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Tippy Gnu

I chase unicorns and post them on my blog. I also accept donated unicorns. And when I still don’t have enough unicorns to post, I steal them from unsuspecting celebrities, in the form of stolen quotes. Then I let my followers do whatever the hell they want, with these unicorns I post. Come join the fun, and together we’ll chase unicorns!

Save Noura

Noura Hussein lives in Sudan. And that’s likely where she will die. Very soon. At 16 years old, her family forced her to marry a man she did not want to marry. She refused to consummate the marriage, and so he raped her.

The first rape occurred with the help of his family. They pinned her down while her new husband forced sex on her.

He attempted the second rape by himself. Big mistake. Noura took up a knife and stabbed him to death. But this was a big mistake for Noura, also. She was arrested and charged with premeditated murder.

Now this young, underaged child, who was forced into marriage and raped, has been sentenced to death by hanging, by a Sharia court. Self-defense is apparently no excuse for women who are raped by their husbands, under Sharia law. Her lawyers have until May 25th to save her.

The clock is ticking. Soon Noura’s fate will be sealed.

But apparently the international community is trying to put pressure on the Sudanese government to spare her life. If you have a Twitter account there is a way you can help, by signing some sort of petition. I don’t Tweet, so I have no idea how this works. But here are a few hashtags you can try:

#JusticeForNoura
#Save Noura

Dalia al Najjar brought this story to my attention in her blog. She’s from Gaza, and occasionally posts very interesting articles about her life as a Palestinian from that area. Here’s a link to her blog:

https://daliaalnjjar.wordpress.com/2018/05/19/getting-married-too-soon-or-too-late

And here are a few other links, if you want to read more about Noura:

https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/hammad-sjbn/

https://www.yahoo.com/news/sudan-teens-death-penalty-puts-spotlight-womens-rights-044018167.html

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/may/14/sudan-urged-pardon-teenager-facing-death-for-killing-husband-who-raped-her-noura-hussein

The Way of the Mayans

The High Temple “pyramid” at Lamanai, Belize. Lamanai was once a major city of the Maya civilization, and was occupied for an amazing time span of over 3,500 years, from about 1600 BC to the 20th century AD. This rivals that of the Nile River Valley and northern China. It was immune from the general collapse of Mayan civilization that occurred in the 9th Century AD. And disinterest by Spanish and British colonists spared the Mayans in this city, though their culture had changed significantly from the ways of their ancient ancestors. Today many Belizeans, and in fact many others who live in southern Mexico and Central America, identify themselves as Mayan. In that sense it can be said that the Mayan civilization has never completely died out.

Much is known about the Mayans, and much is not known. What we do know is that the Mayan civilization began more than 4,000 years ago, in areas we now call southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, and Honduras. After 2,000 BC, they became advanced enough to build cities, and small city-states began to dominate the geopolitical landscape.

The view from the top of the High Temple at Lamanai, Belize. Our tour guide told us that Belize is the only country that continues to allow tourists to climb Mayan “pyramids”. Most of the climb is made by ascending wooden stairs behind the temple. Tourists are only allowed to ascend the top flight of the stone steps. These steps are so high and steep, they require you to climb bent over, using both your hands and feet. They force you, I guess, to humble yourself before the Mayan gods. As you can see from the viewshed, the topography is very flat. The New River flows in the background. We reached these ruins by traveling by boat over the New River.

The Mayans were pretty smart. They became the only native Americans to develop a full writing system before the arrival of Columbus. They also got good at math, and were the first in the world to use the number zero. The Mayan calendar was complex and accurate. And their architecture lives on today in famous ruins at archaeological digs such as Chichen Itza, Yaxchilan, Lamanai, and Tulum.

The ancient walled city of Tulum, in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. It’s located on the Yucatan peninsula, about 80 miles south of Cancun. Occupied around 1200 AD, this was one of the last cities to be established by the Maya. It was conquered by the Spanish in the late 1500s.

These fuckers built great stone temples that are misleadingly called “pyramids”, and used them to sacrifice human beings. Sacrifices involved decapitation, heart excision, being shot with arrows, and other brutal methods for appeasing the gods and conveniently ridding rulers of potential rivals.

The temple of El Castillo, “The Castle”, Tulum, Mexico. Many a rival ruler, and a few supposed virgins, were sacrificed on this spot.

The Mayans attained the height of their glory in the 9th Century AD. And that’s when everything somehow fell all to hell. A widespread political collapse occurred at this time, with internecine warfare, and refugees spilling out of cities. Nobody knows exactly why this happened but there are many theories.

The Great Palace, Tulum, Mexico. Here is where the royal family lived. Sort of an ancient Buckingham Palace.

One theory is ecocide. At that time, the population was up to ten times the current modern-day population, in areas where the soil was poor and very difficult to cultivate. Mayan agricultural science was highly advanced. To this day, nobody knows how the Mayans figured out how to support such a large populace with such infertile soil. But somehow they managed. At least for a while.

