18 March 2012

It's not his turn...

This morning I read a little item in the paper by my friend Armando Fuentes Aguirre in his column "Mirador" ("Observer"). It was under the category "Historias de la creación del mundo" or "Stories about the creation of the world". The story tickled me because it reminded me of one of the current leading candidates in the Republican primary race for the November presidential elections in the U.S.

I don't think my friend and mentor will mind me repeating the story here with a translation for the benefit of my fellow students of the Mexican language and culture. The story is about the creation of the sunflower which in Spanish is called "el girasol". The word "girasol" literally means "turn to the sun" because the sunflower continually tries to turn towards the sun during the course of the day.

En verdad el Señor no iba a hacer al girasol.
The truth is that the Lord wasn't going to make the sunflower.

Quiero decir que al principio no había girasoles.
This means that in the beginning there were no sunflowers.

Si los hizo después fue nada más como pretexto para hacer luego Van Gogh.
The fact that He made them later on was nothing more than a pretext for creating Van Gogh afterwards.

El girasol, que no sabía eso, se sentía muy orgulloso de sí mismo.
The sunflower, not knowing that, was very proud of himself. 

(En general las criaturas que no saben muchas cosas se sienten muy orgulloso de sí mismas).
(In general, the creatures who don't know many things feel very proud of themselves).

Fue, pues, el girasol con el Creador le dijo:
It was for that reason then, that the sunflower said to the Creator:

Gracias, Señor, por haber hecho el Sol para que girara en torno mío.
Thank you, Lord, for having made the Sun to revolve around me. 

11 March 2012

English Dames

My little step-grandson, is also my godson and we usually call by his nickname, "Chiqui" (CHEE-key), which is short for "chiquito" meaning "little one". He is six years old and like most six year olds he is an inexhaustible bundle of energy except when he is sleeping. He is always looking for something to do so I decided to teach him to play checkers. The regular game of checkers in Mexico is almost the same as it is in the U.S. and Canada except for the nomenclature. Instead of "Checkers" the game is called "Damas Inglesas" (DAH-mahs een-GLEH-sahs) which means "English Dames" or "English Ladies". In English we "capture" an opponent's piece and in Spanish we "comer" an opponent's piece meaning that we "eat" it. In English, when our piece safely reaches our opponent's side of the board it receives the crown of a "king" but in Spanish it receives the crown or "corona" (kor-OHN-ah) of a "reina" (REY-nah) or "queen".

I was going to buy a set of checkers but then I thought, "Nahhh...what fun is that?" so I decided to make a set. I came across a man who was selling large tiles made of "barro", a type of kiln fired clay used for things like flowerpots. I guess we would call the material "terracotta" in English. I bought a tile for fifteen pesos and it was sixteen inches square which was exactly what I wanted. Then I sealed the tile with paint sealer and divided it into sixty-four  two inch sqares with a large ruler. Then I painter each individual square with red or black enamel to make the checkerboard pattern. I used a small brush and a lot of patience. It took several sessions but the results turned out pretty good as you can see in the photo below. When I was done I glued a very thin piece of plywood to the back of the tile to reinforce the terracotta and also to keep the terracotta from damaging any wooden surface that I placed it on.

After I finished the checkerboard I still needed the checker pieces. I had decided to try plastic milk bottle caps when I started the project and I asked my wife Gina to tell all of her family and friends to save their milk bottle caps because I would need a lot of them. I had to make sure that I twelve each of two different colors. She didn't want to do it at first because she was afraid that they would think she is weird. I told her to tell them that she is doing it for her husband and that if she tells them that I am crazy they will surely understand. She did just that...tell them that I am crazy, and one of her friends said to her, "Poor Gina, I think you are understating the obvious". However, the plan did work and I got a big bunch of milk bottle caps after about a week or so, just in time to match them up with the checkerboard. There were two colors that had at least twelve caps of each color and they were light blue and yellow.

To make a long story short every thing came together just fine and we have been enjoying the heck out of this checkerboard. After Chiqui got the hang of it he started learning strategy very quickly and it wasn't long before he was beating his mother and his grandmothers and all of his cousins and to date I am the only one he hasn't beat. It is getting too close for comfort. In fact, the games get so tense that when we have to go to the bathroom we have to have another party guard the board to prevent.... ahem...someone from "accidentally" moving a piece in their favor. If it wasn't for this we would probably both rather pee in our pants than leave the board unguarded.

Chiqui wants to know wnen we are going to start playing chess. I don't think I am quite ready for that. I told him that we won't play chess until he bearts me at checkers. Looks like I better start figuring out how I am going to make the chess pieces.


09 March 2012

Coronal Mass Ejaculation

In the last day or so there has been a very large sun spot called "active region 1429" that is producing a coronal mass ejection (CME). It is sending out all kinds of energy waves from the Sun directly towards the Earth. I am not too worried about it because I have so many other things to worry about right now and the first one on the priority list is the usual "What's for dinner?".

Nevertheless I decided to have some fun and this morning I fashioned a solar protection helmet for myself out of aluminum foil in the style of the hat worn by Jughead in the Archie comics. I put it on before I left the house and when my wife saw it she looked very worried and asked me what the heck it was. I told her about the solar flare and that I was wearing the helmet for protection against brain damage. She said that it was probably too late and that I looked so stupid in the hat that probably my brain was already damaged. I put on a very stern face and told her that I was serious. Then she asked me if I had made one for her too and I told her that unfortunately I had already used up all of the aluminum foil (which was true). Then she asked me what she was supposed to do and I suggested that when she went out that all she needed to do was wear an aluminum pot over her head and then I kissed her quickly and ran out the door. I was laughing so hard that I could hardly drive the car.

When I got to work the shop dogs took one look at me and started barking like I was some kind of Martian or something. The people in my office said that I was nuts but I made up some bogus physics and my story improved with each telling. One person asked me how I knew when the solar rays were beaming down and I said that when I am wearing the hat in the presence of harmful solar radiation I can hear our local radio station XEWE Irapuato AM 1420 ("La Estación Familiar"). I had some of them half convinced but when my boss saw me he knew exactly what I was doing because he is a jolly joker himself and we had a wonderful time laughing about it. There is just nothing like a good belly laugh, especially when you have the belly for it. My friend Luis said that I looked just like a little kid. Yup...and that is just how I felt!

When you leave the house tomorrow don't forget your hat!

01 March 2012

Come fly with me.

Recently I wrote about two boys named Pichicuás and Cupertino playing marbles. I theorized that the boy named Cupertino was in one way or another named after Saint Joseph of Cupertino who was born in 1603 in the Italian town of Cupertino which is located in the southern part of Italy in a region named Apulia near the heel of the Italian "boot".  He was said to have been fairly ordinary Franciscan friar, but he had the miraculous ability to fly without any aid whatsoever except for his own mental efforts and God's grace. Upon hearing the names of Jesus or Mary, or the singing of hymns, or during the feast of St. Francis, or while praying at Mass, he would go into dazed state and soar into the air, remaining there until the head friar of the religious community bid him to come down. For this reason he is considered to be the patron saint of of air travelers, aviators, and astronauts. That sounds pretty cool to me. I noticed that there was no mention of blimps or zeppelins among his patronage duties so I am thinking that there might be an opening. Someday perhaps I could be the patron saint of the Goodyear Blimp. I just need to pray for the ability to fly without an airship. That would be the miracle I need to complete my application for canonization. Hmmm...I wonder what my holy picture will look like? That's something I probably need to work on. Anyway, the feast day of Saint Francis Cupertino is on September 18th which is the day that he died in 1663. The feast days of all the saints except for the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Baptist are celebrated on the day that they die because that is the day that they are born again into Heaven. For that reason I have no idea what my feast day might be since that is something that only God knows but I sure would like to have a catchy saint's name. How about San Roberto de Gordo Blimpy"? Whadaya tink?

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