Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Corruption in Baldwin Park? Residents ask to investigate suspicious management - La Opinion Piece

Ugly City of Baldwin Park
By: La Opinion Aracelia Martinez Ortega
Translated by: Paul Cook

September 21, 2016

Alleged conflicts of interest, charges by council members that have not been accounted for, and suspicious contracts have generated great dissatisfaction amongst residents of Baldwin Park, who are asking for answers, an investigation, and even the resignation of Councilman Ricardo Pacheco.

"Councilman Ricardo Pacheco voted in favor of granting contracts for public services to two companies that he works for in South El Monte. Not bad that he works for South El Monte and is a Council Member of Baldwin Park at the same time," said Danny Damian, entrepreneur in Baldwin Park.

The companies in question are AAE Inc., known as Infrastructure Engineers and Advance Engineering and Applied Gentry Brothers Inc.

According to Damian, Pacheco was hired in 2015 by South El Monte's project manager, part time. However, he still appears to be working in his capacity to date, or until recently. 

"I have three receipts: February, March and April this year, where Pacheco's name appears on invoices for the AAE Inc. company [which South El Monte uses]," he said.

Baldwin Park is located in the heart of San Gabriel Valley. The 2010 census reported a population of 75.390 inhabitants, 80.1% are Latino. It is estimated that 64% are low income. The city of just less than seven square miles has five members of the Council: Mayor Manuel Lozano, Deputy Mayor and Aldermen Monica Cruz García Baca, Ricardo Pacheco and Susan Rubio. Lozano has been in office for over 18 years; Pacheco, 22; Garcia, 12; Rubio eight, Baca three.

The Council Member Says There's No Explanation

The Council Member Baca said that the decision needs to take were voted by Pacheco, Lozano, and Garcia [sic Rodriguez], as only three votes are needed to pass a decision. 

"Susan Rubio and I have no explanation. We have seen many irregularities. So we want the State Comptroller, the Los Angeles County District Attorney, and the FBI to launch an investigation into their finances and see if Pacheco has been benefiting his re-election campaign in exchange for the city hiring those companies," said Councilwoman Cruz.

Armed with documents proving that the City paid AAE Inc. large sums, Damian said that when an elected official fights for corporations, rather than his constituents, it shows that the official is getting something out of it. 

"They do what they want with our money and make fun of us. In January, three councilors - Pacheco, Lozano and Garcia - gave authority to the directors of city departments to approve, without the consent of the Council, contracts of up to $120,000," explained Damian.

"We have a department of Public Works with highly trained staff, but the City gave a contract to AAE to do that kind of work and they charge for everything, even to go to monitor their own works and those of the city," said Baca.

AAE is owned by the contractor Sid Mousavi. In 2011, Mousavi was investigated by the FBI in a case of bribery for allegedly collecting $ 2.5 million in Montebello in a year for supposedly assigning itself contracts and received city money for monitoring their own work. However, that investigation came to nothing.

In an audit of that year, the state controller, John Chiang, determined that it was likely that the city of Montebello had violated a local ordinance to assign contracts to AAE without a bid. An ordinance of 2008 mandates that all contracts over $ 50,000 must undergo a bidding process.

 La Opinión continues to wait for the reaction of Councillor Pacheco on accusations that he benefited from certain companies and the financial irregularities discovered. Messages were left on his cell phone and questions were sent to him to his official e-mail as a councilor, but he has not responded.

The Mayor Responded

Manuel Lozano, mayor of Baldwin Park, said his main accusers are angry people. He noted that Damien is upset because he lost the election for council member and Cruz was angry because the city didn't pick the companies she favored.

"I have not seen anything illegal, but above claims, myself two weeks ago publicly asked the Attorney of Los Angeles County do an investigation, and if someone did something wrong because it comes to light. We do not know if it's conflict (of interest) for Alderman Pacheco work with certain companies and then vote to give services in the city. That will have to investigate. I will not tolerate corruption, "he observed.

"I have not seen anything illegal, but regarding the accusations, I, myself, publicly asked the District Attorney to investigate, and if someone did something wrong that it comes to light. We do not know if it's conflict (of interest) for Council Member Pacheco to work with certain companies and then vote to award it by the City. That will have to investigate. I will not tolerate corruption, "he observed.

Regarding the accusation that public officials receive money for their reelection campaigns of companies the official favors with their vote to give them contracts, Lozano said that was legal, and all politicians do it.

"Everything we received in election donations is reported, down to a meal that costs more than 50 dollars," he said.

