T   P   O
The Patient Ox (aka Hénock Gugsa)

G r e e t i n g s !

** TPO **
an irreligious blog
with egalitarian and individualist tendencies!

On the menu ... politics, music, poetry, and other good stuff.
There is humor, but there is blunt seriousness here as well!

Parfois, on parle français ici aussi. Tous sont les bienvenus!

Intelligent comments are always welcome!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"Ugly Baby" - by Flip Wilson

Flip Wilson

Flip Wilson (1933-1998)
"Ugly Baby"


** More Flip Wilson ... ==>  On Christopher Columbus

Monday, April 26, 2010

"Shedding Toxic Thoughts" - by Buzzle

Seven Simple Steps to Shedding Toxic Thoughts

Negative thoughts and emotions can affect not only moods and mental well-being, but also health. But there are a few simple things that you can do to prevent the toxins from taking root.

If you’ve ever been in a room where people were arguing, grieving, or anxious, then you know what the term "toxic thoughts" means. Just as strong emotions and thoughts can spread a palpable energy throughout a room, such toxic thoughts can permeate a person’s mind and entire being in ways that pack punches just as though the person has been physically beaten up. Here are seven easy things you can do every day to keep your mind and body from feeling pummeled.

1 - Breathe: Medical research has shown consistently that in stressful or worrisome situations, taking a deep breath of clean, cleansing air can revitalize the mind and increase blood flow to the extremities. Put your hands on your heart and feel it beat with every breath. As you take a deep breath, feel your heart react. From something as simple as overcoming stage fright to something as traumatic as dealing with an emergency situation, stopping for a moment to take a deep breath will help improve your thought processes and give you the clarity you need to make good decisions. Even outside of a stressful situation, take a few moments each day to focus on your breathing and envision the clean air flowing throughout your body to produce a calming effect and inspire harmony in your daily dealings with people.

2 - Smile at yourself: Each morning when you wake up and go to wash your face or brush your teeth, don’t just glance at yourself over the sink and think about how old you’re getting, or how gray your hair is looking. Don’t begin your day with negative thoughts. Instead, stop and take a moment to look at yourself and smile. Reach out to yourself -through the mirror - and give yourself a reassuring, peaceful smile to start your day. It may be the only smile you get, or it may be the beginning of a day full of smiles when others experience the peace and happiness you are radiating. Even better, make a silly face or stick your tongue out. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Start each day with a smile.

3 - Wash your cares away: Water has been regarded for centuries as one of the greatest sources of life force. The simplest of activities in water can have a healing effect on both mind and body. Each day as you take a shower or bath, or even as you wash your hands, visualize that all the negative energy, frustration, stress, or anxiety that has built up inside your body is being flushed out of you and washed down the drain. Feel the softness and smoothness of the soap against your skin and imagine that is it the caress of a loving divine being, helping to soothe away your stress and cleanse your body of toxins that are holding you in their grip. On mornings when you know the day ahead will be a stressful one, linger for a few extra minutes in the shower and let the water cascade over you.

4 - Acknowledge your feelings: Everyone has both positive and negative feelings - that’s the way we are wired, and there’s no way to avoid it. But when you squash your negative feelings or ignore them, they can simmer and build up to the boiling point, and then release themselves at the wrong time. Hurling a poison dart at other people because of toxic thoughts that have been building up inside you is never a useful solution to a problem. Whenever a negative thought enters your mind, take the time to first acknowledge it, then deal with it either by correcting whatever problem has caused it, or by realizing that there’s nothing you can do and you should move on. Sounds simplistic, but give it a try. Also, keep in mind that you do not have to receive and internalize negative thoughts from other people. If others try to deliver toxic thoughts to you, concentrate on returning the favor, but with loving thoughts. Responding with love and caring will not only help you avoid creating more negative energy, it will probably startle the person on the receiving end, thereby diffusing the situation. And perhaps set a good example for them to follow in the future.

