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Inspirational Quote of the Day

"Growth is not built around a life of ease but through a/the path of discomfort." —Unknown

Monday, December 22, 2014


The title of this book says it all. I couldn't resist making it a part of my personal library when my friend, M. B., mentioned it in one of our conversations. I bought a used copy from Better World Books for only $3.98, and the book—previously owned by the Sara Hightower Regional Library—is as good as new. What a great bargain!

THE MAN WHO LOVED BOOKS TOO MUCH by Allison Hoover Bartlett

Unrepentant book thief Gilkey has stolen a fortune in rare books from around the country. Yet unlike most thieves, who steal for profit, Gilkey steals for lovethe love of books. Perhaps equally obsessive is Ken Sanders, the self-appointed "bibliodick" driven to catch him. Following this eccentric cat-and-mouse chase with a mixture of suspense, insight, and humor, Allison Hoover Bartlett plunges the reader deep into a rich world of fanatical book lust and considers what it is that makes some people willing to stop at nothing to possess the titles they love.

Have you read it? Do share your thoughts about the book!


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Sunday, December 21, 2014

PABLO NERUDA: Nobel Prize-Winning Poet

This wonderful book, Pablo Neruda: Nobel Prize-Winning Poet by David Goodnough, is one of the 13 books I bought from Better World Books as part of my 2014 Annual Book Binge.

At a young age, Pablo Neruda knew that he had a gift for writing, but he probably never dreamed that his poetry would make such a difference throughout the world. As a prominent figure in South America throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Neruda strongly believed in political self-expression. His poems during this period, and throughout his life, express the dreams and frustrations common to all people.

In Pablo Neruda: Nobel Prize-Winning Poet, author David Goodnough traces the life of Chile's honored citizen from his young days as a romance poet, to his life as a politician turned exile. Neruda won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1971, and after returning to Chile, was appointed ambassador to France. Even after his death, Neruda's works are read throughout the world, and his achievements have been remembered in books, literature, and in the film Il Postino.

I hadn't plan to read it so soon and certainly not in one sitting, but I did just that today. My cat, Trio, had decided to take a super long evening nap on my lap and my laptop died on me (the battery ran out of juice), so I was immobilized with a black screen and a fur-ball on my lap. I took a look around me, locked my eyes on the pile of Pablo Neruda books just by my side and picked this one out.

Before reading this book, I only know of Neruda as a romantic poet who was very good with words, and women loved him. After reading this book, I am enlightened. He was not only a great poet but also a politician that was actively involved, persecuted and exiled for his political involvement. In his boyhood, his literary interest and prowess did not receive his father's blessing and appreciation. Pablo Neruda's real name was Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto and to conceal his published writings from his father, he decided to change his name. His choice of name is explained in this book. Despite living in poverty and in hunger, he continued to chase his dreams and ultimately his persistence led to great success. His life was very dramatic and in many ways he invited trouble.

He had an interesting love life and his most crazy encounter (at least it is to me from the reading of this book) was with a Burmese woman when he was given a diplomatic assignment in Rangoon.

He ignored their warnings and became involved so deeply "into the soul and the life of the people" that he fell in love with a native girl. She called herself Josie Bliss and she acted and dressed like and Englishwoman. In the privacy of the house they shared together, however, she donned native dress and use her Burmese name.

Unfortunately, it soon turned out that Neruda had made a mistake. Josie Bliss was possessive and jealous. She had a terrible temper and threw jealous tantrums even when Neruda received a letter or a telegram. She would admit no outsiders into their life together. Sometimes he would wake up at night to see her, dressed all in white, circling his bed with a knife in her hand. (page 41)

I'm glad I also bought Memoirs, Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, Neruda at Isla Negra, and The Captain's Verses (Bilingual in Spanish and English).

His Memoirs were published shortly after his death and were immediately translated into major languages. He died of a heart attack on September 23, 1973 (I was born on September 25, 1977). As for The Captain's Verses (Los versos del capitán), he completed the book of poems on the beautiful island of Capri, Italy, while seeking refuge from his exile together with his beloved Matilde Urrutia. The book was a series of passionate love poems that expressed his devotion for her. Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada) was published when he was twenty years old. One of the unforgettable lines from the book is Es tan corto el amor, y es tan largo el olvido (Love is so short, and forgetting is so long). I can't wait to read all of them.

This 128-page book is a great introduction to the life of Pablo Neruda. Loved it! I also bought My Life with Pablo Neruda by Matilde Urrutia. I have started reading the Preface and found their relationship to be one of the most interesting love stories I've ever read.

