Monthly Archives: June 2014

Best Sake Tasting in the World!

What I can tell you is that you need to either find an upscale Japanese restaurant with a large selection of sake, or do as my short order tempura chef friend recommends and, “Fry to Japan!”

Smaller restaurants
Beware of low quality sake. I once had a slick guy recommend that I buy some high end sake for a low end friend. He had some on sale. But, in all honesty, most restaurant sake is low end stuff, or at best average. Finding high class sake is hard to do, and being able to taste it is even harder. Many restaurants have sake flights. You get to taste three small portions of sake for a reasonable price. Others have small glasses that you can get for a decent price. If you want to taste dozens of different varieties of sake, it doesn’t hurt to resort to the 300ml bottle size which is a popular size for sake.

Bottle sizes really vary
Japanese culture is really innovative, creative, and fun. Never mind how repressed they seem to you. They have sake glasses with a beer can top that you open like a can of beer. Okay, it looks like it opens like a can of beer, except that the entire top comes off leaving you with an attractive glass filled with sake! (hopefully chilled) Then, there is the 300ml sized bottle, which is small enough so you can still function after single handedly (mouthedly) totaling a bottle. After that there are 750ml bottles and really large bottles of varying ml’s are also popular in the sake market. If you are out for a taste a 1500ml bottle might not be the best idea.

Japan
Much like wine connoisseurs (and wannabe’s) fly to Bordeaux, Cotes du Rhone, and other regions of France or Europe to enjoy a week (or a month) of wine tasting, if you are serious about sake tasting, you need to fly to the motherland. Sake is a traditional art in Japan. It is taken seriously, just like wine making is in Europe. If you have someone who can make sure you understand the explanation of how they prepare this rice wine, you might have a very interesting and fulfilling experience overseas!

Soju anyone?
Soju has a very different brewing process than sake, but they have potato, barley, rice, and various mixtures of ingredients in some types of soju. Soju is not for the faint of heart, and is guaranteed to put hair on your chest. The taste is different, and it has become a trendy drink in many metros around the world. Some think that rice soju tastes more like vodka than sake, but you can see for yourself!

Taste sake in the USA!
Takara Sake Tasting Room & Museum in Berkeley, CA
https://www.takarasake.com/home.php

Taste sake in Japan

(1) The #Sake Town, Hiroshima
Features some of the oldest & most prestigious breweries in the area

(2) Japan Sake Center, Tokyo
1 Chome-1-21 Nishishinbashi, Minato, Tokyo 105-0003, Japan

(3) Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum, Kyoto

(4) Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum, Kobe
There are other venues to do sake tasting in Japan. There are breweries strewn all over the country just like Napa has vineyards all over the place. I am not the expert on where to go and how to proceed, but my article had a few specific suggestions that I hope you capitalize on!

Drink with Caution!
Just a word to the wise, sake doesn’t hit you like grape wine does. Each different type of grape wine affects me differently, but sake is much more evasive. You might drink and feel nothing, and then all of a sudden be too intoxicated to function.

A cultural experience!
I once had a type of mildly expensive sake with cherry blossoms on the photo on the label. The sake was so good that it transported me into the consciousness of being in Japan near the cherry blossoms. The beauty of drinking beverages from other countries is that you can get a little bit of the feeling from that country if you take a few sips. So, enjoy tasting sake! And as always, drink responsibly my friends!

In defense of Dubai!

In Defense of Dubai

I have read so many traveler’s blogs talk about Dubai. People from the West have a love-hate relationship with the city. They love the excitement, social life, recreation, shopping and other offerings, but they often complain about the religious values. I have not been to Dubai, but am familiar with Islamic sensibilities. I’m also familiar with how Westerners desire to force the entire globe to be just like us in all ways.

Demographics
Dubai is the most liberal of Arab cities and has wealth beyond imagination. It is intelligently run like a business. To run a business, you need customers, and their customers are their residents and visitors. Only 11% of the population of the United Arab Emirates are citizens. The rest are workers from a variety of countries, primarily India, Pakistan, Philippines, United Kingdom, and many Lebanese and Palestinians as well. The Lebanese, Palestinians and British typically run the businesses there, the Indians to mostly labor jobs, and the Emeratis are often the owners.

Everything is better in Dubai!
Dubai is one of the top places in the world to go shopping as they have many of the world’s finest shops. You can eat some of the best food in the world. I’m not talking about only local Gulf Arabic food. They have some highly reputed food from all over Asia and Europe as well. Dubai even has nightlife which is typically forbidden in most Islamic states. You can purchase alcohol in certain select locations such as particular hotels. Additionally, it is clean and safe to live there, especially for women! You could call Dubai an Islamic paradise that bends the rules a little to accommodate the good favor of foreigners — and it works!

