Questions on Buddhism

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Buddhism

How did the religion begin?
Buddhism began about 2,600 years ago when an Indian prince saw four signs that made him think deeply about the meaning and purpose of life. He saw an old man, a sick man, a dead man, and a monk. When he saw an old man he thought, “Although I am young now, definitely I will become old one day, so I am no different to that old man.” When he saw a sick man he thought, “Although I am healthy now, one day I will get sick.” When he saw a dead man he thought, “One day I will die. This is certain.” When he saw a monk he thought, “This man is not just enjoying life like most people, but is trying to find out the meaning and purpose of life. I should also become a monk and find out why everyone has to get old, get sick, and die. So the young prince left his wife and new-born son to become a monk.

How many times a day would you meditate and for what reasons? 
I would meditate whenever there was nothing else that needed to be done. Even while doing things that had to be done, I would try to do them mindfully. Doing things mindfully is a kind of meditation.

Do you have a free lifestyle?
What is freedom? Does it mean that you can do whatever you want and have whatever you want? Or does it mean that you enjoy whatever you do, and like whatever you have?

A monk has to follow 227 rules. Every aspect of his life is regulated by rules laid down by the Buddha. However, because the Buddha fully understood about happiness and suffering, these rules are designed to help us find happiness and to avoid suffering. The better one follows the Buddha’s rules, the freer and happier one will be.

How long have you been a monk?
I became a monk in June 1979, nearly 41 years ago, when I was 26 years old.

What is the definition of enlightenment?
I would say that enlightenment is being free from mental defilements like greed, anger, and foolishness. An enlightened person never does anything that causes suffering to others, nor to himself or herself, because he or she has no greed, no anger, and no foolishness. In brief, an enlightened person is always wise, kind, patient, and happy.

How do you get to Nibbāna?
Nibbāna is not a place or a realm of existence like heaven, but one can “get it” even in this very life if one meditates very seriously. You can also get a “mini nibbāna” every time you give up wanting something that you don’t really need. Say, for example, you want a computer game or a new bicycle, but your mum says, “It’s too expensive.” If you still want it, but you cannot get it, then you suffer, don’t you? However, if you think wisely, you will realise that it is not so important after all. After a while you won’t even think about getting it. You will be free from suffering as soon as you give up wanting it, wont you?

How long do you meditate for at one time?
We can meditate for as little as one minute, or even less. Whenever we realise that we are getting angry or selfish or silly, we can stop right there and look at our silly mind. When we look at the mind, like looking at our face in the mirror, then we can see if it is dirty or not. If it is dirty, we should clean it, shouldn’t we?

Why do you shave your head?
Shaving the head is one way for people to know that we are a monk. It is a kind of symbolism.

Why do you wear robes? 
The robes are also an easy way for people to recognise us. They are designed to be very simple to make, to a standard design. Even after 2,600 years there hasn’t been any change to the fashion of Buddhist monks’ robes.

Can you marry whoever you want?
Buddhist monks do not marry at all, but other Buddhists can marry non-Buddhists if they wish. When getting married it is important to choose someone with similar aims to oneself. Married life can be difficult enough anyway. If both husband and wife are Buddhists it might be a bit easier.

Why don’t you live in houses?
When the Buddha first started teaching, he lived in the forest, and the first monks had no dwellings at all, apart from caves or under trees. Later, good people offered to build huts for monks to live in to shelter from bad weather. So the Buddha allowed monks to have different kinds of dwellings. Even big monasteries were allowed, but the general idea is that a monk should be content just to have shelter from the weather, and should not want a grand mansion. When building dwellings, also, a monk should take care that no destruction of living beings is involved.

Is Buddhism a religion?
It depends what you mean by religion. To me, religion means a collection of beliefs and teachings that are meant to help people live a good life and find contentment. However, to many people, religion means that you must worship God, or something else. The earliest forms of religions involved worshipping the sun, trees, mountains (like Ayers Rock), and other natural things. On his deathbed, the Buddha told his disciples that to worship or honour him, the best way was to practise his teaching very diligently. So a Buddhist who really respects and loves the Buddha, must meditate as much as possible and try to put an end to all greed, anger, and foolishness. Then he or she will become enlightened, like the Buddha. That is how a Buddhist worships the Buddha.

Does it take a lot of dedication to become a monk?
Try it and see. I suppose it does, but then I have never found anything else that I wanted to do more than to practise meditation and learn about the Buddha’s teaching so that I can help others and help myself in the process.

Is it hard only eating at certain times of the day?
Not at all — as long as people remember that we can only eat after dawn and before midday. When they don’t come in time for us to finish our meal; that can be difficult. Eating only once is much easier than eating several times. Life is so much simpler. It is one of the easiest things to get used to.

Are you happy being a Buddhist?
Real happiness is very hard find. If you watch your mind carefully, how often are you really happy? How much more often are you grumpy, sad, or disappointed? Even when you are very happy, how long does it last? Happiness wouldn’t mean anything unless there was such a thing as sadness. What do you think? If a multi-millionaire was sleeping soundly, and his servant woke him up saying, “Come on, lets have a party!” would he be happy? I don’t imagine so. He would probably be very angry and tell the servant to get another job. Although the millionaire was not enjoying any kind of music or good food, he was much happier when fast asleep. For unenlightened people, being sound asleep is the nearest they get to real happiness.

