Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blue Moon!

Image credit

Tonight there is a "blue moon."

According to the Farmers' Almanac, "blue moon" is a term used to describe the second full moon that occurs in the same month. A "blue moon" occurs every 2 1/2 to 3 years in the Gregorian calendar. In spite of the name, the second full moon of the month is not blue in color.

Two full months in one month? Alhamdulillah!

Do two full months in one month affect us as Muslims? The answer is "no," but is seems like there should be a special dua or something for it, lol.

I asked Brother Khalid Shaukat from Moonsighting.com about the "blue moon." He is a great brother, Masha Allah; he responded to my email almost immediately and put up the response on his website (see 7.23).

While you're over at his site, play a few of the games on the menu. "Do NOT Click" is cute, and he has some neat Math Jokes and Puzzles for your New Year's Eve enjoyment!



Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Joints Salaaming Each Other?!


Knee Arthritis - Image Credit Here

While doing research for a grief pamphlet from the Islaamic perspective I am writing for the prison, I came across the following hadith. It describes what happens, in part, during the dying process:

"Abu Hudbah Ibrahim bin Hudbah related from Anas bin Malik that the Prophet (saw) said: 'Indeed, the worshipper experiences the agonies and pangs of death; his joints bid one another peace, saying, 'And peace be upon you; you part from me and I part from you until the Day of Judgement.'" (It was mentioned by Ibn 'Iraq in Tanzib Ash-Shari'ah 2:375, and he attributed it to Ad-Dailami, from Anas.)

Subhan'Allah!

Being a person who suffers from severe arthritis along with MS and peripheral neuropathy, Alhamdulillah, this hadith jumped off the page at me.

Just the vision of my poor joints saying "as salaamu alaikum" to each other at my death is somehow comforting and increases hope for the Day of Judgement.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A New Camera, and Some Thoughts About Photography

After MONTHS of trolling Best Buy and Staples (I just can't pass up the camera section), I finally purchased a new camera - which I need like a hole in the head, as my mother used to say (I now own three digital cameras).

My new one is a Nikon Coolpix S630! It has 12 megapixels, 7x zoom, 2.7 inch LCD screen, and vibration reduction. The vibration reduction, or image stabilization feature is very important to me with my MS. I usually shoot about 5 or more shots of something to ensure that I get one or two good pictures due to my shaking and tremors. Sometimes, the images look great on the screen, but when I download them to my computer, I can scream because they are so blurry. Alas, at times, when I am really in a flare up, even image stabilization does not help.

I was in the market for a more powerful point-and-shoot. I just love that I can stick these cameras in my purse when I'm on the go. Since I've revived my passion for photography, I look at everything with a photographer's eye.

The point-and-shoots are also great to stick in your pocket! I do this when I'm out in my garden.

Before purchasing my new Nikon, I was using a Canon point-and-shoot, a Power Shot SD1100 IS Digital Elph. I still love this camera, especially for its feature of an old-fashioned view finder. Most of the new digitals do not have one. Plus, if it's super sunny outside, most digital camera viewing screens turn very dark or even black! If you are in the market for a new digital point-and-shoot, you wouldn't be sorry if you bought a Canon Power Shot. My Power Shot has 8 megapixels and a smaller zoom. It also has image stabilization.

But the huge happiness for me is that this camera is my first Nikon.

When I was in art school, Nikon was the camera to have. All of my teachers had either a Nikon or a Leica. Those of us who couldn't afford them had Canons.

We were taught that it is not necessarily the camera that makes a great picture, but rather the skill of the photographer, both IN and OUT of the darkroom (now in front of your computer after you download your shots). We learned all about aperature, lens, film speed, and lighting. The modern photographer hobbiest doesn't have to worry about this stuff. They don't even have to use film anymore; all the pictures are on a memory card! I remember 15 of us students in art school, crammed into a dark room, each of us with a 100 ft. roll of film and a pair of scissors in our hands, instructed to cut strips of 36 exposures, and then wind them onto a roll and cartridge. You had to do it all by feel. And you had to stay in that hot, dark room until every student finished the task, lol. Not an activity for the claustrophic person! We worked exclusively in black and white; forget about color.

