Nobel Prize in Consumer Electronics

Electrtonic mosquito racquet

Yeah, yeah, there is no such prize category.  But there should be!  And the iPhone doesn’t need a prize, as it has already won the market.  

So, here’s the first nomination.  This little gem will help you tame the turf inside your house — and it gives such satisfaction to hear it bark and see it spark, when you connect with one of those evil bloodsuckers, mid-air.  There are numerous brands and styles.  I prefer the plug-in variety, as batteries seem wasteful.  I always leave mine plugged into the wall so I know where to find it — it doesn’t hold much of a charge, fading after about a half-dozen kills.  (Of course the best control is good screening of windows and doors.)  But mosquitos get in when people enter or depart, so I sweep the area immediately.  

You can buy such racquets in larger grocery stores, from Amazon MX, and often at major intersections.  They really work.  In Spanish: raqueta de mata moscos. Good hunting!  

(NB:  swing gently – otherwise you will whack furniture, ruining the delicate device, which consists of three layers of metal mesh.)

R G B : : Film of a Life of Justice Ginsburg

screenshot from official trailer, via youtube

This film is uplifting, while also deeply saddening — that such an angry intemperate partisan corporatist has just been appointed to the highest court.  (During his job interview he blasted Democratic Senators — making it apparent that petitioners from the left were unlikely to get a fair hearing.) The court has now lost all credibility and impartiality. Justice is not 5:4.  Below I’ve saved some balanced insights from highly qualified authors from right and left. < < <  begin pastes > > >

As for “conservatism” these days, the term seems to have lost all meaning. It repudiates not only free markets and immigration, international leadership, science and the rule of law, but also the habits of mind and the norms of civil behavior that a democratic republic requires. It’s not so much that the GOP has collapsed but that anything resembling an intellectually solid conservative movement has disintegrated. These people are all about power. Kavanaugh is not an umpire but an operative able to select facts, shade truth and evade troubling data to reach a conclusion that his side wants. That’s the image of the left that conservatives used to hold. They’ve become what they loathed.”   

 Jesuits withdraw Kavanaugh nomination (K had gone to a Jesuit prep school)

Dean of Yale Law says Kavanaugh unfit to serve on court ;  says “there will be hell to pay.”

Conservative Max Boot says “Before Donald Trump, the Republican Party was a majority conservative party with a white nationalist fringe. Now it’s a white nationalist party with a conservative fringe.”  Boot’s views on Kavanaugh are revealing about this trend – excerpt from interview mentioning his new book.

An excellent book describing the high crimes of the court, by a former clerk to a federal judge.  (I’ve donated this book to the collection at Merida English Library.)  NB: there are many one-star reviews. One commenter observers that ” The statistical probability that this review was written by a troll is extremely high.”  (There was a spate of short, one-star reviews within a three day period.)

 

 

 

LESSER-KNOWN RUINS OF THE PUUC

Approaching Xkokoh

I’ve been to Uxmal several times.  I’ve visited Aké, Calakmul, Chichen Itzá, Mayapan, and more.  I’m fascinated by ancient “lost” cities.  Recently I was honored to be invited by a friend and neighbor to hike into some of the more remote sites.  It was especially delightful, due to his expertise, as he has been exploring ruins of the Puuc region (meaning: hills) for over thirty years, and knows of ruins that are remote from tourism in Yucatan.

 Stephan Merk, that neighbor in Merida, is serious about these ruins, and has written about them (see two books at top of linked page).  He organized our overnight visit chronologically, so that another friend and I would notice the evolution of the architectural styles, starting with the proto-Puuc, and transitioning all the way to the “squatters” after the population collapse, encompassing more than 500 years of masonry building practices.

Here’s a photo of our intrepid instructor, seated at a spot he has chosen as a time-study for capturing the aging of a ruin, and its observer, having collected these images seated upon this same block, at Canacruz/Chuncatzim 1, over the years :

Ruina Canacruz / Chuncatzim 1.

 

Hultun.

Above is the oldest site we visited — on the grounds of the eco-lodge where we stayed.  Just imagine exploring a smallish temple/house in the jungle that was likely built around the year 550, of the common era!  (The person in straw sombrero at top of rise is Umberto, a Mayan guide who is often available at the lodge.) 

 

Sabacche 5.

 

Chuncatzim 1.

