Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Fading Art of Map Reading

What's your favorite way to figure out directions to a place? Maps app? Google Maps? Waze?

I'm all for using my smartphone apps now, but I remember how fantastic I thought the portable Garmin GPS Navigator System was when I first bought it many, many years ago. Just plug in my destination, and it gave me turn-by-turn instructions in real time. Miraculous! It was a pain, though, whenever the suction cup gave way, and the entire thing tumbled onto the floor just out of reach on the passenger side. Luckily, I could haul it over to me by grabbing onto the power cord.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Tibetan Monks Debate at Sera Monastery

In a heated debate

I blame the altitude sickness. I was finally in Tibet, that isolated kingdom on the roof of the world, and I couldn't muster up much enthusiasm to leave the hotel. When our guide asked if we wanted to watch the monks debate at Sera Monastery, I initially declined. I pictured a stage with two podiums and a crimson robe clad monk standing behind each one droning on and on in monotone about the finer points of their religion. I don't know a word of Tibetan, and I know nothing about Tibetan Buddhism. How could it possibly interest me?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Thoughts on America's Presidents

The White House as seen from the Washington Monument

What a difference four years makes. For the 2102 Presidential Election, I was voting from overseas, and there was a sense of separation between whatever the outcome may be and how it would affect American expats. With Malaysia being a half day time difference ahead, I dropped my kids off at school just as the polls in America were closing then headed to a friend's home for an election watch party. The guests were an amicable mix of Democrats and Republicans, Americans and citizens from other countries with an interest in world politics. We attempted to explain the Electoral College with limited success and carried on jovially eating, drinking and talking throughout the morning until Obama was declared the winner.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Tibet's Mountaintop Ganden Monastery

Mountaintop monastary

Three years have passed since I visited Tibet. For a long time, I was hesitant to write much about our travels there. In contrast to how most bloggers would react, I wanted to hold the journey close inside my heart and mind. Keep it private. Not share too many details. It was as if writing about the trip would chip off a little piece of the treasure to give it away to each reader, leaving me with only a fraction of what I started with. Maybe it's like Fight Club. The first rule of Tibet is "You do not talk about Tibet."

Friday, October 7, 2016

Austin's South Congress Street Art

Forget about Donald or Hillary
South Congress Avenue, also known as SoCo, in Austin, Texas is an extremely walkable street full of stores and restaurants. Another great draw is the cluster of fantastic street art. This summer, I took my daughter and her friends down to explore the area by foot, and the many murals we saw were a source of great fun.

Friday, September 30, 2016

5 Things to Do in Austin other than Austin City Limits or SXSW

The often photographed mural on the side of a building of West Annie Street at South 1st Street 

Hordes of festival goers descend upon Austin, Texas this week to attend the Austin City Limits Festival. Locals like me have two choices — either join the crowds to enjoy one live music concert after another or else studiously avoid the entire area until the festival is over. Personally, I like exploring Austin when there's less people around. This is getting harder and harder since the population has doubled since I moved here a few decades ago.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

In Shambles on Britain's Most Picturesque Street

You can't tell from the photo above, but in the middle of the day, this cobblestone street is packed. Throngs of tourists peer into store windows and pop into shops to buy picture postcards, jewelry or slabs of fudge. Walking tours wind through the crowds valiantly attempting to keep their group somewhat together.

What is this place and what's the big draw? It's the Shambles, a narrow street in York, England. This street is so old that it's mentioned in William the Conqueror's eleventh century Doomsday Book and is considered to be one of the best preserved medieval streets in Europe. In more recent memory, the Google Street Team named it the Most Picturesque Street in Britain, and it was part of the Olympic torch relay route in 2012.
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