So, what’s the problem?
In my opinion, I don’t see a problem. But, many Westerners go to Dubai and criticize the Islamic parts of the culture. Muslims are being bashed by the media world-wide and are tired of being slandered. In Dubai, you can be jailed for saying unfair things about Islam, and media can be censored if there is slanderous or inappropriate sexual content. Is this a good or bad thing?

America is over-sexed and Muslims don’t approve!
In America, sexual content is all you see, and the result is that children are so void of morality, that it is like something that descended from Mars when they hear about it. American children make strange faces and act shocked if anyone should dare bring up moral principles. Muslim society is different from America. In Islam, morality is not only there — it is enforced by a variety of means. Good or bad? It depends on the way you look at it!

Scorpion drummer jailed
Recently a drummer from the musical group Scorpion was jailed for a few days in Dubai for making insulting statements about Islam. Good or bad? In my opinion Westerners make derogatory statements about Islam because all they have heard about Islam from friends and the media is negative. The negative statements arise out of a lack of education combined with a disrespectful attitude. Putting troublemakers in jail will bring order to society, however, it does not help to educate people about Islam. Dubai is very liberal about who they let in their country. This liberal attitude is how Dubai accumulates a lot of riff-raff that doesn’t respect Islamic values. Is Dubai too liberal? That is up to them, and depends on how much they are willing to put up with!

Educating people about Islam
Education about Islam is not widespread. Muslims would make life much easier for future generations if they educated athiests, Christians, and others about their religion in a positive way. I feel that Westerners should not visit a Muslim country unless they have taken a sort of a prep-course to acquaint them with how Islamic values are life is. Additionally, much of Islam is very similar to Christianity and Judaism which will be a source of familiarity for non-Muslims.

Women’s place in society
Westerners have a fit whenever women are treated differently than men. In America there is relative gender equality. The rest of the world doesn’t necessarily operate that way. You can’t go to somebody else’s country and expect them to be just like us in all ways. It doesn’t work that way. America’s gender equality comes paired with a 75% divorce rate. Although Dubai’s divorce rate is rising (I blame it on the fast lifestyle,) typically people with traditional values (which typically include gender roles) have a much lower divorce rate which is good for children. If you were a child, would you want to have two parents or a mom who has a boyfriend who you call John?

A transient culture
Many have commented that people tend to not live in Dubai for too long. People tend to not want to get too close to others simply because they know ahead of time that those others will leave. Some people might judge you by what neighborhood you live in. That makes no sense to me, because I’m from LA where you’re judged by what kind of car you drive! Completely different! There is no rule against meeting locals or longer term people. Honestly, the places in India I stayed in were transient too. People in India move from city to city faster than Gypsies these days. Los Angeles is a little bit the same way.

The Dubai paradox
Dubai has so many foreigners, that the culture has to adapt to accommodate the needs and wants of foreigners. It is like a tail wagging a dog. If Dubai loses their 89% foreign population, their economy will crash. They have put themselves into a position of dependence on others. Will this work in the long run? I hope so!

The Westerner paradox
Americans have this viewpoint that everyone should be allowed to do whatever they want. But, the minute you bring up Islamic values, then Westerners suddenly want to forcefully prevent people from having or voicing such values or attitudes. Many claim that Islamic values are “scary.” What happened to being a loving and accepting person? It went down the drain in a blink of an eye without a second thought. The American attitude about freedom is that anyone should be able to do whatever they want. The minute you do whatever you want and it conflicts with American culture, then the Americans antagonize the hell out of you right off the bat. Very hypocritical attitude, but this is how we are over here!

Enjoy Dubai the way it is
If you visit Dubai. Enjoy them for what they are. Enjoy their passion for business. Enjoy their mix of traditional and modern values. Don’t expect them to be like Americans because they are not and probably don’t want to be either. You might have a better experience if you learn about how their culture operates and understand that you are not forced to live like that for the rest of your life. It is temporary for you. So, enjoy whichever parts you like, and whatever you don’t care for, don’t dwell on it!

A new social media site called Dissed!

You know how most social media sites tell you when you get a new follower? They might even email you when someone follows you. Well Dissed is different. Dissed tells you when someone unfollowed you, and gives you the nasty, insulting commentary that goes with it.

