Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Flour Tortillas and Salsa

I got up at 6:00 in the morning to make homemade flour tortillas because I didn't have anything to make for breakfast. I had no eggs, no bread, no tortillas of any kind and thus there was nothing to do with my cheese or peanut butter unless I made tortillas so I did that and they came out perfect for the first time in my life. Along with that I made some salsa using jalapeno, onion, garlic, tomato, a dash of lemon juice along with salt and pepper. That came out perfect as well so after breakfast (quesadilla with salsa) I took a portion of what I had made to work with the intention of giving some to Safa who I keep promising Mexican food to but I had to take enough for my other coworkers as well so that it wouldn't look weird.

Then the Palestinian line cook didn't show up yet again so, in having to make up for his absence, we were busy as hell. In short, I never got the chance to invite all my coworkers to partake of the food at once but I made sure to offer some to Safa at the end of her shift when she typically makes her falafel wrap to go. Instead of using a pita bread for the wrap, she threw a flour tortilla on the grill to get it nice and hot. Then she made her typical falafel wrap but added the salsa in with the usual ingredients. She took a bite and said this is good. I smiled and said thanks. She took another bite and her eyes got big and she said "This is REALLY good!!" Nothing else about my day before or after that mattered, that made my day. Teh end!

Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Heavyweight Champion

When I was younger, as a goal oriented workout motivator, I used to imagine how I would respond if I were given three months or so to physically prepare for a professional boxing match. Never mind that I'm not actually a boxer and that in reality any such endeavor would be horribly irresponsible and self-destructive, as a hypothetical it was good because it caused me to analyze my physical self critically. Goal #1 would be to decrease body fat as much as possible so as to avoid having to fight someone at a higher weight category.  Two would be to increase muscle mass so as to have the proper strength to fight at that weight.  Three would be to train for endurance since three minute rounds would be incredibly grueling, more so than most people would imagine. I would take a good look in the mirror and say to myself there is no way I could fight effectively carrying this extra weight.

Enter the current heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz weighing in and looking every bit of his 260 lbs when he won the title. Take nothing away from him, his fight skills are impressive and his power is fearsome. But if you saw him on the street, there is no way you would ever guess him to be a professional athlete. And while his success in the ring does not disprove the idea that one should be in tiptop shape when facing elite level competition, one wonders if he fought that well at that weight, how much better could he be if he were in shape?

Back to my exercise motivation and my mirror. The reason I like the fact that Andy Ruiz is champion is because he makes me look sleek by comparison. Truth be known, I don't even know my current actual weight but my mirror shows added muscle in my chest, shoulders, and arms and although I've lost a little body fat my belly stubbornly remains. The rest of me looks very athletic, even youthful for 49. Only my stomach looks out of place. I think it's time to add some cardio days.

As far as Andy Ruiz is concerned, it should be pointed out that the reason he came into the championship fight so overweight was because he wasn't even supposed to be fighting in the first place. He was tossed in to replace the scheduled challenger who was removed after repeated failed drug tests. In preparing for the December championship rematch however, Ruiz vows to come back in better fighting shape. I think that's a good idea. If I were him, I would ditch the between-round Snickers (I'm not making that up) and add some cardio days.

Saturday, August 24, 2019


I think this is it. I think this is the happiest I've ever been and the best it will ever be. Being in a relationship has bigger highs but they also have the concomitant lows which I cannot stand. This is better. I work, have a weight training regimen that has me looking and feeling better than I have in years, and my kitchen lends itself to cooking the precise things I need support this physically active lifestyle. Then, as far as my need for social interaction goes, as an introvert I don't need a lot. I have my daughter here with me and that's enough.

At the moment I am making lentil soup in preparation for working out triceps and legs later on. Why bother with protein powder for building muscle mass when I can get the same effect with red lentils, steak, ground beef, fish, and beans, plus I love to eat anyway. And I am building muscle mass. To be honest, I exercise primarily for looks but my increase in strength and stamina is a positive side benefit as well as having the ability to eat large meals without worrying about weight gain.


Went to Meijer and bought $40 worth of stuff, came out ahead because I saved $3 using MPerks. Baking cornbread and chicken thighs seasoned with coriander, chili powder (hot & regular), turmeric, and paprika. Have leftover rice to go with it. It's the perfect preworkout meal. My appetite has returned with a vengeance since I started working out.

8:48 p.m.