Can you eat meat?
Yes. Monks (and other Buddhists) can eat meat, as long as they have no reason to believe that an animal has been killed deliberately to provide meat for their meal. Many Buddhists are vegetarians, especially in Taiwan and India, but in Burma, Thailand, and Sri Lanka, most Buddhists eat some meat, fish, or at least eggs. It is good to be a vegetarian, but it is better to be free from attachment.

Do you feel free?
Sometimes, but not always. The more one meditates, the more one learns to control the mind, and not to be under the mind’s control. When we are under the mind’s control we are not free at all, but when we can control the mind we are free.

How do Buddhists believe the world was created?
Everything in the world happens because of a reason. There are four causes for any result: food, climate, mind, and kamma. If someone gets sick, for example, it might be because they ate the wrong kind of food, or because the weather was too hot or too cold. When people get angry too much, or worry too much, or just think too much, then they also get sick. Another reason is some action done in the past.

Are Buddhists punished if they do something wrong?
Punished is not a very good word to use. If you pick up a hot saucepan carelessly and burn your hand, is the saucepan punishing you? Of course not. It is a natural cause and a natural result. When someone steals from others, the natural result is that someone else steals from them. That result may not come at once, or might come only in another life, when they cannot remember what they did before. That is why people nearly always blame others when bad things happen to them. If they could remember exactly what they did before, they would realise that it had to happen because of a reason.

If so, how?
The law of kamma works like a pendulum. The harder you push it, the harder it swings back at you.

How do you regard other religions?
Many of the problems in the world seem to be caused by religious beliefs, but when you examine things carefully you will realise that there are only two causes for suffering: desire (or attachment) and ignorance (not understanding).

A certain foolish boy, who had never seen how wood was made from trees, went to buy some wood for his father. On the way, he spent the money on sweets. When he got to the shop he asked the shopkeeper to give him some wood. When he said he had no money, the shopkeeper told him to go and get some wood from the forest. He went there, and searched all day for some wood, but couldn’t find any. When he went home, he told his father that the shopkeeper had lied. There wasn’t any wood  anywhere in the forest, and he had wasted his whole day for nothing. People who fight about religion are like that foolish boy. They just don’t know how to get what they need.

Is the world in balance at the moment?
It is round, so I suppose it must be. The Chinese have a theory about keeping Yin and Yang in balance to maintain harmony and good health. The world is only a reflection of your own mind. Sort of like WYSIWYG. If your mind is in balance then the world is as it is. If your mind is in conflict then the world is out of balance. Therefore, try to meditate seriously and get your mind in balance. Then there won’t be any suffering at all.

Do you believe humans can and will cause life on the planet to end? 
According to Buddhism, all things come to an end when the causes that sustain them come to an end. The world is no exception. Modern astronomy can detect stars — just like our sun — being born or created, and others that are reaching the end of their life. It is a natural process. What human beings should think about is just how to put an end to the causes of suffering within them: which means craving and ignorance. The world, the universe, and everything will take care of itself.

Are men and women seen as equals within Buddhism?
If you can tell me how to measure someone, I will tell you whether they are equal to someone else or not. What kind of tape measure would you use? Physical strength? Patience? Intelligence? Beauty? Kindness? Every human being has a certain potential. Most people never fulfil their full potential. The Buddha had great potential, and also fulfilled it to the utmost. Whether we are a man or a woman, we should try to fulfil our potential.

Can you be a Muslim/Jew/Christian etc and live life in a Buddhist way?
Whatever your religion, you can try to gain wisdom. If you can gain wisdom then you will be able to “Separate the wood from the trees.” The family, culture, and religion that you are born into is not a completely random accident. There are reasons for that too. Nobody is born wise, though some might be born into a Buddhist family. Even the Buddha wasn’t born a Buddhist. His parents were not Buddhists and didn’t know how to meditate or realise nirvana until the Buddha taught them about forty years later. When he was born, the future Buddha already had great intelligence, courage, compassion, patience, honesty, and wisdom. He used these virtues, and meditated hard for six years to become Buddha. If we don’t have these virtues then we cannot live life in a Buddhist way, even if our parents, grandparents, and everyone else in our family is a “Buddhist.”

Being a true Buddhist means to be intelligent, honest, patient, courageous, kind, and wise. Then labels will no longer have the same importance.

Tesla is Defining the Future

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Current Affairs

Never mind the outstanding acceleration, low running costs, and quiet ride, there are other stronger reasons why Teslas are a game-changer in the market-place.

Watch this video on Someone Killed My Model 3 – but we’re uninjured! to see what they are:

  • Auto-updates of software whenever improvements are made
  • Structural strength to protect occupants from collisions
  • Alert sent to the company if an accident occurs.