5 - Use your imagination: When confronted by someone who brings out the worst in you, try to think of someone you love or an image that you particularly like, and in your mind, paste that image on the face of the person standing before you. Pretend, in your mind’s eye, that the person challenging you has the face of a baby, a kitten, or a daisy. Doing so allows you to step outside the situation for a moment to clear your head before returning to the conversation. People often say to imagine your opponent in his/her underwear, which may work on occasion. But alternatively, imagine what that person’s home life is like. Imagine them in an unhappy situation or in miserable squalor (physically or emotionally) and let your compassion temper the conflict and negativity at hand.

6 - Use the power of words: Words have the power to change thoughts, emotions, and experiences. This applies not only to words spoken aloud, but also to words we hear in our heads. If you constantly telling yourself that you’re fat, stupid, old, forgetful, ugly, or anything negative, then you will begin to perpetuate those inner thoughts on the outside. Instead, fill your mind with thoughts of positive things and uplifting feelings about yourself. The same concept applies to thoughts you have about other people. If you speak badly about other people or spread negative gossip, those thoughts can poison the minds of others and yourself and affect how people treat each other. Instead of feeling anger or hate, focus on feeling compassion, and let your words remove the negativity from your mind and the minds of others.

7 - Get outside: Nature is the ultimate healer of all things physical and emotional. In stressful situations, which almost always happen indoors, we are physically separated from the nurturing abilities provided by the essential elements - earth, water, air, and sunlight. Research has shown that being separated from nature for long periods of time can actually make a person sick. So take a few moments out of your day, particularly in stressful situations, to reconnect with nature and renew your senses. Take a quick walk and look at the trees and plants, stand on a balcony and feel the sun on your face, sit beneath an umbrella listening to rain falling, or just go out and breathe in the scents around you. Realize that there are greater forces at work in the universe besides the petty, stressful squabbles that arouse negative thoughts inside.

Whatever toxic thoughts have been building up inside you are not important in the grand scheme of things, so let them go and let yourself be happy.

Source: buzzle.com

Sunday, April 25, 2010

"J'attendrai" - by Dalida

Dalida (1933-1987)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Happy the Man" - by John Dryden

John Dryden (1631-1700)
"Happy the Man"

Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He who can call today his own:
He who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Be fair or foul or rain or shine
The joys I have possessed, in spite of fate, are mine.
Not heaven itself upon the past has power,
But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"The Barbara Bush Blues" - by Rohan Preston

Star Tribune
Sunday, September 25 • 2005

The Barbara Bush Blues
By Rohan Preston | Star Tribune Staff Writer

"So many of the [displaced] people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this [chuckle], this is working very well for them." Barbara Bush, Houston, September 2005.

Poor people everywhere:
hope for disaster, displacement, flood,
pray for mudslides, earthquakes, wildfires —
for that's when the going really gets good!
Pray to be flushed out of your home — to watch it float away to rot; pray to end up in the Astrodome on a little Red Cross cot.
Away from the 'hood, you get nutritious food and free dental care; you get coupons to hoity-toity salons that can scrub the goo from your hair.
You get clean clothes, deodorant soap
and warm water to wash;
you get all this and most every wish —
plus a tidy bit of cash.
True, you may lose some of your little bums and your minimum-wage job, but these are just blips: after the apocalypse you live high on the hog.
So, clasp your hands and pray to join the
thousands living large and scot-free!
They've got such good gravy, forget First Lady - I wanna be an evacuee.

Rohan Preston is at rpreston@startribune.com.

"The English Language!" - by Anonymous

"The English Language!"

If you speak fluent English, you must be a genius! Peruse at your leisure, English lovers.

Reasons why the English language is so hard to learn:

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.
2) The farm was used to produce produce.
3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4) We must polish the Polish furniture.
5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
7) Since there is no time like the present, it must be time to present the present.
8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum
9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
10) I did not object to the object.
11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
13) They were too close to the door to close it.
14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.
15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail
18) After a number of injections my jaw got number.
19) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
20) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests
21) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France (Surprise!). Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat.

