Sunday, December 30, 2007

Picky Eater

I was a very picky eater as a kid but I eat most things now.

Recently I saw this amazing list of foods Homer's mom couldn't eat and decided to make a list of my own to objectively assess just how picky I still am.

Absolutely won't touch:

1. Vinegar
2. Mustard

Actually besides these two, I will eat almost anything so long as it's cooked to taste nice. There are other things I don't eat like insects, manure and dirt but I guess I won't have to worry about coming across these things in the places I frequent.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


I saw a recipe using bulgar some time ago and had been curious about this ingredient. Then yesterday when I went to the Muslim butcher to buy oil cured Moroccan black olives, I saw packs of bulgar sitting there beckoning to me.

Since I'd never used this ingredient before, I did a little Internet research and basically it seemed there were 2 ways of softening it:

1. Pour boiling water over it and leave it for awhile.
2. Soak it in lemon, sour grape, tomato or onion juices.

I decided to go with #2 and looked for a recipe that softened the bulgar using this method.

I found this:

However I omitted the cinnamon.

I also sauteed some ground beef seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic.

I opted for Iceberg lettuce instead of Romaine and used big pieces of the leaves to wrap a bit of the ground beef and bulgar mixture. It was delicious!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Here's another totally inane article about saving energy. Kind of reminds me of Alvin Toffler's 'Learning for Tomorrow' where he talks about how we have the technology to make condoms but can't make people use them, i.e. we can't modify their behaviour. Overall the book is about how the technology to make things rocketed forward while the technology to modify human behaviour languished in the middle ages and that this is at the root of some of the problems of modern times.

Take HIV. People know it exists. We have the communication network that has let most of the world know about HIV and how to reduce risks - and yet people continue to have unprotected sex.

Take oil. People know we are running out of oil and yet people not only want to buy cars but they encourage other people to buy cars. In addition, people not only want to travel a lot but constantly pester other people about 'where they went for holidays' making them feel bad if they didn't go anywhere insisting that 'you need to go somewhere!'.

Take consumerism in general. I've reached this point in life where I'm quite content staying home mostly, taking pleasure in activities like long walks, online games and cooking. I buy fewer things than before, but many people have tried to make me feel bad about this, suggesting that I needed more money so I could buy more clothes I don't need to wear, etc.

I think the problem is inside our heads. Inside the heads of human beings. Until attitudes of people change - like their nature of being competitive with other humans - nothing will change and we'll be speeding down home straight to all the problems that have been predicted by science.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Chickpea Salad

I spent all weekend preparing my lovely chickpeas so that I could make some delicious dishes out of them.

After I soaked them for 24 hours from Friday night, I boiled them for 3 hours on Saturday. Then I made some humus, and stored the rest in a tupperware in the refrigerator.

Today I made a salad for lunch which was delicious, refreshing and filling.

Salad Ingredients

Cooked Chickpeas
Sliced Cucmber (cut in quarters)
Diced Tomatoes
Diced Boiled Eggs
Chives (I use a scissor to cut them)


Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Coarse Sea Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper (preferably red, white, black, green)
1/3 Lemon Juice
Dash of Cumin
Dash of Chili

Just mix all of this and serve with toast!

It's nutritious and pretty filling.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Contradictions: Egg Freezing

I came across this article today and wondered about how unthinking people can be about the personal situations of other people.

"Critics argue they are delaying motherhood for the wrong motives, such as climbing the career ladder or until they have more money."

This shows really backward thinking by men (and maybe some thoughtless women who are the worst enemies of other women) that women are breeding mares first and don't have the right to pursue a career in the same way that men do. Since when is it wrong to wait until you have more money to raise a child properly? It's a sensible thing to worry about. Do these critics really think it's better for women to go on welfare?

"Many of those women have been with commitment-phobic men or have not found Mr Right, or they are part of a couple that needs two salaries to get a mortgage.

"These are social issues but it is wrong to deprive women of this option, which many of them say is empowering."

This, I think is the reality when I think about all my female friends with careers. And the reality kind of gets me pissed off at men in general.

1. Men don't want to commit to a relationship

2. They don't like women taking their jobs

3. They expect women to have children anyway to populate the world

Also at the end of the day - relying on a man to take care of you is a very risky thing. Power corrupts people and makes people abusive. How many women have been abused because they were dependent on a man for a living?

I think that the issues of women's rights in the real sense has to be addressed if people want to see a change. In other words, they should have the right to make their own livelihood so that they can be economically independent, and if the state wants more women to have children they need to be given special rights that men don't have simply because men do not get pregnant and have babies.

And yes, I'm all for allowing women to freeze their eggs, but women also need to come to terms with making choices about their life. If it's very important to have a baby, then it's just more probable that they'll have a successful pregnancy if they do it when nature thinks it's optimal.

Absolut Vodka

Call me uninformed and lazy...but I didn't realize Absolut Vodka was a product of a state owned industry until this morning when I read this:

I guess it's because when we think of state owned businesses, we think of conservative and often boring advertising - and Absolut Vodka is a brand that is known for its 'cool' 'cutting-edge' advertising. It's a brand that is mentioned in books about thematic advertising where everything went right.

The company seems open minded and creative in their attitude about marketing including product placement in tv shows. I've seen funny references made to the brand in Swedish shows like 'Beck' or in American shows like 'Sex and the City' (, and I believe they have come out winners for their open mindedness in how to make their brand grow.

Upon closer examination of the Absolut Hunk however, I now realize I have worked with this male model. He didn't seem this muscular and well-built at the time so I didn't even recognize him. But now that I've taken a closer look at his face - it is indeed Jason Lewis - who featured in a 'Marui' commercial in Japan years ago, and I was one of the bilingual production managers. Some of the girls in the production crew made a big fuss about meeting him and I didn't understand what the big deal was but now that I'm in my 40s and am looking at this virtually naked photograph of him, it finally dawns on me what the big deal is. He's a good looking guy isn't he? It only took me a decade to realize this!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What do to with life?

I think that there is so much propaganda around us that affects the minds of everyone that it makes it difficult to be happy at any given moment in life. If you dare to be happy a friend or relative will remind you what's lacking in your life and make you unhappy or doubt your happiness.

