PORTRAIT OF A PIG (my title): a book review



While the publisher’s title, Crash of 2016, is not to my liking, the writing is compelling; indeed, it is quite educational and insightful. I was not aware how rare having a vibrant middle class has been over the centuries. Nor was I aware of how devious and controlling the überwealthy have been during this same period at waging class warfare to keep wages low and people desperate. We clearly have lived thru a golden age in the latter half of the 20th century. Whether you vote left, right, in-between, or not at all, this book will complete your economic education, providing much to ponder & discuss. Don’t miss it.



··You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows·· ~Bob Dylan


I’ve long had a fascination with weather, to the point of putting up a windmill on our farm up north. I had even researched adding some weather tools to the mast, hoping to join the volunteer weather corp, which is the main point of this post – sharing an account of a volunteer from today’s NY Times. That’s a photo of him, above, studying the sky in the 1930′s for his daily report, which he has done continually right thru today – 84 years! Amazing, how a sense of purpose can invigorate. (He’s 101.)

Our windmill flew for only fourteen months, failing atop the tower. I crashed it, attempting to repair it. The mast, which snagged as we were lowering it, snapped at a coupling. Insurance bought me out. But it was great fun watching the sky for signs of change.


This  Merida windmill, designed to lift water, didn’t survive a hurricane

.eric windmill

Friends helped me erect my pinwheel. We tilted it up with a tractor, for attachment next to the silo.

Our Christmas card, 2006

Our Christmas card, 2006

These are some of my favorite weather tools:
Realtime lightning strikes
North American radar, with animation button
Water vapor, animated
Tropical hurricane tracker



Dear __YOU__,

You can read, and ponder what you’re reading, or you wouldn’t be here presently. Reading is a precious gift. Doing it well, reading between the lines, can be transcendent. (Why was this word chosen, instead of that synonym?) Questioning a text is wise, since a right question is the beginning of wisdom. And words have an array of meanings – which is why literalism contested between readers can result in feeling as though we’re in a combat zone.

In January 2003, as USA was preparing for war in Iraq, I had an epiphany in which I was cautioned not to lose my peace, as war would surely come. But also I learned that the GREAT RED DRAGON described in St John’s apocalypse, Revelation, reveals an aggressive penchant for literalism. 

No one needs to study the writings of Plato or Wittgenstein to realize that interpretation determines experience! How we perceive events shapes what happens. The shaman understands this, as explained in this brilliant set of radio stories. But I digress.

It is with much enthusiasm that I now share with you a simple way of unpacking the words of scripture (a love letter to you!), enabling you to ponder their early meaning. PLEASE NOTE: This scriptural love letter is written to you. Nobody else should presume to interpret it for you! Not your granny, not your pastor or priest. You can do your own thinking, with the help of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit  (– see v.26; many versions can be selected for comparison). And if you are a bible reader who has told others what their love letter says, well, just STOP! Instead of thinking for them, invite them to think by asking leading questions! Does God love your ears and eyes more than those of your friend? (Don’t become like the taliban, who tell others what the Quran says!)

O, that I had these tools when I was in grad school! (NB: To use the linked interlinear translator, enter a word or a verse-address in the LOWER FIELD.) Let me  illustrate, using these familiar verses. Notice that some words at the linked site are blue. They are clickable. When clicked, you will see an array of word meanings from biblical Hebrew or Greek. This gives an idea of the wide variability handy for translators, including you and me. Here is my take on this psalm, based on many years of reflection and study, and now, using the interlinear Bible study tool. Below is what the psalm means to me.


Now you try it!

Now you can translate your own love letters:









Here's lookin' at you, kid.

Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.

First, let me be clear. The banana is there simply to smile back at you  Good morning! Welcome to my table! – it is not part of the breakfast pie. I consume one each morning after having a refreshing  cup of organic green tea, which I buy in loose 100-gram packets, directly from Japan, – eating the banana before making pie. (I’ve been eating this breakfast most mornings for several years, but have yet to tire of it; and I weigh about the same I did when I graduated from high school: 155 pounds, +/– 5 pounds, depending on season.

