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Ramadan
Benjamin Franklin

When Reason preaches, if you don’t hear her she’ll box your Ears.

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Ramadan

One day in early May I happened to be off from my day job. (The biggest downside of my current day job is that not only am I still stuck with part-time hours after working for over two months but there are times when I have off because the boss has to be off somewhere else.) A friend of mine invited me to head to his workplace in Takoma Park, Maryland where I helped him with a side project.

On my way to visit my friend’s workplace, I happened to walk by a set of steps that are located near the Takoma Park Community Center. Not only have they been freshly painted in a multitude of colors but they are also written in a variety of different languages, reflecting on the fact that there are a large number of immigrants from all over the world who live and/or work in Takoma Park.

These steps were being painted when I was there that day. I took a quick shot of the artist who literally had to lie down in order to paint these steps.

I also took this nearby photo of a tree with new spring leaves and azalea bushes in full bloom.

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Ramadan

I had a pretty busy day. In the morning I went to one of the trainings and town hall meeting for the Poor People’s Campaign in the morning. In the afternoon I decided to go to Third Eye Comics in Annapolis, since that day was also Free Comic Book Day nationwide. (If all that weren’t enough, it was also Cinco de Mayo. I ended up eating tacos at home that I made myself using ingredients that I purchased from Aldi. I learned a long time ago that it’s total folly to attempt to eat in any kind of Mexican/Hispanic/Latino restaurant on Cinco de Mayo.)

So after checking out the Poor People’s Campaign, I drove to Annapolis. I arrived at Third Eye Comics only to find that parking was harder to find than usual. I ended up parking a few blocks away in an office park, which had some nice wall murals.

The next photo shows how crowded that store was. The next photo shows the line to the checkout counter.

I saw these vintage Atari video game cartridges on sale. I remember when Atari originally came out but I never owned one mainly because I was in college at the time and money was a bit tight at the time. It never bothered me that I never owed an Atari because my college (the University of Maryland) had plenty of arcade games on campus and some of the local off-campus fast food places also had arcade games.

I saw a few other interesting things on sale at Third Eye Comics.

I came across a whole aisle full of the ever-popular Funko Pop! statues. I found one new trend: Funko Pops based on real dead rock stars like Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead and Joey Ramone of The Ramones.

There were plenty of Funko Pops based on comic book and video game characters such as Rocket Raccoon, Mega Man, Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent, Wonder Woman, Batman, Batwoman, and Batgirl.

I also found an actual WTF t-shirt and a special edition of the Monopoly game board based on the latest Jurassic Park movie called Jurassic World.

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Ramadan

Last month I was browsing through Target where I took these pictures. Later this month the latest installment in the ever-popular Jurassic Park movies, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, will be released. I saw so many LEGO and Duplo sets that one could easily create his/her own Jurassic Park in the privacy of his/her home. I have a friend on Facebook who is mad about dinosaurs so I took a whole slew for her benefit. Knowing her, she has probably purchased at least one or two of these sets by now. (LOL!)

The Jurassic Park/Jurassic World hype isn’t limited to just LEGO and Duplo. I saw this poster book on sale that includes tearaway poster pages that one can hang on a wall.

Soon after our wedding my new husband and I took a trip to the Orlando area where we spent the bulk of our time at Walt Disney World. Throughout our marriage we kept up with Disney and Mickey Mouse and we made a few return trips to Disney World while making a few trips to the original Disneyland theme park in California. I used to be well-versed on when a Disney anniversary was coming. Ever since my husband left and my marriage ended in divorce, I had let my Mickey Mouse fixation slide big time. (The majority of Mickey clothes I still own were ones that I either bought or were given to me while I was still married.) If it weren’t for seeing these special Mickey Mouse edition of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers on sale at Target, I would have totally missed the fact (which is printed on the back of these packages) that this year is the 90th anniversary of the release of Steamboat Willie, which unleashed both Mickey and his girlfriend, Minnie Mouse, on the world.