And to justify that the directors are now authorized to approve contracts up to $120,000 for each service without the authorization of the council, Lozano said "[we did it] because they are the experts and it gives attention to speedier services."

Lozano defended the employer Mousavi and said the FBI found nothing. "He works as a contractor for cities like Montebello and Glendora. In Baldwin Park there is nothing illegal. Our accusers must prove these claims, before launching baseless accusations, "he said.

More Information

BPCA Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/bpcommunityawareness/?fref=nf

Original article can be read here:


Monday, September 26, 2016

Does a $300,000 Baldwin Park Director Job Require a High School Diploma?

Manuel Carrillo Jr.
According to the City Attorney, Robert Tafoya, the City didn't require Manuel Carrillo Jr. to produce a high school diploma or general education degree to become the director of Parks and Recreation. In short, with perks, Carrillo makes close to $300,000 a year, and for that, you don't even need to have graduated high school.

I strongly suspect that Carrillo never graduated high school, because people who generally graduate high school submit their diploma or have it verified for such jobs.

Anyone smell corruption here? 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Thoughts This Week - On Letting Things Go

Bad lighting in this photo
Two big events happened this week: The Baldwin Park Chief of Police got fired, finally, and I saw Lyle, one of the boxers, this week. Of the two events, seeing Lyle was more important.

I haven't seen Lyle since May; we just fell out of touch. Then, while I was filing the massive amounts of papers at home, Lyle came by out of nowhere.

I took him to the German Bier Garden in downtown, Los Angeles. I bought him a mango, jalapeño sausage. I had a duck sausage myself. I ordered up some Belgium fries with truffle oil, and we sat outside.

Outside, as we talked about our summers, I saw the sun set behind the Los Angeles skyline. The dying sun flared the sky with colors of pinks and purples, and I realized, although I was raised in Los Angele, I never ate, while watching an LA sunset.

Our waiter was some runaway, from San Francisco. He told us about how he ran away from home and wanted to be an actor in Los Angeles. I think he got embarrassed by telling us too much, so early.

I told Lyle about my summer. He told me about his.

It was nice sharing the hidden elements of my life with someone, especially when I haven't seen him in so long. I think, it was the first time, I told someone that when I was on the Galapagos, I learned to just let things go.

He said it was good I went away.

I smiled.

I told him that I was going on sabbatical, after explaining what a sabbatical was first.

He said, "Wait, what about all the other bad people left in Baldwin Park?"

I said, "Hmmm... I guess I might have to stay longer, then." Satisfying thoughts came to mind.

Then, he smiled.

Then Lyle surprised me and told me he took my advice. He saved up his money and bought a professional camera. I told him to do this, because I noticed he really loved taking photos with his cell phone. So, I suggested he learn photography.

We talked about all he learned, until the sky faded from purple into a midnight blue. The people started rolling in, and I saw friends chatter about what was happening in their lives. (We already did that.)

As we walked out, I said, "Lyle, guess we beat crowds. Next time, we'll get some pie and coffee next door."

"For sure," he said.

As I write this, I think to myself: Who knows what next week will bring? I've had a lot happen since the Galapagos up until now. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Baldwin Park Chief of Police, Michael Taylor, Fired

On September 21, 2016, at Baldwin Park's special meeting, Mayor Manuel Lozano, Council
Members Raquel Monica Garcia, and Council Member Susan Rubio voted, over the votes of Council Members Ricardo Pacheco and Cruz Baca, to fire the Chief of Police Michael Taylor without cause. Taylor's worked for the City of Baldwin Park for 35 years, of which he was appointed to Chief of Police for about two years and nine months.

Although Taylor was fired without case, Lozano alleges that the real reason that Taylor was fired was because he was racially discriminating by not promoting younger Latino officers. One member of the public thinks that the majority undertook the move, to curb in the power of Ricardo Pacheco, who worked closely with Taylor to get his deals pushed through.

Previous to this firing, the former Chief of Police, Lili Hadsell attempted to fire Taylor when he was captain, for showing up to work late, doing school work instead of police work, and working on his own personal stalker case. Hadsell discovered that Taylor had a vehicle repaired at the official police garage for free, and she thought she had him. At that point, Taylor threatened to black mail a number of people by exposing their corruption and hiring a lawyer. Hence, that firing never took place.

Taylor has several notable achievements as chief. Besides working approximately 20 hours a week, while earning about $250,000 a year; going home early to drink at bars; showing up to work with hangovers; it's also been alleged that he's spent all of the federal grant money given to the police.