Now, the digital camera and computer it all.

The old-head photographer's studio contained a number of cameras with various lights and filters to go with them, an enlarger for printing, paper, developing trays, burning tools, chemicals, lines for hanging film and prints to dry, etc.

A lot of specialty photography and camera shops have shut down since digital photography and the big box digital stores have appeared on the scene.

I have friends, a husband and wife, who own a photography studio and imaging shop. They also specialize in custom framing. I met them when I needed to have some Islaamic calligraphy framed. The wife told me that she had an art intern from one of the local universities. They had an appointment for some marriage engagement pictures, and the wife had the intern take some shots. They turned out really really horrible. The wife said that the schools aren't really teaching students how to take good pictures like they did when we went to school. The focus is on image editing - fixing them in PhotoShop or Nik. (Nik, hee hee - my next investment!)

Just think of the power of a well taken image AND powerful editing software!

What do you think? Any old-head photographers out there who read me? Or you younger digital photographers? Anyone have a Nikon Coolpix?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Happening - A Lesson in Forgiveness


I just finished reading this book, "The Happening: Amish School Shooting ... An Amazing Story of Forgiveness," by Harvey Yoder.

I have a different edition, it appears, from the one that is sold on Amazon.com. I purchased it in the pharmacy, of all places, the other day while I was waiting to get a prescription refilled. They have a book rack with various paperbacks on it.

When I noticed this book, I immediately picked it up.

I live in an area of Pennsylvania that is heavily populated with Amish and Mennonite people. They are respected members of any community where they live. The Amish and Mennonites are self-sufficient and law-abiding. They are what we call in these parts, "God-fearing folks."

The Amish and the Mennonites move quietly among us here in Pennsylvania. You see them in the Wal-Mart, and at the local grocery store where there is a hitch in the parking lot to secure horses. We patiently avoid their buggies on the streets and major highways where they can always be seen going to and fro.

But for the most part, the Amish and Mennonites also live in solitude and keep to themselves. Very few people outside of their direct communities really know them.

At times, the Amish have been victims of crime. Disrespectful teenagers have threatened to run their buggies off the road. They have been called names. When I used to work in the male correctional facility, I knew of one inmate who was incarcerated for raping an Amish girl while she worked alone in the fields. These days, Amish girls do not work alone in the fields.

But what happend on October 2, 2006, was a horror beyond any description.

As Mr. Yoder says in his book, "A lone gunman ... brought the community together in a way he could never have imagined in his wildest, most deranged moments."

On that October morning, a non Amish man, known to the Amish community because he drove a local milk truck that stopped at their farms, entered an Amish school house, took hostages, and ended up murdering five young innocent girls and injuring more - both physically and psychologically.

The Amish refer to the event as "the happening."

I live within driving distance of Nickle Mines, near Lancaster, PA. And because we have so many Amish here in our own community, everyone was in shock and horror when the happening occurred. It was like it happened to our own Amish neighbors here in our own community. Everyone wanted to help. Everyone prayed for the children and their families. People from all over the world responded with love and kindness. Because I used to live in a one-room schoolhouse and can remember the physical layout of the building, I could especially imagine the horror of that morning.

All the while, the Amish struggled with their grief and their desire to maintain privacy. As Mr. Yoder writes, the Amish shun the public spotlight.

Mr. Yoder's book can be classified as historical fiction, I guess. It is told from the point of view of a little girl named Rebecca Sue. She is a compilation of the survivors of the shootings. Mr. Yoder moved to the area and did extensive research for his book.

The amazing message of this book is not the details of the shooting, which are accurate from what I remember from the news reports. Rather, the message of the book is about forgiveness. About what we can learn about forgiveness from the Amish community. Mr. Yoder writes,

"The evening after the shootings, an Amishman visited the grandfather of the gunman's widow and offered his condolences. But more than that, he gave the gift of forgiveness. This is what continued to rivet the attention of the world, even after the initial shock of the massacre wore off. Stories leaked out, telling of Amish families attending the gunman's funeral, and of Amish people contacting the widow to assure her that they held no malice toward her in their hearts."

The Amish even shared part of the huge sum of donated money that came in from all over the world with the gunman's family.

