Updates and more updates

Hi all,

I have a lot of smaller updates I wanted to post. Nothing big like last time, but just different things I wanted to share:

  • After thinking about it, I decided to stick with 2 posts a week for now. If that is too strict, or I have more time, I might try to do 3 posts like before, but with the baby coming in late October, I don’t think I will. For me, it will be a fun experiment to see if I can write fewer, but more meaningful posts instead of a bunch of “noise”. It will take some time to get used to the new flow, but I am kind of excited too.
  • Meanwhile, I have been working hard to finish my backlog of books, both in Japanese and English. I finished one hilarious book in Japanese about learning Korean Hangeul, mentioned here. I spent a lot of time on planes recently, and practiced my Hangeul a bit (sorry the photo is so poor): Praciting Hangeul on a plane
  • For Japanese, I also finished a certain helpful workbook on Hiragana here. I can read and write Hiragana fine, but my handwriting is poor, so I wanted to fix it and the book definitely helped. Heres’ the finally page:Practicing Hiragana
  • As for learning Kanji through the Heisig method, I am almost %20 of the way complete. I stopped focusing so much on writing practice, which took a long time, and focused more on memorizing and recalling the kanji. I didn’t take Heisig’s advice at first, and kept focusing on writing, but after a few months, I would start to forget some kanji, so now I follow his advice more strictly and really try to build a mental picture of the kanji. Seems to help since I can learn kanji faster now, and still recall them well. In general, the Heisig method definitely seems to work (it’s improved my writing skills a lot already), but you have to be self-disciplined and follow his advice exactly. Don’t be cute or clever, or you will kick yourself later. ;p
  • On the search for a new Buddhist temple, that has gone pretty well. I’ve been to 3 new Buddhist temples in 2013: a Shingon Buddhist temple for New Year’s Day, a Korean “Zen” temple near my home, and a Vietnamese temple which I recently wrote about. All three had very positive qualities, but all three also had some challenge for me. The Shingon temple is pretty far away (45-minute drive) and seems to be less active these days, though I liked talking with the priest there a lot and his daughter is the same age as mine. The Korean Zen temple was very close, and the people there were quite friendly. I really liked the priest I met with that night for the “private session” discussion. We spent a lot of time talking about Buddhism and parenting. The community though seemed quite small (apparently due to a recent schism), and didn’t have much connection to the Korean Buddhist culture it came from, so it didn’t resonate with me as much as I hoped. Still, the temple was quite gorgeous inside and the people really were quite friendly. The Vietnamese temple I visited had the cultural background I was looking for, and is reasonably close, but isn’t open very often and I am a little worried because I am not Vietnamese myself, nor is my wife or daughter. Still, the monks there were also very nice and the temple seems pretty family-friendly. Right now, I am looking at visiting a certain Japanese Nichiren temple downtown, especially since they have a “Dharma school” for kids. A Theravadin temple also exists, but it is pretty far from here, further than the Shingon temple, so I might still try to go someday. Anyhow, the point is is that I’ve been to some great temples, but I haven’t really decided on a temple yet. Time will tell.
  • In terms of Buddhist practice these days, I try to follow the Five Precepts, try to be alert towards my moods, and try to recite a prayer or mantra some nights. It varies quite a bit these days. I hope someday I can find more structure through a good Buddhist temple though. Structure is what I lack most.1
  • Spring is almost here! I’m excited because plum blossoms are blooming in parts of Japan, though I can’t see it. I happen to like plum blossoms, or ume (ๆข…) in Japanese, because of their association with Sugawara no Michizane, and because they have less hype than cherry blossoms. Apparently, plum blossoms have started blooming in the southern regions of Japan, but Tokyo and other areas still have risk of snow. Seattle’s weather is quite lovely lately (sunny and somewhat warm), so hopefully we’ll see plum blossoms soon. Recently, I discovered I had a plum tree in my own yard, so I hope to photograph some blossoms there. ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • Speaking of Japan, I do have some bad news: I won’t be travelling to Japan this year. Before my wife got pregnant, I was undecided if I should go or not because the airfare is getting so expensive, but now that my wife is pregnant, I am definitely not going. However, I believe we will go to Japan in spring of 2014. This gives me more time to save up airfare in any case. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I am also excited because the exchange rate for Japanese yen is finally going down again.

That’s about it. Sorry for the long list. Too many little things to write about, but none of them are quite big enough to make a blog post of their own.

1 Probably many converts have this problem too.


Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

4 thoughts on “Updates and more updates”

  1. Hey, lots of interesting news in that post! Whether you decide to do two or three posts a week, or even if you do it on an irregular basis, we will still read eagerly! By the way, your comments on plum blossoms suggest that the flowers do not like snow or cold weather. It is still getting down around the freezing point in Tokyo, but the plum blossoms are opening on schedule! They usually bloom at the coldest part of the year–that is part of their charm.


    1. Hi John,

      I thought I replied to this comment already but apparently I didn’t. Sorry about that. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

      Anyhow thanks for the kind words. Also, that’s interesting you mentioned how the plum blossoms bloom in the cold like that. I thought it was like cherry blossoms which sort of follow the warmth of spring as it moves northward. I guess not. Thanks for the tip. I’ll watch the plum blossoms at my home too. ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. By the way, it is likely that what is called a plum tree in the US is not the same as a Japanese ๆข…ใฎๆœจ . Ume is often translated as ‘plum’ but it is actually not a plum. I don’t know what to call it, but it is close to an apricot. This was confirmed by doing google image searches for plum tree and ๆข…ใฎๆœจ.


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