O, how I do miss Merida English Library!  (It’s “open” for curbside borrowing during pandemic.)  I’m so grateful to the staff and volunteers for all they’re doing to keep the lights on. And the book, seen above, is one of these projects.  This mini review will not be about the recipes — but rather, mostly just a shout-out for you to buy your copy :  $500 pesos.  (I bought mine at Slow Food : Saturdays @ Reforma near Colon, 9am – 1pm).  But I can’t resist offering a few observations on the book’s production, as I have a degree in graphic design, and have published two books.

First, some matters of practicality:  slick, clay-based papers are expensive and don’t do well in kitchens, due to greasy fingers, etc.  (Mostly, such papers are chosen for better reproduction of photos, of which there are none inside the book.)  Second, grey type – especially in a light font –is ok for ads, but not well suited for busy activities such as cooking :  Readability! — especially for older eyes.  Third, as there are 200 recipes, it would have been good to provide page numbers in the index next to the names of the cooking-contributors.  (I looked and looked for my recipe, a hearty soup or stew, which we always serve as a main dish;  I finally found it under Side Dishes.)  

But these are all minor details.  The main thing is to keep MEL’s doors open, which the cookbook group has surely aided.  But now its up to us to do our part by promoting and buying the book.  It’s you’re move, dear Reader.  

Below I’ve included the recipe which I contributed (p.133) — for Beans and Greens aka “Pasta Fazool” from Buffalo’s west side — with a few minor corrections (eg: in the book, for ingredients I listed six large cloves of garlic, whereas in the recipe, itself, I call for 6 teeth, which is correct. Plus a few other details, such as using only one liter of stock, for a thicker dish.)  


BEANS & GREENS, (“pasta fazool”) 
This is a hearty dish I’ve developed over the years, inspired by an old Italian joint on Buffalo’s west side, Santasiero’s, on Niagara Street;  (“fazool” is a corruption of the Italian word for beans, fagiolo.)  They always served hot yellow banana peppers on top of this heaping bowl of pasta, which I replace with some salsa. 
Ingredients :
1 jar of white beans, 400g net, as cooked cannelinis, locally called alubias blancas cocoidas.
1 large tub of baby spinach (or other mixed greens such as kale, escarole, arugala, etc)
Garlic — at least six large teeth.
Olive oil, to cover bottom of wok or kettle generously.
200g of tiny pasta elbows (here sized as #2)
1 liter of chicken stock.
As a Mexican version, add 1 small can (425g) of Campbells Caldo Tlalpeño soup (a spicy sopa w/ garbanzos and carrots) optional
Some spicy salsa (Costeña taquera, habanero, etc) or your favorite fried chili peppers, to taste
Large white onion, or leek, or other such allium.
Some dry sherry or brandy, if available.

In sauce pan,  add 1-liter of chicken stock; add one whole garlic tooth, smashed, peeled. Maybe add some water. Bring to boil, and simmer.  
Add pasta when liquid is hot, stirring a bit to prevent sticking. Remove the garlic tooth when pasta is almost done, al dente.
In wok or large kettle, add enough olive oil to cover bottom. 
To the hot oil, add quartered onion, coarsely chopped, to simmer slowly till onions are sorta transparent. 
Next, add to the wok, five tooths of garlic, smashed, peeled, chopped coarsely – but don’t burn the garlic! 
Add lots of greens to the wok – covering, to wilt. (They will cook down dramatically.) Add some water after adding the greens, to help wilting with steam.
When well wilted, add the pasta elbows and hot stock to the wok. 
Add beans and some of the thick bean juice to the wok, mashing some of them.
Add the can of sopa tlalpeño to wok to simmer a bit.
Add salsa to wok, to taste, but don’t over do it.
Add some apple vinegar or blonde sherry vinegar, to taste.
Add optional splash of brandy or dry sherry.
Provide additional oil & vinegars and salsa, at table.  
(Makes about six generous servings.)



“If the Democratic Party wants to stand with anarchists, agitators, rioters, looters and flag burners, that is up to them. But I as your president will not be part of it. The Republican Party will remain the voice of the patriotic heroes who keep America safe.”

— Donald Trump, Aug. 28, 2020

Photo by Liz O’Neil   (fair use)


Dear fellow citizens, across the aisle:

Up until a few days ago there were about 150 elected Republicans who were on record saying they would object to accepting electors supporting the victory of Joe Biden.  (Congress can object on evidence-based cause – none of which has been found – but Congress does not have the authority to choose which electors various states send to the electoral college, but rather, only to count them and tally the count, naming the victor.) Congress is legislative, not judicial; they are not entitled to go on a fishing expedition to look for fraud, which has already failed, in courts.

