Bhutan, Meditation, Bread, Learning, Friends, Family, Music, Books, MT

Friday, January 6, 2012


A very interesting link on kottke.
What's it like to deeply understand math?

You will have to wait some time for my answer.
First I have to understand maths. Then the deeply.


“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.” – Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs said that at a speech to students graduating from Stanford University in 2005. Steve died on October 5th this year. He was a very successful entrepreneur in the business world, helping to start up Apple Inc, the company that makes Mac computers, the iPod and iPhone. Steve made a lot of money, being worth 7 billion US dollars (that is a 7 with nine zeroes). It is worth listening to that commencement speech. You can find it on YouTube:

At the end of last year, I gave a speech to students graduating from Pelkhil School. I have not made much money. But part of my speech touched on what Steve said

So here is a summary of some of the things I had to say to the first batch of class 12 students leaving Pelkhil. They were a great bunch of people and I enjoyed working with them.

“Do what is right.”
One of the Six Perfections (paramitas) taught by Buddha is ‘morality’ or proper conduct. When you are with other people you may feel inclined to join in with what they are doing. It seems natural. They are all throwing their gum on the floor, so why shouldn’t you? All of them copy in tests, so what is the harm in you doing the same? Because it is not right, and you know it. Others doing something will not make it right. It takes some courage to go against the flow of others, but I urge you to stand up for what you think is correct.

Television has some good points. Books are better though. When you watch a movie, you see the story interpreted by the director. Reading a book lets you be the creator. Using your imagination is going to help stop you leading another’s life. Books will lead to a much better understanding of language and build up your vocabulary as well. Read slowly. Digest each sentence carefully. Take your time. Let some peace into your life. Think about what you read. Or just relax into the world that the writer is opening up for you. The only problem with reading good books is that they end. But then your imagination can take your further.

Or cycle. If you are making a longer journey, use a car, boat or plane, but when the trip is shorter, make your own way. When you get older, strong legs will stop you falling over and you may live a few more years. Walking saves the world. Walking gives you time to meditate over your life. Time to enjoy the sites of the journey, a chance to observe the smaller things in life, to stop and smell the flowers, and get some exercise. What is all the hurry about? These legs were made for walking.

Thich Nhat Hanh is a wise Vietnamese master of Zen Buddhism. When I first read his books, I thought they were too simple. It was me that was being simple. His writing is beautiful and touches on the heart of what life is about. ‘Interbeing’ was his term for how we are all connected together. Every little thing that you do will have some effect on others, and the whole universe. The paper that this magazine is printed on started from the sun which provided energy to the tree which provided pulp for the paper. Then there were all the people that worked on making the paper, and the machines, and the people who dreamed up paper in the first place. All of them connected to you. It is easy to forget other people, but impossible to remove yourself from them. Do your best to remember. (I leant the book I quoted from to someone else, and they have not returned it to me. As a result of their actions, I cannot add a quote. This just goes to show how others do affect us.)

“Don’t Listen to my Advice!”
Like all advice, you do not have to accept it. Test it out if you wish, or ignore it if you find it does not help. No matter who is talking, or how important they seem, always question what is being said. Does it make sense? Blind faith is not a good thing. For example, “Nothing is impossible” is a nice attitude to have, but I have never found two even numbers that add up to and odd number.
Living your own life means taking responsibility. When you do something wrong, admit it and take steps to correct any harm you have caused. If something is out of place, you be the one to start putting things right. Don’t expect to get praise for your actions. It is enough to have helped.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Saturday, December 31, 2011


Happy New Year and thanks for looking.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


A wonderful friend sent me this book recently.
It is about a maths professor with only 8 minutes of short-term memory and his housekeeper. I am guessing that he has the housekeeper for more than 8 minutes.
Thank you so much T.

And The Junction bookshop, down near the main traffic, provided the other book that will keep me company in the upper Paro valley.
I thought about stealing it off the shelves. I mean, what else could you do?

I will be away from the 28th November to the 14th December. Expect to hear from me shortly after my return. If a miracle happens, and I spurt upwards, then expect to hear from me longly.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


See the door?
Not so unusual here in Bhutan. The latch, I mean.
All the doors in our old apartment were like that. Yes, that includes the inside ones too. You could lock them from either side. Well, some of the bolts did not quite line up, so it took a bit of pushing and shoving.
People could also lock you inside your house. That happens sometimes.
Something like that happened to Elaine and Terence when they were in their hotel room in Thimphu. That was a slightly different problem. That door had a handle. It fell off while they were inside. They called up room service. They came up promptly to the room to help, closing the door behind them. Then they had to call out to passers-by below to get someone to come up and let them out.
Our new apartment has Yale locks with handles on all the doors. The kind that you can lock by pushing a button. Just pull the door behind you, and it is locked tight. We had these in the Family Mansion. Not on all the doors though ... just the outside doors, and the toilets. There was a spare key somewhere on the back porch for when we locked ourselves out of the house by mistake. Now, I cannot remember where exactly. I could not remember 30 years ago either, but managed to locate it in the end. The toilet door did not have a key. When it got locked with nobody inside, I had to climb through the window. Dad could remove a couple of the shutters and that gave me enough space to squeeze through. I was a tad smaller then. Good at climbing trees.

Here, all the doors have keys. The keys are in constant use because that wee knob gets pushed accidentally, then the door is closed, locking it. The Bhutanese members of my family are still not used to the door handles.
"Stop slamming the door," Mum always used to call out.
I did not know why. I was not aware of what I was doing.
Now I am. If you pull the doors sharply, you don't have to turn the door nob.
It makes a lot of noise though.

If only they could turn the door knob.But I should not complain. They look after me very well.

Friday, November 25, 2011


What will I have for breakfast at Drukgyel?
Yesterday, I was reading the instructions on the oats packet. "Put 35g in plate then add 200 ml of hot water."
What? No need to stir for 10 minutes? No roasting the flakes gently to bring out the flavour? No need for a pot? This was ideal. But how would it taste?
This morning, I tried it. It passed. Ok, it does not feel like real porridge when you don't get to stir it, or watch the bubbles glumping up. Frogs. It is like frogs croaking. This is what I remember when Dad made porridge in the morning. Dad did not make porridge, porridge made Dad.
This need for speed reminds me of another couple of stories...
One was up in a mountain hut in NZ. I used to do a bit of tramping. Most was with my high school club. Making breakfast in the mountains needs speed, and a minimal set of kitchen equipment. What I saw one climber doing was questionable though. Not at all appetising. The red saveloys looked nice. And so did the porridge. But when they were cooked together, the layer of fat from the red saveloys was layered on top of the porridge. No thank you!
The other story also has a setting in the mountains. It was a school camp. The students had to spend a night out in tents. Their challenge was to build a fire and cook dinner. One of the items was a sausage. The idea was to pierce it with a stick, then roast it over the embers. Stuart saw an easier way. He preferred to save energy. That is a nice way of saying he was dead lazy. He did not bother cooking the sausage. No, he just ate it raw. Now that was fast. He was still alive the next morning.

If you have not sampled the blogs of Jon and Zeb when they were in Bhutan last year, then I highly recommend it. Here are Jon and Zeb writing about their encounters with food in Bhutan:

Jon here and Zeb over here. I really miss those two.