The ecocide school of thought holds that in spite of their agricultural genius, they overused their natural resources, and mother nature finally gave out under the strain. This led to widespread famine and political destabilization.

Temple of the God of the Wind, Tulum, Mexico. This temple is situated near a high cliff that overlooks the Caribbean Sea. Tulum was a major trading hub, and archeologists speculate that a signal light was burned atop the cliff to mark the location of a break in the coral reef offshore. This guided trading canoes safely to shore.

Other theories include extended droughts, epidemic diseases, and foreign invasion. But none of these theories have been proven, and the rapid decline of Mayan civilization in the 9th century AD remains one of the world’s greatest archaeological mysteries.

Danze de los Voladores, or Dance of the Flyers. I just call it the Mayan Pole Dance. This is an ancient Mesoamerican ceremony for the purpose of ending droughts. In this version of the dance, the participants hanging upside down spin around the pole as they gradually descend to earth. Each dancer represents the four directions, and are depicting the recreation of the world, and the regeneration of life. This dance version is so dangerous, it has been banned by many villages in Mexico. Yep, sometimes they fall and die. And then we get no rain.

But the Mayan civilization rebounded, in a sense. Archaeological evidence indicates that after the 9th century AD, many Mayans emigrated from the lowlands of Central America to areas of southern Mexico. They expanded and built more city-states, such as Chichen Itza and Tulum. But although their great civilization perdured, they never returned to their prior peak of glory.

The Cenote House, Tulum, Mexico. Below this structure lies a cenote. A cenote is an underground river. Most of the rivers in this part of Mexico flow underground, and can only be accessed through caves and sinkholes. The Mayan inhabitants of Tulum entered this cave, then descended a long rope ladder to the river below, to obtain their water. Something to remember the next time you open your tap, if you want to appreciate modern plumbing.

The arrival of the Spanish did them in for good. Their city-states were conquered one-by-one, mainly through the weapon of smallpox. The last Mayan city-state taken by force by the conquistadors was Nojpeten, in present-day Flores, Guatemala, in the year 1697. This occurred 800 years after the initial collapse that began the Mayan decline. This “officially” ended Mayan civilization, though some argue that it continues in a different form, to this day.

Temple of the Frescoes, Tulum, Mexico. This served as a solar observatory for Mayan priests. They tracked the movement of the sun, and used this information to determine the start of seasons for growing crops. A stuccoed figure of the Mayan “Diving God” can be found on this structure. And inside is a mural, though visitors are no longer allowed in to view this work of art.

A new theory is starting to emerge concerning that initial collapse. Archaeologist Rob Muller discovered thousands of small rocks containing Mayan hieroglyphics, which he calls “bleats”. These bleats apparently contain short messages inscribed by a Mayan king named Trumpamuckus, who appears to have tossed them out to the populace at random.

Muller continues to study the writing on the bleats, and has yet to issue a final report of his conclusions. But for now he claims that King Trumpamuckus rose to power around the year 816 AD. He also says that this king was highly controversial, and was accused by other Mayan leaders as having attained power with the help of the rival Aztec civilization, to the north.

The Jaguar Temple, Lamanai, Belize. Jaguars were revered by the Maya, and symbolized power and authority. Mayan rulers were often depicted wearing jaguar style attire. They also limited their travel exclusively to the use of a sports car purchased from a certain British auto manufacturer.

According to Muller, Trumpamuckus often denied some sort of alliance with the Aztecs, in his bleats. He also often proclaimed himself as the greatest king to have ever ruled anywhere on earth. And there were many stony missives that belittled warnings from Mayan scientists about impending ecological disaster.

Muller is trying to make sense of it all. It will be interesting to read his final report, and many are waiting with bated breath for the results. Perhaps it will contain lessons we can all learn.

And that would be good. So that we don’t go the way of the Mayans.

Temple of the Mask, Lamanai, Belize. Could this be a depiction of the greatest king to have ever ruled on earth? If so, it appears he is leering at a sexy Mayan celebrity lady. Because when you are that powerful, you can do anything you want.

How to Breeze Through a Carnival Cruise

The Carnival Breeze cruise ship, moored to the dock at Mahogany Bay, Roatan, Honduras.


“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate,” said the warden to Luke Skywalker. Or was that Cool Hand Luke? If you’re confused, so was I, on the Carnival Cruise ship Breeze. My wife and I recently sailed aboard this ship, while on a Caribbean cruise that began in Galveston, Texas.

I’m going to tell you what you need to know, that the cruise line and ship’s crew failed to communicate, so your ride on this vessel might go a little more smoothly than ours.

The byzantine layout of this ship can be mystifying. You have to explore on your own, and pry information from the ship’s crew and passengers, to figure it all out.

First, take a winter jacket. They refrigerate the hell out of the ship, with their ubiquitous air conditioning. My wife and I expected balmy Caribbean conditions, but our indoor experience felt much more like a gelid cruise to Alaska. And even with the thermostat in our cabin cranked all the way up to a volcanic setting, cool air still poured out of the ceiling vent.

