (1954 - 73) Sydney, Australia (Abstraction and Creativity)

  • The Taj Mahal (1630 A.D.) Agra, India (Love and Passion)

  • Timbuktu (12th century) Mali (Intellect and Mysticism)

At a glance, you will note that each of the five inhabited continents is represented, from the oldest (3000 B.C. – 1600 B.C.) to the youngest (1954 – 73). Some have religious connotations, one of which is a Buddhist Temple (the Kiyomizu Temple, or the Clear Water Temple).

At the risk of being seen as biased, I think the Kiyomizu Temple will be one of my choices. And its two-word symbolism is most appropriate indeed, both clarity and serenity being the necessary ingredients for enlightenment on the path to Buddhahood.

The remaining six will be picked on the basis of at least one from each continent as in my book, no continent/country has monopoly over earthly wonders. But that's me. The important thing is to exercise your voting right as every vote counts. So, let your finger do the walking but your head to do the voting.

And that is my pleasantly surprising find of the day.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Understanding Buddhism Revisited

Similar to the NBC effort , another effort at fostering inter-faith understanding on a global scale, but using a local example as a microcosm, has started in Malaysia more than two years ago. The local example is the State of Penang, through the Penang Global Ethic Project.

The project “promotes the concepts of 'World Religions – Universal Peace – Global Ethic' by identifying them with Penang's traditions of religious tolerance and diversity” where “people of all nations, ages, religions and ethnic backgrounds can learn about traditions of peaceful religious co-existence.”.

Through organizing such activities as exhibitions, public talks, public forums and workshops, the project aims to highlight “common moral values and ethical standards which are shared by the different faiths and cultures on Earth”.

Spotting a banner containing nine symbols that represent Indigenous Spirituality, Hinduism, Chinese Religion (comprising Confucianism and Taoism), Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, and Bahai Faith on its main page, the website also contains an introductory article on each of the religions.

The first paragraph on Buddhism asserts that “Buddhism is not a philosophy. It is a religion.” I find such an assertion to be unnecessarily rigid, nor does it reflect the prevailing Buddhist view expressed in English Buddhist texts one of which is “The Collected Works of Venerable Master Chin Kung” translated by Silent Voices and printed by The Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation .

In Chapter Two entitled “The Four Kinds of Buddhism Today”, Venerable Master Chin Kung enumerated at least four different types as follows:
  • The authentic Buddhism: This entails "the education of understanding the true reality of life and the universe originally taught by Buddha Shakyamuni. Unfortunately, the authentic education is rare and difficult to encounter nowadays".

  • The religious Buddhism: "Originally, Buddhism was not a religion, but now it has become one. We can no longer deny that there is a Buddhist religion because everywhere we look, specially in Asia, it is displayed as a religion ... Today we see people making offerings to the Buddha statues and praying for blessings and good fortune. In this way, Buddhism has been wrongly changed into a religion."

  • Buddhism as the philosophical study of the Buddha’s teachings: "Many universities today offer courses on the study of Buddhist Sutras, considering the teachings as a philosophy. The content of the Buddha’s education is actually a complete university of knowledge and wisdom. Philosophy is only one of its contents. Just as it is wrong to recognize a university as a single course, it is also inappropriate to think of and limit the Buddha’s education to only a philosophy… The Buddha’s teachings are profound and vast, and teach us the truths of life and the universe. It should not be mistaken as only a philosophy".

  • The Deviant and Externalist Buddhism: This "is an extremely unfortunate distortion that came to be in the past thirty to forty years". It thrives on “the weakness of human nature to cheat and harm living beings, disturbing the peace and safety of society. The speech and actions of these deviant and external paths can be very attractive and enticing. One should be careful as not to be misled by these deviant ways and regretting it would be to late.”

So by default, the perception of Buddhism as solely a religion, or a philosophy, misses entirely the central tenet of Buddhism as an educational endeavor in the broadest sense of the word. And to that end, “we should recognize them for what they are and think carefully as to which way is most beneficial to us and the one we will ultimately follow”, so admonished Venerable Master Chin Kung, lest we help propagate the misconception that Buddhism is a religion, and nothing more.