Read also: Poema 1 from Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada


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Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Park: Reggia di Caserta in Southern Italy

Come with me to the Reggia di Caserta! The Royal Palace of Caserta is a former royal residence in Caserta, southern Italy, constructed for the Bourbon kings of Naples.

The back façade of the palace

It is the largest royal residence in the world with over 2 million m³ and covers an area of 47,000 m². In 1997, the palace was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, described in its nomination as "the swan song of the spectacular art of the Baroque, from which it adopted all the features needed to create the illusions of multidirectional space" (Wikipedia).

In this post, we will take a stroll at the parco! The 120 ha park is also inspired by the park of Versailles. It starts from the back façade of the palace, flanking a long alley with artificial fountains and cascades. Then, in the next post we will visit inside the Palace (it's one of the most beautiful things I've seen in my life).

Peeking through one of the arches. I was heading towards the park. It's a HUGE and majestic park!

Oh look, a horse carriage!

What a beautiful horse!

A fiery red dragon fly.

I love bicycle... In the background is the grand cascade.

That's me at the Fountain of the Dolphins!

I'm heading towards the Grand Cascade right at the top there...

There are many beautiful sculptures such as these along the way. More pictures below.

This is the origin of selfie...

A couple and a loner

I think these guys saw something...

It's a Carabinieri helicopter!

She also saw it.

Apparently this guy saw the helicopter too!

I was stalking this little gecko.

The majestic view from above. And the palace weeeeee in the background.

Did you know that the Caserta Palace has been used as a filming location in a number of movie productions?
  •  In 1997 it served as a filming location for Star Wars when it was used as the setting for Queen Amidala's royal palace on Naboo in the 1999 film Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. It featured again in the 2002 film Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones as Queen Jamilla's palace.
  • The same room was also used in Mission: Impossible III as Vatican City. In the film, a Lamborghini car is blown up in a square inside the palace.
  • The main staircase is also used in Angels & Demons as the Vatican's staircase.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Finds: Pablo Neruda (Part 2)

The Pablo Neruda book pile from

The book box from arrived two days ago and I collected it from the courier office yesterday, just in time for the week's Thursday Text! For the full list of the book titles, please check out my post on November 28...


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Thursday, December 18, 2014


Today, I'd like to share a poem from one of the best book of love poems ever written, Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada by Pablo Neruda (ISBN: 9789561602793). I'm sharing from page 13 of Poema 1. I'm also including the English edition, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (ISBN: 9780811803205), translated from the Spanish by W. S. Merwin.

I love this beautiful cover!

This book (along with 12 other Pablo Neruda books) arrived today; I collected them from the courier office. What a perfect timing for Thursday Text! This box of books is the first of the few that are all part of my 2014 Annual Book Binge. Although I had to lug the book box with me to my MBA class after collecting it, I was super happy to do so. Today's class is the final one for the year for the module Leading Organization. (Read the post about all my Pablo Neruda books here.) For now, I hope you'll enjoy Poema 1 in both  Spanish and English!

Poema 1

Cuerpo de mujer, blancas colinas, muslos blancos,
te pareces al mundo en tu actitud de entrega.
Mi cuerpo de labriego salvaje te socava
y hace saltar el hijo del fondo de la tierra.

Fui solo como un túnel. De mí huían los páraros
y en mí la noche entraba su invasión poderosa.
Para sobrevivirme te forjé como un arma,
como una flecha en mi arco, como una piedra en mi honda.

Pero cae la hora de la venganza, y te amo.
Cuerpo de piel, de musgo, de leche ávida y firme.
Ah los vasos del pecho! Ah los ojos de ausencia!
Ah las rosas del pubis! Ah tu voz lenta y triste!

Cuerpo de mujer mía, persistiré en tu gracia.
Mi sed, mi ansia sin límite, mi camimo indeciso!
Oscuros cauces donde la sed eterna sigue, 
y la fatiga sigue, y el dolor infinito.

Poem 1
Body of a Woman

Body of a woman, white hills, white thighs,
you look like a world, lying in surrender.
My rough peasant's body digs in you
and makes the son leap from the depth of the earth.

I was alone like a tunnel. The birds fled from me,
and night swamped me with its crushing invasion.
To survive myself I forged you like a weapon,
like an arrow in my bow, a stone in my sling.

But the hour of vengeance falls, and I love you.
Body of skin, of moss, of eager and firm milk.
Oh the goblets of the breast! Oh the eyes of absence!
Oh the roses of the pubis! Oh your voice, slow and sad!

Body of my woman, I will persist in your grace.
My thirst, my boundless desire, my shifting road!
Dark river-beds where the eternal thirst flows
and weariness follows, and the infinite ache.