Nintendo’s latest video game system is the Switch. (I still have the original Nintendo Wii and Sony Playstation 2, which should give you an idea as to how far behind I am on the latest video games. LOL!) One interesting thing is that Nintedo has come out with the Nintendo Labo, which definitely taps into the current STEM/STEAM/Maker movement.

I also saw another STEM/STEAM/Maker focused product on sale at Target. Google has a line of AIY, which are described as “Do-it-yourself artificial intelligence.” The products I saw on sale that day were an intelligent speaker and an intelligent camera.

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Ramadan

Before I got my current day job doing administrative work for the executor of his late aunt’s estate, I had done some volunteer work as an assistant facilitator for the Takoma Park, Maryland chapter of Girls Who Code, a nationwide organization that is dedicated to encourage girls to become comfortable with technology so they will feel emboldened to enter computer science and other STEM related fields as women. This chapter met two afternoons a week after school in the computer lab at the Takoma Park Public Library (that’s the one that’s located on the Maryland side of town—there’s another Takoma Park Public Library that’s located on the Washington, DC side and is part of the DC Public Library system).

I ended up having to drop out when I had a serious car problem earlier this year (the brakes died and I couldn’t afford to get them repaired immediately) followed by getting my current day job. I helped with editing this video about what the girls did during their time with Girls Who Code. (Other people had shot video footage and photos.)

The video that I edited was shown during the graduation ceremony that was held last week. Unfortunately I had to miss it because of my day job but the ceremony was initially live-streamed over the Internet and it’s now archived on YouTube.

I recently wrote a new article on LinkedIn Pulse about my experience with Girls Who Code called “How I’ve Personally Seen Girls Who Code Change Lives,” which you can read right here.

Ramadan

A look at the digital ruins of a forgotten future called Second Life.

U.S. mints coins for Donald Trump-Kim Jong Un summit that might not happen.

Fewer tourists are coming to the U.S. and experts say that it’s largely Trump’s fault.

Barbie “Shero” doll with a hijab honors Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad.

Martin Luther King may have been killed by a Memphis police officer, not James Earl Ray.

How white Americans used lynchings to terrorize and control black people.

Laminated jewelry crafted from vintage books by Jeremy May.

A look at the guerrilla grafting movement—secretly grafting fruit-bearing trees onto ornamental city trees in order to feed the poor.

A Princeton sociologist spent 8 years asking rural Americans why they are so pissed off. Hint: It’s not about the economy.

The surprising secret to aging well.

New York City has genetically distinct “uptown” and “downtown” rats.

Why the DNC is fighting WikiLeaks and not Wall Street.

How Australia all but ended gun violence.

83,500 vintage sewing patterns put into online database from Vogue, McCall’s, Butterick, and Simplicity.

Stunning images of pagan costumes worn at winter celebrations around the world.

Watch the illustrated version of “Alice’s Restaurant,” Arlo Guthrie’s Thanksgiving Counterculture Classic.

The bots that are changing politics.

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Ramadan

This week there have been two major well-loved celebrities who committed suicide within a few days of each other. Earlier this week handbag designer Kate Spade was found dead while this morning culinary celebrity Anthony Bourdain had also taken his own life. Both had very successful careers that made them wealthy and both had left behind children who will grow up without one of their parents due to suicide.

I was very familiar with Kate Spade (I used to see her products on sale in some of the more upscale malls) but I never owned any of her handbags. I saw a portion of one of Anthony Bourdain’s shows once or twice but I wasn’t a regular viewer mainly because he used to eat strange foods (such as raw seal eye) and I was a bit on the squeamish side.

These two suicides led to a sudden outpouring on social media where people began to post openly about suicide in an effort to raise awareness. This morning I wrote a multi-part tweet on Twitter about the topic but I wanted to expand on it in this blog post because it gets pretty frustrating dealing with Twitter’s limitations.

Hearing about the suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade have evoked memories for me and it’s not only about the previous suicides of famous people like Chris Cornell.