Imagine that you’re female or an elderly driver involved in a collision on a rural road at night. The car immediately alerts Tesla to the fact that your vehicle has been involved in a collision, and someone calls your mobile to check if you need assistance. Data about the collision is collated, and improvements can be made to improve braking, autopilot, etc., then issued as updates within weeks (as happened recently when a car review site highlighted longer stopping distances).

Are Self-Driving Cars Safe?

Drivers need to understand that the current autonomous driving is driver assist, not full self-driving. Even auto-pilot on aircraft needs to be overridden by the pilot sometimes, and there are not nearly so many other close-proximity vehicles in the sky as on the road.

It may be less than a year before full self-driving is available, but it may take a few more years before regulators will permit cars on the road without a driver. The UK may take even longer to catch up with the US, but within five years I expect to see fully autonomous vehicles on the roads.

No Need to Advertise

While other car manufacturers are spending huge amounts of money on advertising and dealerships, Tesla needs neither. Tesla fans create countless videos on social media reviewing their cars, and some go to great lengths to build customised Tesla models.

Never Mind the Naysayers

Whenever a new disruptive technology appears, there are many saying that it will never catch on who are quick to point out the possible disadvantages. They do not understand the issues at all.

The Range is Too Limited¹

Currently, the range is about 300 miles on a single charge. That is adequate for daily use, but for long journeys one will have to stop to recharge. However, one should stop after driving for four hours anyway if only to take a toilet break and buy a snack. Super-chargers can add 80% of the car’s range in about half an hour.

Future battery technology will steadily increase the range and reduce the recharging time. After five years the best electric cars will go a thousand miles on one charge and recharge in fifteen minutes.

People Living in Flats won’t have Anywhere to Charge

People living in flats do not refill their petrol or diesel cars from home either. However, slow charge points could be added to street lighting columns. Plug in to charge overnight.

They Cost Too much

The initial purchase price is high, but total cost of ownership breaks-even after about five years, depending on the model and the mileage. Lower maintenance, depreciation, and insurance will mean significant savings. Tesla insurance will have a huge advantage over other companies; they have huge amounts of data about Tesla users’ driving habits and will be able to offer low prices to safer drivers.

Full self-driving will allow your investment to earn money whenever you’re not using it. Sure, the vehicle will wear out after five years if used as a robo-taxi, but it will earn many times its purchase price in revenue.

Even if you don’t want to have strangers riding in your smart new car, you can send the kids to school in it, transport elderly relatives to the shops or hospital, fetch urgent deliveries, etc., all from the comfort of your home or office without spending your precious time to be an unpaid chauffeur.

Where will the Extra Electricity Come From?

Solar, wind, wave, and biomass are all developing. The main problem with solar and wind is storage. An electric vehicle connected to the grid is a power storage device. Charge it when the wind blows, and feed energy back to the grid when you do not need to use it. Invest in a solar roof to produce all that you need for your own use.

Electricity is Not Green if it is Produced from Fossil Fuels

Some electricity is produced by burning coal, but not all. More and more is produced from renewable resources. Bulb account holders use only electricity purchased from renewable sources.

Are Electric Cars Really Green?

The World will Run Out of Lithium

Perhaps lithium will become scarce, but that will drive the search for alternative electrolytes. Nearly 100% of lithium can be recycled. Degraded EV batteries can be used for Power Walls; degraded power wall batteries can be stripped and the lithium recycled. We don’t need to throw away aluminium, copper, or lead; why would we throw away lithium?

The World Will Run Out of Copper

Some say that electric vehicles will need so much more copper for super-chargers that copper will become scarce. Perhaps, but innovation always finds a way around such problems. The Tesla Model S uses 3Km of wiring, the Model 3 uses only 1.5Km. The Model Y will use only 100m! Saving expensive copper is not the main reason. Using sub-assemblies greatly reduces manufacturing complexity and cost. Super-chargers need much more copper than cars, but similar innovations will reduce the amount needed. Perhaps graphene will soon remove the need for heavy copper cables completely.

Stock Market and Tesla

  1. On September 22nd 2020 announcements about new battery technology are likely to include batteries with much longer range and faster charge times.
  2. Due to the coronavirus the Stock Market is extremely volatile at the moment. Tesla Stock has always been volatile, but it seems to be weathering the storm better than most. Check Market Watch for the latest prices. On July 22nd 2020 Tesla released its Q2 Results, showing a substantial profit that make it eligible for inclusion in the S&P 500 Index.
  3. The stock price rose to over $2,000, from below $1,000 at the end of June, after the announcement of a 5 for 1 stock-split due on August 22nd.
  4. After the split on August 31st the stock was $442, equivalent to $2,210 pre-split. The price quickly rose to over $500 and before the market opened on 2nd September it was still around $490. With battery day just weeks away now, the anticipation of what might be announced on 22nd September is likely to fuel further growth.

Battery Day 2020

Battery Day was originally scheduled for the end of April, but it was put back due to the Coronavirus pandemic. It was held on 22nd September.