It's so easy to find something wrong with your life with all the demands that humanity make on you. Why can't we just sit back and enjoy life for what it offers?

Right now I'm pretty happy - or should be. I don't work. I have time to prepare slow food almost everyday. Should I wish to take a stroll the Mediterranean is only 1.5 km away. I have a partner to share life's small joys with.

Underneath it all is the pressure to achieve something noteworthy . But let's be realistic. How many people can do this even if they spend every waking hour of their life trying to do this?

Right now I'm trying to come to terms with being happy with what I can do right now, without being overly selfish and callous to the people around me.

I think it's possible to achieve some kind of a balance in life - where you can still be reasonably considerate toward others without sacrificing too much and keeping yourself in a happy state of mind.

I don't believe the utter selfishness with which some people singlemindedly pursue only their own happiness can help one be happy at the end of the day because there will be too many things to be unhappy about when you don't get your way.

There, I said it.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Potato Holiday

A friend from Denmark told me that the 'potato holiday' starts today or so. Traditionally, children had to take a break from school to help their parents dig up the potatoes at this time of the year. Now with child labor laws in place this doesn't happen, but instead of working, children are taken to holiday resorts courtesy of their parents.

Why am I mentioning this?

Just thought it was a cute fact to know about the origins of a certain holiday.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Something is wrong...

I saw three headlines of news articles side by side telling me that something is wrong. Can you figure it out?

"Torrential rain causes problems in much of Andalucía"

Threat of water restrictions looms after third year of drought"

"Magdalena Álvarez Minister for PUBLIC WORKS"
“We have fulfilled our promises to Malaga, and a lot more besides”

With no regrets for decisions made, Magdalena Álvarez believes that her ministry’s investment of 946 million euros in Malaga is fully justified

Monday, October 8, 2007

Ghost Story

Reading about the Japanese journalist who got shot at close range in Burma reminded me of my friend Shoko's husband, Akihiro Nonaka who has been leading a free minded group of journalists called Asia Press International for many years.

I don't believe in ghosts even though I used to read a lot of horror stories, but her husband's story from Cambodia really sent shivers up my spine.

I don't remember what or where exactly the journalists visited that day but it was some site were there had been a very bloody massacre. One of the journalists was very much affected by this, feeling strong waves of sympathy for those who died there, and was warned by one of the locals that it was not good to let yourself feel that way because the earth bound spirits might follow him back.

Anyhow Akihiro and the other journalist didn't really think much of this and went back to their hotel. Everything seemed quite normal until there was a power failure at around 2am or so in the morning and then there was a loud rapping at the window of the hotel.

I don't remember the details of this story as Akihiro told me this more than a decade ago, but I think the hotel staff told them not to ever open the window when this happened.

This happened again the following night and so they decided something had to be done.

I think they went and had some Buddhist monks say some prayers and make some offerings. I don't remember exactly what they did, but they did this and they shortly left the country.

The Cambodians seemed to believe that the earth bound spirits had followed the sympathetic journalist back to his hotel and were rapping his window asking to be let inside.

I really don't know what to make of this story. It could be that even seasoned war zone journalists become nervous when visiting massacre sites and that the words spoken out loud have the power to cast some kind of spell on your mind if said by the right person at the right time....and well, your imagination makes things that seem supernatural happen.

Many other explanations can be explored but I found this story frightening because more than one person seemed to witness it at the same time.

Anyhow it's not a story one wants to remember in the middle of the night if one lives alone. I think that's why I'd put this away in the back of mind for years...

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Glamorous Life of Semi-Retired People

Well, today I've been reading about how to unclog bathtub drains. I've also had to plaster up holes in the wall where a carpenter's assistant managed to drill holes in the wrong place...yes, it's very glamorous!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Spaghetti with Smoked Swordfish, Peperoncino, Garlic, Lemon Zest and Fresh Rucola

I haven't posted any recipes here because I'm too lazy to figure out the exact amount of ingredients I use. So if you'll just look at my experimental dishes as 'cooking ideas' instead of 'recipes' and use your own good judgement for how much of each you want to use - my notes might even be useful!

Ingredients for 1 person:

Fresh Rucola (enough to garnish the plate of pasta)
Smoked Swordfish
Grated Zest of 1 Lemon (preferably the small green variety)
Lemon juice (1/2 - 1 lemon, depends on how sour you want it to be)
Coarse Sea Salt
Freshly Grated Black Pepper
2 Garlic Cloves, Sliced
2 Dried Peperoncino (Seeded)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1. Start boiling the water first and throw in a generous amount of salt when it comes to a boil.

2. While waiting for the water to boil prepare the grated lemon zest and make thin strips of the smoked swordfish (as much as you want). Slice the garlic cloves thinly. Seed the peperoncino. Remember to cut the lemon in half so you can squeeze it into the sauce when the time comes.

3. Start boiling the pasta. This will take 7-10 minutes depending on the type and brand.

4. Start the heat in the frying pan and throw in the slices of garlic, peperoncino and heat it up. Let the heat release the flavours! Then turn off the heat and throw in the lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, pepper and smoked salmon strips (you don't want these to cook - just get them a bit warm).

5. Drain the cooked pasta and toss the spaghetti in the frying pan (don't heat it!).

6. Put everything on a plate and garnish with a generous amout of fresh rucola.


Friday, September 28, 2007

Klara and Edda Belly-Dancing Controversy

When I first read this I thought they might be over reacting but now that I've seen a copy of the photograph I have to say that I do think it's 'child porn'.

Now let me say that I am not a militant campaigner against pornography in general, nor do I feel that all child nudity is porn. I also am a supporter of gay rights - so I would be one of the last to want to nail Elton John. Besides if Elton is gay why would he be excited by photographs of nude...uh, girls?

I won't post any links to images of this photograph here because I do believe it's something that will excite paedophiles very much.

Basically what this reminds me of is something a Playboy magazine editor once said to me about female nudity in general. Yes, I used to do translation work for them and I didn't have any qualms about this. Well, anyway he said that males tend to react quite straight forward to photographs of a vagina or the part of the body where that is. So, if a woman was sitting on a chair with her knees up against her and the photograph was taken so that the part of her body where the vagina is was in view (and she was fully clothed) - this would provide many a male with the sexual stimulus they needed to 'jack off'.

