P for photography

August 24, 2013 § 1 Comment

Why photography? Well, I ask myself this very question all the time, especially whenever I decide to plunk down a handsome amount for a piece of photographic equipment. Growing up my parents were quick to discover my talent in drawing. Instead of sketching stick figures, I was able to fairly accurately re-create a piece of artwork. After years of studying, composition became second nature. I remember liking to take photos of sceneries and for my parents during all of our family trips. I also recall how much I disliked the limitation of a 35mm point-of-view. I wanted something wide… That led me to my very first film point-and-shoot, a Pentax 28-105mm. With that camera in hand, I even volunteered to become a photographer for a summer college program. My job was to roam around and take photos that would capture student life during the summer. I was given two rolls of film to accomplish the task.

Like everything else, it came to a screeching halt in college. Then working life post college isn’t much better. Taking professional credential exams and learning a new trade sucked the life out of me, I had very little energy left for anything creative. (I had a couple of digital compact during that time span, but I wasn’t exactly into photography per se)

Then in 2009, my parents and I decided to embark on our first European family trip – destination Italia. I was quickly drawn by the architecture, most notably St. Peter’s Basilica! It’s there that I realized a little digital compact couldn’t do it justice. Yet I so desperately wanted to record the memory there, in a way I could revisit. I wanted a DSLR! (For all fairness, I did happen to use a friend’s DSLR in a trip to Kenya earlier in the year, and loved it. Although I was intimidated with the many controls on that thing, but the resulting pictures were something else.)

Fast forward to today, I have come to enjoy travel photography, to be able to preserve a piece of memory. I have seen improvements in my own photos, and realize even more what it takes to become a good photographer. I got a long way to go, but am thoroughly enjoying the process. It’s a beautiful journey that lets me express myself, capture what intrigues me, and occasionally share this with friends. I have recently decided to share some of my photos on Flickr, mostly using it as a motivation for me to clean up my photo albums, in order to better document my journey.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lifegps/sets/

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All things Turkey

June 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

A few iPhone photos to remember this trip, and hopefully serving as a much-needed motivation for me to quickly process my daunting amount of photos after this trip…

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Prayer embraces the world

August 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

From Henri Nouwen’s “Prayer Embraces the World”:

“Life becomes an unbearable burden whenever we lose touch with the presence of a loving Savior and see only hunger to be alleviated, injustice to be addressed, violence to be overcome, wars to be stopped, and loneliness to be removed. All these are critical issues, and Christians must try to solve them; however, when our concern no longer flows from our personal encounter with the living Christ, we feel oppressive weight.

Most of us try to get out from underneath by saying: ‘I have enough problems in keeping my own family and work going. Please do not burden me with the problems of the world. They only make me feel guilty and remind me of my powerlessness.’ We no longer participate in the full human reality, choosing instead to isolate ourselves in that corner of the world where we feel relatively safe. We may still say our fearful prayers, but we have forgotten that true prayer embraces the whole world, not just the small part where we live.”

 

Reflections on Brueggemann’s theology of Jeremiah

July 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

A major theme in Jeremiah is his doomsday prophecy on plucking up and tearing down by the power of God and his hopeful vision on building and planting by the mercy of God. Using Brueggemann’s own words to summarize this:

This deep access to both loss and newness places the Jeremian tradition and it’s vibrant interpretive stream in deep conflict with the royal and priestly traditions of the Old Testament that seek to maintain the static givenness of life in Israel and the world that celebrate a God-guaranteed continuity despite all trouble. This interface between traditions of discontinuity and traditions of continuity is perhaps the defining issue in Old Testament theology, an issue that continues to haunt synagogue and church and continues to vex every high culture that thrives on continuity and is willing to engage in denial and brutality in order to fend off the threat of discontinuity. Jeremiah understood that, eventually, discontinuity could not be fended off – of and when it is the will and purpose of the creator to cause and ending and to undo the world (see Jer: 4:23-26).

This theme in Jeremiah’s prophecy also runs parallel to Jesus’ Friday crucifixion and Sunday ascension. I find myself fortunate to have the hindsight of this true Friday event, yet from time to time I fail to see the reality of many mini Friday events in the grand scheme of things, and stress out about living in Saturday. From 9/11 to the recent economic woes, I often identified myself as a member of this empire called America, wanting to see its permanent success and dominance… To even smaller scale, the changes in my life group and at work are causing me some sleep. I’d like to not have to worry so much about preserving my lifestyle and move along with what God intends.

Munich freedom tour

July 22, 2012 § 1 Comment

After nine long years, I found my way back to Germany. This time a week long tour with my friend Dr. Mike, who kindly agreed to let me stay with him. After a long flight and a little sleep, we were ready to soak in all Munich has to offer. The first impression was memorable, we were greeted by an outdoor plaza just outside the airport terminal connecting the train station, covered by a steel constructed roof that made me feel like I’m in a modern sporting stadium, and surrounded by shops and beer gardens, with a special Audi display in the center to boot. The train ride was pleasant thanks to its German punctuality. Since jet lag is as predictable as the weather, we didn’t plan anything for the day, rather we decided to just explore the old town/Marienplatz. Our lunch at Schneider Weiss’ Bauhaus was a great way to overcome jet lag. Some beer and various sausages later, we were able to regain our energy and composure to continue our exploration, which took us along the banks of some river to the famed Englischer Garten (think Central Park in NYC, but larger). In the middle of the park there was this 25m tall Chinese-style pagoda built in the late 1700s (rebuild post WWII). It’s also home of one of the largest beer gardens. It was pleasant to be surrounded by locals and tourists alike, all having some delicious German food and large quantity of beer in hand, while a traditional Bavarian band playing from the 2nd story of the Chinesischer Turm.

