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Saturday, 29 November 2014

My shopping experience on Black Friday.

My microwave in the box
Although I had heard that people were urging shoppers to boycott Malls on Black Friday as a protest over the decision of the Grand Jury to not indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in the Ferguson shooting, I decided to head to Target store at Eagle Rock Plaza for a microwave oven I urgently needed. Mine had stopped working couple of months ago.  

I easily found a parking spot close to Target store entrance. I was in luck there was a 0.9 cu. ft. Microwave oven for sale for only $40. Hurriedly I purchased one.  As I was standing at the cashier, I noticed other great bargains.  Poinsettia plants were on sale for $4.99. I chose a few pots and then I noticed dollar deals for kids activity and coloring books and crayons.  I bought those too.  I also purchase a DVD player for  $19.99.  I didn't have any idea that DVD players could be so cheap.  I hope it will work.  And now I can use Netflix to watch movies.  

After having all of those super bargains I headed to my aunt's home.  I wanted to take her some leftover food from Thanksgiving dinner.  She was happy for the food, but she said that her microwave stopped working.  So I gave her my newly purchased microwave and went to buy another one for me.  This time instead of going back to Eagle Rock plaza I went to Glendale Galleria. That was a big mistake.  

I got stuck as I entered the parking structure. There was no way out.  It took me half an hour to snake around and find a parking spot.  I walked to target and found out that they were out of the special deal of microwaves.  It took me another half an hour to exit the parking structure.  I learned my lesson, never shop at Glendale Galleria during Holiday season.  I went back to Eagle Rock and it was a snap.  I was in and out with a new microwave.  

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

A Ride from Tbilisi to Yerevan

The following story by Kristi Rendahl was published in the Armenian Weekly on line magazine.  She has worked many years in Armenia and Georgia and has developed a fondness for those two cultures.   In this heartfelt article, I think, she very well portrays Armenian people.  Enjoy reading it. 
About Kristi Rendahl 
Originally from a family farm in North Dakota, Kristi Rendahl lived and worked in Armenia from 1997-2002 and visits the country regularly. She works with the Center for Victims of Torture as the organizational development advisor to 10 torture treatment centers around the world, and is pursuing a doctorate in public administration. Rendahl writes a monthly column for The Armenian Weekly. She resides in St. Paul, Minn.

I left Tbilisi by car after work on a Friday last month. I’d been traveling in cramped airplanes for weeks, so I opted for a private car and driver to Yerevan instead of taking the sensible and responsible minivan. Besides, I thought, it’s been two years since I was last in Armenia, it will be good to have a few solid hours of speaking Armenian with someone, assuming the driver will want to talk to me.
Gohar's table
Gohar’s table
As we left the city limits, he asked if I minded whether he stopped at a store to stock up on vegetable oil and laundry detergent. The prices are better here, he said. Never one to get between someone and their household basics, I said it was no problem. While he was in the store, I crammed a granola bar in my mouth to stave off my hunger for a few more hours. Were he to see me eat it, his hospitality gene might activate and the next thing I know we’d be eating three courses at the nearest khorovats restaurant. I put the empty wrapper in my bag as he returned to the car. It was a narrow escape.
He honked his horn and waved at a fruit vendor on the side of the road as we headed toward the border. He was a stocky man with a thick mustache and a broad smile who didn’t appear Georgian. “Vratsi e?” (Is he Georgian?), I asked. “Che, Turk e. Azerbaijantsi.” (No, he’s a Turk. Azerbaijani.) He gives him the best prices, he said. It was a screenshot of fruit diplomacy.
I had to acquire a visa on the border because my 10-year visa had expired and I failed to renew it in time. There are times when I’d like to delegate more of my life to someone else. Anyway, a friendly man behind the window gave me the paperwork to complete and asked for the visa payment in Armenian dram. I had just arrived, didn’t have any dram, and there was no exchange in sight. The driver spotted me the cash.
A few miles later, we stopped to fill the car’s propane tank, so we had to get out of the car. I asked whether there was a bathroom there. The driver hesitated and said that the toilet across the road was “Aydqan hajokh chi” (not that fortunate). “Yes shat anhajokh toiletner em tesel im gyanqum” (I’ve seen a lot of unfortunate toilets in my life), I told him. When I asked the roadside vendors to point me in the right direction, they said, “Ayntegh e,” laughing and pointing across the road at a dilapidated outhouse, “bayts menq pataskhanatu chenq” (it’s over there, but we’re not responsible for it).
When I returned to the station, I wanted to have a cup of tea while I waited. I always want to have a cup of tea. But I still didn’t have any Armenian dram and there was still no exchange in sight. I asked if they’d accept U.S. currency. The man behind the counter gifted me a token for the vending machine that dispensed sugary tea in flimsy plastic cups. I took my tea and found a flimsy plastic chair where I could sit to take in the scene. The scene was other people sitting in flimsy plastic chairs and drinking from flimsy plastic cups. People who seemed overdressed for a propane station, people who looked like regulars there, people who inquired about a bathroom.
Once the tank was full, we set down the road for Toumanian, the village where I lived from 1997-98. I hadn’t been there in nearly 10 years, but I was pretty sure my friend’s mother would be at home if I stopped by to say hello. As we drove across the river into this little mountain village, I gave the driver directions toward the building where I had lived. It had been a difficult year of adjustment, but the family on the first floor of my building welcomed me into their home every single night for dinner and conversation and terrible television shows. I think of it now and I realize just how unaware I was of how much they were sharing with me. Not just food and cellar storage for my 50 kilograms of potatoes during the winter, but time and energy and, ultimately, love. They treated me like family and I will never forget that.
As expected, my friend’s mother was home when I arrived, along with her sister. They greeted me with surprise, but not shock, and my friend’s sister immediately set about preparing a meal for us. As she did, her mom told me about changes in the village. People were leaving the village for jobs in Yerevan and out of the country. Only old people remain, she said. The mountain location made a reliable cell phone or internet connection impossible, so she walked higher into the village to use Skype at someone else’s house. “You remember that family?” she asked. I pretended that the name sounded familiar. When I lived there the phone lines were usually down so you couldn’t call anyone from the village call center, where people openly eavesdropped on each other’s conversations, hoping to hear something exciting. Expectations have changed.
She referred to herself as “just a villager” during our conversation, which made me laugh because I feel the same way about myself. Her life is different now with a daughter in St. Petersburg and another daughter in New York. The apartment has been remodeled and it was brighter and had more conveniences. Herbs were drying on a towel on the table where we ate homemade soup and freshly sautéed eggplant and bread. We reminisced about the days when she and her husband cut and hauled wood in the forest to make a living. It was illegal and the environmental degradation and deforestation will take years of recovery, but the people of that village had little choice in the matter. As a young idealistic person from the land of plenty, that had been a hard lesson for me to learn.
The driver and I eventually made our way to Yerevan that evening. But not until we’d met a friend by the bridge in Vanadzor so I could give her a laptop I’d brought from the U.S. And not until he’d told me the unabridged version of his three divorces. For once I revealed rather little about myself, utterly fascinated with the stories of this man who had over-shared since we left Tbilisi.
When I arrived at my friend Gohar’s home, I was welcomed with some of my favorite things. Diagonally sliced soujoukh, salty string cheese, a selection of dried fruit, and a bottle of wine. Her brand of hospitality is gentle and unassuming, like a warm embrace after a long day. I told her of the day’s adventures. The toilet no one would claim as their own. The surprise visit to a place in the mountains I once called home. And the stories from the driver. She listened and laughed with me as she cooked more food and asked what I would eat for breakfast.
I went to sleep easily that night, relieved to be there in the cool air of October instead of in the sweltering August heat like my last half a dozen visits. Like lying in bed after a day of skiing and still feeling the slopes in my legs, I felt the twists and turns of conversations in my mind and the fresh air of perspective on my face. Tomorrow would be a new day of opportunities, but today had been grand.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Life in 1910