The little girl in the controversial photograph is totally naked and in a position so that her vagina is right in your face. Though this may not make most people react (because we are not all excited by nude children), paedophiles who are excited by nudity of very young females would surely find it very stimulating.

I personally feel that this particular photograph is 'child porn' in this sense. What we have to be careful about is getting so zealous about things that taking photographs of naked little children doing anything becomes a crime.

In some cultures there's nothing wrong with little children running around naked and you'll see these photographs in family albums. God forbid that a day should come when parents are arrested for owning such photographs.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Appointment

So I headed out to that God forsaken office armed with a written explanation of how I had sent a fax in twice for an appointment and didn't get a reply and how my lawyer had called them and confirmed that I had an appointment.

The guard at the door let me in.

Then the next guard said I didn't have an appointment but let me in anyway and told me to sit down and wait.

I waited for an hour thinking he'd get back to me.

He didn't.

So I asked him if I needed a number.

Guard: What number? What are you here for?

Me: I need to renew my residency.

Guard: Here! Take this.

It seems he had forgotten all about me but he gave me a very nice number and I got to submit my application shortly as I was the next in line for that particular queue.

Then it got confusing.

Last time I did it - all I needed to do was submit:

1. Application form + 3 copies of it
2. 3 copies of my passport
3. 3 copies of my old residency card
4. 3 copies of bank statements
5. 4 copies of a statement saying I had a health insurance
6. 3 copies proving I owned property here

Well, this time - he only took the originals and 1 copy of each and said the photographs were for another office.


Then he gave me a stamped document that said he'd received my application today and then told me to go to a website:

I'm supposed to input my NIE, the date I submitted my application and my birthday.

I asked him for an explanation which I didn't understand at all and later on examined the paper more carefully on the train back home.

Well it seems that this website tells you whether your residency card is ready yet or not and it seems to say they will send you the results via ordinary mail - which isn't very promising since ordinary mail can be delayed for months or lost or sent back.

I guess I'll have to check in about 2 months and keep checking after that to see how things are going.

Typically this morning I got a request to submit a rough estimate for a big translation project and so I was going nuts trying to get this together. Then my English bank informed me that to cash in bonds I had to get all these documents together, one of which I looked for hours - and I asked the bank if they had it and they said no. Then it turns out the bank did have it!

Now I have to find out when the Spanish bank will ever be open again as the Torremolinos Feria has started. I apparently need to go to them and get a copy of my passport and utility bill certified.

I've never been good at multi-tasking so today has been a very stressful day.

I'm drinking keemun tea with some honey now and trying my best to relax.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Health Insurance Company

My new lawyer says he has called and confirmed that I have an appointment to submit my application forms for renewing my temporary residency permit - so I will be going there on Thursday at noon.

I checked my mailbox to see if the health insurance company had sent me the certificate saying that I had paid my dues - and yes, there was an envelope!

However when I opened it, I realized that not only had they sent me the wrong documents but my name was still spelled: Ayazo.

Now there is no way in hell the document will arrive at my doorstep before Thursday so I will have to ask my bank to provide a statement that I have been paying my bills to them!

Talk about enervating.

Off to the bank I go tomorrow...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Don't Blame Cannabis

I really don't think cannabis had anything to do with what he did. Cannabis does not make people engage in sick behavior like urinating on a dying person.

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Sometimes I wonder why anything works in this world at all in view of the glaring incompetencies that make life so annoying.

I have been trying to get my health insurance company to send me a certificate that I need to present when I renew my residency permit for the past few weeks and it has not arrived yet. After the first one failed to arrive I asked them to send another one and they started misspelling my name.

Ayako <----correct
Ayazo<----this is how they insist on spelling it

Anyhow, after I asked them to correct the spelling they sent me an email saying they'd already corrected it and when I opened the attachment it said: Ayazo.

The other issue is the appointment we have to make to submit our residency application renewal. They never replied to my fax request that I sent in July. Yesterday was supposed to be the appointment and nothing. I sent another one today for an appointment approximately 10 days from now. My friend's accountant suggests I just go there whether they reply or not and tell them I've asked for an appointment twice already with no reply so let me submit my application!

I can see how this can end up being a total waste of time since my Spanish isn't good enough for arguing loudly, but I'm going to try doing that anyway since there isn't much else I can do!

I guess I'll just plan on doing something else in Malaga that day.

Anyhow, I find all this enervating.

My head is spinning because my friend's accountant now also tells me there is no such thing as a permanent residency in Spain - that it was all a myth...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Alarm Clocks that Break in a Week...

I always took it for granted that cheap alarm clocks would last for 2 years or so, because that's the standard in Japan. When they started manufacturing things in China for cheaper the lifespan of electronics became shorter and well....they started breaking after a few years.

Recently I had to buy an alarm clock at Carrefour. The only one they had that wasn't digital was made by Lexibook a UK company. There wasn't any other choice so I purchased it but it felt wrong the minute I took it out of the plastic case. It felt too light for its size - like it were a toy and not a real alarm clock. It had this bright shiny golden sticker on it that said: Made in China.

It broke after 2 weeks.

Now, I've heard some Spanish people complaining about things made in China and the reality is that they don't pay much attention to quality there. This is why you need someone manning the quality control from your company to ensure that they do maintain certain standards.

I know a bit about this because I used to work in a business where we managed the quality control of cigarette premiums - which meant we managed production of lighters and other items which were made in China!

A lot of things are made in China today because of the cheap labor cost there, but depending on who's doing the quality control, the percentage of defective products that hit the shelves is significantly different.

Leximark clearly fails to do this and I couldn't even be bothered to return the defective product anymore because I suspect they'll just give me another one that will break again in 2 weeks.

My sister asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year and sadly I think I'm going to ask her to give me a few cheap Japanese alarm clocks, which are also made in China but with stricter quality control.

*I just checked and the package does say it has a warranty for 2 years.

What has happened to America?

Sometimes I just get depressed. Life gets to be too much. I can't deal with it anymore.

