Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Eight Scenes of Worry

I've put up a new comic that I drew this past year in Kathmandu, Nepal. It's called Eight Scenes of Worry. I've been trying to kick the habit of worrying too much and it was cathartic to draw what it feels like to be worried. I think I'm starting to improve ...

It's drawn on handmade paper and was drawn mostly by candlelight.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


I haven't been blogging much but I recently went to Michigan to attend the memorial service for my friend Aaron Anderson so I thought I'd write something about him. Aaron and I went to college together and went on a study abroad to Tibet in 2003. I didn't hang out with him very frequently outside of Tibet, but every few months he'd show up at my place with some beers and a stack of records. It was really great just hanging out and playing snippets of songs we liked.

Even when things were rough in Tibet, Aaron was never one to complain and it was nice to hear from his family and close friends that this never changed even at the end. Aaron was one of the first people I met who didn't just know a lot about music (he did know a hell of a lot) but always managed to express how much he loved it. Though he owned records worth more than my car, he found this cassette tape in the street in Lhasa and was so excited that we went to buy a cheap player that night to hear it. As a Buddhist he was neither preachy nor new age, something that at the time I thought was impossible for a Western Buddhist. I wish I had been better friends with him, but I'm glad to have known him and he's someone I'll never forget.  

(You can make a donation to Neurofibromatosis research here)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Back In America

Here's a photo I took of some graffiti in Bangkok. These days I'm back in America. I've been getting settled and started working on dissertation things again. I gave the Tibetan dictionary a little facelift, but it still had a lot of content problems to fix. 

Got lucky and hurricane Irene missed us. Other than that not much is new. New photos and drawings to come. 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Goodbye KTM

I leave Kathmandu tomorrow (for Bangkok, then Providence). When I got here I hated it but now I think I will miss it. That's always how it goes, right? 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My Tibetan

Anybody who has heard me speak Tibetan knows that I have a habit of saying 're wa' (རེད་བ་) a lot; it means something like "right?" or "isn't it?" (or maybe like desune in Japanese).

I'm saying "Lhasa is a nice place, right? Tibet has a lot of yaks, right? It's good, right? Right? Right? Right?" and the bottom text says "My way of speaking, right?"

Friday, June 24, 2011

You guys got any bikes?

I'm finally remembering to take my camera with me sometimes when I go out. I assume this is some kind of bicycle repair shop ...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The difference between Kathmandu and Baltimore ...

I've been watching a lot of The Wire on my laptop. If you don't know, it's a really great show about police and drug dealing set in Baltimore. Anyway, it must be getting into my brain because I saw someone toss out a bag of trash from their window and immediately assumed it was drugs ...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Just a State of Mind ...

I feel pretty bad that I've been in Nepal for so long and haven't learned very much Nepali at all. So I decided to do a comic in Nepali. The sentence is from a lesson in a textbook I have. He says "Yesterday I didn't go out. I stayed home." (हिजॊ म कतै गइनँ।  घरै बसॆँ। I think ... I'm not very good at typing in Devanagari).

Yesterday the rains finally arrived and I stayed inside nearly all day. There is something really nice about staying in when it is raining, but I want to get better about going out even when it is raining (everything's the same). Since my time in Nepal is starting to wind down, I also want to get out of Boudha a little more and see things that aren't just Tibetan (though I want to see a few more of those things too!). I'm saving some things for when Alex comes here in July (!), but getting out of Boudha and into the rain before then would probably do me some good ...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Tibetan Calligraphy

For the last few weeks I've been learning Tibetan calligraphy. There a lot of different Tibetan scripts - you can see some cool examples of Tibetan calligraphy here.

Before I could only read and write in a script called U-chan (dbu chanདབུ་ཅན) which means "with head" because it has a thick horizontal line at the top. This is the script that computers usually have and the one most books are printed in. However, most people can't write it and if they can, it takes a lot of effort like it would to make your handwriting look like a typewriter.

Now I'm learning a script called U-me (bdu medདབུ་མེད) which means "head-less" because it doesn't have the the thick horizontal line at the top (the "head"). My goal though is to learn the Kyu-yig ('khyug yigའཁྱུག་ཡིག) script that most people write letters with. It's difficult because there are a lot of short forms for certain letter combinations.

The picture is a page from my lessons. My teacher writes a sentence in red ink and then I re-write it a few times in black. I thought it would be boring and tedious to practice, but it's actually been really relaxing ... 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Pecha Kucha

I'm going to present some of my drawings at the next Pecha Kucha night in Kathmandu. It's this thing where you get 20 slides to show for 20 seconds each. Exciting! (or if not, over quickly)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Wittgenstein in Tibetan

I spend a lot of time talking with Tibetan Buddhist monks who have never read any Western philosophy about philosophy. Recently, I wanted to mention a famous Wittgenstein quote to a Geshe I was talking with. It's the final line from his Tractatus:

"Whereof one cannot speak, one must pass over in silence."

in German:

"Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen."

