PRESIDENT OBAMA, PARDON ED SNOWDEN

Ed Snowden, wikipedia

Ed Snowden, wikipedia

Mr President, our government no longer trusts the citizens.  You guys have been spying on us unreasonably.  It’s time to set things right.  Here’s an excerpt from an essay about what you can do to return integrity to this relationship.  (In the words of Spike Lee, do the right thing, Sir):

Perhaps the best historical precedent for a pardon of Snowden comes from our first president, George Washington.  ¶  President Washington is still the only commander-in-chief to personally lead troops into battle. He did so to suppress a rebellion by farmers in western Pennsylvania over a tax on whisky. Still, Washington pardoned the very rebels he fought on the battlefield, including convicted traitors who were sentenced to hang. This did not mean Washington approved of treason, nor did it create an incentive for armed insurrection. Washington had the judgment to know that reconciliation was more important than punishment.  ¶  A Snowden pardon would be an olive branch from the surveillance state to its severest critics.

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: THIS IS WHY I CAME

sculpture by Wilhelm Lehmbruck
Der Gestürzte, 1915/16 Plaster

Sculpture by Wilhelm Lehmbruck, 
Der Gestürzte, 1915/16, plaster

About the Book

This is Why I Came, a creative retelling of Bible back-stories which include character perspectives, has been reviewed in Washington Post, Ploughshares, Kirkus Reviews, O Magazine (on O’s list of ten), Los Angeles Times, Publishers Weekly (starred review), The Atlantic. [Excerpts from the book are pasted below.]

About the author

Mary Rakow is the recipient of two Lannan Foundation Residencies and a Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship. The Memory Room was shortlisted for the Stanford University Libraries International Saroyan Prize in Literature, a PEN USA/West Finalist in Fiction and was listed among the Best Books of the West by The Los Angeles Times. She comes to fiction from theology (MTS, Harvard Divinity School ’74;  Ph.D., Boston College) and lives in San Francisco where she is a freelance editor.

The words in the opening scene are choppy, hesitant, awkward — appropriate for describing a character who left organized worship many years ago.  Press on, dear Reader, as the language and thinking awaiting you in this sparse-but-sprightly volume soon sparkle in radically imaginative prose. (Don’t bolt if the denominational setting of the first scene does not align with your own, as such dramatic license has little to do with what’s to come.)

Author Mary Rakow engages us with raw emotional responses which could have underpinned the thoughts of many characters in the original Bible stories, which she has now recast in ways that may or may not be true to their day — but that we can feel in our own reaction to these classic situations thru her words, thus entering the stories, ourselves.  Finding ourselves in the Bible is the spiritual point of her project.  She brings them alive for the reader, endeavoring to restore their relevance for today, which may be welcomed by some, or suspicious to others.  Possessing the pen of a poet, she also has a PhD in theology.  (Masters in Theological Studies, Harvard Divinity School, ’74; PhD, Boston College.)  Here’s a taste:

ADAM THE MAKER:   [. . .]  no matter how hard he tries, to make the form he longs to see, the song he hears but cannot put outside himself, unable to compose the right sequence of notes, unable to make the form that will tell him who he is.  He traces his hand, his foot, in the sand. Lying on his back, reaches over his chest with a stick, traces his entire body there then stands, but it does not move, unable to make a form like himself that also breathes. The water erasing it like an encouraging teacher at first, saying, try, try again, then mocking. [. . . ] 

He wonders from where she comes. Wonders, since he has not made her, if there is a maker mightier than himself, one who, by implication, holds him in a deep understanding, his hunger clearly and intimately known by this other, as it has now been made visible in its answer, which causes him, as he stares at her, arm and leg and neck, to wonder if all the creatures in the sea and on the dry land and all the stars in the heavens that he thought he had made weren’t made by him at all, but rather by this other. And he desires to know this one, and names the maker he cannot see but whose work he sees, “God.”