When I was around six or seven years old I was at a family get-together on my father’s side of the family where I saw my Great-Uncle Jack. About two or three months after that event my family learned that Great-Uncle Jack had jumped from the window of his apartment located in a tall building in Baltimore. Years later my mother mentioned that she had heard that he had grown despondent about the death of his wife just a few years earlier. (Apparently they had been married a long time when she passed away.) She had heard that he had set up a little shrine in his apartment devoted to his late wife and some relatives thought that he was getting too obsessed about her death.

What my mother said about Great-Uncle Jack was the only time that anyone in the family had ever discussed his death aside from the suicide itself. Most of my father’s relatives kept Great-Uncle Jack’s suicide hush-hush as if they felt deeply ashamed that he had opted to end his own life. I didn’t dare speak up about Great-Uncle Jack to any of my father’s side of the family because I knew that someone would have yelled at me to shut up about Great-Uncle Jack. I ended up not knowing Great-Uncle Jack because I was so young when he killed himself. I don’t know what his personality was like or what his likes or dislikes were. Hell, I don’t even know when he was born or how old he was when he killed himself. To me he is a total stranger whose one memory of him at a family event is hazy at best.

As for me, I didn’t even mention Great-Uncle Jack’s suicide as an adult until just a few months ago when I made a reaction video to one of Logan Paul’s videos (which I’ll get to in a bit). Even then I only mentioned his death briefly. For this post I decided to be a bit more open about Great-Uncle Jack’s suicide mainly because I really believe that it’s imperative that we raise suicide awareness and how the suicide of a friend or relative can affect his/her survivors. I initially thought about the ramifications about opening up about Great-Uncle Jack’s death until I realized that his suicide had happened decades ago. Most of the people who were the most directly affected by Great-Uncle Jack’s suicide are either now deceased (such as my father) or they are over the age of 85 and they are probably less affected by that suicide then they once were.

My father’s side of the family was touched by suicide yet again a few years later. I was 12 when another relative on my father’s side of the family attempted suicide not once, but twice just a few months apart. Luckily this relative survived both attempts and he got the professional help he needed. He eventually pulled himself together and has decided against attempting suicide ever again. I can’t really write too much about him because he is still alive and well and he has long since put his past behind him. I’m proud that he has decided that suicide wasn’t the solution for him and he is now focused on living his life.

Two years ago a man whom I only knew as the moderator of a Yahoo! group that focused on our neighborhood committed suicide.

The saddest suicide story that affected me happened just last year. As I wrote in this blog post, my late aunt babysat a boy named Ben from the time he was a baby until he was in middle school. His father committed suicide soon after my aunt started babysitting him so he grew up without ever knowing his father. I used to see Ben from time to time when I visited my aunt, uncle, and cousins. On the surface he seemed to be an average boy with an impish grin who seemed okay despite being forced to grow up knowing that his father committed suicide. I last saw Ben at my aunt’s funeral when he was in high school. I lost contact with Ben until I learned that he committed suicide himself, thus following in his father’s tragic footsteps. He was only 43 years old.

I felt this incredible sadness when I learned about Ben’s death but there was one other emotion I felt that I didn’t write about last year because I just couldn’t handle writing about it at the time. I was angry at Ben for what he did. I saw the Facebook photos of my cousins, Ben’s mother, and Ben’s brothers after they returned from Ben’s funeral. I thought about Ben’s mother who, just years earlier, had to bury her husband because he committed suicide. As a senior citizen, Ben’s mother had to deal with losing her son to suicide and help bury him as well. I can’t even begin to imagine how she must have felt. I also thought about Ben’s two older brothers who had to deal with losing both a father AND a brother to suicide.

On top of that, Ben left a daughter behind. Judging from the few photos posted of her on Facebook, it looks like the girl was somewhere between 5-9 years old when Ben killed himself. Ben had to grow up knowing that he didn’t have a father because his father killed himself. It seems so inconceivable to me that he would perpetrate the same thing on his own daughter so she is now condemned to grow up fatherless while knowing that her own father killed himself. I just don’t get why he would do the same thing to that poor girl that his father did to him—take himself permanently out of the picture through suicide.

