¿¿ Where’d ya get that hat ??

A snow-covered car drives on Broadway, a few miles from our house. Foto: Gary Wiepert/AP

A snow-covered car drives on Broadway, a few miles from our house. Foto: Gary Wiepert/AP

 

 The fotos above and below provide persuasive evidence of why we winter in Merida, Yucatan. Our region up north (Buffalo NY) is known for its lake-effect snows. This blizzard will remain in the record books as being one of the biggies. Many towns got over five feet of early snow in less than three days. And there are a few reports of more than six feet! (Click sound bar for short tune fitting of the scene.)

A neighbor who lives across the road from us has this to say about the depth of snow, which is difficult to measure due to blizzard-force winds: i would have to say 5 feet easy…might even be closer to 6. actually when i think… its gotta be more.we had 5 foot on wednesday into thursday…then got another 1-2 on thursday afternoon. i have to admit…its a bit hard to get my head around it. National Weather Service reports that Cowlesville, a hamlet located about three miles from us, got 88 inches over three days; but again, it’s difficult to measure. We even made news in Sweden, which is rather remarkable. 

Foto: Lindsay DeDario/Reuters

Foto: Lindsay DeDario/Reuters

Foto: Derek Gee/AP, The Buffalo News

Foto: Derek Gee/AP, The Buffalo News

Moisture rises into cold winds, to be dumped as snow on Buffalo

Moisture rises into cold winds, to be dumped as snow on Buffalo. Foto: Lindsay DeDario/ Reuters

Buffalo is well-equipped and expert at snow removal. Foto: Gary Wiepert/AP

Buffalo is well-equipped and expert at snow removal. Foto: Gary Wiepert/AP

Foto by Mark Mulville, Buffalo News

Foto by Mark Mulville, Buffalo News

SNOW MAP     TO LOCATE OUR FARM, FIND THE LARGEST CIRCLE.  FIND THE 11:00 POSITION ON THE EDGE OF THAT CIRCLE.  We’re in Erie County. Cowlesville is just over the border, in Wyoming County.   Get that located in your mind at 11:00, just inside the biggest circle.  (88 inches is 2.24 meters, which is 7 feet 4 inches. That’s snow!)  Now click the pink link.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

MEXICAN THANKSGIVING: “Day of the Dead”

 

A real taco, from scratch

A real taco, from scratch:  taste the love!

Yes, they may share a calendar date, but noDay of the Dead is not the rough equivalent of Hallowee’n, but rather, of Yankee Thanksgiving – it’s all about family and food. Halloween, the second most commercial holiday up north, is macabre, dark, excessively indulgent. Day of the Dead recognizes that survival has been based upon sacrifices made by ancestors, which is to say that it is centered on gratitude, giving of thanks. ¿What better way to express thanks than to infuse food with love for sharing with those so dear to us?

We had a close-up look at this celebration in a pueblo southeast of Merida on Saturday. Our housekeeper, Mundy, invited us to her parent’s home to partake of this harvest remembrance. It doesn’t get any more grounded and real than this. Her father, Desiderio, is a milpero, a real hardscrabble farmer, who grows corn, beans, squash, sweet potato, melons, and such, for the family. They raise their own meat and poultry. And they also have a little manufacturing business, making clothing and thus  providing employment for their neighbors. It was a great honor to be invited to this feast. And it was so delicious, being entirely prepared from scratch in their outdoor kitchen. (So basic: food, clothing, shelter, family, love.)

 

Tia Juanita cooking relleno negro, a turkey blackbean stew

Tia Juanita cooking relleno negro, a turkey blackbean stew

Like many such feasts, this one takes much advance preparation. But many hands make light work. The menu includes handmade tortillas, from their own corn; black beans blended with hardboiled eggs from the chicken pen; turkey; chicken; vegetable topping, called cortado (chop, in English); and Coke (along with a chocolate cake brought by us – the only items not made from scratch).

 

Mary takes a taco lesson

Her first lesson in tortilla making, from a maestra

The altar, and prayers of thanksgiving inviting the ancestors to come and dine.

The altar, and prayers of thanksgiving inviting the ancestors to come and dine. (Socorro, Mundy’s mom, at left.)

Food for the departed

Food for the departed

Desiderio stirs the drying corn, while Mundy's children watch

Desiderio stirs the drying corn, while Mundy’s children watch

The Maya teach their children they are made of corn (elote).

The Maya teach their children they are made of corn (elote).

Juanita makes pibes, a corn and meat pie, for baking underground.

Juanita makes pibes, a corn and meat pie, for baking underground.

This is a long-running feast, which lasts for several days. The next event will be baking the meat pies for tomorrow’s event. (These folks know how to celebrate!)

 

Mundy's sister, Aurelia, grooms her daughter's hair.