So, I thought I'd try my hand at putting it into Tibetan. Here's what I came up with:


gang la skad cha bshad ma thub//
'di la kha khar sdod dgos yod//

I tried to put into two seven-syllable lines to make it sound more authoritative and authentic. It literally says something like "Of whatever we can't speak, on this we must stay silent." Before I looked it up, I had misremembered the line as being "Whereof one cannot speak clearly, one must pass over in silence." But I must have added that in myself; the 'clearly' is nowhere in the line. Though it still seems to me like the line would make more sense with the 'clearly' added. (Or maybe I'm revealing how little I really know about Wittgenstein!)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Current reading: Franz Kafka

Logic is doubtless unshakable, but it cannot withstand a man who wants to go on living.

           - Franz Kafka, The Trial
                   (comic by R. Crumb)

Monday, May 23, 2011

"I Don't Know"

Just playing around with the red pen I found. He says "I don't know" (ཤེས་གི་མེད). I just started some calligraphy lessons, so hopefully my Tibetan writing will start looking a lot better ...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Boudha Stupa

I did a little drawing (from memory!) with brush and ink of the main stupa near my house, Boudhanath.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Current reading: Italo Calvino

The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live everyday, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it.

The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.

                 - Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Friday, May 6, 2011

red ma red

Found a red pen, so I drew this monk. He says "yes or no?" (རེད་མ་རེད།).

Monday, May 2, 2011


One of the most difficult about being in Nepal is the lack of access to music; I didn't bring my iPod, my netbook doesn't have much room for music, and the internet isn't fast enough for much streaming or downloading. So I was happy to discover that my cheap Chinese cellphone has an FM radio in it. Since then, I've been listening to the radio a lot.

There are some differences between radio in Nepal and radio in America. There's the same talking stations to skip over, but one thing is that there are distinct shows with DJs who seem free to play what music they want. The shows often have a theme rather than the station as a whole; you can hear Nepali songs one hour and then Korean pop the next hour. I particularly enjoy the classic rock shows - classic rock was the music of my youth and it makes me feel like I'm at home when I hear it.

Here are the stations and some of my favorite shows. Unlike in America where all the stations end in odd numbers (to avoid stations being too close together?) lots of stations here end in even numbers which still seems weird to me. Anyway, here are my favorites:
  • 90.6 - Times FM ("You deserve better") : They play some good pop music, also have a cool show called Rock Vibes (10pm on tuesdays).
  • 91.2 - Hits FM ("Hits you where it matters" / "Intelligent people listen to hits FM") : This is usually the first station I check. My favorite show is called The Choice of the Voice which is the best classic rock show on Nepali radio (9pm on wednesdays).
  • 94.0 - Citizen FM ("Citizen FM ninety-four megahertz, your voice") : They have a lot of talking in Nepali, but they have some great techno at night and occasionally I find blues or jazz on here. 
  • 96.1 - Kantipur FM (I don't know what their catchphrase is ...) : Also a lot of talking in Nepali, but I like a request show called Global Connection (10pm tuesdays). 
  • 99.4 - China Radio (Also no catchphrase ...) : It's a little faint sometimes and often has Chinese talking, but they play some good pop music sometimes. 
  • 103.0 - BBC World Service : Not music, but my main source for news and English talking. I actually really like the way they report the news, a little bit classier than in America. I heard a story about Libya and the West and their resident poet (yes, they have a poet) read a poem about it! And it was actually pretty good - you can read it here. (Although Alan Johnson has a really weird voice I think ...)
Well that's what I'm listening to ... I can't tell you how happy I get when I get to hear some Pink Floyd or Guns 'n' Roses or Beatles. I think absence does make the heart grow fonder ... 

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ups and Downs

Drew this one when the power was out last week, but the newspaper said load shedding will decrease soon. However, it looks like there will be a pretty bad fuel shortage...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Current reading: Plutarch

When we have a fever, everything tastes bitter and unpleasant, but once we have seen other people taking the same food without revulsion, we stop blaming the food and drink, and start to blame ourselves and our illness. In the same way, we will stop blaming and being disgruntled at circumstances if we see other people cheerfully accepting identical situations without getting upset. So when unwelcome incidents occur, it is also good for contentment not to ignore all the gratifying and nice things we have, but to use a process of blending to make the better aspects of our lives obscure the glare of the worse ones. But what happens at the moment is that, although when our eyes are harmed by excessively brilliant things we look away and soothe them with the colours that flowers and grasses provide, we treat the mind differently: we strain it to glimpse the aspects that hurt it, and we force it to occupy itself with thoughts of the things that irritate it, by tearing it almost violently away from the better aspects. And yet the question addressed to the busybody can be transferred to this context and fit in nicely: 'You spiteful man, why are you so quick to spot someone else's weakness, but overlook your own?' So we might ask: why, my friend, do you obsessively contemplate your own weakness and contantly clarify and revivify it, but fail to apply your mind to the good things you have?

