Monday, April 07, 2014

Muay Thai Training in 'Amazing Thailand'

I often think about the two years I spent teaching in Asia. It was a life-changing experience. I enjoy celebrating ethnic and social differences. I found the Thai culture to be especially intriguing. The people I met were simply beautiful spirits.

Recently, I did some research on "Amazing Thailand and learned that the country is known for muay Thai boxing, also known as Thai kick boxing. People from all over the globe go to Phuket Island to train for this contact sport. Beginners can sign up at the Suwit muay Thai training gym to get started. Professionals who want to maintain their skills can also be found at the gym. Many muay Thai enthusiasts add the sport to their personal weight loss program.   Still others take up the training for self-defense.

 Men, women, and children participate in the sport. If you're like me and completely new to muay Thai, you can find a number of YouTube videos that will bring you up to speed. To get the most out of Suwit muay Thai, ask about the training packages.

The sport isn’t the only thing to explore in Thailand. Check out Phuket Island. It’s the country’s largest island and is known as the “Pearl of the South.” Its balmy weather, white sandy beaches, majestic mountains, and lush landscape make it an ideal tourist attraction. The isle also happens to be THE place to go for anything related to Thai kick boxing.

 Phuket Island is about the size of Singapore. Thai, Chinese, English, and local dialects are spoken. Over time, immigrants from several Asian countries have settled on island. As a result, the island offers visitors unique and colorful cultural experiences. When it comes to leisure, there are plenty of choices. The island a great place to relax after an invigorating session of muay Thai.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Birthday wishes to the world's best blogging teacher

April 5 is SAJ Shirazi's birthday.  I've crowned him "King for the Day."  If you're new to the blogging, you may wonder why I'm singling him out. Shirazi is one of the most talented online writers in the blogosphere. 
He publishes several sites, including his cornerstone blog, Light Within, and  He's the go-to expert on all things about blogging. Shi, as I fondly call him, has taught me a great deal on blogging best practices.

In the early 2000s, Shi emerged as one of the premier English bloggers in Southeast Asia. Little did I know when we discovered his site nine years ago that we'd become great online friends. 

Through Shirazi, I have met other outstanding bloggers.Over the years, Shirazi has developed a strong online presence.  Even so, he's a pretty humble guy.  He's caring, resourceful, and incredibly smart.  He's my blog crush.

SAJ Shirazi has fame and legends of fans.  His contact list is a who's who of blogging and business.  His colleagues hold him in high esteem, and he has a beautiful, loving family.  

Everyone likes a good celebration, even Shi. :-)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Women and poverty: Living in crisis mode

The headline in a new article in The Atlantic invites debate:  "Wealthy Women Can Afford to Reject Marriage in a Way that Poor Women Can't."  This is just one argument writer Emma Green examined on the issue of single women and marriage.

"For poor, uneducated women, especially those who have kids, the question of whether to get married looks a lot different," Green wrote.

The beginning of the piece references an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal written by former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer.  Fleischer asserts that "'marriage inequality' should be at the center of any discussion of why some Americans prosper and others don't."  He then went on to present statistics from various sources in an effort to prove his point.

Fleischer added, "One of the differences between the haves and the have-nots is that the haves tend to marry and give birth, in that order. The have-nots tend to have babies and remain unmarried. Marriage makes a difference."

Author and social critic Barbara Ehrenreich offered another perspective at a summit this week on poverty among females.

"When you say to women, to get out of poverty you should get married, my question to them is how many men you have to marry," said Ehrenreich, the author of well-known book on low-wage workers, Nickel and Dimed. "Marrying a 10-dollar-an-hour man gets you nowhere, so you'd really have to marry three or four."

(If you haven't read Ehrenreich's  Nickel and Dimed:  On (Not) Getting By in America, I highly
recommend it. The author details the field research she conducted when she went undercover as a low-wage worker in various industries.)

This week Maria Shriver's rolled out her new report on the state of women in America.  The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Pushes Back from the Brink focuses on some big questions, among them:

  • Why are millions of women financially vulnerable when others have made such great progress?
  • Why are millions of women struggling to make ends meet even though they are hard at work? 