Robert Frost popularized one definition of a Yankee as someone who eats pie for breakfast – but a famous-yet-mysterious person named Anon said it first. <grin> Real pie crust is made with lard (don’t hang up!), and is best followed by vigorous outdoor labor, to keep it from adhering to wasteline or chin. But my recipe is considerably different, easier, and  healthier. Up front I will assure you that this pie contains no additional sugar or fat, yet is deeply satisfying, even while having no crust. But can it be pie, without crust? you ask. Taste and see, I say.

Let’s review the ingredients by imagining a clock face which is just a bit shy of numerals. Starting at 12:00, above, we have a small handful of walnuts.

1:00 is a teaspoon of sushi-grade powdered seaweed, which is not a flavor element, but is really beneficial, especially for vegetarians (which I am not) as it is a good source of vitamin B-12. It is also found in fermented veggies such as sauerkraut or kimchi, which will not be useful in this pie! (Skip 2:00)

3:00 is a tablespoon of freshly ground flaxseed meal. Fresh grinding is important, as flaxseeds have a tough shell which tend to pass thru without releasing their omega-3′s; and pre-ground flaxseed meal breaks down quickly, starting ~15 minutes after grinding.  

4:00, optional, is powdered whey. It’s said to be a good source of vitamin K, potassium. If you’ve been told to reduce salt the real intention is to adjust the ratio of sodium to potassium. (But don’t boost K with a supplement, absent a prescription, as that can be risky.) More greens and bananas are best, but again, not in pie. (Skip 5:00)

6:00 shows a double spice, which is nice: a teaspoon of yellow curry powder, which contains turmeric;  and a teaspoon of cinnamon. (My wife is finding that the curry may be helping her joints.) Get this: a major US drug company patented the medical use of turmeric, but this was overturned in court in a suit brought by the Indian gov’t! (Skip 7:00)

8:00 is freshly ground organic pumpkin seeds, hulls removed by the supplier. These are a staple among Native Americans. We first ate them in Merida, and now also toast them for salads. In this dish I simply grind them raw, dried.  Most health food stores carry them, as does the bulk department at our grocery up north, Wegmans. They can be found at the main market in Centro, Merida, and elsewhere, as semilla de calabasa, sin cascara [lit. seeds of squash, without hulls]. Beware. I’ve found small stones in the seeds from the main market, several times.

9:00 is buckwheat groats.  Buckwheat supplies an uncommon but essential protein, lysine. (Skip 10:00.)

11:00 brings us almost to the end, with a teaspoon of chia seeds, supplying more omega-3′s. These are too small to grind. If chia is too pricey or unavailable, add more flaxseed meal. In the center, where the clock hands connect, is a great staple: rolled oats, one tablespoon. Rolling or crimping these seeds is necessary to stress the fiber, thus enabling access of digestive juices; but the stressing is done by the vendor. (Quick oats are shredded – best not to use.) 

Rock around the clock, in the words of that early rock’n’roll song. Just add some milk, a small apple, chunked but not peeled, and a few blueberries, frozen or fresh. We get them frozen at Costco in Merida, even organic. The fruit makes the dish sufficiently sweet for me. If sweeter is better, consider adding some prune juice to displace some of the milk. I don’t measure liquid for this dish – simply saturate, pop the dish into the microwave for precisely 4:44 which is the most efficient way to key-in ~5 minutes. When done, add a couple dollops of good unsweetened yogurt (1% low fat). If using frozen fruit, add after cooking to speed cooling, blending fruit and yogurt into the mix. Being a Yankee has never been easier! And only one container needs washing.

Here’s what it looks like. Wish I could serve some to you right now. Virtual pie will have to do. <smile> Upcoming: a low-tech way to make truly great espresso.

Pie. It's what's for breakfast!

Pie. It’s what’s for breakfast!



Photo by Donkey shot, Wikimedia

Photo by Donkey shot, Wikimedia

The Mayans were seriously ahead of the Europeans for a great long while, as they knew how to count much more efficiently. And while their counting system might look daunting to modern eyes, being base twenty, it had only three symbols: zero, dot, line (line being a compiler representing five, like our four ones scored thru with a slash). No, it’s not Morse Code!

