Saturday, April 21, 2007

My Longings

A sad longing
I have for Peace.

A sweet longing
I have for Light.

A conscious longing
I have for self-transcendence.

A surrendered longing
I have for love-realisation.

A sleepless longing
I have for my perfect Perfection.


At the rim of sorrow
He found his heartless mind.
On the brink of despair
He found his soulless heart.
In the sea of destruction
He found his goalless soul.
Centuries dropped dead.
On the shore of Time
He finds his searching mind
He finds his crying heart
He finds his illumining soul.

by Sri Chinmoy

John Muir, Naturalist / Writer

  • Born: 21 April 1838
  • Birthplace: Dunbar, Scotland
  • Died: 1914
  • Best Known As: Naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club

John Muir was an early American conservationist who has been called "The Father of the National Parks System." Muir came to the United States in 1849 and studied at the University of Wisconsin (1859-1863). He walked from Indiana to the Gulf of Mexico in 1867 and 1868, ended up in California and began his love affair with the Yosemite Valley. An eager traveller and indefatigable walker, he also toured Nevada, Utah and Alaska. He settled in California where he wrote, managed a fruit ranch, and campaigned for the establishment of Yosemite National Park, which Congress approved in 1890. His descriptions of the rugged glories of the American west influenced the thinking of President Theodore Roosevelt, among many others. Muir was a co-founder of the Sierra Club and served as its first president from 1892 until his death in 1914. His books include The Mountains of California (1894) and Our National Parks (1901).

Muir (along with an image of Yosemite) is featured on the California state quarter released by the U.S. Mint in 2005... As a young man Muir was a talented wood carver and inventor who built his own clocks.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Nagasaki mayor shot dead

Tokyo - The mayor of the Japanese city of Nagasaki died early on Wednesday after being shot as he campaigned for re-election, police said, in a crime allegedly linked to an underworld gang.

Iccho Ito, 61, succumbed to wounds sustained late Tuesday when he was shot as he got out of a van at his election office facing Nagasaki's central train station, a police spokesperson in the southern city said.

Ito underwent emergency surgery late on Tuesday, but the hospital said a bullet had reached his heart and he did not regain consciousness after the operation. The police spokesperson said he had died of massive blood loss.

Gun violence is rare in Japan, which strictly controls arms possession.

But police said the suspect, identified as 59-year-old Tetsuya Shiroo, was affiliated with Japan's largest organised crime syndicate, the Yamaguchi-gumi.

Senior Nagasaki police official Kazuki Unebayashi said the assailant, who was taken into custody immediately after the incident, "fired several bullets at the back of the victim with an intent to kill him".

Public broadcaster NHK, quoting unnamed sources, said Shiroo had grievances with the city after his vehicle was damaged due to poor maintenance on a road several years ago.

"I hope that authorities will investigate the case thoroughly and get to the truth," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.

Ito was an outspoken pacifist who was born one month after the best-known event in Nagasaki's history - the world's second and last atomic bombing on August 9, 1945 that killed more than 70 000 people.

A political independent, he had been campaigning for another term in office ahead of elections scheduled for Sunday.

"At around 7.50 pm, I heard two gunshots, like bang, bang," the owner of a restaurant near the scene told NHK.

"At first I didn't think it was gunfire," he said. "But when I looked outside, a man was already apprehended."

Nagasaki has seen attacks on politicians before. In January 1990, a right-wing extremist shot and wounded then mayor Hitoshi Motoshima for saying he believed the late emperor Hirohito bore responsibility for World War II.

Japan's last political assassination was in October 2002, when a rightist stabbed to death Koki Ishii, an opposition lawmaker campaigning to expose corruption, outside his Tokyo home with a 30-centimetre (12-inch) blade.

The Japanese "yakuza" are active in underworld crime, and have interests in show business and other lucrative industries.

A report earlier this year by the National Police Agency said the Yamaguchi-gumi, headquartered in the western city of Kobe, had about 40 000 members and accounted for some 50 percent of Japan's underworld.