If only the Jimmy Fallon show could endorse this concept.
This is just my guess, but Jimmy Fallon’s sense of humor might appreciate a concept such as Dissed. It’s funny in a demented way if you think about it. Americans love to hear about someone who got had, or who got dumped. Nothing pleases us more. So, why not make a site that devotes its entire existance to this concept.

The email message
John joined Dissed a few days ago. He got liked by Cindy. But, then Cindy dissed John! “Dissed!” Here is the email message.

Sorry John, you’ve been dissed.
Cindy no longer likes you and has this comment for you.
“Hi John, it’s nothing personal, but you’re so lame, and boring. How can I possibly follow someone like you on social media?”
Fred: “Dissed — ha ha, I knew she would diss you.”
Sam: “That was cold bro, I can’t believe she dissed you.”

After reading the message
John read the message, and the only thing that went through his head was, what a nasty email. How could Cindy diss me. And what are all these other people’s gossipy commentary doing here? Does the whole world have to know that I got dissed? The answer is, Yes! The whole point of Dissed is to get dissed and have everybody talk about you. The sad thing about Dissed, is that people are already this demented and mean. Dissed doesn’t make them any meaner, it just highlights the worst aspects of humanity and broadcasts it.

John: I don’t want to live anymore. Why is life so cruel?

To make Dissed more fun…
On most social media sites, you can like large quantities of people. They just don’t allow you to like more than a few dozen in a 24 hour period. On Dissed, to keep it interesting, the quantity of people you can follow is limited. However, you and your followers have access to the potentially large database of all the people you’ve dissed. Let’s say you just joined the site. You can like up to twenty people. If you are a regular user, then the site lets you like more people gradually over time. But, to spice things up it would be interesting if the site suddenly made you diss lots of people at once.

Let’s say you had been a regular user on the site for three months, and had accumulated thirty-five followers and had a maximum allowed number of followers also of thirty-five. Then to surprise you, the site told you that you couldn’t post anything until you reduced your number of people you follow down to twenty-five. You’d have to diss ten people at the same time. Boy, what fun. It might be hard to develop a large following on this site with all of the limitations, so the dissed people would still be able to get your posts, they would be a 2nd class type of followers. It’s just an idea. Not sure if would catch on. You never know!

Live is cruel, so join Dissed!

A virtual reality theme park where you could travel the world!

Virtual Reality Restaurant(s) & Theme Park

We all love to travel
Many of us find it fascinating to travel to another country, see different types of people, hear different sounds, and try different foods. But, what if you could have such an experience without leaving your metro? This is my goal. I would like to find a billionaire who could finance my dream which is to build a virtual reality theme park.

A virtual reality theme park
My most popular tweet so far has been about having a virtual reality theme park where you could see 100 of the world’s most popular attractions. Imagine going to a theme park, and having different attractions you could go to. It might look like Knottsberry farm on the outside. You would pay an entrance fee, walk around and see different attractions all around you. But, the attactions at my park would be virtual in many respects. But, what would be in that theme park exactly?

Virtual travel
There are many components of travel, all of which are somewhat exciting in one way or another. There is planning your trip, buying your ticket, packing your bags, driving to the airport, boarding your flight, flying, transfering, landing, getting a cab, checking into the hotel, sightseeing, and trying new and exciting cuisine. There are also other aspects like recreating weather conditions, smells of the different country, sounds, phone systems, and more. If you created virtual travel, which parts if not all of these aspects of travel would you try to recreate to make the experience more three dimensional? In my opinion, the more realistic you could make the experience, the better, even if it is inconvenient. After all, real travel can be very inconvenient.

Infrastructure set up
The theme park on the exterior might look a bit like Universal or Disneyland with walkways, signs and attractions. But, once you enter an attraction, it might look very different. The question is, where do we start your travel? Do you start at your virtual home, an airport, or are you already in Phuket or Santorini when the virtual reality starts? Should you enter the theme park in a pretend version of your house and book tickets from the intranet phone in your pretend room? Would you pack a fake suitcase there too? What items would you really need for fake travel anyway? Maybe the trip could begin from your real home booking fake tickets on a virtual flight, and packing what you need to bring along your virtual trip.

Possible trips
You could book a trip to a particular part of the world as one option. Another option is to visit a shamanistic realm where you could transport yourself from one realm to another by going through one of those science fiction circles that you walk through and end up in a completely different place on the other side. The third option is to have a virtual plane or train that takes you from one country to the next.