He also ordered an investigation on Julian Casas, former boxing coach who was making $8.40 an hour and on myself. When he found nothing, he still signed off on Julian's firing. Julian worked for the City for 20 years.

To top that off, he cost the City $67,500 in a civil rights lawsuit, by ordering me arrested, jailed, and strip searched for passing out leaflets at the city park.

In his latest scandal, it's been estimated that Taylor's spent over a quarter of a million dollars on "office furniture," though not all of that furniture can be located.

Taylor has also pushed both finance directors to misrepresent the city budget, so that it looked like there was plenty of money so that Taylor could get a raise, which would increase his retirement payout, until he died. At one council meeting, the former human resource director, Shama Curian ran our crying and screaming that she couldn't take anymore of lying about the city budget. And that Taylor was putting too much pressure on her. She quit. Taylor put the same type of pressure on the former finance director Craig Graves as well.

Taylor's firing is the second round of firing for the office of the Chief of Police since December of 2013. Since then, every management team position has had a firing, except for the Director of Parks and Recreation Manuel Carrillo Jr. It's suspected that Lozano, Pacheco, and Garcia refuse to fire Carrillo because he's involved with their multiple conspiracies in financial misappropriation.

Here's an overview of the people fired (or forced to resign). In December of 2013, Vijay Singhal, City Manager; Lili Hadsell, Chief of Police; and the Joseph Pannone, City Attorney were all fired. Then came the firing of the finance director, Craig Graves, who had just replaced the former finance director who had just resigned. A few months ago, the Council Members fired Marc Castagnola, the community development director. After, the public works director Daniel Wall resigned. Once again, the only person on the management team, who has been there since the 1990's is Manuel Carrillo Jr.

All in all, Michael Taylor may be the greediest and laziest chief that Baldwin Park has ever had. His legacy will be remembered by his alcoholism, allegations of sexual harassment, corruption, selfishness and greed. Boo to the chief. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Council Member Ricardo Pacheco Hires Convicted Mayor's Daughter In Exchange for Being Hired

Nina Marie Aguinaga
It appears that Baldwin Park's Council Member, Ricardo Pacheco hired Nine Marie Aguinaga, the daughter of convicted Mayor-Felon of South El Monte, Luis Aguinaga in exchange for being hired by South El Monte. Tit for tat, as they say. Nina was hired as a department assistant. Pacheco was hired as a part time project administrator.

We've discovered that a Helen Hernandez hired Nina. Helen also works for Manny Carrillo, Baldwin Park's Director of Parks and Recreation. No wonder why Pacheco refuses to fire Manny, no matter how much wrong he does. It's because Manny does all of Pacheco's corrupt favors.

Get this, Manny also pays Nina about 80% more than what Julian was getting paid. Julian worked for the City for 20 years at $8.40 an hour, and Manny hires a convicted felon's daughter for almost twice the pay.

Also up on today's agenda: Will Michael Taylor, Baldwin Park's Police Chief get fired? 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Why is a Baldwin Park Council Member Officially an Employee for the City of South El Monte?

Baldwin Park Council Member Ricardo Pacheco
This week, it's been discovered that Baldwin Park's Council Member Ricardo Pacheco has been on the City of South El Monte's payroll, working in public works. According to sources, former Mayor of South El Monte, Luis Aguinaga, whose been convicted of bribery, and disgraced former City Manager, Anthony Ybarra, gave Pacheco the job. One of the council members didn't even know that this was happening, and it explained to him why Pacheco was always around South El Monte's City Hall. No resume was submitted for the job.

Pacheco has played this game before. The LA Times reported in March 31, 2003, Pacheco was the Director of Public Works for the City of South Gate, another city with reputation for rampant corruption. He resigned immediately, with close to a $100,000 severance pay. According to the article, Pacheco harmed the financial condition of the City of South Gate by taking such a huge severance pay.

Earlier, it's been discovered that Baldwin Park's Parks and Recreation Director, Manuel Carrillo was also spotted on Montebello's payroll as well.

Pacheco has been revealing another technique in money laundering. Either he gets put on other public agency's payroll, or he gets on the payroll of contractors awarded bids by the City.

The buddhist monk, Bodhidharma once said, "The ignorant mind, with its infinite afflictions, passions, and evils, is rooted in the three poisons. Greed, anger, and delusion."

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Insight of the Week: Is it Worth the Price of Achieving Excellence?

Listening to Video Game Music
After filing two briefs in the Court of Appeals, it made me wonder if paying the price to achieve excellence was worth it. Writing an appellate brief is not just like writing a college essay.