  • Tesla will make their own batteries with the new dry cell technology. The batteries are tab-less so they can use a larger 4680 format (46mm diameter, 80 mm height). The hold five times more energy, provide 16% more range, and six times better power/weight ratio. It is seven times faster to produce the same number of Gw/h.
  • The new cells and thermal honeycomb will be structural components of the new battery packs, which will be smaller, lighter, and stiffer than the old ones. This means that they are safer in a side impact being closer to the centre of the vehicle, and a lower polar inertia that will improve handling.
  • The overall benefits of the new batter packs are 54% increase in range, 56% cost reduction to $52/kwh, and 69% lower capital investment in the production line.
  • The anodes use silicon (cheaper and better power), and the cathodes no longer need cobalt. Nickel will be used for the highest energy density packs (Semi truck, Roadster), medium high energy packs will use nickel and manganese, and iron will be used for power walls where energy density does not matter.
  • Old battery packs can be recycled, so less mining, and more reliable supply chains. Less dependency on third-party suppliers or market price fluctuations of metals for battery manufacture.
  • Surprisingly, the stock price dropped significantly after Battery Day to below $400. By 24th September it was back just over $400 again. This may look like a bargain a few months from now.

Model S Plaid

Also announced on Battery Day was the new Model S Plaid, which will be available at the end of 2021. The cost is from $139,990. Acceleration 0-69 < 9 seconds. Quarter mile < 9 seconds. Top speed 200 mph. Range 520 miles. Laguna Seca lap time 1:30.3, and only 1,100 horsepower.

New Giga Factories

Work is proceeding at an astonishing pace at Giga Berlin after receiving permissions. Production is scheduled to begin in mid 2021, but some experts say it may start much earlier. Work has already started on Giga Texas too, where building progress promises to be equally quick.

Pikes Peak Winner

A production Tesla Model 3 Performance set a new world record for the annual hill climb race. Sponsored by Tesla fans without corporate finance, they achieved an amazing result.

Tesla Model 3 Performance World Record for Production Class EV

Tesla Police Car

Another perfect market for Tesla Performance cars: Police, Paramedics, and others who do a lot of mileage or need to get around fast. The Police department is talking to Tesla engineers to incorporate their radios into the software. They can securely store equipment such as computers and weapons, and allow access to medical equipment in the frunk using their mobile without leaving the victim.

Tesla’s Real Secret Sauce

Why Tesla is changing the future. Danish Tesla fan Lars Strandridder summarises what Elon Musk has achieved in just twenty years, and Tesla are just getting started. If you had invested £1,000 in Tesla stock just a year ago, it would now be worth about £9,000. Stock prices can go down as well as up, but the future of the company looks bright.

S&P Inclusion in December

Inclusion of Tesla stock in the index does not change anything fundamentally in how the business is doing, but it does affect the share price. The stock price has jumped from $408 to $574 after just nine days. I would not be surprised to see it reach $600 after S&P inclusion on 21st December 2020.

Tesla to Mars

What everyone wants to know, of course, is how high can the price go. Since the same time last year the stock price has increased more than sevenfold. At that rate, this time next year it could be $,3500, but it is not as simple as that. However, we can be confident that it will continue to increase for several years yet. In my opinion, this time next year it will be at least $2,000. Come back in December 2021 to see if my guess was anywhere close to being right.

The Next Emperor

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Buddhism

As the Emperor was getting old, and had no children, he called together the children of all his courtiers and gave them each a seed. He told them, “Whoever grows the best flower will be the next Emperor.”
The children all took their seeds home, planted them, and watched over them carefully. The son of the chief gardener thought he had a good chance of winning, as he knew just what to do, but the weeks went by and his seed failed even to sprout. At school, the other children boasted about how well their plants were doing, but he just kept quiet.
He tried everything, changing the soil, keeping the pot warm or cool, but as the day approached for judging, he had no result at all. On the final day, when all the children had to take their flowers to show to the Emperor, he was so dissapointed and ashamed that he didn’t want to go at all. His father encouraged him, “Never mind. You have done your best. Take it anyway.” So, very reluctantly, he took his empty pot to the Emperor’s court.
When he arrived there, all of the other children had flowers and plants. He just hid his empty pot, and talked to no one. He stayed right at the back as all the other children went up to show their flowers to the Emperor. The Emperor looked at each flower in turn, but never even smiled. At last, all the children except the gardener’s son had shown their flowers, and the Emperor called him: “Come, please show me what you have grown.” Trembling with fear, thinking that everyone would laugh at him, he took his empty pot out of his bag, and covering it with his hands, took it to the Emperor.
The Emperor took one look, and smiled. “Ah! You have won the competition. You will be the next Emperor.”
The gardener’s son could not believe his ears. “Why have I won? My seed didn’t even sprout, and all the other children had beautiful flowers.”
Then the Emperor spoke to all of the children, “Before I gave out the seeds, I had them boiled. That is why they would not grow. All of you, except for the gardener’s son, threw away the seed that I gave you, and put another in its place. Only this boy was honest enough to keep trying with the seed that I gave him. Therefore he is the only one suitable to be the next Emperor.”