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A trip to Phuket
You book your fake flight from your real home. Perhaps you talk to an agent, or book online. Your ticket includes airfare, cabfare, and a tour. You drive to the theme park at the appointed time. The theme park’s parking lot would look more like an airport parking lot to keep the theme realistic. Then, you take a shuttle to the virtual airport. Since there would not be room for a real airport at the theme park, wide screened flat screen televisions would be used where the windows would be at the terminal. It would look and sound like a real airport with multi-lingual announcements and more. You would check your bags in, and then proceed to the gate, perhaps after a visit to the food court. You would have to change your real dollars for real Baht as well. Then you would see a real jumbo jet on the television screen that simulates a window. You would feel like you were boarding a real plane at a real airport. Then, you would walk down the gangplank with your virtual passport and fake ticket. You would smell jet exhaust and then board a virtual plane.

The virtual plane would be much smaller than a real plane. It would have to have a high ceiling so you would be able to see the large screen in front of you. There would be mini-screens where the windows are for a view. The beauty of this type of virtual travel is that you could accentuate the views to a particular destination allowing the visitors to see real sights, but see them longer, closer and clearer, with clear auditory descriptions. Such vivid scenery and marginal detours would not be so possible on a real flight.

During the flight you would have to have a movie and a meal. The movie would be about all the attractions you would see at the destination. The meal would be much more elaborate than anything you would have on a real flight, although served on a tiny rectangular plate. There might be turbulance on the flight. And there might be a stand up comedian doing a take off on take offs. “Attention passengers, the captain has turned off the no laughing sign — you are free to laugh around the cabin!”

Upon landing, visitors would exit the virtual plane. When they exited, all of the signs and loudspeaker announcements would be in Thai. The staff at the airport would be authentic sounding Thai people who wouldn’t speak too much English (if any.) The look of the airport would be whatever it is in Phuket as well. You would exit the airport, and get in a taxi or tuk tuk to the first attraction!

To simulate weather in the new location, it might be necessary to build a dome over the streets and buildings so that balmy and warm weather, flash showers, and wind could be effectively simulated. The trip might start with a tour of a very elaborately replicated temple. Then, perhaps a museum could be the next stop. After that, a trip to a restaurant. Finally, perhaps a massage would be in order. The experience could last as long as the creators of this theme park had attractions to go to. But, that is the end of this section of my virtual reality theme park idea. Hope you liked your journey!

My karma followed me wherever I went!

My karma followed me wherever I went!

Pestering at a meditation venue
I got upset that people pestered me where I was meditating. I had just finished two meditation sessions of two hours each. I had developed a good inner condition and was feeling a calmness. The first thing that happened as I was in a blissful daze, is that an annoying girl went out of her way to pester me.

Annoying girl: “Can I help you?”
Me: “Did I ask for help?”
Annoying girl: “No, but you look like you need help.”
Me: “Why don’t you pester every single person who walks by and offer them help. It’s really annoying.”

Pestering while hiking
I thought that the problem was limited to spiritual venues. Busy-bodies seem to gravitate to the world of meditation and yoga. But, I remembered that a few days earlier I was hiking. I was tired after going up a steep hill. I sat down on the ground. The first thing that happened was that someone asked if I needed help. I told them that I didn’t need help, but asked them if they needed help. Then, they said, no, but that I looked like I needed help.

Pestering in the bathroom.
I went hiking at Yosemite. It was beautiful. I used the bathroom after my hike. As I got up from the toilet, I groaned. Someone in a neighboring stall asked if I needed help. I explained that I didn’t. Then, he said that I sounded like I needed help. I explained that I really didn’t need help.

So, it seems to be part of the karmic cleaning from my meditation this month that people will offer me help when I didn’t ask for it and don’t need it. How annoying!

A resource management problem at Yosemite

A resource management problem at Yosemite

I contacted Yosemite National Park and informed them about their shortage of parking places and other resources. They tweeted me back with a link to a 200+ long page plan called the Merced River project. I read through parts of it. It might take hours to read in its entirety. Basically, they are trying to rebuild some of the parking lots and change how they manage various stretches of the Merced River. It looks like no final decisions have been made so far, but the options are on the table. I wanted to include a few of my own suggestions for very basic park management that would enhance the user experience!

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Yosemite Village Area
There are modern parking lots near the Village Store that are well designed. The problem is that there are more cars than parking spaces, even as early as April in many cases. The dirt parking lots on the other side of the main road are very disorganized, and cars tend to move at the speed of a snail. Finding your way through the walking paths in this maze back to the village buildings is a convuluted task at best. You have to cross the street twice which is annoying and creates systematic traffic jams.