The Yamaguchi-gumi has reportedly been trying to branch out from its home ground, particularly in Tokyo, leading to a turf(territory) war earlier this year that resulted in rare shootings in the capital.

Last year, in his annual address marking the atomic bombing, Ito lashed out at the United States, North Korea, India and Pakistan for their nuclear arsenals, asking, "What is the human race doing?"

One witness to the shooting said he called emergency rescue teams as soon as he heard the gunfire.

"I just got off a bus and was walking through the bus terminal. I heard one bang. I only recall one. I thought a tyre(tire) might have burst," the unidentified witness told NHK.

"A person had fallen over and a lady was in a panic. Then it dawned on me that it was a gunshot," he said.

He said he saw five people tackle down the suspect. "He didn't appear to have resisted," he said.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Taoism vs. Buddhism

The belief in some unknown presence, whether we believe or not, has existed since man can recollect. Religion was established from this belief, and it can survive and flourish because of this belief. We can learn in Chinese history, Buddhism and Taoism are two major religions at every dynasty. Even today, with the great development of science and technology, they still have a great number of believers. Taoism, originated in China at the Eastern Han Dynasty and Buddhism, came to China from India around 6th century B.C., together have shaped Chinese life and thought for thousands of years. Although they have many points in common but the differences are crucial.

First and foremost, we may see immediately that Taoists they put considerable emphasis on the body, and that Buddhists, they put considerable emphasis on the mind. So it won’t be a problem for us to figure out that Taoists tended in China to live outside of the cities, off in the mountains, and that Buddhists tended to live closer to the cities; and that whereas Taoists tended toward an iconoclastic view of social forms, Buddhists tended to accommodate themselves to social forms, adapting to the culture rather than standing apart from it.

Besides that, on how to explain the beliefs of life, each religion has a different way. Taoist is advised to concentrate on life itself. The longer the person's life, the more saintly the person is presumed to have become. This may be an optimistic theory while the Buddhist believes that existence is suffering, suffering has a cause, namely craving and attachment.

Last but not least, just as life, the beliefs of life after death are not standardized. The goal in Taoism is to achieve Tao, to transcend life on earth as a physical being, to achieve harmony with nature and the universe. But Buddhist believe life goes on and on in many reincarnations or rebirths. The eternal hope for all followers of Buddha is that through reincarnation one comes back into successively better lives until one achieves the goal - Nirvana, which they being free from pain and suffering and not having to come back again.

The path to Tao and Nirvana are different. Yet both believe there is an inner light which guides a person in the right direction to the ultimate goal. Personal desires must be forsaken to enable the inner light to guide a person to achieve eternal bliss. But the actual path is the difference between Taoism and Buddhism. The path toward enlightenment for the Buddhist was defined by Buddha in his Eightfold Path. Only through following this path does the Buddhist reach Nirvana. The path to Tao is individual, it comes from within. No one can define a path for Taoist; it must come from the inner light.

There exist so many different religions, and a lot of them are the basis of people’s culture and belief. They seem to provide various types of beliefs and principle. People worship numerous “gods” for different occasions. In ultimatum, the religion can be anything a person makes of it.

The Prodigal Daughter

Chapter 1 Memories of a Departure

By Robert Whitton

The young women paused in the doorway, turned back around and took a last, long look at the apartment behind her. It was completely empty now and she allowed herself one more moment of nostalgia, soaking in the echoes of a thousand after-dinner conversations, a million peals of laughter, and the peace that washed over her every time she had stepped in the doorway of her Paris home. It wasn’t very big but it was charming and she had treasured every solitary inch of it. Whenever she thought about another tenant living here, putting different pictures on the white plaster walls, throwing different rugs down on the polished wood floors, and arranging new furniture in the sun filled rooms, when she had spent so long getting everything just right, her heart clenched.

