Friday, July 31, 2020

Thursday, July 30, 2020

A Mini Road Trip

Since my return from Mexico in late February, I have not been farther than ten miles away from home.  On Sunday afternoon, after chatting with my Swiss cousins on Skype, I decided that I was going to get in the car and take a drive.  I took a look at Google Maps first and found someplace not too far away where I had never been before.

I headed west on the Ohio Turnpike and, after traveling thirty miles, reached my destination... Schoepfle Garden in the village of Birmingham, Ohio.  The garden is a part of the Lorain County park system, although it is located just beyond the county line in Erie County.

The park is named after Otto Schoepfle, a Lorain County banker and newspaper publisher.  In 1936 Schoepfle purchased the house and eight acres of land which once belonged to his grandparents.  He developed an interest in gardening, and over the years he turned the property into a botanical garden.  He left his garden to the Lorain County Metro Parks.  

This statue honors the man who created the botanical garden.

From the formal gardens there is a trail which leads into the forest.

Woodland wildflowers

The trail leads down to the bank of the Vermillion River.

It was a nice excursion, and it was great to get out the house and do a bit of "local tourism".  I will have to study Google Maps some more and see what other sights there are close to home.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

More from "Popo"

Forgive me if I am boring you with my obsession with the Mexican volcano Popocatépetl, but I can not resist posting more photos from "Webcams de México" .

This morning the mountain was still fuming.

Earlier, in the hours before dawn, the plume of smoke and ash reflected the glow of the fiery cauldron within the crater.

My Button

Last week a friend asked me in an email if I wanted a "Biden for President" button.  I said sure, and a few days later it arrived in the mail.

I have already worn it on my weekly trip to the supermarket and on an errand to the bank.  And I wore it while having Skype chats with my cousins in Switzerland... much to their approval.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Fiery "Popo"

I have written frequently about Popocatépetl ("Popo" for short), the volcano located about 45 miles from Mexico City.  Although the volcano has a long history of activity, it was quiet for several decades, including the years of my early trips to Mexico.  Then beginning in1994 it rumbled back to life, and since then it has been regularly exhaling plumes of gas and ash, and sometimes erupting with lava and incandescent material.

Yesterday I was looking at the webcams of "Popo", as I often do, and saw that the mountain had been putting on a small fireworks display the last couple days.

July 26th at 6:34 A.M.

July 27th at 4:58 A.M.

July 27th at 6:56 A.M.

When I talked to Alejandro last night, he said that around noon yesterday there had been an explosion of ash.  Usually the prevailing winds will blow the ash eastward toward the city of Puebla.  But this time the ash was blown toward the northwest, toward Mexico City.  Alejandro sent me the advisory that had been issued by the city government and the civil defense agency.

On the map, the districts of the city in gray were expected to experience falling ash.  Fortunately, Alejandro lives in the far northern area of the city in the section labeled GAM (Gustavo A. Madero).  

The advisory said that people should avoid eye irritation by not wearing contact lenses, should rinse their eyes and throat with clean water, and should cover their mouth and nose.  That's one extreme way to get people to wear face masks during the pandemic!

Here are a couple pictures of the still fuming volcano this morning.

UPDATE:  I just read an article on the internet that light volcanic ash is falling in some parts of Gustavo A. Madero, the section of the city where Alejandro lives.

ANOTHER UPDATE:  Alejandro says that they have not seen any ash in the neighborhood where he lives.

Monday, July 27, 2020

The Hair Report

You may remember that when this pandemic began in March, I decided to let my hair grow until I felt safe to travel again.  Ever since retirement I had been shaving my head, so I really had no idea how much hair remained on my head or how gray it was.

Four months have passed, two trips to Mexico have been rescheduled, and I see no end in sight.  This is what my hair looks like now.  (I admit to fluffing up the sides for comic effect.)

I look a bit like a mad scientist.  Although there is not much on top, the sides are getting wild.  Who knows how long my hair will be by the time this is all over.  I may look like an aging hippie with hair down to my shoulders. 

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Completion at Last!

The new siding on my house is finally complete!

As I wrote previously the one portion that remained to be done was around the living room windows.  They had found that some of the wooden frame around the large picture window was rotten.  The boss conferred with a window expert and was told that it wasn't necessary to replace the window (thank goodness!).  They could simply remove the wood and replace it... very carefully.

On Friday the boss and one of his workers arrived around noon.  The boss removed the rotten wood and put new wood in its place.  He admitted later that he was rather nervous as he did the job.  The other worker then covered the window frames with vinyl and caulked everything.  It turned out looking good.

They didn't complete the work until nearly 8:00  P.M.  While they were working, I painted the garage door which was much in need of a fresh coat of paint.