Yesterday a mob sacked our capitol.  This mob was invited, incited and sent by a mobster.  Personally, I want to practice neighborliness with all fellow citizens.  (correction:  Yet, CNN reports that a total of 121 elected Republicans objected to the electors presented for Arizona; and 138 for Pennsylvania, after the capitol was sacked! )  If you, dear citizen, voted for this lying mobster in the General Election, I invite you to ponder the quote at the top which now debunks any claim of law and order by said mobster:
If these “patriotic heroes” mentioned by the mobster were acting on credible evidence, I would praise them, too!  But we must protect our community from the lame claim that the election was “stolen”.  If you believe so, please consider the many lawsuits, all of which were rejected by our courts for lack of credible evidence.  (Many of these suits were rejected by courts in Republican states!)  No court anywhere saw evidence of significant voter fraud which could have effected the outcome of the election.  But we did see a brazen attempt by the mob’s Don to demand that the top election official in Georgia (a Republican) “find” about 12,000 votes to overturn a certified election which had been counted three times.  
“Truth by assertion” — merely saying something is so, doesn’t make it so.  Saying “I won” over and over is nonsense if the votes don’t add up, not even if the words “in a landslide” are added to the claim.  Where is the evidence?  Even this Mobster’s own Attorney General has admitted there is no such evidence, when resigning.  Do you really want a mobster running America?  (The Mobster’s consigliere, Rudy Giuliani, has called for “trial by combat”!)
     Neighbor, if you still believe this election was stolen from Mr Trump, you are a Banana Republican in need of an awakening to reality.   If so, please get some help.  Our community needs you back again, in your right mind.


Naturalist Jim Conrad, photo by MeridaGOround, in Yucatan, 2012

I’ve written about this modern-day Thoreau several times here at my searchable blog.  For a guy with such big feet, he’s got the smallest carbon footprint of anybody I’ve ever met. His austere lifestyle is to walk lightly on our planet, honoring Nature’s beauty, without trampling.  

Naturalist Jim spent a few days at our home in Merida several months ago, after decamping from a rustic ranch in Tepaká, Yucatán, on his way to new digs at a remote eco-lodge in Texas, Frio Cielo Ranch, where he is resident naturalist.  During  winter solstice he released his latest project,  NATURE-STUDY MEDITATION: Mother Nature as Therapist in Anxious Times.

This ebook is downloadable for free.  And he’s now offering ZOOM conversations with the naturalist, individually and to groups, where he gladly entertains nature questions, clickable at a block on his home page, .  

Jim tells me that his recent foray into FaceBook is over, as they have foreclosed his access to his fb account, apparently wanting money from him since traffic at his noncommercial site has become busy enough that they seem to want a cut of his action, which is basically zero, as he subsists modestly on donations. (He speculates that perhaps this increased traffic is due to home-schooling during pandemic.)  

His latest ebook is somewhat autobiographical, as he interacts with posts from his past, while sharing his approach to meditating on nature, and our place in it.  It’s instructive without being preachy. He teaches how taxonomy works to help us better understand nature; and he explores mental realms that stimulate curiosity, and bring peace and relaxation.  


¿ Who knew ?  (they sure didn’t tell us in school!)  —  In 1659, Massachusetts made it illegal to celebrate Christmas—a ban that lasted for the next 22 years!  Some religionistas just don’t know how to party; maybe their puritan long-underwear was too itchy?  (The word celebrate comes from Latin, celebrare; to honor.)   ¶  Below are a sampling of some of our Christmas cards celebrating love, family, community, gratitude – so much joy over the years.

Christmas card ~1978?

Christmas card ~1979?

Christmas card ~1988?

Christmas card ~1989?

Christmas card, 1994

Christmas card, 1997

Christmas card, 1999

Christmas card, 2001

Christmas card, 2002

Christmas card, 2004. Later, I went digital. More recent greetings can  be seen by btowsing December entries.




JESÚS and the JOURNALIST . . .

photo by Alberto Morales (fair use)

Courage is an amazing quality, often extending to include self-sacrifice, while facing formidable risk.  We can find it in the lives of nurses and doctors during this pandemic; firemen and police responding to deadly events; even an occasional politician risking loss of a job during re-election, while refusing all campaign contributions — the late and rare Senator, William Proxmire, comes to mind.  The “selfish gene” concept has trouble with altruism, but it is evident that some humans value the species above their own lives, or so it seems.  

Well, perhaps every act is selfish, in some sense.  We make our choices based on what we value.  If I value stability or liberty or community more than life itself, I might sacrifice my life for my values, “selfishly”.

I now ask you to forgive me for the trick I’ve played in writing the headline, above.  This truly is a Mexican story.  But the unaccented Jesus I will mention (briefly) is Jesus of Nazareth.  (I didn’t want readers to decamp upon suspecting a religious theme, which this is not.)  The Mexican angle is about the killing of a Mexican journalist, Regina Martínez.  But both laid down their lives for their friends.

I have no idea if she was Christian, but it seems to me that she shared some of that love for community exhibited by Jesus of Nazareth, by risking her life for what she valued. While I have no ability nor inclination to evaluate evidence of her killing, the facts tell us of her relentless pursuit of truth about corrupt governance, at considerable risk to herself. That particular governor was found guilty of corruption (but not murder) and is now in prison.  The practice of investigative journalism in Mexico, outside of a war zone, is one of the riskiest professions in the world.  Let us be thankful for self-sacrificing heroes!  Without a free press, community gets run by the worst of the tough guys.  

In Plato’s Republic, Socrates asks a local tough guy this question: What is justice?  “Mr T” answers:  justice is whatever a tough guys says it is.  Through further questioning Socrates manages to dismantle T’s response so thoroughly that it yields one of the most famous blushes in all of literature.  

We should all blush for failing to question duplicitous authoritarians, hiding our cowardice by looking away. In a letter to Thomas Mercer, Edmund Burke wrote this: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Yellow Christ, by Paul Gauguin


Arrazola wood carvings, Oaxaca

While we all await the return of safe touring, I invite you to encounter the enthusiasm for Mexico of a recently-minted PhD in archaeology, Dra.Marina Aguirre.  I’ve enjoyed traveling with Marina on several of her well-researched tours, especially her signature tour starting from the Olmec stone heads at the La Venta sculpture park in Villahermosa,


Olmec stone head, ~25 tons.

thru the Lacandon jungle, where we stayed at an eco lodge and visited the ruins at Yaxchilán by canoe on the Usamacinta river, and then onward by bus to ruins at Bonampak and Palenque, before spending several days in San Cristóbal da las Casas, Chiapas, exploring the folk arts and textiles of that Mayan region.

Marina’s ebooks are an excellent way to sharpen your appetite for the robust culture here.  She knows her stuff, having done field work to locate the characters, talents and stories that make Mexico so compelling.  There are three ebooks in her collection, covering archaeology ruins; mural and plastic arts; and folk and textile arts.  They are pointing you to future adventures. And a visit to her blog shows some of her past destinations, which are possible repeats.  (The caliber of fellow travelers was astonishing.) She often visits artists’ workshops where folk art is being made. Details of these sites are shared in her books.

Ruins at Mitla, Oaxaca. photo by Teobert Maler, 1875


Masks of tecuanes, at the mask museum


Ceramic dolls which model Fridha Kahlo outfits


Guachimontone, Jalisco



I’ve recently finished reading a page-turner of a tome, a biography of two adversaries, titled FATAL DISCORD: Erasmus, Luther, and the Fight for the Western Mind, by Michael Massing. This author is a masterful researcher and storyteller.  Anyone with an interest in the history of ideas would find this book lively. The book has range and depth, across empires, popes, kings, wars, and rivalries.  At its center is a fight over how to read the Bible in it’s many fragments, collected in Latin and Greek (and more). 

Decades ago at a nondenominational divinity school, when I encountered the puzzle of reading the Bible in early languages, I dropped out.  Today the online tools are amazing.  Here’s an example from my own study:

Rocky, Rocco in Latin or Italian, is a tough-guy name.  But petros, in Greek, from which we get the name Peter, not so much.  Think Pebble.  (Jesus was yanking Simon’s tail, by giving him a diminutive nickname.)  Yet Peter is thought of as a brawny fisherman, the foremost disciple of Jesus – the leader of the pack – but the church which Jesus reportedly built upon Pete’s name is feminine, petra, bedrock. (Why are churches run mostly by men?) Enjoy the word-play below. Link note: get past registering by clicking the tiny line “not this time” in lower left, then scroll to v.18 and click the blue appearances of Peter and rock in Greek and English.

¿What fun, no?  I’ve been reading the Bible since I was seven, by free choice.  I own and use many translations and paraphrased renderings.  One became a personal favorite a few decades ago, The Message, done by an exciting translator, Eugene Peterson, a language scholar and Presbyterian minister who helped his congregants develop their spiritual lives thru translating the text with them.  His publisher promoted their release as Read the Bible again for the first time.  It was that fresh. 

Language is a living thing.  It goes stale when bottled or canned, as can be seen in the Latin mass, the Vulgate, the King James Version (which I love and use almost daily, reading between its lines by unpacking the Hebrew and Greek). 

