30 December 2013

Continuing Resolutions List for 2014 and Beyond

Every year I make New Year's resolutions and most the time I forget what they were by the end of January. What I need is a follow-up  plan and some kind of rating system to measure my progress. Benjamin Franklin at the age of twenty had four resolutions...To become more frugal, to become more honest, to become more industrious, and to avoid slandering. Out of these four resolutions he developed thirteen virtues to concentrate on one at a time. They are:

1.)  Temperance: Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
2.)  Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversations.
3.)  Order: Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
4.)  Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
5.)  Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; that is, waste nothing.
6.)  Industry: Lose not time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
7.)  Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; speak accordingly.
8.)  Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
9.)  Moderation: Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think you deserve.
10.) Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes or habitation.
11.) Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles or accidents common or unavoidable.
12.) Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your  own or another's peace or reputation.
13.) Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Franklin's list seems pretty good if not a bit stodgy but it is a bit incomplete and doesn't match up directly with the Boy Scout  Law that I memorized as a youth but probably didn't obey as well as I should have. You know how it is when you are young and besides, that was back in the 60's. Enough said.

Each country has a slightly different version of the original list of virtues made by Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scout movement. The list was a bit militaristic in its expanded form but that is understandable since he was a British officer of high rank. Nevertheless according to the Boy Scouts of America, a Scout should be:

1.)  Trustworthy,
2.)  Loyal,
3.)  Helpful,
4.)  Friendly,
5.)  Courteous,
6.)  Kind,
7.)  Obedient,
8.)  Cheerful,
9.)  Thrifty,
10.) Brave,
11.) Clean,
12.) Reverent.

Baden-Powell is said to have generated the list after studying various codes of conduct from around the world. He wanted it to be positive and uplifting and not negative and foreboding. He drew inspiration for the Scout Law from the Bushido code of the Japanese Samurai,  laws of honor of the American Indians, the code of chivalry of European knights, and even the traditions of the Zulu warriors that he had fought against in Africa. He chose a positive a set of affirmations, in contrast to Old Testament style, "thou shalt nots". The two lists, even if combined as much as possible, still did not give me exactly what I was looking for. I finally found my answer in the middle of the flag of India. You never know where you are going to find what you are looking for and it seems like persistence and determination are the keys to searching for something just as they are the keys to success in almost everything else.

In the center of the flag of India there is a wheel with twenty-four spokes. It is a form of the Dharmachakra which is one of the oldest known Buddhist symbols. In its simplest form, it looks like a ship's wheel with eight spokes and is known as the "Wheel of Dharma". It represents the Buddha's "Path to Enlightenment".  In Buddhism, "dharma" signifies the "cosmic law and order" and "chakra" means "wheel" or "vortex" and signifies that there is life in movement and death in stagnation.

The twenty-four spokes of the chakra on the Indian flag called the "Ashoka Chakra" comes from the base of a statue of four lions facing back to back that sat atop a pillar at Sarna, in the state of Uttar Pradesh. It was put there about the year 250 B.C by the Emperor Ashoka to mark the spot where Buddha first proclaimed his gospel of peace and emancipation to the four quarters of the universe. After Buddha achieved enlightenment at Gaya, he came to Sarnath. There He found five of his disciples who had previously abandoned him. He preached his first sermon to them, explaining the Dharmachakra. This is the motif taken up by Emperor Ashoka and portrayed at the base of the statue of the lions on top of the pillar. A graphic representation of the statue was adopted as the official emblem of India in 1950 and can be found on Indian currency and legal documents.

The 24 spokes on the Ashoka Dharmachakra represent the following qualities or "virtues":

1.)  Love
2.)  Courage
3.)  Patience
4.)  Peacefulness
5.)  Magnanimity
6.)  Goodness
7.)  Faithfulness
8.)  Gentleness
9.)  Selflessness
10.) Self-Control
11.) Self Sacrifice
12.) Truthfulness
13.) Righteousness
14.) Justice
15.) Mercy
16.) Gracefulness
17.) Humility
18.) Empathy
19.) Sympathy
20.) Spiritual Knowledge
21.) Moral Values
22.) Spiritual Wisdom
23.) The Fear of God
24.) Faith or Belief or Hope

In my opinion this is a very nice list and is just what I was looking for. Then I had to come up with a rating system. I didn't know if I should use a simple binary thumbs up or thumbs down or something more sophisticated perhaps, like the five star rating of items on Amazon.com. Then I thought that the scale of one to ten might be better since it would lend itself to numerical comparisons from week to week, month to month, and year to year. I finally decided on a scale of zero to ten with five as the beginning median around which I could plot distributions.