She had by chance already met the new tenant two weeks ago. She’d been on her way out of the front door to meet some friends at the nightclub three blocks away. They were celebrating the end of their senior exams at the university they attended and she was running late beyond the agreed upon hook-up time. Her landlord had stopped her in the lobby of the old house where the woman owned four other apartments and introduced her to a petite girl with soft blond-hair and a hopeful look on her face. Her heart had gone out to the woman as she was reminded her of herself four years ago when she had first come to this city. Wide-eyed and searching but older than she looked. Nothing and everything had surprised her back then. When you’ve survived the imminent threat of mass destruction, you can pretty much put up with anything.

With a final sigh, the woman turned back around to face the hallway, picked up the canvas satchel at her feet and settled the long strap diagonally across her chest. She had already sent the rest of her things ahead and all that was left was for her to make her way to the Paris International Portkey office. She was glad she had chosen to leave this way. No big fanfare, just a final walk through the neighborhood that had been her home the past four years. She paused outside on the sidewalk, her waist length red hair swinging with the sudden halt, and took a final sniff of the familiar air. It was 7:30 a.m. and the local shops were just beginning to open. She could smell the bread baking at the bakery shop four doors down and the first whiffs of petrol as Mr. Zamir from across the street started his automobile–the only car on the block. She heard the familiar sounds of Jean Paul setting up his newsstand for the day and the tingling of the bicycle bells as young boys raced by her on their way to the local muggle school.

It was Paris in October–the air was crisp and the leaves were a mix of oranges, yellows and red. It was her favorite time of the year in France and now she wouldn’t be there to enjoy it. On the other hand, she reflected, her high heel boots making rhythmic clicking noises on the sidewalk as she walked to the portkey office, perhaps it was best that she was leaving at such a high point of the year. She would always have this last morning in Paris when everything seemed right in the world. The next few months were going to be difficult, she knew that, but this last morning of peace might sustain her.

"And,” she whispered to herself, “I could always come back if it gets too tough.” But she knew that was a lie. She wouldn’t come back.

She had run here four years ago, looking desperately for something she could sense she had lost and had indulged herself. For once she had chosen to think about herself. Instead of her family and friends, instead of those she loved, she had jumped at the chance to attend the 4-year Wizarding University that had offered her a scholarship to study transfiguration and charms. She had surprised everyone with her decision.

She was the youngest of seven children and six older brothers had overshadowed most her life’s attempts to stand out. Her mother had been almost hysterical when she had announced she was moving to France and her brothers had expressed confusion but her father had stood in the background waiting for the protests to quiet down before saying, “Is this what you want? You’ve thought this through?”

"Yes,” she had said, looking him in the eye and willing him to see the reasons in her own eyes. “I’ve thought about it. I really need to do this.”

"But why?” her mother had wailed. “Everything is just starting to come back together! Why would you leave now?” She had opened her mouth to reply but her oldest brother had stepped up behind her and laid a hand on her shoulder, silencing her.

"I think we all know why,” he had said to his mother. “It’s time for her to do things herself.”

Now, as she quickened her steps to cross the street busy with early morning traffic, she remembered the look of understanding in her brother’s eyes. It shouldn’t have surprised her that he understood--he had always understood. He was almost 10 years older than her and had been the only brother who had ever “got her.”

With a snap back to reality, she arrived at the office and took one last final check of her watch. Her portkey left in 10 minutes. She just had time to sign the paperwork before grabbing on to whatever piece of muggle junk the office had decided to use today.

Ten minutes later, after some furiously signed paperwork and two screaming children whose mother looked stressed beyond belief, the portkey activated. With a thump, the passengers landed in another office that looked remarkably similar to the one in Paris. She knew it was different though. She could tell by the pinched looks on the office worker’s faces, the ruthless efficiency with which her paperwork was processed and by the unfamiliar smells as she opened the door and stepped outside into the autumn air.

For better or worse, Ginny Weasley had returned to England.

Gunman's Writings Disturbing

Tuesday April 17, 2007 8:16 PM

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) - The gunman suspected of carrying out the Virginia Tech massacre that left 33 people dead was described Tuesday as a sullen loner whose creative writing in English class was so disturbing that he was referred to the school's counseling service.