1910 Ford
Make sure you read all the statistics under the photo.
This has only been 104 years ago...Amazing!!!

1910 Ford Model T Image
Show this to your friends, children and/or grandchildren!
The year is 1910, over one hundred years ago. What a difference a century makes!
Here are some statistics for the Year 1910:
(applies to the USA)

Try to imagine what it may be like in another 100 years

The average life expectancy for men was 47 years.

Fuel for this car was sold in drug stores only.

Only 14 percent of the homes had a bathtub.

Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.

There were only 8,000 cars and only 144 miles of paved roads.

The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.

The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower !

The average US wage in 1910 was 22 cents per hour.

The average US worker made between $200 and $400 per year.

A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year,

A dentist $2,500 per year, a veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year,

And a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.

More than 95 percent of all births took place at HOME.
Ninety percent of all Doctors had NO COLLEGE EDUCATION!

Instead, they attended so-called medical schools,
Many of which were condemned in the press AND the government as 'substandard.'

Sugar cost four cents a pound.

Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen.

Coffee was fifteen cents a pound.

Most women only washed their hair once a month, and used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.
There was no such thing as under arm deodorant or tooth paste.
Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from entering into their country for any reason.

The five leading causes of death were:
1. Pneumonia and influenza
2, Tuberculosis
3. Diarrhea
4. Heart disease
5. Stroke

The American flag had 45 stars.
The population of Las Vegas Nevada was only 30!

Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn't been invented yet

There was no Mother's Day or Father's Day.
Two out of every 10 adults couldn't read or write and only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.

Eighteen percent of households had at least one full-time servant or domestic help.

There were about 230 reported murders in the ENTIRE U.S.A. !

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena Turns 120 Years old in Pasadena

Photo via Vroman's Facebook page
A lot has changed about books since 1894, but one thing hasn't: Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena is celebrating its 120th birthday this weekend.
Founded November 14, 1894 by Adam Clark Vroman, who left the shop to his employees when he died in 1924, Vroman's was the largest bookseller west of the Mississippi for a time. Now it's a mini-chain that includes two Pasadena locations, two boutiques at LAX and the beloved Book Soup in West Hollywood, which Vroman's took over after owner Book Soup owner Glenn Goldman died in 2009.
Vroman's remains a leading independent store, named the nation's best by Publisher's Weekly in 2008.
So what's the key to longterm success in a quickly changing book business that has recently killed behemoth Borders and local shops like Dutton's? One part is community engagement - Vroman's hosts 400 events a year - and another is not relying solely on books, Vroman's CEO Allison Hill told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.
"We evolved from selling Kodak equipment and supplies in the early 1900s to selling office furniture in the 50s," Hill told the paper. "Today about 28 percent of our total sales come from non-book items."
Today's festivities at the store included the dedication of a new "Authors Walk of Fame," whereLisa See was the first scribe to put her hands in wet cement. The store is also spotlighting customers and employees on its Tumblr.