Thursday, April 30, 2015

Things to get used to in Nebraska

1. Calculating with Quantum ESPRESSO
2. Getting on and off the bike gracefully
3. Converting Fahrenheit to Celsius
4. Crumpling (as opposed to folding) toilet paper
5. ~20 degrees C diurnal temperature variations
6. Paying by credit all the time
7. Daily Rosary (Thanks EWTN)
8. Wide, sprawling buildings
9. Time difference (-13 hours)
10. Local wildlife
11. Unholy opening hours of services
12. Thrift store shopping
13. Random acts of kindness

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sobre mí barrio ideal

Mí barrio ideal es un pueblo en el norte de Sueca. Este pueblo está en un valle muy grande y muy precioso, y debajo hay un río realmente limpio. En este pueblo hay solo quiniento habitantes, porque en el norte no hay muchos gentes. Los habitantes son a menudo granjeros o pastores. Los casas son pequeños y algunos tienen techos de cespéd. Extrañamente, no hay caminos entre los casas. Quizás salen raramente.

A través del pueblo hay solo un calle, y le llamamos El Storgatan. Al lado del Storgatan hay un supermercado, un ayuntamiento, y una parada de autobús. El pueblo no está muy bien communicado, pero el autobús viene aquí todos los sábados, por llevar unos gentes al mundo.

Cada agosto, los habitantes del pueblo hacen un festival de música. Ahora, el pueblo tranquillo se hace mucho mas ruidoso. Los gentes llegan de Stockholm, de Sundsvall, de los otros ciudades del sur, y de los otros países también. No hay suficientes hoteles aquí, así que cada visitante tiene que levantar una tienda en alguna parte, pero en el bosque construyen tres etapas, un patio, y algunos puestos de comida.

De viernes a domingo, todos en el bosque bailan al ritmo de la música, se atiborran de comidas extrañas (par ejemplo: el pad thai sueco y el pad thai tailandés no son los mismos), o salen al lado del río. Nadie duerme por la noche, porque es demasiado frío.

[El lugar real en Google Maps]

Friday, March 20, 2015

Sobre mi habitación

Tengo un dormitorio en la escuela. Está en el séptimo piso de la Torre Norte. Dentro de mi habitación hay una mesa bastante desordenada, con un ordenador, una lámpara, unos libros, una maqueta de un ángel con la Sagrada Familia, y muchos otros objetos. A la izquierda de mi mesa está mi estanteria con veintiun libros. Mi armario está al lado. Enfrente del armario hay un tablón de anuncios. La puerta está entre el armario y el tablón de anuncios, y mi cama está enfrente de la puerta y debajo de la ventana. Mi dormitorio es muy ruidosa cada miércoles por la noche, porque hay muchas estudiantes de intercambio que van a los clubs. Además, da a los otros dormitorios de la Torre Sur; Esto es bastante extraños y las cortinas están a menudo bajadas.

Tengo también cuatro compañeros en mi apartamento. Son bastante amables pero los veo raramente.

[Corrections received from Miguel Angel 7 Apr 2015]

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Нандын жыты | Nandın cıtı

Жаңы бышкан нандын жыты,
Күндүн жайкы ысыгы.
Нан көп болсо үйдүн куту,
Эки беттин кызылы.
Cangı bışkan nandın cıtı
Kündün caykı ısıgı
Nan köp bolso üydün kutu
Eki bettin kızılı
Жаңы бышкан нандын даамы,
Жалпы дыйкан эмгеги.
Бүткүл элдин жүрөк каны,
Кен байлыгы жердеги.
Cangı bışkan nandın daamı
Calpı dıykan emgegi
Bütkül eldin cürök kanı
Ken baylıgı cerdegi
Жаңы бышкан нандын жыты,
Жазган ыры акындын.
Көзгө сүйкүм тынчтык кушу,
Күч-кубаты баатырдын.
Cangı bışkan nandın cıtı
Cazgan ırı akındın
Közgö süyküm tınçtık kuşu
Küç-kubatı baatırdın
Жаңы бышкан нандын даамы,
Ата-Журттун дымагы.
Ошондуктан элдин нугу,
Эзелтеден тынбады.
Cangı bışkan nandın daamı
Ata-Curttun dımagı
Oşonduktan eldin nugu
Ezelteden tınbadı

Singer: Gülnur Satylganova (Kyrgyzstan)

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Demon of Hunga Ha'apai

"A curse be upon you, people of Heimaey!
Woe befall you, citizens of Nuku'alofa!
I have spread burning rock over your lands,
Your seas I will boil dry!"