I take out medication prescribed to me from years back and take it and then I feel better after awhile...but the problems haven't really gone away so I'm not exactly feeling good either.

This time I think what drove me over the edge was watching Michael Moore's 'Sicko'.

I just had surgery recently and because surgery wasn't included in my health insurance I paid 1300 euros or so for it. It was a simple procedure to remove a fibroid growing on my cervix. After this, I had been contemplating upgrading my insurance to cover surgeries but had not got around to it yet.

So this issue of health insurance had been on my mind for over a month.

I think the worst revelation in Mr. Moore's documentary was the way health insurance companies have begun to operate as of late. They have become so profit oriented that they do their very best to bar a policy holder from getting the medicare they need.

Mr. Moore talks about the American government using scare tactics to keep its citizens in line, but I have to be frank. Mr. Moore's documentary scared me a lot more than Mr. Bush ever did with his talk of terrorism.

I personally have never run into trouble with my health insurance companies yet. For almost all of my childhood, my family was covered by an American health insurance company and whenever we have needed treatment, I believe we got the treatment we needed. Granted we lived in the Philippines mostly, but when we were in Davis, California my sister ended up in the hospital once because they thought she might have a brain tumor. It ended up being a pseudo-tumor but there were no problems as far as receiving treatment. She got the treatment she needed and got very good treatment in fact.

But this was back in 1979...

I had suspected all along that things may have changed a lot in America since then...and it was horrifying in a way to see this documentary which was suggestive of how far America had degenerated.

When I first heard about those mass power outages in places like New York, it was unbelievable because this was something that was supposed to happen in countries like the Philippines not in America. Power failure indeed is a part of life there and you just have to live with it and it's no big deal. But in America this wasn't supposed to happen.

Then there was hurricane Katrina. The levees broke and flooded the city. This again was something that you didn't expect in America. Things were supposed to work there. Not only did New Orleans get reduced to looking like some third world country with bad infrastructure, but I have read that the government did not do enough to reconstruct the city.

Clearly something was wrong.

Other telltale signs of things going awry were comments of MBA students.

I can still remember how callous and calculating they were to the point that they did not care that large numbers of people died because of decisions they made. Although one does not run businesses well by being sympathetic, I felt they had crossed the line where they had reached this pinnacle of selfish ruthlessness were they had no respect for other human beings.

Making money had become so important that indirectly murdering babies was nothing to them.

I think what I found most disturbing about Mr. Moore's documentary was that he confirmed my worst fears about what had happened to America.

While good American citizens who were trying to live normal lives died because their insurance companies were too profit focused and denied them treatment to medicare, less than 1% of the ruling class waged wars on foreign soil in an attempt to increase their wealth even more...getting more poor Americans killed there in the process.

I worked in film documentaries myself for some time so granted that Mr. Moore exaggerates certain elements in his film to press his point, it still saddens me that things have come to this.

I see more evidence to support what he claims than otherwise...and that is just depressing.

My thoughts go back to my childhood, when I lived in this perfect little community made by Ford and Rockefeller Foundation. The streets were so clean you could walk bare footed. The lawns were perfectly manicured. Every tile was in place. Any dust was always swept clean. We had our own water tower so that we could safely drink tap water. If a typhoon came and there was a power failure, we had generators that kicked in and gave us electricity. Everything worked.

This was during the years from 1965-1981.

I have never been back to that place since my father died of cancer, but a friend of mine did go back quite recently.

He told me that this perfect place of our childhood was not the same anymore. He found broken tiles that had not been replaced and there was mold growing in the tennis court. The whole compound had this tired worn look about it, and somehow this makes me think of what has happened to America itself.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Is it the End of the Drought?

The sky is rumbling and I see flashes of lightning streak across the sky. There have been drops of rain but it hasn't really started raining yet. When it does however I think we can expect it to be torrential.

The last thing Ronny needs is to get wet commuting to his office and back with his sore throat, but we've had a prolonged drought here so we really need it to rain hard...over our reservoir.

I've heard some truely horrific tales of what happened the last time there was a seroius drought. An old Danish guy told me that they had trucks carrying water rations in the street and people had to go out with buckets to get their supply.

"I could taste salt in the coffee in some restaurants."

They were using salt water from the sea to make coffee.

"They talked about making a desalination plant then but you know it started raining and everyone forgot about it."

As usual.

Planning - just doesn't seem to be of any importance here in Costa del Sol.

So of course they haven't planned for when it rains a lot either so Ronny can expect to wade his way home through knee deep water should it really start raining hard.

He'll just have to soak in a hot tub and get dried quickly if that happens I guess - and we'll have to hope he doesn't get pneumonia!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Under the Weather

It rained yesterday evening which was very nice because it cleared some of the dust out of the air for awhile. We could hear thunder in the distance and see lightning bolts striking the horizon over the Mediterranean sea. We would have enjoyed this spectacle a bit more if we had not come down with sore throats once again.

Ronny had to stay home from work because his job is selling broadband over the phone - and not having your voice means you can't work.

I also postponed my visit to the lawyer. I'll need to do some food shopping today that's more cold friendly and I feel like there's something not quite right with my throat as well...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Immigration Lawyer

Well, I have made an appointment with an immigration lawyer in Fuengirola and will be paying him a visit tomorrow at 13:00. I am hoping it doesn't turn out to be another fruitless day of getting tired whilst making no progress...

The last time I had a meeting with a so-called immigration lawyer, he told me his fees would be 3000 euros and by the time he'd drafted the contract the fees had gone up to 4000 euros and he was asking me to pay for expenses on top of this.

When I told him I would not be using his services he and his colleague started to send me threatening emails telling me I'd get deported if I didn't use their services. This just convinced me that they were a bunch of dishonest swindlers and I stopped answering their email.

The hardest thing here is that one hardly ever gets straight answers to any questions.