                           - Plutarch, "On Contentment"

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Monday, April 18, 2011

Lumbini Photos II


Cutting the grass by hand

Gecko on books in the library (this was a 15 second exposure!)
Tibetan style books

Saturday, April 16, 2011


I had a really bad headache yesterday. I was able to draw this before it got really really bad. But on the bright side, when you wake up and have no headache it feels like being born again; all of life feels wonderful ...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lumbini Photos I

Some monks at the Maya Devi temple (the Buddha's birthplace)

Me in front of the Ashoka Pillar

An unpainted Thai monastery (it's under construction)

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Sunday morning I'm going to take a short trip to Lumbini, famous for being the birthplace of the Buddha. There's also one of Asoka's Pillars from the third century BCE and temples from various Buddhist traditions.

My main purpose is to visit The Lumbini International Research Institute, which has a collection of about 35,000 volumes on Buddhism. So hopefully I'll be able to find some good references for some of the things I'm thinking about. I'll post some pictures when I get back to Kathmandu.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sometimes it happens ...

Though I try my best to keep it to a minimum. Thankfully it happens less than it used to ...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Holi, the Hindu "Festival of Colors" was a few days ago. Hindi movies make it out to be more colorful than it seemed to be here (like this). Here it seemed to be mainly gangs of kids roaming around with water balloons ('lola') and people on rooftops dumping dirty water on people walking on the streets. The kids in the next building were jumping between their rooftops while taunting and throwing water:

Totally safe
One kid kept shouting "Tenzin is a loser, Tenzin is a loser" and they replied with "skyag pa zo!" (Tibetan for "Eat shit!"). Good old family fun!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

okay okay ...

I'm still getting used to the ink / paper situation here but I made this little sign for my room. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I'm finally able to make nice coffee at home now; in fact, I'm making better coffee now than I ever made in America! My parents sent me a moka pot (trivia: a moka pot does not technically make espresso because it doesn't make enough pressure, but it makes strong coffee similar to espresso) and I can get good coffee roasted freshly from Top of the World Coffee. Since the moka pot works on the stove, I can make delicious coffee even when the power is out. I've been using coffee grown in Nepal and I'm really happy with how it tastes. Most days, I try to approximate my favorite drink, the cortado. The cortado is usually 2oz of espresso with 2oz of steamed milk (with a little bit of foam). Here are some photos:

Moka pot & coffee

I learned that using a medium or coarse grind gives you less "sludge"

I also learned that you have to use low heat or else the coffee will be too bitter.

You can get the milk a little bit foamy by pouring the heated milk into a jar and then shaking it for a minute or two. It works pretty well!

That's my daily ritual. I'm really happy with how good they come out now!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Philosophy by Candlelight

I've been pretty productive and sometimes I wonder if it is despite load shedding or because of it ... 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

More birds

Here's a bird from my porch today. Last post with bird pictures, I promise.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Current reading: William Hazlitt

I hate people who have no notion of any thing but generalities, and forms, and creeds, and naked propositions, even worse than I dislike those who cannot for the soul of them arrive at the comprehension of an abstract idea. There are those (even among philosophers) who, deeming that all truth is contained within certain outlines and common topics, if you proceed to add colour or relief from individuality, protest against the use of rhetoric as an illogical thing; and if you drop a hint of pleasure or pain as ever entering into 'this breathing world', raise a prodigious outcry against all appeals to the passions.
It is, I confess, strange to me that men who pretend to more than usual accuracy in distinguishing and analysing, should insist that in treating human nature, of moral good and evil, the nominal differences are alone of any value, or that in describing the feelings and motives of men, any thing that conveys the smallest idea of what those feelings are in any given circumstances, or can by parity of reason ever be in any others, is a deliberate attempt at artifice and delusion - as if a knowledge or representation of things as they really exist (rules and definitions apart) was a proportionable departure from the truth. They stick to the table of contents, and never open the volume of the mind. They are for having maps, not pictures of the world we live in: as much as to say that a bird's-eye view of things contains the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. If you want to look for the situation of a particular spot, they turn to a pasteboard globe, on which they fix their wandering gaze; and because you cannot find the object of your search in their bald 'abridgements', tell you there is no such place, or that it is not worth inquiring after. They had better confine their studies to the celestial sphere and the signs of the zodiac; for there they will meet with no petty details to boggle at, or contradict their vague conclusions. Such persons would make excellent theologians, but are very indifferent philosophers.

- William Hazlitt, "On Reason and Imagination" (1826)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011