The Volcano-Demon rejoices at the sight of an eruption.
He rubs his hands with glee as he sees the pastures in flames.
He yelps in joy as the lava tumbles into the waters,
And luscious reefs disappear into balls of steam.

A great monolith of dark, loose ash rises in the ocean.
The waves mobilise themselves to wear it away, but they fail.
The Volcano-Demon plants his heels at the caldera triumphantly.
With his left hand he spreads ejecta over the sea,
With his right hand he casts plumes of ash to mock the heavens.

But when the Demon turns his back, the birds arrive to rest,
They have brought with them seeds from faraway lands.
In the rich dark earth born of fire, the seeds sprout greedily;
In the shallow seas around the island, the reefs revive.
And the Almighty has crowned his newest land with life again.

Friday, January 09, 2015

The Adventures of Péter Bartók's Father

Book Review: My Father by Péter Bartók
Dedication: To Hope (Hope Kellman, who did the final editing)

The son of Bartók, the great Hungarian composer and scientist, remembers his father almost sixty years after his (the father's) passing. He tells of the adventures of a sympathetic person, not at all larger-than-life, nor too small, but at about the right size for life. Péter Bartók's father is of a scientific mind. Péter Bartók's father loves hiking, and loves the songs that the peasants sing wherever he travels. He has a messy table but is fussy at work. He tells silly jokes about National Socialists. And then etc., etc., etc.

I only wonder how Péter feels inside when he goes back through all the letters that his father has written for him in life, especially this second one (translated from the Magyar):

Amsterdam, 9 Nov. 1928

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

A Shortened Testimony

In the morning (7 a.m.) of the last day of the previous year, I woke up to a great view. The weather was clear and Gunung Arjuna was visible on the horizon to the south. Later in the day, according to the routine dictates of the local climate, the white clouds would roll in and obscure the mountain again.

This is Surabaya, a city as beautiful as her name.

Tina, who I had been with for some years, is lost at sea. I had come with the gentle prompting of my parents, who did so out of empathy for hers. I gathered prayer intentions and well-wishes from those who knew her and some who did not. By noontime all the preparations were complete; by evening I had arrived.

Who have I seen there? No, I did not find sobbing wrecks and people who have taken leave of their senses. I met people who were strong in the Lord, people who were filled with grace and compassion for those around us. Love, peace and joy in the air, in defiance of every dismal piece of news. Each sheds their fair share of tears; such a gesture was not out of the question, and even I was not spared, but the mood has been largely calm.

We listened to and trusted the facts. We did not heed rumours and baseless speculation. Probabilities were meaningless to us; the media, who do not try very hard to appear sympathetic, are shut out of the door. We prayed. Day and night, alone or with the company of family and friends, in any number of languages.

We prayed for the Lord's mercy and protection, and he has heeded us. We prayed for strength and grace, and he has heeded us. We prayed for progress in the search and rescue, and he has heeded us. We prayed for hope, and he has given us reasons for hope. The Lord is good and he has answered these prayers of ours. We send in petitions for the safe return of his beloved daughter Tina. We enlist the help of Mother Mary, St Jude, St Florentinus and many others.

If she is in God's hands now, as I have thus submitted, then that is where I shall put myself as well. And why not? It is a good place to be in.

People who do not know us have sought to take our story and then to lace it with melodramatic embellishments. I only wonder what they will say when they open the box of my thoughts, expecting to find grief and hurt and regret, but instead find praises sung to the Lord's glory and goodness. I only pray that this box never be closed again.

Lord, have mercy on us; shower us with abundant grace, lead us to salvation; let all our lives be lived in your praise; with your helping hand we shall brave all difficulties. Amen, Alleluia.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Vagrant

"He stutters when he speaks," I told myself. "It's really hard to listen to him. Do you know how hard it is to follow another person's line of thought? Who could know some people can think so differently! How can they ever expect to be convincing like that?" In the distance, a faint click of a piece of stone hitting pavement.

"She's nice, but she has no emotional depth," I continued. "She treats people well, but I don't think she understands the complexity of any situation... It's almost like she can't see past the surface. She's just so bright and sunny all the time! How can one treat her seriously? Excuse me?!" I turned, startled by a small piece of stone that hit the back of my head.

It was a vagrant, old, bearded, a plastic bag of his belongings in a Cold Storage bag, close to tatters. He wore all his clothes, despite the heat. From somewhere in his voluminous beard emerged:
Don't you stutter as well? Don't you approach others in a glib cheerfulness at times?
"H-how can you say that, my dear random sir?"
Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, boy.

After a pause I asked: "Who are you?"

The old man unfolded unhurriedly from his seat on the kerb. When he had picked up his sack of things, he turned and was on his way, all the while chanting a quaint ditty.