Mundy’s sister, Aurelia, grooms her daughter’s hair.

Mundy cleans up.

Mundy cleans up.

After a short walk, we were taken by bici-taxi into the village to see a local cenote.

After a short walk, we were taken by bici-taxi into the village to see a local cenote.

And now we are well-schooled on being grateful for our ancestors!

It reminds me a bit of a rock tune, which almost sounds like a hymn today.

 

 

 

EMAIL NOTICE

Dear Reader,  On September 4, WordPress made a major change which seems to have disrupted some of my communications. (The lack of blogposts lately is not their fault. We’ve been very busy setting up house and applying for permanent residency.) But if you have my older personal email address ending in me.com, and your letters are bouncing, please change the suffix (after @)  replacing the old suffix with iCloud.com

 

THAT GIANT RADIATOR IN THE ROOM

¿ Can't take the heat?

¿ Can’t take the heat ?

¿ Elephant ?  What elephant?  Don’t think of an elephant!  There is no elephant!*  Silently repeat after me: there is no elephant. there is no elephant. there is no elephant.   ….. .. .. ………

It occurs to me that a huge savings could easily be realized across the warmer regions of the world by insulating these flat concrete roofs which shade us and keep rain off our heads. The problem is called thermal mass; and the concept is that of absorption-and-release. The more mass an object has, the more energy it can hold and release. Therefore, the concrete ceiling overhead in your bedroom is a gigantic radiator, soaking up solar energy all day, and releasing it overnight into your sleeping quarters. If you don’t believe me, some afternoon climb up and touch an interior ceiling, the other side of which has been baking in the sun. Don’t burn your hand! Insulation is a low-tech answer.

So, rather than paying the carbon industry over-and-over to cool your bedroom, why not pay a local mason just once to prevent it from becoming hot? This idea dropped into my consciousness this morning, after a lovely, restful sleep last night – our bedroom having been cooled by a substantial shower late in the day. As folks from New England say Dawn broke over Marblehead (my gourd) revealing to me the idea of insulating the ceiling against the heat from the roof, which radiates into our sleeping quarters.

Last year we had a mason build a patio roof for a small courtyard, which space was entirely too hot and bright to be of any use. A friend suggested we use a styrofoam material to form the mass of the roof, instead of using concrete, which has been the older practice here. But technology is advancing. A few streets away there is a masonry supply, Angel Verde, which carries styrofoam block panels in various thicknesses, designed to fit between vigas (precast concrete beams). So we used this material to form the major portion of our patio roof, thereby reducing the mass of that overhead “radiator” by many tons. (NB: the foam gets covered with a metal lath called malla, pronounced just like the people, the Maya), and skim-coated with a masonry finish. It can be walked upon, but is not load-bearing for additional floors or stories.) And now this patio space is the coolest, most delightful space of the entire home – and we’ve added screened protectores to keep out skeeters, critters, varmints, and other intruders. 

So, my latest curiosity has me researching interior and exterior foam-insulation applications for existing concrete roofing/ceilings, to ward off that herd of elephants (Sol, or Sun) so ready and willing to deliver oppressive heat into our living quarters. If you move in this direction, and learn something worth sharing, please submit a comment for us. For example:  be sure you’ve thoroughly addressed any water leaks before insulating from the interior, if that’s how you decide to proceed. And be sure you’ve provided some conduit for electricians to snake wires to various destinations for fans and lighting. 

As they say, If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. (And don’t move to Yucatan if you’re not prepared to deal with it! But do come. It’s so lovely!)  Energy efficiency and comfort can be improved for the entire planet if we would simply stop throwing money at our problems, and instead, ponder other approaches.  But first, define the problem, rather than merely treating a symptom.

*[Media spinmeisters mostly majored in hypnotism, and minored in 3-card monte. “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” say they. ]  So, dear reader, compare sources. Do your own thinking. Hey! Maybe that elephant is really a Rhinoceros.

 

 

 

HOME–SWEET–JUNGLE

 

Look what's growing in our backyard

Look what’s growing in our backyard!

We’re back in Merida, and rather stunned at the rampant growth of weeds and vines in our little corner of barrio Santiago. A fellow expat has reported that rainfall this season has been twice normal. But that needs to be translated into statistical speech, as a friend has pointed out. (Normal and average are not the same concept; and normal has a considerable range.) Water is the best fertilizer on the planet; and stuff grows! Before I share a photo of the source of the delectable fruit, above, I’ll reveal the jungle I had to brave in order to harvest it. (Presently I’ve not been inclined to bring in a gardener while away; last year wasn’t so bad, but this year was shocking.)