Yosemite Village Dirt Parking Lot Congestion
The dirt parking lot near the village needs to be better organized. Pedestrians are forbidden from walking in the driving areas, but they do it anyway.

Solutions
(1) Better signs and education about where to walk in the dirt parking lot would help.
(2) Individual parking spots need to be clearly identified to eliminate inefficient spaces between cars that occur in dirt parking areas. (a) Paving the lot over would make it a lot easier to use. (b) However, the use of large logs used diagonally at the heads of individual parking spaces would be an attractive and effective way to ensure an organized use of the facility.

Congestion on The main road:
The main road near the village gets backed up as early as April. The reason for this is that there is only one lane traveling West, and an endless disorganized flow of pedestrians who cross the road, and then have to cross the perpendicular road to the Village Store to get to the Village. Nobody can move. In July, this area is a nightmare.

Solutions
Having two lanes going Westbound near the main stop sign would eliminate much of the backup. Having a wooden treetops bridge for pedestrians to cross the road from the dirt parking lot to the Village area would be a cost effective solution. A pedestrian bridge would also eliminate the need to have a staff member guide traffic during busy times of the year.

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Curry Village

Curry Village Area parking problem
Curry village has a section of the parking lot which is very well organized near the stores. But, the side road and the back of the parking lot is very difficult to use and doesn’t have clearly marked spots. Additionally, there are not enough spots to go around.

Solutions
(1) Clearly mark parking spots and number them. Assigned parking for guests would make life a lot easier, particularly in the evening when it is dark and confusing.
(2) Create more parking spots. Yosemite has a plan to integrate rows of trees into the Curry Village parking lot. That is an attractive way to create more parking.
(3) The road from Curry Village through the tents to the Mist Trail Wilderness parking area could have parking on both sides of the road.

Curry Village bathroom problem
Curry Village has several bathrooms that are generally large. When it is cold at night or early morning when you are groggy, you have to walk to these bathrooms. The walk can be long, and bathrooms are often closed for cleaning which means you might have to walk a half a mile to the next closest shower. How inconsiderate!

Solutions
(1) Create mini-bathrooms that are designed to be used when the other ones are being cleaned, and could be designed to be closer to the residents.
(2) Only close part of the bathroom during cleaning, but allow people to use the parts that are not being cleaned at that particular moment.

Curry Village Noise Pollution
Rather than waiting for guests to complain about late night noise and screaming children, it would be better if the staff takes a proactive approach to noise control and makes rounds of the property identifying noise issues.

Weird hours for services
Curry Village has many restaurants and cafes. The problem is that each on has their own unique and bizarre hours. You might go for days without having a hot dog simply because they close at 5pm, and you always get there at 5:15pm. Services should be for the convenience of the visitors, and not shut down the minute usage becomes sluggish. A more generous schedule for services would make the user experience more favorable.

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The Mist Trail
When I visit Yosemite, I know where the services are, where reliable parking is, and when to go where. But, the problem is that the hours and availability of services change so much day to day, and month to month, that what you rely on can be swiped from you at any moment. Normally, this is only a headache, but in the case of vital supplies, it can be serious. The Mist Trail (appropriately named, because you will feel that you MISSED it if you don’t visit for a long period of time) is a wonderful and invigorating place to hike up a steep trail next to a raging waterfall. Even when the waterfall is on low during autumn, it is still a mesmerizing experience.

There is a bathroom and a water source an hour up the trail next to the bridge. The problem is that they close these down. So, if you are expecting to be able to refill your water bottle and go to the bathroom, you might be left high and dry. Your water bottle can be refilled by hiking down to the river. But, your bathroom problem might not be so easy to remedy. Keeping services open year-round adds an element of predictability, reduces user frustration, and is considerate of the visitors.

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Summary
My feeling is that Yosemite functions for its own convenience with little consideration for their guests in terms of providing easy to use parking, restaurants that don’t have long lines, bathrooms that are not closed, etc. On a brighter note, the staff at Yosemite are always nice and fun to be around. “Inconsiderate” resource management is the source of most of the problems at Yosemite. Perhaps they will think from the perspective of the guest how to provide a more pleasant experience

Places to have crab & crab cakes in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is not famous for crab, crab cakes, or crabby people, but I had to write this article since I found the perfect crab cake. When I go to most restaurants and order their crab cake, it is nothing special. The only memorable experience I have had eating crab in general was at a sushi place that served crab, shredded salmon, corn, and put it on a circular tortilla chip with a little sauce. Those flavors go together perfectly! But, enough about Japanese food, let’s crab about crab cakes.

