The Very Spring and Root

An engineer's adventures in education (and other musings).

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The Food Album

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I realized that my phone’s SD card was getting full, and so went on a photo purge. I realized that a good number of my photos appear to be of food, more than of people. Say what you will about my priorities, but I didn’t want to lose this delicious collection.

So I’m uploading selected food related photos on my phone to one album. It’s a blend of Sri Lankan (my family), Puerto Rican (my girlfriend’s family) and any delectable moments at home we felt like capturing. Enjoy!


Subha aluth aurudha

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My mother and I drive into a run-down neighborhood of the river-port city of West Sacramento, and find parking on the side of the street. A yard for freight truck cabs is next door, and across the street I can see a dilapidated motel and an industrial warehouse. But in the rough is a diamond of spirituality and community.

Two small houses share a large strip of property that carves a long rectangle out of this blue collar suburb. Small Buddhist flags hang from the awnings, and the garage door of one of the houses is emblazoned with a dharma wheel. Monks trapse between the houses in their orange robes. Two scents combine to extend a powerful sensory welcome — I associate both incense and curry with home, family, and tradition.

I had never been to my parents’ temple before today.

American Buddhist Seminary in Sacramento serves as the spiritual and social center for the Sri Lankan community living around California’s capitol. I would consider myself fairly well connected to the community through family functions, dinner parties, camping trips, and a few lay Buddhist ceremonies. However, visiting the temple was a new experience.

ABS was founded in 1996 as center for Buddhist study and practice in Sacramento. It also serves to train Therevada monks from Sri Lanka and Thailand for seminary work here in the United States; teaching the dhamma here in American can present significant linguistic and cultural challenges for foreign-born monks.

The Seminary is expanding. Recent architectural drawings are on the wall for a new temple — complete with a meditation garden and community room — that will expand into the now largely vacant ground behind the houses.

These photographs were taken during the New Year blessings (puja) ceremony. As the Sinhalese say: subha aluth aurudha… have a blessed new year!

All photos are copyright Nalin A. Ratnayake. Please request permission to use them.

Chiles Secos

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Dried chiles for sale in Grand Central Market, Los Angeles. (C)2013 Nalin A. Ratnayake
Dried chiles for sale in Grand Central Market, Los Angeles. (C)2013 Nalin A. Ratnayake

Many people claim to have seen LA, when they think of Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Newport, Malibu, Hollywood, and Disneyland — none of which are actually in Los Angeles.

The real heart of LA, I think, is in places like the old Jewelry District, Union Station, the Bradbury Building, fifties diners that never changed the decor, the La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora, $3 margaritas from a guy who doesn’t speak English, and, like this photo, Grand Central Market.

Earlier this week, I found myself unexpectedly back in Los Angeles. My brother had been waitlisted for a west coast location to take his clinical board exam for medical school, and the LA opportunity came up on two days notice. While he was in his day-long clinical, I got a chance to show my parents around my favorite places in Los Angeles, including Grand Central.

Grand Central Market is a place of fresh produce, specialty merchants, and the tantalizing mix of smells from a diverse array of Latin and Asian food vendors.

I chose to share the dried chili stand because I think it captures the vibrancy of color, mercantile feel, and earthy mix of the familiar and exotic that epitomize how I feel about the Market.

Jamaica Pond in April

Some photos from this morning’s walk around Jamaica Pond for my 2013 photography project. This year seems to be rapidly disappearing. I think last I checked it was February and I’m not sure what happened. March was a joke. This morning I was still kicking myself for missing March for the project, and wasn’t going to let April slide by as well. So here it is… lovely, lovely Boston spring. It’s been SOOOOOOO HARD to get any work done with the weather as nice as it has been the last couple of weeks…

IMG_1098_130428 IMG_1102_130428 IMG_1114_130428 IMG_1097_130428

Jamaica Pond in February

I’ve been getting behind on my 2013 photography project to document Jamaica Pond through photos every month this year. I actually missed March in the craziness of prepping for my BTR Spring Gateway, so alas you cannot see the early stages of the lovely way Boston unfurls in spring. However, I do have (belatedly processed) February and (just taken this morning) April for you!

The winter of 2012-13 was a tumultuous one for Boston, with the whole region repeatedly weathering winter storm after winter storm. In February, a vigorous Category 3 Nor’easter (erroneously called Nemo) delivered hurricane-force winds and a whole lot of snowfall to New England. Boston Public Schools declared snow day after glorious snow day as the city struggled to dig itself out from the 24.9 inches of wet snow. Here are some photos from the aftermath at Jamaica Pond.

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Jamaica Pond in January

Got a great start on my 2013 photography project of documenting Jamaica Pond month by month. It was a beautiful (though cold) morning here in Boston, perfect for heading to the pond with my friend Jeanette for a photo walk. Adventures were had. As promised, I’m posting some of my favorite shots from today.

The outer edges of the pond are sheathed in a thin layer of ice, which gives way to water towards the middle. Some of the thicker ice supports chunks of snow. This shot tries to capture the interface between the three zones (snowy ice, thin ice, and water:

ISO-200, 1/500, f/4.5, 105mm

In retrospect, I think I should have lowered the f-stop some to get more depth of field. I think I still had it on aperture priority from photographing something up close and forgot to change it (hence the visibly narrow DoF).

There were plenty of ducks out there, puttering about on the freezing water… I really liked the arc of ice leading up to them in this one:

ISO-100, 1/250, f/9, 68mm
ISO-100, 1/250, f/9, 68mm, red filter

I switched to monochrome mode with a red filter in order to darken the water — makes the contrast bolder.

Now, here’s your moment of zen for the day:

ISO-200, 1/500, f/4.5, 105mm
ISO-200, 1/500, f/4.5, 105mm

I used a wide aperture and long focal length to really try and isolate the leaf sitting on a patch of ice.

Finally, here’s a shot of Jeanette taking a shot of the boathouse:

ISO-200, 1/1600, f/3.5, 28mm
ISO-200, 1/1600, f/3.5, 28mm, no filter

So, the 1/1600 shutter speed is overkill and the wide aperture does nothing useful… I think I just took it without bothering to check anything. Despite the apparently spontaneous nature of the shot setup, I do like this one. The vertical black of Jeanette’s figure and the horizontal white of the winterized sailboats from the boathouse are an interesting juxtaposition. I also like how it looks as if I had tree branches in my face… I did.

Plenty more from today, but that’s all I’ll post for now… Can’t wait until the next excursion! I’m so glad already that I took on this project.