Had successful workout, increased weight on tricep and leg exercises. Came home and ate chicken and cornbread again, watched an episode of "the End of the F***ing World" on Netflix with daughter. Life is good

Friday, August 09, 2019

Fitness Regimine

I quit drinking and started weight training regularly about three weeks ago. I wish I would have weighed myself because I can feel the change already. On the one hand, I've staved off the post Ramadan weight gain that would have happened, especially since my appetite has returned. On the other hand I know I've gained muscle mass in my back, arms, and chest. Since I eat more for the sake of muscle building protein, I've offset that by completely eliminating soda pop and sweets. I feel and look better than I have in a long time.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Devil with Small Hands

In the days after the of the Election of Donald Trump I felt a fear that I had not felt since the immediate aftermath of 9-11. It was a fear of the unthinking, uncritical hatred of the masses, the idea that due to circumstances completely out of our control, the innocent would now be at the mercy of the majority, stoked on by the malevolence of the few. My biggest fear is that Donald Trump would emerge to be the Machiavellian genius people were saying he was. I was afraid that, as President, he would gain popularity and win over skeptics with astute political maneuverings and consolidate those victories into support for his persecution of this nation's people of color. The idea being that, amid such victories and fervent support, even those well-meaning whites who did not harbor racist sentiments would remain quiet. In truth, events played out quite differently.

Donald Trump is not a political genius, Machiavellian or otherwise. In fact, although I often use the term mediocrity as an insult, the term cannot apply to Donald Trump in the political sense because the term would denote that he is middle of the pack, and this is simply not the case. Donald Trump has proven (to my great relief) to be almost comically inept, seemingly incapable to listening to his advisors, unable to stay out of his own way, utterly clueless when it comes to prudence in communicating with the American people, and a hopeless political neophyte.

Rather than playing political give and take and currying favor with Congress in order to achieve his main objectives, he has squandered whatever political clout he may have had and is wrapping up year one on the verge of accomplishing only his first major political objective while in office despite the Republican majority in both chambers of Congress. Much like a paper tiger, this small handed devil has proven to be much weaker and less fearsome than advertised, principally because the political plurality that is his base is no match for the rest of America who remain decent people dedicated to the ideals of justice and fairness, who uphold diversity without prejudice, and who do this nation proud despite the soulless beast that occupies the Oval Office who only represents the monsters of yesteryear.

Make no mistake, his inability to achieve his political ends does not mitigate his intent. If he had his way, he would close the border, deport Latinos and Arab refugees (most likely citizens included if he could get away with it), and return America to the race-based injustices that earned praise from Adolf Hitler before his own rise to power nearly a century ago. Donald Trump is a small-handed, miniature version of the larger devil that is perhaps to come if this nation cannot come to grips with the current tribalism that permeates throughout. This fear-based and antiquated idea that that is only one way to looks, act, and be American that has existed throughout my lifetime, a silent hatred that has always been brewing just under the surface, awaiting an imprimatur that will begin the unraveling of this experiment in political liberty that is America.

I say that Donald Trump is incompetent, not out of malice, but out of an immense sense of relief, a sense that, barring some self-induced calamity with North Korea, this nation will be able to survive this term without any permanent damage despite all the efforts of the executive branch. Currently the right is a shambles. Their own party is testament to the fact that they aren't concerned with sexual assault except inasmuch as it can be used to score political points when committed by Democrats or minorities. Their own candidates, however, can be readily forgiven when they commit such acts because, after all, boys will be boys and the last thing we need is another Democrat in office. The current situation is thus that the evil that Trump and company would visit upon this nation is not attainable at this time but we cannot be complacent in light of this fact. We must organize politically and do everything in our power ensure that a situation like this is not allowed to happen again. The next devil might have bigger hands.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Rigged for Disaster

Perhaps rigged is too loaded a term to use regarding the last Democratic National Convention but let us entertain the possibility that the DNC was weighted in Hillary's favor. Why would they do this? I offer here a list of reasons they might have chosen to favor Hillary to the detriment of Bernie Sanders, a comparison to what happened on the Republican side, and some editorial comment over the entire thing.

The first, and most obvious reason, was that Hillary was an establishment Democrat. The party would have obviously preferred a candidate who would put the party first and play politics as usual, campaign rhetoric be damned. As a political outsider, Bernie Sanders would have been more willing to take actions which would have run counter to what the establishment Democrats wanted if that was what it took to fulfill his campaign promises. Hillary, like Bill Clinton before her, would have been willing to sacrifice those campaign promises if that was what it took to wheel and deal with her fellow democrats and avoid arousing the wrath of Congress and the nation as a whole (see Bill Clinton's reversal on gay rights and socialized health care during his terms as President). Hillary Clinton is, first and foremost a politician whereas Bernie Sanders is more of an ideologue. That makes him less predictable and dangerous in the eyes of establishment Democrats.

