Photojournalism

»  mark    24 Sep 2008 @ 00:32    

Olya got me hooked on The Big Picture recently when she sent me a link to their Recent Scenes from North Korea. Absolutely mesmerizing. I think I’ve looked at those pictures a dozen times and I’m still awestruck. I thought it only proper to post a link here to one of their other recent series: Observing Ramadan.

Want to know how to spread goodwill in the world? The Boston Globe nails it. Start reading the comments after the pictures if you don’t believe how positive this feature is. Yesterday, they had around 450 comments. Tonight, I see they are 300 beyond that, and I cannot remember seeing a single negative one in the lot. Brilliant. Is anyone at the State Department picking up on this?

Male bonding part II: Camping

»  mark    21 Sep 2008 @ 15:54    

After an exciting morning at the mine, we decided to end the day properly by camping in the backyard. You couldn’t have detected that Elijah was the least bit disappointed by the location the way he ran around our “campsite.” Somehow, miraculously, we got the tent set up, a feat that merited a round of applause from Elijah. Rightly so. I’m pretty sure the instructions (if we still had them) would agree that this two-man job requires that both individuals be older than two.

Then we cooked (burnt) some meat over a campfire (charcoal barbecue), and sat around the coals soaking up smoke while we ate in the dark and looked at the stars. Terrible camp cooking doesn’t taste so bad when you can’t see how bad it looks. Thank goodness for ketchup.

To make the experience totally authentic, I gave Elijah our only emergency flashlight so he could run the batteries out and then we crawled under the blankets without brushing our teeth. Ahhh… there is something totally therapeutic about living like a grub.

Male bonding part I: Trucks and diggers

»  mark    21 Sep 2008 @ 14:53    

A few months ago, Olya thought it would be a great idea to go visit a friend of hers in Chicago. Her friend has a daughter a little older than Maya, so we thought Maya would enjoy tagging along. Unfortunately, we happened to mention the idea to Maya after purchasing the airline tickets and she has been pacing back and forth for the past month asking if it was time to fly yet.

But Thursday, the day finally arrived. Elijah and I took the girls to the airport and sent them off without a hitch. Since I couldn’t take 5 days off work, I decided to stay with Elijah Thursday and Friday and then take him to Grandma’s house for the remaining few days. But what to do with him here?

Kipper all day? Nah. I decided we’d try to do things he would enjoy that are hard to do with the baby around. Elijah loves diggers and trucks, so we couldn’t go wrong by visiting the largest man-made excavation in the world, right? Friday morning, we jumped in the car and drove out with our retired neighbor, Bob to the Kennicott Copper Mine in Bingham Canyon. Although it is less than 45 minutes away, I had never been there, and Bob hadn’t visited since his kids were Elijah’s age.

This enormous open-pit copper mine lived up to its billing. Diggers galore.

Update on Ramadan

»  mark    14 Sep 2008 @ 22:13    

Some of you may be wondering if I was really serious about my intention to observe Ramadan. So I thought I would give a status report halfway through. That’s right, 15 days down, only 15 or so to go.

The fasting is harder than I first imagined. While it isn’t as hard as a 24 hour fast, it is relentless. Kind of like running a 5k vs. a 600 yard dash. That may not be the right metaphor but you get the picture. My body is adjusting, most of all, to the lack of fluids. I hope my kidneys forgive me.

So let’s examine my goals:

  • Fasting
    I have fasted each day. This hasn’t been easy, but I’m sticking to it the best I can.
  • Charitable donations
    The fast really has given me more compassion toward the hungry. Eating nothing and eating not enough every day are different feelings. I’m not sure which is worse. I have scoped out several organizations I would like to make donations to, and will write more about that later.
  • Prayer
    I have been praying more than usual, though not the quality times I had hoped for. This could use more work.
  • Worship at local mosque
    I did manage to make it to a mosque in San Jose, though I did not enter. The temple, on the other hand, I have been able to attend several times since the start of Ramadan. Anya being my major deterrent. How can someone so tired fight sleeping so much? She didn’t learn that from me!
  • Reading the Qur’an
    I haven’t made any progress on the Qur’an, but I have been listening to the Book of Mormon recited on my MP3 player. I am at Mosiah 15, only 178 pages into the 531 page book. I should be 87 pages ahead at Alma 22. Need to pick up the pace!
  • Refrain from worldly influences
    Ooh, this is a toughy. I admit to reading the newspaper in San Jose. And I have watched some television programs with Anya in the evening. The background noise calms her. That’s the truth! On a positive note, I have refused to watch my favorite programs when not bouncing Anya, and I’ve avoided Google News almost entirely. Some improvement to be made here.