All I need from an immigration lawyer frankly is:

1. Ensure I get the correct application form
2. Enusre I have ticked the right boxes in the application form
3. Ensure I don't apply for a 1 year permit when I in fact can apply for a 2 year permit
4. Ensure I'm taking all the right steps so that I can apply for a permanent residency after 5 consecutive years of temporary ones

This is what I asked the last lawyer too, but he didn't seem to be listening and started telling me some wild fairy tales about how one could get a permanent residency in 1 year if they set up a 'chamber of commerce' and a 'website promoting international business relations', etc. This guy didn't want to help me do the simple things I wanted to do but wanted to abuse a loop hole in the law to get the permanent residency permit faster. Well actually that's not what he wanted to do. He just needed to inflate the project so he could make me pay him 3000 euros.

He seemed to be very much in a hurry to make me pay my deposit without a contract. I refused to pay anything until a contract was in place of course, and while he was writing the contract he had another bright idea to milk even more money out of me. He insisted I needed to apply for a work permit separately from my permanent residency and that because of this he would discount one permit to 2000 euros but I'd have to pay him 4000 euros for two permits.

If this doesn't sound ridiculous to you...let me just say it sounded ridiculous to me.

I turned my back on him despite his threats and walked away, and I am convinced I made the right decision.

I hope tomorrow's trip isn't going to be a replay of this again. I did get this new lawyer's contact details through the American Club here so I'm hoping this guy will be a little more honest with me.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Punish the Women

Some prostitutes were beheaded in Pakistan. Typically the men who used their services went unpunished.

It's nothing surprisingly really, but it reminded me of this chilling book I read by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro called, 'A Mortal Glamour' a story about some nuns in some obscure convent who get punished in pretty extreme ways. I don't really want to talk about the book here because I don't want to spoil it for people who might want to read it. Let's just say it was one of the most chilling novels I have ever read in my adult life that was about the dark side of human nature!

When I first came to Europe I was rather shocked by the extent of male chauvenism here. Having heard all the propaganda in the Far East I think I really expected something else. I thought there would be far more equality between the genders in Europe than in Japan.

Because I come from a family were there was no gender discrimination, I've had trouble fitting into the world all my life. I think it's because my parents never tutored me on how to behave as a female to get my way in the world.

It took me years in my adult life before I learned to groom myself and dress up so at least I exuded femininity and I think I can say I made a pretty amazing cosmetic transformation, but the sad thing is I never learned to behave in the way we females are supposed to behave and this has caused a lot of problems in my life.

I've seen women of all nationalities do it. And it is really amazing how much they can dupe men into doing the most stupid things if you only played your cards right in this manipulating feminine way. But God it is hard to do and so humiliating and insulting to my intelligence I am a total loser at this game.

During my years at the advertising agency I did my best to act this out but even then I could only do it with men who were 20 years older than me and were graying. Somehow it was easier to believe I was pretty, young, clueless and sexy when the men looked old enough to be my father or grandfather.

I was too embarrassed to behave like this with younger men and I mean men under 45.

I guess that's why I in the end had a nervous breakdown and had to leave. But this is another story....

Spanish Bureaucracy

I'd like to say it's that time of the year again, but this only happens every two years because the system is so not working.

Anyway I went into Malaga today to make sure I had the correct form filled out for renewing my residency permit to live in this wonderful place called Costa del Sol. Until last year this procedure could be done in Torremolinos but they have changed the system to....make it better.

When I first arrived, all you had to do was pop into the police station in Torremolinos between 9am and 2 pm and pick up your form and then show up on another day with all the necessary papers. The process of renewing your residency permit was nice and simple.

Then they did this wonderful thing and decided that they would give every person who found a job in Spain a residency permit.

This was a disaster.

Long queues appeared outside the police station. Then they introduced the 'numbers'. You had to get a number or they wouldn't even talk to you. You had to be there at 9am, then 8am, then 7am in the morning to even get a number.

After you submitted all your papers you waited for over 12 months before they issued a go ahead. Then you had to wait another 3 months or so to get your 'residency card'.

This wasn't a bed of roses but at least you could pop by before 2pm to pick up the right form and they knew which one to give you! So the only hellish part was waking up before the sun rose and waiting outside in the open air outside the police station for 2 hours and then waiting some more inside before you got to submit your application form.

Then they changed the system this year. Not only do you have to go all the way to Malaga but you are supposed to send a fax and make an appointment!

The new place was at least a 30 minute walk from the train station. And no, I wasn't wearing high heels but my beat up Nike walking shoes. By God it was far.

Anyway when I got there I was left outside the barred gates of the police station and was told to get in this queue for asking questions. This lasted for about 30 minutes. There was dog poop on the ground right where the queue was and it was difficult not to step on it, not to mention the government cars that sometimes needed to get in through that same gate.

Then finally I was let inside and given a 'number'. The policeman manning the gate was telling people at the end of the queue there were only a limited number of 'numbers' for asking questions.

I was #2 in this queue so I soon got to see a man but he didn't really want to talk to me. I tried my best to speak Spanish and only said one english phrase: "I sent this." But that was enough to get the man all worked up and he started loudly telling me that I was not allowed to speak English and I doubt he heard anything else I ever said to him again despite the fact that it was all in Spanish. He just wanted to get rid of me so he gave me another 'number'.

I went to sit down and waited for 1.5 hours. There weren't many people in my queue but they seemed to take over 30 minutes to ask their questions.

30 minutes before closing time, the big lady boss stood up and demanded what questions I had to ask. She told me to go the same guy who had told me not to speak english and gave me my number. I told her that I all I wanted was to confirm that I had the right form for renewing my residency permit and to ask how the appointment worked. She seemed to be a bit annoyed with the first guy saying: She just wanted the correct application form. Why couldn't you just give it to her?

The guy indignantly told her I had had too many application forms even though I only showed him one.

Anyhow this all happened in Spanish so I could be wrong about what they were saying, but this is what it sounded like to me.

In the end she gave me an application form which looked wrong to me but I took it and left. They didn't even want to waste 5 minutes with me and I wondered why the guy before me got to sit down and discuss his problems for 30 minutes. Then she walked away really quickly and I literally had to chase her to her desk to ask about the appointment.

"I sent the fax in July and still don't have a response."

"You just have to wait some more."

My time was up. It was time to leave.

I have a headache from sun stroke and am tired and pissed off now and I probably don't even have the right application form.