The outside of the house now looks bright and new!

Saturday, July 25, 2020

At the Market

Getting people to wear masks has been a problem in Mexico just as it has been in the United States.

Alejandro sent me a photo of these signs located at the entrance to a market building in Mexico.

The sign to the left says...

Dear customer,
We know that you are "IMMORTAL", but we AREN'T!
Please use a face mask.
Only one person at a time.
Keep a safe distance.  
Thank you for your understanding!

The sign to the right puts it more bluntly...

Your foolishness and ignorance in not using face masks and keeping a safe distance could be the cause of leaving many families without work.

(For those who speak Spanish, yes, there is a misspelling on the sign to the right.  "Prodria" should be "Podría".)

Friday, July 24, 2020

Into the Trash

Back in early June I wrote that I had purchased some hand sanitizer at my local supermarket.  It was a brand that I had never heard of... "Blumen"... and, in spite of its German name, it was made in Mexico.

I had read some time ago that the FDA was warning that some of the off-brands of sanitizers that were appearing on store shelves during the pandemic contained methanol.  Methanol, or wood alcohol, is highly toxic if ingested, and can even cause poisoning when absorbed through the skin.

Well, "Blumen" has appeared on the list of potentially toxic sanitizers.  Fortunately, I have not been using it.  I still have hand sanitizer from before the pandemic.  I don't use it very often.  At home I wash my hands with soap and water, and I only use a squirt of Purell when I am out of the house.  I had purchased the bottle of "Blumen" as a back-up in case I run out.  But it has now been tossed into the trash can.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Of the Clock

You really don't think about the peculiarities of your own language until you teach it as a foreign language.   When I was a teacher many of my beginning students in Spanish class thought that telling time in Spanish was difficult.  Now that I am giving English lessons via Skype to Alejandro's little nephew, Ezra, I am realizing that telling time in English can be even more confusing.

First of all, there is that bizarre expression "o'clock".  I doubt that most English speaking people even know that it is a contraction for "of the clock".  Up until the early 1700s people would say "It is eight of the clock."

Then we have so many different ways to say the time.  If it is 7:45 we could say "It's seven forty five", "It's a quarter to eight", or "It's fifteen minutes to eight".   Think about 8:05.  We can say "It's five after eight" or "It's five minutes after eight" but we are just as likely to say "it's eight O five".  I wonder if there is any other language that has our penchant for using the letter "O" in place of the number zero?  We certainly would never say "It's eight zero five".  Of course, once we hit 8:10 that letter O goes bye-bye.  We would never say "It's eight one O".

Why is it that when telling time we say "in the morning" and "in the afternoon" but "at night"?  It would sound odd to say "It's ten o'clock in the night".

All these quirks of our language came to my mind as I prepared a lesson for Ezra on telling time.  I wanted to at least expose him to the variations we use.  Even though he has studied English since the first grade, this was probably our most difficult lesson up to this point.  I had prepared a bunch of flash cards with different times on them.  He did OK, but, after going through about half of the flash cards, I realized it was time to give it a rest.  

"All right, would you like to learn another song?" 


"Twinkle, twinkle, little star..."

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Inching Toward Dictatorship

(image taken from the web)

Not too long ago I started referring to the "Pendejo" as "Herr Pendejo" to characterize him as a racist "wanna-be Hitler".  His recent actions and words have only added weight to that characterization.  He has sent in Federal agents to Portland where protests have continued ever since the murder of George Floyd.  One can debate how many of the people involved are peaceful demonstrators and how many are violent rioters and vandals.  But nevertheless, the scenes of people being beaten by anonymous agents and hauled away in unmarked vehicles conjures up images of a Fascist dictatorship.  In a recent interview "Herr Pendejo" was asked point blank if he will accept the results of the 2020 election, and he responded "I have to see."  This man is the gravest threat to democracy that this nation has seen in its history.

Meanwhile, as "Herr Pendejo" continues to play golf and obsess over Confederate flags and Goya food products, the coronavirus pandemic continues unabated.  The number of deaths in the U.S. in less than six months is approaching 144,000.   That is equal to the number of U.S. military deaths in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Iraq War and the Afghan War COMBINED!

A clear sign of the threat "Herr Pendejo" represents is the fact that there are at least two Republican organizations that are actively campaigning for Biden with political ads and videos on TV and YouTube.  RVAT (Republicans Voting Against Trump) has testimonials from numerous life-long Republicans who are speaking out against the orange stain in the White House, and who plan to vote for Biden.  You can hear one of those testimonials, a particularly eloquent one, by clicking here on "A Blistering Critique".

Another organization of disgruntled Republicans called The Lincoln Project has been airing scathing ads.  Here are two especially chilling ones...