Have you read this Twenty Love Poems? What do you think of it?


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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Saylor Academy and My (FREE!) Art History Major

I made a wonderful discovery today about Saylor Academy. It offers tuition-free courses (similar to Coursera), created by credentialed educators and partners with colleges, universities, and businesses to make truly affordable credentials a reality. One more learning option in the pipeline for me for completion!

The immediate difference that I see between Coursera and Saylor is that I get to enroll for a full discipline, for example, an Art History major, which is precisely what I did. It's really awesome!

So now this is how my enrollment looks like.

Here I chose all the relevant courses for the Art History major I planned to pursue. The Art History page will explain the core modules you'll need to enroll for (these are the default modules), and the electives to complete in order to obtain the knowledge equivalent of a major.

It also says, It is strongly encouraged that students pursuing a major in Art History be literate in French, German, or Italian, as well as any other language that is appropriate to their area of specialization,so my knowledge of Italian (at least for now my fluency in Italian—one of the few languages mentioned here) can be put to good use. 

If you are wondering about the core modules (compulsory) and electives (the ones in bold are the ones I've selected), I've outlined them here.
ARTH101: Art Appreciation and Techniques
ARTH110: Introduction to Western Art History: Pre-historic to High Gothic
ARTH111: Introduction to Western Art History: Proto-Renaissance to Contemporary Art
ARTH301: Art Historical Methodologies

ARTH201: Art of Ancient Egypt and the Ancient Near East
ARTH202: Art of Ancient Greece and Rome
ARTH206: The Italian Proto-Renaissance To Mannerism
ARTH207: Baroque Art to Neoclassicism
ARTH208: Modern Art
ARTH209: 20th Century Art
ARTH210: American Art
ARTH303: Art of the Islamic World
ARTH304: African Art
ARTH305: Arts of Asia
ARTH307: Arts of Latin America
ARTH401: Early Christian and Byzantine Art
ARTH406: Buddhist Art
ARTH408: Contemporary Art
ARTH409: Roman Architecture

I can see that it is a very structured way of learning and the content outlines are well presented.

This course should take you approximately 143.75 hours to complete. Each unit includes a time advisory that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each sub-unit, as shown in this screenshot for module ARTH101.

In order to pass this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the Final Exam. The official grade will be released on the Final Exam. To adequately prepare for this exam, you will need to work through the assignments and assessments.

All these for FREE! What a great way to spend one's time on pursuing one's interest and earning a qualification at the same time! Other areas of studies are also offered such as business administration, mechanical engineering, mathematics, English literature, and many more, so... if you're curious about, please visit their website here.

How I came to know about Saylor. I was researching for my MBA for the topic on leadership, and decided to pay MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) a visit because I remembered reading a long time ago from Scott Young's blog about his MIT Challenge and that MIT offers free courses. I thought perhaps I, too, would be able to find some relevant materials for my additional MBA readings.

My search brought me to MIT Open Courseware, which then to Open Education Consortium, and finally to And what a gem I've found—a whole major on Art History! I can now satisfy my curiosity about art without spending a bomb although I did spend some last week for books from Better World Books on the same topic (read post about my 2014 Annual Book Binge here).

If you're currently a student with Saylor, please share your experience in the 'Post a Comment' section down below!


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Monday, December 15, 2014

Mailbox Monday: Art

I found this week's gems at the Popular Bookstore in Queensbay Mall, Penang, at a great bargain! I paid RM40 for both books (RM20 each; approximately US$6). The best part is these books fit in so well with my Italianissimo collection in conjunction with my 2014 Annual Book Binge!

We would like to take you into the extraordinary world of Leonardo da Vinci...

...and tell you of an enquiring free spirit who, seeing nature as the great teacher, united art and science in his works; of nocturnal dissections and daring engineering designs; of a sensationally famous Last Supper that began to fade away as soon as it was finished; of a lady whose mysterious smile has captivated millions but above all a great genius whose works still move and fascinate us today.

Choosing ten symbols from the natural world (the sun, the shell, the bird) and ten man-made (the window, the book, the mirror), Françoise Barbe-Gall illuminates our understanding of how these have been used and developed in art from the fifteenth to the twenty-first century, with sixty-eight wonderfully vivid examples.

Painting has always made abundant use of forms and objects to convey abstract ideas: love, hope for eternal life, loyalty or betrayal. These recurring motifs, which were familiar to many in the past, have mostly become mysterious to the audiences of today. Today's art-lover will have to learn to look out for all the small things that can so easily seem like unimportant details, or simply decoration. But a flower, a reflection in a mirror or a bird in flight nearly always mean more than they first appear to.

