Trapped between insults and thank you…Chicken or beef?

* reading time is 2

- Flying 45,000 feet above Europe on Turkish Airways having a flashback of the last 24 hours.

You arrived at your cubical office. You are feeling cold and hot – confused. It is sixty four degrees outside. While waiting for your computer to boot up, you put your iPhone on silent mode. You take a data hit: 8:10am, three voice mails, 15 emails and 20 cc emails, $3,251.22 in checking account, five bills to pay on top of monthly mortgage. You have been four months working away from your family across the Atlantic Ocean, your wife just got laid off, your kid needs money, and four months living alone overseas – you get a total amnesia!!! You look again at your work badge. You see “N” – It stands for “Non-direct”, but you know deep inside you, it means – “Nothing”


Mark, who is your manager, comes to your cubical and tells you a very quick “good morning”, then another hits: “Can we talk privately?”

Looking straight at him talking, you see him. I mean you do see him, but you cannot hear him. Then, you start to feel something. It is something you are eating, but you are not eating. It tastes bad!

It hits you again – It is the “Shit Sandwich” – You are trapped between insults and thank you.

Mark: “Thank you Nino for doing a good job the past two years.” (Slice of bread number one)

“- I am sorry. You have been let go!” (The shit – the meat)

“- But, I appreciate the value you have been contributing to this job.” (Slice of bread number two)

You: complete silence – all you think of is “Water”.

Suddenly, you wake up from your data-amnesia-coma by a flight attendant from flight 735 Turkish Airway facing your next biggest question:

Flight attendant: “Sir, Chicken or beef?”

You: “Hummm? – Chicken please!”

You ate the chicken, but you didn’t sense the taste.

The next ten hours will be a fight of your life – a fight between you and emotions. Your emotions rise and fall – you are going through an emotional roller coaster.

Your mind is running on fear-unknown-uncertainty-insecurity. Your mind projects you into the future and brings you back to reality.

You are fighting for your life…for you are a survivor!

It is an epic battle of your life… your battle Royale!

You hear the sound of your heart beat!

You don’t know what is next!

If you have not been in this, then sooner or later you will face similar situation. I’ve been there. I know how it feels. I wasn’t prepared.

The question remains: What is going to be your order?


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Karma gets its debt instantly from me!

* reading time is 3 mins + thinking

She was the cause of firing seven people, but her 9th life must have been up. She made problems at every place she worked. And, I ended up scratching the left side of a beautiful BMW out of jealousy. And, why me?

Here is my view about this “Karma” thing!

I believe the universe has a place called “Karma Bank”. And believe it or not, it has a compound interest of good and bad.

I know the word “Karma” has a religious meaning much deeper than my usage here. I also know many people are allergic to religious language. I understand; I get allergic to some religious discussions. I take pills for it. But, this is not a religious blog, and I am using the word “Karma” only in the sense of: “I do bad things, I get bad things back. I do good things, I get back good things.”

I know a coworker for almost a year and half. She worked in a very prestige place. She was on holiday in America mostly likely spending a lot of money. She maybe went around informing people about her new position. Then in the climax of her happiness on her holiday while enjoying time with her family; she got an email from corporate informing her that “Her service is no longer needed.”

I am sure by now you feel bad for her. But allow me to share her employment history. Her reputation in our linguist community is bad in Iraq. She has abused her position and personal connection with higher command to remove any person she didn’t like. She is known to have been the cause of firing seven people from their jobs in her previous assignments. About two months ago, I witnessed her tactical job coup on her last coworker causality by taking his position. Many of our coworkers and clients were very happy to see her removed from our contract.

This is a personal blog with a personal title. So to be fair, I have to share my personal debt-cashing-Karma. I will share one of the earliest stories from my own life. It is one of the earliest signs where I started to notice a strange behavior.

Imagine you are one of the people who are going north on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, and three minutes before it ends, you see on your left two people pushing a car at around 3:00am in cold weather. You feel bad for them – wishing it not to happen to you. I am one of these two people who did a bad thing. I remember very well, one day after leaving a night club in Chicago in my early 20s, I saw this beautiful new BMW parked on the side of the street. I looked at it; out of an anger and jealousy, I keyed the left side of the car. My personal justification at that time was “I was poor”. I cannot afford to buy a nice car to show off in front of girls to go out with me – not for myself to drive, but for girls!

