Friday, October 30, 2009


I went to my local upholsterer, Mike, today to see about some slip covers. Mike is 83 years old. His wife died two years ago at 80 of undiagnosed cirrhoses of the liver. They were married 60 years.

Mike was a soldier in WW II and had 5 days of R & R in Nice, France. On his first day there he saw her walking on the street and he said the one phrase he knew in French and she stopped to talk with him in her broken English. They saw each other over the next four days (a movie, dinners) before he shipped out. When he returned to the States a year later he wrote to her, sent her an engagement ring and she came to the US. They were married shortly after she arrived. She worked as a hair dresser and Mike worked at the local Anaconda copper mill in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY and when they closed the factory he went to school to learn the upholstery business. He works by himself and has now been in the same small shop (his second) for 18 years. It's across the street from the empty Wonderbread warehouse on route 9A. He is listed in the yellow pages as "Dependable Upholstery".

Mike has two kids, four grandchildren, one great grandchild and a second on the way.

I showed Mike the material we chose for our slip covers from one of the sample books he gave me. On my way home my cell phone rang, "Steve, it's Mike. Hey I am sorry but they do not carry that material any more. I am really sorry buddy but what can I do? I hate these suppliers - they lie".

I told him not to worry about it - I'd come in next week and choose another material. I am looking forward to it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I don't mind reactionaries being elected in reactionary areas. There are cultural, ideological, geographic and historical explanations for different political perspectives. But to waste a New England senate seat on Joe Leiberman is really frustrating. He was the Democratic Vice Presidential candidate! He has turned into a full right wing ideologue. It seems he needs to punish the Democrats who voted against him in the last primary. Take that, Joe is saying. He should be recalled. What a disaster.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The wind is still howling and the loft is shaking. I can barely see the horses outside the window 50 feet away because the dust is so thick...

...there is also a storm on the mountain heading this way. I love weather like this. Love you.


Below are the first two paragraphs of the novel, The Body Artist, by Don DeLilio (which I think are terrific and make me look forward to the story that follows...)

"Time seems to pass. The world happens, unrolling into moments, and you stop to glance at a spider pressed to its web. There is a quickness of light and a sense of things outlined precisely and streaks of running lustre on the bay. You know more surely who you are on a strong bright day after a storm when the smallest falling leaf is stabbed with self-awareness. The wind makes a sound in the pines and the world comes into being, irreversibly, and the spider rides the wind-swayed web.

It happened this final morning that they were here at the same time, in the kitchen, and they shambled past each other to get things out of cabinets and drawers and then waited one for the other by the sink or fridge, still a little puddled in dream melt, and she ran tap water over the blueberries bunched in her hand and closed her eyes to breathe the savor rising."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

On Golf...

I know at least two or three rough fractalites (rough fractalinos?) are golfers and so... this quote's for you:

David Lavalle:

"I wish I knew why I sometimes engage in superstitious behaviours while playing golf. When I play I am interested in psychological phenomena such as self-handicapping, the attributions people make on the course and how a round can deteriorate after a bad shot or hole (I note the latter from considerable personal experience!). I also try to apply psychological techniques such as imagery to improve my score although I tend to do this more at crucial times, such as before a pressure drive. While I appreciate that carrying the same amount of tees in my pocket during a round will not help me play better, or the action of always marking my golf ball on the green with a coin placed "heads-up" will not influence the outcome (making the putt), I will probably continue to resort to such behaviours as if I was one of Skinner's pigeons."

David Lavallee is Professor of Psychology and Head of Department of Sport and Exercise Science at Aberystwyth University in Wales. He is also an Associate Fellow and Chartered Psychologist of the British Psychological Society, and founding editor of Sport & Exercise Psychology Review.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


One minute commercial (promoting French Movie Studio, Canal +) with humor and twist...(Charlie Chaplin meets Jason Bourne?). Followed by Richard Wiseman on Wit...

Richard Wiseman - Wit:

I have no idea why I occasionally think funny things. For example, the other day I was watching the film "District 9", which is about an alien race known as "prawns", and thought "I wonder if the alien in charge is called a king prawn?". I would be the first to admit that it was not the world's greatest joke, but still, where did that moderately amusing idea come from? And why are some people so skilled at creating funny stuff, whilst others wouldn't recognise a proverbial custard pie, even if it hit them in the face? My guess is that the creation of comedy will remain a mystery for centuries, although at some point in the not too distant future, I suspect someone will carry out functional MRI scans of comedians creating jokes, and claim to have identified the part of the brain responsible for producing humour. Now, that will be funny.