Finally, I had to make some rating criteria for each item in order to be as consistent and as objective as possible. I must also develop a procedure for documenting the pluses and the minuses of the occurrences on a timely basis without making it too complicated. The more I work on this the more interesting it gets. I am happy that I initiated this project. Actually it was the Greek philosopher Plato who got me started. He equated virtue with truth. Benjamin Franklin gave me an example to get me going. Robert Baden-Powell gave me a boost, and Gautama Buddha gave me some great ideas. After all, the official motto of India is: "Satyameva Jayate"..."Truth Alone Triumphs".

Happy New Year wherever you may be and may your New Year be newer than ever before.

15 November 2013

The Mathematician, The Philosopher, and the Camels.

A man who had seventeen camels and three sons died.

When the last will and testament was read, it stated that one half of the camels would be for his oldest son, one third for the second, and one ninth for the third. What to do? There were seventeen camels so how could you give half to the oldest son? One of the animals would have to be cut in half. This wouldn't resolve the problem either because one third still needed to go to the second son and one ninth to the third.

The sons went to look for the smartest man in the city who was also a mathematician. He thought hard about the problem but couldn't come up with a reasonable solution that wouldn't damage the camels. Then someone suggested: "It might be better to look for somebody who knows about camels and not mathematics".  The boys finally found a philosopher who seemed to know a lot about various things and who had some experience in these matters. They explained the problem to him. The philosopher laughed and said, "Don't worry about it. The solution is quite". Now it just so happened that the philosopher had recently been given the gift of a camel so he lent it to the boys to help them even up the account.

Now there were eighteen camels instead of seventeen, thus making the problem much easier to deal with. The philosopher began to divvy up the camels. He gave nine to the oldest son who was very satisfied because this was half of the camels. To the second son he gave six camels which was a third of the camels, and he gave two camels, which represented one ninth, to the third son. Guess what? There was one camel left over which was returned to the philosopher.

Let's see...
17+1= 18
Oldest son gets 18/2= 9 camels
Second son gets 18/3= 6 camels
Third son gets 18/9= 2 camels
Total camels in the father's will 9+6+2= 17 camels
18-17= 1 camel returned to the lender.

So what's wrong with that?

03 November 2013

Happy Diwali

To all my Hindu friends, हैप्पी दिवाली, Happy Diwali.

Diwali is the spectacular Hindu festival of lights celebrated all over the world. This year starts today, Sunday, November 3rd, and lasts for five days. It is a festival of lights that symbolizes the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. Hindus celebrate this festival by lighting oil lamps, decorating their homes, and eating sweet treats. Join me in wishing for Hindu people in all countries of the world, Joy, Peace, and Prosperity.


04 October 2013

A pertinent voice from the past...

A voice from 80 years ago and it still carries a powerful message that rings as true today as it did then. It is pretty spooky. Listen all the way to the end. It will give you goose bumps.


15 September 2013

Chickens Coming Home to Roost

The problem in the Middle East is complicated by many factors but it seems to me that most of them can be traced back to "The War to End All Wars", i.e. World War One. The following video is one version of how it all began and it is one of the most accurate and concise versions that I have seen to date although the unbiased and one hundred percent accurate story will probably never be known. Untangling this "Gordian Knot" without the use of a sword in the manner favored by Alexander the Great will be a herculean task to say the least.


08 September 2013

What should we do?

What I would do about Syria? What would you do about Syria? What constitutes the basis for a "just" war? Is there such a thing? I went to three sources for advice. The first source is the admonition of Jesus Christ according to St. Matthew:

Matthew 5:43-48
King James Version

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Being only humans and most of the time unable to act coherently as an entire group we need to find some common ground on how to counter unjust aggression that would affect not only ourselves but that of our elders and our progeny. Enlightened God fearing people of all persuasions and especially Christians have been arguing about where the "red line" should be drawn for thousands of years.

