My life

The gender of playing cards

One of my (mildly obsessive) hobbies is online Solitaire and related games FreeCell, Pyramid, Spider, and TriPeaks. Pyramid in particular has made me aware that I see the cards as having gender and even personality. This is not something I thought up consciously; I discovered it in the course of playing.

For Pyramid, you select two cards that add up to 13, and poof, they disappear. Ace and Queen, 2 and Jack, 3 and 10, etc. The King disappears on his own. The point is to clear the board, make all the cards go away.

The King is the jovial patriarch and the life of the party.

The Queen, of course, is female, and very imperious. The Ace that must go with her is male and very young, a child. I can’t quite tell if he’s her son, grandson, or servant, but he’s reluctant.

The Jack is a man about town, and the 2 is a younger male, possibly his nephew, learning from his uncle how to dress well and talk to the ladies.

10 is a father figure, 3 is his son. They have a good relationship and do dad-and-son stuff together.

9 is a female, bossy like the Queen. She intimidates the adolescent male 4, who must submit to her orders.

8 and 5 are young ladies and best friends, happy to hang out together.

7 is male, 6 is female. They are the Romeo and Juliet of playing cards. They rush into each other’s arms and vanish.

My life

Strangers and aliens

One of my primary concerns about the American church is that so many Christians seem to be more American than Christian. You will find no greater patriot than a conservative believer. Unfortunately, this often results in the church supporting unjust policies and corrupt leaders, with the reasoning that if something benefits the US or our causes, it is justified even if it is twisted or steps on the rights of others.

The Bible makes it clear that, if we are followers of Jesus, we are no longer citizens of the world. Numerous passages refer to our status as strangers and aliens here:

John 17:13b-18 NLT: I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. 14 I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to this world any more than I do. 17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world..

1 Peter 2:11-12 NLT: 11 Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. 12 Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.

Hebrews 11:13 NLT: 13 All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth.

Ephesians 2:19-20 NLT: 19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.

If we are truly citizens of God’s Kingdom, our allegiances on earth are secondary. Patriotism is fine, but if our Kingdom concerns are righteousness, holiness, and redemption, they will filter our view of political and social issues, and we will be concerned with correcting and preventing injustices rather than justifying them. We can love our country, but we need to be unflinchingly honest about its flaws and abuses.

My life

Sunday crafts #3: Assembling my new table tennis racket

Since we could no longer go to the gym last spring, my stepson and I began playing ping-pong several nights a week. I have an assortment of rackets, and started out with one with Gambler 4 Kings rubber, but as our skills progressed, I switched to a sticky rubber called Blütenkirsche, which has a German name but is made in China for a Japanese company. It gave me much more control for spins and loops. I had installed it on one side of an inexpensive 42-year-old Harvard racket. On the other side are the rotted remains of a Yasaka Tornado sheet I bought in about 1980 before the rule that rubber must be black or red. (You can see where I carved the handle to make it more comfortable for my penholder style.)

That old racket is not very lively, so I hunted online and found the Palio Energy 03 that has four carbon layers and many great reviews and costs only $15. The Blütenkirsche Tokyo rubbers are also $15 each. I will use the non-tacky one for the back of my paddle.

To attach the rubber, a water-based contact glue is applied with a foam applicator to both the wood and the sponge backing of the rubber.

When it has dried to the point of being transparent, the rubber can be attached to the wood, beginning carefully at the handle and rolling it out from the bottom upwards.

The rubber is then cut, following the edge of the racket. I used a new utility knife blade, but would have been better off with a good X-Acto knife. (As you can see, I wasn’t careful enough while gluing and the black rubber ended up a bit crooked.) I left the protective film on until I was finished, to avoid damaging the rubber’s surface.

I look forward to trying my new racket, but don’t know when that will be. My stepson is not as eager to play now that the gym has reopened.

My life

Sunday crafts #2: Elastic for face mask

I bought several of these masks from a neighbor, but have never been happy with the ribbons. They are a pain to tie behind my head, especially with my left index finger out of commission. So today I removed part of the ribbon and added elastic, double so it will last.

The sewing is a little ragged, and the outcome not particularly elegant, but it should be much more convenient. I prefer having it go around my head instead of just my ears. Ear elastic can give me headaches. Two more to go…

My life

Snobbery and bicycles

At some point in my life, I discovered that I was guilty of being a snob. My attitudes regarding bicycles will serve as a case in point.

When I was a kid in Colombia, our family bikes were a girl’s Schwinn and a man’s bike. The Schwinn had coaster brakes and was about the right size for most of us (24″ wheels). I rode it a lot, in spite of it being a girl’s bike, because the man’s bike was too big for me. It had hand brakes linked by rods rather than cables and looked a lot like this:

My best friend and his brothers received Monareta bikes for Christmas in 1969. Monark was Colombia’s premier bike manufacturer and made excellent road bikes. The Monareta was similar to what we now call a hybrid; it had the lines of a road bike but with a straight handlebar.