Richard Wiseman is Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. A trained magician, Wiseman has won numerous awards for his communication of science and his most recent book is 59 Seconds.

Where The Wild Things Are...

Sue Gardner - Dark places:

"I’m cautious about excessive introspection without some trusted person to offer perspective and balance. I have a dark place inside which at various stages of my life has been occupied by ghosts, daleks and negative emotions.

Somehow I need this place though, to connect me to others especially those who want support with change and containment.

In working with people who have mental health needs and substance misuse I use their desire to escape their own dark place to form a connection which, together with the research evidence, best practice guidelines and clinical tools, can accelerate their journey to recovery. Perhaps if I understood myself fully my own journey would be over."

Sue Gardner is a Chartered clinical psychologist and President of the British Psychological Society.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

View From The Window (sunrise)...

(Photo by E.N.S.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

On (among other things, Jewish) Identity...

Steve Reicher:

Who am I?
I am a jew, but I am no believer and I do not believe that Israel speaks for me.
I can’t be sure what it means to be a jew.
Yet I am sure that others are sure
And I know that jewishness matters.
I know that millions were slaughtered for being jewish.
I know that millions have been displaced by jews for not being jewish.
What is being jewish to my world and to me?
Who are we?
Who am I?
I was born in England of family who fled from Germany and Poland.
I was raised in England by parents who moved abroad for work.
I live in Scotland with a wife born in Yorkshire of a father born in Pakistan and with a son born in Scotland.
Our history is pandemonium, our destiny (we hope) is Caledonian.
Who do we want to be?
What will others let us be?
And does it count one jot to anyone but me?

No wonder I study identity.

Steve Reicher is Professor of Psychology and Head of School at the University of St. Andrews. An expert on social identity, in 2002 Reicher collaborated with Alex Haslam to create the BBC Prison Experiment.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Alison Gopnik - On Parenthood:

I’ve had three of my own children and spent my professional life thinking about children. And yet I still find my relation to my children deeply puzzling. Our love for children is so unlike any other human emotion. I fell in love with my babies so quickly and profoundly, almost completely independently of their particular qualities. And yet 20 years later I was (more or less) happy to see them go – I had to be happy to see them go. We are totally devoted to them when they are little and yet the most we can expect in return when they grow up is that they regard us with bemused and tolerant affection. We are ambitious for them, we want them to thrive so badly. And yet we know that we have to grant them the autonomy to make their own mistakes. In no other human relation do we work so hard to accomplish such an ill-defined goal, which is precisely to create a being who will have goals that are not like ours.

Alison Gopnik is Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. She has published over 100 articles on children's learning and development and was the first to argue that children’s minds could help us understand deep philosophical questions. Her latest book is The Philosophical Baby.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

What is this thing called beauty?

(photos by E.N.S.)

Chris McManus: Beauty

What is this thing I call beauty? Not "art" as a social phenomenon based on status or display, or beautiful faces seen merely as biological fitness markers. Rather, the sheer, drawing-in-of-breath beauty of a Handel aria, a Rothko painting, TS Eliot’s poems, or those everyday moments of sun shining through wet, autumn leaves, or even a Powerpoint layout seeming just right. Content itself doesn’t matter – Cezanne’s paintings of apples are not beautiful because one likes apples, and there are beautiful photographs of horrible things. Somewhere there must be something formal, structural, compositional, involving the arrangement of light and shade, of sounds, of words best ordered to say old ideas in new ways. When I see beauty I know it, and others must also see it, or they wouldn’t make the paintings I like or have them hung in galleries. But why then doesn’t everyone see it in the same way?

Chris McManus is Professor of Psychology and Medical Education at UCL. His 2002 book Right Hand, Left Hand won the Wellcome Trust Book Prize, the Aventis Prize for popular science writing, and was a finalist for the Descartes Prize in 2004.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A neat letter from someone's archives...

(If you click on the body of the letter it will be enlarged)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Beyond Blue

This is an interesting video. I post it because I have been following Therese Borchard's blog for some time and am interested in her self treatment mixed with blogging. I believe this video is sincere and even found it kind of moving. I like her. Not quite sure what blogging to an anonymous world as if each reader provides an intimate connection does for either the poster or the reader; but it's central to a lot of blogs - audience as best friend? Not unlike celebrity I imagine. Anyway here it is:

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

They run and they do not lie...