From Holbein's apple of knowledge to the black cat at the foot of Manet's Olympia, from Magritte's mysterious candles to Georgia O'Keeffe's flowers, this book shows how each work makes use of the language of symbols in an original and more meaningful way. 


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Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Bilingual Brain: Concluding Thoughts

I have today finished a Coursera course called The Bilingual Brain conducted by Professor Arturo E. Hernandez from the University of Houston System. See also my Friday post about the course.

I know I'm supposed to be reading up on my MBA assignment and be ready for tomorrow's evening class, but I couldn't resist the urge to complete this one instead. Language is something very close to my heart and learning the latest research related to how we humans learn one or two languages and other cognitive skills is too much of a temptation to me. It's better to get The Bilingual Brain out of my system (in a good way, of course!), so that I can free up my mind to tackle my MBA stuff. (I did finish—today—a Pocket Mentor book by Harvard Business Press about Managing Change...)

Coming back to The Bilingual Brain. I really like what the Prof said in his final lecture video for the series. Let's ponder on this for a bit...

"How does the brain process more than one language? And I think a lot of the answers to those types of questions, can be thought of and understood better, when we think about it as a biological process. And we take a biological approach. So rather than thinking that, for example, there's a Spanish, or an English, or a Portuguese, or a German place in my brain, we could think of it as my brain has a state that it's in when I'm speaking one language or the other.

So, rather than thinking about a discreet type of system, one in which we have different places for each language, we can think of language as being a brain state. So, there is no Spanish or English place in my brain. There is a Spanish state and an English state, a configuration of activity that occurs as a wave across my entire brain as I speak one language or the other."

I sat for the final exam today consisting of 59 multiple-choice questions and passed with flying colors!

The course has just been extended to 15 February 2015, so if you're interested to participate, you can still join the class here.


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Friday, December 12, 2014

"Alice liked the Crocodile very much, so she read in Italian too." —Maurizio de Giovanni Official Fan Club - USA

Yesterday on Thursday Text, I posted about Maurizio de Giovanni's IL METODO DEL COCCODRILLO and today look what I've found?... My post is mentioned on the author's Official Fan Club Facebook page. Happy me!


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The Bilingual Brain: Thoughts

I found out from The Bilingual Brain* by Arturo E. Hernandez that language development continues to happen until the 40’s. The left temporal lobe of our brain, which is involved in language, seems to show maturation up to age 40.

One more interesting finding is that when we are wee babies, our brains produce more brain cells (or neurons) than when we are adults. Naturally, there are more connections between these over-produced neurons (or synapses). We have lots of these little guys at our disposal ready for connection and ready to communicate with each other, AND check this out—because of the overproduction, the neurons and synapses actually get pruned back. They get reduced.

After watching this 18-minute lecture video, my brain went into hyper mode. So, okay... Nature does it this way: first the overproduction, then the pruning. I became very hopeful and immediately link this to my language projects and the various other stuff I'm working on. Here's what I'm thinking...

What does this mean? Two facts are in our hands: language maturation up to age 40, and overproduction of neurons and synapses being pruned and reduced on-the-go as we age. This means, for language lovers, GO FOR IT! Learn that language (or those languages) you’ve always been wanting to. Slow down the pruning! Build more “connections” (for the brain and for your network).

Speaking of network, here’s a nice little graphic I found on the Internet. It's a mind map on neurons and synapses.

Source: 1001 ways to learn

Networking happens, too, in your brain and mine! Physiologically (our bodily functions; for example, our brains in this post) or physically where we build social and professional networks in our lives. My take is, use these neurons! Prevent further decline! Work with nature to create our best self and mind!

From a very young age, I have always love languages and will always love languages. I have made it my life mission to continue to feed the fire and satisfy my curiosity in world languages. I may not be a professional linguist but when I am able to communicate well and connect with the people in the world I’m living in, I consider myself a success. (It's a bonus, too, if I do turn into a linguist!)

*More about The Bilingual Brain: This is a free course on Coursera (if you haven't tried Coursera you must, and you have nothing to lose!). The lectures are given by Professor Arturo E. Hernandez from the University of Houston System. The course examines the three issues are age of acquisition, language proficiency, and cognitive control. Click here for course details.

This course explores the brain bases of bilingualism by discussing literature relevant to differences in age of initial learning, proficiency, and control in the nonverbal, single language and dual-language literature. Participants will learn about the latest research related to how humans learn one or two languages and other cognitive skills.

Related Post: My First Coursera Certificate


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