Shortly after that we spent a year in KC, and my dad bought my brother a cool 20″ Western Flyer with a banana seat and high handlebars. He bought me a 26″ three-speed, which was a great disappointment until I actually rode it and realized that what it lacked in coolness, it made up for in speed and comfort. We had a lot of adventures with those bikes.

In college is when my snobbishness began. I rode an old Schwinn ten-speed inherited from a brother-in-law, and found that I looked down my nose at two general categories of people. On the one side were the kind of people who turned their handlebars over to make them comfortable. They were dweebs.

On the other side were people who bought biking jerseys, biking shorts, gloves, cleats… The most annoying of all were those who rode recumbent bicycles. They were insufferable, like vegans or the guy who checks you in at the Apple store.

I didn’t actually know anyone with a recumbent bicycle; I just saw them at occasional events. The first one I became friends with many years later was a fellow blogger who was a brilliant artist and toured Europe with his wife by bicycle, which happened to be recumbent. A very nice guy, and far cooler than I was.

At the age of 60, I have again taken up bicycling as my main means of exercise. I find that, to mitigate the discomforts of biking at my age and weight, I have changed the handlebar style, used thick handlebar tape, padded the seat, and bought padded gloves. I am also looking into gel-lined shorts. In short, I have become an insufferable dweeb.

And now I look at pictures of recumbent bikes and note that the rider’s weight does not rest on his crotch and hands, but is distributed along his back. His hands are resting rather than supporting his weight, and he doesn’t really look any dweebier than I do. Hmm…

My life

My bike

Last fall, one of the nice mountain bikes I inherited from my dad got stolen. In order to ride with my stepson, it became necessary to fix up my old 1986 Raleigh Pursuit, which meant tires and inner tubes and oil and a better seat.

It rode pretty nice (once I figured out the correct way to install the seat, which is wrong in the picture) and I used it for a couple of months until one evening in early June, I stepped hard on the pedal to enter the street, and the chain snapped. My foot shot down as the pedal spun, and I rolled the bike to the right.

When I got up, my finger was bleeding from a bad cut on one side and a massive scrape on the other. Fortunately I was only four blocks from home and hadn’t hurt anything else.

The injury to my finger involved stitches and then a splint when it started to develop a Boutonniere deformity (finger gets pulled into a stair-step configuration), since ligaments were also damaged.

As a result, I decided I’d better upgrade the bike, so nothing else will give out on me. The handlebar was bent from the accident, and decades-old brakes and cables are not as reliable as new ones.

Since I never used the lower part of the traditional handlebars, I decided to go for bullhorns this time. I changed the cables and brakes and chain, put new gearshift levers up on the goose neck (they had been down on the frame, well below my knees), and replaced the old rat-trap pedals (which were always upside down since I took the rat-traps off long ago) with nice mountain-bike ones. Aldi was selling a gel seat-cover for cheap, and I have discovered that you can never have too much gel between you and a bike seat, so that’s on there too. The outcome is pretty cool for an old fat guy’s bike.

And of course the old bike helmet needed the padding replaced… and I discovered that one more downside of putting on 80 pounds in middle age is that your hands get to hurting really bad when you lean forward and support your weight on the handlebars. Gloves with gel pads in the palm are a necessity.

With all the money I put into replacements and upgrades, I could have bought a bike off the rack at Walmart, but it wouldn’t be as nice as this one is now, and it wouldn’t be designed for my height.

I also looked into a speedometer. The last one I bought cost under $10, but now everything is $50 or more. Fortunately, there are apps that are just as good, and will also map your ride.

My speed is pathetic (18.2 kph is just over 11 mph); probably some of you can ride faster uphill in the Rockies than I do on flat land in Florida, but I don’t care, I get 45-60 minutes of exercise a day touring the neighborhood and it’s doing me good.

My life

I had a dream

I dreamed last night that I entered a very modern train station and saw a one-car train tip sideways to avoid a car on its tracks and continue on a set of rubber safety wheels designed for that purpose.

While I was watching, a tiny one-passenger train car much like a Smart car also tipped sideways and whizzed past, its passenger hanging upside down from his seat belt and yelling and gesticulating at me, and I realized I had inadvertently stepped onto the tracks and blocked its way.

I went about my business in a hurry, hoping I didn’t encounter that passenger, who appeared to be a railroad employee.



An interpreting assignment in Bogotá was offered so I jumped on it. I flew to Medellín on Saturday, and today my wife and I came to the capital. It’s great to be back in Colombia even if it’s just a week.

Following are some curiosities that I found worthy of a picture.

Yesterday’s menu referred to chicken wing drumsticks as “colombinas de pollo” (chicken lollipops).


On our way to the airport today we passed this load of bricks. They tend to be hollow here and are used for structure rather than siding, although they may be exposed and varnished.


This itinerant vendor was offering pineapples for CP$2500 (90 cents US) apiece.


Colombia, Food, Language, My life, Spanish, Travel

A week in Colombia