The many facets of Buddhism as expounded by Venerable Master Chin Kung have been similarly addressed in Wikipedia, which describes it "as a dharmic, non-theistic religion, a way of life, a practical philosophy, and arguably a form of psychology".

The last characterization as a form of psychology perhaps springs from one of the recognized schools in Buddhism, the Consciousness Only School (Weishi in Chinese), which “holds that all things exist only as presentations or phenomenological appearances that are manifestations of our consciousness” (from the Glossary of the book blogged here ).

Today's is the concluding class of the Dharma lecture series on the Consciousness Only School delivered by Venerable Master Hui Zheng that I and my wife have been attending for the past two months. I hope to prepare a summary of what I have learned and benefited to share in one my subsequent blog articles.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Understanding Buddhism

On weekdays, I usually leave home at about five minutes after seven in the morning to send my daughter to school. That means I only watch about five minutes of the Today show on NBC, which starts at 7.00 am sharp.

So I know the Today show people have started a series called “The Mystery of Faith”, which started with Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Then yesterday morning, the focus turned to Eastern religions, and the show displayed some images of the religions that caught my attention, that of the Buddha. However, I could not stay on to watch because of a prior commitment as aforementioned.

So today after work I was able to watch the replay on NBC’s website, which consists of two 5-minute segments hosted by Campbell Brown and filmed in Hong Kong, now part of China.

The first segment started with Ms. Brown standing in front of a gigantic sitting Buddha said to be 10 storey high, one of five such Buddha statues in China. Visitors have to climb 268 steps to reach the Buddha site, according to Ms. Brown.

In her narrative, she covered two eastern religions: Hinduism and Buddhism. On Hinduism, she said that the religion, which has over a billion followers, actually started in Pakistan about three thousands years ago and spread into India. The Buddha was born in India, and Buddhism spread from there into the Asian Continent. There are now about 375 millions Buddhist practitioners (read here for my choice of the term "practitioners") worldwide.

Both religions are not well understood by the West, perhaps sometimes overshadowed by the elaborate ritualistic practices, and apparent worship of multiple deities. Both are often viewed as a kind of enigma, with ornate temples/shrines and mysterious looking gods.

She correctly asserts that Buddhism is not an institutionalized religion, but rather a personal journey to enlightenment. Therefore, everyone has the divinity within each to become a Buddha.

Neither does Buddhism profess total renunciation of the present life, but rather one should actively pursue a meaningful life by helping others, by doing good deeds, and by repudiating all the worldly excesses and exterminating worldly sins such as greed, anger, and delusion.

One of the central beliefs in Buddhism is karma, the totality of actions and conditions executed or experienced in a previous life that bear on the consequences occurring in this life, and likewise of this life on the next life, as symbolized by the wheel of life that turns inexorably. This is a strong motivator to do good, akin to the adage that you reap what you sow.

This brings on another central Buddhist belief: that of the cycle of life from birth, death and to rebirth. In that Buddhism and Hinduism are congruent in the concept of samsara, the continuity of existence, commonly referred to as reincarnation.

A commonality among the various religions is the concept of heaven. However, they depart on how their respective followers get to the heaven. In Buddhism, it is the nirvana. While literally meaning extinction, nirvana is the attainment of the ultimate reality, understanding of the absolute truth, and reaching a state of safety, peace, happiness, and tranquility. However, Buddhism cannot be divorced from this world for it is a humanistic approach to embracing life, hence the term heaven (or pure land) on earth where the path leading to it is laid by the cessation of afflictions through cultivating the Four Noble Truths blogged here.

It came as a pleasant surprise that Buddhism has been highlighted in a national broadcast as part of a concerted effort toward inter-faith understanding so as to explore common ground to help achieve world peace. Late, but better than never.