#1 Pick
Asia de Cuba
This restaurant is right next to the world famous Sky Bar featured on Entourage on Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. It is a Cuban style interior with Asian-Cuban fusion going on. Try the smoky rum alone or with a mojito. It’s a bit expensive, but there is nothing like it anywhere. We tried many dishes there over the years. The coffee encrusted steak was an anomaly to my taste buds. I’ve never had anything like it. The bold flavors blended perfectly. I tried similar coffee encrusted dishes elsewhere, but it just wasn’t anywhere near as good as the experts at Asia de Cuba cook it. By the way, the chef normally comes out to greet the customers at this restaurant which is a wonderful touch!

But, what about the crab cakes, ah, the crab cakes. They were recommended to me by the waiter, and I will always trust that waiter from now on, except I can’t remember which waiter I had any more. The crab cakes are flavorful, moist, and oh so fluffy. The texture, the flavor, and the size of these isosceles beauties was acutely pleasing to my equilateral taste buds. In any case, if you live in Los Angeles, Asia de Cuba is a must if you like Cuban or Chinese food. Bring a thick wallet, because it is expensive!

Whole Foods
Are you a restaurant lover? You love to eat out at places with a nice ambiance? Whole Foods might not be what you have in mind, but I love being there, and I love the staff, especially in the seafood section. They know how I like my salmon seasoned and cooked. Whole Foods allows you to pick from many choices of raw or prepared seafood options. They have various types of fish, plus kabobs, crab cakes, salmon cakes, shellfish, and other goodies. They will cook it for you. Everything they have including the crab cakes is excellent. I prefer their Atlantic Salmon as part of my daily health routine. But, their crab cakes are really large, much less expensive than any restaurant, and the texture is fabulous.

Ruth Chris’ Steak House
I had crab cakes once there. They were great, but they are more famous for their steaks cooked at a very high temperature with butter. Their cooking process is a bit unique. It has been years since I was there, so the details are a bit hard to remember. The food there is expensive, but if you like their unique style and attentive staff, you will like it.

Gladstones
This Pacific Palisades shore restaurant has a unique seafood menu. I ordered the crab cakes which have a hint of dill, corn, and a sweet Thai dipping sauce. They were good, but nothing to write home about. Try the salmon tacos. Those were some of the best I’ve ever had and came with three chutneys — mango, blackened salsa, and avocado. Yum.

Crustacean
Sorry to change the theme from crab cakes to crab, but Crustacean in Beverly Hills is the place to go. It is my assistant’s favorite place in the world. Although they don’t have crab cakes to my knowledge their whole roasted crab is one of their most famous dishes. It goes amazingly well with their garlic noodles which is a dish that they specialize in. I tried a lot of their fusion cooking and enjoyed it every time. I didn’t like any of the desserts at Crustacean, and their wine list was average. But, go for the food. You can park for free after 6pm in the parking structures behind the stores on the other side of the street on Little Santa Monica. Oh, and before I forget — this is a hang out spot for the stars, so don’t be surprised if you see someone famous.

Itzakaya Japanese Restaurant
This little gem on 3rd street on the West Side of Los Angeles is where I had the crab, salmon, and corn kernels on circular tortilla chips. they have all types of kushi and small dishes to choose from. But a warning — there is no place to park unless you walk for four blocks, and expect to wait in line. This place is popular.

Roots of the Palestine Israel Conflict are not purely religious

The roots of the Palestine / Israel conflict are not religious

Many not so intelligent people in America and other countries have simplified the Palestine Israel conflict to a level comprehensible to a three year old. They feel that all Arabs & Muslims hate all Jews, and vice versa. I know thousands of Arabs and Jews and it is simply not so simple. The truth of the matter is that it was the Romans who destroyed Israel and removed many (not all) Jews from Israel roughly 1950 years ago. It was Muslims (Ottomans, not Arab Muslims) who were the first to invite Jews back to Jerusalem in the 1500’s. I am not a historian and am very fuzzy on exact dates by the way!