The following list is a combined summary of what St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas wrote in regard to the limits of a "just war" as I understand them to be:

(1) Just cause. The war must confront an unquestioned danger. The damage inflicted by the aggressor or the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave and certain. Syria has not been an aggressor towards the United States or its allies to the extent that war would be justified.

(2) Proper authority. The legitimate authority must declare the war and must be acting on behalf of the people. The majority of the American people according to current polls do not want war. As far as the injustice occurring within the borders of Syria is concerned I think we should first seek remedies for the injustices occurring within the borders of our own country.

(3) Right Intentions. The reasons for declaring the war must actually be the objectives, not a masking of ulterior motives. A contractual arrangement like Poland had with England before World War II or that the U.S. currently has with Israel would be considered legitimate reasons but the U.S. has no other such contractual arrangements in the Middle East that I know of except with Turkey through NATO. It is the "ulterior motives" that I worry about a la the Military Industrial Complex.

(4) Last resort. All reasonable peaceful alternatives must have been exhausted or have been deemed impractical or ineffective. The contentious parties must strive to resolve their differences peacefully before engaging in war, e.g. through diplomacy, negotiation, mediation, embargoes and yes, even bribes perhaps as a temporary measure if it would save lives and protect the innocent from further harm.

(5) Proportionality. The good that is achieved by waging war must not be outweighed by the harm. What good is it to wage war if it leaves the country in total devastation with no one really being the winner? Look at Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Egypt. WHAT good was there in that?

(6) Probability of success — The achievement of the war's purpose must have a reasonable chance of success. Look at what happened in Iraq after one trillion dollars were spent and so many lives were lost. Is George Bush's phallus any bigger? Was the mission really accomplished?

(7) Discrimination — Armed forces ought to fight armed forces, and should strive not to harm non-combatants purposefully. Moreover, armed forces should not wantonly destroy the enemy's countryside, cities, or economy simply for the sake of punishment, retaliation or vengeance.

(8) Due proportion — Combatants must use only those means necessary to achieve their objectives. For example, no one needs to use guided missiles to settle a territorial fishing dispute or water rights. Due proportion also involves mercy towards civilians in general, towards combatants when the resistance stops (as in the case of surrender and prisoners of war), and towards all parties when the war is finished. Remember  Abu Ghraib?

In my opinion (pragmatically and rationally speaking, not emotionally) self determination issues and human rights struggles are an internal issues and not a legitimate reason to attack another nation.

Conclusion. The United States should not bomb, invade, or declare war on Syria at this time. This thing will come to a natural end by itself, God willing. Having said that I think we should follow the lead of the minutemen of 1776 and keep our destroyers close, gassed up and ready to toss a few tomahawks at either Syria or Iran if they step any further out of line towards Israel or Turkey. I also believe we should urge Benjamin Netanyahu to cooperate because if Israel puts anymore settlements on the West Bank right now, I believe Israel will have broken the spirit of the contract. He must fight the temptation to provoke an attack on Israel that might draw the U.S. and its allies into an unending maelstrom. I believe that President Obama is fully aware of all of the above and I also believe that so far he has been doing the right thing. I pray every day for him, his family, and all of the intelligent and well meaning members of congress that God's will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Amen.


04 September 2013

At the Sound of the Shofar

To all my Jewish friends, non Jewish friends, and to all children of God:

Rosh Hashana Greetings!

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova
Shana Tova Umetukah

May you be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life and may you prosper and may the day come soon that “nation not lift up sword against nation and humanity not learn war anymore,” and “everyone will sit under his vineyard and fig tree and no one will have reason to fear” (Micah 4:4). 

May you live live so that you may remain God’s witnesses and a light unto the nations of the world (Isaiah 42:6).

"It is our duty to praise the Master of all,
To ascribe greatness to the Author of creation..."

"You shall know and take to heart this day
That the Lord is God,
In the heavens above
and on earth below. There is no other."
(From the Aleinu Leshabei'ach)


28 July 2013

Hey! It wasn't me!

Yo No Fui
(It Wasn't me)

Si te vienen a contar
Cositas malas de mí,
Manda todos a volar
Y diles que
Yo no fui
(If they come to tell you
Bad little things about me,
Send them all away
And tell them that
It wasn't me)

Yo te aseguro que yo no fui
Son puros cuentos de por ahi
Tu me tienes que creer a mí
Yo te lo juro que yo no fui.
(I assure you that it wasn't me
They're just lies going around
You have to believe me
I swear to you that it wasn't me.)

Si te vienen a contar
Cositas malas de mí
Manda todos a volar 
Y diles que
Yo no fui.
(If they come to tell you
Bad little things about me,
Send them all away ("send them the heck away")
And tell them that
It wasn't me)

Todos me dicen por ahi
Que tienes cara de "yo no fui"
Y a ti te dicen
"El yo lo ví"
Tu me tienes que creer a mí
Ay mamá que yo no fui
(Yo te aseguro que yo no fui)
Mira muchacho que yo no fui
(Yo te aseguro que yo no fui)
Tu tienes cara de pirulí
(Yo te aseguro que yo no fui)
Mira chaparra que yo no fui
(Yo te aseguro que yo no fui)
(Everyone out there tells me
"You have the face of 'it wasn't me' ("feigned innocence")
And they tell you
"I saw him"
You have to believe me
Oh mama, that it wasn't me
[I assure you that it wasn't me]
Look, boy, that wasn't me
[I assure you that it wasn't me]
You have the face of a lollipop ("sweet innocent look")
[I assure you that it wasn't me]
Look, girl, that wasn't me
[I assure you that it wasn't me ])

ooohh... que barbaro, compadrito.......
(ooohh...how outrageous, friend...)

Si te vienen a contar
Cositas malas de mí,
Manda todos a volar
Y diles que
Yo no fui
(If they come to tell you
Bad little things about me,
Send them all away
And tell them that
It wasn't me)

Yo te aseguro que yo no fui
Son puros cuentos de por ahi
Tu me tienes que creer a mí
Yo te lo juro que yo no fui.
(I assure you that it wasn't me
They're just stories going around
You have to believe me
I swear to you that it wasn't me.)

Si te vienen a contar
Cositas malas de mí
Manda todos a volar
Y diles que
Yo no fui.
(If they come to tell you
Bad little things about me,
Send them all away
And tell them that
It wasn't me.)

Todos me dicen por ahi
Que tienes cara de yo no fui
Y a ti te dicen que
"El yo lo ví"
Tu me tienes que creer a mí
Ay mamá que yo no fui
(Yo te aseguro que yo no fui)
Mira mi negra que yo no fui
(Yo te aseguro que yo no fui)
Mira chaparra que yo no fui
(Yo te aseguro que yo no fui)
A ti te dicen
"El yo lo ví"
(Yo te aseguro que yo no fui)
(Everyone out there tells me
"You have a face of 'it wasn't me' "
And they tell you
"I saw him"
You have to believe me
Oh mama, that it wasn't me
[I assure you that it wasn't me]
Look, my sweetheart, it wasn't me ("hey baby it wasn't me)
[I assure you that it wasn't me]
Look, little girl, that wasn't me
[I assure you that it wasn't me]
And they tell you
"I saw him"
[I assure you that it wasn't me ])

Si te vienen a contar
Cositas malas de mí
Manda todos a volar
Y diles que
Yo no fui.
(If they come to tell you
Bad little things about me,
Send them all away
And tell them that
It wasn't me)

Todos me dicen por ahi
Que tienes cara de yo no fui
A ti te dicen
"El yo lo ví"
Tu me tienes que creer a mí
No no. No no, yo no fui
(Everyone out there tells me
"You have a face of 'it wasn't me' "
And they tell you
"I saw him"
You have to believe me
No no. No no, it wasn't me)

28 May 2013

The Super Split

Most people who are familiar with the comic strip "Dilbert" will know what a "wedgie" is. It is a form of pranksterism, horse play, or bullying where someone grabs the waistband of the victim's underwear from behind and gives it a big yank therefore stretching the material and driving it like a wedge into the cleft between the buttocks. Among friends or classmates it can be just a harmless prank or sophomoric "gotcha" but when used as a form of bullying it can be humiliating, painful, and harmful. In fact, there is a form where the underwear is stretched extremely tight and the elastic waistband is placed up and over the victim's head. This is no longer horseplay and can lead to severe trauma and permanent damage to the genitals.