¶  Now imagine Cain as a vegetarian, and Abel, an upstart who introduces the family to eating meat.  ¿ Not quite the way you remember the story?   It’s intriguing, plausible.  There now, you’ve got a glimpse of the idea of her book.  (I’ve long envisioned Cain offering zucchinis for sacrifice, as he had so many he didn’t know how to use them before they would spoil.)   ¿ Could agriculture, a shortcut thru the swamp, have been the original sin which now imperils the planet with a population bomb?  But that’s not her story.

Skipping beyond her imaginative work on Genesis stories, let’s fast-forward to the New Testament.  Mary of Magdala is depicted as introduced to prostitution by her own mother, in an angry response to a god who had taken her husband, Mary’s father, from them — this short chapter, along with a few others, can be read at thisiswhybook, sans advertising (can be read here.) (The original manuscript of the book contained images of religious art.  Sadly, the art has been dropped, yet it still feeds the spirit at the link, above.) 

Her book is reflective of a desire to reconsider Bible stories broadly in the modern era, as evocative of a spiritual sense which still persists, if perhaps only latently for some.  Her effort offers fresh perspective, inviting us into an inner dialog with her chosen Bible stories, freshly reconsidered.  

 A small disappointment to this reviewer is any mention of the ethical teachings of Jesus – sermon on the mount – which earlier engaged me to take some editorial liberties with the text, at this, my blog: http://meridagoround.com/?p=3046.  These are the lynchpin of his career, after all.  And I’m not convinced that she delivers on the promise implied in her title, but I feel recharged by her writing — so I gratefully, enthusiastically, award her five stars .

A note to me in an email from the author, whom I recently met online:

. . . my hope is that the book [would] function like a large table around which all persons of goodwill could sit and listen to each other, regardless of faith or affiliation or atheism, secular humanism, etc,  goodwill and curiosity being the only thing to bring to the potluck, as it were.

 

AIR POLLUTION & DEMENTIA

 

Air Quality Index: http://aqicn.org

Air Quality Index: http://aqicn.org

A recent article in The Guardian has me thinking about personally addressing air pollution in Yucatan.  The article discusses a link between traces of magnetite (lodestone) recently detected in brain tissue, and dementia.  Computer scientists know that memory and magnets must be kept apart, lest data be lost.  If magnetite is able to transit the blood-brain barrier thru olfactory uptake, as reported, then it may be time to clean the air in our dwellings (rather than waiting for elected officials to control exhaust emissions and open-air burning) – especially in  bedrooms where we spend a third of our time.

Magnetite, from Smithsonian collection, Wikipedia

Magnetite, from Smithsonian collection, Wikipedia

In checking with Consumer Reports I’ve chosen a portable device which should serve to reduce air pollution in our home.  It is available for importing, but perhaps it is already stocked in town?  (If anybody finds it, please alert me.)  ps: Another article in the same issue says vitamin D could reduce some air pollution problems by half.  

NB: The Air Quality Index for Merida is not presently included, so I got one for Guanajuato.  Apparently the university there participates in monitoring their air quality, and feeding reports to the site.  We can hope that someday Merida begins to participate.

¿¿ TRUMP, FOR DICTATOR ??

 

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

It’s truly shocking when a nominee for such high office has no governing experience.  Yes, in business Donald Trump gets what he wants — he is the supreme authority in his businesses, and on his TV show. But do we really want a dictator for president?  For a reality check, here’s a list of the TEN WORST DICTATORS. Will we need to call him Supreme Commander, or even worse – Lord of the land? Can’t we fire him lest we accidentally elect him?  (See comments; there is more than one alternative!)

 

HACKING THE VOTE

Pac-man, courtesy of Wikimedia

Pac-man ate my ballot?

As jazz artist Gil Scott-Heron has already informed us, The revolution will not be televised (play the track while you read, if you like).  Indeed, it has already surely happened (without bloodshed) in our election follies.  And We-the-people are chumps for allowing it!  Sadly, I must concede that Donald Trump is right:  the election process has been, is, and will be rigged.  Thru incompetence and a snoozing electorate we have lost our electoral franchise, as detailed in this fine (if lengthy) article titled How to hack an election in seven minutes.  You will be entertained and edified by reading even a portion of it.  May we rise to our duty as citizens to demand paper trails and unhackable aggregation!