Quicksand works slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham?

If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend. If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it? Is it an odd, or an end?

If teachers taught, why don't preachers praught? If vegetarians eat vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? In what language do people recite a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?
You must marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out, and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they're visible, but when the lights are out, they're invisible.

P.S. - Why doesn't "Buick" rhyme with "quick"?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Injera (The Ethiopian Staple) - by TPO

Injera (The Ethiopian Staple)

1. Warm Water - 2 1/2 cups
2. Teff Flour or Flour(*) - 1 3/4 cups
3. Self-rising Flour - 1/2 cup
4. Dry Yeast - 1 packet
5. Baking Soda - 1/2 teaspoon
6. Salt - 1/2 teaspoon

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water first and then add in the flour until a thin, smooth batter is formed.

Set it aside for three days to rise, stirring the mixture once every day. [No religious implications there ! :)]
After the mixture has risen, add the baking soda and salt and set aside for 15 minutes.

Then heat a pan and pour the batter until the pan bottom is evenly covered. Cook until the Injera is browned on one side (the bottom side) only and then remove. The top side (with the eyes?) should never be flipped and cooked.

One Injera is a single serving. It is recommended that you make several injeras (up to 30) at a time, and refrigerate what is not consumed right away. Do not store over 5 days. Otherwise, the injera may dry up, get stale, or worse get moldy.

Injera is a must-have when one is consuming stews of chicken, beef, or lamb.

(*) - If you can't get hold of teff flour, you may substitute with wheat flour or a mix of rice and barley flour. Millet is a great substitute too. Go ahead and improvise ... nothing ventured, nothing gained!

Yugoslav Protocol - Sir Peter Ustinov

Sir Peter Ustinov

The great Peter Ustinov (1921-2004)
"Yugoslav Protocol"


Monday, April 19, 2010

"Dream Deferred" - by Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes (1902-1967)
"Dream Deferred"
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore-
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over-
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

Logical Arguments - by Hénock Gugsa

Logical Arguments
Hénock Gugsa

Arguments can be defined as position statements that hopefully are carefully constructed on premises that lead to inferences and conclusions. There are basically two types of arguments... the deductive and the inductive. When arguments are logical, they would result in logical inferences and conclusions. Generally, the logic we use is the Boolean kind... with basically two sides to an argument... the affirmative / the negative... the pro / the con… the true / the false... or the valid / the invalid.

A logical argument starts with the matter… what you actually say. We may break this up into arguments and examples.

The next consideration is the method... how you say what you say (organization of thought and of delivery.) We start with a clear idea of what we are going to say. We bring unity (consistency) and logic to what we say. Most importantly we develop our arguments using premises, inferences, and conclusions. Use the ‘truth table’ (*) to test all logical connections.

Matter and method will need one more element to bind for a successful presentation of logical arguments... manner. When presenting our arguments, we should be aware of the following... need for simplicity, clarity, and tact... no need for shouting... and no need for ego display. Furthermore, care should be taken to avoid the myriad of fallacies that would pop up out of the blue from habit or lack of diligence.

Definitions of terms:

Premise = proposition used to advance an argument ... often indicated by phrases such as “because,” “since,” “obviously,” etc.

Inference = when a premise has been accepted and a new proposition is derived ... often indicated by phrases such as “therefore,” “ … implies that…,” etc.

Conclusion = the final stage of all inferences, the wrapping up …often indicated by phrases such as “it follows that,” “we conclude that,” etc.

Deductive Argument = provides conclusive proof of its conclusion ... we need to differentiate ‘false implications’ from logical conclusions.

Inductive Argument = either valid or invalid inferences are made depending on the premises.