So, is there a word for "wedgie" in Spanish? You bet there is. "El calzón chino" is a wedgie. It literally means "chinese underwear". The extreme form of super wedgie is called "el calzón chino atómico".
A "school bully" in Spanish is a "matón de escuela", so in order to say "The school bully gave my brother a wedgie" you could say in Spanish, "El matón de la escuela le dio a mi hermano un calzón chino".

Kids, don't try this at home. I guarantee it will upset your mother.


21 May 2013

Cloudy horizons...

Well, it's that time of year again, the prelude to the rainy season. However, the rainy season here is not like a monsoon. It just means that from now until sometime in October it will rain once in awhile. Some years it will rain quite a bit and some years not so much. Like everywhere else these days we don't get a real weather forecast that you can pin down and chew on, we get a probability forecast as in "There is a thirty percent probability of afternoon showers". I guess that can mean that there is about a one out of three chance it will rain in the afternoon or else it will only rain only on about one third of the city. What is the difference between a thirty percent probability and a forty percent probability in "layman" terms? I really don't think there is any. About the only thing that you can say about this system is that there ate really only five discernible increments in the probability that it will rain:

1.) 100 percent - It is most likely raining or about to rain.
2.) 60-90 percent - Most likely it's going to rain.
3.) 50-50 chance - Might as well flip a coin.
4.) 40-10 percent - Most likely it ain't going to rain.
5.) 0 percent - It definitely ain't going to rain.

The reality is that because our climate is so mild here people who aren't actually farmers don't pay much attention to the weather forecast anyway. If you ask someone if they think it is going to rain you are likely to get the following answer:

Pues, puede que sí o puede que no, lo más seguro es ¿Quién sabe?
Well, it could be yes or it could be no but the most sure thing is...Who knows?

Speaking of the rain the conversation could also go something like this:

Vamos a salir pero parece que va a llover.
Let's leave but it looks like it's going to rain.

¿Por qué dices eso?
Why do you say that?

No sé pero voy a llevar un paraguas por si las moscas.
I don't know but I will bring an umbrella just in case.

¡No estes de mal agüero!
Don't be a jinx!

New phrases:

por si las moscas = just in case (The first time I heard this I thought it meant "for if there are flies")

mal agüero = bad omen, jinx

pájaro de mal agüero = prophet of doom, bad omen, bird of bad luck

echar la sal = jinx

Example, When one friend sees another walking with a young lady he might say to him later:

¿Cuando te vas a casar?
When are you going to be married?

¡No me estes echando la sal! 
Don't be putting the jinx on me!

(Note that it literally sounds like "Don't be throwing salt at me" in English)

¡Si me caso serás mi padrino!
If I marry you will be my best man! (Also "padrino" means patron or sponser meaning he will have to pay for the wedding)

Here is one last phrase and then I am done. If two people start talking simultaneously about the same thing one might say to the other:

Toca madera o me debes un chocolate.
Knock on wood or you owe me a chocolate.


18 May 2013

The Turtle Defense

The other day I came across an old CBS Omnibus film clip of the author William Faulkner giving a commencement address for the local high school graduation at Oxford Mississippi in the spring of 1951. In this speech he talked about fear and he mentioned the atomic bomb among other fearful things and he admonished the young people to stand up to fear of all kinds and to be...well, to be "fearless". I remember the fifties clearly and what I remember the most is the fear and anxiety over the possibility and even the probability of the "Rooskies" dropping the bomb on my poor little head. It was an era of paranoia and anxiety, a tragedy of universal fear. In the last one hundred years much of mankind has usurped many of the powers that we used to ascribe to God. Fearful and unprepared, we have assumed leadership over the life and death of the whole world and all living things. The irony is that all of the creatures on Earth it is only the humans who are mortal. All of the other creatures are immortal for they know nothing about death. We are blessed with powerful minds yet at the same time cursed, not only to die, but to know that we must, and the fear of a violent death is our greatest anxiety.

