Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Season of Love

My momma always said, "Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."

This famous movie line by Forrest Gump has etched its way into the consciousness of many since the movie bearing the same name as the lead character made its debut in 1994. But long before that, chocolate has always been the most popular gift item in addition to being a favorite bite now and then.

So it’s not surprising that we received a variety of chocolate during this festive season when gift exchange is at the top of everyone’s mind. And more, as borne out by the image below.

The stack of gifts, featuring a range of merchandise. The ribboned multi-storeyed boxes on the right, housing various sweet goodies of The Popcorn Factory, are from Brian and CY, guarded by the mascot of the home perched atop.

We seldom pay attention to the wrappers that come with gift items. The outside package perhaps, but definitely not the individual wrappers encapsulating the items within. However, some of us are more discerning, and do pay heed to little details, like those inside the box of Baci chocolate, a product of Italy, as noted by CE.

This is on the front, two wrapped chocolates placed on the left and the opened wrappers, at the top.

This is the inside flap, chocolate wrapped in love literally (as in words), and symbolically (the two chocolates seated on opposite corners).

Each individual chocolate wrapper contains a popular saying, centered around the universal theme of love. Therefore, in addition to enjoying the mouth-watering delights, one is also immersed in the gushing flow of love evoked by the laconic statements on relationships. Creativity is in the air, as it unfolds in a box of chocolate, pleasant surprises unraveled, a fitting analogy for life.

Here are some samples:

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength; loving someone deeply gives you courage.
Lao –Tzu, Chinese Philosopher

To love a person is to learn the song in his/her heart.

He who gives immediately gives twice.

The most praise-worthy deeds are those that remain hidden.
Blaise Pascal, French mathematician

Love is sudden revelation, a kiss is always a discovery.
Oscar Wilde, Irish playwright/poet

We’ve spoken a lot about love. Now lets’ try to listen to it, shall we?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A New Lease of Life, the Fickled-Minded, and the Discerning

I have a new work station, yet not costing me an arm and a leg, but just by rearranging things around and resurrecting things kept away for good, and so I thought. We used to have a Compaq Presario that was retired last year because it was acting up, rebooting by itself at the most inconvenient of time, causing grief in the process. Then recently we bought a 28" LCD Monitor, the largest of its kind as far as I know, of I-INC make, from CompUSA shortly after we upgraded our cable TV service to HDTV, ostensibly to be used as a HDTV (our present one is an analog make but still working fine). However, it can also double as a computer monitor, if only I had an extra computer to hook up to. And buying a new desktop seems redundant (though I'm sharing one with Wify).

So I ferreted out that retired computer, thinking perhaps a more than one year hibernation would have kept it even-tempered by now. So it was back to the living room, and it has not yet missed a beat since it launched its second life, much to my joy. So there it is, my new workstation entirely to myself, and since we have a 4-way router, my own internet connection as well (leaving the other three nodes for Wify, WT and CE). One happy surfing family.

The printer under the table is still unpacked, awaiting WT's deft hands for hook-up.

This is the very first blog done using the newly reinstated computer, and the display is huge, though glaring a bit.

Lately, the weather has gone a bit crazy, alternating between cold and crisp, warm and rainy, and foggy like a white veil draping from sky to ground. I would let the pictures speak for themselves, taken at different times.

This was taken outside WT's dorm when we went to pick him up for the Thanksgiving holidays during one evening on the last week of Nov. Everything was clear and crisp.

This was when we sent WT back after the Thanksgiving holidays several days later. It was raining cats and dogs. The torrents only relented when we reached Gainesville. The "watery" view is not a camara trick. I was just shooting from inside of our van, through the rivulets-filled front screen.

The same view, but after the wiper had done its job, rather admirably.

Same place, but taken this Thursday, when we picked up WT again at the end of his fall semester, thickly shrouded in mist. This was at about 8.45am, the sun still failing to shine through, lending an eeric feel to the scene.

Closer to home, this morning at about 9am. I saw a patch of white through the kitchen window, and decided to test the visibility level. It's bad, I'm supposed to see the traffic light further down the road. The car seemed to be heading toward a big void.

The Sun Dome of USF normally visible behind these trees, at least its top, is entirely white-outed.