So, yes, I was angry at Ben for inflicting the same agony on his family that his father inflicted on him and his family years earlier. I’m not proud that I was angry but that was an emotion that I felt along with the general sadness that he killed himself. But then I began to think more and I realized that Ben must have been in some kind of severe emotional pain in order for him to conclude that killing himself was the only option. I don’t know if Ben tried to seek professional help for his problems or if he had a relative or friend who tried to help him. I don’t know if Ben tried to reach out for help or not. I don’t know if someone tried to reach out to Ben. I hadn’t seen Ben or his family in a very long time so there are parts of his story that I simply don’t know.

Those suicides in my life are the main reasons why I was so infuriated by Logan Paul’s tasteless Suicide Forest video earlier this year. Logan Paul had disrespected that poor man’s friends and family at a moment when they were dealing with their sudden loss. Plus that video came out shortly before the one-year anniversary of Ben’s suicide. I was so offended by that video and YouTube’s poor handling of the matter that I made my own video about it.

Granted Logan Paul subsequently made a very moving suicide awareness video that was very heartfelt and emotional but, unfortunately, it was little more than a cheap publicity stunt. Soon afterwards he reverted back to being a douchebag while YouTube seems to favor their little golden boy moneymaker by turning a blind eye to his antics.

As for me, I have a confession to make. There were times when I had suicidal thoughts myself. I initially had them in the eighth grade when I was bullied really badly and one of the bullies was especially obsessed with making my life miserable. I ended up not doing anything about those thoughts and that psychopathic bully eventually left my school the following year.

There was a time when I actually attempted a kind of a suicide where you intentionally do something that will get someone else to kill you. One example of this is known as suicide by cop. When I was a sophomore in high school there was an incident where three young girls (two of whom were sisters while the third was a friend of theirs) between the ages 8-10 were found brutally murdered in the woods. I wrote about these murders last year so you can go there is you want the full story. In any case the police immediately began a manhunt for the person who killed those girls.

It would be three days before someone was apprehended. In the meantime the person was on the loose. Even though the murders took place about three miles from my own neighborhood, my parents and grandmother (my mother’s mother who lived with us) began to irrationally think that I would be next. I walked to school in the last five years of my public school career because the school I attended were within walking distance. They began to forbid me from taking a popular well-traveled short cut through some woods in order to reach the high school. Never mind the fact that the woods in question weren’t very thick. (I recall that the backyards of some of the houses in my neighborhood used to abut the edge of the woods along that traveled path.)

I grew up as an only child who was constantly being watched by the three adults I lived with. They constantly were on the lookout for when I would screw up and they would pounce on the next opportunity that I made any kind of mistake no matter how minor. My parents were extremely strict and overprotective of me when I was growing up—they were helicopter parents long before that became a hip trendy yuppie thing. The fact that many of the kids ostracized me because they thought I was “retarded” only exacerbated the situation so I couldn’t go to—let’s say—a friend’s house and chill out if living with my parents got too much for me.

On top of that it was only two years earlier when I faced that psychotic middle school bully from hell and I still had some mental scars from that. (Fortunately she was long gone by the time the murders happened.)

I secretly took that shortcut anyway because I was mentally in a dark place regarding the kids in school calling me “retarded” and having parents who were so strict that I used to secretly envy the kids whose parents used to give them very little attention and supervision. At the time I felt that the person would do me a big favor if he would kill me just like he killed those girls.

In any case I never faced the killer and the police apprehended him. He pleaded guilty and he committed suicide just a few years later.

My life really improved when I went to the University of Maryland at College Park and I encountered people who were willing to be friends with me. It helped that they didn’t attend the same schools I did so they didn’t have any kind of preconceived notions about me.

Those suicidal thoughts came back when my husband suddenly ran away from home in late 2011. Here was my situation. I had hip replacement surgery in 2008 and my husband was very loving and attentive the entire time. He was my champion who cheered me on as I underwent physical therapy. When I fell twice in early 2011 (with both falls being about a week apart), my hip replacement was knocked out of alignment. I had to undergo hip revision surgery to knock the hip replacement back into alignment. Once again my husband took charge of my recovery. He stayed home and took care of me while I was recovering from surgery. He would make errands to buy food and needed prescription medications. He arranged to have friends drive me to physical therapy when he had to go back to work. He was incredibly loving and attentive towards me.