The Amish truly exemplify the Christian value of forgiveness. How do they do it? Mr. Yoder explains:

"Man's natural inclination when wronged is to revenge. Even dedicated Christians struggle with conflicting emotions and sometimes have to forgive over and over. But we all have a choice. Love and forgiveness can hardly be separated. Neither can hate and revenge. God gave each of us a will which only we can exercise. We have to choose between love and hate, forgiveness and revenge. Our feelings are not sufficient for the task. We have to make a conscious choice, and our feelings will follow. When we examine these decisions in the light of Christ's ... teachings, the right choice becomes obvious."

Read this book, and read about the choices the Amish made within the framework of their Christian teachings. The Amish can teach all of us important lessons, no matter what our faith tradition.

I promise you that you will need tissues for your tears more than once before you finish the story.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lipstick on a Pig

(Campaign plea to Candidate Obama)

Okay, I'm not going to sit on the fat man's lap as I suggested in my last post. I wouldn't do something like that, lol. And "no," I wasn't smoking any of the herbs I harvested from my garden last year like SabiWabi suggested in her drive-by comment on this post, lol. Just talking "smack" as they say.

Something else is on my mind today. The "closing" of Gitmo.

Obama is getting on my nerves. It's getting harder and harder to defend this guy. And I'm starting to get suspicious. Especially because he has gone back on his campaign word so many times by now. I guess I'm not the only one who talks "smack" sometimes. Hey, I lived in Chicago for a few years as a child. Maybe it's our culture, lol?

Anyhow, the latest "smack" is Gitmo. Am I say "smack" because Obama of all people, being a former senator, knows how difficult it is to change things in government.

"We the sheeple" as Michael Savage often calls the American people, as well as the rest of the people in the world, rejoiced when Candidate Obama promised to close the "detention" facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Little did we realize that it was like "putting lipstick on a pig," to borrow another campaign phrase.

President Obama isn't closing Gitmo, he is just changing its address

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

Obama's first executive order as president was to order the closing of Gitmo, as the detention facility is called, within a year. But over the following months, barrier after barrier, delay after delay, has resulted in Gitmo still standing almost a year later.

Today, there remains about 200 Muslims suspected of terrorism and other "charges," many held without due legal process. The media claims that about 20 of the detainees are classified as "high-value."

So what of the other 180 detainees? What makes them different security-wise from the Blind Sheikh or the Shoe Bomber who are currently serving sentences in the super max prison in Colorado. The difference is that the Blind Sheikh and the Shoe Bomber HAVE HAD THEIR DAY IN COURT. They have had actual charges pressed against them for which they were tried and convicted.

Is it true, as Chaplain James Yee, former Gitmo chaplain, says in his book, For God and Country: Faith and Patriotism Under Fire, (excellent read, BTW) that many of these detainees are just poor schmucks caught up in the events of the day, or victims of tribal fueding, etc. (my wording)? A lot of people were caught up in the net and brought to Gitmo, journalists, etc. It has been maintained, for example, that after 9/11, tribal leaders and war lords turned in their enemies and competitors to the US Military in Afghanistan, claiming that they were terrorists, and these schmucks were transferred to Gitmo.

For example, when Chaplain Yee was there, there were "juvenile enemy combatants" at Gitmo. No one knew for sure their ages, but Yee maintains:

1. Ismail - age 14
2. Naqibullah - age 12 or 13
3. Asadullah - age 12 or 13

"The guards sometimes allowed the boys outside to kick a soccer ball or throw a football in the small backyard, and there was a television and a VCR in the small living room. For a time, they were given a few videos, including Tom Hanks in Cast Away. They watched that movie repeatedly. 'Don't you get sick of watching the same movie over and over?' I asked them. 'No, Chaplain,' Asadullah said. 'I love this story."

When visiting reporters came and the media wrote about the boys loving this movie, General Miller "became very upset. Why are we showing a movie to young prisoners about a man's struggle with being trapped on a desert island? ... After that, Cast Away disappeared from the house."

'Sometimes the interrogators gave ice cream to the boy they're interrogating,' one MP told me ... 'But I've seen times when they think they're going to get the ice cream and they don't,' he added. 'It really screws with the boys' heads.'