A team of researchers and reporters contributed to the study.  Shriver is among them.  She took the time to dispel some stereotypes about low-income women.  For instance, more than half of the babies born to moms who are under 30 are born to unmarried mothers, and most of them are white.  In addition, writes Shriver:

Many of these women feel they are just a single incident—one broken bone, one broken-down car, one missed paycheck—away from the brink. And they’re not crazy to feel that way:
  • Women are nearly two-thirds of minimum-wage workers in the country.
  • More than 70 percent of low-wage workers get no paid sick days at all.
  • 40 percent of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income.
  • The median earnings of full-time female workers are still just 77 percent of the median earnings of their male counterparts.

This is the first post-recession recovery since 1970 in which women have continued to lose jobs while men have gained more than 1.1 million jobs.

Included in the study is an opinion piece by Kathryn Edin, a leading researcher on women and poverty.  Edin took a look at another side of the equation -- men -- in her piece, "What About the Fathers?"  (The report is based, in part, on a book Edin wrote with Timothy J. Nelson:  Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City.)

Edin provided an alternative view of low-income, single dads, based on in-depth interviews with more than 100 inner-city fathers:

These young people know that the right time to have a child is when you are economically ready, but many are afraid that the right time may never arrive. And they’re right. Because of deindustrialization, automation, and outsourcing, there are precious few well-paying or even steady jobs for those without skills these days. Byron Jones, an inner-city dad who is now in his mid-30s, told us that he advised younger men in his neighborhood to hold off on having kids until “you are financially able to take care of the children.” Then he paused and added, “And that’s when nowadays? I have no idea, because—when is it? I mean, shoot, for the average guy, stable employment don’t last long. You might work this week and be out the next week, you know?” So, with little confidence that the right moment to have a child will ever arrive, they allow fate to dictate the timing.

Being on the brink of foreclosure, losing pay to stay at home to care for a sick child or parent, worrying about dwindling food in the pantry, praying that the gas stays on until the next billing cycle, trying to get time off to attend a parent-teacher conference at school, scraping up enough money to pay for child care.  That's not a Lifetime movie; it's the day-to-day life of women nationwide. 

Shriver wrote:
For the millions of American women who live this way, the dream of “having it all” has morphed into “just hanging on.” Everywhere they look, every magazine cover and talk show and website tells them women are supposed to be feeling more “empowered” than ever, but they don’t feel empowered. They feel exhausted.

The Shriver Report was completed in partnership with the Center for American Progress.  To obtain a copy of the full report, click here.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A man without borders

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This year marks the 28th anniversary of the federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, first observed on January 20, 1986. Were he alive today (January 15), King would have celebrated his 85th birthday. During the coming holiday weekend, millions of Americans will remember the civil rights leader and human rights advocate.

King was a husband, a father, and a preacher. He was also the preeminent leader of a movement that continues to transform America and the world. One of the twentieth century's most influential men, he lived an extraordinary life.

To truly understand King, this writer believes that one should read his writings. Scholars and casual researchers can now gain access to these important jewels of history. Two years ago, for the first time, a major portion of King’s papers went public.

Computer access to the documents, which have been digitized and cataloged, are available at the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center. Click here to gain access the collection.

The documents include many of King’s speeches and personal writings from 1946 to 1968.
Journalists, historians, legislators and community leaders continue to examine whether King's appeal for peace with justice is as relevant today as it was when he was alive. A few years ago, an editorial in the Houston Chronicle attempted to place King's philosophy into present-day perspective. Here is an excerpt from the piece:

Although he rose to national prominence fighting racial segregation in the South, many of the issues roiling the United States 38 years after his assassination would be very familiar to Martin Luther King Jr.

Before his death, the Baptist minister had denounced America's involvement in the Vietnam War, a daring stance that fueled the growing opposition to the carnage in Southeast Asia. He was bitterly criticized in the media and by government officials for venturing beyond the sphere of civil rights, as if that were the only area in which he was entitled to an opinion.

With the country now split by the bloody, open-ended struggle in Iraq and by the mistaken justification for going to war, it's not hard to predict where King would stand on the matter.

Americans debate the revelation that their government is conducting warrantless surveillance of Americans inside the United States. King had plenty of experience on that score. He was relentlessly wiretapped and trailed by the FBI. Then FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was convinced that King was a communist sympathizer.