Fortunately we had a balcony stateroom, so when we hit warmer waters we were able to prop open the balcony door and allow some blessed tropical heat enter our icebox. Er, I mean cabin. It felt nice to defrost.

Passengers defrosting on an aft deck.

There were no lights in our quarters when we first moved in. My wife complained to a steward, and he said he’d look into it. A few hours later, as the tenebrous fingers of twilight were creeping in, I desperately asked another passenger if he had lights in his cabin. Yes, he claimed, to my surprise. Then he explained that you have to insert your Sail and Sign card in a slot by the door to make the lights work. I felt a little sheepish, and wished I was as smart as him, to have figured that out.

Anyways, our cruise was finally starting to feel a little pleasant, as we no longer had to pee on the floor of our dark bathroom.

A Sail and Sign card, by the way, is a little plastic credit card like thing that you are issued when you board a Carnival ship. It allows you to buy stuff and have it put on your account, to be settled after the cruise ends. And you must have it in your possession to get off the ship and back on. And it also admits you into your cabin, much like a motel room key.

Problem is, you must leave this very important card in the slot by the door, to make the lights turn on and stay on. If you happen to leave your cabin and forget to take your card with you, you’ll be locked out. So you must spend your entire cruise worrying about this possibility.

But there’s a loophole. About two days before our cruise ended, we discovered that we could fold over a piece of paper and stick it into the slot, and that kept the lights on. What chumps we were for all that angst over forgetting the Sail and Sign card. We felt annoyed with ourselves, but also gloated and delighted in the sneakiness of bypassing Carnival’s diabolical energy-saving scheme.

Our balcony, plus a couple of other cruise ships, anchored off Belize City, Belize. We discovered that many other cruise ships were visiting the same tourist traps as us, at the same time. Translation: Large crowds ashore.

If you want to protect yourself from hearing loss, avoid the Lido Deck (Deck 10). There they blast music so loud, you can receive a free ear piercing. But the Lido Deck is also where they serve food, in a smorgasbord-like setting. So if you like smorgasbords, pack a pair of earplugs.

And men, if you prefer to be served by waiters, pack a pair of long pants. Dinner is served at the Sapphire Restaurant on Deck 3, every evening beginning at 5:45 pm. Most nights, casual attire is allowed. But on two of the cruise nights you are required to wear formal attire for what they call Elegant Dining. That means long pants. They don’t seem to give a damn what kind of shirt you wear, as long as it isn’t a tank top. But they won’t let you in if you’re wearing shorts.

This Elegant Dining crap really gets under my skin. I’m on vacation and going for a cruise to the Caribbean, goddamnit, so why can’t I just wear shorts and relax the whole time? Two reasons. First, as I mentioned above, they refrigerate the hell out of the ship, and that includes dining areas. So you might want to dine in long pants every night, and also huddle in a heavy parka wrapped over your Hawaiian shirt.

I found some lifesaving peace on this cruise, and spent quiet moments admiring beautiful sights.

The second reason has to do with the fashion police. Some folks on cruises have a thing about clothing. I suspect that dressing up is some sort of competitive sport for them, and they want to compete against as many participants as possible; even if they have to force those who just want to relax and be casual, to participate in this sick competition.

Well, I showed those snobs a thing or two. Yes, I did bring along a pair of long pants, and yes I did wear them during the goddamned fucking Elegant Dining nights. But while eating and engaging in table talk, I employed words such as “ain’t”, “y’all”, and “shaddup”, while deploying my thickest redneck accent. In this manner I demonstrated that while this rebel could be forced to be elegant, I could not be compelled to be eloquent.

By the way, to find the Sapphire Restaurant, go to the fore elevator, and ride it to Deck 3. Don’t take the mid elevator. That’s a trap they don’t tell you about. You can’t get into the restaurant from there, and have to brave crowded elevators to get back to a different deck and walk to the fore of the ship.

Learn the elevators. They have their ups and downs. There are three sets of elevators, at the fore, mid, and aft areas of the ship.

Breakfast is served at the Blush Restaurant, Deck 3, near the aft elevator. Elegant Dining never occurs at the Blush, thank God. (I wonder if that’s why they named it Blush?)

Plan your shore excursions before you cruise. Just get on Carnival’s website, and you’ll find descriptions for all the excursions available, and that should help you choose. Excursions are important. After all, why would you sail a thousand miles to a foreign port to just stay on the ship, or browse through the souvenir shops on shore? If you really want to see something, you must book an excursion.

We waited until the second day of the cruise to actually book our excursions. We knew what we wanted way before the cruise began, but we worried that we might have to cancel our cruise, and then lose our money from booking excursions too early. The tickets are nonrefundable, you see. But because we waited, some of the excursions we wanted had already been taken. So we were left with alternate, mediocre choices, for some of the tours we went on.

Don’t let that happen to you. Book on the first day of cruising. You can book your excursions at the Carnival Adventures desk, near the fore elevator, on Deck 3.

Mahogany Bay, Roatan, Honduras. If you want to see more than this at the exotic foreign ports you visit, I advise that you book an excursion.

The night before an excursion, buy some water at the Plaza Cafe, on Deck 5. It only costs $1.44 for a one-liter bottle. If you don’t take this precious chemical with you, in the tropical heat, you may find yourself humming a certain Sons of the Pioneers tune the entire day. (Can you name that tune?)

Do you get seasick easy? Then reserve a cabin that’s situated in the middle of the ship. That’s where the least amount of pitching and rolling motion is felt. Vacations are always more enjoyable when you find a way to minimize the vomiting.

Do you have ochlophobia, like me? That’s a fear of large crowds. If so, you might want to reconsider going on a cruise. The Carnival Breeze is very populated, accommodating over 3,000 passengers. You may often find yourself being herded around with other passengers, like a parade of elephants.

I say elephants, and not cattle, because I noticed that most of the passengers are overweight. I suspect that the appeal for many people to cruising is the “all-you-can-eat” dining feature. Fatsos are in food heaven, on a Carnival cruise ship. And their sheer numbers and individual sizes can make it challenging to navigate down narrow aisles, or stand in elevators. You sometimes must contort your body in weird positions, to avoid contact with big bellies.

I think that’s also why they keep the air-conditioning cranked up. Fatsos can’t tolerate any amount of heat. They must always have cold air blowing over them to cool their adipose-insulated bodies, and they howl like tormented souls in hell whenever a hypothermic skinny person inches the thermostat up.

I remained in my cabin as much as possible, due to my ectomorphic frame, ochlophobia, and misanthropic nature. Several times I relied upon room service for a Reuben or BLT sandwich, to avoid cold, crowded dining areas.

This is the casino. Photo was taken around 6:00 am, when most of the passengers were snoozing like beached whales. I did very well at this casino. That’s because I do not gamble.

At the end of the cruise you will receive printed and oral information concerning Carnival’s highly organized, well-thought-out-plan to disembark its 3,000 passengers from the ship in a safe and sane manner. This orderly plan involves disembarking manageable groups of people, one-by-one, by assigned zone, and by deck. You will be warned repeatedly over loudspeakers to follow the plan.

We’ve learned to ignore the warnings. We suspect it’s just Carnival’s way of paying lip-service to maritime safety regulations.

We do like it seems everyone else does, and stampede for the elevators. The crew doesn’t seem to actually care about, or enforce its complex disembarkation procedure. Hell, they want you off the ship more than you want to get off of it, so they can make room for a fresh new load of elephants.

We’ve learned that the sooner we start running for the exits, the sooner we get off the boat before the rest of the stampede, and the less time we have to wait in line at Customs. Believe me, those Customs lines can be murderously long. So take my word for it. Run like everyone else runs! Beat the crowds and get the hell out of there, quick!

Galveston Bay, with the full moon setting, on the last day of our cruise. True to this astrological sign, it was lunacy getting off the ship.

And finally you’ll be heading home. Perhaps in your very own car. An uncrowded car, where you can breathe easily. A comfortable car that will leave you wondering if you could have had more fun on a road trip, rather than a cruise. A responsive car where you have control over everything except the price of gas.

And a car where you can finally remove your parka. Because you also control the air-conditioning.

A Dangerous Pleasure

You’re looking at 85 years of patience. In the 1920s, horticulturist Luther Gage introduced the Ranunculus flower to Southern California. Gage’s flowers were grown next to Frank Frazee’s vegetable farm in Oceanside, California, and it didn’t take Frank long to notice them and appreciate their beauty. In 1933 Frazee also began cultivating this flower.

One of the most pleasurable feelings for me is the emotion of anger. I love being pissed off. I enjoy the rumble of the volcano, vibrating within my gut, and the flashes of lightning that electrify my nerves.

But anger is a dangerous feeling. I can’t think rationally when I’m angry. And this makes me prone to try to solve a problem by doing something that is harmful to others or destructive to myself.

Frank’s son Edwin, soon dropped out of high school to help his dad on the flower farm. Edwin loved the flowers, and began to carefully develop different strains of Ranunculus, by selecting seeds from unusual flower colors and full flower shapes. He eventually developed blossoms of thirteen different hues, and also bred a Ranunculus bulb with a never-before-seen infusion of petals, known as a “double”. By 1965, Edwin had taken over the farm, and he moved the operation to these fields in Carlsbad, California.

Some people say that venting is healthy. But how healthy can that be, when it leads to saying things that alienate others? Or when it leads to doing things that destroy what we hold precious?

It feels damn good to blow off steam. But that good feeling can be addictive. Which leads to more and more blowing off of steam, until we become a regular teapot, frequently howling and whistling and bubbling up.

“Tecolote” means “owl” in Spanish. The Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flower was given this name for owls that nested in the Oceanside/Carlsbad area.

I’ve found that the best way to handle my anger is to avoid the venting method. Instead I wait. When I catch anger in time I stop what I’m doing and just wait. I savor the powerful feeling and allow it to churn and spin and roil inside, all that it wants, while I simply watch it like a spectator at a gladiator event.

Thumbs down, always! But only in my mind.

The Southern California climate is perfect for growing the Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flower. Over half a billion of these blooms can be seen waving their heads in the breeze on these 55 acres of land, during the springtime.

Anger takes a lot of energy, so it can’t last long. After a short while of watching the show it burns out and fades away, leaving a soft, lingering afterglow. That’s when I become capable of rational thought. And then I use the energy from the afterglow to address the problem in a way that is far more likely to resolve the issue, rather than make matters worse.

There are about 500 different species of Ranunculus. It is native to Asia Minor, and is a member of the buttercup family. But some think the Giant Tecolote Ranunculus resembles a rose. A “rose” that has no thorns.

But for me, anger is like a ninja warrior, or Cato stalking Inspector Clouseau. It suddenly strikes from nowhere, and quickly overtakes me. I must always stay on my toes and remain mindful of it. Only then can I recognize it in time, and stop what I’m doing before I fly off the handle and engage in behavior I’ll regret later.

These workers are gathering flowers for floral shops throughout the country. Perhaps you can thank them for helping you get over a spat with your spouse.

I’m not always successful. Sometimes a surprise attack of anger gets the best of me. And that really ticks me off. But I try. And I’ve found that with effort I can usually stop torrential rainstorms of anger from flooding and washing away the things in my life I’ve worked so hard to cultivate.

Edwin Frazee teamed up with another horticulturist, named Paul Ecke, Jr. It was Ecke’s idea to open the flower fields to tourists. Since 1992, the Flower Fields of Carlsbad have been open to the public from March into May, and have attracted thousands of peripatetic petal-gazers from all over the globe.

The result is softer rains, that nourish the soil of my toil. Rains from the hydrosphere that allow for carefully planned irrigation, planting, and growth. Rains that leave in their wake a cornucopia of beauty and color, for anyone to enjoy.

Just like fields of flowers in the springtime.

This American flag is made of petunias. It’s another feature you can view at the Flower Fields of Carlsbad, and is grown to honor our veterans.

Mission San Diego de Alcalâ

Founded in 1769, Mission San Diego de Alcalâ was the first of the 21 missions the Spanish would eventually build. Er, I mean the Indians they enslaved would eventually build. But after 5 years they had to move a few miles, so they could be closer to a water supply, and to more Indians. Then, just one year after the first church was built, a band of angry natives burned the whole damned place down, and killed the priest. Father Serra had to return and rebuild the mission. This time he had it constructed like a fort, in quadrangular shape, with a courtyard in the middle. This proved very effective against uprisings, and became a blueprint for future missions.


My wife and I love the old Catholic missions of California, and have made it our goal to visit all 21 of them. So far we’ve managed to see eight.

Mission San Diego de Alcalâ was the first of the missions, founded in 1769 by Father Junipero Serra.

I am an atheist, so what is it about these religious grounds that I find so attractive? Within the ambiance of these missions I find myself whelmed in a sense of numinous peace that leaves my soul feeling settled and whole. Why?

Here, Native Americans were enslaved and forced to toil away, feeding and supporting the Spanish military. They couldn’t have enjoyed these missions as much as me. Or could they? Perhaps to understand this, I must rely upon my own personal interpretation of the Gospel.

The posh living quarters of the priest. Equipped with a bed, small desk, and four walls, this was better than any Ramada Inn. That’s because it also came equipped with a small Indian slave, trained and ready to do all the priest’s bidding.

Back in the day, the Roman military occupied Israel. The Jews hated them. Then along came this dude named Jesus, who promised everyone freedom from the Romans. He performed all kinds of supernatural miracles, which attracted a lot of attention and got him way more followers than I’ve ever been able to achieve on WordPress.

Many believed he was the promised Messiah, and that he would use his miraculous powers to send the Romans packing back to Italy.

But instead he let them all down. It was all a bait-and-switch technique. The oldest scam in the book. Christ was a con artist. Instead of conquering the Romans, he taught that true freedom comes from observing the Golden Rule, and relying upon the mercy of God.

Mission San Diego de Alcalâ was designated a minor basilica in 1976, by Pope Paul VI. As you can see, the church is very large, and can seat hundreds and hundreds of slaves.

There is no better way to develop empathy other than to try to figure out how to do unto others what you would have them do unto you. And reliance upon the mercy of God is nothing more than trusting to your luck, and to the long run good fortune that eventually results from the development of empathy.

Supernatural miracles, such as walking upon water, cannot help anybody learn these lessons of empathy and faith. We must learn these lessons on our own. So no matter how powerful Jesus happened to be, he knew he could not transplant the skills of the Golden Rule, or empathy, into his followers. He knew they had to rely upon the ordinary miracle of life itself, by living it and learning it on their own.

The church altar is clinquant beautiful, as have been the altars of all the missions we have thus far visited. I understand that the material used to construct all this beauty is an element called “indulgences”. Indulgences provide worshipers with a convenient method to buy their way into heaven by being generous with their donations.

So one day he decided to stop performing his magic show for his followers. That really did it. They turned on him more viciously than the followers of Kathy Griffin and her severed head of Donald Trump.

The Pharisees seized the opportunity, arrested Jesus, and presented him to the Romans for punishment. Maybe they hoped Jesus would use his supernatural powers to defend himself, sparking an escalating war with the Romans that would result in a Roman defeat.

This sparrow enjoys its own altar within the Mission grounds, perched upon a giant white bird-of-paradise flower.

But Jesus held his fire. And his refusal to defend himself resulted in his execution. This was his sacrifice. This was his way of showing his followers that they could not rely upon external forces to save them. They must instead save themselves by following the Golden Rule, developing empathy, and relying upon the mercy of God. Only then could they know the true way to personal salvation. Only then could they discover how to find true peace and happiness within their own souls.

Yep, this’ll show ‘em.

His final miracle was his resurrection. But he had to do that to get his stupid followers to believe in him and his message again. Just like Kathy Griffin being resurrected at Carnegie Hall. Now we get it, Kathy. Now we understand.

But none of the teachings of Christ are true. They are merely words, and words cannot save anyone. We must instead use the teachings as a guide. When we follow the Golden Rule, and sincerely try to understand it, we develop empathy. When we develop empathy, we develop peace. And when we develop peace we begin to feel ourselves slipping into a wordless grasping of the true essence of life. And then nothing anybody has ever taught, whether they be Christ, Buddha, or Kathy Griffin, means anything.

I believe it is this wordless sense of life’s true essence that we catch a glimpse of, whenever we visit places like this. This is what we find so attractive here. And who knows, perhaps, hopefully, some of the Indian slaves also caught a sense of it here.

Here amongst the bird-of-paradise.

Here within the serene, numinous atmosphere of the adobe walls of an old Catholic mission.

Bird-of-paradise grow abundantly at this mission. We’ve always been impressed with the lush flora cultivated at each mission. I believe the Catholics grow some of the finest flower gardens we’ve ever experienced.

Electrical Safety Tips

I’m no electrician, but I once learned about electrons and protons in high school science. I’ve also had a bit of “hands-on” experience with electricity, and learned a few rather shocking lessons. My concern for humanity has overcome my embarrassment, and leads me to warn others not make the same mistakes I’ve made. So here are a few safety tips concerning electricity. Please read them carefully. They could just save your ass:

  1. Always use a wood-handled knife when making toast.
  2. “Ground” isn’t just dirt, it’s also water. And it even includes your bare feet standing in the water.
  3. Never clean your breaker box with a garden hose.
  4. Aluminum conducts electricity. Who would’ve thought? Never set your soda can on top of exposed wires.
  5. Never, I repeat, never, use copper wire for kite string.
  6. Always drain the swimming pool before trying to change a burned-out pool light.
  7. When taking a bath, always set the Boom Box on the floor and not on the tub ledge.
  8. You can’t escape lightning by climbing a tree.
  9. If a toddler shoves a nail into an electrical outlet, put on a leather glove before pulling it out.
  10. Some house wire insulation is colored black. This denotes power. It also symbolizes loss of consciousness.

BE AWARE & BE SAFE!

Bonus Tip: If you hire an electrician, don’t try to assist him while he’s out on his lunch break.

The World Is Flat!

“Mad” Mike’s rocketship. If you can’t prove the world is flat with this contraption, perhaps you can at least catch a roadrunner.

Breaking News: The world was proven flat on Saturday, March 25, 2018, when intrepid daredevil, “Mad” Mike Hughes launched himself 1,875 feet into the troposphere (yes, the TROPOSPHERE, I say!), in his homemade steam-powered rocketship.

You first heard about “Mad” Mike Hughes on this very blog (unless you heard elsewhere). That’s when I scooped the entire journalistic world, except the journalists who made me aware of this story, and told you about “Mad” Mike’s ambition. I even met his helper and saw the madman not more than 50 feet away. He ignored me. But I did take some snapshots of his crazy spaceship.

Here are the links to my earlier blog posts:
Mad Mike and His Steam-Powered Rocketship
Science

Yep, I like to keep you abreast of the cutting edge of science. And nonscience. And even, nonsense.

“Mad” Mike Hughes believes the world is as flat as a frisbee. But he doesn’t want you to take his word for it, he wants to prove it. So he built a steam-powered rocketship, which he has used several times now to penetrate the troposphere, and gaze upon this frisbee from on high. I guess there’s nothing like getting a birds-eye view of something, so you can tell exactly how it’s shaped.

“Mad” Mike’s first launch, several years ago, delivered him to heights of 1,500 feet. However this latest launch shattered his old record, bursting the 1,800 foot mark. This time he used two parachutes instead of one, and managed to avoid breaking both of his ankles again. But he does claim to have a sore back.

Actually, some of the above was fake news. I’m sorry. I hate to burst your bubble, but “Mad” Mike did not really prove the world is flat. All his launch did was raise our awareness of his flat earth cause. He claims he’ll have to launch himself some 68 miles up into the air before he can provide evidence of our planet’s flatness.

But he does plan to do this, in a fancy-fangled device called a “Rockoon”. This is a hybrid of a rocketship and balloon, that “Mad” Mike intends to invent.

We’re looking forward to it, “Mad” Mike, but we sincerely hope you will survive. We’re glad you returned to earth safely on Saturday, and we hope you always keep safety foremost in mind. Never deny the scientifically-proven fact that gravity can be very dangerous.

I now return you to your regular blog programming . . .

Contractor Language

How did this get so complicated? All we wanted was a contractor to run a gas line to our kitchen, so we could replace the electric range with a gas range. But I suspect that’s how many home remodels begin.

A home remodel is like cancer. It starts out tiny, just one little thing, then spreads to every nook and corner of your humble abode. Now we’ve remodeled the kitchen, the den, the hallway, and a bathroom, and it’s starting to metastasize into another bathroom, the bedrooms, and our living room.

Maybe I could have stopped this if only I knew from the start, how to understand contractor language. I’m learning though. The more I deal with this class of business person, the more I find myself picking up their patois.

I wrote this post to protect you from what has happened to me. I want you to learn their language, too, so that you can effectively deal with the next unintelligible contractor who shows up at your door.

What follows are ten common phrases spoken in contractor language, followed by a translation in layman’s language. If you let this be your Rosetta Stone, you could save a truckload of money:

Contractor: I don’t like written contracts.
Translation: I prefer to argue over who has the best memory.

Contractor: I thought that’s what we agreed on.
Translation: You should have insisted on a written contract.

Contractor: I’ve been doing this for many years now.
Translation: But I can’t say the same for those I hire.

Contractor: As long as you’re doing this much, you may as well spend a little extra and do that, too.
Translation: As long as I’m making a little money on this, I may as well be making a lot more on that.

Contractor: It won’t cost much more if you do it like this.
Translation: Just multiply by 2 or 3.

Contractor: This is a rough estimate.
Translation: Expect to pay no less than this.

Contractor: I have some bad news.
Translation: I have great news for my wallet!

Contractor: You don’t have to pay me now.
Translation: We’ll put your house back together some other day.

Contractor: We should be finished by next week.
Translation: We won’t be, though.

Contractor: This should last forever.
Translation: I’m pretty sure in a year or two you’ll be sick of it, and asking for another remodel.

And now for a slide show. Here’s some of what my unintelligible contractor has been up to . . .

Our den before the remodel. Perfectly nice den, right?

According to my contractor, this den is much better.

We thought the only major thing wrong with this kitchen was the electric cooktop and tiny oven.

Somehow our contractor convinced us that our kitchen needed to look like this. Do you agree, or have we needlessly enriched this bastard, with his hammer and saw?

Why I’ll Never Be Published

Apparently, writers must have a target audience.


Sometimes in moments of reverie, I sprawl supine upon my bed and daydream about becoming a published author. Wouldn’t it be cool, says my ego, if I, Tippy Gnu, got a book published?

But it will never happen. Problem is, I’ve got no book sense. Nor am I disciplined. And I sure as heck don’t know what to say, to convince any publisher to memorialize my scrivenings into the great American novel.

If I ever did meet with a publisher, manuscript in hand, here’s how I imagine the interview would go:

PUBLISHER: Who’s your target audience?

TIPPY GNU: Anyone I manage to hit.

PUBLISHER: I mean, who is this book intended for?

TIPPY GNU: Whoever wants to read it. Do you want to read it?

PUBLISHER: Maybe.

TIPPY GNU: Then maybe this book is intended for you.

PUBLISHER: Well, what is your demographic?

TIPPY GNU: I’m neither a Demographic nor a Repugnantan. I vote Independent.

PUBLISHER: Let’s just talk about the genre. This is a romance, isn’t it?

TIPPY GNU: (backing off) Look Buster, just because I’m talking to you, it doesn’t mean I’m in to you. Besides, we’re both men, and I don’t swing that way.

PUBLISHER: Just describe the plot, would you please?

TIPPY GNU: Oh, it goes kind of like this: Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy and girl get in a big fight. Time passes, until it seems they’re going to hate each other for the rest of their lives. But suddenly boy and girl make up and get married. The end.

PUBLISHER: And where did you get the idea for this plot?

TIPPY GNU: I’m very imaginative.

PUBLISHER: Sir, we get an awful lot of manuscript submissions like this. Why would we want to publish your manuscript over anyone else’s?

TIPPY GNU: Because mine’s the best! Because I’m so unique! Because I poured my heart and soul into this! Because I’m willing to travel all over the country and promote this book on radio and TV! I’ll blog about it! I’ll do book signings!

PUBLISHER: N-no, I’m sorry.

TIPPY GNU: (falling on the floor and groveling) PLEEEASE, PLEEEASE! Publish my boooook! I’ll do anything! Anything at all! Hey, maybe I really do swing that way–I’m willing to give it a try! Just publish my book! PLEEEASE!

