Cultural Legacy

I am currently working my way through In the Buddha’s Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon by Bhikkhu Bodhi, which I am enjoying immensely and can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who wants to get as close to the original Buddhist canon as possible without leaving the comfort of the English language.

Blissfully reading page after page, my concentration was shattered when a legacy of my youth culture burst through the prose and reminded me that no matter where I go or what I study, I cannot escape the fact that I spent a considerable part of my formative years watching Beavis & Butthead on MTV.

The passage in question:

Even those affluent householders — rich, with great wealth and property, with abundant gold and silver, abundant treasures and commodities, abundant wealth and grain — because they have been born, are not free from aging and death. Even those monks who are arahants, whose taints are destroyed, who have lived the holy life, done what had to be done, laid down the burden, reached their own goal, utterly destroyed the fetters of existence, and are completely liberated through final knowledge: even for them this body is subject to breaking up, subject to being laid down.

Sounds painful!

The reality is that word has two very different meanings, and while I encounter the adjectival negative from time to time, none of the forms are routinely present within the English vocabulary demanded by life in China.

The circumstances under which one first encounters a word during language learning have lasting impact!

As a very young lad I came home from school one day and asked my father what “prick” meant. He expressed his surprise that I had heard that word and then patiently explained how it was an impolite euphemism for penis and one of those words generally not to be repeated.

This linguistically correct explanation left me thoroughly confused as I struggled to visualize what sort of interplay would be required between Sleeping Beauty’s finger and a penis in order to trigger her enchanted slumber..!

There is no solution to this problem save for studying a language where every word has exactly one meaning and I have yet to hear of one.

The best we can do is persevere, hoping that when the time comes, that when our spiritual development is strong enough, that we succeed in destroying the correct type of taint!

Nobody’s perfect…

Every once in a while even the veterans get the shaft here in China.

Consider the pictures below. One of the items is an official Nikon flash diffuser for the SB-700 speedlight. The other is a $2 hunk of shit I bought in Shenzhen from a camera shop owner who swore up and down that it was a third-party flash diffuser for the Nikon SB-700 speedlight…

The first obvious difference is size - one is significantly larger than the other. The second obvious difference is opacity. The one on the right looks like it might block too much light.
The first obvious difference is size – one is significantly larger than the other. The second obvious difference is opacity. The one on the right looks like it might block too much light.
The rear reveals that even if you ignore the size mismatch, one of these is designed with a mounting system in mind and the other decidedly is not!
The rear reveals that even if you ignore the size mismatch, one of these is designed with a mounting system in mind and the other decidedly is not!

So I stupidly bought a hunk of plastic that doesn’t even fit on the damn flash. ‘atta boy, Andy!

Thankfully, I only wasted a few dollars… the cost of becoming complacent in my Chinese shopping outings.

Remain vigilant!

Friday Lunchtime Photowalk

Despite working in a very comfortable and well-landscaped office park, we are decidedly not in the city. Once you exit the main gate it’s pretty much just rural China in any direction… at least rural northeast China, so very dry, very dusty, and very run-down.

Last Friday was one of those downcycle days, where you’ve got a bit of a lull after a few projects close up, so I decided to stretch my legs a bit and go for a long stroll during my lunch break, camera in hand. Perhaps something interesting would be seen, but even if there was nothing worth recording I’d still be out in the fresh air soaking up some sunshine.

It wasn’t a wholly aimless amble – a few weeks earlier a bad traffic jam forced my company bus to detour off the highway and get to the office via unpaved local roads. During that bone-chattering ride I spotted a wonderfully unique outhouse that I mentally bookmarked.

“Strolling to the Shithouse”, a Drew’s Journal Photowalk

All of the following photos were taken on a Nikon D5100 with the 35mm prime lens. In hindsight, since I was walking at noon, there was absolutely no need for such a fast lens. But the sharpness and small size of the 35mm is hard to resist. Next time I will take a telephoto lens for a very different set of photos along the same general path.

I should also add that these have all been badly, perhaps horribly, manipulated in Adobe Lightroom 4. It is an outstanding application that thus far I can handle with all the delicacy and finesse of a hippopotamus. You’ve been warned!

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12 months, 13 faces

Huilin celebrated his first birthday today! The first year flew past much too quickly for his father, but I think his mommy is already counting down the days until he leaves for college… we shan’t criticize her though, she has been home with him almost every day since he arrived. Superbaby can wear anyone out!

To commemorate this occasion, here are 13 photos of HMH. Each photo was taken on or very nearly on a monthly interval. It’s fascinating how much his face has changed as he’s grown older!

Continue reading 12 months, 13 faces