SCHOOL SHOOTINGS: An Open Letter to Congress & Voters

by Sage Stossel, Atlantic Monthly Online


An open letter to my Congressman, and yours:

I am a veteran who risked my life for four years defending this nation.  I own a few guns, which is my right under our Constitution.  But rights come saddled with duties.  

You, sir, have not served; but you do have a duty of care to prevent harm.  Cowards in Congress of both parties have consistently shirked their duty to defend school children and harmless citizens, instead favoring their own jobs — carrying water for the gun lobby.  You are serving yourselves. 

Yes, Congress is full of selfish cowards.  You obstruct all manner of reasonable control, enabling lunatics to buy assault weapons and “bump stocks” which have no utility in sport hunting.  This is now a target issue for me.  Any elected official who accepts money from gun lobbies will earn my wrath at the polls.  In November, outraged voters will outnumber those defending a “right” for crazies to buy assault weapons.

Be warned.  This ends now, and here’s how :  Reasonable citizens are watching.  It’s easy to learn who has accepted such “campaign bribes” on the internet.  

Stop selling your votes.  Protect the harmless.  Defend our nation.  We promise that we will no longer be governed by cowards! 

If you agree, dear Reader, please share this message. (You also might find the links stored in COMMENTS to be of interest.)

by Nick Anderson, Washington Post Writers Group, 20 Feb 2018

Dear Google, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Faces from FLICKR

Dear Google,

Clearly, you don’t know me.  This morning I was briefly tempted to leave a comment on a respected blog, but was required to login by any number of social media; but I don’t belong.  As I rarely use your search engine, and availed myself many years ago of your kind offer to expunge myself from your files during a brief one-time amnesty, I decided to google myself, in an attempt to learn who you think I am.  I clicked the photos of your topmost collection. The result was hilarious!  

Apparently you think I’m :  a professor, an astronaut, a president, an actor, a woman, a black man, an asian, a prisoner . . . .  Like I said, you don’t know me.  (Well, there were a few photos of me in your collection, and a few more  which I had taken — of other people.)  And there was a public record from a death certificate filed by me.  But your album was so saturated with false faces as to be ridiculous.  

Yes, information wants to be free, but I want to remain free of information (unless I’m studying our condition, thanks).   But this is why I use, which never tracks – to foil your noseiness.  So, please STOP STALKING ME.  Just go away.  You’re very scary.  Or just look in the mirror, googling yourself, Google employee(s).  Perhaps you’ll notice that this ends badly.  If you don’t believe me, just watch this clip from youtube of Disney’s Sorcerer’s Apprenticewhere Mickey teaches a broom to carry water, but fails to provide an OFF switch.  (No ads; you can safely fast forward to 50-second mark of 2:28 minute clip.)  Is this how Noah’s flood began?  

A new book, Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet, about the deep state brings the problem out of the closet.  It’s like “The Matrix” — controlling freedom of speech, and freedom to associate.  Yep, Google dear, you’re in bed with the goons who bust heads and seed paranoia among fellow citizens, just like the old Soviet KGB, spying on everybody.  ¿¿ Don’t be evil ??  Indeed !


Residential Water Treatment in Merida


Flickr Foto by Jose Jaf

Recently there was a lecture hosted at Merida English Library in which a highly-educated and experienced water engineer, born in Merida many years ago, explained the alarming decline of Merida’s pristine underground water.  In early December there was also a major article in the newspaper, Diario de Yucatan, on this same topic.  (The Diario article is presently posted on the bulletin board at Merida English Library.)

Most expats and locals buy large bottles of drinking water, like those pictured above, delivered to the home. But other water for showering, brushing teeth, laundry, washing dishes, is best not brought home from a polluted aquifer, or contaminated waterlines.  The engineer explained that the e.coli count here was now extreme — beyond the ability to be easily treated for piping into homes.

I’m a country boy; I’m not squeamish, having lived on a farm for many years.  We had wells.  I learned how to manage water from shallow wells to make it suitable for drinking.  This article will address water treatment only for normal washing purposes — not for drinking.  There are additional technologies for processing water for drinking.  (Hey, the astronauts process human urine to make it fit for drinking!)  But a cost-effective approach for water treatment by homeowners in Merida would be simply to buy drinking water, and treat the rest, as described below.

Most people quickly mention chlorine when talking about reducing bacteria in water.  That’s ok for swimming pools, rinsing the body immediately afterwards, but it’s not suitable for household use, as chlorine forms strongly-toxic trihalomethanes after contacting organic compounds in water.  Large water treatment facilities do use chlorine, but they also use huge charcoal filters to remove toxins after treatment. A healthy approach for residential (non-potable) use is to kill bacteria using ultra-violet light, thus saving the cost of charcoal treatment to guard against bad effects from chlorine.