To go from that to suddenly deciding that he wanted a divorce out of the blue was devastating to me. He never once told me that he was the least bit unhappy yet he left behind a note telling me that I was the reason why he had to leave home. Worse, my friends told me that he had left me for a friend with mental health problems so severe that she has an experimental pacemaker in her brain and she qualified for SSI disability.

Overnight he went from being my best friend whom I would trust with my life to being my own worst enemy who has shown nothing but contempt for me. It was almost like he had really secretly hated me all those years but he hid that from me and pretended that he still “loved” me but once he left me he really let it all out about how much he really despised me. It would be like encountering a sudden blizzard that dumped 20 feet of snow on a hot summer day.

To make matters worse, he refused to talk to me in person or on the phone yet he would send emails and texts demanding that I adhere to this separation schedule that existed only in his head because, I later learned, he felt a need to get a divorce and marry this other woman by a certain date. (Why he felt the need to have this schedule, I’ll never know. Many of our longtime friends were just as shocked by my husband marrying this severely mentally ill person just two months after our divorce was final as I was.) If I balked at following this schedule or asked him to move more slowly, he would threaten to sue me. I later learned that what he did to me was cyberbullying.

And that’s not to mention that there is some dispute as to whether it’s even ethical for him to have any kind of a sexual relationship with a very mentally ill woman and if what he did makes him a sexual predator at best (and maybe even a rapist at worse) but I’ve already explored that question at length here and here.

So I had suicidal thoughts but I ended not making any suicide attempts. What happened? Well I had people around me who were concerned about me. People in my Unitarian Universalist church were the ones who initially reached out to me. Then I was referred to a support group to people who are separated or divorced and I started going to those meetings. I had other friends who also reached out to me. Long story short, I didn’t attempt suicide because I had surrounded myself with people who cared about me and were willing to do whatever they could to help me.

The big irony is that I’m writing this blog post on a day that would’ve been my wedding anniversary had my husband not left me and got a divorce.

Earlier this year I had a financial crisis stemming from my husband cutting off of alimony while only being able to land a job with part-time hours. I went even deeper into debt and I began to worry about being homeless and lose everything I had ever owned. I thought about suicide but I ended up not going through with it because I signed up with a local group that provides emergency crisis care and I’m currently going through the eight-week program. I also recently had a friend move in with me so we can split expenses.

I think the biggest motivation I had for not committing suicide was my ex-husband. Given the contempt he has shown for me over the last few years, I now seriously doubt that he had ever loved me to begin with. (As to why he would even marry someone whom he didn’t love to begin with, I can’t explain.) I knew that if I had taken my own life, I would be doing what he probably would have wanted for me (to be dead). I just didn’t want to give him the satisfaction that I killed myself.

I’m not fully out of the woods yet but I’m glad that I didn’t kill myself.

I just want to say that if you feel like committing suicide yourself, please call a suicide hotline or talk with a trusted friend or relative first. I know first-hand how a suicide can have lasting effects on those who knew that person, including feelings of guilt and shame. If you are in the U.S., contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you are in the U.K., contact the Samaritans at 116 123 or jo@samaritans.org. If you are in Australia, contact Lifeline at 13 11 14. For other countries, visit the Befrienders Worldwide site to find a helpline that’s nearest you.

Remember you are not alone and you don’t have to be alone. There is help available for you.

Ramadan

Benjamin Franklin

A great Talker may be no Fool, but he is one that relies on him.

Ramadan

A few months ago I found a new day job where I’m doing administrative work (such as doing Google searches on various topics, sending emails to various people, and filing). The person I’m doing work for has a lot on his plate. He’s the executor of his late aunt’s estate which he’s trying to wind it down. He’s also doing other things which I’m not going to elaborate on right now. I mentioned a few months ago that I wasn’t going to write anything about this day job unless I do something that is extraordinary visual and creative.