News reports also said that he may have been taking medication for depression, that he was becoming increasingly violent and erratic, and that he left a note in his dorm in which he railed against ``rich kids,'' ``debauchery'' and ``deceitful charlatans'' on campus.

Cho Seung-Hui, a 23-year-old senior majoring in English, arrived in the United States as boy from South Korea in 1992 and was raised in suburban Washington, D.C., officials said. He was living on campus in a different dorm from the one where Monday's bloodbath began.

Police and university officials offered no clues as to exactly what set him off on the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history.

``He was a loner, and we're having difficulty finding information about him,'' school spokesman Larry Hincker said.

On Tuesday afternoon, thousands of people gathered in the basketball arena, and when it filled up, thousands more filed into the football stadium, for a memorial service for the victims. President Bush and the first lady attended.

Virginia Tech President Charles Steger received a 30-second standing ovation, despite bitter complaints from parents and students that the university should have locked down the campus immediately after the first burst of gunfire. Steger expressed hope that ``we will awaken from this horrible nightmare.''

``As you draw closer to your families in the coming days, I ask you to reach out to those who ache for sons and daughters who are never coming home,'' Bush said.

A vast portrait of the victims began to emerge, among them: Christopher James Bishop, 35, who taught German at Virginia Tech and helped oversee an exchange program with a German university; Ryan ``Stack'' Clark, a 22-year-old student from Martinez, Ga., who was in the marching band and was working toward degrees in biology and English; Emily Jane Hilscher, a 19-year-old freshman from Woodville, Va., who was majoring in animal and poultry sciences and, naturally, loved animals; and Liviu Librescu, an Israeli engineering and math lecturer who was said to have protected his students' lives by blocking the doorway of his classroom from the approaching gunman.

Meanwhile, a chilling portrait of the gunman as a misfit began to emerge.

Professor Carolyn Rude, chairwoman of the university's English department, said she did not know Cho. But she said she spoke with Lucinda Roy, the department's director of creative writing, who had Cho in one of her classes and described him as ``troubled.''

``There was some concern about him,'' Rude said. ``Sometimes, in creative writing, people reveal things and you never know if it's creative or if they're describing things, if they're imagining things or just how real it might be. But we're all alert to not ignore things like this.''

She said Cho was referred to the counseling service, but she said she did not know when, or what the outcome was. Rude refused to release any of his writings or his grades, citing privacy laws.

The Chicago Tribune reported on its Web site that he left a note in his dorm room that included a rambling list of grievances. Citing unidentified sources, the Tribune said he had recently shown troubling signs, including setting a fire in a dorm room and stalking some women.

ABC, citing law enforcement sources, reported that the note, several pages long, explains Cho's actions and says, ``You caused me to do this.''

Investigators believe Cho at some point had been taking medication for depression, the Tribune reported.

Classmates said that on the first day of an introduction to British literature class last year, the 30 or so English students went around and introduced themselves. When it was Cho's turn, he didn't speak.

The professor looked at the sign-in sheet and, where everyone else had written their names, Cho had written a question mark. ``Is your name, `Question mark?''' classmate Julie Poole recalled the professor asking. The young man offered little response.

Cho spent much of that class sitting in the back of the room, wearing a hat and seldom participating. In a small department, Cho distinguished himself for being anonymous. ``He didn't reach out to anyone. He never talked,'' Poole said.

``We just really knew him as the question mark kid,'' Poole said.

The rampage consisted of two attacks, more than two hours apart - first at a dormitory, where two people were killed, then inside a classroom building, where 31 people, including Cho, died after being locked inside, Virginia State Police said. Cho committed suicide; two handguns - a 9 mm and a .22-caliber - were found in the classroom building.

One law enforcement official said Cho's backpack contained a receipt for a March purchase of a Glock 9 mm pistol. Cho held a green card, meaning he was a legal, permanent resident, federal officials said. That meant he was eligible to buy a handgun unless he had been convicted of a felony.