Rendering: Neuromancer2K4, Wikimedia

Rendering: Neuromancer2K4, Wikimedia

The result of this simplicity was elegant, and it enabled them to devise a calendar which was exceedingly accurate. The concept of zero was a great advantage. They represented zero by depicting a turtle on its back (dead?). For example: over the course of a million years, the Julian calendar had an error of 7802 days; the Sothis calendar 2198 days; the Gregorian calendar 302 days; but the Mayan calendar only 69 days.

And the Mayans could have made their calendar even more accurate, with a residual error of only 2 days, but for their penchant for divisibility of numbers. The astronomical correction cycle is 1507.03 years, but the Mayans instead of rounding down to 1507 (which would have given them the 2 day correction), they rounded up to 1508 for greater divisibility.  1507 has one division of 11 X 137, but 1508 can be divided by 4 and by 13 and 29, two very important numbers to the Maya.

Friend Peter sent me a short video showing how the Maya did math. Pretty cool, no?


Turtle shell adorning a temple at Uxmal.




Photo by Pinay06, Wikimedia

Photo by Pinay06, Wikimedia

Merida is a very friendly place. While most locals may be somewhat shy, they are warm and welcoming, as noticeable in the frequent smiles and greetings extended to visitors walking the sidewalks. This is rather refreshing to those who have ever lived in New England, for example, where people tend to avoid eye contact, pretending others scarcely exist, as a safeguard to personal privacy and security. Yes, Merida has its hawkers in the heart of downtown who will try to engage you in conversation to lure you into a nearby shop for a commission. But they’re mostly harmless, and the shops are easily overlooked, but fascinating. Yet the majority of those sidewalk smiles are genuine, without ulterior motive. So, don’t clam up!

A recent article has studied our practiced reserves, and noticed that those who are willing to engage with strangers are likely to be happier than those who remain silently immersed in their devices. Come to Merida and practice talking with strangers who are eager to use their English. Merida is also a great place to study Spanish. You might find your spirits lifting thru such encounters. Maybe you’ll discover from whence our phrase being happy as a clam derives. (What do clams share with each other?)

CORN: BIG questions on genetic engineering!

Corn on the march

Corn: when is it wholesome?

Corn is a gift from the people of Mexico, where it was first noticed and selected, to the population of the entire world. Those early seed-selectors recognized the value of this seed-bearing grass, and helped select seed for its food value, turning it into a very productive and nutritious crop. The result has fed the world – but due to recent changes, corn might now be causing health problems, according to peer-reviewed research.

Some corn has changed recently, selected for resistance to an herbicide. This GMO corn (genetically modified by Monsanto) is known to have some alarming side-effects. Europe won’t allow this kind of corn to be sold there. But US farmers are eager to export it to hungry nations. Ironically, this questionable crop is being sold to Mexicans, where it also undercuts the price which Mexican farmers get for their own corn. If GMO corn damages people and butterflies, while also putting Mexican farmers out of business, is it still a wholesome crop for people?

When a change is made to an original design, whether thru modification, or thru natural selection, it’s important to learn if the change is for good, or for ill. Simply because a change is profitable for a rich company and for wealthy farmers doesn’t automatically indicate that the change is good – especially if the health effect on consumers is bad. If a tomato has a gene from a starfish, for better frost resistance, is it still a tomato? Perhaps. But a better question might be is it still wholesome? This is a right question to ask about GMO corn.

It’s important to recognize that science has become a tool of politics as well as of truth. Questing for truth is best done without looking at costs and profits. Reality is the measure of all things, yet not easily discerned. Dollars are a poor yardstick. Is this new type of corn wholesome? Are these reports merely alarmist? Science alone, absent commercial influence, is equipped to resolve this. Politics is about benefits for interest groups, which are often selfish.

The public should be allowed to vote with our wallets, once the science (which is never complete) is reasonably settled. GMO corn should be listed on ingredient notices so people can hold a fair election in a free market at the grocery store, by choosing to buy or not buy such products. Governments which will not allow such markings on food products, blending this very different corn into the bin with regular corn, are guilty of propping up toxic food policies for profit. Let consumers decide! 

Meanwhile, rich folks can buy organic corn, while poor folks are fed food fit only for lab rats (see link in comment section). But there are other grains, which will be a topic for another day.



MagicJack Support is great!

MagicJack support is great!