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Chinese tower and beer garden

Monday
After a long night of rest and awesome breakfast from the hotel, I got myself a weekly subway/bus pass to explore the city a bit farther out. First stop, BMW world! Perhaps it’s a good thing I read reviews of this place ahead of time so I didn’t have such high expectations. It was a nicely designed showroom with many current models both inside and outside, but certainly nothing that you couldn’t find in the States. My short stay there prompted me to visit the nearby Olympic park, the site of 1972 Munich Olympic Game. I found it commendable that the park is now open for public use with a fee, contrast with China’s 2008 sites are now sitting empty and deteriorating quickly.

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From there I took some serious detour to arrive at the Nymphenburg Palace. This place is enormous! The canal leading to the palace is roughly a couple miles long, and the palace itself is not deep yet spans out horizontally almost half a mile. The park behind the palace covers some 490 acres with many trails that goes through meadowlands, forest or open areas. The kings back then sure knows how to live large! The only regret is not having a bike, it would be so fun to ride around the park instead of walking til my feet were begging me to stop. I caved and found a bench near the canal and read on Jeremiah, somehow I don’t think he’d approve of such lavish lifestyle enjoyed by the kings of old, but I sure enjoyed reading in this setting.

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It’s nothing new to see grand cathedrals in Europe, but check out this little hidden gem… Totally unassuming from the outside, yet way over the top with its use of gold inside.

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Tuesday
Farmer’s market in Munich is both touristy and local. It’s neat to see the many differ types of olives, cheese, and mushrooms on display, but even better was our lunch of mixed seafood cooked fresh right in front of us (not to mention totally affordable price too). Since I didn’t had much planned for the day, I thought it’d be worth checking out the Munich Residenz (royal palace). This palace is again like all things German, huge! I found the relics rooms most interesting, where holy remains were carefully preserved in finely decorated “jewelry” pieces…

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Formal dining hall, with a big collection of Roman statues

Wednesday
Today is the most touristy day on the entire trip, destination Neuschwanstein. After a two hour train ride with many of my compatriots and a jam packed bus ride, I had the pleasure of waiting in line to pay for ticket to the castle… (it pays to reserve the ticket in advance in summer months) Since both castles require you to take a tour through and the earliest slot I could get was three hours away (audio Chinese tour instead of waiting another 30 minutes for the English tour), I decided to also check out the Hochenschwangau (highlands of the swans) castle, where the crazy Ludwig II grew up. (unfortunately no photos allowed inside!) A few interesting bits to note: Wagner stayed here and the piano he played still resides in the king’s room; the king has a private spiral stairways in his bedroom leading to the queen’s bedroom, hmm… a 121 years old bread, ah… why? and of course they love their swans, swan paintings, swan chandeliers, swan fountains, etc.

The hike then took me by the serene swan lake and up the mountain to Neuschwanstein.

Dreamer Ludwig didn’t think Hochenschwangau was good enough to be his summer palace, and designed this new swan castle based on medieval romanticism that later influenced Walt Disney. I have been to a few castles in Europe, but none could compare to this one in terms of grandeur, creativity and splendor. I mean who in their right mind would build a rock cave with colorful lights in a room? Or imagine himself as the swan warrior in Wagner’s opera? It is no mistake why Ludwig built the castle on this particular mountain. In the back there’s a stunning gorge with layers of waterfalls. He built a steel bridge across the gorge, the scenery were so amazing that I overcame my fear of height and took some pictures while leaning outward!

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Thursday
Even though the spirit is willing, my flesh is weak… I decided to rest my knee a little since it started to bother me and I still have to save energy for some Alpen hiking. I followed up with an interesting tidbit I once read – locals surf in a certain spot of canal! It’s underneath a big bridge where fast flowing water (10mph would be my guess) washes downstream, with mild elevation drop a wave is created. Surfers line up on both sides of the bank and take turns to show off their skills. Further down stream, adults and kids jump in to swim to what essentially is a lazy river. I will be leaving this trip with two little regrets, if i happen to return, biking and swimming are on top of my to-do list.

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Friday and Saturday
They say a picture is worth more than a thousand words…

*photos are from the phone*

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Wisdom books’ rewards

May 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

If I were to compare and contrast the Wisdom books and the Prophetic books, the most obvious observation maybe that the former focuses on right living, and the later focuses on the consequences of failure to carry out such lifestyle. The prophetic books does touch on blessings, often vaguely, When it comes to punishment however, its languages and imageries are more than detailed, wildly and vividly portraying the destruction of Assyrians, Babylonians, and even the “might” Israelites. So what are these blessing then? Why doesn’t the Bible spell it out clearly but rather devote a whole book of Proverbs to teach us to live right? To claim the Israelites tried living abide the Torah without such incentive is equally crazy. Perhaps the reality is clear if I take a step back and observe the world around us. It’s no wonder a fruit tree living in the right environment can bear good fruit; a turtle can live a long prosperous life if it doesn’t by chance come in touch with humans. God has created this world that he calls good, in which right living leads to natural blessings, albeit they maybe too obvious for us to glance over.

– thoughts after reading the 3rd book of Golingay’s first testament trilogy, chapter titled “Obeying YHWH”

Psalm 68:4

January 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

Hermits Rest, Grand Canyon

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