Sunday, January 22, 2012

A poem for the Year of the Dragon

This is the first year that I've celebrated three new years, from the typical Gregorian (watching fireworks under the Big Ben) to the Old Orthodox (courtesy of my Russian friend) and the traditional Lunar. I couldn't find any decent stock phrases that really epitomized what I think of when I think of dragons, so I just wrote a poem to commemorate the year of the water dragon. The translation is rough (it rings a little better in four character cadences), but hope you get the message.

從今不肯 守株待兔
要龍至門 必志荀言
積水成淵 蛟龍生焉
人人事多 如濤之沙
未必而去 如沙之散
今行水也 故趁其力
透君之沙 使强於干
然為龍神 至人心道
祝親祝友 無悔之年
龍年快樂 萬事如意

Don't wait for the rabbit by the stump anymore.

Let the words of Xunzi guide the dragon to you:
'Deep in collected water, the jiaolong lives.'

Our problems multiply like sand on the beach
Unfinished, abandoned, like scattered beads

Let Water guide you - use its strength
Hold your sand together, connected and united

This is how dragons enter human souls

I wish my friends and family a year of no regrets
A happy year of the dragon - may you attain all that you wish.

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Fear-laden thoughts on traveling

With the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, civil unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, and economic stagnancy throughout the world, I must confess that I have been growing more fearful, more insular, more quiet, and feeling less adventurous. Tonight, however, I came across an essay in the New York Times by Paul Theroux on the importance of travel. One passage stood out to me:

But the prevailing quality of war is not noise or gunfire. It is suspense, something like boredom; nothing happens for long periods and then everything happens at once in indescribable confusion.

News media today repeats itself so many times through multiple syndicates that it seems we skim over the articles in search of change and ultimately lose track of time. We associate more content with more time. Ten articles on Colonel Qaddafi from papers including the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the San Francisco Chronicle must mean that this event happened during and filled up all those hours that we weren't glued to News Google.
That's not true. Those articles simply compound the "indescribable confusion" within our minds, which depend on the phantasmagoria of pictures to fill the imagination void that we fear filling up with real experience.
Of course, if everyone acted as Theroux had, then those who lack his common sense will inevitably face all sorts of ridiculous perils and sadnesses that seem newsworthy. (Maybe the world will be better off without them.)
The "laborious" kind of traveling, the kind that feels like work, the Joseph Conrad brand - the work that you hate but makes you "find yourself" - that's to travel.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Goo goo ga ga: Early Language Acquisition

A TED video on how babies love language. "It takes a human being - not a TV, not just audio - for a baby to take statistics to learn a language."

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