I used u-v light on our farm, at our previous address in USA ;  and I’ve recently done so here at our residence in Merida.  It’s not difficult.  I wrote an Amazon review of the product I used up north, – buying the same brand again for our home here in Merida.  (Our unit here is smaller, being the S2Q-PA model, as our demand is lower ; we aren’t using charcoal, as we’re not drinking municipal water.  Charcoal is great at removing industrial chemicals and improving flavor, but is not effective to remove bacteria.)

Any plumber can install such units.  The instructions of this brand are written in English, Spanish and French.  The product is made in Canada, where the brand is named Viqua.  In US the same product is called Sterilight.  I bought this new one from Amazon Mexico, where it is called Viqua.  The photo below is what it looks like installed.  The u-v bulb is long, varying in length by the capacity of the unit.  All units need bulb-replacement after 365 days.  (Be sure the installer allows enough clearance to slide the bulb out — double the length of the unit.)  The electronic control counts down from 365 days, and sounds a tone when a new bulb is needed. (The tone can be silenced for a time, allowing a grace period, but will return if you haven’t replaced the bulb when you should.) Also, I suggest using a surge protector on the power supply to protect the device.

I had my water tested on the farm before and after installation, as we were drinking from the well.  The device if effective.  During installation it’s important to do a one-time chloro treatment of household waterlines and tanks to purge bacteria from the system downstream of the u-v light, which should then prevent regrowth of cultures. NB: if you have a pressurized system or hidraulico  (heavier tubing), you may not see the light from the unit thru the pipes.  Not to worry. (We have a gravity system with thinner tubing, and therefore the light shows thru.)After installing, you can shower, and brush your teeth in peace.



How to read “the Christmas stories”

Flickr photo by Sara

I love good stories.  I love to read them and think about them. So, I was distressed when, in grad’ school, a teaching assistant suggested I read a book titled How to Read a Book.  ¿Did he think I was illiterate?  (I complied, of course.)  And maybe I learned something about reading between the lines, and asking hard questions of the text.

So forgive me if I don’t deliver on my headline.  I’m not inclined to tell anyone how to read a story.  But I’m not afraid to ask hard questions, such as:  If you had just delivered you first child (in winter) how many miles would you be willing to walk to have the child surgically blessed, eight days after giving birth?  (Speedbump ahead: I will be questioning the text, too, as good questions are the beginning of wisdom.)

My friend Steve over at SurvivingYucatan blog has put up some interesting thoughts on the nativity accounts — so you can blame him if you don’t like my questions!  I’m not trying to be provocative, but rather, introspective.  Hey, words are slippery.  If we take them too literally we are likely to fool ourselves.  Group-think can put us into a ditch, fast!  (A famous thinker said so.)  Now, storytellers often embroider the truth to help make it memorable.  And well-told stories can be truer and more useful  than mere facts, if they are retained and applied.

So, back to my question: how far?  A good storyteller wants us to see the story in all its glory, even if it may not have happened exactly as told. Remember now, you have (or your wife has) just given birth.  Are you really gonna walk 90 miles from Bethlehem of Galilee, which is very close to Nazareth at 19 road miles (NB: details can be vexing); or, all the way to Bethlehem of Judea, near Jerusalem  ~68 miles as the crow flies / 163± kilometers – with a newborn, in winter, to have your 8-day old child circumcised in the Temple at Jersualem?  (Bethlehem Ephrata simply means “fruitful”.)  Yes, this is what “Hollywood” wants you to see, but it is much more likely that you are practical and rational, and that you will have this important event performed at home or in a local synagogue in Bethlehem of Galilee.  But wait, you say — my kid is super human!  Well, maybe we should ponder the verse that says that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature got smarter as he got older and taller, as we all should, and most of us do.

 “But what about the tax and the census?” you say.  Yes, a convenient ruse to force them to travel to the area of the Temple for “the big scene”, but unlikely – according to the records of the time. Again, the storyteller, Luke, is trying to help us remember — but we also recall being lied to about Santa (which probably didn’t do much harm) — instead perhaps teaching us something about understanding stories, and adults. (If you lost your faith in the nature of experience because of Santa, maybe you never had any?) But even if there had been such a census, Mary would not have been required to appear.  ¿So what’s Luke’s point regarding this census? I think he wanted to establish for us that Joseph was a descendant of King David – a good point.  

Am I eroding the credibility of the Bible?  No.  I read it daily.  For me, it’s a blessing.  It helps me think about big issues.  And I like to read about the Bible, too.  There are some really good writers who have spent their lives studying this book of books.  I’m reading one now which has me excited all over again:  Rabbi Jesus AN INTIMATE BIOGRAPHY.  

The author, Bruce Chilton, is a professor of ancient languages and a leading expert on the language of Jesus:  Aramaic.  He is also an Anglican priest. And he’s a superb storyteller.  But beware.  He may rock your boat, or rearrange your furniture.  So, if you prefer your nativity accounts tailored for nap-time, please don’t go there.  But if you want a plausible account of the factors which caused Jesus to take up his role on the world stage, I can promise you an exciting biography.  It’s a very Jewish story about a devoutly Jewish guy — a country boy who knew something deep about purity and integrity and honesty and peace and compassion and justice and . . .

And a blessed Christmas season is upon us all, once again. Hey, thanks for this unspeakable gift!


UPDATE : excerpt from The Mystic’s Christmas by John Greenleaf Whittier:

“But now, beyond the things of sense,
Beyond occasions and events,
I know, through God’s exceeding grace,
Release from form and time and space.

“I listen, from no mortal tongue,
To hear the song the angels sung;
And wait within myself to know
The Christmas lilies bud and blow.

“The outward symbols disappear
From him whose inward sight is clear;
And small must be the choice of days
To him who fills them all with praise!

“Keep while you need it, brothers mine,
With honest zeal your Christmas sign,
But judge not him who every morn
Feels in his heart the Lord Christ born!”



Flickr Photo by Draw the Line

¿ Would you risk a long prison term to save the planet ?

Well, even if you wouldn’t, there’s a story which inspires hope — intentionally confronting the law and power by turning the tables on Big Carbon, at trial, for endangering life on Earth.  The drama of real life, beyond mere entertainment!


“Too Fat to Fly”     Flickr foto by Michael Zamora

As a serious, retired, organic gardener, I’m cautious about most genetic engineering, opposing it.  But here comes a work-around which should save lives and reduce suffering, in a way which I feel should be fairly considered.  This approach is back in the news, now that it has received FDA approval.  It got favorable exposure last year at Atlantic Monthly. Back then I posed a powerful question to fellow organic gardeners and ecologists:  ¿ Are you an organic fundamentalist ?   Nature has been genetically engineering itself forever.  If we emulate her by following her lead, we can tame the wild without destroying it.  ¿ Perhaps our mosquito neighbors would appreciate being healed of carrying killer strains, and being hated ?

!! REFUGEES !! (We’re all immigrants)

Imagine being homeless. AP photo/Giannis Papanikos. USnews&world report

¿ What’s left of your life, carried on your back!

“A government that is strong because it is free, and confident because it is just, has noting to fear in granting refuge to exiles.”  

~ALEXANDER von HUMBOLDT:  Personal Narrative… [p.158 Penguin Classics paperback, 1995]

19:33   When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong.  34 The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.


Forest fire photo by Stuart Palley/EPA, via The Guardian

I was taught to be a good scout, leaving the campsite better than we found it. It perplexes me that many friends and neighbors, especially those terming themselves Christian, are in such deep denial about “climate change”.  Yes, change is a constant — but when we blithely persist in contributing to dangerous change – risky behavior – while denying its reality, or accepting any personal responsibility whatsoever, we become a thorny part of the problem rather than seeking a solution.  The First Rule of Holes is to stop digging, said the late journalist from Texas, Molly Ivins. 

FULL DISCLOSURE :  I was born into a wealthy society, into a  nation which is one of the largest polluters on the planet, and I have some habits common to this social group, such as driving a car, and buying stuff.  I’m an addict who has tried to minimize my habit, mostly failing.  But I recognize that humans are a social species; and when we work together we can do great things.  Yet the deniers among us don’t want to fix this polluting habit.  They don’t want to work together.  They seem to prefer division, and selfishness.  Like so many addicts who refuse to confess, they say hands off !  Don’t take my “dope”! Don’t tax me to heal my choking, life-threatening problem.  We got no problem.  It’s all FAKE!

Well, curb your dogma before it bites you, or someone you love!  Two states, Texas and Florida, are famous for electing officials who refuse most efforts to address pollution problems that such deniers say don’t exist. Yet citizens of these states  expect 100’s of billions of dollars in handouts to bail them out of disasters resulting from their own negative mindsets.  Now, a problem can’t be solved until it is recognized and defined.  Such groups need tough love, not handouts.  (Indeed, such groups often use this same argument against making social welfare handouts.)  

¿ Ah, but disaster is different ?   No, we reap what we sow. Pollute the atmosphere — reap the whirlwind.  Suffering Job learned this lesson the hard way, insisting that he had been a good boy.  Well, goodboy theology won’t cut it. This evil problem can’t be solved by continuing to pollute God’s creation. We become the problem when we argue for more permissiveness, libertine lifestyles in which we are allowed to pollute to our hearts’ content, more “freedom” from paying the costs of selfishness.  Self-justification stinks. Wake up and smell the stench of this arrogance, America!  We all need to look into the sacred mirror to learn what Job learned, which is only the beginning. (I encourage you to keep reading by clicking the next chapter, chapter 41; and 42 – they’re short.)

If you, dear reader, are truly interested in learning, I invite you to examine the climate in a humble fashion, scientifically – “learnedness” is not required, but humility is a huge help. First let’s notice this:  when air (our atmosphere) gets warmer, it holds more water –  lot’s more, so that a “500-year flood” might happen every five years, or sooner!  Not fake!  There are examples! – see below.

Hungry to learn?  Let me link you to a book review jointly written by a paleo-climatologist (somebody who studies evidence left by ancient weather events) and by another climate scientist.

Together we can leave Planet Earth a better place to camp.  All together now :  I am a carbon addict.  I need my neighbor’s help (and I need to help my neighbor, who is also a carbon addict) to break this evil addiction, so together we can save our community.  

No, I’m not blaming the victim ; we all need to wake up. Thanks for sharing my blog, and/or the link to the book review.  





¡¡ Nice kitty !! photo work of Cherie Pittillo

Copyrighted photo by Cherie Pittillo

Having spent much of my career in the photographic industry, I’m truly in awe of the work of this woman.  If readers of this blog are not familiar with Cherie’s work I invite you to visit her column at Yucatan Times. 

For your further enjoyment, here are two well-told nonfiction books which might enhance your appreciation of wild nature, both in the collection at Merida English Library:

Secrets of the Talking Jaguar   Memoirs from the Living Heart of a Mayan Village, by Martin Prectel

Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice   An Ethnobotanist Searches for New Medicines in the Rain Forest, by Mark J. Plotkin





SOLAR ENERGY : The Sun Shines in Merida

Engineers Larry and David of Boltzman Solar on our roof.

We’ve recently become a solar home, and I’ll now share this very positive experience with you.  With abundant sunshine, and the ability to export power to the utility grid, thus bypassing the storage problem of batteries which presently do not recover the cost of investment, it now makes moral and economic sense to reduce participation in the carbon economy.  The return-on-investment is probably about four to five years, as long as a hurricane doesn’t smash the panels.

We are generating about 20 kwh per day, which is more than we use.  As we’ve never run the air conditioners in the past, we can now do so without breaking into the high-rate bracket — while enjoying some cooler air in the bedroom at night, if we wish.  (We’ve only done this once so far, but had to sleep with a quilt to fend off the chill.)

Production chart kept by the inverter’s communication package. The blank day is       when we were shut down, awaiting our new bi-directional meter from CFE.  The lowest days where very cloudy — one being tropical storm Franklin.

The inverter we selected is a German device made by Siemens (SMA).  Many folks are going with micro-inverters which are built into each panel, and reside on the roof.  I decided against this approach, as inverting (modifying the current from DC to AC, prior to delivery to the utility) is a substantial portion of the investment.  I’m not comfortable with having the entire investment outdoors.  And an additional benefit of our chosen  inverter is that it is the first of its class to allow homeowners to draw some power for the home, if the grid is down — like after a storm.  (Micro-inverters can’t do this, to my knowledge.) Of course, this is only possible during daylight hours. (It can’t run a fridge overnight, of course.) And the amount of power available would depend upon the amount of sunshine — enough to run some fans, charge phones and laptops; but probably not enough to start pumps.

Here’s what a bright shiny day looks like. Our system is roughly 4000w. And here are some additional details saved by the monitor:


I can access the communications package from anywhere by phone to monitor the system.  Our chosen brand and size of solar panels, Trina 320w, were on hand here in Merida at Excel Solar, which is a supplier to the trade, not to residential customers. (I’m grateful to Alejandro Cauich of Excel for his explanations, and kind assistance.)   These are tier one panels, meaning they are rated for commercial installation by a utility.  (There are plenty of less efficient panels on the market.)  Ratings for various panels can be compared and studied online.

I interviewed three solar firms before selecting Juan Pablo Lopez’ team at Boltzmann Solar.  I really enjoyed working with them.  I already speak the dialect known as alternative energy, having installed a wind generator at our farm up north, as well as speaking some Spanish.  And their team speaks English.  It was a good fit.  And I’m very confident that the panels are well-anchored and will not blow off the roof.  (The big concern is flying trash during high wind — not sure what to do yet on this topic.)

Juan Pablo Lopez and David at work.