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.



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.



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 that 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.  


“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.


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.”


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.


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.



¿ 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.  





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 duckduckgo.com, 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 !