Time to Go Dark Green

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Current Affairs

The Buddha advised us not to regard the faults of others, the things done and not done by others, but to regard one’s own faults, the things done and not done by oneself. (Dhammapada v 50).

Ordinary people feel helpless to bring about changes by voting, demonstrating, and campaigning. In my view, such efforts are not very effective. Two years on from the Grenfell Tower Tragedy, many homes still have unsafe cladding and after many fires caused by faulty white goods there are still hundreds of thousands of homes in danger from these lethal products. It has taken four years to get action on recalling Whirlpool Tumble-driers.

The Materialistic World

That is the world we live in. It is our kamma that has driven us to inherit this mess. Human beings are driven by the desire for comfort and convenience. The so-called progress of the last fifty or a hundred years has been led by desire. If we really want to bring about a change in society, we should start where our efforts can be immediately effective, by reducing our own desires. Buddhism teaches effective methods to reduce desire to manageable levels. Our needs are easily satisfied, but wants are insatiable. Just dream, for a while, what you would buy if you won millions on the lottery. Would your desires spiral out of control, or would you delight in giving most of it away in charity?

Reducing Desire Saves Money

From a purely pragmatic point of view, reducing desire for material things is of great benefit. It is far less stressful to cut expenditure by 10% than to increase income by 10%. The free time saved by not working such long hours can be spent repairing property, growing organic vegetables, or learning new skills. If you are able to work from home a few days a week it can save the time and cost of commuting daily.

Can we Survive without Petrochemicals?

It is hard for societies to ban plastics until there are viable alternatives. The above video suggests several biodegradable plastics that could replace existing plastics. However, as it points out, care has to be taken over how it is done and producing these biodegradable plastics may affect land use and introduce new problems while solving the old ones.

Ban Plastics Wherever Possible

The tiny Pacific nation of Vanuatu has banned several forms of plastic already. More will follow. Larger nations need to implement similar bans. It is not sufficient to introduce charging for single-use plastic bags or to improve recycling. The plastic use has to be stopped at source so that it does not have to be recycled, which is costly and never even close to 100% effective.

The inspiring story of how Bali banned single-use plastics.

Himalayan Village banned single-use plastics.

Related Links

Bamboo Bikes

Classrooms from Plastic Waste

Growing Plants on Mattresses

Sugarcane Waste Plates are Better than Plastic

OpenType Kerning in FontCreator 11.5

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Typography

OpenType Kerning

Older versions of FontCreator and older applications only support a kern table. However, modern fonts and modern applications use the more powerful OpenType GPOS (Glyph Positioning) kerning feature. Recent versions of FontCreator will allow you to export fonts with this legacy kern table to support older applications.

Adding an OpenType Kerning Feature

Open the OpenType Designer (Ctrl+F8). If a font has no OpenType features yet, or if you clear the existing features, the dialogue will look like this: No scripts, no features, and no lookups.

If you click on the Code Editor… button, you will be presented with this dialogue asking if you wish to add some common OpenType features to your font. Click on OK to accept the suggestion.

FontCreator will now search your font to see what glyphs it contains and add some common OpenType features with suitable lookup tables for your font.

Close the dialogue to see the folder tree listing the Features and Lookups added to the Default language.

Adding the Feature and Lookup Table

With the Default language selected, click the Big + button at the top left to add a new OpenType feature to your font.

The Kerning feature will be selected already, so just click on Finish to add it.

The kerning feature now needs a lookup table so select the kerning feature and click on the Big + button again to add a lookup table. The Pair Adjustment table will be selected already, so just click on Finish to add it.

You now have an empty Kerning feature and lookup, so you need to add some adjustment pairs to the table. Click on the Apply button at bottom right to save your changes. Repeat this regularly as you add more kerning pairs to the lookup table.

Adding Adjustment Pairs

Modern fonts may have thousands of adjustment pairs. The Professional Edition of FontCreator can automate this process with the Autokern feature. The Home Edition can greatly speed up the process by importing scripts exported from other fonts. To add adjustment pairs, click on the Big + button below the list of subtables.

This will open the New Pair Adjustment dialogue.

FontCreator supports the kerning of pairs of Glyphs, e.g. AY or pairs of kerning classes. A kerning class like @A_Caps will include A, À, Á, Â, Ã, Ä, Å, Ā, etc., while the @Y_Caps kerning class might contain Y, Ý, Ŷ, Ÿ, Ỳ, and Ỹ. Kerning classes can contain many more glyphs, but just with these few, one kerning pair of @A_Caps with @Y_Caps will generate 48 (8×6) kerning pairs. This is many times more efficient than adding individual pairs of glyphs, but for now we will skip that, and just add a few pairs for AY, AW, AV, and AT for illustration purposes.

In the New Adjustment Pair dialogue, illustrated above, select Glyphs for the type for both the first and second glyph of the pair. Type a capital A in the filter on the left, and a capital Y in the filter on the right to quickly find the A and Y glyphs. Select A and Y, and click on OK.