I am not exempt from that anxiety by any means. I have spent at least half of my life gripped in its clutches. I remember going to mass one particular Sunday morning with my parents when I was about ten years old. This was at the time the U.S.S.R had launched Sputnik and we tracked its ominous signal going beep, beep, beep as it passed overhead. Our parish priest went up in the pulpit that day and shouted down at us "If an atomic bomb falls on this parish tonight at least fifty percent of you will wake up in Hell!". Needless to say that got everyone's attention, even the snoozers. There was a line of penitents going halfway around the block for the next two days waiting their turns to make an honest and sincere confession.

To my mind the present level of anxiety in the United States is at an unprecedented level and I can't help but think that the roots of this anxiety go back to a time when impending doom was imprinted on the minds of young innocent children to the point that it has led to the present state of tension and discord. Take a look at the civil defense film below titled "Duck and Cover". Most of the people who are currently sixty years old or older will remember it. Can you imagine something like that being shown to children today? On second thought, maybe it wouldn't bother them at all. I suppose that the dissonance between our digital selves and our analog bodies has thrown us older folks into a new state of anxiety...present shock. Things are happening so fast that the future is always NOW.

So NOW I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
And if I die before I wake, 
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

14 May 2013

Ah, Grasshopper...

I work in the Railroad Industry. For forty years I have lived close to the rails. The sound of the trains do not bother me. For me a train is like a spaceship both when you ride it, and when you watch it, or just listen to it go by. Sometimes it takes you places and sometimes it brings visitors from "outer space" and by that I mean from another region.  At times these visitors take the form of Guatemalans who traverse our bit of universe in search of a new life in a better place. They never disturb me or threaten me in any way. They merely put their curled fingers to their mouths in a gesture of asking for food. I know that they are from the Guatemalan region by the way they dress and speak and by the roughness of their hands which are gnarled and calloused by hard manual labor and often scratched and bruised from clinging to the rough steel of the railroad cars. I always keep some coins handy whenever I go out and give them enough to buy a liter of water and some tortillas. That will at least suffice for the time being. I can do no more than that except to commend them to God's mercy. This they accept gracefully and say with sincerity to all givers of food, clothing, money, or water "Gracias padre" (to men) or "Gracias madre" (to women).

I ask myself why I do it. Is it right or wrong? I don't know but I feel compelled by faith toward kindness to strangers. There is a line in the Bible that says, "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it" (Hebrews 13:2) . In the Old Testament it says "And you are to show kindness to those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt" (Deuteronomy 10:19). I happen to be a foreigner in Mexico myself and many people here have shown great kindness towards me...far more than I can ever repay.

The other day I was on my way home from work and I was hot and tired. The afternoon sun was blazing white and everything in view looked dusty and wilted. There is a railroad crossing near where I live and the traffic was stopped waiting for a long train to pass. I spotted a poor Guatemalan making his way down the line asking for help. He wasn't having much luck. The guy looked really tired. I pressed a few coins into his outstretched gnarly hand and then he disappeared for a moment. He suddenly popped up again with a little gift for me. It was a grasshopper that he had fashioned from the tall grass that grew by the side of the road. He gave me the little grasshopper and looked into my eyes and with great solemnity he said, "Gracias padre, que Dios te bendiga" (Gracias father, may God bless you.) For a second we were connected, he and I, by a knowledge of something greater than ourselves. Just then the traffic started moving again and as I pulled away I glanced in my rear view mirror but he was already gone...and I wondered. Could it be that he was an Angel?

10 May 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

Today is Mother's Day in Mexico. It always falls on May 10th here no matter what day of the week it may be. Last night about 9:pm my wife Gina grabbed her car keys and said, "I'll be back in a little bit". As it turned out she went down to a wholesale florist and bought several tightly packed bunches of roses. Then she got up at 4:am this morning to make little corsages for all of her female friends and relatives and all of the mommies of the children who attend her mother Carmelita's kindergarten. That's my gal, always spreading sunshine! And what did I get her for Mother's Day you ask? Hey! Who do you think ended up paying for all those flowers?

07 May 2013

A cat by any other name...