I really don't mind waiting for the reply but I do have fears that they have lost my application form for the appointment, as they have done this to me before. The first time I made an application form for my residency permit, the good people at the Torremolinos police station managed to lose my entire file and I had to submit everything all over again...

Monday, September 3, 2007

The Wonderful Food Blogs on the Internet

Since I'm usually ranting about some issue in the world, today I've also decided to talk about something I do like.

The internet is full of wonderful food blogs and a lot of them have really lovely photographs.

Why haven't I made a food blog myself even though cooking is really one of my great lifetime hobbies?

It all comes down to laziness...

I can see that people have put a lot of time into their food blogs and I guess I'd rather browse them for ideas and cook my lovely dinner and eat it.

This said, I do experiment with recipes and new ingredients when I'm inspired, but I don't do it on a regular basis and I'm way too lazy to take photographs and write down the details of a recipe.

Let me post the links of two food blogs with really gorgeous photographs of food in case you're interested:

Human Rights Activists

One thing I really don't get about human rights activists is their adamant defense of murderers and their rather callous attitude toward the victims. I guess the focus is on those who are still living since the dead aren't going to rise from their graves, but I have trouble coming to terms with this kind of positive thinking.

Perhaps the intentions of these activists are good, but they are in a way encouraging people to commit crimes first then repent later.

Let's say someone kills your mother, father, sister, brother, friend or anyone you are close to. Is it really enough that the murderer typically 'repents' after the deed is done? I have doubts about some people feeling any genuine remorse for deeds they have done because people are different and some admit to enjoying murder. And if they do feel remorse, was it necessary to engage in such acts before deciding to change their ways?

There is an argument I often hear that punishing the criminals will not make your loved ones come back. This argument is something that I feel should only be used to help those who feel the loss of the victims cope with life and not to justify leniency on those who committed the crime.

It's important for those who were wronged to let go of past hurts so that they can enjoy life again (for their own sakes), but I think it's ridiculous to use this same argument to justify protecting a murderer who after all had no concern for a basic right that every human has according to these very same human rights activists: the right to life, liberty and security of person (Article 3 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Human Rights

I used to think human rights was about preventing people with power like the government or a dictator from silencing people they didn't like by putting them in jail or killing them. These days I read the news and it seems to me that human rights is more about protecting the rights of people who commit crimes - even atrocious crimes.

I recently read an article about a man who forced a girl to have sex with a dog and he got a maximum of 14 years in prison for this. He apparently also sexually assaulted a lot of other under aged girls. This is a pretty stiff sentence for Sweden where rapists are hardly punished. They do go to jail but not for long - and then the rapist is let loose again to rape more women.

Don't get me wrong. I have a lot of respect for Sweden, but I don't think even the Swedes like this aspect of their legal system, because it encourages people to come to Sweden and commit crimes. Sometimes if the rapist is a foreigner he can get a lifetime ban from Sweden, like the Indian guy who raped another foreigner and killed her, then claimed to be engaged to her. As if the engagement would make his crimes any less atrocious.

I think the guy really deserved to get deported and banned from Sweden.

Then today I came across this article criticizing capital punishment and more specifically criticizing Japan for its legal system that allows this. Though I am no fan of Japanese things in general, I don't think there's any sense in protecting people who do commit crimes in the name of human rights. I mean think about the people they killed. Weren't their human rights violated just so some sick guy could feel better?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Absurd Things that People Think

Some of us tend to assume that we have come a long way in terms of globalization and learning more about different people but I have heard some stories from friends and acquaintances that tell me otherwise...or rather that we still have a long way to go!

1. A Swedish businessman was seated next to two Saudi Arabian doctors who asked him in all seriousness: "Is it true that in Sweden there are naked blonde women running around and you can just grab them and have sex with them?"

2. A Spanish girl who had a physicist's degree from a university worried excessively about going to Chinese restaurants and coming into contact with any Chinese during the SARS scare. This was in her home country, Spain.

3. On the day of his first communion, my British friend of Indian descent was out on the lawn with his sister, both dressed up in their Sunday's best. A well-meaning English neighbor walked up to their mother.

"So it's their big day, huh?"

"What do you mean big day?"

"They're getting married aren't they?"

4. A Japanese girl went to a Christmas party dressed in this stapless cocktail dress which was cut above her knee. The skirt had silver fringes on it much like Christmas decorations. An English girl says to her: "Is that your national costume?"

5. A Spanish lawyer explained to me in all seriousness that a daughter of an acquaintance had this serious defect in her sinus as a result of mixed racial background.

"You see. Orientals have flat noses unlike us so when you have children with them they have a defect in their nose..."

The myths are endless. I can't think of more right now but when I do I'll add to this post.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Peak Oil

"It is my opinion that the peak will occur in late 2005 or in the first few months of 2006," says Princeton geologist Kenneth S. Deffeyes in a new book, Beyond Oil. A more conservative estimate by Mike Rodgers of PFC Energy locates the peak somewhere in the vicinity of 2010-2015. If either of these predictions proves accurate, global oil supply can never climb high enough to satisfy the elevated consumption levels projected by the DoE for 2025 and beyond. (

I calculated how old I'd be in 2025 and I would be 62 years old. Kind of worrying in view of the fact that this is when my legs would have become weaker and perhaps I would need a car. Right now, I don't even have a driver's license but my longterm plan had been to get one and then buy a car...for my old age.

I guess all we can do to prepare for this is to live pretty much the way we've been living because you can't stop driving cars depending on where you live. But you can make sure you are living in a place and have a lifestyle where it's not integral to take a car everywhere.

My flat here is walking distance from a train station, the supermarket and the beach. I walk mostly because I am not an exercise freak and walking is virtually the only form of exercise I ever get. But I'd been contemplating other means of transportation lately because it has been raining quite a bit this spring and I may soon be living with someone who may have to commute to place that might be a tad difficult to walk to in the rain. Rain also means you won't be going there in a bicycle or motorcycle even. It has got to be a car.

I mean if you're retired by the time petroleum costs escalate it won't be so terrible, but if you're in the peak of your career I don't know how you're going to be able to cope with it. You've got to get to work and the job has got to be done and it will probably take petroleum to get to work.