Click the Big + again (or use the shortcut key Insert) to add another pair, and clear the Y from the filter for the second glyph. Now you see why I started at the end of the alphabet: W will be visible in the list. Select that and click OK to add the AW pair. Repeat until done.

Adjusting the Kerning Pairs

After adding the pairs, all of the values will be zero, which is useless, so we need to adjust them using the Cursor keys on the keyboard, or by dragging the first glyph to adjust its XAdvance, or by typing in a specific value for the XAdvance. I find that using the cursor keys is the quickest method. Select the pair in the column on the left: use Shift+Left/Right cursor to adjust the spacing by 100 funits; use Left/Right cursor on its own to adjust by 10 funits, and Ctrl+Left/Right cursor to adjust the XAdvance by 1 funit.

When done, click on OK to exit the OpenType Designer and save your changes, and save your project file too with Ctrl+S.

Kerning Classes

As noted above, it is much more efficient to use class-based kerning instead of kerning individual glyph pairs. At the top of the OpenType Designer dialogue, click on the icon to Open the Class Manager. My Verajja font already includes a lot of kerning classes for Capitals, Lowercase, Small Capitals, Petite Capitals, etc.

The @Z_Caps class contains eight Z glyphs. I deleted the Z acute, then clicked on the + sign to add it back again. After typing Z in the filter, the Select Class Members dialogue shows all glyphs with z in the name, except for those that have already been added to the class. I can quickly see that Z acute is now missing, and select it for adding back.

One could also add DZ, but one has to consider what would be the effect if DZ was the second glyph in a kerning pair. For lowercase a, I have created two classes, @a_lc where the accent will not class with preceding glyphs: a, ą, æ, etc., and @a_lc_top where the accent will class with the preceding glyphs: á, à, ä, â, etc.

A pair like Ta can be kerned more tightly than a pair like Tä, so I have two separate classes.

FastStone Capture

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Software

Printscreen on Steroids

I capture screen shots dozens of time a day to illustrate replies to support questions on forums. I frequently want to annotate the screen shot to point to particular parts of the User Interface, or highlight a problem area.

FastStone Capture 9.0 is Shareware, but it is only $19.95 for a lifetime license, so there is no good reason not to register it. If you just want to try before you buy, try the old Freeware version 5.3, which has fewer features, but most of what you need on a daily basis.

It can be set to launch on starting Windows (strongly recommended). It only takes  0.2 Mbytes when not in use, and consumes no CPU cycles. When you need it, press the PrintScreen key or any of many assignable shortcuts of PrintScreen with a modifier key, e.g. Ctrl+Printscreen to capture an area. The captured are opens in the program window, from where you can save it directly, or crop or annotate it first, then save it.

The latest registered version capture video too. I use this for creating video tutorials for other software like MainType.

Detailed ReviewDownload PageFreeware Version 5.3

MainType Font Manager

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Software / Typography

Keeping Your Fonts Organised

If you publish anything, whether in print media, as PDF files, or as HTML web pages, you need to use different fonts. Most users have hundreds or thousands installed with their software that they seldom, if ever use. Windows also comes with a lot of default fonts. If you take a little time to organise your fonts, and uninstall unused fonts, the process of selecting fonts in applications will become much quicker and easier.

Choosing the Right Font

While Times New Roman may be fine for printed publications, there are many better alternatives. For web pages, it is a poor choice. Web fonts do not have to be Sans Serif, but if you want to use a Seriffed font on the web at least choose one designed for web use, like Georgia. It is much easier to read on a computer monitor than Times New Roman.

When choosing a body text font for a book, first consider if it suits the task:

  • Does it include Regular, Italic, Bold, and Bold Italic typestyles?
  • Does it support any special characters and symbols for your subject?
  • What is the age group that your book is aimed at?
  • What are the licensing restrictions?

If you leap straight in and start writing without making these decisions first, you may be making a lot of unnecessary work if you need to change the font later. Decide on the right font by the end of page 1, and stick with it. When selecting fonts for heading, notes, or pull quotes, ask yourself if they look good together.

Customisable Layouts are available in the free version. 

Customise MainType Layouts

MainType Layouts

MainType is Freeware

Since there is a freeware version of MainType available there is no good reason not to try it out for as long as you wish before deciding if you need it. The license is for Non-commercial use, so if you publish anything for sale you will need a paid-for version. The limit of 2,500 fonts is also soon reached, especially by the home user who creates greeting cards, etc., as a hobby.

Also, if you wish to produce Font Catalogues you will need a paid-for version.


 

Detailed ReviewComparison of Versions

Arranged and Forced Marriages

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Buddhism / Current Affairs

Arranged Marriages

It is part of the Buddhist tradition for parents to find a suitable wife for their sons. This is given as one of the duties of Parents to their sons in the Siṅgāla Sutta.

“In five ways, householder’s son, the parents ministered to as the east by a son show him compassion. They restrain him from evil, they exhort him to do good, they train him to acquire skills, they seek a suitable wife for him, they give him his inheritance when the time comes. In these five ways, householder’s son, the parents ministered to as the east by a son show him compassion. Thus the eastern direction is made secure, peaceful, and free from dangers.”