PUBLISHER: Sir, let go of my leg.

After security drags me out the door and boots me into the street, I’ll have the confirmation to support my conviction: I can never be published.

But there is one thing I know I can do.

I can sure lie in bed and daydream about being published. For hours and hours upon hours. And that’s way better than writing any book.

Roommates I Don’t Need

Note: My Dad passed away about six years ago. A family member recently sent me some memorabilia, and buried within a pile of photos was this short story. He wrote it back in the early 1970’s while on a job assignment in Australia. I felt delighted to be reunited with this little manuscript, and be able to enjoy my father’s humor again. I thought you might like it too. Here is a true story of something very scary my father encountered, while in the land down under . . .

ROOMMATES I DON’T NEED

There I sat last week, after work, working on my daily reports at my desk in the motel room. It was really hot, and I had all of the windows wide open, trying to capture any breeze that happened along. (The air conditioner is off because of the strike at the power plant.)

Anyhow I’m typing away, and frequently taking a swig out of the ever handy good “Victorian” beer. It’s about 8:00 at night. I reach over and take the last sweet guzzle out of the can, lifting my head up high to capture the last drop, and “JEEEZZZZ” what do you think I see right up there on the ceiling next to the light fixture?

Well, I just happened to gaze upon the biggest, hairiest, SPIDER, I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m not kidding you a fraction, that bastard was as big as my outstretched hand. Big, light brown, and as hairy as a hippie. Well, by God, I don’t mind telling you, I just about swallowed that beer can, and broke my chair at the same time.

Not the same arachnid that my dear old Dad encountered, but perhaps a reasonable facsimile.

So, I made my way to the trusty telephone, and rang up the dainty little receptionist. The conversation went something like as follows:

“Hello there, I would like to speak to the manager immediately, if not sooner.”

“I’m sorry sir, the manager is not in at the moment, can I help you?”

So I commence to describe the situation, and also the size of it, and she very calmly explains that . . .

“It’s just one of our HUNTER TARANTULA SPIDERS, and they are very harmless and only eat flies.” She further exclaimed that she really didn’t care much for them either, so it would be up to me to find my own solution to the problem. She suggested that I just “Shoo” it out with a newspaper.

“Shoo it out with a newspaper,” I said, “Holy Christ, that thing looks like it could eat the damn newspaper right along with my arm!”

Well, no help in sight, so I start looking around the room for some kind of weapon. Meanwhile, this creature is just quietly hanging there, seemingly not moving a muscle! It might be my imagination, but I swear I could see him flex as he breathed.

Anyhow, I spots this pressure can full of fly repellent (probably similar to Black Flag). So, I figures out my strategy . . . (I know the stuff won’t kill him, it would be like trying to kill a horse with a BB gun.)

I go over to the front door and open it wide. (All the time wishing there were more than one door to these damn motel rooms.) Then, I quietly move over to the other side of this monster, so that he is between me and the door. The range of the spray should be about six to eight feet, and I figure maybe I can move him toward the door and hopefully OUT . . .

I get in position, and give a short blast in his direction . . . . . . . “nuthin” . . . . . maybe he shakes one leg a little . . . . . .

I give another blast (a longer one). This time he shakes a little, like a puppy getting rid of some water on his back . . . . . . .

I lets out another longer blast, and he moves two feet across the ceiling faster than a speeding bullet . . . then stops. (At least it was in the direction of the door.)

Well, with a chair in one hand, and the bomb in the other, I gives him a good long dose . . . he kind of weaves a little, like he’s dizzy, then lets go of the ceiling and floats to the floor right side up, just like he had a parachute. He bobs up and down a couple of times like he’s doing push-ups, then starts racing directly towards me.

I’d love to jump right through the bay window, but instead I just hold a steady spray right head-on into his oncoming mass. It slows him to a stop with about two feet to spare, and he starts staggering toward the open door at last . . . . .

Several times along the way he deviates from the path, and tries to head for the bed, but I head him off with a stronger blast in that area.

With a sigh of relief, I finally watch him struggle out the door, and onto the parking lot. Once in the fresh air, he seems to get a second wind, and gain his strength back. He’s making his way across the lot pretty good, so I jump in the rental car, and catch him in my headlights . . . .

I run him down with my first attempt before he reaches the other side of the lot, even if I did take out one row of pansies and a rose bush. That was only because of this damn left-hand drive . . . In order to get him, I had to catch him with the right hand tire.

So anyhow, I come on back inside and get back on the phone. I tell the sweet little receptionist that the “little problem” is taken care of, then I also tell her that if any more little problems develop like that, to tell the manager to rent them their own damn room, or I’ll stuff the next one down his neck, dead or alive. (Probably be dead with tire prints.)

Anyhow, she thanked me for calling about the final developments, said she would pass on the information to the manager, said she would have to hang up, and find out what the complaints were from the guests concerning some NUT out in the parking lot, swerving around with a car.

I wished her luck and hung up.