MIAMI EXCURSION

Miami International Airport terminal, looking out upon world flags.

It’s been well-over two years since we’ve flown anywhere.  I had personal business in US so we booked a two-hour flight on AA to Miami, which makes direct transits in both directions each afternoon, arriving in Miami at 6:30pm and in Merida about 3:30pm.  International travel is still taxing, but at least we didn’t have to arise at 4am!

MetroMover cars service the downtown, free. (No mask. No ride.)

Miami’s rail system is impressive.  Their transit system, MetroRail, got us from the airport to within a short walk of our hotel.  Very affordable!  Monday thru Friday for $22.50 per person for the work-week, using prepaid cards bought all at once from a vending machine —  a significant savings over buying one ride at a time.  (There are plenty of transit workers ready to explain how to transact.)  The MetroMover, seen in the photo above, shuttled us around downtown for free, no cards needed.  MetroRail requires prepaid cards at the gate. Masks are required of all passengers on all transit systems in Miami.

We stayed at a dignified older hotel which has been smartly restored: the EuroStar Langford Miami.  Well located, on SE 1st Street. Well managed.  Comfortable.  Dining nearby ranges from Whole Foods salad bar, to Boulud Sur.  We enjoyed our first poke bowl (think Asian-version of Chipotle Mexican Grill, at OG Poke, on SE 1st.)  We also enjoyed a tiny Cuban breakfast spot, with sidewalk tables but no name, two blocks east of the hotel (next to Kone Sushi).  But note: wherever we went in Miami we froze.  Yeah, it’s “north” of Yucatán, but the air conditioning on trains, in eateries, and in malls was excessive.  Take a sweater!  I saw office workers wearing quilted vests and robes! We’re cooling ourselves into oblivion.

My other complaint was signage. Their street signs are not at human scale, and they display only one half of each intersection, high above pedestrians, assuming that everyone knows what street their walking on.  Clearly the signage is for drivers not walkers.  This was troubling, as we got lost walking to our hotel, upon first arriving downtown. 

This city is on the go.  Construction is everywhere.  The mayor knows the city is at risk of sea-level inundation.  But BigMoney seems to expect taxpayers to come to the rescue. Venice FL !

A fancy high-rise near our hotel.

SPINOZA’s RADICAL THEOLOGY  : :   A mini book review

Spinoza’s Radical Theology : the Metaphysics of the Infinite

FIVE STARS.  I’ve long been asking fellow students of philosophy who their favorite philosopher might be.  Well, Professor Charlie Huenemann’s book has me convinced:  next to Socrates/Plato, in the modern era, mine is Bennie Spinoza.  This excerpt is from the first page of his concluding chapter, titled Spinoza vs Nietzsche:

Spinoza may have been the first philosopher to propose a metaphysical vision that so thoroughly integrates the deep reverence in ancient religion with the remorseless necessity of modern physics.  He saw that nature is closed — no loopholes, no exceptions, and no magic — and indifferent to our plight.  But he also experienced something divine in nature that had been discerned as well in revealed religion, although not in full clarity.  He proposed not a compromise, but an integration: yes, nature is as cold and indifferent as a mechanistic physics implies, and, yes, the light of scripture is an expression of the reverence due to nature.  He asked that metaphysics and religion take a step forwards and together into a synthesis that preserved the essence of each.  (p.131, paperback edition, Acumen Publishing.)

CLICK the red title above to browse inside.

 

¿ REDUCTIONISM or HOLISM ?  : :  mini-review of SPINOZA Book

O, Divine Librarian, I offer up many, many thanks for placing this book into my hands!

As a reader, I’m a corner-folder, placing tiny checkmarks and marginalia in my books, on pages with folded corners.  Judging by this evidence, this volume is one of the better reads I’ve enjoyed over the past decades — and I’m only half finished reading it!  But my sharing of my awareness of this book should wait no longer, so that you may be stimulated by it, dear Reader. I suggest we let Baruch (“Benedict”/“Blessed”) Spinoza be our inspiration; and Professor Grossman our instructor.  Here’s my take on their collaboration:

We arrive on this planet as tiny philosophers or scientists, attempting to assess the nature of reality. We conduct experiments from an early age, seated in our highchairs, pushing our spoons off the table, onto the floor.  Spoon always goes down.  Mom gets weary. We know the floor quite well, from crawling on it.  But we’re unable to detect much “stickiness” regarding floors (expect perhaps near our highchairs).  What draws the spoon down? 