It cost me about $500 to fix my car, which I am sure was equal to the deductible insurance amount for the owner of BMW.

These were during my asshole years.

I can tell you a few more stories like this, until I started to notice these strange phenomena. I do bad things, bad things happen to me. I screamed to someone during the day, by the end of day, rest assure, someone screamed back at me – or a few days later.

Now, I believe in this “Karmic Bank”. It has debt and credit. On a daily basis, I try to deposit goodness in my personal account. If I do something bad, I try to balance my Karmic debt. This might sound funny, stupid, unrealistic, or call it as you like, but for the past 15 years I am paying attention to this, and NOT one day has failed me. Whatever vice you indulge in, remember karmic compound!

I don’t like my negative Karmic debt to be compounded. I like my positive debt to be compounded. I like good things to happen to me. And, good things do happen to people like me!

One last thing, please don’t take my parking spot, you might find that you have a flat tire when you get back- just kidding J

It is my choice to be good, and not in fear of anyone else, but for the sake of living a good moral life.

Ponder on these:

karma has no deadline

: My Karmic Law:

- For every good action, there is an equal or more goodness reaction back!

- For every bad action, there is an equal or more badness reaction back!

: Compound Karmic:

- Karmic compound is powerful – think of your compounded bad deeds.

: Religious perspective

- Your offspring might be paying for your vices. Jewish faith has this believe.

- A needed cup of water will not go unrewarded it. Christian faith

: Connecting dots:

- You took advantage of someone; someone will take advantage of you.

- You cheated someone with money; you will end up losing money somewhere else.

- You ignored someone; you will get ignored by someone else.


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April 9…fall and rise of Baghdad

* reading time is 3 mins.

April 9, 2014 – Baghdad

Have you wondered about the rise and fall of ancient Roman or Greek, or other empires? Are you inspired by the thought of the ancients? Have you wondered about how these empires came to power and ruled for years, then fell? Have you imagined how people lived in those empires? How did each of those citizens live his/her life?

While I was walking on those ancient streets of Italy, I was wondering about the ancient Roman citizens, how they lived and walked the same streets. Augustus, Cato, and Constantine walked those streets.  History recorded and gave us those ancient names, but history ignored the names the stories of the ordinary people. Each Roman citizen had a story to tell. As well, each citizen of Baghdad has a story to tell.

On April 9, 2003, Baghdad fell for 23rd time (this includes foreign invasion and internal coups) in history. The city fell from a dictatorship and risen into new democratic country forging itself into a new nation though the struggles of internal conflicts. I am part of this history. I was part of the historical decisions that shaped the rebuild of Baghdad. As every year passes by, I wonder about the rise of Baghdad. The political, economic, and geo-ethnical challenges are facing the ancient city now.

With Donald Rumsfeld

click for more pictures

This is my personal story about witnessing the fall and rise of Baghdad during my time. By this writing, I am pressing into History’s footnotes. I refuse to be buried in the “cemetery of dead history”.

As this year marked the 11th anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, we are witnessing history in making. Only a few people are born in this corner of the Universe. And for those who been part of American liberation of Baghdad, or ordinary citizen living in Baghdad, I say we are living an extraordinary history – a modern Epic of Baghdad.

Baghdad’s roots extend as far as the cradle of civilization to where we are today. History owes a huge historical debt to Baghdad.  After many ancient Romans closed the schools of philosophy in Rome and Athens, many of those ancient works of Aristotle, Socrates, and others were preserved in Arabic translation in Baghdad, and then retransmitted to Europe by way of Andalusia. It is because of ancient Baghdad; we can read about Aristotle’s and Socrates’ philosophy.

We are the NEW ancient.

When the weight of old age settles down on me, my thread of life breaks, and as I lay to rest, I write my name in this chapter of life before history begins writing its next chapter.  One hundred or one thousand years from now, people will wonder about us and talk about Baghdad’s fall as ancient history. I was embedded as a linguist for the U.S. Army for four years and worked two years with the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. I witnessed the liberation of Baghdad from its historical tyrant known as Saddam Hussein.  As many sat on the throne of Gaius Julius Caesar after his death, I sat on Saddam’s throne. (pictures)

I am writing a line in this history. My name with many others who were part of this will live forever in this corner of the Universe.

Let it not be forgotten!