In fairness to some of the Gitmo guards, a lot of them had compassion for the boys and dealt with them like their own young children at home, putting them on time-outs when their childhood games got out of hand, etc., and telling Chaplain Yee when they thought something sucked as evidenced above.

"I had no idea why Ismail, Naqibullah, and Asadullah had been brought to Guantanamo. There were rumors they had planted mines against American forces. Other troopers heard that they had been raped after being captured by the Northern Alliance and American forces."

(above from ppgs 93-95 of Chaplain Yee's book)

My readers ... read this book!

I don't know if these young boys are still at Gitmo, but, I have digressed from my post. My point in digressing is to suggest that things may not necessarily be as they seem in some media reports. Granted, I'm sure there are real terrorists there, but like I said, many of the detainees appear to have been caught up in the net. Back to my post :)

So what is the Obama Administration's solution to the Gitmo problem since he cannot meet the one year deadline? Move the detainees to a prison facility in - where else - but his home state of Illinois.

Good looking out Obama!

The federal government will buy the Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Illinois, to house the Gitmo detainees until President Obama can figure out how to get himself out of the promise he made to the American people and the world.

Will the new rally cry be, "Close Thomson?"

The "campaigns" in Iraq and Afghanistan are referred to as "wars." Everyone agrees on that term. So why don't the Gitmo detainees have the status of prisoners of war? Hmm - because they would have different legal rights, that's why.

Lipstick on a pig.

I have worked in the criminal justice system for many years. As someone who works "on the wrong side of the bars" as the inmates say, lol, I have always minimized the claims made by many, including Muslims (originally asserted by the Nation of Islam), that the US prison system is nothing more than a money-making venture.

There is no doubt that an entire economy has risen to serve the prison system. Prisons, especially those with large populations (think 5,000 or more inmates in one overcrowded facility), are like small self-contained communities. Many have their own zip code. Inmates must be fed and clothed. Prisons use huge amounts of public utilities. The cost of providing medical care to inmates is off the charts. If you agree that America needs health care reform, you'd be blown away by the situation in the prison system.

However, with few exceptions, no one has sent an engraved personal invitation to people who end up in prison. Most of them have truly DONE SOMETHING to land theirselves there.

But I think this Gitmo "closing" is truly an unfortunate example of pumping up the prison economy in the US. The Thomson Center was opened in 2001 and remained "under-used" and practically empty since then. Why? I don't understand - considering the prison overcrowding situation in the US. Focus on "2001." Did they decide to "under-use" it and keep the facility as a reserve "just in case?"

Experts project that a billion dollars will be injected into the small rural Thomson community. Two thousand jobs are expected to pump up the community.

I heard another report on CNN that there will be (I forget the exact numbers) 10 military guards or 20 military guards to one detainee at Thomson. Let's do the math:

10 x 200 = 2,000
20 x 200 = 4,000

Hmm ... 2,000 to 4,000 military jobs. How do the people of rural Thomson, IL, benefit from jobs coming to their area? Does the media report of 2,000 jobs exclude the military jobs?

And wait a minute: the MILITARY in the US prison system? Maybe their plans are to turn Thomson into a brig? They have to do something; they can't call it a regular prison unless they do change the nature of it because it is against the law for the military to be used in regular US prisons.

Well, this post is becoming too long. If you readers are interested in this topic, I will make another post Insha Allah.

I'm not saying that Obama has done all this on purpose, or at least, I hope not. What I am saying is that this whole thing stinks. His back is sure up against the wall. And this is not a post against the military or the government.

It's a post about keeping promises.

What do you think?

(UPDATE: Umar Lee has a post here that describes the situation of the Uighur detainees at Gitmo and how the US Military "paid" the Afghans for so-called terrorists.)







Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Where's the Christmas Tree?


This is a picture of me and Santa Claus. On the back is scribbled, "3 1/2 years old." I recognize the handwriting as belonging to my mother. Since my family lived in New York City when I was that age, this picture was most likely taken in a Manhattan department store. One of the best gifts left to me by family is a rich photographic history of my childhood. I was the first child in my Jewish family. And I was also the first grandchild. So, if I burped, they photographed it! My mother was a Christian, and the annual ritual of taking a photo with Santa is well documented. I have a whole series of them!