(*) Truth Table:

Where the symbol "=>" denotes implication; "A" is the premise, "B" the conclusion. "T" and "F" represent true and false (or valid and invalid) respectively.

Premise Conclusion Inference

A B A=>B
-- If the premise is false and the inference valid, the conclusion can be true or false.

-- If the premises are true and the conclusion false, the inference must be invalid.

-- If the premise is true and the inference valid, the conclusion must be true.


Argumentum ad hominem = "argument directed at the man", the abusive kind where instead of trying to disprove the truth of an assertion, the arguer attacks the person or people making the assertion.

Argumentum ad ignorantiam = "argument from ignorance". This fallacy occurs whenever it is argued that something must be true simply because it has not been proved false. Or, equivalently, when it is argued that something must be false because it has not been proved true. (Note that this is not the same as assuming that something is false until it has been proved true, a basic scientific principle.)

Argumentum ad misericordiam = appeal for pity or special pleading.

Argumentum ad populum = appeal to the gallery or appealing to the people.

Argumentum ad verecundiam = The Appeal to Authority uses the admiration of the famous to try and win support for an assertion.

The Fallacy of Accident = The Fallacy of Accident is committed when a general rule is applied to a particular case whose "accidental" circumstances mean that the rule is inapplicable.

Converse accident / Hasty generalization = the reverse of the fallacy of accident.

Sweeping generalization / Dicto simpliciter = A sweeping generalization occurs when a general rule is applied to a particular situation in which the features of that particular situation render the rule inapplicable. A sweeping generalization is the opposite of a hasty generalization.

Non causa pro causa / Post hoc ergo propter hoc = these are known as False Cause fallacies.

Cum hoc ergo propter hoc = this fallacy is similar to Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc. It asserts that because two events occur together, they must be causally related, and leaves no room for other factors that may be the cause(s) of the events.

Petitio principii / Begging the question = this fallacy occurs when the premises are at least as questionable as the conclusion reached.

Circulus in demonstrando = this fallacy occurs when one assumes as a premise the conclusion which one wishes to reach. Often, the proposition will be rephrased so that the fallacy appears to be a valid argument. (A circular argument.)

Ignoratio elenchi = the fallacy of Irrelevant Conclusion consists of claiming that an argument supports a particular conclusion when it is actually logically nothing to do with that conclusion.

Equivocation = … occurs when a key word is used with two or more different meanings in the same argument.

Amphiboly = … occurs when the premises used in an argument are ambiguous because of careless or ungrammatical phrasing.

Accent = … another form of fallacy through shifting meaning.

Fallacies of composition = One Fallacy of Composition is to conclude that a property shared by the parts of something must apply to the whole. The other Fallacy of Composition is to conclude that a property of a number of individual items is shared by a collection of those items.

Fallacy of division = … the opposite of the Fallacy of Composition.

The slippery slope argument = … states that should one event occur, so will other harmful events .... "A is based on B" fallacies / " ... is a type of ... " fallacies / Fallacy of the False Cause."

Undistributed Middle = these fallacies occur when one attempts to argue that things are in some way similar without actually specifying in what way they are similar.

Affirmation of the consequent = this fallacy is an argument of the form "A implies B, B is true, therefore A is true". To understand why it is a fallacy, examine the truth table for implication given earlier.

Denial of the antecedent = this fallacy is an argument of the form "A implies B, A is false, therefore B is false". Again refer to the truth table.

Converting a conditional = this fallacy is an argument of the form "If A then B, therefore if B then A".

Argumentum ad antiquitatem = this is the fallacy of asserting that something is right or good simply because it is old, or because "that's the way it's always been."

Argumentum ad novitatem = this is the opposite of the Argumentum ad Antiquitatem; it is the fallacy of asserting that something is more correct simply because it is new or newer than something else.

Argumentum ad crumenam = the fallacy of believing that money is a criterion of correctness; that those with more money are more likely to be right.

Argumentum ad lazarum = the fallacy of assuming that because someone is poor he or she is sounder or more virtuous than one who is wealthier.