It's work, and it's generally grueling work. It's also probably a level of difficulty above writing a brief at the trial court, as the appellant (the person filing the brief) is trying to "appeal" to the higher court to reverse the lower court. The higher court doesn't do it often; so you're persuasive writing and argument better be top notch. Essentially, you're asking the higher court to trust you over the ruling that the lower court made, and a shoddy work product doesn't generally cut it.

This week, I met with my mentor and showed him my brief. For the first time, he said, "This is a fine piece of work, Paul. Really, professional." That made me feel happy, as he usually has scathing but correct criticism on the areas I need to improve on. (We have a little mantra on these lessons: Practice makes better (as opposed to perfect)).

Inside, I could feel that I've reached a new level of professionalism as well. I guess you know that, when you stop writing mechanically or with a formula or with a template, and instead you look at the blank page or blank screen and treat it like a blank canvas. The words become your brush strokes, and you think about painting a picture with your words, which creates a piece of art, which has layers of meaning, stacked upon layer of other meaning. And the great challenge, perhaps the greatest one, is to take all the complexity of what you know and want to say and to reduce it to be simple, not simplistic. In the end, the work begins to say more about the author, than the facts of the case itself. 

And why am I telling you all this? Putting in so much time and energy and thought has really made me question is it worth it? 

Of course, the simplistic answer is, Yes. I look back on what I had to pay to learn all the professional lessons up to this point, and it's been a heavy cost, mainly in the form of not working at a big law firm and earning a large salary. Had I worked at a big law firm though, I know that I wouldn't have been able to learn all the skills I gained.

So, to put it to you simply, if you were me, would you make $160,000 a year (that's close to $4,307 every two weeks after taxes) or would you like to have lived like me, which included being in poverty, not knowing when my next check would come, or being branded with the stigma of not having prestige and power backing me? The upside, however, is all the experience gained. I don't have a solid answer to the question; it's just a conflict that I'm weighing in my head.

And on top of all that, it often seems like a top quality work product doesn't guarantee success in litigation. The longer I litigate, the more I see such shoddy work product being produced, perhaps, precisely because attorneys know that the payout doesn't justify the extra work needed to really deliver a polished piece.

I can only say that I've been inspired to continue the quest by reading Magnus Nillson's Cookbook, Fäviken. Nillson is the top chef of Sweden; his restaurant ranks number 25 globally. I was impressed with Nillson and his quest for excellence.

One thing he said he did was that he saved up all his money as a sous chef, and spent every cent on eating at fine restaurants around the world to learn. That's real dedication to improving your skills. Imagine if you spent your life savings all on educating yourself on professionalism and nothing else.

Other things he does, that separates him, is that he has his own slaughterhouse for the restaurant. He cooks with wild forest weeds and hunts regularly for game. This is besides the fact that he has his own vegetable garden, which appears to be the minimum now to run a top restaurant.

I thought about everything he does, and realized, he's probably not making that much - when you think about how much time and effort he's spending on managing his establishment and designing new cuisines. The only conclusion that I can come up with why he does everything he does, is for one reason only: He loves it.

So I wanted to share that this chef's quest for excellence, I can say, it inspired and inspires me. I can't say I've come to the conclusion that pushing one's self to get there is worth it yet. I don't think, as a litigator, I can say I loved the journey I've been on. I do think I can say, I do it all, because I can't see it any other way. It's who I am. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Casas Appeals Trial He Loses; Cook Also Appeals His Attorney's Fees

Julian Casas, former head boxing coach, through his attorney, Paul Cook, filed two appeals against the City of Baldwin Park this week.

The first appeal regards the issue of whether the City could state that they didn't have records, two and a half years after Casas filed a lawsuit against it. This is the case, in which Casas and his attorney discovered that Manny Carrillo, the director of Parks and Recreation was running a sham nonprofit corporation - which he laundered money by buying Walmart gift cards. In response to proving where that money went, Carrillo sent out what looked to be a falsified list of children's names. Then, after two and a half years of dragging out the lawsuit, Carrillo just says - sorry, we don't have any records. Something has to be wrong with that.

The second appeal regards whether the City has to pay attorney's fees after losing three more times on a Public Records Act lawsuit. Cook had to sue thrice, to get the the towing records in that case. And he won on each of those motions. So, the City has to pay. That's just the name of the game.