"Well I'm a little beggarman and begging I have been
for three score or more on this little isle of green.
And I'm known from the Liffey from the basement to the zoo,
And I'm known by the name of old Johnny Dhu..."

And then he was gone, and I was alone again.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Radio Television Bidadari Chamber Orchestra

17 March
Edna: Congratulations on your debut concert with us, Mr. Park. We are indeed blessed to have you, such an internationally-renowned composer, here as our musical director at Radio Television Bidadari. There's one small problem, though.
Mr. Park: What would it be?
Edna: I understand that there is all these... newfangled ideas. Pieces with no melody, pieces with no rhyme and reason. I think the general audience would be more appreciative without hearing those pieces... such as... such as...
Mr. Park: I understand our delivery of Metastasis might be causing a stir, but that could be partly due to how Xenakis composed it, you see.
Edna: Yes, that piece. Someone phoned in to comment that this piece was "weird". I guess it would have to go.
Mr. Park: And that is supposed to mean "bad"?
Edna: Of course! It's such a terrible thing to be weird! And such a terrible thing if someone else suggests that you could be weird. So terrible, terrible!
Mr. Park: What about the Requiem, sung by my extremely talented vocalists?
Edna: Weird too! It gave me nightmares! Who's this guy Ligeti who did this? Never play any of his pieces again.

1 April
Mr. Park: It sure is hot in the studio today, Edna. Maybe you should get someone to get the air-conditioning fixed.
Edna: Do you think I don't know what you're getting at, Mr. Park?
Mr. Park: What do you mean?
Edna: Look at the date for today, Mr. Park.
Mr. Park: But the aircon is really down!
Edna: I meant the piece that aired this morning, Mr. Park. The 1817 Overture. I hope that was a joke.
Mr. Park: Edna, 1817 is a famous and beloved composition by the great Tchaikovsky. It can't go wrong.
Edna: Well, I heard cannon noises in there. Something could go very wrong, Park! What have you been using our studio space for? Someone could have been hurt by this innovation of yours.
Mr. Park: This was a misundertanding, Edna. 1817 has always had cannons for accompaniment. Besides, I had the cannons edited into the soundtrack in post-production, so it's perfectly safe.
Edna: But it's all so harsh, Mr. Park... I understand that Tchaikovsky might be intending to simulate some kind of war somewhere, but music is meant to be sweet, pleasant, orderly... the general audience doesn't want to hear about violence and strife, they want good, wholesome and inoffensive music. Aren't we all here to provide for the needs of the people? Maybe you'll do good just getting down from your ivory tower.

10 May
Mr. Park: I just auditioned the most promising young pianist today.
Edna: Agreed. Jeanne Choo put up a great show in front of everyone in the panel this morning.
Mr. Park: I was referring to the guy, Justin Thomas.
Edna: Justin Thomas? No, he didn't make the cut.
Mr. Park: Why? Please call him back! I would like to have him in the team.
Edna: Justin didn't put up a good show, to be honest. He wasn't... serious enough in his playing. Maybe a tad too... animated as well. It's hard to explain. We didn't feel too good about him. Maybe he's just too much of a show-off.
Mr. Park: Maybe you rejected him because he was enjoying himself too much!
Edna: I dunno. It doesn't seem proper. Good music is always serious.
Mr. Park: In that respect, well, I hope Jeanne is serious enough.
Edna: Yep, Jeanne's in, in fact.

12 May
Mr. Park: Jeanne Choo doesn't seem all that good, Edna. It's not just her playing; she refused to start working with me on my composition today. And would you know the reason to that? She says that it's in A flat major; it's too hard.
Edna: These kids are the most brilliant young musicians in the country. It is conceivable that some of them may still have a lot to improve on. Be patient with them, alright?
Mr. Park: You must admit that it is rather more difficult to fix an attitude problem.
Edna: You must admit that A flat major is really quite hard; it's four flats, after all. You only think it's easy because you have the standards already. Please think about guiding them to this standard, rather than judging them.
Mr. Park: That problem is not really hard to work around, is it? It's quite basic-
Edna: It's not hard, Mr. Park... Just get rid of all the accidentals.
Mr. Park: No, that's hardly what I meant!
Edna: I hate accidentals. They're annoying.
Mr. Park: Excluding pieces with accidentals would mean excluding a whole lot of perfectly good compositions, Edna. Jeanne wouldn't even need the black keys on the piano anymore. She could just substitute it with a toy piano instead, with notes from Do to Do, don't you agree?
Edna: No, not a toy piano! That's just not respectable.