The Tarahumaras: An Endangered Species
by Shep Lenchek

"Psychologists suggest that over the centuries this value system has actually caused physiological changes in their brain that preclude speaking anything but the truth. Nor can they cheat or fail to aid a fellow tribesman."

Never conquered by the Aztecs and despite being defeated by Mexican armies, the Tarahumaras still consider themselves an independant nation. So strong is this conviction that in the Fifties they more than once took complaints directly to the United Nations. Perhaps the purest and most unmixed of any Indian tribe in Mexico, so little is known about them that their true name "Raramuri" was corrupted to "Tarahumara" by white men and never corrected.

Most of the world knows them only as long distance runners. Living in high altitudes, they have developed tremendous lung capacity and in more primitive times hunted deer and mountain goats, running them down on foot. In more modern times, they have run non-stop in relay teams from Chihuahua City to El Paso, a distance of 230 miles, to open the Pan-American Road Races.

However, this running ability is only one facet of their life style. The truly remarkable thing about them is an ancient religion which has bred into them a moral code so strict that they are unable to tell a lie.

Psychologists suggest that over the centuries this valu e system has actually caused physiological changes in their brain that preclude speaking anything but the truth. Nor can th ey cheat or fail to aid a fellow tribesman.

Luis G. Verplancken, a Jesuit priest who lived among them for many years and is probably the greatest authority on their history and culture, describes them as loyal to God, to their own traditions and their own culture. Although the majority of them have converted to Christianity, there are still some "gentile" groups who have refused baptism. Those converted have introduced their own ancient concepts into their new religion.

God is both Father and Mother. Respect for one another is of prime importance. They give greater value to persons than to things. In their eyes both the white man and the Mestizo are more pagan than their unbaptized fellow Raramuri because over the years these two groups have enslaved, lied, cheated and driven them off most of the fertile land they once inhabited .
Today the "People" (the translation of the name Raramuri) have been driven into the highest reaches of the Sierra Tarahumara, in the State of Chihuahua. There, even the valleys are over 5000 feet above sea level. Now, it appears their last bit of fertile land may be taken over by outsiders, forcing the Indians to retreat higher into the mountains.

Despite this, most Raramuri still ignore the blandishments of Mexican city living. They cling to native costume. The men wear a loin cloth, held together by a wool girdle wrapped twice around the waist. A long, loose, full sleeved shirt of cotton and a cloth head band complete the outfit. The women wear full multiple or layered skirts. Blouses are always worn loose at the waist. They have full sleeves, heavily pleated at the wrists and shoulders. Like the men, they wear cloth head-bands.
With some, however, western-style garb is making inroads and more and more, the colorful native dress is being worn only during festivals or in the more remote villages.

What has kept the "People" true to their ancient customs is a combination of a wilderness homeland and an inherited value system of obligation to fellow men, plus their devotion to ancient Gods they brought with them into Christianity.
In their culture, long established rituals and symbols replace things of a contemplative nature. Thus, they prefer to pray in ritual dances rather than verbal forms. Their ancient theology was not based on dogma or abstract concepts; nor is their new Christianity. Rather it is a day by day practice of living in harmony with nature and their fellow man.

Thus, they still look on the moon and stars as religious symbols. To pay homage to the Cross and Saints they sign across the face and turn their body to the left, the same way they saluted their ancient God. This sign of the cross, according to Father Verplancken, is not of Christian origin but was part of their ancient dance, "Yumari," in which they offered food to the four points of the compass and their traditional God to insure rain and ward off evil.

Recognizing this indigenous dance-oriented method of prayer, the Jesuits introduced the "Dance of the Matachines." It originated in the northern province of Venice in Italy, and is still performed there during Carnival. The Raramuri perform it on all the Holy Days of the Catholic church. Costumed, masked dancers move to the beat of drums and the wailing of flutes. Other dances are performed to solicit rain, heal the sick, bury the dead. All blend the new Christianity with ancient practices.
The first missionaries in the area were the Jesuits who arrived in 1607. However in 1767 King Charles III of Spain expelled them from New Spain. Although the Franciscans continued to work in the area, lack=2 0of funds and personnel made it impossible to fill the role the Jesuits had played. Also, the 19th Century Mexican Wars of Independence hampered their efforts.
It was not until the start of the 20th century that missionaries were able to return. During this almost 150 years of freedom from outside influence, what developed was a unique Raramuri Christianity.