A few quotes to whet your appetite:  “In less than a minute, they infected a Diebold machine with self-duplicating code, spreading from machine to machine through an administrator card, and programmed it to swing an election for Benedict Arnold over George Washington.”  “But most [experts] identified Pennsylvania as the greatest concern. There, according to Verified Voting 47 counties of 67 vote on digital voting machines without a written backup record if something were to go awry. . .”  “Then there are tech advancements that make the computer scientists shudder: To a person, they each warned me about the public’s new delusion, one strikingly reminiscent of the aftermath of Bush v. Gore—Internet voting.” 

 

Photo by Alex Halderman.

Photo by Alex Halderman.

ON MOSQUITOS: ARE YOU AN ORGANIC FUNDAMENTALIST?

mosquito_wide-dd82a7083a29527cdba5267e8f09258517d89cc5-s40-c85

fossilized mosquito in amber, npr

I’ve been an organic gardener for decades.  The thought of genetically modifying nature, to me, is repellant, and risky.  But I’m developing some flexibility on many fronts.  I’m coming to see that making a god out of nature is to make an idol.  I was deeply troubled while at divinity school to be told that the word dominion from the first chapter of Genesis, meant that man was commissioned by God to trample creation!  (Upon further reflection I came to see that good farmers don’t trample their land, but rather they walk over it to know it well, improving it year by year.)  Well, it’s time for us to improve our ground!

It is time for humankind to exercise dominion over this pestilent creature of flying, biting, misery and death.  The pesticide industry surely doesn’t want to see biting mosquitos disappear, so we must be alert to their disinformation.  So be wise, knowing that “protecting” nature tempts us to allow the continued polluting with deadly toxins.  And we must recognize that humankind is promoting and perpetuating this worthless species by our profligate use of plastics, according to experts in a well-reasoned article:   

“[T]he growth in the population of aegypti is down to our rapid increase in plastic consumption; it provides the mosquitos with an ideal breeding ground.  There is so much misinformation out there,” Lindsay says. “You see pictures of large open areas of stagnant water. But that’s not where the danger is. This thing breeds in small containers: flowerpots, gutters, tyres, water bottles. It’s about screening buildings, putting up nets, spraying insecticide in laundry areas. That’s not something for health professionals: that’s about educating and empowering communities so that they can reduce the risk themselves.”

My growing personal flexibility on the topic of genetic modification will start with agreeing to the sterilization and release of males to eliminate this deadly pest, with the added benefit of reducing the noxious load of sprayed toxins. Dominion — it’s our assignment!  We need to grow!

 

BERNIE BLINKED

Photo: Zuma Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

Photo: Zuma Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

Bernie, you told us you were in it to win.  Your revolutionaries got totally behind you and were ready to carry you to victory.  You coulda-shoulda called for Hillary to fold, as her team cheated with aid of an insider-helper from DNC, who resigned in embarrassment.  (Hill then re-hired the head cheater onto her team — a clear statement of her own shameless  ways.)  

You had Hillary in the cross-hairs of public scrutiny at the convention.  But you choked.  I get it that you were committed to defeating that other cheater, Trump.  But you may have over-thought third-party risk.  Hey, Abe Lincoln was a third party candidate, and he won!  We can’t have a revolution by collaborating with proven cheaters.  So sad.  I truly thought you were the one who could do it.  But maybe you just ran outta gas.  If not, it’s not to late.  You could still accept Jill Stein’s offer to head the Green Party ticket.  Please consider it.

Hillary, please step down — (updated)

Foto by Elbmaedchen / Flickr. All rights reserved.

Foto by Elbmaedchen / Flickr. All rights reserved.