Additionally, Muslims rescued Jews from persecution in Spain during the Inquisition. Jews were given acceptance in all Muslim countries in the Mediterranean as a matter of fact. Most of the Islamic prophets are Jews as well, not to mention certain Jewish habits like wearing an enlarged Yarmulkah, and putting a cloth over their heads during prayer. Even their dietary restrictions have many parallels. There were no major conflicts between Arabs and Jews until the advent of Zionism in the 1930’s. The ideology of Zionism was that the land of Canaan (I’m being politically neutral using this word here which is almost synonymous to the word Palestine or Israel geographically, although not culturally.) should be reclaimed by Jews, and that everyone else would have to pack up and go. Not a very friendly ideology. A more friendly ideology might be that Jews should repopulate their traditional homeland, but without stepping on the toes of the other people who live there — unless absolutely necessary.

Since Muslims and Jews have lived as brothers for over one thousand years, and still do in France, Neve Shalom, Kerela, and Westwood, CA (well at least most parts of Westwood,) I think I have proven that there is no innate conflict between Muslims and Jews.The problem is essentially a Real Estate dispute that got nasty and has created generations of resentment due to systematic violence and other injustices that have accumulated over four generations. In the very beginning of post British Jewish life in Israel, there were raids on Jewish villages, and Jews retaliated with violence against Arabs, and kicking many of them off their land.

The history goes on and on with the major events being the massacre of Deir Yassin, and 700,000 Palestinians running for their lives who were then not allowed to return to their villages in 1948. There were many years of terrorism by extremists against Jews, and many years of Jews slowly and systematically moving in on Arab lands, including the establishment of an endless list of settlements on disputed land. Once again, I am not a historian, and you could write a book on the back and forth of violence and cruelty between Palestinians and Jews. But, that is not the point of what I am writing.

My point is that there are OTHER causes of the conflict which have nothing to do with religion that I feel are spiritual in nature. Let me elaborate. Let’s start by criticizing the Jews.

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Criticizing Jews (in a nice way)
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In Jewish culture, there is a tradition of excluding people who are not Jewish. Jews always complain about antisemitism which is sometimes used in false accusations, and sometimes a bloodthirsty reality. But, Jews, historically exclude those who are not of their faith which is anti-nonsemitism or anti-semitism in reverse. Chassidim (the ultra orthodox) will typically and by virtue of their customs not be willing to talk to any Goi (non Jew,) or even any Jew who is not Orthodox or part of their sect. Additionally, there are divisions between Chassidim of Hungarian, Ukrainian, Polish and Russian descent. It is divide and conquer with twelve children per family for these guys! Secular Jews with drive on Shabbat, go to gentile schools, not practice Judaism much if at all, and then exclude non Jews. Or worse, they will date a non Jew and then after they get close, tell that nice Shiksa that they can’t marry them because their parents would never approve. What a horrible way to double cross someone. If you have a culture that has been excluding and discriminating against people for thousands of years, that can make it easy to have a very unfriendly long lasting conflict!

My next criticism of Jews is modern in origin. When I meet Jews, and in particular Israelis, they are generally polite and friendly. You can talk with them about many interesting topics, and their points of view are regularly very intelligent. That is until I bring up my future trip to Dubai. “Dubai? But, those are Arabs!” The inherent bigotry in so many of them comes out of hiding the minute you talk about anything having to do with the Arab world. In real life, places like Dubai and Morrocco are extremely tolerant and have churches, synogogues, and peace between the religions. 99% of what Jews have to say about Arabs is negative. I am not saying that their statements are not true, but the statements tend to be biased on the side of negative.

Additionally, in Israel there has traditionally been a huge intolerance of “Eastern” culture which is a problem since roughly half of their population (before the Russians came) was Eastern in origin. There were Sephardim from Arabic and Turkish speaking countries, Arab Jews, Iranian, Iraqi, and Yemenite Jews. (Clarification, many misapply the label Sepharic to all Eastern Jews, but it rightfully only belongs to those with Spanish Jewish lineage which doesn’t apply to Iran, Yemen, from the best of my knowledge)

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Criticizing Palestinians (in a bizarre way)
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On the flip side, the Palestinians have an evern more interesting and disturbing brand of intolerance which has been breeding for milleniums. The Middle East traditionally has been a very inhospitable place. Yes, the bedouin and other nice people are known for their hospitality. But, even since the time of Abraham and before, if you try to move to a new place, you will need to wait for five or ten generations before people get used to you and welcome you. Jews accuse Palestinians of being “Just Arab.” Palestinians claim to be “A people,” and a unique people. The truth is that people who have lineage in British Palestine can call themselves Palestinians and in a sense they are a people due to some common shared geographic and political circumstances. Under the Ottomans there was no Palestine and was only Syria which included what is now called Palestine by Palestinians.