Reminds me of something my father who was a scientist said when he was still alive:

"With the way things are going now, who knows what will happen in the future? I think things will be fine in your lifetime, but I really can't say if it will still be fine in the lifetime of your children."


Here I am waiting for the REPSOL guys to show up the week after Semana Santa and of course nobody shows up. Judging from the previous years, it seems to be some kind of a tradition of theirs to do a no-show the week after the Easter holidays - when I suspect most people are really in need of new gas tanks.

Gas tanks. Yes, it's uncivilized where I live. I need to buy these gas tanks to get my gas water heater going because they don't have central gas here. Not only that but since they don't have any civilized methods of replacing the tanks it's like a fish market every time I need one.

When the REPSOL trucks approach they blare their horns so loud it would awaken someone in a coma. Then, you have to literally run down the flight of stairs before they decide to leave and shout: Un butano para 2D!

While you're doing this you see women leaning out of windows shouting something like that too.

I really don't enjoy doing this and am sorely tempted to get an electric heater. But then again, since we do have power cuts sometimes, it's nice to risk hedge and have the hot water heater running on something other than electricity. After all, I'd be able to take a nice hot bath even during a blackout.

The fact is, when I first moved in here. I lived without electricity for 2 weeks and this was only possible because my water heater runs on gas. It was very boring with nothing to do except read and play games on my GBA and while the sun was up, but I could take baths at night by candle light here and this meant I could live here instead of having to move to a hotel. I woke-up at sunrise and went to bed pretty much at sunset. It was a pretty healthy lifestyle but horribly uncivilized. Compared to that life is very civilized now. I have electricity, Internet, a landline, hot water, a working kitchen and so on...and these things work....most of the time.

Anyway it doesn't look like the REPSOL guys are going to show up today so I will have to wake-up and wait for them again on Monday morning. Just great.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

What is Life All About?

This is a question that even the 82 year old Kurt Vonnegut was asking. In his A Man Without A Country: A Memoir Of Life In George W Bush’s America, (Bloomsbury), his son and pediatrician Dr. Vonnegut gave a pretty good answer: "Father, we are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is."

I sometimes think that we are unhappy with our lives because we try too hard to live it the way someone else thinks it should be lived. Unfortunately there are so many people - some of them family and friends - who like to dictate to us how to live life.

As children we are in a position where we can't really be too rebellious toward the views our parents are imposing on us but in your 30s and 40s do we still need to be so easily affected by what others say and what they think you should do?

I noticed this a few years ago when some people got upset when they asked me where I went on holiday and I said I'd not gone anywhere. It seems there is this expectation that one must go on a holiday and boast about the things they did. Some of them even launched an attack on the way I lived my life saying: You need to go on holidays.

In my opinion this is just as narrow minded as saying: You need a man.

So, what is it that people demand you do?

In the case of girls: You need to be beautiful, have perfect skin, the body of a model, wear designer clothing, perhaps have a diamond or two, have lots of friends who you go out clubbing with all the time, meet and marry a guy who not only looks like Juan Garcia Postigo (Mr. World 2007), but has a great job with a great company and the salary and benefits that come with it. You'll travel with him to exotic locations in the world and have some kids who grow up to be just as perfect as you and Juan.

If you don't subscribe to these you will invariably meet criticism. If you do, people will say bad things about you anyway because they're jealous. So, you can't really win.

Actually the ideas of what you should be doing are even more specific. For example, take the holiday. You're not only supposed to go somewhere cool, but you have to say you went to this restaurant and that and stayed at this hotel and that. You might even come back from a holiday that you personally thought was fun until you told a friend who said: That doesn't sound like too much fun.

But at the end of the day it's the same as the overall way you live your life. Some people will have bad things to say no matter what because there's this competitive edge to people that makes them say negative things about what you do just so they feel good about themselves by reaffirming that: My life is better than yours.

Who needs friends like that?

But a lot of people tolerate such friends because successful people are supposed to have lots of friends and to have lots of friends you have to tolerate a lot of crap. I find this more prevalent amongst younger people and when people get older they do generally seem to wisen up about this a bit. Notice that older people seem to have fewer friends as a rule? But then again maybe some people are happy about being around people who are always trying to get one over them and insulting them constantly - if it makes them happy, fine.

In your life time you will meet very few really nice friends...but you'll find that when you tell these few friends about things you did in your life they will most likely say: So long as you enjoyed it, it's great.

Maybe they don't approve of what you're doing or approve of your guy or your girl or your new outfit or new house - but at the end of the day your happiness about these things is more important to them than finding fault in these things to make themselves feel good about themselves and their lives.

And these friends will help you get through life whatever it is we are trying to do here.


Kurt Vonnegut RIP

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Gold Diggers

It's raining again in Costa del Sol and I guess that's why the fields are literally bursting with flowers. It's spring weather here and the plants are well-watered.

I was reading a bit about Dewi Sukarno, a former Japanese insurance sales lady who worked as a hostess at night and married the then Indonesian President Sukarno.

What can I say? Dewi Sukarno certainly lived a much fuller, exciting and enjoyable life as a so-called gold digger than if she'd stayed a 'insurance lady' in Tokyo.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with being an insurance lady but I know of an excellent one who really does her job well...and her life is well...a bit sad.

I say she does her job really well because when a father of an acquaintance went into a coma after being hit by a teenager on a motorcycle who was uninsured and did not have a driver's license - it was this particular insurance lady who helped my acquaintance through the gauntlet of bureaucracy and made it possible for her to get her father's life insurance and as a result buy an apartment in Tokyo. This insurance lady also used to be a manager in one of Japan's most prestigious companies and well she left them because of male chauvenism that was helped along by jealous women in the company who could never hope to be promoted.

They pulled stunts like putting salt in her coffee.

I admire her for keeping her head up and her liberty and having a real career. But I feel life has been so hard for her she's forgotten how to enjoy it. She lives in a very modest apartment and feels buying scented candles and soaps is too much of a luxury. She wears very drab clothing but has funny idiocyncrasies about which brand of panty hose and underwear she wears. She is about as adamant about these unaspirational brands as a fashion victim is about wearing things from the most popular designers. She has her job and her career but somehow she has lost the plot of living. She lives to work instead of working to live. If she contained this world to herself, I don't see a problem but she criticizes her friends for not living like her and lectures them.