Dear Hillary,

I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, that you were unaware that your underlings so badly wanted to see you win that they were willing to cheat to help you gain the nomination. So you’ve accepted the resignation of the head of the party, who was not a neutral player, but rather, a key member of your team. (Appointing your 2008 campaign manager as head of DNC was a conflict of interest, and serious mistake.) As head of that team yourself, you must now do the honorable thing of passing the baton to Bernie Sanders, as your team has not won the nomination honestly, as everyone can readily see. He is an honorable contestant, who can win this race. Your team is tainted, and your nomination is flawed — a fact which will ever follow your bid.

I want to think you’re an honorable person, too. But too many voters are unwilling to trust you. Now you can demonstrate your trustworthiness and honorable intent, or forever bear the consequences of an illegitimate effort. You have alienated too many to be able to win, so you are likely to lose, as many voters will refuse to vote for a team that cheats. I certainly won’t.

And the worst is yet to come.  Leaked emails are just beginning to spill.  Wait until some of the choice emails from your private server — you know, those among the 30,000 you culled, withholding them from the FBI, but not before the Russians copied them — when they arrived, you will wish you had allowed Bernie to carry the torch!  Better to bow now honorably, than to lose to such a loser as your opponent.

[Readers who agree could vote for my call at Medium — please, sharing that link with others, as well.]

Summer solstice haiku

IMG_2016

My computer has been in the shop getting a new brain, so this item is posted a bit late.  No, it’s not a real haiku, as I pay no attention to counting syllables.  But it was fun to have the moon peek in my window from behind the ancient maple trees in our front yard that night, awakening me.  It travels this far north-in-latitude only once yearly.  I was glad Luna roused me to capture images and verse.

PEEPING MOON

 

Setting moon

peers in window

rousing sleeping son

 

Full moon plays

hide-and-seek 

with summer Solstice sun

 

Finger points

shutter clicks

Luna winks

 

Chariot-drawn moon

beams at us

highlighting our addresses

 

IMG_2002

SWIMMING POOLS & MOSQUITO CONTROL. (Contról de Moscas en las Piscinas.)

Mosquito orgy: abandoned pool in barrio Santiago

MOSQUITO ORGY: a neglected swimming pool containing rain water and leaves in barrio Santiago.

¿What do you do with your pool while away?  ¿How many Merida homeowners are allowing mosquitos to party in standing water which collects in their backyards while they travel?  Last year I wrote about a biological control which can float in your untended pool, toxic only to mosquitos, introducing them to a deadly gut organism.  This year, due to widespread problems afflicting humans, I decided to do more.  While I was very happy with the biological product, I wanted to prevent access to the water altogether.  So I contrived my own cover, seaming together pvc-mesh screen as a physical barrier. (The entire project cost me about $70-usd, not counting the galvanized pipes supporting the mesh or the flashing, which I already had, and which prices I’ve forgotten;  and I still have almost a half roll of mesh left over.)  Here’s the finished installation:

Our pool, securely covered with a homemade screen.

Our pool, partially drained and covered by a homemade screen, measuring about 4-1/2 meters by 6m.

To start, I bought a roll of 60-inch x 30 meter pvc-mesh (malla) from a larger hardware supply, and a small can (una lata pequeña) of pvc cement (pegamento) from a local plumbing supply; and then I seamed together three lengths of screen, using a roll of aluminum flashing as a work surface so the cement didn’t bond with the paint on my roof, where I did the seaming. (Smaller hardware stores often sell mesh by the meter, but the ultra wide mesh may be more difficult to locate.)  I tested the bond for a week in the bright sun to be sure it would remain strong, trying two types of adhesive.  Both felt equally strong, so I went with the more neutral color.

Close-up of small can of adhesive, on seamed screen mesh

Close-up of small can of adhesive, on seamed screen mesh.

 

Adhesive test on two swatches of screen mesh.

Adhesive test on two swatches of screen mesh.

 

Joining the first pair of three lengths of screen on my roof — pool in top of photo.

Joining the first pair of three lengths of screen on my roof — pool in top of photo.

Of course, there are other places for mosquitos to party, so we each need to do our part:

A favorite breeding area maybe in a nearby yard.

A favorite breeding area may be in a nearby yard, guarded by ferocious beasts.