Eclipse

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Eclipse by Richard North Patterson was the book I finished this month. I actually started this a few months back but I was very busy so I couldn’t sit down to finish it.  It’s a very compelling book and very relevant to our life now.

This book really makes you ask yourself some tough questions. What price are we all willing to pay to maintain our lifestyle? How do we measure the value of human life? How do we balance business, politics, environment and people?

The book talks about a fictional country called Luandia. It was very well described and I can imagine the events as actually happening.  It is just so sad that a country who has rich resources would go to ruin.  You’d really think that the discovery of oil would help everyone in the country. However, as we all know, only a handful get to benefit from it.

The recent turmoil in the Middle East and Africa really highlights the fact that being oil-rich is no guarantee for progress and growth. Governments have a huge responsibility in putting things in order. Companies also have a responsibility to conduct their business in a manner that is respectful of the people and of the environment. These words are easier said than done. Relationships are complicated. Politics and business are complicated. There’s no easy fix. There’s no easy way.

It is very easy for me to sit here and blame governments, blame businessmen, blame criminals. But we all play a part. We’re all interconnected. One person alone didn’t cause the problems nor can one person alone solve the problems. But one person can influence the people around him. And they can then influence others. It’s like the concept of pay it forward. Let’s all pay it forward. Let’s all make small changes with our lifestyle. Let’s all be more mindful of how we use our resources. Let’s all call for clean governments. Let’s all support businesses that conduct their business in an ethical manner. I am hopeful that together, we can all institute change. These problems may not be happening in our own backyards but we all share the same Earth and protecting their part of the Earth is protecting our part as well.

 

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Ivy and Bean

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There’s a book fair in Yumi’s school this week and she came home last Tuesday with a wish list of five books, I think.  I told her she could get only one.

My kids love going to bookstores and reading there but they seldom touch the books they have at home.  They always request for books but end up buying coloring books or art materials but never books.

This time, I decided that we would buy a real book. Not a magazine. Not a fact book. Not a short story. Not a collection of stories. A real book. She wanted Diary of a Wimpy Kid but I think she’s only interested in it because of the movie. I have read some of it but I didn’t really want to start her off on that.  As I was browsing at the fair, I saw Ivy + Bean which looked interesting.  I read some parts of it there and I decided that this would be a great book for her.

When we got home, she immediately started reading.  This was the first time that I saw her absorbed in a book for hours. She only took a break from reading to do her homework, to eat dinner and to take a shower.  She even chose reading over going outside to play with the neighbors.  That is amazing. The book is 120 pages and she’s already on page 103.  I am really happy at how fast she read and how interested she is.  I hope that this will be the start of a life long love affair with books.

The book is about Ivy and Bean who are both seven years old and all the stuff that they do.  My daughter is seven and I think this is why she likes it so much. The book is the first one in a series.  My daughter now wants to read all eight books in the series.  She asked if we could buy the second one this weekend.  Hmm, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all.

Eat, Pray, Love

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I’m quite happy to report that I’ve somehow been doing the things I listed in my I’m back  blog.  I’ve limited my hours of work, just 5 hours in the morning and 5 hours in the evening (at most) and maybe, a couple of hours on weekends.  I’ve blogged at least once per week (although last week was on my other blog).  I’ve tried out a new recipe, Cinnamon-Walnut Cake. And I’ve finished a book. Yey!

A lot of things have been said about Eat, Pray, Love, both the book and the movie.  I never read any of the reviews, nor have I watched the movie.  I have heard that it was very good though and it was about the author’s self searching.

This is a great book.  It is very well-written and the author is a fantastic storyteller. I found myself laughing out loud while reading the book.  I have to admit though, that of the three places she visited – Italy, India, Indonesia, the one I would like most to go to is Italy.  I love great food and I would like to enjoy simple pleasures. What can be more pleasurable than enjoying great food?

Seriously, it’s a wonderful journey Elizabeth Gilbert went on.  Not all of us have the opportunity to embark on a similar journey.  We can’t afford to take off for a year from our “real” lives. Heck, some of us can’t even afford to take a week off from work.  But it was like I went to those places just by reading her words.  This is really what I love most about reading, how we get transported to different worlds without leaving our homes.