It does not mention daughters, perhaps because the discourse was given by the Buddha to a young man, but the tradition seems to be just as much that parents seek a suitable husband for their daughters. As long as the parents’ role is only advisory, and not imposed on the children, all is well. It may be a much less hazardous method than dating apps, and meeting potential mates in bars and clubs, or on holidays for young people.

Forced Marriages

Definitely, young people should not be forced into marriage against their will, and parents should support their children if they choose their own marriage partner, or choose not to get married. Forcing someone into marriage is condoning rape, and rightly illegal in the UK. Nevertheless, it is difficult for young Asian people to reject the advice of their parents due to valid cultural reasons of respect for elders, gratitude, and loyalty to one’s parents.

Ancient Brahmin Practices

It seems clear that arranged marriages were the norm in the time of the Buddha. His chief female disciple, Visākhā, had an arranged marriage with the son of Migāra, who was a supporter of the naked ascetics. However, since she was a Stream-winner, and very strong-minded, she was able to convert her father-in-law and her husband to become followers of the Buddha, so all turn out for the good.

In the Soṇa Sutta, the Buddha taught the monks about the ancient Brahmin practices, wherein men and women only married by mutual affection. No deals were made to arrange marriages without consent of the young couple.

  1. “Monks, these five ancient Brahmin practices are now practised by dogs, not by Brahmins. What five?
    “Formerly, monks, Brahmins only coupled with Brahmin women, not with non-Brahmin women. Now, monks, Brahmins couple with Brahmin women and also with non-Brahmin women. Now, monks, dogs couple only with female dogs, not with other animals. This, monks is the first ancient practice of Brahmins that is now practised by dogs, not by Brahmins.
  2. “Formerly, monks, Brahmins only coupled with Brahmin women when they were in season, not when they were not in season. Now, monks, Brahmins couple with Brahmin women when they are in season, and also when they are not in season. Now, monks, dogs only couple with female dogs when they are in season, not when they are not in season. This, monks, is the second ancient practice of Brahmins that is now practised by dogs, not by Brahmins.
  3. “Formerly, monks, Brahmins neither bought nor sold Brahmin women, they lived together and bonded to continue the family line only through mutual affection. Now, monks, Brahmins also buy and sell Brahmin women, they do not live together and bond to continue the family line only through mutual affection. Now, monks, dogs neither buy nor sell female dogs, they live together and bond to continue the family line only through mutual affection. This, monks, is the third Brahmin practice that is now practised by dogs, not by Brahmins.
  4. “Formerly, monks, Brahmins did not store up wealth, grain, silver, and gold. Now, monks, Brahmins store up wealth, grain, silver, and gold. Now, monks, dogs do not store up wealth, grain, silver, or gold. This, monks, is the fourth ancient practice of Brahmins that is now practised by dogs, not by Brahmins.
  5. “Formerly, monks, Brahmins sought food for their morning meal in the morning and for their evening meal in the evening. Now, monks, Brahmins having eaten as much as their bellies will hold, leave taking away the left-overs. Now, monks, dogs seek food for their morning meal in the morning and for their evening meal in the evening. This, monks, is the fifth ancient practice of Brahmins that is now practised by dogs, not by Brahmins.

Reference: Soṇa Sutta, A.ii.221, Book of Fives

What Are OpenType Features?

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Typography

Not Just Small Capitals

penType fonts can include Decorative Capitals, which may be implemented as Stylistic Alternates, or Contextual Alternates. In my fonts, the coloured capitals are implemented as Stylistic Alternates. This Test Page shows them in use on a web page. Note that you can select the coloured glyphs in the heading. They are text, not graphics. Although browsers support OpenType Stylistic Alternates, WebPlus X8 does not, so on my test page they are inserted as Unicode characters.

Some fonts, like Palatino Linotype, which was distributed with Windows XP, have Small Capitals, but not everyone knows about them, or knows how to use them. The use of OpenType features in modern fonts is now common, and many more software applications support them — even freeware like LibreOffice.

The Serif applications, PagePlus and DrawPlus, have supported a large number of, though not all, features for many years. However, WebPlus X8 does not support them, so special characters need to be inserted from the Insert Symbol dialogue to make use of them. (See below for a test web page).

For a full list of registered features, see the Microsoft OpenType Tag Registry.

For Web Pages Too

Browsers like Firefox have supported OpenType features for years, and now most modern browsers support them. If you visit this High-Logic Test Page and enable/disable the checkboxes for OpenType features on the right, you can see the effect on the sample text.

Professional Typography

High quality fonts include glyphs designed for specific tasks. For example, although most software applications can generate superscripts from regular digits, these auto-generated glyphs may be too light in comparison to the body text. Serif PagePlus gets around this by adding a bold attribute to the small superscript digits. Thus they are about 70% of the size of regular digits, raised up, and bold. This works better in some fonts than in others.