Well I did just that as part of my job last month. His late aunt owned some property in the Washington, DC area that she rented to tenants. My boss decided to put one of the houses up for sale. This house is located in McLean, Virginia and the tenants had recently moved out. I was sent to the property to take photos in preparation for selling it.

The house is located on top of a hill so I couldn’t walk too far back on the front lawn because I wanted to avoid rolling down the hill. The house is long in length and it has a brick façade. It looks big but, compared to the other houses I drove past on the way to this house, it’s relatively modest. (I drove past several large mansions in the same neighborhood that definitely dwarfs this house.)

The well-manicured lawn had plenty of azalea bushes that were in full bloom when I was there.

The property has a swimming pool but it was covered when I was there.

I was instructed to shoot as much as possible. I shot close to 200 photos of the place. I’m only posting a fraction of the photos I shot in this blog because the vast majority of photos were of empty rooms just like the next two photos.

The rooms had a fresh coat of white paint and it clearly has hardwood floors. But many of the photos I took of those rooms were so similar that even I had a hard time keeping straight as to whether I had already photographed a certain room or not. I just didn’t want to bore you with an excess of photos of bare rooms with no furniture or anything else. The bare rooms currently have a few nice touches, such as these fancy brass air vent covers.

The living room (or what I think is the living room) has a nice looking fireplace.

The kitchen has this lush wood paneling that looks like mahogany. Even the refrigerator (located on the far left in the photo below) has wood paneling on its two front doors.

The kitchen countertops are made of granite.

One of the rooms that faces the backyard swimming pool has a brick wall and floor with this old-fashioned iron stove that looks vintage, retro, and cool.

This house has three full bathrooms and three half-bathrooms. (Or I think I counted that many bathrooms.) One full bathroom is all white with fancy white moulding around the mirror and gold fixtures.

The other full bathroom has a sink with this nice looking blue tile on the top.

My favorite full bathroom is the one that has this colorful mosaic covering the sink.

The front windows on the upper levels provide spectacular views of the neighborhood. I shot this photo on the second floor, which overlooks this large mansion that’s across the street and the abundant trees. It’s obvious that this area was once rural. I did not see a single Metrobus stop anywhere in this neighborhood and the nearest Metrorail station is several miles away. The roads leading to this home are winding and very twisty and curvy at times. I don’t know if it was always a wealthy area or if it was one of those rural areas that was once full of family farms but now caters to people with deep pockets.

Soon after my visit I uploaded nearly all of my photos to a Dropbox account with one exception. I took a selfie while I was standing in front of one of the large bathroom mirrors holding my Canon PowerShot camera. I didn’t include my selfie with the rest of the real estate photos because it doesn’t really fit in with the others (which are supposed to show off the house and grounds to potential buyers). So I’m going to post it in this blog instead.

With this post I can at least prove to others that I am capable of doing real estate photography. I’ve previously done similar job-related photography a few years ago when, as part of a previous job, I photographed the Dayspring Retreat Center and compost facilities in Howard County, the City of College Park, and the University of Maryland at College Park.

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Ramadan

Not too long (April 26, 2018) I decided to check out Third Eye Comics in Annapolis. I took a few photos of some random comic book covers for a Facebook friend who’s into dinosaurs in a very big way. There are issues of a Marvel comic book called Monsters Unleashed which, judging from the cover, seems to focus on a different dragon or dinosaur each issue.

There’s also a Japanese imported kit featuring a robot dinosaur.

That same friend also works in one of the many new cannabis dispensaries that have cropped up in Maryland since medical marijuana was legalized not too long ago. I shot this cover of a comic book called The Gingerbread Man Meets EvilBong. The cover looks hilariously surreal.

Lastly I saw this comic book series that’s a joint publication of DC Comics and Archie which has this improbable scenario: What if Betty and Veronica from Archie meet Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy? I would’ve loved to check these issues out but, at $3.99 per issue, I’m financially struggling too much to afford them. Oh well.

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