One of the strange results of the expulsion of the Jesuits was the assumption of duties normally reserved for priests by the "Siriam es," the traditional headmen or governors. Marriages, baptisms, and other church services such as continued instruction and spiritual guidance were now in their hands.

Whether the departing Jesuits delegated these rites or whether this was simpy a return to traditional roles, we do not know. Nevertheless, the old way s were so close to Christian practice that the new religion survived the absence of priests. What developed was a set of practices acceptable to both the Church and the "Peoples" life style. Thus healers, rainmakers and other keepers of the tribal heritage exist side by side with Catholic priests. Living conditions among the Raramuri today are still primitive. They continue to barter rather than use pesos, and speak little Spanish.

In 1965 the Jesuits founded a hospital in Creel, the largest city in the area. There, Father Verplancken made his home. There are two other hospitals in the area, free to all who need them. Despite this, the future20of the Raramuri is bleak. Malnutrition and disease go hand in hand with the loss of fertile, food-producing land. Through all of this, the Mexican government has stood silent.

Yet, these remarkable people have maintained themselves, enduring hardships that would have sent a group with less inner strength fleeing to urban centers, abandoning their tribal culture. But the time has co me for the government to intervene. Stop the land-grabbers. Permit "The People" to live in their own villages, own their land, perserve their own ways.
With the rapprochement between Mexico and the Vatican, hopefully the Church can offer more material aid, while allowing the Raramuri to pray in their own way, understanding that they worship the same Father who they preach sent his Son to bring salvation to all mankind.

the edge of survival

The Tarahumara: Between Two Worlds
by Janet Blaser published December 2008

An ancient people teetering on the edge of survival

The dry, brush-covered mountains of Copper Canyon, in the state of Chihuahua, are where the majority of the estimated 60,000 surviving Tarahumara Indians live. The naturally harsh conditions of the area have been exacerbated by several factors, including global warming. Hit hard by 12 years of drought, severe de-forestation and erosion, and worst of all, the lack of clean water, the Tarahumara’s traditional way of life as goat herders and simple farmers has suffered tremendous ly. For more than 1,000 years, the mainstays of their diet has been corn, beans and squash, but it’s become more and more difficult for anything to grow in the now-dry, arid land of their ancestors.

Four years ago Brenda Babbitt went on a road trip through this area she thought was simply a vacation with a friend. Little did she know it would change her life – and the lives of so many others.

Stopping in Creel at a small gift shop, Brenda chatted with a store volunteer who explained how the proceeds were used to assist the Tarahumara. The woman also told her they were in need of medicine and school supplies.

t’s the babies and small children that suffer the most, innocent victims of the struggle they’ve inherited, a hardscrabble existence in an unforgiving place on the planet.

When Brenda returned home, she did some research and saw the full scope of the situation. The majority of funding came from three benefits a year, and in 2005, a major fundraiser usually held in New Orleans had been cancelled due to Hurricane Katrina.

“I discovered they could lose as much as 40% of the money they counted on each year to run the hospital and do their work. That just scared me to death,” she said. “I couldn’t sit back in good conscience and do nothing knowing they needed medicine, especially the children.”

Brenda realized that in Creel they didn’t have the benefit of a retirement or international community for donations and support. The local businesses barely got by and few visitors passed through the area. Because of her experience with Mazatlan and its Friends of Mexico group, which she helped found with Chester Tesarowski in 1998, she felt her energies could be better used helping the Tarahumara.

“I could see that we were growing here in Mazatlan and were already working with the orphanages, teaching English, helping the schools,20things like that,” she said. “A lot of people were doing those things here. I thought why not reach out to others who really need it?”

The small mission clinic, with its formal name of Santa Teresita Hospital, was established in 1965 by Father Luis G. Verplancken. It sees about 4,000 patients a year, with about a quarter of those admitted for treatment. Most alarming is that 75% of these are children under age 2 whose death would be certain if they were not treated. Tuberculosis, easily curable or prevented, is not uncommon, and the hospital has had to set up a special TB ward to address this recurrent problem.

o run the hospital for one day costs about $22,000 pesos – roughly $2,000 U.S. To put it bluntly, that’s about $200 a child.