The green machine took over

The green machine took over

The pool is rather private now

The pool is rather private now

We added some vines and a tall trellis atop the wall, to provide a visual barrier. The vines are doing the job nicely, but other wild things crashed the party, and will soon be removed. I’m delighted to report that my efforts to control mosquitoes were amazingly effective. I provided our manager with a biological control to add weekly to the swamp which accumulated unavoidably inside the pool. I’m happy to report that I spent an hour standing shirtless in the pool while cleaning, and didn’t get a single bite. Nor did I see any larvae in the water.  This product is excellent. It’s nontoxic, except to mosquitoes, disrupting the balance in their gut with a little bug which harms them alone.

Yes, we have no bananas, yet

Yes, we have no bananas, yet

Our friend Douglas gave us a banana plant which was about four feet tall when we parked it out back. That was maybe February. It rocketed up and is already heavy with fruit. I gave another to each of two adjoining neighbors to enhance the privacy of the back yard, and they are both thriving. And a different variety was also planted far to the rear of our yard which is not bearing yet, as it is somewhat shaded. 

That fruiting succulent

That fruiting succulent

These cactus-like arms sprawl from the limestone walls of Yucatan, providing a delicious fruit in September, if the birds don’t hollow them out first. (We found several empties.) They are called pitaya, but also known locally as dragon fruit. I am tempted to call them Eye of Cyclops. They require little or no soil, sending out roots in the air, to wend their way into crevices in the stone. The taste is sweet but subtle, and the little black seeds are about the size and shape of sesame seeds, and are soft but pleasantly crunchy. 

Here's lookin' at you!

Here’s lookin’ at you!

 

 

¡¡ SAVE THE EARTH !!

 

NASA Apollo 8 Photo, via Wikimedia

NASA Apollo 8 Photo, via Wikimedia

WOW, what a radical idea! A recently hatched project to heal and restore our planet is well underway, funded by several people of means and vision. This idea was blogged about today by Tom Toles, editorial cartoonist at Washington Post. Perhaps there is now a basis for hope that we can forestall a sixth great extinction! For 10,000 years, humankind has been repeating the same failed experiment, a virtual pyramid scheme of stealing natural resources from future generations, to enjoy the bounty of the land, until it becomes a desert – then moving on. (Will Rogers once instructed: Buy land. They aren’t making any more of it.) Indeed! And I can’t remember when I’ve felt more encouraged about the direction of things.

GIRLS SPORTS: A Century of Girls Basketball; and Today, Little League

in-valpariso-hs1907girlsbbteam-r.preview

A century ago my grandmother Laura was involved with something radically new: girls basketball. She reflected on it in an address she made to a graduating class at her high school fifty years later, as follows:

I would like to share a few memories of our school days. For instance, 4 of us in the class were on the first girl’s basketball team that Frewsburg High had.  And was that an innovation.  The first thing we had to do was call in a dressmaker to get outfitted in navy blue serge bloomers and white middies.  We wore big silk ties and probably big ribbon bows in our hair, which was long.  This might be in braids around our heads, in a bun at the back or a psyche knot and I don’t believe a single hair was out of place when we finished a game.  We went wherever the boys had a game and we played the opening game.  I remember going to Celeron, Chautauqua, and Randolph and we rode on the train.  All games were on Friday night.  This surely was exciting, especially if your boyfriend happened  to be  on the boy’s team.     ¶ Then the group decided they needed a cheerleader to help the boys win games.  And I was chosen it.  My 2 granddaughters , ages 11 and 12, think that is the most hilarious thing they ever heard of.  So I have tried to explain – we didn’t need to take special lessons or to put on a floor show – all you needed was a good strong voice.  And usually none of us could talk the next day.       ¶ That summer a bunch of us spent a week on Chautauqua Lake across from Celeron Park, which was a thriving place 50 years ago.  So one day we dressed up in our blue serge bloomers, white middies, tennis shoes and long black stockings and rowed across the lake to take Celeron by storm.  Did we ever feel naughty walking around like that!     ¶ This one thought I’d like to leave with the class of 1966.  The past 50 years have gone much faster than the 17 or 18 years before graduation.  The first  thing you notice –  it is 5 years since you graduated, then 10, then 20.  Your  children are graduating, then 40, then 50 and you are sitting here in the place of honor.  And by this time your grandchildren are  graduating and you wish you could just hold time a little slower.  + + + (NB: photo not from Frewsburg HS)

I was delighted last week to catch a segment of Little League World Series where Mo’ne Davis was pitching against the boys. Who says girls can’t throw? She pitched a 2-hit shutout, hurling her 70-mph fastball!

Little Leaguer, on the boys team. Photo by Gene J Puskar, AP/Photo

Little Leaguer, on the boys team. Photo by Gene J Puskar, AP/Photo

 

 

 

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

 

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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.

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

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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.

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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

 

¡¡ YOU’VE GOT MAIL : A LOVE LETTER !!

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:

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