So how would I grade myself so far. Probably a C+. It is not an easy task to leave the world behind when it invades my life on so many fronts.

Do you know the way to San Jose?

»  mark    12 Sep 2008 @ 23:37    

That tune (Carpenters version) has been stuck in my head for the past few days as I visited San Jose for the first time. I was fortunate to be able to attend the 32nd International Unicode Conference. Unicode is a standard for representing language sets from many of the world’s active languages as well as some historic ones no longer in day-to-day use. The standards are, in my opinion, what hold the world wide web together internationally.

Some of the other discussions at the conference:

  • internationalization (making programs usable for multiple cultures)
  • localization (making programs work well for specific cultures)
  • bi-di language display (right-to-left scripts sometimes mixed with left-to-right words)
  • mojibake (garbage characters that sometimes show up when text is not encoded properly)
  • regional time, date, number, and other locale-specific formatting

Fun, fun! I’ll bet you are all so jealous. :) But beyond the conference, I was really impressed with San Jose, itself. It is the 10th largest city in the United States, but I never felt like I was in a really huge city. Maybe living in Seoul has changed me. I found it to be quite accessible; easy to get around.

When I travel to new places, I love to just walk around and try to get off the “beaten path”, to see what life is like for ordinary people. One thing that immediately caught my attention was the strength of the Vietnamese community. On public transit, all signs are in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese. I quickly discovered why, as not 3 blocks from my hotel there were 2 Vietnamese grocery stores, a Vietnamese restaurant, a Vietnamese sandwich shop, and various other stores and retailers with decidedly Vietnamese names. I had no idea.

The day I left, I ventured into the Vietnamese grocery store half a block from my hotel to look around. What a smell! This little shop crammed with goods everywhere you looked brought back such memories of street markets in Korea. It’s tough to describe smells, but maybe you can imagine the combination smell of fresh seafood, a butcher shop, fermenting vegetables, and wet city cement. If not, then you’ll just have to visit to see what I mean.

And of course I had to find the nearest Trader Joe’s since it has been talked up by so many people we know from California. That was interesting. Kind of like Wild Oats er… Whole Foods in the sense that they carry a lot of whole-grain, organic, and other nutritious stuff. I was not disappointed and obtained a hefty bag of jams, grains, tortillas, cookies, and other goodies. I don’t recommend trying to take such items through airport security in carry-on luggage, though. Don’t ask. :)

One thing I never got used to in San Jose (at least downtown) was the close proximity of the airport. Because the city kind of expanded around the airport, I had the distinct impression while downtown that an airplane was going to land on one of the buildings or the streets. It was a little unnerving at times. Here’s a picture of an airplane just clearing Adobe headquarters.

While at the conference, I quickly made friends with a Muslim man, Seyed, from Brunei who was also observing Ramadan. We talked a lot about his family and how they observe this ritual in his home country. The second night I was there, Seyed and I set out in search of the local mosque, the San Jose Islamic Center about a mile away from where we were staying. Seyed wanted to end the day properly with prayers at dusk and I was curious if the mosques in California look like those I had seen in Central Asia.

From the outside, the Center looks like a small church. The photo in the album below is not this center but an old cathedral in the same neighborhood. I chose to wait outside to show respect for this sacred spot and quietly attended to my own prayers. It was a beautiful evening with a cool breeze and the sound of the 40-50 foot palms swaying in front of the Islamic Center. Very peaceful.

If anything, this trip helped me rediscover how much I enjoy diversity in culture, religion, and customs. I’m continually impressed by the wide variety of ways people search for happiness, meaning, and betterment.

Here are some more photos of downtown San Jose. Sorry for the awful picture quality. The little camera lens attached to my work phone just doesn’t compare to Olya’s Nikon. :)

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