We’ve been using MagicJack in Mexico and up north for over two years. Wow, this is such a great product! (It was named tech product of the year in 2009.) Prior to trying this, we had assigned our landline to our cable provider for voip service (voice over internet provider) which was costing about $35 usd per month. After we bought one of these (~$80) our costs went virtually to $zero, assuming you already have internet! We paid $10 per year to MagicJack to port our old number, which fee is up a bit now; and of course, one must have internet to use the device. FULL DISCLOSURE: We recently bought stock in the company upon learning that they now are able to merge cellphone service onto an internet connection using this technology. With phone costs being what they are, this should be a big hit. (I’ve not tried this new GO feature yet, having experience only with the older Plus.)

Their support is truly awesome. Recently our phone began to perform oddly. I had to call support several times, which I’d never done before. They refreshed the connection. After the third request in as many weeks they offered to send me a new power adapter for free! This company knows something about customer care!

How to use it: buy the unit, shown in the photo, or a more recent iteration. Plug it into your computer for an initial handshake connection. Assign your number. Then remove the device from your computer, plugging it into any normal household circuit near your computer, modem, or wifi hub. Done.  There’s a big change coming to the telephone market! This gizmo will pay for itself in three months, or less. NOTE: These devices are soon to be sold in Mexico. See the comment below.





What’s in a name, Strawman?


Strawman & Tinman, 1902, Wikimedia

Strawman & Tinman, 1902, Wikimedia

Identity theft is the latest con, or so it would seem. But it turns out that it’s been going on for a great long while, and the first offender is the state. The tale is quite alarming. It’s as if we’ve walked into a long-running movie (titled Life!), and we’re  questing (or not) to figure out what it’s all about. Just ask Alice. Lewis Carroll’s Alice was coming to realize that everything was ruled by nonsense, in the person of the Queen of Hearts. The Caterpillar had asked Alice that most pointed of questions: Whooo are YOU?  Alice: This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. I — I hardly know, sir,  just at present — at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then. .

Caterpillar, from Disney film, 1951

Caterpillar, Disney film, 1951

Now imagine yourself required to appear in court, in front of a magistrate of similar disposition who is directing you to state your name for the record. Don’t! You’ll surely pay. It might be better to read the poem below, by Emily Dickinson, aloud to the jurist:   NOBODY

I’m Nobody! Who are you? Are you – Nobody – too? Then there’s a pair of us! Don’t tell! they’d banish us – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody! How public – like a Frog – To tell your name – the livelong June – To an admiring Bog! 

   ≠   ≠    ≠

Why might this be reasonable? (Glad you asked.) Turns out that when your parents named you, that name was recorded on your birth certificate. And, because few parents know better, the name became abandoned property after a time, which the state claimed. They now own that name! And if you identify yourself to the court by that name, they own you, too. The name is your strawman, detailed in a slim-but-revealing volume, which carries with it many liabilities. A Rose is a Rose, unless her name is Alice! 


Aha! I finally understand our recent ECONOMIC COLLAPSE

MONOPOLY in the marketplace:  the return of feudalism

MONOPOLY in the marketplace: the return of feudalism  (Wikimedia: Fir0002)

I’ve been perplexed since 2008, unable to comprehend what happened to alter the arena of commerce so badly as to be no longer recognizable. Now comes an article which has thoroughly opened my eyes to something I’ve long suspected, but couldn’t quite explain to myself. (The article is a bit long, but worthy of your consideration.) It articulates how voters and elected representatives alike have been seduced by a false premise, posing as a FREE MARKET – but aggressively buying up the competition. This commercial coup has emerged as vast monopolies in nearly every sector. What we have today, as a result, is a new feudalism where competition has been eliminated by politicians cooperating with big capital.

I’ve been pondering this recent pratfall while reading a new book belatedly titled The Fourth Revolution which comes from pedigreed talent at The Economist magazine – (my review of the above book is linked at Amazon, and your votes are coveted). But the pair of  authors has missed it. The revolution wasn’t even televised! Young people world-over have inherited not a serious recession, but a long term depression, even for those who might find jobs. It’s time to take back the marketplace. Ralph Nader has a new book about opposite sides working together to take it back; but that may be a long wait.