Taken this Thursday enroute home from Gainesville, just further down the road from UF. I guess this would only happen in Gator Country, foretelling the outcome of the National Collegiate Football Championship Game between the Gators and the Sooners of U. Oklahoma to be played in Miami on January 8, 2008. But shouldn't it be "LOSES THE BATTLE ...", a case of homonymic misidentity? Then Wify came up with a fresh perspective. The "SOONER" is actually used in the comparative sense, leaving "OKLAHOMA" to represent the Sooners. And suddenly the whole things makes sense to me. And I had a jaw-drop moment. Me and my analytical mind, and yet I missed the missing s ... Or when you don't see, you just don't see.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Photo Shootout on a Saturday Morning in December

I drove Wify and her Buddhist friends to Valrico for a Sutra chanting session on the occasion of the birthday of Amitabha at Brian and Connie's place yesterday morning. Having completed the front end of the duty as a chauffeur, I headed off to the nearby Brandon Public Library to look for used books and to seek out new arrivals as usual, little realizing that the opening hour has been delayed, manifesting one of the sure signs of economic downturn, cutting back on overhead. Arriving one hour ahead of the revised opening hour of 10am, I debated whether to adjourn to a mall further down the road or to stick around to read a book in the car. Then again, I was not sure whether the businesses would do likewise whence I would end up reading too, but in a different parking lot.

Looking out the car's window, my scan was met with a placid landscape of buildings and park amidst trees and hedges of varying shades and shapes. Devoid of any obvious human intrusion save for the sporadic passing of vehicles cruising down the road at this hour, the vista was a relaxing one, unhurried in the absence of the hustle and bustle and fully revealing nature's glory. Then an idea sprang up: why don't I go on a shooting expedition around the area using my newly acquired point and shoot Nikon L18?

Yes, it seemed like a waste of resources and opportunity when one has access to the tools of digital photography replete with its advantages of unparalleled experimentation and instant feedback, and more importantly, such a wide array of shooting materials virtually frozen in time to work with. This has to be one of the occasions during which one's foray is limited by one's imagination, only circumscribed by one's ability for juxtapositional arrangement of different subjects and capturing their interactions and fusing the different parts into a coherent whole, much like an artist putting different elements into a masterpiece for posterity, or a musician blending different notes into an ensemble of melody for a virtuoso performance.

Thus convinced, I immediately launched into what turned out to be a refreshing experience, trekking through the lightly wooded area surrounding the Library and selecting the theme (message) and the emphasis (subject) driven by simplicity (nothing to distract from the subject), the chilly morning perhaps making me tuck at my jacket's collar from time to time. [I read about these three elements of a photo composition from an online article here, Composition: Part I, by Wendy Folse when I was preparing the blog outline in a library computer after my morning quest so as to flesh out the meat later at home.]

And here I would like to share these captured moments, done with time but no monetary (as in recurrent) investment.

This furry critter is the only subject of dynamism captured, effortlessly darting around the tree trunk from top to bottom, a picture of nimbleness.

The collage of signages, which are ubiquitous, but not the normal run of the mill type like traffic signs, superposed on a montage of children drawings in the center, testifying to the highly visual world we live in.

A jumbotron of sort, except that I'm in it, hoisting the camera up above my head for a panaromic shot of the relecting windows, and the reflected scenery.

Another jumbotron shot, but this time at a corner of the same building, capturing two reflections intercepting each other forming a tree arch with truncated top.

An empty baseball field, one of many adjacent to each other in Clayton Park across from the Library, one of which is the home of the South Brandon Little League, conjuring up images of the cacophonous atmosphere and shouts of "let's play ball" when filled. Ain't the sky gorgeous with graduated blue hues and uncluttered by clouds? I did hear some clanking noises of people batting from further back. Winter training perhaps?

These constructions to the left, with layered netting all round, have a somewhat ominous sounding name, Cages. Of course they are meant for practice sessions to prevent pitched or batted balls from flying all over the place.

This image, backdropped against the azure sky, features two common sights in the Sunshine State, the stately palms, a perennial symbolizing one of the three S's (sun, sand, and surf) linked to Florida, and a squarish one-storey flat-topped buildings populating the sprawling suburbia, reflecting the plentiful land space without the soaring heights that dominate the city skyscape, leaving the turquoise expanse unencumbered.

Plants soaring through the roof, literally, actually a purposeful opening on the roof, blending green into and through the premises, a variation of the theme of rooftop garden.

And this is the entire view of the above phenomenon from a distance, differentiating between the featured plants through the roof from the others.

A view of the lake abutting one side of the Library, displaying the color of the Fall (foliage) and the impending change of season (Christmas tree in the middle of the lake next to the water fountain, heralding the approach of another season of festivity). Note the timber elevated walkway and the gazebo on the river bank for visitors to stage a scenic viewing, simple amenities that enhance the experience of suburban dwelling.

Sky-piercing poles, the central one with eyes in the sky gazing down at the ongoings of earthly affairs, with leaves intruding from the right, encapsulating a streak of white (the contrails from a jet zooming by).

The multi-hues of the fall foliage, exhibiting individualism that's the spirit of the life on the land of the free.

The usual vertical/oblique and the unusual horizontal elements of trees, silhouetting against the walls and the road surface, highlighting the pliancy of plants in adapting to the rigor of the environment, the epitome of resilience in nature.

I could have been fooled by the "imposter", the lone representative of the inanimate amidst the thriving, a poignant reminder of what we bring to the nature, often in jarring ways.