Most fonts will have true superscripts for ¹²³, which are the correct weight and position, but only some have ⁴⁵⁶⁷⁸⁹⁰ too, and fewer still have superscript glyphs for a-z, which can be used for dates: 1st 2nd 3rd, 11th 12th 13th etc. The image below compares true superscripts for ordinals (left), with those auto-generated by PagePlus (right). Those on the right are too big, too bold, and too low.

Some OpenType features are language dependent. On the High-Logic Test Page, you can change the language code from EN (English) to NL (Netherlands) to change the fi ligature to fi.

Read More about OpenType Features

The Blessings Business

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Buddhism

How Do Monks Bestow Blessings?

I am currently editing the Bodhirājakumāra Sutta, a discourse by the Buddha to Prince Bodhi when the Blessed One was dwelling at Suṃsumāragiri in the Bhagga country. Prince Bodhi had just had a new palace constructed and invited the Buddha for a meal to bless the new dwelling. Since he wished to have children, he spread the floor with white cloths, believing that if holy monks stepped on them, that he would be blessed with children. When the Buddha arrived at the palace — The Red Lotus Palace — he stood still, refusing to tread on the cloths to enter the building. The Venerable Ānanda instructed the prince to have the cloths removed, and the Buddha then entered the palace, ate the meal, and discoursed to Prince Bodhi after the meal about the way to happiness.

The Commentary to the discourse explains that the Buddha — knowing through his powers of mind-reading the reason for Prince Bodhi spreading the white cloths — used his psychic powers to look into the past lives of Prince Bodhi and his wife, and foresaw that due to their past kamma, they were destined to remain childless, so he refused to step on the cloths, thinking of the benefit of future generations. In a previous life, they had been shipwrecked together on an island of birds. They survived by eating the fledgling birds. As a result of that kamma, they were destined to remain childless as husband and wife when reborn in the time of Gotama Buddha.

Superstitious Beliefs

Prince Bodhi’s belief was groundless. Having children does not depend on monks stepping on white cloths, or any other kind of blessing allegedly bestowed by monks. It depends on medical factors, and on past kamma. If the past negative kamma is strong, no amount of medical treatment can overcome its effects.

When devout Buddhists are going for a driving test, a job interview, or an examination, they typically approach the monks, and ask them to recite protection discourses like the Maṅgala Sutta, to obtain blessings. In the Sri Lankan tradition the monks usually tie a Holy Thread (pirit nul), around the wrists of the devotees. I have never come across any evidence for this tradition in the Buddhist texts — it is perhaps a custom assimilated from Hinduism. Whatever, whether the monks tie a holy thread or not, blessings do not depend on that. It is a very lucrative custom if each devotee offers just £5, so it has survived for centuries and thrives in most Buddhist temples, but it is a superstitious belief. Please read the linked exposition of the Maṅgala Sutta, where the Buddha explains to a deity about thirty-eight types of wholesome kamma that give blessings and future happiness. Not to associate with fools, but to associate with the wise … opportune discussion of the Dhamma, and so forth.

Devotees may make the wholesome kamma of reverence while listening to the recitation, even if they do not know the meaning, or know it but do not reflect on it well during the recitation, but if they think that blessings will come merely by reciting sacred verses without putting them into practice, that is superstition, or clinging to rites and rituals.

Another example from the Vinaya texts. It was customary for monks of other sects to bless people with the words: “May you live long.” Some monks were scrupulous, thinking: “Long life does not depend on such blessings; long life depends on an individual’s own kamma,” so they did not bless the devotees offering food or paying respect. Some people complained about the monks remaining silent, and the Buddha allowed them to speak what was just a conventional farewell.

In the UK, we often say Goodbye. The meaning is, “May God be with you.” People just say it without thinking about the meaning at all. Many may not even know the real meaning. Even Buddhists say it, though they do not believe in God. We should say, instead, “Farewell,” or something similar. Even if we say, “See you,” we do not know if we will see the person again, but there’s no harm in such social niceties.

The Blessings of the Dhamma

Future benefits derive from present wholesome kamma; present benefits derive from past wholesome kamma. It is only natural that if you do good things you will get good results. The results of good kamma may not come at once, but when they do, the results will inevitably be blessings and beneficial. The blessings of the teachings of the Buddha come only to those who practise it; they do not come to those who do not practise good deeds.

When people pay homage to monks, or offer them almsfood, we may recite a short verse from the Dhammapada:

Abhivādanasīlissa, niccaṃ vuḍḍhāpacāyino.
Cattāro dhammā vaḍḍhanti, āyu vaṇṇo sukhaṃ balaṃ. (Dhp v 109)

The meaning is:

“For one who constantly honours and respects the elders,
four blessings increase — long-life, beauty, bliss, and strength.”

These blessings derive from humility, reverence, and loving-kindness. They are natural results of wholesome kamma. Whether the monk recites the verse or not, the blessings will follow from the intention behind the deeds, which is wholesome kamma. If one pays respect to elders out of fear or superstition, the results will be different. The respect should be genuine.

An Exposition of the Maṅgala Sutta • The Buddha’s Discourse on Blessings