However, Palestinians in my opinion are not a people, and are not Arabs either. Palestinians are a patchwork of various tribes of completely different origins who have been in-breeding for hundreds and thousands of years. The largest ancestry of Palestinians is from the ancient Jews (they will deny this, but let’s talk after the DNA test results are disclosed please.) The next most common ancestry is from Jordanian groups like the Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites. I am not sure if those entities are collections of tribes, names of historic empires, or what, because I am not a historian. The Greek islanders created a huge presense in Western Palestine near Gaza. There were tribes with ancestors from the Persians, Canaanites, Crusaders, Arabians, and even Romans. Wow! One point here is that Palestinians traditionally would not marry even with those from next door villages. They had very tight knit clans. To me, I consider this behavior to be discrimination, but that is because I grew up in American, and in America we thrive on accusing others of discrimination — part of our culture.

The next issue with Palestinians is the “us only” phenomenon. It is common for ethnic groups to be ethno-centric, but Palestinian ethno-centrism goes to the level of a sickness. It is common (how common, I don’t know, but I have heard many accounts of this) for Palestinians and Lebanese to exclude 2nd and 3rd generation Arab-Americans. It is common for them to tell their own children and grandchildren, “You don’t belong with us.” One fair-skinned Lebanese American went to Lebanon, and they called him “Ajnabi” the whole time which means foreigner. This is amazingly sick and abusive behavior. It is shameful, and yet goes on. One Arab-American girl took an interest in her heritage and tried to speak Arabic to someone from Palestine who had been living in American for thirty years. The Palestinians had only insulting things to say about why is this stupid girl trying to speak Arabic — she is American and should just stick to English. As abusive as Israel is, at least when American Jews learn Hebrew, they are welcomed, and no door is slammed in their face! If you are an Arab-American of mixed ancestry, and the father is not Arabic, then you are ensured to face a life of brutal exclusion and heartless discrimination for no reason other than pure intolerance.

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My point is…
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With two cultures so deeply entrenched in a tradition of discrimination and cruelty, it doesn’t seem like they can possibly get along as peoples. They can sign as many peace treaties as they like, and have as many peace process dialogues as they like. But, without coming to terms with the deep-set inhumane and cruel tendencies that both groups have with has its roots in disrespect — there can be no peace.

The Arabs and Jews don’t need a peace treaty — they just need to be peaceful.

On a brighter note, there are communities where Arabs and Jews live together, respect each other, and have peace. Neve Shalom / Wahat al Salaam is one such example. Westwood, California is another. France has had a few synagogue bombings, but for the most part the large Muslim minority and the Jewish community live together without killing each other. The City of Cochin in Kerela (Cochin means pig which is not Kosher) has a large population of Indian Jews (or used to until most went to Israel,) and a huge Muslim population. I visited there, and they basically live in the same several block area in peace and happiness simply because they are all nice people.

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The road to peace
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The road to peace is not paved with contracts. After all, California and Nevada do not have a peace treaty. If you have peace, you don’t need a peace treaty in the first place. The Arabs and Jews keep dishonoring peace treaties, and then keep making new ones. Newsflash — a peace treaty is a piece of paper, nothing more. Without the good intentions to back it up, it is worthless. If people can learn to respect others as human beings and care about others, there would be peace. It would be hard for a caring human being to pull the trigger and murder someone even if that other person had wronged him multiple times. Think about it. When you respect people as humans, it doesn’t matter what religion they are — they are human. And a respectful person would respect animals and trees too which might prevent deforestation and animal cruelty as well. That might not matter to you, but Mrs. Meao says it matters to her (she told me in cat language.)

The next aspect of the road to peace is that peace is about sharing. When there is a shortage of land, water or other resources, it is hard to have peace when you don’t share them in a way that seems fair to all people. Forget what the Torah says, and focus on what seems fair to all people. The All for me and none for you mentality in the Middle East is a primary reason why there isn’t peace. If people there would create a culture and momentum of at least trying to be fair — although fairness is interpreted differently among different people — then, a mutual sense of respect would grow. If someone treats me fairly from what their point of view of fairness is, at least they are trying, and they would gain at least some respect from me even if I felt somewhat shortchanged!

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From a spiritual slant
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Four of out of five gurus surveyed say that peace comes from within. If you have inner turbulence in your soul, you will not have inner peace. And those who have turmoil within are the first to grab a gun and go shooting. Doing your spiritual work and working on inner peace is a long road. It can take decades if done correctly. Sure, that is a long time, but much preferable from never gaining inner peace. The peace you create within can be taken into your next incarnation — your other possessions can’t! Do the math!