Compare this to Dewi Sukarno. She pretty much took steps to ensure that she got the money to live as she pleases...and she succeeded.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying Dewi is better than my insurance lady friend. What I want to say is that I don't think Dewi was less dedicated to getting what she wanted than the insurance lady I know.

Being a basket case myself at being a gold digger, I might say I even admire her single-minded dedication and drive to achieve this. It's not easy to get the attentions of men with money and an attention span as short as the skirts the girls around them are wearing. It's not easy to convince such men to marry you because they have a world of women to choose from.

So though I will never go down this route - I have to say I cannot help but admire women who follow through on their gold digging. It's probably even harder than doing an honest job in some ways.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Spanish Chauvenism

It's raining today in the Costa del Sol and we're getting a much needed steady rainfall after the drought from two years ago. Last year wasn't too bad, but it didn't rain quite enough to fill our reservoirs to full capacity again so it's very important that it rains a lot this spring.

So, today I want to write about Spanish male chauvinism, which incidentally has nothing to do with the lovely weather we're having here today.

Anyway, I kind of had this sneaking suspicion that Spanish males might be a tad more chauvenist than other men I've encountered. I realized I underestimated the degree of their chauvenism when a Japanese male over 50 years of age - himself a chauvinist clearly from the way he was talking to me said:

"Spanish men are such male chauvinists. You should see the way they treat women!"

When I told this story to another female Italian friend of mine she said:

"They are really terrible chauvinists. When I first moved to Spain I worked in the stables because I didn't have any contacts here. A week into my work I noticed all these men were flirting with me and wondered why. Then I found out they had set up a betting system to see who would sleep with me first! That's why I stay away from Spanish men and try to date Japanese men."

She was having fun scaring Japanese men on the Internet with her muscles and her skill in Karate at the time.

"Spanish men have no respect for women and they will always try to see if they can get the better of you. Physically they are either stronger, or if they are not that strong they are so fat you can't really win."

The reality is that she was pretty strong.

One night after going out with her friends, a Spanish man stalked her back to her car and tried to assault her. Apparently her Karate reflexes kicked in and before she knew it the man was on the ground groaning and she quickly got into her car and drove away as fast as she could.

"I didn't bother to ask him whether he was OK, but my hands were trembling as I drove away I was so frightened..."

Being quite weak even compared to the rest of my gender, I just hardened my resolve not to go out late at night after hearing this, but did contemplate going to Karate classes.

Never been into clubbing because I don't enjoy dancing, drinking or man hunting - so leaving these options out there has never been much for me to do when clubbing anyway. In essence when people try to tell me I'm missing out on life if I don't go out and stay in a place I don't want to be until 7 a.m. in the morning so that I can feel shitty all day next day, they're wrong. I'd rather stay home at night and play an online game. Much safer because you can only die a virtual death here...and I can go to bed before dawn.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Freedom and Irresponsibility

Some people say men have become less chauvenistic. Younger men are supposed to be less chauvenistic than their fathers were and respect women more. I'm not sure this is quite true. But I think it's fair to say they have become less responsible.

If there is any woman out there who thinks she's enjoying women's liberation through sexual freedom, I think she's got to be kidding herself. True, perhaps they can't lock you up anymore in some Irish Catholic laundromat for having extra-martial sex anymore, but on the whole I personally believe that men have exploited this new freedom very well. Think about it. The slaves that were brought to America were free before they were kidnapped and sold into slavery too. Freedom is something that can be taken away. It doesn't mean that once you have it, you have it forever.

Typically men these days want to have sex with no commitment of any kind. To be fair they were probably always like this but there were certain social pressures in place that attempted to prevent them for doing so. And we aren't even talking about marriage or co-habitation here. Men these days don't even want to go 'steady' anymore because well, it's just too much commitment. Even women are getting this way. A fifteen year old Spanish girl told me that the average time span for going steady is 2 weeks now. Yeah, right.

So boys and men are going around having sex indiscriminately with anyone they want at any time they want. Girls see this and do the same. After all, they're equal right, so why not? Many of them don't even stop to think that they can get pregnant and boys can't.

"I'll just get an abortion."
"I'm on the pill."
"I'll take the morning after drug."
"I have an IUD."

Well, the ones that do think about pregnancies often don't think about STDs and now STDs have reached epidemic proportions in some cities such as....London. So the diseases just spread and spread.

For those that are sexually liberated but don't want to get diseases the only, the only option begins to be total abstinence because everyone is infected with something. Just great.

Anyway to get back on track. Here are some statements guys make to convince women to have sex with them with absolutely no commitment (and we're talking about not even talking to them the next day in some cases) :

"Sex is part of getting to know you." (English Male, 40)

"But you're a liberated woman and I'm single and you're single, so why not?" (Spanish Male, 26)

"It's OK to do this in America." (American Male, 22)

In a way if women are silly enough to fall for these insipid statements, they have only themselves to blame. Problem is they usually have this nice support group of peers who are also women who kind of pressure them into thinking they aren't cool if they're not having sex. Peer pressure is a real bitch for younger people really. And with the whole of society kind of pressuring women to pair off with men or just simply have a lot of sex, what do you expect from them?

It's all about making use of your 'freedom' responsibly really...not because it's the right thing to do but because all the crap comes back to you in the end. And it really does.

I know some older guys who are in their late 30s to early 40s going totally nuts because their cleaning lady got sick of them and left them. One of them even tried to con me into cleaning his place in exchange for using his Internet.

I said: Absolutely not.

I went to a cyber cafe instead and paid them to let me use their Internet, hence helping drive the economy instead of getting exploited by some irresponsible male.

Well, it's a liberated world right? So who are they going to ask really until they find their next cleaning lady. If they have mothers that still dote on them (as in the case of the Spanish), well, she's not going to live forever.

It's going to be a great world. We'll have to work harder and harder to pay money to people we don't know to do stuff that partners or even friends used to help you out with. But with this new sense of freedom and irresponsibility, we often find that we neither have partners nor friends who will lift a finger to help anymore....often because they are too busy working over time to pay strangers to do that work for them too.