Just as he stood with refuse workers in Memphis in the last days before an assassin's bullet struck him down, King would championed the dispossessed evacuees of Hurricane Katrina, potent symbols of a race-based economic underclass that persists as a legacy of slavery and discrimination. The New Orleans nightmare that Katrina exposed indicates that the vision King enunciated in his "I Have a Dream" speech is not yet realized.

Like his role model for nonviolent protest, Mohandas K. Gandhi, King grew to be a world figure by embracing universal humanitarian concerns that surmounted ethnicity and religion. As he once said, "Evil is not driven out, but crowded out ... through the expulsive power of something good."
That's why the celebration of his life today cannot be limited to a single community or issue. African-Americans are justly proud that he rose from their ranks, but his life is significant to all Americans.
It's been four decades since King's death in 1968. For years, many scholars have suggested that King faced the same fate that has befallen many a historical figure - being frozen in a moment in time that ignores the full complexity of the man and his message.

Five years ago, Barack Obama took over as the country's chief executive officer. Many believe that with this historic presidency came the "thawing" of the King legacy.

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Google observes Veterans Day

Google Doodle took on a new look today.  The graphic commemorated Veterans Day.  The colorful Google logo illustrated a Veterans Day parade.  If you have some leisure time, you might want to check out the past array of doodles.

Honoring our military men and women

Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day

Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France,
wait for the end of hostilities.
This photo was taken at 10:58 a.m., on Nov. 11, 1918,
two minutes before the armistice ending World War I went into effect.

The history of Veterans Day

World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"

The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11 a.m.

President Dwight Eisenhower signed House Resolution 7786, changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day. An act approved in 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday - a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day."

Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history. After American forces had fought in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting in its place the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

Today we honor America's military men and women for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

How important it is for us to recognize and
celebrate our heroes and she-roes!
~Maya Angelou~

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget
that the highest appreciation is not to utter words,
but to live by them.
~John Fitzgerald Kennedy~

Always remembering the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month

Friday, July 19, 2013

How well do we nourish the minds of our youth?

The mere imparting of information is not education.
― Carter G. Woodson

Today I read Bernie Hayes' column, Still mis-educated after 80 years. His commentary immediately took me back to my undergraduate days.  At that time, I read several authors for the first time, whose works introduced me up to a new world of intellectualism and independent thought.  Arguably, the book that made the strongest impression on me was The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the publication of this groundbreaking book.  Woodson was one of the first scholars to value and study black history -- and one of the first to evaluate America's European-centered educational system on the black psyche.  The Mis-Education of the Negro is still considered a classic piece of African-American writing and continues to be taught in high school and college classrooms.

While many people are debating their positions on educational equity or the  Trayvon Martin / George Zimmerman saga, Hayes, a veteran journalist, wants to focus on another topic -- our country's failure to candidly address our history of slavery. 

Monday, July 01, 2013

Coping with cranky critics

From time to time, I am reminded that criticism can be a touchy issue for many people, especially writers.  Writers everywhere share something in common -- dealing with naysayers.  Feeling hurt because a critic cut your masterpiece to shreds? You're not alone. Criticism and bruised egos are inherent in publishing, communications, and life.

Here are some tips on how to cope with critics.
  • It’s natural to feel hurt about criticism, but don’t drown yourself in pity. Get over it.
  • All critics are not alike. Some are just plain cranky while others consider themselves experts. If you’re lucky, you’ll run into people who offer you constructive comments – objective opinions that can help you improve your work.
  • Understand that some critics will attack anyone or anything just to draw attention to themselves – to make themselves feel superior. Don’t take the remarks personally. Shake them off.
  • Separate the critic from the criticism. Commit this rule to memory!  Realize that any criticism may carry a little bit of truth. Be open to the fact that your work could use some fine-tuning, but never allow criticism to dampen your self-confidence.
  • Don’t dwell so much on criticism that you allow it to drain your energy and motivation. Deal with it, and then move on.
  • Understand that ALL writers have their critics. You don’t have to like it, but don’t let it overwhelm you.
Bottom Line: It’s a sure bet that the more you achieve, the more attention you’ll attract from critics. If you learn to handle criticism in a calm and positive spirit, you’ll definitely grow as a person and a writer.

A version of this post first appeared in 2006.