The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor, by  William Easterly is a good book to read

look for a guy with red sweater 2:54

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One brain workout…Inspired by James Altucher

* Reading time is 2 min.

I like to have brain-sex and make baby ideas. But, before I share with you James Altucher’s secret brain workout, I would like to write a few words about James.

I am an avid reader and until few months ago, James Altucher was an unknown to me. And now, James is a rock star in my world of social media philanthropist, startups, books, blogging, podcasting, twitter…

One day, I was sitting reading a book. I don’t remember which book, but my coworker recommended and insisted that I read James Altucher’s book, titled “Choose Yourself”. And, I remember my conversation with the coworker went something like this:

Coworker: “Ninos, you should really read James Altucher’s book titled ’Choose Yourself’”

james-altucher-why-i-self-published-a-bookMe: ”’Choose yourself?’ What a title!…Is it one of those self-help books? I read many of those. I don’t need another one.”

Coworker: “No…No…You really would love the book. It’s different.”

I can predict the beginning chapters of these self-help books very well. They all have a preacher’s theme, which basically starts along the lines of one recipe with 3 items:

1- Past times were different, time has changed. Now, more than ever I need to read this message.

2- I am in trouble, and if don’t read to this; I will be in big trouble.

3- Do what I say, and you will be saved. With some hidden messages, buy my other books and subscribe to my email list, or reserve your ticket to my next show.

As I promised, this blog is about the secret of Altucher’s brain workout. His brain workout method is:

7 days a week, 1 set, 10 repetitions

It is very hard, but a very effective method. It means, every single day, allocated some time in one sitting, try to generate and write 10 ideas. You can even write down the stupidest ideas you can think of. The point is to exercise your “Idea Muscle” and make it stronger. After 12-24 weeks of doing this, your brain will be an idea machine.

A funny way of putting saying this is that your ideas will have sex with each other, and you will come up with more new ideas. Eventfully, you will end up executing one of those ideas. With a bit of luck, you will be making a lot of money.


Stay Curious: no workout training is complete without a few tips. In one of Altucher’s latest blogs titled “The Most Important Message I Live My Life By”, he recommends to “Stay Curious”. His curiosity starts with the words: “What if?” For example, “What if I switch careers completely? What would I do next?”

Larry Page didn’t say, “I’m going to make another search engine.” He said, “What if I made a search engine that ranked pages by looking at all the high-ranking pages that refer back to a page as opposed to just counting word appearances?”

Trio placing: This is my personal technique. I realized that I am more creative after the following three action items: warm shower, meditation, and a happy moment. Usually, before I sit down and exercise my “Idea Muscle”, I go out and joke with friends and get in a good mood. Secondly, I take a warm shower and stay a few extra minutes under the shower to relax my body. Thirdly, I meditate for five minutes in quietness (I use “Calm app”) followed by 12:56 minutes of my favored relaxing music (I listen to CD2000, Andantino by Alan Roubik).

I found the above technique to help me generates many of my blogs, comics, nice action items, and ideas.

Here is one of my “What if” idea:

If I had the money, then I would create an intelligent Spelling & Grammar 2.0. I am not a native English speaker. I will live the rest of my life handicapped by spelling (check my comic). Secondly, I say things that may sound awkward to a native speaker. I have two other languages in my brain: Aramaic and Arabic, with two cultures inside me.

Spelling & Grammar 2.0 would not only help me in spelling, but would point out that I used the wrong word. I often make a mistake between “previous” and “pervious”. My eyes cannot see the difference. Secondly, I have a feeling that I will spend the rest of my life getting the English prepositions correct in writing. Here are few examples: Is it “on accident”, or “by accident”? Is it “parking” or “barking”? I can go on and on…

Two last things, if you implement my idea, please let me know about it and promise me to give me a life subscription And, I started my list of “Ideas in the shower”.

And, Oh!…Yea, some red wine will help too with music :-)


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I am supplement-aholic on 49 pills a day!

pills* Reading time is 2 min.
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I entered my room and immediately started to laugh when I saw how my maid organized my pills on a tray. They were organized by size. Since then, I have started to wonder if I have become a supplement-aholic. I consume an average of 49 pills a day ranging from concentrated vitamins to workout supplements. Every person that enters my room or with whom I share this information, is shocked.