 

Descending into a dry well (“chultun”) near Sta.Elena, Yucatan (two images).

 

Window in my very comfortable room at the lodge.

 

¿ WHO MOVED MY CHEESE ?

Expats living in Merida may be in a dither regarding what appears to be an absence of cheddar cheese at Costco.  (There is some history to such shortages there, being the major source of gratifying a taste for this northern staple, as absence of supply has happened before — often resulting in panic buying when a delivery finally arrives.)   The two major brands of cheddar that they have carried in the past :  Cabot, and Tillamook, appear to be discontinued.  Instead we now have the ersatz product depicted above.  And it has been relocated in the store to a closed chiller case, away from the open cases where genuine cheddar used to be stocked.

This block of cheese does not deserve to be called cheddar.  It is flabby, greasy, and is neither toothsome nor crumbly.  It tastes like Monterrey Jack :  bland.   I doubt it has been aged  adequately – a requirement for true cheddar.  The term “sharp” (fuerte/strong) seems deceptive.  

There may be an economic basis for the current situation :  according to a recent segment from NPR, Trump’s tariff war has earned retaliation against US dairy products from the Mexican government, assessing a 25% tariff.  (¿And who can blame this on anyone but Trump, who started the conflict?)

But it would seem that instead of passing the increased cost along to customers, Costco has decided to cheapen the product with an inferior store-branded block that is barely recognizable as cheddar.  ¿ Can’t there be room for two price levels — one based on a high-quality cheddar such as Cabot or Tillamook, and the other on an economic imitation ?  Please bring back the good stuff, Costco!  (“The second mouse gets the cheese”.)

¿How Long Can an iPhone Hold its Breath ?

 

I can’t believe that I forgot my phone was in my pocket when I went for a swim at the beach on Saturday!  But what is more incredible is that my iPhone 7+ did not drown.  I had waded out to a sandbar where friends were standing in water just above knee-high.  To get there, I had gone thru light surf that was above my waist.  The phone was submerged, perhaps for two or three minutes.  One friend noticed the rectangle in my pocket.  Horrified, I immediately pulled out my phone, surprised to notice that it was showing me the time.  But I feared it would fry any moment.  I shut it down and retreated back to the sand, where I dried it off.

When I got home, I plugged it in and noticed there was an update, which I downloaded.  That went well ; but, oddly, the phone was not charging.  I tried a different charge cable.  Nope.  Both cables kept trying to pop out, and would give me neither the lightning icon, nor the battery-charging icon, which indicate the phone is charging.  The battery was showing about 67% of charge.

Next morning I called AppleCare, and Jackie, from Memphis walked me thru various diagnostic paces.  We decided there might be something lodged in the cable socket.  So she made an appointment for me at the iStore in Altabrisa.  Yep.  Pocket fuzz had apparently become swollen and was resisting full contact between cable and battery.  The Tech’ plucked out the fuzz, and plugged it in, demonstrating that the phone was back to normal.  Wow!  Great product.  Great service.  

¿¿ AMERICAN GULAG ?? : : INTERVIEW WITH A FUN GUY

“Other side of the wall”?     Photo by MeridaGOround.com

    Excerpted below is a portion of an interview with a Mexican-American author hosted by Krista Tippett, of OnBeing.org who does a weekly podcast.  Here they discuss the border wall.  (*Liminal* means a transitional stage ; both sides of a boundary.)

MS. TIPPETT:  I feel like one thing you do — as much in your fiction as in your nonfiction, and certainly in Into the Beautiful North — is, you work with the idea of a border or a wall, not, in fact, as a hard and fast thing: as a liminal space, as a liminal zone.

MR. URREA: It is a liminal space, absolutely.

MS. TIPPETT: Right, but just to think about it that way opens up a lot of imagination.

MR. URREA: I think liminal space is where all writers go. That place of crossing, that place of pressure, of two things meeting, that’s a rich — that’s where the plankton wells up and the currents meet. And you can choose to see it in different ways. And either the border is a hideous, festering scar of oppression, horror, and violence, or it’s a fraternal space where two cultures meet and can exchange. And honestly, particularly before the narco wars, there was and there still are bastions of friendship along the border. And all you have to do is go to places near Nogales or Yuma, where kids on the Mexican side and kids on the American side play volleyball over the wall with each other.

MS. TIPPETT: Yeah, and see, we don’t hear these stories.

MR. URREA: No, you don’t. And I recently did a ballet — I didn’t. I read poems while they danced.

MS. TIPPETT: I’m imagining it.

MR. URREA: No. Me in a tutu — nah.

[laughter]

But I narrated this ballet. It was the 100th anniversary of a Stravinsky piece, which included a Faustian journey through a wasteland, where the man trying to get to safety has to make a deal with the devil, essentially. That was 100 years ago; this time, it’s people dying in the desert, making that terrible deal to survive. But when he did his other piece — his name is Steven Schick.

MS. TIPPETT: Oh, yes.

MR. URREA: He’s brilliant. I keep saying, “This guy’s…”

MS. TIPPETT: He also spent some time in Berlin, right? And that was a wall with which I had some intimacy. And I remember, still, when Michael Jackson came and did a concert right on the western side of the wall, just as things were falling apart. But the concertgoers gathered on the eastern side. It was exactly that. But one thing you point out is — so in Berlin, on the western side, the wall was painted and raucous and alive and rebellious, on the western side, where people were free. In Mexico, what do you say? In Mexico, it’s the Mexican side —

MR. URREA: It’s the reverse.

MS. TIPPETT: It’s the reverse side that’s —

MR. URREA: Well, thank God for Steven Schick. I stole it, when he was telling me it, because it was the perfect wrap-up for that piece for The Times. When you went across to the other side, he said, the Mexican side, the entire fence is an art gallery covered with paintings, sculptures, graffiti. There are ice-cream men and taco stands, and there are mariachis, and there are lovers, and there are people dancing and strolling. The American side: steel, trucks, dogs, helicopters, guns.

MS. TIPPETT: No art, no graffiti.

MR. URREA: No nothin’, and he said, “I suddenly realized that that was the Soviet side in Berlin.”

[laughter]

MS. TIPPETT: Yeah, it was. And I think you said, “Who was free? Who was free, and who was prisoner?”

MR. URREA: Yeah, what exactly is that wall for, then? Hmm.

TWO BOOKS

I’ve spent many decades wondering why people differ so about how to live together in society, and how we pick our political and social leaders.  The current US president has me utterly perplexed — especially because conservative friends (many of whom profess to be Christian) helped elect this man who is willing to punish children for the economic crimes of their border-crossing parents, who pick our food and who empty patient bedpans.       ¶¶¶¶
The author of the first of these books gives a deeply satisfying explanation.  His is a fine volume on moral pyschology, by an awakened liberal who has grown a bit more conservative, and now sees and explains the mistakes of the left.  The book is The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt (2012).  I’ve been aware of his book for several years, and remember reading an extract prior to Trump’s election.  It is written in a very accessible fashion, using readily-grasped analogies, and he summarizes each chapter at chapter’s end.  One chapter titled “The Conservative Advantage” is especially revealing.  We simply are talking past each other, for reasons he makes very clear.  ¶¶¶¶
The second book is new, and I reviewed it for Amazon.  There is a quote in this one which may hint at a promise of a more collegial future :  “What is beautiful about the ugly Mr. Trump?  Something profoundly beautiful might emerge among those who come together to defend themselves and their nation from his malignant narcissitic machinations — something so consequential that we might one day remember Trump almost fondly, seeing him as the divisive toxin that vaccinated our social immune system, helping America emerge into a higher, healthier wholeness.”  (While this may not sound collegial, it comes near the end of the book, after lengthy discussion of how to listen, and reason together.)    ¶¶¶¶
It is best to read this one as a subsequent volume to Professor Haidt’s book.  I intend to donate a copy of Haidt’s book to Mérida English Library, in the near future.  Here’s a peek at the cover of Patten’s book, and a link to my review:

Marina’s Hands-on Textile Tour : Oaxaca y Chiapas.   Rescheduled for October 14-24.

All fotos by Marina Aguirre

 

Retired now, and living in Mexico, my wife and I will be going on a hands-on tour in the Mexican highlands, focusing on textile design, in mid July.  

The tour guide is someone we have toured with in the past.  Marina  has a PhD in archaeology, and grew up in Cuernavaca MX.  (Her grandfather was also an archaeologist.)  Her tour site is linked here.

This promises to be a fine educational and cultural experience for anyone who might be inclined.  (I have no interest of gain in this mention.  My motivation for sharing this event is a bit selfish: for the tour to happen, there must be a few more adventurers.)

Anyone wishing to research the general topic would do well to examine the book Maya Threads.

 

HOME SECURITY

¿ See that little bit of screen in the upper left corner of the photo?  That’s how the home breaker will try to get in.  If you haven’t locked yourself in from the inside, that mesh will get pushed thru, or slit,  and the latch will be opened easily by an intruder, if it is not locked from within.

This has happened to several friends recently.  And the losses can be significant.  One friend had her purse stolen, and credit cards, ID’s and electronics lost — while they were listening to music in the backyard during daylight hours.  (And the intruder may even be a woman, “asking for water”.)  Don’t believe it.  Observe the face and clothing accurately.  Call the police.  Nobody let’s themself into another’s home on such false pretense. 

Merida has long been a safe and peaceful city.  But there are new folks arriving daily who do not share the local respect for others that has been so characteristic of Meridano culture.   Lock yourself in!  Hang a key near the door, but well out-of-reach, in the event that you have to exit quickly.  Then you can relax and enjoy this lovely city of peace.   

 

 

 

 

APRIL FOOLS, for Christ — a book review of THE PAGAN CHRIST

 

“BEWARE, HE WHO ENTERS HERE.”  I’m a heretic, while also a daily student of the Bible.  Jesus of Nazareth was a heretic, too, and got executed for loving too much.  I suppose it could also happen to you or me.  But you?  Well, you’ve been warned.  (If you’re weak in faith, or simply prefer that old-time religion you could still turn back.)  This book review may well rock your faith, or strengthen its foundation.

The book is by the late Anglican priest, seminary professor, and religion journalist, Tom Harpur.  It first appeared in 2004 as a best seller in Canada, and was brought out in paperback, in 2006, by another publisher, with a new subtitle:  THE PAGAN CHRIST  Is Blind Faith Killing Christianity?   I’m linking the paperback edition, as it has a LOOK INSIDE feature at Amazon. (My copy is a hardbound copy; I’m not aware of any changes beyond a subtitle.)

Yes, Easter Sunday is also April Fools day this year.   But, no joke – this is a book of major significance, even while some reviewers have tried to argue that Harpur is a Christ-denier.  You decide.  Here’s his thesis, from pp.10-13 of the hardcover edition:  “I will clearly document that there is nothing the Jesus of the Gospels either said or did—from the Sermon on the Mount to the miracles, from his flight as infant from Herod to the Resurrection itself—that cannot be shown to have originated thousands of years before, in Egyptian Mystery rites and other sacred litrugies such as the Egyptian Book of the Dead.  ¶  Everything—from the star in the east to Jesus’ walking on water, from the angel’s pronouncement to the slaughter of the innocents by Herod, from the temptation in the wilderness to the changing of water into wine—already existed in the Egyptian sources.  Egypt and its peoples had knelt at the shrine of the Madonna and Child Isis and Horus for many long centuries before any allegedly historical Mary lifted a supposedly historical Jesus in her arms. [. . .]  Keep in mind throughout that however negative—even shocking—the evidence may seem at times, a vast hope shines through it all.  The overwhelmingly positive conclusions finally reached  point toward an exhilarating new approach to faith and to a sorely needed truly spiritual Christianity in this still very new millennium. [. . .]  how the Bible is wonderfully illumined afresh, how a rational, cosmic faith not only is possible but indeed is the only thing that makes sense in our fast-changing, pluralistic world.  [ . . .] The Jesus story will come alive and strike your heart and intellect as never before.  [. . .]  Belief in the Christ within will be established as the key to personal and communal transformation.”  [emphasis mine]  

It’s not too late.  You can still turn back, but remember Lot’s wife!  And remember St Paul’s admonition (1Cor3:8):  If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.

May Christ be made alive for you, to you, in you, thru you, today – or on Easter Sunday, (Fool’s Day) April 1st, 2018.  Blessings to all.

POST SCRIPT:  Harpur argues that Christ precedes Jesus of Nazareth, who  did not exist, according to Harpur, which seems a logically impossible position to argue. (Try proving “there are no unicorns” and you will spend the rest of your career hunting for proof of this absence.)   Jesus said I AM the light of the world; and he also also said you are the light of the world.  The point here is that we are awakening to who we are.  And this awakening is not exclusively invested in a single individual.