Wednesday, February 17, 2010


We hear lots of talk about this "generation", or that "generation", baby boomer, this sort of thing. This post should explain and help identify which "generation" you belong to.

The Silent Generation are people born before 1946.

The Baby Boomers are people born between 1946 and 1959.

Generation X are people born between 1960 and 1979.

Generation Y are people born between 1980 and 1995.

Why do we call the last one generation Y? I did not know, but a cartoonist explains it eloquently below:

So, which "generation" are you??? Me? I'm a Baby Boomer!
As a frazzled footnote to this blog, I refer you to my previous blog about it not being easy to sometimes post a blog. This is the absolute classic example. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get this damn thing to post properly. Sorry! Blogger, the evil villain, got me!

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I could make this blog extremely brief by merely saying “MERIDA DOES NOT HAVE A SEWER SYSTEM”! None at all! Period. End of story. End of blog.

However, that might leave you wondering what in the world does Merida, population 1,000,000, and growing, do with all its sewage!?! To understand the answer to that question, you need to understand a little about the geography and hydrogeology of the Yucatan Peninsula. Quite basically, the entire peninsula is nothing but pure limestone rock with a water table at approximately 20 – 25 feet down. There are parts of the peninsula that do not even have a viable layer of topsoil!

The entire city and surrounding areas use the septic system. Septic tanks are usually hand dug to a depth of approximately 3 – 5 meters (11 feet – 18 feet) deep, just above the water table. Wastewater is emptied into the septic tank and the water and waste material dissipates and filters through the limestone eventually leeching back into the water table. While this system is crude, it is functional. However, with an ever increasing population, there is great concern that the aquifer will become so polluted that it would be impossible to provide safe water to the residents. This fact, coupled with the ever increasing growth of the porcine and chicken farm industry, is a major concern to all involved. It is also the reason you cannot drink the water when you go to Mexico! You must buy and drink only bottled water that has been processed and purified.

The tourist industry in the Yucatan has spawned both commercial and residential growth in previously undeveloped land areas. The hotels and resorts that are springing up along the coastlines are now required to have wastewater collection and treatment systems. However, the support towns that grow around these resorts have few urban services such as piped drinking water or wastewater collection and treatment systems. The probability of contamination to the water table has become another major concern for the government and environmentalists, and for those of us that live here.

Some newer hotels and large stores in Merida have their own waste management and treatment systems in place and it is permissible to flush paper products down the toilet. This is not so in the vast majority of homes and other businesses, including restaurants. Absolutely no paper products are permitted. To do so would clog the septic system and require a very nasty, almost unforgiving, project of having it cleaned out.

Some newer homes being built have a separate special concrete holding tank for “agua negra” (sewage just from toilets), while other wastewater is directed into a regular septic tank. Both systems drain the water back into the ground, filtered through the limestone, but the special concrete holding tank requires cleaning out once every few years. Not really a viable option in my opinion.

So, until the government and city engineers come up with a more acceptable system, visitors, and we who choose to live here, have to deposit our paper products in (hopefully) covered trash receptacles in the bathrooms! No flushing the toilet tissue down the toilet! This is one of the most difficult things most folks have to adapt to. Some see it as utterly disgusting, but really, it is an absolute necessary evil. But if you think that practice is bad, have your septic tank cleaned out just once and you’ll be more than happy to comply with the (unwritten) rules!

You know the old cliché, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”!

Only drink purified, bottled water and don’t flush that toilet tissue (or any other paper product) down the toilet because Merida does not have a sewer system!! None at all! Period. End of story. End of blog.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


Lots of folks ask why I blog. The answer is simple! I enjoy sharing some of my experiences with family and friends, and apparently there are lots of other folks out there that enjoy my blogs as well. So, thank you one and all!