Finally here is a description of "Herr Pendejo" that has appeared repeatedly in the comments section of YouTube...

The "billionaire" who hides his tax returns.
The "genius" that hides his college grades.
The "businessman" who bankrupted 3 casinos and lost over $1B in 10 years.
The "playboy" who pays for sex.
The "Christian" who doesn't go to church.
The "philanthropist" who defrauds charity.
The "innocent man" who refuses to testify.
The "President" who takes no responsibility.

If American reelects this guy, it deserves the dystopian future that follows.

Amen!  In November we must tell "Herr Pendejo" loudly and clearly, "YOU'RE FIRED!"


Monday, July 20, 2020

Sunday, July 19, 2020

My Version of "Molletes"

"Molletes" are a simple, inexpensive Mexican snack that can be eaten any time of day.  They are a sort of open-faced sandwich made with "bolillos" (the typical, crusty rolls) cut in half lengthwise.  The toppings can vary, but they always include refried beans, "chile" peppers and cheese.  The "molletes" then are placed in the oven until the cheese melts.

Yesterday, I created my own version of this traditional Mexican dish.  Instead of "bolillos" (which would have required a trip to the Mexican grocery store in Cleveland) I used English muffins.  I lightly toasted them first.  At the local supermarket I had bought a can of refried beans and a can of "chipotle" peppers in "adobo" sauce.  I heated up the beans and mixed in a couple peppers in sauce.  I spooned the beans onto the split English muffins and topped them liberally with grated "Mexican blend" cheese.  On a baking sheet I put them under the oven broiler just for a few minutes, just long enough to melt the cheese.

Although the finished product was not quite as tasty as the real thing in Mexico, my "molletes" were very good.  Three split muffins made a filling supper.  It was very quick and easy, and I will definitely make them again.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Getting Ready for Christmas

If you have been following my blog for several years, you know that each year I paint a picture, usually based on my travels, which I use for my Christmas card.  I generally do my painting in the summer, and then I have the cards printed well ahead of time so that I have them all made out and ready to send by the end of November.  

Although I haven't done much travel this year, last year I took several trips.  Even before the pandemic had begun, I had decided on the scene that I was going to paint.  I finished the picture more than a month ago, but yesterday I took it to the printer.  I will probably have the cards in a couple of weeks.

Of course, the subject of the painting remains a secret until the cards are sent out.

Here is last year's card, a street scene in the picturesque Mexico City neighborhood of Coyoacán.

What will this year's card be?

You will have to wait until December to see!

Friday, July 17, 2020

Almost... But Not Quite... Completed

Two weeks had passed and no one had come to complete work on the new siding and gutters on my house.  Finally on Tuesday, when we had a respite from the heat, a guy came and installed the new gutters and downspouts.

The owner of the company also showed up, and I pointed out some issues that I had with the work, mainly with the trim work around the windows and doors.  Yesterday, one of the workers came out and took care of those problems.

The remaining work to be done is around the large picture window in the front of the house.

I wrote earlier that they had found that some of the wooden framework at the bottom of the window was rotten, and they did not know if it would be necessary to replace the entire window.  The owner of the company talked with someone from a window business.  That person said that the wood could simply be replaced.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they are able to delicately remove the wood without shattering the window!

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Room with a View

The flowers that I have planted in the flower box and the pots outside my bedroom have really taken off.  This is the view that I have when I wake up in the morning...

(Click on the photo for a better view.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

A Slow Boat to Mexico?

Almost four months ago, on March 26th to be exact, I wrote here on this blog that I had sent this postcard to Alejandro's nephew Ezra in Mexico City.

On Monday, 109 days later, Ezra received his postcard.  (The Pony Express was able to deliver mail across the continental United States in ten days, and I could have walked from Ohio to Mexico City in less than 109 days!)

I really don't understand what has happened to the Mexican postal service.  Nearly fifty years ago, when I attended school in Mexico, the system was not speedy, but it was relatively efficient.  My parents would send me letters and bank money orders so that I would have spending money, and they arrived in a little more than a week.  Almost forty years later, after I first met Alejandro, I sent him a Christmas card in late November.  He received the card in time for Easter.

I sent Ezra another postcard in May.  Where is that card right now?  On a rowboat headed across the Gulf of Mexico?  On a donkey crossing the Sierra Madre Mountains?  Most likely it is sitting in a Mexico City post office, and one day someone will decide to deliver it.

Ezra enjoys receiving mail, so in spite of the snail's pace in delivery, today I am sending him another card.  This one has a picture of Ohio's state bird, the cardinal.

He should receive it sometime in November!

I have been traveling to Mexico for nearly a half century, and in those years I have seen much progress there.  Sadly, the postal system has regressed.