27 May
Mr. Park: We just had our first public concert in a long while. I think we did a good job, despite all the constraints that I was obliged to work with: All the pieces that I composed or adapted had to be in C major, for one. And they also had to be all in 4/4 time, and be at a speed of sixty crotchets per minutes or less. I managed to make it interesting, and both our audience and our musicians enjoyed the show quite a lot. Even Jeanne Choo didn't kick up a fuss like she usually did, because she was on sick leave.
Edna: I am appalled that despite all our rules and regulations, you still managed to screw up our public concert, Mr. Park. It's the worst one I've ever seen executed.
Mr. Park: Excuse me, I stand by my own positive reviews of my own concert, if you would please bear with my hubris for the moment.
Edna: What an arrogant thing to say, Mr. Park.
Mr. Park: Maybe you didn't like my composition with the theremin, Edna?
Edna: Theremins don't make music, they just make wailing noises. And I wouldn't stand for such frivolities as a musical saw. Some things are just meant for carpentry, and carpentry only. And the third piece in the programme, the one called Arirang... That's just... too pentatonic, too folksy, too "old". The general audience don't like that.
Mr. Park: That's a very famous Korean ballad, Edna, it's traditional.
Edna: Korea's just so far away, so exotic... I just feel something closer to our consciousness would work better. Who cares about Korea?
Mr. Park: ... Well, the audience did seem to enjoy our music.
Edna: It's all just a vocal minority of people, right? A vocal minority.
Mr. Park: That doesn't seem to fit the standing ovation at the end, Edna.
Edna: We planted claques in the audience to lead the audience to cheer for you. It's to save face, alright? I knew the audience wouldn't do so otherwise. If you don't mind, I have to leave soon.

1 June
Mr. Park: Edna, I'm a little worried about the our orchestra members. I have been trying to build a rapport with them from the day I started working at Radio Television Bidadari, and they have been treating me well in return... although, I must say, they hide their thoughts from me, and avoid talking to me about some issues at work. I am afraid that this might put a stumbling block in getting on with business.
Edna: Our musicians don't enjoy working with your ideas, Mr. Park, I've been trying to tell you that.
Mr. Park: I would never know just by talking to them. If they didn't like working on my ideas, they could and should have talked it out with me, rather than defer to me at every turn.
Edna: They defer to you because they're afraid of how you would react to a negative comment, Mr. Park. It could also be by the fact that you're a foreigner. The musicians could take some time to get used to you in that respect.
Mr. Park: In that case, I must thank you for all the feedback that you have given me, Edna.
Edna: You're welcome.
Mr. Park: By the way, is it normal that whenever I try to talk to Jeanne Choo, she screams and ducks behind a chair?
Edna: We try to be as tactful as possible in this country, Mr. Park.

8 June
Edna: Mr. Park, I believe that you aired a rendition of Ligeti's Hundred Metronomes this afternoon. Please explain yourself.
Mr. Park: My musicians are not coming for practices anymore, Edna. There's no one left to play anything but these. And, to my defense, I only used thirty metronomes, because there's that many of them that I found in our store when I looked.
Edna: You're fired.
Mr. Park: I figured that would happen. I shall be hightailing it out of the country by this evening. No hard feelings.
Edna: Have a safe trip.
Mr. Park: Thank you. How are you planning to run the show without me? I'm just curious.
Eddie: We're thinking to just shut down this programme, Mr. Park. Who knows whether it was all worth it to start with? Maybe no one listens to us anyway.

Thursday, December 04, 2014


"Hey! Which one of you owns this place?"
"It's me! I am the owner of this restaurant."
"You called us an hour ago? There was a troublemaker, no?"
"Yes, a few. They roughed me up a bit about the vodka. They're gone now."
"Oh, they are? What now, eh?"
"Everything is fine now. Thank you for your response, but we don't need your services anymore. You can leave now."
"Leave? Leave? Why should we? You called us, and we're here. Why should we leave?"

With that, the burly head Chechen leaned over the bar-top, his face right up against, almost pressing, the restaurant manager's.

"Listen, you spineless Azeri dipshit," he lowed menacingly. "You knew what you're in for when you bought protection from us. You know our stock, you know that unlike you salt-mining fishies, we mountain people have our heads as hard as our cocks. We never give up, do you understand? We'll chase those thugs all the way down to Petrozavodsk; as long as we are called, we must make them -- we must make someone fall."

Turning around, he bellowed to the clientele, "Now, who else has a problem with the vodka?" And the crowd, at least those who had not had time to discreetly steal away into the night, stared mutely at the Chechens in reply, frozen with terror. The head thug took that as a resounding Yes, and his clique set upon the customers with knives, baseball bats, and ravenous glee.