To formulate a decent blog, you must first have an idea you think is worth sharing (sometimes, that isn’t an easy task.) I often think about it for a few days and do my final planning over a nice cup of coffee or glass of iced tea. Then, you must gather your thoughts in some sort of a coherent manner (another “not-so-easy task”), and actually compose the blog. Here’s where a nice glass of Chardonnay comes in handy. Once written (that too can be difficult), be sure to double/triple check it for accuracy. And it’s always nice to have some fotos to accompany the experience you are trying to convey to your readers, so if you don’t have any on hand, better get out there and get some! (Arghh, more work!!) All that really sounds “do-able”, and not too very complicated. The wine helps in that department. If it were more complicated than that, I wouldn’t be a blogger and I certainly don’t want to sound like a “whiner”!

Next, you have to actually post your blog on “Blogger” following their specific guidelines, one step at a time. (Now here’s where it gets really touchy!) Better hit that wine one more time!

S p a c i n g is always a consideration, and when you post fotos, you are at risk of looking like a complete “Blogger Boob” who has no idea what they are doing! (Been there, done that!) Blogger is a great system and the web site is really somewhat easy to follow, honest. Anyone who blogs will agree, I’m sure. I'll drink to that! Cheers! However, Blogger has a mind of its own and can be dark and evil, malicious and cunning, and totally frustrating and uncooperative when it wants to be! If I were to pen a science fiction thriller I would call my villain “Blogger”! He’d give nightmares to kids and heart attacks to little old ladies.

First, you post the written portion of your blog being sure to check your spacing. Have a glass of wine, it helps. Now, you search for the foto you need. Ah! Found it! Celebrate that event with another glass of liquid grapes. Cheers! Next, choose the size you want it to post (small, medium, or large), and the position you want it on your blog (left, center, right). Geesh, decisions, decisions, decisions - getting a bit dizzy here. Now, upload the foto to Blogger and hope it works and doesn’t freeze up your computer! If it works, celebrate with another glass of wine. If it freezes up your computer, go right for the frozen margaritas. You deserve it. In fact, to hell with the wine and go directly to the margaritas. Relatively simple enough! All fotos initially post at the beginning of the blog, not where you think you might like them to be placed. How wonderful is that! Bummer. Better chill out with another one of those frozen concoctions.

You must then click on the actual posted foto that miraculously appears at the top of your blog, and drag it into the position you want. Again, sounds easy, but trust me, this can turn into a major task or disaster! Better be prepared for the disaster, so better have another frozen little helper. As your fotos post, the spacing on your written, already posted blog changes! Damn! Could be the wine, could be the margaritas, or it could be the villain, “Blogger”! Run for your life – quick, grab the dog and the pitcher of margaritas on the way out! Oh! And don't forget to hit the "save" button before you turn the computer off!

Paragraphs that were originally double spaced are now 6, 8, 10, 20, or more lines apart. I count the lines and feel I am entitled to an equal amount of margaritas. You must continually back space to bring things into alignment again! Damn, there goes my margarita entitlement! It’s at this point where I usually loose one or more posted fotos, so I have to start that process all over again; including the margarita thingy! Better pause here and make another batch of those babies. And yes, go through the back space scenario again, too. Wow! More frozen frolickers on the way down! Now you see why posting a blog could take several hours and drive bloggers to drink.

Blogger provides a special option prior to the final post, which is the much feared and often dreaded “Preview”. Now this has got to be someone’s idea of a sadistic joke. This calls for a fresh pitcher of margaritas. I have yet to have a blog post exactly as it previews! And I can’t for the life of me tell you why. It just isn’t so. So, after it posts, you have to go in and keep editing it until it looks like someone other than a Blogger Boob posted it. And there are times when, even after editing, it just will not change, no matter what! This is where that extra batch of margaritas comes in handy.

So, next time you are viewing a blog, anyone’s blog, and it looks a little off kilter or isn’t spaced just as it should be, you now know why. Could be that the blogger or the reader has been dipping into the spirits, or Blogger just isn’t cooperating. If you have ever read a blog and said “he must have been drunk to post that”! Well, what can I say!

Sometimes, it just ain’t easy being a blogger! But all the problems we bloggers encounter will not preclude our posting another blog or concocting another batch of margaritas!

So, stay tuned!!!!!!! Bloggers up!

