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[caption id="attachment_4360" align="alignright" width="450" caption="Bull fighting in Spain (image from www.notsoboringlife.com)"]Bull fighting in Spain (image from www.notsoboringlife.com)[/caption] A Tradition of Cruelty The magnificent animals who slip and slide on the streets of Pamplona during the “Running of the Bulls” are later barbarically killed – all in the name of “tradition”. Torturing and killing a defenceless animal should not be celebrated as tradition. People have always tried to use tradition to justify horrible things, such as child labour and slavery. But tradition doesn’t make something right. Bullfighting is a cruel blood sport that should have been relegated to the history books a long time ago. No matter what its history is, bullfighting consists of the torture, mutilation and slaughter of animals for entertainment. The ‘Running of the Bulls’ Bulls are bred in fields and are not accustomed to the noise of the crowd or being surrounded by people. They are kept in crowded, dark enclosures, and when they are prodded onto the streets with electric shocks, they are momentarily blinded by the sunlight. They are terrified and are hit by runners with rolled up newspapers. The corners of the bulls’ route are quite sharp, and the animals often lose their footing and slide into walls, breaking bones and injuring themselves. All the bulls who slip and slide on the streets of Pamplona are running towards a bloody and horrific death in the bullring. Bullfights Each year, more than 40,000 bulls are barbarically slaughtered in Spain’s bullrings. Most foreign visitors who witness a bullfight never wish to see one again. They are repulsed, disgusted and saddened by the cruelty of the spectacle. At best, the term “bullfighting” is a misnomer, as there is usually little competition between a nimble sword-wielding matador (Spanish for “killer”) and a confused, maimed, psychologically tormented and physically debilitated bull. One of the biggest supporters of bullfighting is the tourist industry. Travel agents and bullfight promoters portray the fight as a festive and fair competition. What they do not reveal is that the bull never has a chance to defend himself, much less to survive. Bulls are intentionally debilitated by various means, such as having sandbags dropped on their backs. Drugging is also very common. A study conducted by scientists at Spain’s Salamanca University found that 20 per cent of the bulls used for fighting are drugged before they step into the ring. In a sampling of 200 bulls, one in five had been given anti-inflammatory drugs, which mask injuries that could sap animals’ strength. Another common practice is to “shave” bulls’ horns by sawing off a few inches. Bulls’ horns, like cats’ whiskers, help the animals navigate, so a sudden change impairs their coordination. Shaving is illegal, so the horns are sometimes inspected by a veterinarian after a fight. In 1997, the Confederation of Bullfighting Professionals – which includes Spain’s 230 matadors – went on strike in opposition to these veterinary inspections. [caption id="attachment_4363" align="alignleft" width="533" caption="Running of the bulls (Photo credit: Jerome Lescure)"]Running of the bulls (Photo credit: Jerome Lescure)[/caption] In a typical bullfight, the bull enters the arena and is approached by picadors – men on blindfolded horses who drive lances into the bull’s back and neck muscles. This impairs the bull’s ability to lift his head. They twist and gouge the lances to ensure a significant amount of blood loss. Then banderilleros enter on foot and proceed to distract the bull and dart around him while plunging banderillas – bright sticks with harpoon points on their ends – into his back. When the bull has become weakened from blood loss, the banderilleros run the bull in more circles until he is dizzy and stops chasing. Finally, the matador appears and, after provoking a few exhausted charges from the dying animal, tries to kill the bull with his sword. If he misses, succeeding only in further mutilating the animal, an executioner is called in to stab the exhausted and submissive animal to death. The dagger is supposed to cut the animal’s spinal cord, but even this can be blundered, leaving the bull conscious but paralysed as he is chained by his horns and dragged out of the arena. If the crowd is happy with the matador, the bull’s ears and tail are cut off and presented as a trophy. A few minutes later, another bull enters the arena and the sadistic cycle starts again. It is a very cowardly event. The matador has the choice to be there – the bull does not. From the moment he enters the ring from the dark alleyway where he is kept, the bull doesn’t stand a chance. He may be weakened by beatings with sandbags, have the muscles in his neck cut in order to prevent him from lifting his head up all the way, be debilitated with laxatives, have his horns shaved or have petroleum jelly rubbed into his eyes in order to alter his ability to judge distance.

[caption id="attachment_4350" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="The missing piece - by CJ"][/caption] 'Who are you?' asked the missing piece. 'I am the Big O,' said the Big O. 'I think you are the one I have been waiting for,' said the missing piece. 'Maybe I am your missing piece.' 'But I am not missing a piece,' said the Big O. 'There is no place you would fit.' 'That is too bad,' said the missing piece. 'I was hoping that perhaps I could roll with you...

[caption id="attachment_4340" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Station Kiss / Copenhagen Central Station (photo by Mikael Colville-Andersen)"][/caption] 美国教育学家威廉·杜朗曾经现身说法,揭示幸福的含义,他是这样寻找幸福的: 他想从金钱里寻找幸福,认为只要有足够的金钱就可以得到幸福的生活。可是金钱并没有使他感到幸福,他得到的只是烦恼; 他想从感情中寻找幸福,结果他和意中人分道扬镳,和好朋友反目成仇,他得到的只是悲伤; 他想从旅行中寻找幸福,结果走遍了世界,踏遍了千山万水,他得到的只是疲惫。 他尝试着用了几乎所有他能想到的方法来寻找幸福,到最后才发现都是一场空。 疲惫的他打算放弃寻找了。然而,有一天,在火车站,他看到一个少妇,抱着一个熟睡的婴儿,坐在一辆小汽车里。这时,一位中年男子从刚刚进站的火车上走下来,来到汽车旁。他深情吻了一下妻子,又在婴儿的额头上轻轻地吻了一下,生怕惊醒了婴儿。然后,一家人开车离去了。 看到这一幕,这位教育家恍然大悟,原来幸福就是如此简单。我们当下所拥有的快乐的生活,就是人生最大的幸福。 [source: http://hi.baidu.com/lkxian/blog/item/77426fd1733e0384a0ec9ccb.html]...