The Christmas holiday season can be a source of anxiety and pain for some Muslim re-verts. It was for me at the time I wrote this article. It used to be real painful for me due to childhood memories, and due to not feeling truly a part of my Muslim community.

Alhamdulillah, I have worked through those kinds of issues. It doesn't bother me anymore that the Muslims in my community don't invite me to Eid parties or iftars. I must admit that I get invited RARELY, so I can't say never.

It also doesn't bother me anymore when I go to the mall or someplace else and see all of the Christmas decorations and all. As a matter of fact, it bothers me when I don't see them.

Today, I went up on the "strip" where the mall and the stores are to go to my bank and to run some errands. My bank had absolutely NO decorations at all. I asked the teller, "Where's your Christmas tree?" She smirked and grunted. Apparently, my bank is another casualty of the atheists, some minority faith group members, and the ACLU in America.

Come on. This is America. What's wrong with the Christians painting the town red during their Christmas holiday? What's wrong with the Jews having public Channukah displays? Or the Muslims having Eid displays? Or anyone else having any other type of display?

Don't the atheists and others who have a problem with religious displays have the majority of the year to have NOTHING displayed?

Can you imagine Egypt or Saudi or any Muslim populated country not having the town deocrated during Ramadan and Eid?

Jeez - even the American Nazi party has a constitutional right to march in parades in America.

It makes me mad. Diversity used to be valued in America. Now, it's dog against dog.

When I arrived at the mall, I saw Santa Claus sitting on his chair. Little children were going up to him, sitting on his lap, and telling him what they wanted him to bring them for Christmas. The mall was also offering the opportunity to be pictured with Santa.

I'm telling you: I had an overwhelming urge to wait my turn, sit on Santa's lap, and tell him that I wanted peace in the world or some other dumb wish for the Christmas season. I wanted a photo, too.

What a photo that would be to add to my collection of childhood Santa photos? Can you see it now? Me: hijab and all, sitting in Santa's lap, loool?

Hmm ... I may do it yet. If I do, I'll post the picture.

Would you like me to do it?

Haram police: please stay away.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Bottomless Pit


Move closer to your screen, and then draw away ... see what happens!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Friday, December 04, 2009

Large Print Qur'an?


I've been looking for a large print Noble Qur'an for a person who is almost legally blind. She can see a little bit, but needs real large print, or print large enough so she can hold the book close.

There doesn't appear to be such a Qur'an.

There are large print Bibles and Torahs, but no large print Qur'ans.

Does anyone have any ideas, or resources I have not checked?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

World Aids Day

Image credit: Art As Authority


IN MEMORY OF RAMON LUIS ROSA
Originally published in The Body Positive: A Magazine By and For People Affected by HIV/AIDS
January 1993

Written on World AIDS Day in 1992
for My Friend, Ramon
Sunrise: 6/11/56 - Sunset: 5/18/92

Ramoncito, mi Querido,
in your all-knowing way,
you said to me one day,
"You're going to miss me
when I'm gone."

Ramoncito, mi Querido,
I said to you, "No."
that I wouldn't be sad when you go,
that I would celebrate
your release from AIDS.

Ramoncito, mi Querido,
You were right!!!
To survive without you is a daily fight.
AIDS has released you,
but it continues to incarcerate me.

Ramoncito, mi Querido,
I sit alone in a spiritual prison cell like a thief.
The only crime I'm guilty of is grief.
You were so right.
I miss you!!!

Ramoncito, mi Querido,
I pray, beg, plead, and cajole
in vain with my God to grant me parole,
But, I guess I might have to serve my full sentence;
only then will He set me free.

Ramoncito, mi Querido,
you have given me something to share with others.
Our experience will benefit all sisters and brothers
and the people in their lives
who live with AIDS.

Ramoncito, mi Querido,
I love you, and I miss you.
I don't know what else to do
except to make sure that
our message is carried on.

Carinosamente,
Tu cuidadora en vida y tu amiga para siempre ...