Here’s how it all got started: I have a strong motivation, driven by a desire to be the best of what I can be – mentally, emotional, physically, and financially. We may not have control over our financial situations for many reasons. But, I truly believe, we have 100% control over our mental, emotional, and physical status.  I train myself on these three levels every day in every situation as much as I can.

When I discuss this topic with people around me, they all have the same common response:“It is bad for you, I don’t believe anymore in what doctors, researchers, or pharmaceutical companies are saying. All these companies are driven by self-interest to make money.” They are not willing to accept my point of view that medical advances and new research comes out every day with new knowledge.

The interesting part is that every single person with whom I interact believes I am crazy. Most likely, you do too by now. They believe most of these studies are fake, sponsored advertisements, and hold no credibility. It seems that with these people, the industry has lost all credibility. And why not! For years they have heard doctors say: “An apple a day, keeps the doctor away”, until another doctor says: “No, it (referring to the apple) is all sugar (bad!)”. Or yet better, for thousands of years, humans have eaten bread. But, now doctors are preaching a new anti-gluten movement.

I consume these pills and workout supplements, because I trust in these new studies presented by these doctors in their books such as Dr. David Perlmutter, author of the book, “Grain Brain”.

I imagine a funny future for the restaurant and food industry for people like me. In the future, I’ll go to a restaurant and rather than having salt and pepper on the table, I will see a few supplements such as Green Tea, Alpha-Lipoic Acide 600, or Omega 3 fish oil. Or, the waiter will ask me if I would like to add a spoon of protein (30g of MP core series) to my orange juice. Or better yet, an extra menu listing all types of vitamins and supplements with prices.

Me: Hi, can I have chicken salad?

Waiter: Sure, what type of vitamins would you like to add?

Me: how about 2 pills of Turmeric, 2 of Best alpha-Lipoicacide (doctor’s best..Please!), and 1Resveratrol 500mg.

Waiter: Sure, will that be all, sir?

Me: No! How about 1 scoop of Cookies ‘N Cream protein (Muscle Pharm..Please) with my Stress-b VitaminWater?

Waiter: Sure, sir! Will that be all?

Me: For now yes! I will think about the deserts later :-)


What do you think?

We all have an “Off Button”…Will it get pushed today?

Working with U.S. Embassy in Baghdad

* reading time is 2 min
If King David walked in the valley of the shadow of death, then I am walking in Baghdad city’s shadows of death. It is my 21st century version of King David’s verse.

I am walking in Baghdad city’s shadows of deathSometimes, I imagine rockets fall while I am in the car or walking. People are dying around me, while they are shopping and walking, victims of explosions. I hear the sounds of these car and rocket explosions, the close ones and the far ones.

But, before I take you on a mental trip back 2000 years, let me tell you a true story about a friend of mine whom – we worked together at U.S. Embassy in Baghdad – and his last 10 minutes on this planet.

Out of respect for his family, I will not disclose his name or picture. He was a very dear friend of mine.

He woke up in the morning, shaved his beard, put his clothes on, and came outside his room – smiling as usual. He looked to my other friend and said: “I had a very nice dream. I will tell you about it when we come back from fishing.” He was going with two other friends to Saddam’s Lake. A fourth friend drove them a short distance, a matter of four minutes. They got out of the car and walked to the platform that overlooked the lake. They prepared everything and started to get ready to fish. He took the stairs down to lake level, bent down and tried to wash his hands. He slipped on the algae-covered rocks and fell into the lake. He tried once to hold himself and stand, he lost his balance and fell again into the lake. He started to drown, slipping further into the lake,  watching our friends screaming at him. They couldn’t save him because neither of them could swim. He drowned in front of them, disappearing in Saddam’s man-made lake that was part of Saddam’s palace. That is how quickly his life ended, suddenly and unexpectedly.

He was two months away from taking some time to go home to America. His was going on leave for his younger daughter’s wedding – he had missed her engagement ceremony –  and to be present for the birth of his first grandchild (contractors’ curse dictates leave every six months).

Close your eyes and lie back against the chair and let us go on a mental trip back 2000 years. We are arriving in the year 64 A.D. to visit a Roman philosopher named Lucius Annaeus Seneca (I wish I could buy you a drink, Seneca) in southern Italy. He was a Roman man who knew death intimately. He was expecting death everyday of his later life until one day he was ordered to kill himself. Let us learn from Seneca, whose life was concurrent with Jesus’ for some years, how to deal with death. Death is a man’s worse fear, knowing one day it will come suddenly and unexpectedly.