Now that I am getting along fairly well with my Spanish I am still learning new words and phrases all the time. There is really no end to it. For example, suppose you want to say to a friend, "Let's arm wrestle". You could make your best effort and say "¿Quieres luchar con brazo?" and if you put your arm in the arm wrestling position you would most likely be understood but you might also make the other person laugh, There are several ways to say it more correctly in the Spanish where I live in Central Mexico:

1.) ¿Quieres jugar las vencidas?
2.) ¿Quieres jugar unas fuerzas?
3.) ¿Quieres jugar fuercitas?

The first one is based upon the word "vencer", to defeat and the other two are based on the word "fuerza", strength.

You might also hear "¿Quieres jugar gallitos?" but that means "thumb wrestling. (gallitos = little roosters).

In South American countries, for arm wrestling you are also likely to hear:

1.) ¿Quieres jugar a las pulseadas?
2.) ¿Quieres echar un pulso?

Gets a bit confusing, eh? One of my favorite bits of trivia involves what is called in English "the number sign", or "the pound sign", or "the hash sign" or the "hashtag" (on Twitter) and it looks like this: #

In Mexican Spanish, however, it is commonly called "el gato", "the cat", as in:

"Marca la tecla del gato"...Press the # key. In formal business situations "la tecla del gato" is also known as "el símbolo (signo) de número", meaning "the number symbol" or "the number sign". In other Spanish speaking countries it may be called  "el cuadradillo" (the little square) or "la almohadilla" (the little pad).

The "simbolo del gato" is also what Mexican people call the lines that are used in the game that we call "tic-tac-toe" in American English and "noughts and crosses" in British English, but in Spain and some other places they call "tres en raya" meaning "three in a row".

"¿Quieres jugar gato?"...Do you want to play tic-tac-toe?

Some people think that the # symbol is the same as the musical symbol meaning "sharp" in English ("sostenido" in Spanish). However, if you will notice the cross bars on the "hash" symbol are horizontal and those of the "sharp" are slanted upward from left to right.

There is an old common belief is that the name for the hash sign for numbering derives from "thorpe", the Old Norse word for a village or farm that is often seen in British place names. The symbol was originally used in map making, representing a village surrounded by eight fields, so it was named the "octothorpe" literally meaning "eight fields".

Well, that's enough for today. I think it's time to put this little kitty to bed.

23 March 2013

The rain...a broken water jar

"El Cántaro Roto", a poem by beloved Mexican Poet Octavio Paz

The Broken water-jar

The rain...

Eyes of shadow-water
eyes of well-water
eyes of dream-water

Blue suns, green whirlwinds,
birdbeaks of light pecking open
pomegranate stars.

But tell me, burnt earth, is there no water?
Only blood, only dust,
only naked footsteps on the thorns?

The rain awakens...

We must sleep with open eyes,
we must dream with our hands,
we must dream the dreams of a river seeking its course,
of the sun dreaming its worlds,
we must dream aloud,
we must sing till the song puts forth roots,
trunk, branches, birds, stars,
we must find the lost word,
and remember what the blood,
the tides, the earth, and the body say,
and return to the point of departure...

El Cántaro Roto (Octavio Paz)

La lluvia... 

Ojos de aqua de sombra, 
ojos de agua de pozo, 
ojos de aqua de sueńo. 

Soles azules, verdes remolinos, 
picos de luz que abren astros 
como granadas. 

Dime, tierra quemada, no hay aqua? 
hay sólo sangre, sólo hay polvo, 
sólo pisadas de pies desnudos sobre 
la espina? 

La lluvia despierta... 

Hay que domir con los ojos abiertos, 
hay que soñar con les manos, 
soñemos sueños activos de río buscando 
su cauce, 
sueños de sol soñando sus mundos, 
hay que soñar en voz alta, 
hay que cantar hasta que el canto eche, 
raíces, tronco ramas pájaros, astros, 
hay que desenterrar la palabra perida, 
recordar lo que dicen la sangre y la marea, 
le tierra y el cuerpo, 
volver al punto de partida... 

Recited by Octavio Paz (click link)

Sung by the Virtual Choir (Very Beautiful) (click link)
Cantado por El Coro Virtual (Muy Hermosa)

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About Me

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.