When Father Pedro de Velasco Rivera came to the mission three years ago, one of the most critical problems facing the Tarahumara was the lack of clean drinking water. The mission has focused much of its energy on digging wells and building sanitary water collection systems, and to date, there are 64 working wells and three dozen water-supply systems in operation. The cost of these life-saving conveniences is minimal – about $3,700 U.S. for a well, $1,100 U.S. for a rainwater collection system, $2,250 U.S. for a spring water system. Other long-term projects include erosion-prevention strategies and reforestation plans.

If you’d like to help:

For more information:

Brenda Babbitt: 913-1318,
Father Pedro J. Velasco Rivero:, ,

Drop-off for medicines & nutritional items – PLEASE, NO CLOTHING!

Tony’s Salon, Leandro Valle #99, corner of 5 de Mayo, Centro Historico. 981-6420. Call Brenda to arrange drop-off in other areas.

Items Needed:

Baby formula – 0-6 months and 6-12 months (25% discount at Farmacia Similares Mondays from 5-7 p.m.)
Baby wipes, shampoo, lotion, powder
Large jars of Vaseline
Cookies: Marias, animal, vanilla
Drinking straws
Instant oatmeal
Gerber baby cereal
Nido powdered milk, age 1-plus
Note: Please be careful not to buy packaged food items made in China.


Amebicida – Metronidazol, susp. 120
Analgesico – Ibuprofeno, susp. 120
Anti-asmatico – Ambroxol Salbutamol, susp. 120
Antibiotico – Amox-Bromhexina, susp. 250
Antitusivo – Ambroxol/Dextrometorfano, 120 JBE infant, also adult
Antihistaminico – Loratadina (preferred) or Difenhidramina JBE
Cash donations are used for shipping costs and specific items requested by the mission.

Deposits can be made directly to Banamex in either of those accounts:

Complejo Asistencial ClĂ­nica Santa Teresita A.C.
Banamex Sucursal 838 Cuenta 70619
CLABE 002150083800706194
Pedro J. de Velasco Rivero
Banamex Sucursal 838 Cuenta 7631705
CLABE 002150083876317054

Many of the families prefer to live in the remote mountains, often several days walk to the village. Children often sleep in town for five days at a time so they can attend the small school, where they learn their native language and Spanish, as well as other general subjects. The 100 or so children ages 5-14 are also taught about both cultures to better prepare them for contact with the outside world. No attempt is made to force modern-day life on the Tarahumara, or Raramuri, – their way of life is accepted and respected.

“It’s a different kind of life, let me tell you, but they’ve managed to take care of themselves and their culture for many years,” said Brenda. Many of the estimated 4,000 families live deep in the mountains, using the natural caves as shelter. “There are some people in the hills that never come out and have never seen a white person. No one even knows where they all are.”

It’s the babies and small children that suffer the most, innocent victims of the struggle they’ve inherited, a hardscrabble existence in an unforgiving place on the planet. The mission’s hospital statistics from last year show20that 10 children a week were saved from dying; official estimates show that 70% of children under age five are suffering from malnutrition, making them susceptible to life-threatening diseases like pneumonia, stomach flu, infections and bronchitis.

To run the hospital for one day costs about $22,000 pesos – roughly $2,000 U.S. To put it bluntly, that’s about $200 a child.

“I’d love to find a few more people with big hearts, willing to reach out to help our brothers and sisters in the mountains,” said Brenda. “Hopefully, some people will assist on a monthly basis so the flow of items will be continuous, all year-round.”

The nuns travel into the outposts, bringing medical care and supplies, food and other basic survival items, keeping an eye on patients and those with special needs. They also work to educate the mothers about symptoms they might see in their children, encouraging them to bring their babies in earlier for treatment. Brenda’s become a sort of lifeline, keeping in touch with the mission and coordinating the collection and shipping of much-needed medical and school supplies, food and infant formula.

“Each month I feel like this is not hard to do, and it helps so many. I’m going to continue to do this, and if anyone e lse wants to help, they can,” said Brenda. “My life is get two boxes, fill, mail - and start again.” Estrella Blanca Package & Bus Company gives her a hefty discount on shipping costs to the mission in Creel, and Soriana donates empty cartons, but still, the costs add up and it seems like there’s never enough.

“I know our help has helped them assist and save lives - especially the babies,” she continued. “This is my commitment and God knows it. I’m so thankful to be able to help with this special work.”


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