So we propose a hypothesis to ourselves:  there’s a force which pulls all things down, like us, when we lose our balance, kerplop.  As we grow, we gain strength and balance, thus surmounting said force, somewhat. But on our second birthday somebody hands us a helium-filled balloon.  We grin.  But then we let go of the string (readying ourselves to put our noses into the cake) and the balloon goes up!  We’re shocked.  Our hypothesis has been falsified.  Not everything always goes down!  So we must reassess our exploration of reality.

This book invites much reassessment of stuff we think we know which just ain’t so (~TWAIN).  And it does so in clear writing, from clear thinking.  Here’s an example:

   Let us use the term holism to refer to any metaphysical framework that holds that the world is a single, indivisible whole, not reducible to the sum of its “parts”; and let us use the term atomism to refer to any metaphysical framework that holds that the world is not an indivisible whole, but rather, is made up of and reducible to its parts.  Each framework is made up of and reducible to its parts — that the world is an aggregate of parts.  Each framework carries with it an associated methodology, that is to say, a way of approaching any given problem.  For Example, if, as atomism asserts, the world really is made up of parts, then the right method of understanding any phenomenon is to break it up into its constituent parts.  These “parts“ will in turn also have parts, and this process of reduction continues until one has reached the ultimate parts.  On the other hand, if the whole is more than the sum of its parts, as Holism asserts, then the correct method of understanding any particular thing involves finding a larger whole in which the particular thing is embedded.  This larger whole will itself be embedded in a still larger whole, and this process of “embedding” continues until one has reached the “Ultimate Whole” — All-There-Is, or God. [p.33, paperback edition].

     At this point I will invite you to click on the red link above, to browse inside the book, connecting to Amazon’s Look Inside feature.  I hope you are stimulated, as I have been!

I should mention that Neal Grossman went to MIT to study physics many decades ago, but became smitten with philosophy, and is now an emeritus professor of philosophy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

+ + + + + PSALM READING + + + + +

Friends,
I’d like to share a new practice with you which I’ve been enjoying for some months, regarding the psalms.  
   There are 150 of them, as you may already know; and there are roughly 30 days in a month.  150 divided by 30 is 5, so I today I’m reading  five psalms, sequentially incrementing them by 30, thusly:  today is the 21st, so I’m reading psalms 21, 51, 81, 111, and 141.  It makes for a lovely meditation — especially if you read between the lines!  (I use the BlueLetterBible, online, which features various translations, for comparison purposes, and minimal advertising. (Good research tools, too.)
   We are told:  Pray the Lord of the harvest that s/he send forth laborers into the harvest.  (see Matt 9:38 and Luk 10:2)
   I used to wonder why the Lord needed our prayers, but then came to see that we were invited to the harvest party.  We can RSVP simply by showing up, by reading and meditating.  And listening, which may be the highest form of prayer.

Photo: youtube (fair use)

> > >  HURRICANE CHECKLIST  < < <

Hurricane Grace is comin’! 
Stuff we’ve done to prepare:  (applies to Buffalo blizzards, too) —

Charged all devices:  computers, phones, Kindles, portable drill, mosquito racquets (matar mosquitos).

Topped up the rooftop water tank, tinaco, to the brim. (Just lift the cord inside the tank which tethers the float valve, lowering it when full.)  Also, wise to tie the lid of the tank with strong cord or woven cable, tethering it so it doesn’t sail off like a Frisbee.
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Fueled car, adding some fuel treatment (ethanol, not methanol) to mitigate moisture.


Shut off propane tank.
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Shut off outdoor circuit breakers to well pump and pool pump.

Cleared yard of chairs, and any possessions that might become airborne trash.

Put some sheltered louvered-windows open at 45º to allow for pressure differential, in the event of tornadoes.

Turned off solar panel system, covering some panels with precut plywood to shield them from flying trash, clamping edges tightly.

Added algicide and chloro tabs to swimming pool, drawing pool level down a bit (six inches) to prevent excessive dilution.  (Hey, it’s smart to put your raincoat on before getting drenched!) 


Removed art work and soft goods from our patio room, which has only screens and bars, protectores, as a fourth wall.

Added a few clamps to downspouts, cleaning out scuppers, and replacing rusted wire mesh to prevent clogging of drains.

Park your car in a parking ramp at a hotel, shopping center, or hospital — but not below ground!  (Thanks, Hammockman Paul!)
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If leaving car on street, fold back car mirrors on both sides, to reduce their risk to flying trash.

Put heavy barrier against upstairs backdoor to prevent it blowing open, as it faces direction of oncoming storm.

Shopped mostly for canned and dry goods — stuff that doesn’t require chilling. Grains, such as rolled oats, rice, beans keep well, but need to be stored well to prevent ants and rats from dining.  (Shout-out to Jim at BackyardNature.net)
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Store some firewood or charcoal in a dry space. If in the tropics, be sure it is wood which termites won’t eat, such as zapote, or other hardwood. (Jim)
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Buy fresh batteries of various sizes.
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Lay in extra bottled water — six 20-liter garrafones (five-gallon jugs).
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Eat your ice cream after the power goes out.  We waited for four hours; it was still hard, but just starting to soften.  (Don’t open the fridge unless absolutely necessary!) But we were ready for bed, so we had a double portion of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia, and retired for the evening.  Hurricane Grace took down some trees around town, and knocked our power out for 13 hours, here. (Friend Jeff lost power for 20 minutes.)
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If power goes out for long, call around to friends (assuming there is a cell signal) to learn who has electricity.  Then invite yourself over, bringing pot luck, and any melting fridge-stuff.  Maybe empty the fridge before departing, leaving fridge door open.  Bring a hammock, a change-of-clothes, sleeping bag, go-bag, book, deck-of-cards, umbrella, raincoat, money, passport, hand-crank radio, solar lantern, back-up disk, etc.   (Thanks again, Hammockman.)

¿¿ HURRICANE COMIN’ ??   : :  Weather Tools

Tuesday August 17, TS Grace, near bottom, over Haiti, days after their 7.2 earthqquake, of Saturday, August 14.  (On far right, TS Henri doing a U-turn near Bermuda, soon to head for Cape Cod.)

Merida appears to be in the crosshairs.  While Tropical Storm GRACE isn’t presently expected to become a hurricane until after leaving Merida, this stuff can change quickly.  (Two days ago it was tracking for New Orleans, passing between Cuba and Florida.)

Grace could be my very first tropical hurricane, aside from remnants of Hurricane Hazel which blew thru the Buffalo area when I was a boy, and then nearly drowned Toronto, washing out several neighborhoods, which are now parks.  (Hurricane-risk is maybe preferable to those nearly annual Buffalo blizzards — but blizzards don’t create parks.)  Tropical Storm Cristóbal, last year, dropped over 20 inches of rain (not snow) on Merida, lingering for a few days.  But there wasn’t much wind.  Nor anything to shovel!   [more text beneath graphics . . .]

 

LAST YEAR :  Cristóbal, June 2020,  youtube  (fair use). Predictions need updates, often !!!

¿ The WEATHER CHANNEL, or WEATHER UNDERGROUND ?  You pick:

MSNBC / screenshot from youtube. (fair use)

Perhaps you remember the big flap over an audition by a politician as a weather guy?  (The Don maybe got his opportunity to apply for the job from being tight with a very wealthy executive of TWC, a big supporter.)  Hurricane Dorian went up the east coast, but Donnie said it was going to Alabama, based on very outdated TWC info.  Here are excerpts from Associated Press:

“Trump has defended his Sept.1 tweet that said Hurricane Dorian would threaten Alabama. Last week Trump displayed an altered hurricane forecast map in the Oval Office that included a crudely drawn addition in black ink to include parts of Alabama in an attempt to make his point.” […]

“Trump cited older and less authoritative information, which was based on outdated computer models and older graphics on wind speed.” > >   So, are ya gonna pick a weather-feed based on science, or politics?

Wednesday 11:45 am. Weather Underground predicts only an inch of rain.  I think they got it about right, judging by the level in the pool, but the power went out on my rooftop weather tools, so I am unsure.

Cool tool, with lots of details  Windy.com    (Yucatan in blue.  Cuba in green.  TS Grace in purple)

 

8am Wednesday  NHC National Hurricane Center.

 

Wednesday 10:30 am  NOAA “Geo-color”

 

Wednesday 11:20am  NOAA  “GLM FED”  Lightning mapper shows storm covering peninsula.

 

3:40 pm Wednesday. Geostationary Lightning Mapper

 

According to WeatherUSA, the storm became a hurricane about 15 minutes ago, at 11:28 am Wednesday:  Hurricane Grace was intensifying on Wednesday morning. A reconnaissance plane found that an eye with a diameter of 18 miles (29 km) was forming at the center of Grace. The developing eye was surround by a ring of strong thunderstorms and the strongest winds were occurring in that ring of storms. Bands of showers and thunderstorms were revolving around the center of Hurricane Grace. Storms near the core of Grace were generating upper level divergence that was pumping mass away from the hurricane. The removal of mass was causing the surface pressure to decrease. Winds to hurricane force extended out 25 miles (40 km) on the eastern side of Grace. Winds to tropical storm force extended out 115 miles (185 km) from the center of circulation.

 

8:30 pm Wednesday

 

Above: “Night-time microphysics” roughly 8 am Thursday

 

9:15 am Thursday, a friend well east of Merida (Tepekan) reports a few gusts, light rain. Here in Merida, no rain, light breeze.  (Yucatan peninsula no longer discernible.)

Meanwhile, a bit to the north, TS Henri is doing a U-turn southwest of Bermuda, and charting a course for Cape Cod!  And according to CNN, Grace crossed the Bay of Campeche, striking Mexico’s Veracruz state as a category 3 hurricane.

Grace was graceful.  She took down trees around town, causing power outages, but I’ve heard of no human tragedies.  Our power went off at 1:45 pm, and was out for 13 hours.  We ate a double portion of B&J’s Cherry Garcia, to “rescue it” from turning to soup.  A few small limbs came down from the big zapote tree in the backyard.  Lots of soggy leaves, but no damage.  A few photos of the aftermath:

Power winked off briefly, resetting wifi device, before going out for 13 hours.

Power winked off briefly at 1:45pm Thursday, resetting wifi tool, then went out for 13 hours.

CLICK:

Yes, there’s no global warming!

 

 

BOOK  : :  SOUTH TO FREEDOM

Who knew that Mexico (“New Spain”) had made such a huge bet on freedom — namely, that anyone who set foot on Mexican soil was instantly a free person?   SOUTH TO FREEDOM  tells this untaught account well.

Major General Andrew Jackson had invaded and stolen Florida from Spain, to disrupt escaping slaves from that foreign destination, of hiding in the swamps there, among the Seminoles.  Mexico didn’t have the military resources to defend it’s northern border against such incursions, but they were certain that slavery was immoral.  So they declared that anyone setting foot on Mexican soil was instantly a free person.  This may seem to invite a repeat of Jackson’s theft.  But the Mexican’s were steadfast about their position, and fierce in handling any intruding slave-catchers.  Their dedication to liberty of individuals was a major issue at bringing about the American Civil War.   Good scholarship, from a capable researcher and storyteller.

What truly amazes me is that southern plantation owners were not ridiculed off the stage of public opinion for their claim that the US Constitution protected their “property rights”.  “My children are my property, and I have a right to sell them? — I bought their mommas at auction, and bred’em myself.  My property, to do with as I please!” 

This looks like an early example of Big Lie in action, and half a million Americans died for failure to refute this junk argument of property rights.  Sounds just like Stop the steal, no?  (Trump told us for over six months that if he should lose, it was rigged; but if he won, it was fair.)  Heads, I win, tails you lose.  And then came January 6.  

 

FLOODS, ART, and GLOBAL WARMING

Houston.       Photo:   Weather Nation TV dot com   (fair use)

BIG CARBON, just like Big Tobacco regarding nicotine, wants you to deny climate change.  They’re spending bigtime to keep you in denial.  Don’t be naive.  Predictive science has gotten pretty accurate.  (If you reject science why do you watch weather reports about when and where the next hurricane will hit?)  Keep an open mind!  Have a look at my short post about the history of science regarding CO2, from physicist Lawrence Krauss’s new book.

FLOODS can be devastating.  Noah knew!  And, yes, God told him there would not be another global flood to drown the entire planet.  Again, don’t be naive.  Rising sea levels (and droughts) are going to cause massive population migrations.  Pay attention to the science, instead of to the loudmouth spinmeisters working for Big Carbon who are laughing all the way to the bank.

COAL MINERS used to take canaries into the shaft to detect (by dying!) poisonous coal gas, thus saving the lives of alerted miners.  Artists are like this, alerting the public to impending tragedy (hopefully not by dying). 

ARTISTS.  Linked here is an art installation in Boston Harbor, including a video, which might help you ponder what’s coming at us as the meltwaters from Greenland and South Pole soon flood the shores, topple houses, evict residents, and SHUT DOWN THE GULF STREAM (which has happened before, flash-freezing beasts in Siberia which are often unearthed in modern times with tropical vegetation still in their gut).  Without the Gulf stream, a new ice age will begin, suddenly!

CLICK TO VIEW  THE ART INSTALLATION, a wake-up call:

FutureSHORELINE

by artist       (and crew)

c a r o l i n a   a r a g ó n

fair use

 

 

TheGUARDIAN, online (fair use)

A human wave cominig to a shoreline near you :  700 million displaced people

 

 

Mérida to Palenque, by Car

We left Merida Sunday morning at 8am, figuring commercial traffic might be light. Apparently not so — but who could know what it would have been like on Monday?  There was plenty of truck traffic. Even a wreck.  ¿Did a tire blow?  (The road was rough.)  ¿Did somebody fall asleep?  We saw tandem rigs (doble remolques) hauling rails and concrete ties for Tren Maya, along with all sorts of other big rigs.

Road wrecks, big rig in a ditch.

This adventure hinges on road signs. Our plumber, Rolando, likes to make fun of those people from Campeche who try to visit Merida but get lost and end up back where they started. Well, maybe the road signs of Yucatán confuse them, along with confusing many expats trying to leave Merida. I’ve been driving here for a decade, and yet I was flummoxed, wanting to bypass the many topes (speed bumps) in Umán by taking Rt. 180.  But it was hard, even after having consulted google maps regarding the correct exit from the periferico (ring road). Yes, surprisingly tricky when actually driving on the highway, attempting to comprehend the road signs while having an overview of what was sought!

But that was mild compared to our experience in Campeche state. After nearing Campeche city we pulled into a rest stop at a La Gas on that city’s periferico so we could fill the tank and drain bladders, about 10:30, at about 160 km from Merida. A few short miles after getting back on, I saw a sign flit past saying CHAMPOTÓN CUOTA (a cuota is a modern toll road), but that brief look allowed no time to change lanes to take the turn for the easier route. I even knew I was looking for that road, but thought it would be labeled 180-D, or Autopista. (You’d figure after spending all that money to streamline the highway, the traffic engineers would have done a better job of marking, inviting people to pay to use their pricey handiwork — but no, the sign allowed no time to decide, as it was virtually at the ramp.)  The price is 80 pesos, which we learned on the return trip where the signage was much better.  That’s about $4.oo usd, for a short but efficient ride — well worth it in reduced driving stress.

So, after missing the easy way, we took the Libre, which is very hilly-curvy-narrow-scary-blind, for about a half hour. And then we saw another invitation to connect with the cuota. But wait! There was an unstaffed tollbooth (caseta, o kiosko).  It had barriers blocking access, including a barrel, a lift arm, and a short metal guardrail placed to block access. The remote entrance ramp looked unused, “abandoned”, closed.  ¿Had they not finished building this stretch of highway yet?   So we got back on the Libre for some miles until we came to an unmarked fork in the road — and, as Yogi Berra advised, “when you come to a fork in the road, take it”.  Fortunately there were a few people cutting firewood nearby at road’s edge who told us to turn around and go back — but to where? Well, sure enough, we turned around and eventually saw a sign for cuota and arrived at the same empty tollbooth. I got out of the car and was about to take a photo of this conundrum when a young woman sprinted across the road. So I asked her how to get on the cuota. She stepped into the booth and said “pay me 43 pesos.” She gave us a digital receipt, removed the barrel, raised the bar, and we were on our way. (Apparently she lived nearby, and had gone home to pee or snack or watch a telenovela.) Onward!

Champtón, a fishing village in Campeche state, on the Gulf, and on perhaps what is the only river of the peninsula.

We got to Champotón about noon and had a tasty fish plate at a rustic market facing the Gulf, on the west end of town, just before the squarish lighthouse. The place was bustling, even on a Sunday. And then we headed for Escarcega and beyond, on a long, straight highway which was very rough, due to multiple patchings.

Things got smoother once we passed into the lush cattle country of Tabasco state.

Cattle country, bull

Arrival in Palenque was a bit fraught, at least according to my wife.  I had studied the city on google street-view, and thought I knew where our hotel was situated. So I was open to wandering around a bit, as it was only 4 pm — meaning the transit time from Merida, including lunch and that strange detour near Campeche city was 8 hours. So, why not explore?

Palenque is very hilly.

Well, we got a bit lost and found ourselves on a very rough, steep, unpaved street, which was badly eroded. It was not passable without 4-wheel drive. (Believe me, I tried, much to her distress.) So we backed out, and wandered some more, finally asking a local how to find barrio La Cañada, the lovely hotel district :  watch for a sky blue hotel of three stories, on the main highway thru town. Turn there, perhaps after looping around a glorieta, (there’s a median) onto cobbled streets. This will get you away from traffic noise, to reveal several blocks of cozy hotels and eateries. This enclave is shaded by tall trees. They’ve wisely retained the trees, covered with vines and populated by birds. It’s a taste of tropical jungle — a welcome spot to rest and explore.

We had visited the famous ruins of Palenque two years ago on a wonderful tour with our good friend, Marina, on her “signature tour” of Chiapas, staying briefly at the Mission Hotel in Palenque, near the edge of the hotel district, which was comfortable. This time we opted for the Tulipanes, which was also comfortable:

It’s hard to book hotels online, as middlemen have muscled into the process, which I detest. (I won’t use them, as I had to fight hard for a cancelation/refund a few years ago.) As a retired small-business person, I prefer to go directly to a site to consider my choices, but this is no longer easy. One Palenque hotel, the Chablis, online seemed to be closed, as their site, their phone number, and their email address on the internet and on facebook, no longer worked; but they were clearly open, just down the street from where we stayed. (So I told an employee standing out front that their marketing was presently blind, explaining my experience.)  Even Hotel Tulipanes did not confirm my reservation by email, which they had agreed to do — not even after several email queries from me. (I did not give them a credit card number.)  But my reservation was on file when we arrived.  The world gets stranger by the day.

Cafe Jade, in barrio La Cañada, Palenque.   Good food, good lattes here.

The purpose of our visit was to know the city better, as it will become one terminus of Tren Maya, the other being Cancún.  We appreciate train travel, and thought it would be worth visiting this destination to understand the city better before the train arrives.  Well, the city seemed chaotic, and already overgrown.

Maybe humans are feeling a bit stressed living atop each other, considering the population density, and the housing crush evident in this city. (I didn’t see a single for-sale sign.)  Palenque has some big-box stores (Chedraui, Boxito, Coppel) and plenty of little tiendas, all planted atop hillocks (think Bullet, an old film from San Francisco, California).  And plenty of traffic gridlock.

The monkeys, too, are experiencing stress in their lifestyle.  But apparently some sympathetic relatives have taken pity, and built them safer highway crossings, just outside of town, “monkey bridges” to keep our furry friends safer (after clear-cutting their jungles nearby, replacing the trees with palm-oil plantations).

Tedious driving aside, this trip was a fun outing after being mostly housebound for more than a year due to pandemic!  We would rather have ridden the train, but we just got impatient.