Sitting next to Seneca, he shares with us a nightly habit of another Roman, a great poet named Marcus Pacuvius. Pacuvius practiced facing death on a nightly basis. After Pacuvius finished drinking each night, he held a burial sacrifice in his own honor. He had himself carried from the dining room to his chamber, while his servants sang “He has lived his life, he has lived his life!”. Using Pacuvius as an example for us, Seneca advises us to feel lucky and asks us to say on a nightly basis:

“I have lived; the course which Fortune set for me,
is finished.
And if God is pleased to give us another day, then we are lucky and we should welcome it with glad hearts. It is like a bonus.”

Finally, my auto insurance agent (Bilal) told me a story some years ago about his mother. He cried remembering the story while sharing it with me. His mother had asked him to get her an ice cream. His laziness prevented him from fulfilling his mother’s wish. He told her: “I will get you an ice cream tomorrow”. She died that night without having her ice cream. Her last wish has haunted Bilal for all these years.

As long as we are a live, the question with its shadow remains: “What if our power button gets turned off today?”

Knowing I can die any day, it affects my daily decisions at personal and social levels.

Does it affect yours?

Why do I blog for free?

I am on pause looking at his body language while he sits in front of me reading my blog, then body language included , verbally announcing his verdict: “Bro..I don’t think you can make money out of this blog!”

Inside my head I am thinking: “This person clearly doesn’t have a broad knowledge of life, and the only things he knows are concluded in one or two topics. My guess photography or Pinterest”.

What is the theme of your blog? What do you blog about? Why do you blog? How often do you blog? These are the most common questions I receive from people. Sometimes, I am saddened by their tone of voice in their response after seeing my blog:

Their advice:”Ah…I think you need to have a niche, and you might be doing it wrong.”

“Correct!”, I say. My blog is not meant to fill a niche. It’s not a blog about photography, travel, or 10 ways to use Pinterest. My blog isn’t ONE specific topic. I don’t chase fads. I don’t find discounted reasons (10, 7, or 3) ways to use twitter or best qualities of leadership. there is too much recycled content out there for these topics. They are not for me! I am not in to the “Expert Business”.

And, if I am in a situation to worry about how to make money from my blog using those annoying ads, then I have a bigger problem in my life and I should get a real job.

Just like every book is dedicated to someone. My blog is dedicated to all internet surfing people.

It is about: The real me! my thoughts, my life, my work. whydoIblog

Let me tell you about the main reasons that led me to blog. In these, I hope to convince you to start blogging too:

1. It is my symposium! It is my 24/7 open amphitheater to my internet audience. Through blogging, I share my ideas with people. They flow freely out to the general public.

2- Making a connection! It gives me the ability to strike up conversations with strangers, just like in the train or bookstore. The satisfaction of the connection made with another human being bring joy to my life.

3- Souvenirs from my earlier self! It is about my legacy. I may not be in the public eye a lot, but you and I are 24/7 in the social eye. We have social self. It is a live document updated with every blog, facebook, or twitter post(s). I am writing my history for my family, relatives, and future kids. I am writing the history of my life as I am growing. I am writing about now, which is soon to be the past. I am not going to be able to literally relive these experiences. My memory will decline as time passes. With blogging at least, I will be able to see myself in lost memories. They are the souvenirs from my earlier self.

4- It is a mental pleasure! Simply by remembering the past, it bring a mental pleasure. It is the joy of the thought of the experience compounded by other related thoughts.

5- It is a thread connects past to future! It is not only remembering those random isolated memories, but a way of connecting them that will bring joy to my life.

6- It is about giving! I consider blogging to be one of my ways to give back to humanity. I am sharing with the world my knowledge, my experience, and my life. I tell the world about being Me. About being human. I do this believing that it will touch and make a difference for a random-internet-surfing person’s life in need for some inspiration or encouragement or hope.

7- I lean about myself! I truly feel the difference in my life since I started to blog. I learned and continue to learn more about myself. I find things that interest me and thing I can do. It helps me with my creativity. I noticed myself becoming more creative with blogging.

I hope these reasons will encourage those who are hesitant to blog. As it continues to improve my life, I hope my blog will touch the lives of those internet passing people.


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