In any event, that's what's on top. Let the appellate battles begin. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Thoughts This Week: On the Complexities of Life

Thinking on a Sunday Morning
Yesterday, I saw a film with a friend, which I highly recommend called Hell or High Water; the movie reminded me of how complex life is. The screenwriter and director are certainly masters in narrating perspective.

The movie opens with two brothers, whom appear cruel and rob a bank, but as the plot unfolds, you begin to understand why they do what they do. Basically, the bank robbers had a dying mother, who was desperate to live, and signed a reverse mortgage with the bank. After she dies, the bank then attempts to take her house, and the brothers are basically doing everything they can to save the family farm. (If you think I'm spoiling it for you, believe me there's a lot twists and turns that will leave you in satisfaction of watching a worthwhile movie.)

As I reflected on the film, it made me realize how complicated problems and people are and why they do what they do, which brings me to another, related, memory I had this week.

I had breakfast with another friend this week, and I talked about the lives of people around me, he said he said he couldn't handle hearing anymore. Too much pain. Too much suffering. Too much drama with great loss.

But as for myself, I was still hopeful for each situation. I told him, "I deal with it by doing the best I can do. And I pray every morning to God for each of these people.

"I just started doing it. It makes me a lot less self-absorbed and helps focus my day."

It was then, I was reminded about how stressful it is to try to control everything. And that's probably why I'm handling everything with a better peace of mind, than I previously would have.

I'm not trying to control everything. I'm just trying to direct my thoughts, actions, and responses, and I leave the rest up to God.

On that note, another important event that happened this week, is that I shared some of my stories and insights form my life. In that talk, I opened up to that person about what I was taught when I lived in New Zealand.

I suppose one of the things I had to learn then was how to let go of the dreams I once had for my life. After graduating UCLA, all the graduate schools I wanted to attend rejected me. Although I was hitting finalist levels for my fellowships, I failed at that too.

It was in New Zealand, I had to untie my life to achievement and instead, train myself on how to base it on the values of faith, courage, integrity, honesty, generosity, and love. I don't always live up to those values, but I really try.

During the three and a half years I lived in New Zealand, I learned (and still learn) to give up controlling what happens in the future. (The irony of it all was AFTER I gave my hopes of ever going to law school, UCLA Law School invited me to read there.)

(Perhaps, it was in learning to die and live again that I understood how to endure. Is it true that what has died, can never die?)

So, those are some leaves from my book.

I leave you with a verse of Scripture that really impressed me: "Abram put his trust in the Lord, and because of this the Lord was pleased with him and accepted him." (Genesis 15:6 GNT).

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Baldwin Park's Secret Bank Account

The City of Baldwin Park most likely has several secret bank accounts. The one I'm most interested in is the Baldwin Park Franchise Fund, which is the one that Royal Coaches used to pay for all the cars that were stolen and impounded from the poorest of poor. In a four and a half year period, the City received $2.3 million, while the towing company received $11.4 million. You can read more about all of the details here. Baldwin Park's Towing Scandal

In response to a question I asked about the banking statements of the account, Kristi Russell, Baldwin Park's City Clerk stated that the finance director said there's no such fund. Really, the checks were deposited into the General Fund, even though I have all the checks that say to the Baldwin Park Franchise Fund, not to the City of Baldwin Park. Furthermore, Thomas Himes, former investigative reporter stated that Baldwin Park is using four different bank accounts to conduct its scam operation.

After reading the paragraph above, did you find something wrong with Russell's excuse? If you spotted that what Russell said is hearsay, then bingo, you have a sharp mind.

Hearsay is "an out-of-court statement introduced to prove the truth of the matter asserted therein." Although we're not in court, it would be an-out-personal knowledge statement being made to prove the truth.

In simple English, hearsay is when you say, "I know this to be true, because John Doe or Mary Jane told me." You didn't see it yourself or hear it yourself from the source, but you heard it from someone else.

In our social world, we're often using and trusting hearsay - as it's the informal tool of communication. But in a formal context, hearsay is unreliable, and in this case, it really seems that it is untrustworthy because the City has every motive to make another misrepresentation so we don't know the truth of where millions of dollars of the property of others that was stolen went.

So, when Russell says, the finance director told me, that's hearsay. Really, the finance director should tell me herself, instead of Russell telling me what the finance director said.

This is another trend that Baldwin Park is now engaged in. The first trend was just saying they don't have records, when they really do. The second one, is that they're now relying on other people's statements, instead of the actual person stating the fact itself. So, Carrillo did this in our last trial. He wrote a declaration that he called Craig Graves, the former finance director, who told him the records are no longer there. No. If Craig Graves wants to make that assertion, he should submit a declaration himself. So, that's legal lesson 101 for today. (By the way, law students hate the hearsay rules, which drives them nuts in the class of evidence. But for me, I loved evidence in law school; loved it!)

It appears to me that these employees are doing whatever they're being told to save their jobs. In the Nazi trials, a famous defense arose called the Nuremberg Defense (named after the city where the trials were held) - which went something like this: "I killed millions of Jews and gypsies because my boss told me. Since it was my boss' fault, I should be found not guilty." Commonsense and the International Criminal Courts stated that such a defense does not apply when the person knows what they're doing is morally reprehensible. So, obviously, if your boss tells you to kill someone, you're supposed to say No and quit. In a similar vein, if someone tells you to lie for someone, you're supposed to say No and bear the consequences or quit. (So, I don't feel sorry for these employees - who are just perpetuating more and more corruption.)

All of this makes me wonder how many other bank accounts does the City use to launder money? How many bank accounts is Manny Carrillo and the BPCCC also in charge of? Well, we the people need to know. I end by quoting one of my favorite jurists, Louis Brandeis: "Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectant[.]" 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

My Thoughts For This Week - Hope Lost?

This week has been a disappointing one for two reasons. The first one, is I found out a few weeks ago, that one of the youth boxers took the wrong path, something like a horrible heroin addiction. At first I was in denial, but then I just came to accept the painful truth of it all. I had such high hopes for him too.

I lost some sleep over it all this week. Then, I had to just move on.

Then another one, this week, I found out may have been lying all about his sick family situation to get my sympathy and time. It was my mother who actually figured it out first.

When I realized she was right, she asked me: "Are you mad?"

Then I spoke in Korean. We rarely speak in Korean, but I always believe that emotions are best communicated in a person's native tongue.

So I said, "No. Just disappointed."

She said, "I knew Korean people who used to play that kind of game to get everyone to feel sorry for them."

I said back in Korean: "It makes sense. That's what they think they have to do to survive."

And that was the end of that conversation. I took her to eat at a local Japanese restaurant. I ordered two pieces of giant clams and scallops. It tasted good.

She ordered miso (soybean paste) soup and rice.

I asked her, "Can we get the miso made from scratch?"

I remember, my grandmother came from Korea once and made it from scratch. The whole soybean mixture ferment.

She said, "You know how much work it is to make that?"

"Well, I'm trying to eat better."

I told her about how much time it takes to buy local fresh vegetables and oysters and honey and milk.

She said, "Well, now you know how much work it is to really take care of yourself."

On my drive back, I remember one boxer I helped do rather well on the SAT. He got a full scholarship to college, then dropped out, most likely got into drugs. I remembered another one that went back into a full speed addiction. I didn't say anything about it to my mother.

We just talked about whether I should teach English in Japan for a break.

She said, "Why would they hire you? They have enough white people taking those jobs."

I chuckled inside. I thought to myself: My English must not be good enough.

"Well, what about China? Mandarin is important to learn."

"They might hire you there. They all want to learn English anyways."

Then she asked, "And what about your pets?"

"Well, you could take care of them."

"What a bad son. Always giving your mother more work to do."

I laughed.

* * *

The entire experience taught me what parents really go through when they're children fall into an addiction. It's rather painful to watch.

As I went running yesterday in the hills, the thought crossed my mind, how come I haven't died of a broken heart yet? I guess I keep enduring: Must be the Korean blood in me. I thought, Maybe, I have the power to come back from the dead. 

It was at that point, I saw an owl staring at me. It jumped off the tree, spanned its wings, and flapped its great wings in the air and glided through the air to the next tree. I caught up with it. It stared at me again. Then it jumped off the tree and flew high into the hills.

During that run, I told myself: Well, I think it's time to move on. After I finish my cases (65% done), I think it's time to plan my sabbatical (that's a year off to rest).

I don't really know where I'll go yet. I don't even know if I have enough money to survive. I might have to pick up some Arbeit ( アルバイト); it's Korean or Japanese slang for temporary work. It's actually a borrowed word from the German word for work: Arbeiten. Arbeit and travel and travel and arbeit.

Mom says I should become a chef. Maybe . . .

Certainly, I need to improve my foreign language skills and food knowledge.

Since I've been encountering a lot of sick people and disease lately, here's a line of Scripture that comes to mind: "Your will to live can sustain you when you are sick, but if you lose it, your last hope is gone." Pro. 18:14 (GNT)