Friday, February 5, 2010


The year was 1964. Lyndon Johnson was President, I was 18, in the US Air Force, the economy was in pretty good shape, the Cold War was in full swing, the war in Vietnam was gearing up, we were entering "The Age of Aquarius", and Pakistan and India went to war shortly thereafter. Quite a time in history! I had just received orders to go to an isolated tour of duty in Peshawar, West Pakistan, for 15 months. Having never heard of this strange place before, I looked it up on a map and it became very apparent why they called it an isolated tour of duty! I didn’t realize how very isolated it was until I actually got there though.

Without great detail, I made the best of the time I had to spend there. I went out, saw the few sights that were available, met some locals, did a bit of traveling around, and tried my best to cope with the situation at hand. There were so many GI’s that were worse off than I when it came to assignments.

I frequented the downtown area and made friends with some local shopkeepers who always made me feel welcome by serving their beverage of choice – freshly brewed green tea. (Muslim country - no alcohol!) Wow! I drank lots of green tea the 15 months I spent there. I, in turn, would always bring chewing gum and candy for the kids, and share my package of cigarettes. They were Muslim and knew I was a Christian. It didn’t matter much, we considered each other friends. Not everyone was that friendly however, and I faced my share of "Yankee Go Home", and verbal/intellectual confrontations with English speaking college students, especially over the war that was raging in Viet Nam. I managed to get through all that, but never changed anyone’s mind, but then again, never tried to.

I often visited the local markets and purchased fruits with skins on that were safe to eat, such as bananas or oranges. I enjoyed the activities and the sounds and smells of the markets, especially the spice market. I got to know some of the vendors and they would flash a big smile when they saw me (probably because I always offered them a cigarette). Most of the time, I was the only American in the market and I’m sure I stuck out like a sore thumb! There was absolutely no way to be inconspicuous when everyone looked and dressed differently than you, and I didn’t wear a turban or speak Urdu.

I traveled around as much and as often as I could (wanderlust), and saw the Khyber Pass several times, visited some archeological sites, the NW Frontier area including the mountainous areas where Usama Bin Laden is now reported to be hiding in, and some of the big cities throughout the country. It wasn’t exactly a tourists’ delight, but it was something different to do.

Peshawar, Swat Valley, and the Northwest Frontier of West Pakistan have been in the news many times of late. Sadly, it’s all been bad news though. Very recently, in a crowded market in Peshawar, a suicide bomber managed to kill a couple hundred and wound and maim as many more. The markets I visited have been there for hundreds of years, and I am certain that at one time or another I was probably in the market that was bombed. The terrible thing is that while most vendors are male, the majority of all shoppers are women and children.

The suicide bombers are Muslim and their victims are Muslim. Do car bombers ever take into consideration their intended targets and realize that there are innocent women and children in their midst? I don’t think it matters as these fanatics kill and maim in the name of their God. One has to wonder what type of God sanctions the killing and maiming of innocents? I just don’t understand. Unfortunately, it is incidents like this, performed by a group of fanatic radicals, that turn people against all Muslims. I know some Muslims and can attest that not all Muslims are fanatics and not all Muslims are bad. You find the same type of fanaticism in all religions, but not to the extent the radical Muslims take it to.

I feel sad when I hear about car bombs and suicide bombers blowing up markets and crowded streets, especially knowing that I have been to these places and met some very nice, kind, gentle, friendly people. I wonder if any of the children I used to give candy and gum to were present in any of those streets or market places. I must equally wonder if they were the victim or possibly the perpetrator. I just do not understand the rationale of any religion that sanctions the slaughter of innocents in the name of God.

I think it would be great if we could all just be tolerant of one another and live, and let live. I don’t believe in war in the name of God (Jihad) and am intolerant of true hatred in any of its ugly forms. And, again, I will probably never understand the justification of killing and maiming innocents under any circumstance, especially in the name of God. Call me naïve, but I have never been able to figure it out and come up with a satisfactory explanation.

I’ve posted some fotos, but please bear in mind that they are 45 years old and were taken with a small Kodak camera with no special features and generally speaking, are of poor quality. I had lots more, but they were lost years ago in a basement flood. One of the fotos I’ve posted actually won “honorable mention” in a foto contest! Guess which one!