In this Internet age, websites on Buddhism abound, some of which have migrated to the English medium to gain wider dissemination of the Buddhist teachings. Here is a sample of those websites that provide a wealth of Buddhism-related information in all its various facets:

Feel free to explore and partake of the wisdom enshrined in the Buddhist teachings.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

All Things Avian

From the botanical finds of yesterday, I would like to move on to the zoological beings, the avian kind to be precise.

Unlike plants and trees, which are immotile, shooting birds, with a camera that is, is a chancy undertaking. The subject is unpredictable, unless it is the captured variety, but at the expense of a sense of carefree splendor.

Birds are prone to taking flight at the slightest disturbance. But when the random encounter is frozen in time, the elation, the emotional uplift, and the wonderment are priceless, to borrow from a popular commercial for a major credit card.

Here they are, in no particular chronological order.

The first image is that of a white crane (at least that’s what I thought it is), perched on a iron-pipe railing next to a bait shop. I think this is near the Clearwater Beach, one of our favorite places for the release of life activity, until the risk of harmful algal bloom (aka red tide) forced us to look for bluer waters (a play on greener pasture). Hence, the Tampa Bypass Canal blogged here. It was early in the morning, and the birdie must be preserving energy for target shooting for sustenance. I guess this is one of its favorite haunts as it does not appear to be perturbed by the throng of fishing enthusiasts walking past. Or maybe it was eyeing, in an askance way, at the guy shaking up his net, waiting for the off-chance that some morsels of fish remains caught in the net would just suddenly be flung into the air. Fat chance.

The next image is at another bait shop, this time at the Madeira Beach, St. Pete. Another crane was strutting on the timber gangway next to a smaller bird, apparently on a food hunt, kind of out of its usual territory. The close proximity of the two birds, disparate in size, both going about the same business of keeping fed, without nary a sign of belligerence, is a poignant contrast to the dog-eat-dog world that we have found ourselves fenced in. Whatever happened to live and let live, prosper thy neighbor, and common heritage that are the cherished dreams of the down trodden? But I digress. On reflection, could it be the same crane as above? What is a typical size of the hunting ground for a preying bird? Does it practice a kind of orchard farming, i.e., confined to a particular habitat, or shifting cultivation aka slash and burn, seldom revisiting the same location twice? I wonder.

The shot is taken near a lotus-filled pond in the Largo Botanical Garden, which boasts of many varieties of plants and flowers. Seldom do I see a duck (or is it not?) spreading its span like an eagle. Perhaps it was unfolding its wings after a dip, or was it trying to impress a female gender as part of the mating routine? But it was alone from what I could gather of the surrounding. That the creature knowing a nature lover like me was itching for a nature shot of the day sounds too far-fetched. Anyway the timing was uncanny, and I’m glad that the duck was able to maintain its pose since that is definitely not the natural wing position when “grounded”.

The next threesome is a different kind of duck, more domesticated than wild. Effortlessly maneuvering with their paddling feet, they were looking for floating bread crumbs that my party has thrown from the road bridge (yes, this is the Tampa Bypass Canal trip again). I did not notice the near perfect reflection on the water surface until it was on my computer screen after uploading from the camera. This is a testimony to the water clarity of the canal flow, at least during that particular instant.

Then there is the foursome, two in front, the other two bringing up the rear, and moving in unison. I suspect this is not my creation, as sometimes my daughter over at Oregon emails some of her photo shoots our way too. She too is a photography enthusiast, having taken up a formal course in digital photography in college. Unlike me, everything is by trial and error; the advent of digital cameras partly to blame because snipping of unwanted or unsuccessful scenes is so easy.

The last image of the day is a gem, more so because the bird is a rarity. See for yourself. Unfortunately I did not have the patience to wait for it to unravel its magnificent wings. The setting is at the Largo Botanical Garden as before, but on a different trip. I believe this was at the end of an earth track that was still under some form of construction, hence the earth mounds. Obviously, the bird is wild, and has claimed the clearing for roosting, drawn in by the quiet save for the rubbing leaves ruffled by a gentle breeze. And we were also tenacious enough to savor all the exhibits, without bypassing a single path in our coverage. All conspired to yield a golden moment that translated into the most pleasant surprise of them all.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Some Shades and Shapes of Trees

A picture tells a thousand words, so they say. Especially those nature shots, be they of plants, animal/wild life, or clouds (see here), it's up to the beholders to tell the story in their own mind. It could be remembering a place one has been to, or reminiscing where a memorable event has taken place, or simply enjoying the scenery, taken in by the serenity, the blending, and the harmony of it all.

While on any outing, be it shopping, participating in a release of life activity (see here), or sightseeing, I've always remembered, most of the time anyway, to tuck the camera into my pocket for occasions such as those shown here. You will never know what you will manage to capture for eternity, relatively speaking.

What I'm going to do is to group some of these shots into common themes, and blog about them in several installments, not necessarily in sequence, just to mix it up so that there is an element of surprise, hopefully a pleasant one. So for today, it is plants, most of them trees of various shades and shapes. Let's begin.

The first one is a shot of a tree-lined boardwalk along the bank of the Hillsborough River near Tampa Terrace. Especially after a meal, taking a stroll along the water's edge is soothing to both the stressed out mind and the overworked stomach laboring over digestion. Then there are the park benches to rest the tired feet if the owner so inclines.

The next shot is of the gardening plot within my apartment complex. The residents can take up a plot to try out their agricultural exploits, at the same time working off some excess calories attendant to living a rather sedentary life that is office bound from nine to five. And at the end of it all, one still gets to enjoy the fruits of their labor, saving some gorcery money in the process.

I spotted this rather majestic tree next to a store along one of the main roads on a sudden urge to do some shopping. Its rather symmetric spread about the trunk extends in an overhang, providing shades under its foliage when the tree has seen better days, the arrival of the autumn season having deprived it of much of the leafy cover. However, as the wheel of season turns, so will the shedding halt to be followed by renewal, a predictable spurt to greenery.

This is another typical tree lining a rural road that we have traversed on our way to a destination for the release of life activity. It stands by itself, with Spanish moss hanging down from its lower branches. It may cut a lonely figure, but the thick canopy seems to suggest that it is oblivious to the solitude, enjoying the space that those around it are not privy to. At the same time, it is magnanimous enough to support a fellow species, providing both shade and sustenance to an otherwise helpless brethren that would have met with its decomposed end, a rather untimely one.

So much for trees, which are symbols of strength, of staunchness, of protection, of being evergreen, and of renewal. They also inspire the sage saying that it takes a decade to nurture a tree, but a century to nurture a generation.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Virtuous and Meritorious Day to Remember

A regular activity of my wife's cohort of buddhist adherents is the monthly ritual of releasing life. While Buddhism advocates that one shall not kill and terminate the life of another sentient being, releasing life is considered as a virtuous deed that can accumulate merits to one's good karma, hence begetting good consequences in a future life.

The activity is carried out in the morning at the water's edge, be it bayside or riverside. First, the entourage will stop at a pre-determined fish bait shop in the vicinity of the chosen location. Using the donations received from fellow adherents, we will buy bucketful of juvenile fish, shrimps, and sometimes, crabs, all live ones (I always tag along as I'm the designated driver since my Minivan can seat 8 passengers, and also the photographer, armed with my Canon Powershot A35).

Now, a site reconnaissance is first conducted to ascertain that the proposed site is accessible, that there is a fish bait shop nearby and it opens for business early in the morning, and that the place is not frequented by either fishing enthusiasts or preying birds for obvious reasons.

Not obvious? Then for one thing, fishing enthusiasts have a nose for where fishes congregate and where fishes are found aplenty, the juveniles that we release would have vanished instantly into the food chain, thereby defeating the purpose of our efforts. While some may view this as a symbolic act, due diligence must be exercised that their chances for survival are maximized. As for the preying birds, we usually have a trick up our sleeve, by feeding bread crumbs to them first, which in itself is a meritorious deed as well. Having their appetites satiated, the birds are less likely to swoop down on the temporarily disoriented juveniles, which can be traumatized during the release operation.

One of the adherents always provides the pails and portable aerators for keeping the juveniles alive during the short transit to the chosen location. Once at the chosen location, the ritual starts with the chanting of the Great Compassion Mantra and the Heart Sutra. Then the juveniles are released when the contents of the pails are poured gently into the water.

Today is the first time we have the ritual at the river side, actually is more like a canal, the Tampa Bypass Canal, which shunts the river discharge from the upstream of the Hillsborough River directly into the Bay during high rainfall events. But we added a new life to be released: earthworms, which are bought at the same bait shop, four cans-ful of them. But instead of pouring the can contents into the water, they are poured into shallow holes dug near the river bank then backfilled where they can then burrow to their heart's content without having to worry about wandering birds/chicken.

We left the house at 7.15am and by 9.10am, the ritual of release life was over, for today. Seeing the juveniles swimming away in a carefree fashion, instead of being gobbled up as baits at the end of a fish hook, filled our hearts with compassion, and permeated our minds with wonderful thoughts of the benevolence of life.

But for today, that wonderful feeling continued. This time, at 10.30am, the destination was the first Annual Robe Offering Celebration of the Dhamma Wheel Meditation Society held at Clearwater. Laden with cooked food ranging from fried noodles, vegetable dishes, to fresh-cut fruits (my wife prepared two bowls of water melon and strawberries), we arrived at the destination at the nick of time (my fault as I was busy talking about the recently concluded US election with my front seat passenger and missed the turn into State Route 60 from the I-275 bridge crossing the Tampa Bay. So instead of going to Clearwater directly to the north, we ended up at St. Pete at the south because there is no U-turn on the I-275 bridge and we had to make a long detour to the south first).

But as I said, we arrived just when the ceremony was about to start with food offering to the various Bhante (the equivalent of Venerable in Pali) monks (thirteen in all). The adherents stood on a line next to the serving table and the Bhantes then walked by in a line on the opposite side, their bowls gradually filled up by food items picked up and offered by the adherents.

This is the most meritorious of alms giving, offering food, clothing, shelter, and robes to the sangha, any community of Buddhist monks. That done, the bhantes then sat on two opposite rows, with the apex occupied by the white statue of the Buddha, seemingly presiding over the ceremony. This was the setting for the robe offering ceremony. The adherents took turns to offer the robes stacked neatly on a table in their names as sponsors to each Bhante in turn.

This was followed by the award of certificates to newly ordained adherents, each being given a Buddhist name in Pali with the meaning explained. The ceremony concluded with a Dharma talk on the significance of the robe offering and the associated merit gathering aspect, and lastly, an acknowledgment of appreciation from the Dhamma Wheel Meditation Society (DWMS) to all concerned who had helped make this a solemn and virtuous event.

Thanks were also extended to the congregation of Unity Church, the ever helpful neighbor, for their continued support of DWMS. This inter-faith cooperation is especially credit-worthy and inspiring and should auger well for a peaceful world.

Today has indeed been a wondrous day, and we have all been blessed in more ways than one. May all beings be well, happy and peaceful, as written on the program sheet. And I extend the same to all those who visit my blog, and pray that you would likewise extend the same wish to all with whom you cross path.

P.S. I’ve been using the term "adherents" but the term used by DWMS is "practitioners". To the extent that Buddhism emphasizes the practice of the various Buddha teachings and their embracing as a way or philosophy of life, I would agree that “practitioners” would be a more appropriate and meaningful description than “adherents”, which may imply blindly following of a faith. Henceforth, I will use “practitioners”.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Meeting of Great Minds through BookCrossing

After the Four Noble Truths, the next Buddhist book that I read is Meeting of Minds: A dialogue on Tibetan and Chinese Buddhism by H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama and Venerable Chan Master Sheng-yen, Dharma Drum Publications, 1999.

Before this, I’ve skimmed several of the books by His Holiness that deal with happiness in the work place, catching a glimpse of Tibetan Buddhism in the process. I also had a cursory read of several Chinese Buddhist texts on Chan Buddhism by Venerable Master Sheng-yen.

However, to read about their one-on-one interaction, that’s more than a pleasant surprise. The dialogue is part of the Dharma event In the Spirit of Manjushri: the Wisdom Teachings of Buddhism held in NY on May 1 – 3, 1998.

The book is a concise account of the proceeding of the dialogue, during which the two protagonists, steeped in the teachings of the respective schools of Buddhism, discussed the transformation of mind that “focused on the connection between kleshas (mental afflictions), meditation practice, and the experience of enlightenment.”

Along the way, it was made clear that “there is no real contradiction between the sudden and gradual approaches [to enlightenment]. The differences lie in the dispositions of the practitioners.” In everyday parlance, these would correspond to the fast and slow learners amongst us. Some can make the mental connection on the spot, spontaneously, simultaneously, and instantaneously, while others have to slog, labor, and agonize before seeing the light.

As reported, “His Holiness and Venerable Sheng-yen also clarified some common misconceptions held by the Chinese and Tibetan traditions. Chinese Buddhism often believes that Tibetan Buddhism emphasizes “esotericism,” and Tibetan Buddhism often believes that theirs is the most “complete” Buddhist teaching.”

I’m particularly guilty of the first myth, the being esoteric part, no thanks to the exposure I self-imposed through reading the various Chinese martial arts novels that often shroud Tibetan monks in enigma with mystic powers. Of course I’ve realized that reality is an entirely different matter long before I know of His Holiness.

As noted in the Forward by Venerable Guo-gu Bhikshu, “this dialogue between two Buddhist masters symbolizes the commonality between all Buddhists paths of awakening and it celebrates the meeting of two great minds. We hope that their meeting and this book will initiate further exchanges and cooperation between these two great traditions.”

By extension, we also hope that this intra-faith dialogue can be widened to inter-faith discourse, thereby facilitating unity at the global level where peace and harmony will prevail.

The pleasant surprise did not stop at what the book conveys, but also what the book physically contains.

Toward the middle of the book, a bookmark suddenly fell out from the book. Stamped “Read and Release” at the bottom, it is from with the tagline “the karma of literature.” How quaint, a Buddhist term used by a dotcom company found in a Buddhist book.

More pleasant surprises awaited at the website. First, I learned that unlike, road crossing, bridge crossing, or any other type of crossing, bookcrossing is “the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise.” Unless one finds it too good a find to let go, I hasten to add.

Reading on and learning more, the website welcomes you to “our book-lovers' community. Our members love books enough to let them go — into the wild — to be found by others. Sharing your used books has never been more exciting, more serendipitous, than with BookCrossing. Our goal, simply, is to make the whole world a library. BookCrossing is a free online book club of infinite proportion, the first and only of its kind. Inside, you'll find millions of book reviews and hundreds of thousands of passionate readers just like you.

Let's get right down to it. You know the feeling you get after reading a book that speaks to you, that touches your life, a feeling that you want to share it with someone else? gives you a simple way to share books with the world, and follow their paths forever!

How? Just follow the "3 Rs" of BookCrossing, Read, Register and Release (refer to the website for more details, but I think they are self-explanatory enough).

This is like meshing TheLibraryThing and Geocaching, two things that I’ve blogged previously. I’m instantly sold, and signed up immediately.

From the journal entry, I learned that this book that I’ve had the pleasure of reading was “released” on July 3 this year by a person from Miami, and I’m (or rather my wife is) the first finder. The person has left the book at the Ramadan Inn, Orlando where we have attended a Buddhist Camp this summer. I left a journal post as well, giving my impression of the book.

To release or not to release? The book I mean. That’s the question I need to ponder now. On one hand, the book is full of wisdom, and can serve as a ready source of reference. On the other hand, keeping the book runs counter to the spirit of sharing a book, which as members of the we should subscribe to. What about “not grasping”, the Buddhist teaching that was the gist of my other blog?

Well, I just have to find a fun way to re-release the book. Any suggestion, other than those already listed at the website (give it to a friend, leave it on a park bench, donate it to charity, "forget" it in a coffee shop, etc.)?