¿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.  


“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 !


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.




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!”