Some old fotos to check out:
A younger and thinner Merida Mikey in the NW Frontier:

The bus and tour guide that broght me there:

Some views from inside the Khyber Pass:

The guy on the left is named Sadiq. He was my personal bodyguard. I always wondered though if push came to shove, where he would stand. In any event, he was a friendly and enjoyable character. The guy on the right is a Pakistani Government official of sorts, who was working at a checkpoint in the Khyber Pass. He really enjoyed having his picture taken with his holstered pistol, and was willing to pose!

A friend had a shop that sold (primarily) oriental rugs in whcih I had absolutely no interest in at that time! (Younger, thinner, dumber!) However, in a secret room behind one of the walls where the rugs were displayed on shelves, the wall magiclly opened and you entered a room filled with Ghandaran artifacts (1st to 5th century AD), primarily from the Swat valley region in NW Pakistan. These, I liked!

I've often thought that I would like to go back to Peshawar for a visit, but it is impossible to do at the present time, given the volatile situation there coupled with the fact that most Americans are number one on everyone's hit list. How did it come to this? I hope it can change some day.

(A note of thanks to my friend Linda D. for scanning these old fotos for me!)

Monday, February 1, 2010


Hellmann’s (Best Foods) is my all-time favorite mayonnaise. Growing up, I remember being preached at to close the lid on the mayo jar as soon as I was done using it, and immediately put it back in the refrigerator. Same rules applied to potato salad or macaroni salad. That has stuck with me for years (60+) to be exact!

When I first started visiting Mexico I couldn’t help but to notice that most restaurants and food stands kept their jar of mayonnaise out in full view of the public! Shocking, I thought! When I began meeting some local folks, I noticed the already opened jar of mayonnaise sitting on the counter or in the cupboard in their homes, NOT refrigerated! How could this be, I pondered. It was at that very moment some 35 years ago that I stopped eating mayonnaise in Mexico unless it came out of my refrigerator! No salads prepared with mayonnaise either – not for me! Unrefrigerated mayonnaise! How dare they! Why aren’t they all doubled over with Salmonella poisoning and dying in the streets? I never quite understood it, but wrote it off to building up some sort of a super tolerance, coupled with eating lots of chili peppers. (Gringo mentality that I’m not proud of!)

I don’t know how the conversation came up recently, but it was again open for discussion with some friends. Does mayonnaise have to be refrigerated?? There were mixed reviews, so I went to the internet to search for a definitive answer.

Snopes ( has a good take on this issue and tells us that the problem isn’t with the mayonnaise, but rather with the potato or onion you have put in your salad! Those are the guilty culprits, not my beloved Hellmann’s!

O. Peter Snyder, Jr., Ph.D., Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management,
670 Transfer Road, Suite 21A, St. Paul, MN 55114 USA,
( confirms the report from Snopes. Dr. Snyder goes on to explain that the ph level of commercially prepared mayonnaise is such that it precludes the growth of the Salmonella bacteria. This, coupled with the acidity level of mayonnaise makes it safe to leave out! And, according to "The Association for Dresses and Sauces," commercially available mayonnaise can be left out of the refrigerator for a long time and still be safe. Apparently, the eggs used in commercial mayo are pasteurized, killing bacteria like Salmonella. Also, they say, commercial mayo is sufficiently acidic to be unfavorable to bacteria that may be introduced after opening the jar.

Rather definitive for me, but, wow, was I taken back by this breaking news. However, old habits are hard to break. I am now not as paranoid about eating mayonnaise or mayonnaise based salads or dressings, but there is no way I’m leaving it on my counter or in my cupboard! As long as I have room for it in my refrigerator, that’s where it goes! And if I don’t have room, I’ll make room! And as far as eating mayonnaise from a restaurant, I’ve done without it for all these years, so why change now!

If you are inclined to let your mayonnaise stay out on the counter, or if you are content to eat mayonnaise or mayonnaise based salads and dressings while in Mexico, please do so with just a hint of caution. In my heart of hearts, I do believe it is safe to do so. However . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .