Soukie's Place

keeping track of random thoughts

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Haiku
Beauty in Simplicity

How simple can a literary form be while still managing to say something beautiful and interesting? Very simple. Consider the following two examples:

a frogfish
frozen to the bone
gets all chopped up

after his turn to wash
her sweater tighter
newlyweds

The language is straightforward – everyday even – there are no metaphors or similes in sight, it does not rhyme, the meter is free too, and it’s frighteningly succinct. I borrowed these examples from Shuson KatoTranslation by Minoru Fujita and Richard F. Fleck. and Katharine Hawkinson, two haiku poets.

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Making Sense of 12th Century Philosophy

More than about philosophy, this article is about the thing I do to set my table: translations. I have avoided this topic because what I have to say is usually close to disclosing confidential facts about the company I work for and its customers.

Instead of talking about software giants of the 21st century and how they go about ‘localizing’ their products, I am going to discuss translations of the famous 12th century Japanese thinker Dōgen. His writing is characterized by elegant structures which often mix Chinese characters and quotations, and is notoriously difficult to translate.
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Of Keyboards and Men
Childhood

My Grandma worked in a sugar factory that stood at the end of my village. Part of the year was always filled with the constant noise of tractors hauling beet from the fields to be transformed into refined sugar cubes that would later be served with tea or coffee in nice porcelain cups.

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“You Better Run”

I have never been an athletic guy – I lack the talent and the passion – but for a couple of months now I have found myself hooked on running.

A big obstacle in doing something good for ourselves is time. Life is throwing many things at us and this can sometimes build up stress faster than what can be taken away during the little time we spend relaxing. So without reclaiming some of that time, there is not much that can be done.

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The Lure of Virtual Life

A collage of internet sites

Can you compete with this?

A few thoughts came to my mind as I was drinking coffee and watching myself and seven out of ten other visitors of a café: all at our phones or laptops, looking up things on the web. No sound of keyboards, the people not writing but not talking either; most of them being on their own, spending time in the virtual world. It is perhaps only a step from reading a book, but still it changes the atmosphere.

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Journal Is a Silver Bullet

A woman writing in a journal

A journal is an intimate and useful companion

Keeping a journal has different connotations for different people. It could be old-fashioned and noble for one, practical and analytical for another, or stupid and pretentious for the next person. I used to be that next person.

What good is there in recapping the events of the day, laboriously putting down the details of all that transpired? I think the answer to this remains “not much.” But that is also not the best way of doing it. If you only wanted a record of what happened, a miniature camera could do a better job.

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Cultural Differences

Starting an article with a disclaimer is bound to discourage the readers but I want to avoid it being misinterpreted. (Which might happen anyway.) My opinions are, of course, subjective, the observations cannot be applied in general, and a light-hearted (rather than a sociologically-scientific) frame of mind is recommended.

I am going to discuss the cultures I know: Czech and American. Now here is the first problem: While you can pretend that the 10 million Czechs living in the area of roughly the size of South Carolina share a common culture, with the 300 million Americans of different ethnicities and origins living across an area 40 times larger than the whole United Kingdom, there is not much to define one culture apart from the language and TV programs. Continues » 

The Relativity of Time

a train rushing behind watches

Time is peculiar. Given how many things depend on, or are linked to time, there is very little we know about it for certain (on scientific and philosophical level; we usually know plenty enough about time when we are running late for a meeting). Despite the pseudo-technical title, this article offers observations on the nature of time as it appears to us, humans. Having enough time is not trivial and it plays an important part in the quality of life. As Seneca said: “There is nothing the busy man is less busied with than living.” Continues » 

Lust for Life

This article is not concerned with the movie about Vincent van Gogh nor with Iggy Pop’s album/song. Only indirectly; rather, it is about the importance of discovering and pursuing a meaning in life: about “the will to meaning” as it was called by the Austrian psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl. People who have this kind of “lust for life” stay focused and happy regardless of the circumstances. Continues » 

A Philosophical Question

“What would you ask if there was God?” a printed ad in a tram asked me, and other passangers, on my way to the office. Identity of the group behind the ad aside, the question struck me by how it missed the primary concern. My first-hand experience is that people most prominently ask “Is there a God?” Continues »