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Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone

In the area where I live, it never snows unless you're willing to drive about an hour or so to outside the Los Angeles city limits towards the nearby mountains. And believe me, if anything looks remotely close to snow, Angelenos will be out with their cameras trying to capture the moment like a tourist who has just seen the Eiffel tower for the first time. The first year I moved here, it actually hailed. Me and my classmates were so excited as we ran outside, only to be hit by a whole bunch of ice balls. It was fun.

This year, My cousin and I decided to head out to the Grove/Farmers market for an early dinner while watching the fake snow, Christmas decorations, the trolley and Santa's house. There are two sections: The Farmers Market which has been around for years and the Grove which was added not long ago. Farmers Market is more flavorful and traditional with boutique shops and no frills eateries and the Grove is more modern with chain restaurants and stores, movie theaters and a large round water fountain which dances to Italian music. It's easy to spend an entire day there, but the parking can be pricy even with validation.

While there, I got inspired by my cousin's enthusiasm to take some photos. So, do enjoy and a Merry Christmas to all of you.  

On top of the movie theater behind me, there is a machine that spits out snow.
Moved my phone camera up for a better view.
I have no idea who is the man with a hood. I guess he was too tall for me to avoid him.

Last photo opp before we start walking towards the ginger cookie house.
Heading back. Taking a hurried shot before someone passes in front of my camera.
The crowd shifting in my direction.
Ginger cookie house where parents and children line up for a photo opp with Santa. 
Side view of the Trolley. It takes passengers from the west end/farmers market to the east end/grove. 
Last photo: The rear view of the trolley as it rings its bell for fun and for the crowd to move out of its way. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The finality of death

Image by farconville

My mom passed away on July 13, 2011 and I have been so depressed that I haven’t written anything since then. It’s been very difficult dealing with her death, especially since I’m not all that religious. I was born a Muslim and I have no intention of changing into a different religion because I believe my character is not defined by religion, nationality, race, sex and etc. I am who I am, regardless. I am enough. I don’t need to defend myself to others and frankly I really don’t care what anyone thinks about me because those who love me, know the kind of pain-in-the-ass I am, but they also know that I am loyal and will always be there for them, no matter what.

Anyway, getting back to my concept of death - I suppose people who are religious or those who believe in after life, heaven, hell, souls, ghosts and things as such, have an easier time with death. I have been searching for an answer over and over, but to date, I have none. The truth is that nobody knows what happens after we die. I’m even skeptical of people who have had a near death experience and say they’ve seen light, tunnel and etc. I can’t help wonder that their stories was nothing but hallucination and a figment of their imagination based on the stories of what others have said. Bottom line, I don’t know. I’m not sure of much these days.

I was talking to my older cousin the other day and as usual we started to have an argument.

She said, “If there was no purpose and this was it, then everyone would start cheating, lying and killing each other.”

And I said, “people are already doing that; just look at all the leaders, politicians, CEOs and their friends.” 

She said, “Then how come you’re not going after someone’s blood?”

“Well…that’s because I have ethics, morals and principles. I am definitely flawed, but when I compare myself to the rest of people living in this world, I realize that I am a good person,” I replied.

“And how did you learn all those things?” she asked, goading me to blurt that it was my religion who taught me all those things.

“I didn’t learn it,” I responded. “It is inseparable from who I am and has nothing to do with religious beliefs. Some people have it, some just don’t and some sway in between. Besides, most killing and wars are done under the pretext of religion.”

After we hung up, I realized that my cousin’s fear was getting punished after she died. She was afraid that she was going to be judged and so, that’s why she tried so hard to be good.  Someone once asked me if I go to church on Sundays and I said no, I’d rather go out with my friends and have fun. She said, “well, some of us need to go to church. Some of us need guidance.” 

Anyhow, I’m not writing this to discuss religion or lack thereof; I’m just writing to ask the difficult questions. What if this is it? What if when we die, everything comes to a complete halt? What if there is no purpose to life. We are born, we live and then we die – end of story. And if this is the case, then everything in life becomes meaningless. If you spend your whole life building strong relationships with those around you and then suddenly that relationship ends completely because that person has passed away, isn’t life just a waste of time?

Someone long ago wrote, I’m so tired of living. At the time, I thought what a strange comment coming from someone so young. But now I understand the statement after losing my mom who was also my best friend. I feel like I have lost not one, but two of the most important people in my life. And when I sit down, lost in all the paperwork, bills and other responsibilities, I say, “I’m so tired of living.” But we’re all stuck here until one day, we too will go away. Where will we go? I have no idea. Most likely nowhere.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

An Easter Brunch at I cugini

Everything went wrong in the morning. My friend had food poisoning from last night’s outing with friends and couldn’t go to the Easter brunch we had planned weeks ago. Disappointed, I got busy doing my normal routine, juicing and preparing my mom’s breakfast. When Sandy arrived to help out with my mom, I decided that I really wanted to get out and do something fun.

I called up a friend of mine who had no plans for the day and decided to meet at I cugini. When we got there, the place was packed, but no worries; I had a reservation for inside seating for two. Except that the hostess told us we had to sit in the patio or wait a longtime. I asked to speak to the manager and when he came over, he told us the same thing.

I told him that there were a bunch of empty seats in the back and why couldn’t we go sit there. At first he was defensive because he couldn’t come up with an excuse. I think he was saving those seats for a very large party and didn’t want to say so because he knew I would get on his case. He said he had no space and that there were others waiting. And to make matters worse, he offered me a crappy table in the bakery. I told him that I did not want to sit there and that I did not care if others were waiting. That was his problem and not mine for overbooking. I had made a reservation for inside seating long ago and that he should honor it.

We got into an argument and all I could think about was that if he doesn’t seat us, I’m going to write a bad review about the place on Yelp. Luckily, he gave us a good table and tried to fake a smile. I didn’t really care whether or not he liked me. The point was that we got a good table and a nice person to serve us. Yes I know, I sound mean, but I just don’t like people pushing me around and making me feel bad for their mistake. Besides, the other guests were nodding their heads and agreeing with me as I complained, but they didn’t have the guts to speak out. I mean really…why the heck did they overbook and especially on Easter? And why didn’t they offer a discount or free mimosa and appetizers at the bar for making their guests wait for so long? Truly not smart of them.

Anyway, as I said, all turned out okay and after that things went by smoothly. Below are a few pictures I took while there and later on when my friend and I went for a walk. And by the way, I do recommend this place for Brunch even after all my prior complaints. They had a decent selection of dishes and once we sat down, the service was good. And in case you’re wondering why I waited way past Easter to write this, my photos didn’t turn out well because of the lighting and I had to fix them. 

The Bar
The inside

Salad table

Main entrées

Seafood: Oysters & shrimp

Freshly made Pizzas, pastas & omelets
Chocolate fountain & fruits/Behind it, a bakery w/vaious pastries

Prosciutto, beets, Sautéed mushrooms and grilled vegetable salad
Tiramisu, banana dipped in chocolate, fudge tart & chocolate custard puffs. Make sure you save room for dessert, especially for the tart and the puffs

Earlier before this band, there was a jazz band.

Member of the band, posing for me to take his photo

The patio with heated lamps
Bunch of people celebrating a birthday

We walked outside, I bought a purse at a nearby store and then we headed to the Santa Monica mall

This man outside the mall had his dog dressed like an Easter Bunny. Everyone was stopping and taking a photo.

The old Santa Monica Mall, now renovated

On Saturday afternoons, this outdoor mall is packed with crowds dinning, walking, shopping & watching various performers
After the old mall, we walked back past I cugini toward a walkway and a cliff
The cliff overlooks the Santa Monica beach & pier, a restaurant w/a water view, roller coasters and a Ferris wheel. I used to spend numerous hours on the pier as a teenager

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Military Trial vs. a Civilian Trial for the 911 Attackers

An Iranian once said to me, stop complaining. You're lucky to be living in America - the land of the free and I said, yes, but if we don't take care, we too will lose all of our freedoms.

After 9/11, many engineers said it was not possible for buildings to melt away the way they did during 9/11 (see this video). Many have said 9/11 was all preplanned (see this video). Of course, these claims are all filed under “conspiracy theory” in order to discredit the entire idea.

I guess what one needs to analyze is the aftermath of 9/11. Former President George Bush came out and said, “You are either with us or against us.” I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds like a speech given by Hitler. So, from that point on, no one dared to question the authorities. As a result, the Patriot act came about and soon Americans began to lose their constitutional rights. Bush went into Iraq, claiming “weapons of mass destruction” which were never found. And anyone who dared to question the ethics of this attack on innocent civilians would soon be labeled as “unpatriotic.” The media began advertising the word “Terrorism” and soon there was this fierce fear instilled in the average American. Not to mention the unfair treatment of the citizens of middle-east as they traveled each time through the hostile airports of western governments.

After Bush and his cronies painted their red mark on United States, President Obama took over and went into Afghanistan looking for terrorists and a phantom named Bin Laden. Never mind that Bin Ladin was already found once and orders came from the higher ups not to touch him (See Blocking the Path to 911). So, why all the charades? I mean, the first time Bush found out about the hit on the two towers, he didn’t even look surprised. The CIA and the FBI both had information about those who were flying the planes, but did not do anything about it.

Of course later on when Bush came out and said “Mission accomplished” in regards to Iraq, we did not know what he was talking about. The bodies of American soldiers were still getting shipped home on a regular basis and the poor innocent Iraqi men, women and children continued to be killed and categorized under the margin of error. So, I believe what Georgie meant by “Mission accomplished” was that now, we are able to control Americans by allowing illegal searches, giving more power to the TSA and wiretapping anyone and everyone. I guess taking away the liberties of the American people falls under the Bush's motto of mission accomplished.

And now we have the trial of 911 attackers which President Obama had promised to be carried out in a civilian federal court. But what if the lawyers of the 911 attackers put up a good fight? What if the truth leaks out? No, we cannot have that. So, there we have it. A corporation backed congress, those who control America and the stupidity of some who support a military trial push to keep the truth from coming out. Perhaps as the world knows today that the Kennedy assassination was preplanned, the world will someday find the truth behind 911. However, by then, it would be too late as all the rights of Americans will be taken away.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Unusual Events

Well, I haven’t blogged in ages. Why? Because writers are emotional creatures. And if you are a Cancer sign like me, you know exactly what it’s like when you get hurt badly by someone you love and you go hiding in your shell for a longtime. But I’m not even going to go there. Not ready to talk about it. They say life’s an adventure. The dictionary explains adventure as an unusual or exciting experience and I must say, mine has been more unusual lately and much much less exciting.

My mom has been taking a turn for the worse for the past month. It’ been so difficult to handle it after all the effort I have been putting in and after all that I had to give-up in my life so that I could make a difference in hers. She was a little better today which made me happy. But then, my few minutes of contentment disappeared when I realized there’s a rat in house. Yes, a rat. And I don’t mean a despicable person one would want to kick out but a real live rat.

About 5 days ago, I noticed there was a tear in the plastic bag that holds my oatmeal. At first I thought that perhaps the plastic caught on something and tore. So, I didn’t think much of it. Then a few days ago when I was putting away some groceries, I noticed some black stuff on the floor which I thought were debris from the fruits. So, I cleaned it up and threw it in the trash. Today, I went to grab a bag of oatmeal and all the oatmeal poured to the floor. There was now a huge tear in the new bag of oatmeal. And that’s when I connected the dots, especially when I noticed that there was more black stuff on the floor.

Upon closer look, I realized the black stuff were rat droppings. Scared, I grabbed a vacuum cleaner and cleared the carpet, only to find that the rodent or the rodents had peed on the carpet, marking their territory. So, tomorrow I have to call the pest control and ask them what to do. And no, I do not want those sticky things that people put around to catch the rat. I do not want to torture any creature. I’m hoping that now that I have removed all traces of oatmeal, the rat would find it’s own way back into the yard and let me be. I do not like to kill anything, not even a cockroach.

So, there it is – my life lately is definitely not exciting but is rather comprised of series of unexpected, unwanted and unusual experiences. Perhaps this is the path I’m supposed to follow. I have no idea where it’s leading but it sure hasn’t been a fun journey. Well, I take that back. When I was at the hospital in Mexico with my mom, I met a great bunch of cancer patients and the friends they had brought along. And I want to write a book about mine and my mom’s experience there and what followed after but thing just keep going wrong one after another. My days and nights are filled with continuous interruptions and lack of sleep.

And I know there are many people in this world with much bigger problems but as a friend of mine once said to me, your problems are your problems, don’t compare them to those of others; except though, I don’t want to feel like I’m a victim. I want to try to make things better. I just haven’t yet found a solution.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Who Are the Terrorists? The NATO or the Afghans?

Imagine that you are an 11-year-old in Afghanistan with hardly any food, water or warm clothing. You have to somehow survive the freezing temperatures. You go looking for firewood with your friends and siblings to keep warm. Then the foreign forces invading your country start shooting and killing your friends and siblings because they think you’re nothing but insurgents. And when the world find out about it, all you get is “Sorry but we made a mistake.”

A mistake is rear-ending another car because you weren’t paying attention. A mistake is filing an insurance file in an accounts receivable file because your mind was preoccupied with something else. Killing 9 children is not a mistake, it is an unforgivable atrocity. But you see, these children were Afghans and nobody cares. If they were westerners, we would have never heard the end of it.

Moreover, I was astonished by the idiotic response from NATO:

Gen. David Petraeus said Disciplinary action, if warranted, would be taken. But we all know that this is a bogus statement as Petraeus is well known in the US as General Betray Us of the Bush Administration.

Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez said "we acknowledge we have to do better," was yet another stupid response. It's like saying “Sorry we killed your children but we’ll try to do better next time and kill 8 instaed of 9.”

What’s terrifying is that prior to this 65 civilians were killed by NATO.

I’m told to be an optimist, don’t be a pessimist. But how is this possible? Am I to shut my eyes to all the cruelty around me? Is this attitude really real? Yes, I can sit in my comfortable well-stocked and well-heated home and shut myself from all the bad news. But then, I would be living in an illusion. And if I choose not to live in an illusion, how is it possible for me not to be affected by so many stories alike, especially when I know that the reason behind these so-called “mistakes” is a corporate thirst for greed and power. 

This story about the murder of Afghan children will hunt me for years to come. And I can’t help but think that we live in a cold heartless world. Earlier, I was skimming an article in a magazine about how to live a very long life and I found myself wondering whatever for?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The preplanned revolutions of the middle-east and the end of democracy

One would have to be incredibly naïve to believe that the protests in Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt and Jordan are mainly due to economy and “people power,” and the trickle effect of “oh it all started with the Tunisian and now other middle-eastern countries are following suit.” Of course, I was once part of the naïve crowd who believed in the power of people but as I see with my own eyes that the last of the last democracies crumpling in the United Corporate of America, I make myself sit back, analyze and question all the information presented by the media.

Today, revolutions are pre-planned. Georgia's rose revolution and Ukraine's orange revolution was organized by a billionaire living in the U.S. Chaos is created, dictators are removed and installed, religious governments are supported and highly tolerated and democracy has lost its meaning and value. You don’t believe me? Here are a few examples. Americans did not want a war in Iraq. Americans want out of Afghanistan. Majority of Americans are against America’s support of the settlements in Israel. Americans hate Monsanto because Monsanto is corrupt. They want the Fed to be audited because the fed is not “federal.” They are bunch of foreign bankers who don’t give a s--- about anything except their pockets. But none of these matter. Because America is no longer a government by the people for the people. 

I find it Ironic when Obama, Hilary, Kerry and Merkel tell Egypt not to harm protesters when at the 2009 G20 Summit in pittsburgh, American police attacked and harmed the protesters.

So, getting back to what’s going on in the middle-east. There are several things that will happen in Tunisia, Egypt and wherever else these revolutions are preplanned.

1. These countries will be left in chaos or

2. A military state will be formed or

3. Another dictator controlled by the powerful forces will be installed or

4. An Islamic government will be formed, but

5. True democracy will not take place.

Below are some links to open up your minds to see these revolutions for what they truly are – a creation of those behind the scene who will benefit immensely from people’s sufferings. And please be smart and do not point the fingers just at the U.S. Those who control our world today come from all walks of life and they dictate how things should run. They come from many nations and not just one nation! From north to south and east to west, many leaders are under their control and are told what to say and do. Right now, the average person does not know which direction Tunisia and Egypt (and perhaps Yemen and Jordan) will go, but those who instigated these revolutions have a precise plan for these countries and those plans do not include democracy. 

What's Next for Tunisia? (we don't know but they sure do)

President Obama, say the 'D-Word'(say what? We're even starting to lose the "illusion" of democracy in America. What makes you think you will have it better?)

GOP pushing for ISPs to record user data (what happened to the Constitution?)

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Nostalgia of carefree lazy days

Photo contributor: Rosemary Ratcliff

Today was neither a good day nor a bad day. It was just a day. A day to reflect on life, love, family, work, leisure time and being just lazy. I haven’t had any lazy days lately – no time for it. Although I have had lazy moments, but it’s not easy to enjoy lazy moments because I keep looking at the clock to see how much time I have left before my next task. I find that the older I get, the more complicated life gets, especially since my elders, once middle-aged are now moving into a the senior citizen category with aches and pains and many complaints. As I watch them complain, I often wonder about my own mortality. Will I become like them? How much life I have left ahead of me and will it be a quality life or will I end up in some nursing home?

When I was a child, these thoughts never even entered my mind. I used to watch my grandmother write and recite poetry, sew and Iron. Sometimes when she didn’t feel well, she’d sit in a squatting position. “What’s the matter with grandma?” I’d ask my mom. “Her stomach is bothering her,” my mom would answer. And perhaps I felt bad for a minute before my brother would whisk me off to play hide and seek. I was completely in a different world, oblivious to life’s tragedies and disappointments until after college when I was running a retail store and the responsibilities kept piling up.

And responsibilities don’t always bother me. I like being busy and having lots to do, but I also enjoy having quiet time. So here I am today missing my carefree days and wondering if I will get them back. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The politics of human rights

Photo contributor: Idea go

Let’s face it, in a world where all ethics has disappeared, governments do not care about human rights. In fact, in the eyes of world leaders, activists are considered a pain in the rear. A handful of families who run the Corporations who run our world, our leaders and our governments prefer people who are sheep. So, why do activists of certain countries get more attention than those of other countries? Simple – it’s all due to their political relationship with the western governments. Take Saudi Arabia for example, the so-called secret society. The news everywhere rarely covers newsworthy information from the Kingdom and yet, they are one of the most oppressive regimes in the world. Have a look at Dubai and their promotion of slavery by hanging on to the passport of poor foreigners and forcing them to work for little or no pay while their ostentatious towers reach the sky. When was the last time you saw a negative coverage of Dubai in the mainstream media? So the next time you wonder why the media does not care about the activists in your country, have a look at your country’s political relationship with the forces that control our world.

Another factor that gets calculated in the equation is if a leader can be controlled. After the recent revolution, Tunisia may have a new leader who gives more liberty to their citizens, but if that leader does not succumb to the needs of the families who run the corporations who run our world, mark my world, that leader will be replaced by another who is willing to kiss many behinds in order to keep his/her power and fill-up his/her bank account in various countries such as Switzerland even if he/she violates all aspects of human rights.

A good example is Iran. Iran had democracy in the 50s, that democracy was squashed by corporations and western governments and replaced by dictatorship so that they could get free oil. In the meantime, the shah tortured all opponents of his regime and there was little coverage of it in the news. Then the west decided to remove the Shah because it no longer needed Iran’s oil. They had found a new oil provider with richer oil fields. During this transition at least 30,000 were tortured and killed. Still little coverage in the media. And today…well…the world had shut up about the entire Iran thing until recently when Iran continuously increased its influence in the middle-east. 

So, there has been more coverage of the Iranian activists but for how long? Perhaps until another deal is struck under the table. And after that, the well controlled media will zip up their lips and instead cover some cat who got caught in the tree or a reality TV star who cheated on his wife. That is the politics of human rights. Nevertheless, as activists, we do what we can in our own limited way to bring voice to the innocent and the oppressed. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

10 tips to overcome Depression and Migraine

Photographer: Salvatore Vuono

Once in awhile, Depression and headaches are normal in your life. But when they happen too often, then you need to take care of the problem. Many situations, such as an illness, loss of a job or a relationship gone wrong, may affect your psychological health. What indicates a healthy mind, body and spirit is how quickly you bounce back from depression and migraine headaches. So here are some tips that have helped me in my life and I hope that they will help you to a fast recovery.

1. Limit your television time. The radiation from T.V affects your brain and television in excess has been linked to depression. Basically limit your time when you use all technologies – PC, Cell Phone and etc.

2. Don’t just go to a gym or a closed space to exercise. Get out doors and go for a long walk, preferably somewhere with lots of trees. The walking, the fresh air and the sun or the clouds (yes, the clouds!) increase the serotonin in your brain and help make you feel better.

3. Don’t read or watch the News 24/7. Sometimes all the bad news can sour your mood. I should know. I'm a human rights activist.

4. Change your diet. Toxins in foods cause Migraine and depression.

Vegetarian: I once sat at a lecture given by Charlotte Gerson and she told us how both she and her father got rid of their migraines permanently by avoiding animal products and yes, that includes milk, eggs, cheese and yogurt. Also, if you can afford it, eat only organic or if you have a garden, plant your own food. Pesticides and toxins stay in your system and cause havoc on your body. But if organic food is too expensive for you, then wash your fruits and veggies in ½ cup vinegar and ½ cup water, leave it there for about 15 minutes and dry.

Carnivore: If you can’t live without animal products, then you must eat only organic. Also, do your own research or subscribe to Dr. Mercola’s newsletters who will teach you all there’s to know about animal products. Non-organic meats and products come from animals which are injected with antibiotics and are given garbage food to feed on to make them plumb and suitable for Corporations to make fat profits.

Also, Stay away from caffeine, sodas, diet sugar, fried foods and junk food. They have a tremendous negative impact on depression and migraine headaches because they’re filled with toxins. Better to learn to like herbal tea and to replace junk food with organic raisons, dates and fruits.

5. Get at least 6-8 hours of sleep. Your brain cannot function properly without adequate amount of sleep. If possible, it’s better to always go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time. 

6. Keep your colon clean by juicing. Drink 8 oz vegetable juice, 8 oz carrot juice and 8 oz fruit juice everyday. It is really important to have regular bowl movement everyday so that your body can get rid of all the toxins that enter your body from the air, water and food. FDA & EPA do not have your best interest at heart. They work for corporations!

7. Avoid drugs and go for natural supplements. My favorite websites for learning about what’s good for you are DR Mercola’s, Natural Health News and Gerson (With Gerson, you need to be a patient or buy their books/dvds or attend their seminars but it is well worth your money.)

8. Meditate – Meditation is really hard for many because they cannot sit still. Some people have told me that when they shut their eyes, all they can think of is their problems. So, here’s a trick, let the problem come to your head, take several deep breaths and let it out and then say, I will deal with you after I’m done with my meditation and then let it go. Keep doing this with each problem that comes to your mind until your mind goes blank. If this still doesn’t work for you, then put on a mellow classical music, lay down and cover your eyes with an eye mask, take in a few deep breaths, and allow the music to relax you for 5-10 minutes.

9. Keep a journal and write down your feelings about the person who dumped you, the bills that are piling up on your desk, the pain you have in your legs or whatever else you want to write about. You may even want to write a letter to that person you’re so angry at just to get your feelings out. You can always discard it later or perhaps decide to send it – whichever works for you. 

10. Make good friends. I have a handful of great friends and a loving family. When I fall into depression, I don’t want to call anyone. But my family and friends are persistent like me and somehow figure out a way to find me. As they push me and I grumble and respond in irritating tones, I eventually come out of my shell and chat which always makes me feel much better.