One of the exciting things about Massing’s book is that it reports the histories of Bible publishing, often  as a contest of wills between many powerful players, which became a deadly contest with beheadings, burnings at the stake, murders, and social upheaval – all over the meaning of words.  Hot stuff!

And it continues yet today.  We have shootings in churches, assassinations of politicians, gynecologists and ministers, and fierce fights over how to read our own laws.  The idea that a document can be “frozen” and understood using a mindset that was in the heads of our Founding Fathers, imperils the understanding of our Constitution.  This approach to interpreting the law of the land, contrived by Justice Scalia, is thoroughly debunked by the dean of a prominent law school, in his slim but powerful volume WE THE PEOPLE. 

How to read is so basic to being a modern human.  A favorite author who became a born-again Christian as a teen, went to two evangelical colleges, got a PhD from Princeton Theological Seminary where he started to question his understanding of the Bible, and today no longer identifies as Christian (but continues to study the Bible, and write books on biblical topics), is one of the most popular professors on his campus in the Bible belt.  His many accessible and compelling books on translating the Bible can be seen at Amazon.  Misquoting Jesus is a good place to start. 

Conclusion: we are all translators of our encounter with reality!  Is your “version” making sense for you today?

NOTE: Here’s a link to a translating project I did,  gathering together the ethical teachings of Jesus, including the “sermon on the mount”.  And here’s a more recent link to a book about Thomas Jefferson’s pursuit of the ethical teachings of Jesus.


Friend Manolo has been printing, each week since March, numbered editions of what he is calling The Toilet Paper Story – LINO CUTS, and yes, he is printing on toilet paper, of course.  When he first heard that people were hoarding toilet paper at the start of the pandemic, he started his editions.  And now he has sent me news that Austria is printing postage stamps on toilet paper!  (Artists are so often ahead of the curve.)  Stamp collectors may want to collect versions of both sorts.  The artist can be reached by email, here: printandbake AT gmail DOT com. The prints below, some of my favorites, are floated on card stock and sleeved in plastic, (which I removed to take photos).


¿ Are you still the person you were when you got your first credit card, signed your first loan, bought your first car. or registered to vote, still writing exactly like you did back then?  That person no longer exists; and that signature surely has changed. Indeed, it was never consistent!   EXAMPLEA few weeks ago I found my social security card, which was signed when I was 16.  It looks nothing like my current signature.  Yet these lawyers are contending they have the vision to detect an early self from a current self, and cancel your ballot?  Gimme a break!  

I won’t argue that there has never been voter fraud.  Such would be a silly assertion.  But when lawyers and politicians insist that they are qualified to be paid big money to evaluate signatures of voters, it’s time to throw down the gloves.  This is a junk argument that they, on both sides of the aisle, have floated to pay their cronies big money.  This is sophistry at its worst.  The public should insist that it receive summary rejection.

The public needs to say NO to these magicians who are perpetrating a scam on the us.  This “authority” is utterly naked.  There is nothing scientific about signature studies. It is alchemy, inventing gold from mud.  And the gameboys are laughing all the way to the bank.  No matter who wins, the public is fleeced by fraudsters floating specious arguments, for cash.  It is time for the public to rebel against such nonsense.  And the people, who are governed by the states, under election law, have the authority to do so.  But they would need to rise up in protest, striking, which is a right under the First Amendment. We should not allow any ballots to be rejected for signature complaints, without additional proof of fraud.  Many red states have already purged voters without evidence, as reported in this book, by journalist Greg Palast. He cites a wholesale pattern of injustice, for example: there being two people with the same name, that it is someone voting twice.  What!  And with this absurd logic half million voters have already been removed!  Could you be one?






The POSTMASTER GENERAL has a package for Don-the-Con.  (He’s a millionaire whose “former” company is a postal contractor, and has already donated more than $600,000 to Trump’s campaign.)  But this couldn’t be a kickback, could it?  The “package” is DELAY; and the campaign contributions are a serious conflict of interest, as explained: “The idea that you can be a postmaster general and hold tens of millions of dollars in stocks in a postal service contractor is pretty shocking,” said Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, who resigned in 2017.  

But who’s watching?  Surely not the Postal Board of Governors, who were all appointed by that guy with the red tie, above.  Do you care that your vote, arriving late due to “postal delays” might not count because a few rich guys get to vote with cash as well as ballots?

UPDATE: (Wed.Nov. 4th)  A federal judge was so angered by the US Postal Service’s inability to sweep its facilities for ballots yesterday afternoon, following a court order to do so, that he said he will want answers under oath from Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.