[caption id="attachment_4331" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Woman at Stream (oil painting by Katherine Taylor)"][/caption] A wise woman who was traveling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream. The next day she met another traveler who was hungry, and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him. She did so without hesitation. The traveler left, rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime. But, a few days later, he came back to return...

Before posting my trip to Krabi with friends, let me share the amazing journey of Perry Gan to north Sulawesi for underwater scuba diving trip. Perry is a friendly and nice guy I know and also an amateur photographer and diver (that was what he told me humbly, though he just got his PADI master diver qualification). I met Perry in photonian's gathering and that was when he shared his interesting diving experiences and underwater photos he took. After having chat with him, I discovered that Perry is also a nature lover and always encourages others to protect nature and preserve life. Two weeks ago when I met Perry again, he shared some underwater photos he took during scuba diving. Those shots are really fascinating. So I made a request to post his photos sharing with other friends and he agreed. More to that, he also shared with me this tale of the two sites (Bunaken and Lembeh) in northern Sulawesi of Indonesia which he experienced. This is the story of a wonderful marine park, some interesting people and a remarkable adventure: [caption id="attachment_4191" align="aligncenter" width="615" caption="Surface Interval: 3rd Row: See Hian and Greg 2nd Row: Tee, Lee, Helen, Siong, Teng, Perry, Jack. 1st Row: Lily, Ginn and Loy"]Surface Interval: 3rd Row: See Hian and Greg 2nd Row: Tee, Lee, Helen, Siong, Teng, Perry, Jack. 1st Row: Lily, Ginn and Loy[/caption] North Sulawesi has long been hailed as one of the finest dive destinations our world has to offer. Being a rookie I had come to this place with a brimful of dreamy images conjured up from the centerfolds of diving magazines. Wanting nothing more than to bookmark the flora and fauna; and to put ticks next to images in fish ID books, I ended up getting much more than what I had hoped for. I returned with a very different outlook on the reefs and the sea and now consider myself a convert as well as a macro aficionado. [caption id="attachment_4179" align="alignright" width="443" caption="Spinecheek Anemone fish"]Spinecheek Anemone fish[/caption] Bunaken and Lembeh, are definitely more than meet the eyes. These are places where the incredible and unusal come together. It is perhaps premature and presumptuous for a newbie to crown this place with such superlatives, not having been to that many dive destinations around the world. I, however, found it simply impossible not to be in awe of the grace and diversity of the sea. What I saw and experienced had enriched me as a diver, as well as made me a human being much more appreciative of the world he lives in. Here is an account of my "fun-tabulous" and "muck-elicious" trip... Back in May 2008 when I confirmed going on this trip, I had only logged about 50 dives. While in Redang, Tee took me to Sandy Bottom to do my first muck dive. That particular dive yielded many surprises. Apart from the sighting of a pretty sea horse, there was also a tiny painted frog fish, apparently a first in Redang. I was also made acutely aware that buoyancy skill was the determining factor to a good muck dive. A good "honing" session with Tee during that trip proved invaluable. I later found out that I was actually going with a bunch of "old salts" with an average of 300 dives under their belts. Although a little concerned about how I would measure up, this bunch of "EAD"s proved my worries unfounded and were in fact lots of fun to be with. (EAD: an acronym only known to this particular group, should hopefully be explained to me on my next trip to Anilao.)

[caption id="attachment_4278" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Xiao-Bao the kitty on couch"]Xiao-Bao the kitty on couch[/caption] Since my mom adopts and provides shelter to unwanted cats, I always wanted to have portraits of these cats. I was however being lazy and so missed out many opportunities to get the best moments of these adorable cats. At last I got a chance today. While I have some free time, I saw Xiao-Bao (Chinese, which means little precious), one of my family’s favorite kitties lying lazily on the couch. It came to my mind suddenly to snap photos of a kitty. Immediately setting up the table lamp and using a white board as a reflector, I was preparing to snap some photos of Xiao-Bao while it still didn’t know what I was trying to do. Unlike human, taking photos of pets is not easy; pets won’t pose to camera. And if you force it to, it would become irritated and try to escape from you. Patience is definitely virtue and no doubt when it comes to photographing pets. Too there is an advantage of photographing pets, they are 'naturally' natural. When I was photographing Xiao-Bao, I had to keep it as comfortable and at ease as possible, and waited for best moments to press the shutter. Initially the light source irritated Xiao-Bao and it tried to run away from the couch. Fortunately, my mom and sister helped me to pamper and calm the kitty while I tried to capture its photos. I took my time and enjoyed this session. Eventually Xiao-Bao became tired and fall asleep, then I took a few shots of its nap and ended the shooting. The shots turn out to be ok, but there is space of improvement which can help me sharpen my skill in pet's portrait photography in future. Special thanks to Xiao-Bao although it might not know what was going on, and also my mom and sister for helping me. May all beings be happy. More photos after the jump: