Saturday, October 02, 2004

Hurricane Soap Opera

Thanks to Bobbie O'Neill who has a very keen sense of humor and sent me this great little saga of storm and fury signifying...

This is what happens as the "Eye" Turns

Rumor has it that Frances was married to Ivan but was having an affair with Charley. Charley used her and left, and she went looking for him--mad. Charley swept through Florida quickly while Frances (a woman scorned) followed close behind taking her time looking everywhere for him.

Ivan (vacationing in the Caribbean) finally got wind of what happened and is now looking for his wife and Charley. Ivan has vengeance in his heart and has the whole gulf coast running for the hills.

Actually Ivan was in the Caribbean with Jeanne and she is now "hot for him", which is surprising because she just broke her engagement with Karl who is out looking for both Ivan and Jeanne. Karl's little sister, Lisa, is trying to keep him out of trouble. Matthew is Lisa's boyfriend who follows her anywhere.

And the rest of this story is....


Middle East Changes?

My rabid vegetarian Jewish-Israeli semi-retired journalist friend sent me an interesting article by an American-based Egyptian Arab that I thought you might find interesting. I certainly did. Seems shame and guilt have longer reaches than even Christians knew. You are not alone any more. Another group has stepped up to the plate.

Careful, political information ahead. Do not read if you have a brain.

What I Learned From Jews
by Nonie Darwish
September 20, 2004

This week and last is the period of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. I know very little about the Jewish religion, but I understand the significance of this holiday. Even though I am not Jewish, I think that everyone can benefit from these holidays.

I learned from my Jewish friends that it is actually a period of ten days, from the eve of Rosh Hashanah through the day of Yom Kippur. This period is called the "Ten Days of Repentance" in Jewish tradition. The concept of examining myself from within and seeing what I, as well as my community, are responsible for because of our actions, with the goal of self-improvement, sounds both very attractive and alien to me and my cultural background.

I was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt, and the Gaza strip as a Muslim in the 1950s, when classical, more moderate Islam was prevalent. However, the concept of examining oneself deeply without fear of repercussions was lacking in our religious education as a whole. I am not sure if Islam influenced Arab culture or Arab culture influenced Islam, but two of the basic driving forces in Arab society are shame and pride.

I decided to try this wonderful Jewish tradition and apply it to myself and my culture of origin. I moved to the United States in 1978 and came with the usual preconceived biases, indoctrination and baggage from a Middle East upbringing - fear of Jews, of government, of people in power and fear of speaking my mind. Having lived through the 1956, 1967 and 1973 wars with Israel took away my feelings of trust and security. However, living in America made it easy for me to change and look objectively within myself, my history and my culture of origin. Now, I run a new website called

To courageously stand and admit to oneself and to the world one's sins, bad choices and engage them head on, to correct and repent, is hard for most people in any culture, but it is inconceivable and unheard of in Muslim culture. Speaking, even to oneself, of one's shortcomings and examining one's responsibilities first before blaming others would bring shame, disgrace and dishonor not only to the individual, but to his or her entire family. Those who admit fault or guilt, even if it is unintended, are regarded as fools and if the mistake is a cultural taboo, then one's reputation might be scarred for life and the person might end up brutally punished.

We were discouraged from sinning out of fear of an angry God, the flames of Hell and society's cruel punishment awaiting sinners right here on earth. There was no reward for loving humanity as a whole, self improvement and bringing out the best of the human spirit.

Pleasing the brutal dictators to get favoritism and wealth at the expense of the majority of the population was the common thing to do. Arabs were always proud to talk about the old glory and their old contributions to the world, but suppressed discussion and examination of any internal ills or evil. Because of this fear of shame and facing the truth about the negatives in Arab and Muslim culture, they allowed evil to dominate all aspects of Arab and Muslim society.

No one can deny the current sad state of the Middle East's dysfunctional society: terrorism in every Muslim country and poisoning the world; war; genocide of non-Arabs or non-Muslims, such as in the Sudan; the burning of churches, but taking refuge in Muslim holy shrines; the beheading of Jews; the destruction of Buddhist temples; brutal dictatorships; and weak economies. Despite wealth from oil, the Muslim world is among the poorest in the world.

Pollution and garbage are all around the great Nile Valley, unemployment is rampant and nothing can get done without bribery. Arab media forgives and ignores all these problems and is preoccupied with destroying Israel. This is the sad situation in the Middle East, where countries like Egypt cannot survive without generous US aid.

Blaming everyone and anyone but themselves was the only wise thing to do in a culture that showed no appreciation for accepting responsibility. Today, that culture has metastasized and it dominates a billion and a half Muslims around the world.

The only option for survival in such a culture is to always deny wrongdoing and tell yourself "you did not do it" until you believe it. Thus, Israel becomes the useful enemy that Arabs blame for everything; even the last terrorist attack on Russian children was blamed by some on yet another Jewish conspiracy. After defending and supporting Israel in my articles, I was also accused of being part of an Israeli conspiracy. At a time when most religions struggle to explain evil in the world, radical Islam found the answer: without hesitation, they say it is the Jews. Just listen to most Friday sermons in mosques all around the Muslim world. For that, I personally want to apologize to Jews around the world during this, their holiday period.

Jews do not wish each other a "Happy New Year" on Rosh Hashana, the way we are all used to doing on every January 1. The proper greeting is "Shanah Tovah", which means a "good year" or "a year of goodness." The greeting stresses goodness and living a good life; a life committed to improving the world and relationships. I am in awe when I hear my Jewish friends speak and explain the teachings of their faith. I want to take this opportunity to thank them and their culture for their many contributions to humanity. I am grateful to them for teaching me this great tradition that so many non-Jews need to reflect upon.

We all need to examine ourselves from the inside, bring out the good and see what we have accomplished as members of the human race. We all learn from each other and that is good.

May the New Year bring to our reality some of our expectations, and may it bring us more together.

Nonie Darwish is a writer, former editor and translator. Born and raised in the Middle East, although living in the US for over two decades, Nonie recently initiated the Arabs For Israel web site. She is also regularly invited to speak at universities and before other audiences.

Thanks to Mike Diamond for forwarding this fine article to us. Certainly, Nonie Darwish shows a clear understanding of the meaning of the High Holidays to the Jewish people – she is quite correct that these holidays have a special religious significance to better oneself through repentance. Her willingness to look beyond her upbringing in a Muslim/Arab environment in Egypt and become supportive of and defend Israel shows a lot of courage and for this we thank her. As part of the group, ‘Arabs for Israel’, the message to denounce suicide terrorism is in itself a major acknowledgement. Their recognition of Israel as a legitimate state for the Jewish People and their goal of change for the Muslim people to lead to the advancement for their people towards peace and the betterment of civilization are commendable. You can check their web site.

Shirley Anne Haber
The Media Action Group

Arabs for Israel

Friday, October 01, 2004

First a virus and now greed...

The week started out lousy and it's going downhill fast, according to the latest publishing news.

First, the week starts out with an all-pervasive and unconscionable asshole virus that has struck many of you and your families and friends.

Next, I get a notice that Kirkus Reviews, a by-product of the Christian Science Monitor, will review your self-published book for $350. What is going on here?

Kirkus Reviews are definitely vicious and not even close to being subtle, but now they're charging people to review their books? How can they remain impartial -- and vicious -- to someone who just forked over a big chunk of change for their opinion? That not only goes against the grain, but it sets a really bad precedent.

The way the publishing game is played is that writer's write books and, hopefully, get published, and book reviewers read said books for free and give their opinions/criticisms/judgments. Now, Kirkus comes along and says, not only do authors have to provide a free book, but they have to pay for the privilege of being read and reviewed? Bullshit! That is NOT going to fly.

On top of all this, they are preying on self-published authors. Does this bother anyone but me?

Thursday, September 30, 2004

What happened to fall?

I woke this morning to a deeper, softer silence. It was snowing. The white sky bird was shaking thick downy feathers over everything and very little of the ground and green of the pine needles remained. I noticed the hush.

Snow deadens and softens sounds. Everything was so quiet I heard bubbles from the soapy water in the sink popping softly and the sh-whoosh and muffled whump of snow sliding down the pitched roof and onto the ground. No other sounds penetrate the silence as showers of fears and sugar slip from over burdened branches and drop to the white ground below. No birds scrabble and squabble over tortilla scraps and apples on the deck or in the yard. Squirrels and chipmunks are nowhere to be seen.

The sky is white and snow sifts and drifts down on errant winds, coming slower and softer now while snow slides down the curved pine boughs on the way to the white humps, drifts, and sprays of white.

I lost the electricity twice this morning and I'm almost uncomfortable posting this now since I do not know whether or not it will blink again. I can't afford to lose my computers to the frequently infrequent power shifts, but that is part of the price of living here off the beaten track and away from the bustle of city streets. And yet when I think of being anywhere but here, I am glad I'm here.

I should have realized this snow was coming. I have had a dull headache behind my right eye and my sinuses have been clogged. Sure sign of storms on the way. My mind was elsewhere, worrying about things out of my control, as indeed everything ultimately is. But I am hopeful that all things will turn out right and my doubts are quiet at this moment.

For some reason, Master & Commander with Russell Crowe sailed thru my mind. I didn't think the movie rated an Oscar. The scenery was nice, the characters interesting for what you got to see of them, but the story was a throw-away with some good moments. There was no continuity, no cohesiveness. Considering they took the movie from a series of books, there is little else to expect. You can't make a good movie trying to get everything in a series of books into 2 or 3 hours. It doesn't work that way without losing the sense of character and place and story line. Nice photography and little vignettes do not an Oscar caliber movie make. Not even with Russell Crowe.

Last night's good news on the acceptance of one of my stories has sparked new ideas for more stories and a way to finish a couple of books. Since I'm not longer whoring for RAC I'll have some time in between working up proposals and flyers for medical transcription and business newsletters. And all of this is happening while a fragrant pot of beans cooks slowly on the stove downstairs, filling the air with warmth and the fragrance of spices, herbs, and dried beans turning soft and rich. I'll have to make some more tortillas for dinner later, but I've almost got that process down to a science.

And speaking of science, I was reading Discover about the Inuits' paradoxical diet of fat and protein. Puts a whole new face on the current low carb, high protein, high fat controversy in diets.

My diet lately has been more towards the vegetarian with meat thrown in occasionally, usually in the form of chicken or turkey (mostly turkey). Meat is really expensive up here and when I'm counting pennies a pot of beans goes a whole lot farther than a chicken or turkey or even ground beef. I also make skillet dishes out of tofu and eat eggs, which makes up the compliment of my protein intake. It's interesting because my Israeli friend is a rabid vegetarian and has been at me about changing my evil meat eating ways. He keeps telling me that with a little push I can get rid of that nasty fowl food and just go completely vegetarian. Of course that means I'd have to stop using chicken stock and bouillon in my beans when I cook them or give up the lovely chicken salad I make with the leftover chicken from making the chicken stock, but he thinks it's worthwhile. I don't. Sometimes I need to sink my teeth into something fleshy and vegetable and soy protein converted to look and taste like chicken and beef and turkey do not taste like chicken and beef and turkey to me. Sorry. You may be able to fool some people, but my carnivorous instincts go much deeper than my olfactory senses. It's either allow me to chomp down on some meat or have me chomp down on a person. Which do you think is better?

I'm listening to more of the ballads John sent me and they wrap me in warmth on this cold and snowy day, making me feel nostalgic and mellow and in need of company. Maybe some beknighted woodsman will stumble on my hidden aerie and ask for a bowl of beans, some warm homemade tortillas, and a fragrant cup of green tea (or coffee -- I actually have some in the freezer that smells good, but I don't drink it because it's strictly for guests). In the meantime, I'll find something else to occupy my time until someone offers to come join me and share a warm cup by the fire.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004


My mother called last night and said she and my father are coming out next week by train. I need to check on rental cars for when they get here, but it looks like they're going to make it before the snow hits...maybe. The weather around here has been strange all year and it has snowed several times in the past two months. It's like the joy and exuberance of summer never made it off the ground and the warmth and love of vacation days, June weddings, and bees buzzing around a million flowers died before it had a chance to settle into that warm and comfortable feeling that follows unbounded joy. C'est la vie.

At least I can get Dad to help me finish cutting up all the wood and getting it stacked for the winter. I hope they didn't really think they were coming for a vacation. Besides, since Dad has gotten so weird about his chickens lately (he built them a condo in the garage and even painted it for them) I think he needs something to occupy his time and his energies that don't have anything to do with chickens. Of course, we'll drive down to take the Silverton train into New Mexico and back. That should be good and cold on that open train. I need to find my gloves. And we'll stop in Colorado Springs so Mom can indulge her chocolate addiction and maybe so I can say hello to some friends.

Snatches of poetry and stories keep battering at the screens of my mind like moths drawn to the light. So much has been happening I haven't had time to do more than jot down bits and pieces and hope I will remember them later. One image keeps sneaking past thoughts of work and arrangements and research.

She stands at the door kissing him goodbye, her body and soul yearning toward him, unwilling to let him go even though his time in her world is short. He walks away but she cannot follow him. The threshold is the boundary of her world, the point of intersection between her life and his world, the world that claims him. Beyond the threshold she does not exist, neither alive nor dead, a wraith caught between reality and paradise.

It feels like a ghost story. A girl who runs away and disappears and gets caught in limbo, a place between two worlds. When the boy comes to find her she can only reach him thru his dreams and she cannot tell him that only he can make her real or she will be trapped between worlds forever. He rises each morning with her name on his lips and memories of her follow him wherever he goes, bits of emotional flotsam floating on the tides of his mind like a siren's call that pulls at his heart and soul. At first he chalks it up to memories and dreams and then he tracks her to the last place she was seen, the cottage where they met and loved, falls asleep and has the most realistic dream he has ever known. He goes back to his life, but the dreams pull him backward, his love pulls him toward the cottage, the only place where she becomes real and they are together.

But I can't figure out the ending. It seems too easy to choose love and find a way to make the dreams a reality. Any suggestions?

Monday, September 27, 2004

What a waste...

...of time. I've been plugging away for weeks, working my butt off for the buyers at Rent-A-Coder and getting squat in terms of money, just to keep my head above water. The site has been down several times due to hurricanes in Florida where the company is based. Due to the site being down last weekend I missed my deadline for a client by a few hours. Now, he has the work I slaved over for weeks and doesn't want to pay me and because of their strict rules I'm going to lose all that work and the money (not that it was much). I'm done. I'm busting my tail for nothing except cheap jerks who refuse to pay a decent wage for my hard work, research and time and then do their best to stiff me into the bargain.

So, I called Colorado Workforce this afternoon to see if they had anything on tap. I don't need much. A part time job will do it. The lovely lady who runs the place, Lisa, had a couple job openings, one in Granby and another farther out (which is not an option right now), but she also had a suggestion. Why not market my skills to local medical practices to do their billing, coding, and transcription? I didn't even think of it. I can take as many or as few clients as I need and work my own hours from home. They don't have to pay benefits, which saves them a lot of money, and they get a qualified, certified, and experienced subcontractor. It will take some time, but at least it's something on the horizon and that's what I need right now. It's either that or go back to selling myself for nickels, dimes, and quarters. I'm done.

One thing I have learned is that when something doesn't work, don't waste your time trying to make it work, pack your bags and walk out. I do not have the time to waste any more. I'm not 20 and starry-eyed. I'm 21 and change and still starry-eyed, but every once in a while I see the gleam of avarice and the potential for someone to use me for wiping their feet. I know enough to get while the getting is good.

There are very few people in this world who aren't out to gouge you for everything they can get or who would take advantage of someone's naivete or good nature. I've met quite a few of them. That's not to say there aren't good people because there are lots of good people. Unfortunately, the jerks out number the good guys. It's kind of like spending all your time looking thru the haystack for that needle never realizing it's on the ground next to it. Forest for the trees...same thing.

Anyway, it's time to dust off my personality and my smiles and thank yous and hit the road again. I'll make some calls tomorrow and set up some appointments. If that doesn't work I'll hit them cold. Gives me the chills. I'm a good salesman but I hate cold calls and I hate selling. Writing an article or story and convincing an editor to buy it is another kind of selling and I don't have to smile and nod and pretend to like the jerk who just insulted me, but that's life.

Okay, off to the grocery store. I need a few things. Go have fun. Kiss someone just for the heck of it and don't explain.

I'll shut up now.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Sundays are for... this week. I finished the body building articles and I'm glad. I mean, how many times can you say if you want bigger muscles you have to eat right, work out smart, and get plenty of rest? I now know more about the bio-availability of vitamins and nutrients and the percentages of carbohydrate to fat to protein than I ever really wanted to know. I know how muscles are made and how they're destroyed and how they all work together. For the past few weeks I have done more weight lifting, power lifting, and body building than I did in the years when I was actively engaged in it. If I had actually lifted all that weight, I would be dead right now or crushed under weights that would have crushed the great Vasily Alexeev and turned Arnold Schwarzenegger to a sobbing baby. If only that translated to actual muscular gain. I hear the bears this year are going to be harder to wrestle for that last pine nut or mushroom this year, and if I want a real chance at that bee hive I'm going to have to work for it.

At least with my current eating plan, I'm losing weight but it's probably mostly muscle, except for the muscles in my arms from all this typing and mouse clicking, which means my butt is getting bigger and it's already the last to leave anywhere since it takes another 30 minutes for it to follow me home. Nothing like sagging boobs and expanding butt cheeks to make your day.

My excited post about my new Scrabble partner was evidently a gauntlet thrown in the face of one [info]misericorde who feels I was just begging to be beaten and humiliated. At this moment, we are keeping pretty close in points, but she has an advantage; I've been getting nothing but consonants and have to rely on her to provide the vowels. This is just an update. The game is still young and I haven't had the chance to make my big move. I inevitably manage at least one 7-letter play, just ask [info]elementalmuse.

Well, I'll shut up now. I need to eat something even though the tortilla apple tarts with cinnamon I made last night were really good for breakfast, if a little tough around the edges. It's this high altitude, dries everything out.

Go about your quiet and relaxing Sundays as you will and spare a moment to think of me up here slaving away making stronger and bigger arm and shoulder muscles while my butt spreads off the sides of my chair and onto the floor.