Roanoke Firearms owner John Markell said his shop sold the Glock and a box of practice ammo to Cho 36 days ago for $571.

``He was a nice, clean-cut college kid. We won't sell a gun if we have any idea at all that a purchase is suspicious,'' Markell said. Markell said it is not unusual for college kids to make purchases at his shop as long as they are old enough.

``To find out the gun came from my shop is just terrible,'' Markell said.

Investigators stopped short of saying Cho carried out both attacks. But ballistics tests show one gun was used in both, Virginia State Police said.

And two law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the information had not been announced, said Cho's fingerprints were found on both guns. The serial numbers on the two weapons had been filed off, the officials said.

Col. Steve Flaherty, superintendent of the Virginia State Police, said it was reasonable to assume that Cho was the shooter in both attacks but that the link was not yet definitive. ``There's no evidence of any accomplice at either event, but we're exploring the possibility,'' he said.

Officials said Cho graduated from Westfield High School in Chantilly, Va., in 2003. His family lived in an off-white, two-story townhouse in Centreville, Va.

Two of those killed in the shooting rampage, Reema Samaha and Erin Peterson, graduated from Westfield High in 2006, school officials said. But there was no immediate word from authorities on whether Cho knew the two young women and singled them out.

``He was very quiet, always by himself,'' neighbor Abdul Shash said. Shash said Cho spent a lot of his free time playing basketball and would not respond if someone greeted him. He described the family as quiet.

South Korea expressed its condolences, and said it hoped that the tragedy would not ``stir up racial prejudice or confrontation.'' ``We are in shock beyond description,'' said Cho Byung-se, a Foreign Ministry official handling North American affairs.

Classes were canceled for the rest of the week. Norris Hall, the classroom building, will be closed for the rest of the semester.

Many students were leaving town quickly, lugging pillows, sleeping bags and backpacks down the sidewalks.

Jessie Ferguson, 19, a freshman from Arlington, left Newman Hall and headed for her car with tears streaming down her red cheeks.

``I'm still kind of shaky,'' she said. ``I had to pump myself up just to kind of come out of the building. I was going to come out, but it took a little bit of 'OK, it's going to be all right. There's lots of cops around.'''

Although she wanted to be with friends, she wanted her family more. ``I just don't want to be on campus,'' she said.

Until Monday, the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history was in Killeen, Texas, in 1991, when George Hennard plowed his pickup truck into a Luby's Cafeteria and shot 23 people to death, then himself.

Previously, the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history was a rampage that took place in 1966 at the University of Texas at Austin, where Charles Whitman climbed the clock tower and opened fire with a rifle from the 28th-floor observation deck. He killed 16 people before he was shot to death by police.


Associated Press writers Stephen Manning in Centreville, Va.; Matt Barakat in Richmond, Va.; and Vicki Smith, Sue Lindsey and Justin Pope in Blacksburg contributed to this report.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Charlotte Brontë, Writer

  • Born: 21 April 1816
  • Birthplace: Thornton, Yorkshire, England
  • Died: 31 March 1855 (complications from pregnancy)
  • Best Known As: Author of Jane Eyre

Charlotte is the author of Jane Eyre and a member of the remarkable Brontë family. The sisters Charlotte, Emily and Anne first published their poetry under pseudonyms: Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell was released in 1846, selling only a few copies. Charlotte's novel Jane Eyre was published in 1847, shortly after Emily's Wuthering Heights; the sisters had almost simultaneously written what later became known as two of the great novels of English literature. Jane Eyre was an immediate success and Charlotte went on to publish Shirley (1848) and Villette (1853). She outlived her sisters but still was only 38 when she died in pregnancy.

Charlotte was the only one of the sisters to marry... Her novel The Professor was written before Jane Eyre but not published until 1857... As children the three sisters and their brother Branwell dreamed up and wrote intricate histories of the fantasy kingdoms of Angria and Gondal; Legends of Angria, a collection of Charlotte's childhood writings, was published in 1933.