Second, in some sense the DNC might have preferred to hand the mantle of leadership to Hillary as a reward for her years of loyalty and on the idea that it was her time. There are some who say that although Bill Clinton had the people skills and charisma, it was Hillary who was actually the brains behind the Clinton political machine. In a sense the election of Hillary Clinton would have in effect been her third term in office, not her first. Perhaps it is with this in mind that President Obama declared that there had never been another candidate as qualified for the office as Hillary Clinton. That, coupled with the fact that her age made her political viability doubtful for future races, would have been reason for the DNC to anoint her over Bernie Sanders.

Lastly, the DNC's underestimation of the Deplorables' political power fooled them into thinking they could disregard the desires of their own voters. They thought with Trump at the helm on the Republican side that a Democratic victory was a foregone conclusion and that they could force an unlikeable Hillary on the Democratic side against the will of Democratic voters (especially the young) who were energized and came out in droves to vote for Bernie. And remember, a zero charisma Hillary was the only thing that made a zero charisma Donald Trump viable in the first place.  Amazingly, this was the course the DNC chose and it came into play on election day when many of those young would-be Democratic voters stayed home and when many of the undecideds who had favored Bernie actually cast their ballots for the political outsider on the other side.

Keep in mind that, as much as establishment Republicans hated Donald Trump, they did not weight the scales against his candidacy and chose rather to let the political desires of their voters play itself out which is why they won the election. History has yet to weigh in on the ultimate implications of this development but in the short term they won the election and the Democrats lost. Again, let us entertain the idea for a moment that the DNC weighted the scales in favor of their preferred candidate over the wishes of their own voters. If this is indeed the case, the results of last year's elections are exactly what the party deserved and has given this nation a result we neither deserved nor desired.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

The Perils of Imputing Motives

I was working at a Middle Eastern restaurant a few years back when we caught a break in the action. The main front line cook (a young Iraqi refugee with a tenuous grasp of English) was out back smoking.  As the prep guy, my work was caught up so I went out back to join him.  The new guy, a Syrian refugee who was being trained to work the line, was on break and he wandered over towards us leaving the restaurant effectively without anyone to plate an order.  Predictably, some customers came in.

The main cook told the trainee to go see about the order.  The latter replied that he was on break and that he wasn't yet familiar with all the orders so he said the main cook should go see about the order.  For my part, I was ashamed at my co-workers for not getting up to do their jobs.  In the restaurant business, as with most business, the customer should be catered to.  When they place an order they should see hustle, professionalism, and friendliness.  I thought to say something but eventually one of them (I can't remember which) got up to take the order.  The moment passed and would have been something we all forgot until we got the phone call.

My co-worker Malak (a Palestinian-American) took a call from a woman who demanded to know if we had a problem serving mixed race couples.  She said that she had been in earlier and that the staff had been slow to serve her and her boyfriend and said that if we had a problem serving mixed-race couples maybe we were in the wrong business.  Malak apologized profusely for the slow service but stated that we were inclusive an had nothing against people of any race or religion. 

For my part, I wanted to grab the phone and tell the lady that our cooks aren't racist, they're lazy but I honestly didn't think it would make a difference.  From my experience, when people impute motives onto the actions of others, it can be next to impossible to detach them from these views.  Never mind the fact that it boggles the mind to try to think of a reason why anyone would think Arab refugees would be emotionally invested in the black/white American racial dynamic. This lady received poor service and made a snap judgment about the reason behind it.

In relating this story to one of my friends as a caveat against knee-jerk reactions regarding race in America, I was accused of being a racial apologist and covering for racists.  That is not the case at all.  Rather, I think that if we, as ethnic minorities, want our concerns to be taken seriously we must call out the genuine demonstrable cases of racism and avoid imputing race as the factor in cases where we might be honestly mistaken.  We must not serve up the potentially innocent along with the guilty for condemnation or we run the risk of condemning our own cause with frivolous and potentially damaging claims.  If our rallying cry is for justice, we must hold ourselves accountable to that same standard.  In the continuing battle against racism, we have enough actual enemies to stand up against.  It is not to our advantage to weaken the cause by fighting the wrong fight.