Hopefully, I will get to visit Italy, probably when my children are grown.  If I do, I’ll tell you all about it. 🙂

Holocaust

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I read the book, Holocaust by Gerald Green last month.  It was very poignant, powerful and disturbing.  While it was a work of fiction, I felt what it was like to live in Germany during those years.  After reading this, I am again reminded how fortunate I am to live in a relatively conflict-free area.

In school, we learned about the holocaust but it wasn’t in great detail.  I could never really understand how a whole nation could get it into their heads that they are the superior race and all other races had to be eliminated.  This book has really opened my eyes to the holocaust, both from a soldier and a Jew perspective.

The book gave some background into how relatively good people can be corrupted into changing their whole mindset.  How ordinary people look the other way when others are subjected to terror because they cannot afford to sacrifice their own way of life.  It also showed how much courage some people had and how they fought even if this would ultimately cause them harm or even death.

I don’t really know who to blame for what happened in Europe during those years.  On one hand you could say they the soldiers, the officers, the police, the people, had no choice.  They had to follow orders or else they would experience grave consequences.  On the other hand, how could you live with yourself, with your conscience knowing that even if you don’t directly do harm, by not doing anything, you are letting evil happen.  You could also say, what’s the point of saving one life, one family when millions died.  Like the starfish, it matters to that family.

I can understand soldiers killing soldiers during war.  But to kill unarmed, naked civilians, that is really unforgivable.  Their only crime was being born a Jew.  We have no choice into what family, country or religion we are born.  Why is this a crime?

It also amazes me how Jews would willingly follow orders and think the best of the situation.  It is very admirable but at the same time sad.  They are able so survive on very little.  It was mentioned in the book that you only need very little to survive.  But even survival was not an option for most Jews.  Very few fought back and most just accepted their fate.

After reading this book, I question why people seem to not have learned anything from history.  The bombing and shooting in Norway shows that there are still people who feel that others have no right to live.  I don’t think racial discrimination will ever be totally eliminated no matter how politically correct people try to be.  However, being a bit biased is yards different from killing innocent people.  We should all try to be tolerant of each others’ beliefs.  We are all different and we all have things to learn from one another.  Live and let live.

Waltzing with a Dictator

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I’ve been reading this book, Waltzing with a Dictator, by Raymond Bonner about the Marcoses and their relationship with the US government.  I’ve probably started the book more than a month ago but I still haven’t finished it.  Not that the book isn’t good, but its contents are quite heavy on facts and very disturbing for me.

I normally read novels, fiction and this book is not something I would read for fun.  I never liked history when I was a student and I seldom read about it.  Recently, however, I’ve been more interested in history, even to the extent of watching the History channel.  It’s more interesting now and I’m surprised by my ignorance and would like to be more knowledgeable about it.

So anyway, about the book, I’m seeing the Philippines in a new light as I’m reading the book.  I was born during martial law but I never really knew how different life is before martial law and after.  The book has/is giving me insights into how martial law has affected so many people.  I do know about the disparity between the rich and the poor and how corruption has taken place but now I’m learning about the extent of this corruption and the details of the human rights violations that occurred.

I’m wondering what would have happened to the Philippines had martial law not been supported by the international community.  I wonder how different life would be if the US had denied support to the Marcoses.  I wonder how many lives would have been saved had people with power followed their consciences.

But what is more surprising is how we as a nation have forgotten all that had happened in those 20 years.  There’s talk about burying Marcos as a hero.  His family are holding key government positions.  The payments for their victims are a mere token and I’m sure their wealth is still hidden and readily available to them.

I wonder when will we learn the lessons that history has taught us?  When will we have a government that is truly accountable to the people?  When will the gap between the rich and the poor narrow?  When will the majority of the national budget go to the majority of the people instead of the pockets of the few?  When will justice be blind instead of being blinded by money and power?

These are all tough questions.  I believe in forgiving but not forgetting.  We should not forget what happened.  We should remember the lessons of the past and this should guide us in shaping the future.