Argumentum ad nauseam = this is the incorrect belief that an assertion is more likely to be true the more often it is heard.

Bifurcation = ... also referred to as the "black and white" fallacy, bifurcation occurs when one presents a situation as having only two alternatives, where in fact other alternatives exist or can exist.

Plurium interrogationum / Many questions = this fallacy occurs when a questioner demands a simple answer to a complex question.

Non sequitur = ... an argument where the conclusion is drawn from premises which are not logically connected with it.

Red herring = This fallacy is committed when irrelevant material is introduced to the issue being discussed, so that everyone's attention is diverted away from the points being made, towards a different conclusion.

Reification / Hypostatization = ... occurs when an abstract concept is treated as a concrete thing.

Shifting the burden of proof = .... The burden of proof is always on the person making an assertion or proposition. Shifting the burden of proof, a special case of Argumentum ad Ignorantiam, is the fallacy of putting the burden of proof on the person who denies or questions the assertion being made. The source of the fallacy is the assumption that something is true unless proven otherwise.

Straw man = The straw man fallacy is to misrepresent someone else's position so that it can be attacked more easily, then to knock down that misrepresented position, then to conclude that the original position has been demolished. It is a fallacy because it fails to deal with the actual arguments that have been made.

The extended analogy = the fallacy of the Extended Analogy often occurs when some suggested general rule is being argued over. The fallacy is to assume that mentioning two different situations, in an argument about a general rule, constitutes a claim that those situations are analogous to each other.

Tu quoque = this is the famous "you too" fallacy. It occurs when an action is argued to be acceptable because the other party has performed it.
For instance: “You’re just being randomly abusive.”
“So? You've been abusive too.”
This is a personal attack, and is therefore a special case of Argumentum ad Hominem.

Audiatur et altera pars = Often, people will argue from assumptions which they do not bother to state. The principle of Audiatur et Altera Pars is that all of the premises of an argument should be stated explicitly.

Argumentum ad logicam = this is the "fallacy fallacy" of arguing that a proposition is false merely on the grounds that it has been presented as the conclusion of a fallacious argument. Remember always that fallacious arguments can arrive at true conclusions. 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

"Much Madness is Divinest Sense" - by Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
"Much Madness is Divinest Sense"

Much Madness is divinest Sense—
To a discerning Eye—
Much Sense—the starkest Madness—
'Tis the Majority
In this, as All, prevail—
Assent—and you are sane—
Demur—you're straightway dangerous—
And handled with a Chain— 

Saturday, April 10, 2010

"Curse of the Tiki Doll" - by Jim Walsh *

Curse of the Tiki Doll
Jim Walsh

Every day at Java Jack's, a mini-morality lesson plays itself out for all to see and be seen. On the front counter of the South Minneapolis coffee shop sits a dime-store tiki doll that, when its button gets pushed, pounds its drums and plays a hypnotic voodoo solo that, frankly, gets pretty damn annoying if left to finish.

Which is why Julie Rathman, a full-time visual artist and part-time barista who at one time housed the little demon in her apartment, put a sign on the devil doll a few months ago:


For most first-world caffeine denizens on their way to the high-stakes business world or low-key family life, the temptation is too much.

"I love the psychological aspect of the coffee shop, and the decision people have to face," says Java Jack's manager Pete Christensen. "A lot of people ask, 'Should I push it?' They want us to make the decision for them. Most people stop, read the sign, and push the button."

Does anyone resist?
At a time when values and personal responsibility are on the ropes, the news that people are blatantly disobeying the tiki doll sign is, sadly, one more reason to lose faith in humanity. But does anyone not give in to their worst side? Can anyone resist the doll's temptation?

"Absolutely," says Christensen. "Our neighbor is St. Luke's church, and their pastor came in with her assistant pastor. When they were standing there, he read the sign and you could see the moral dilemma play out in his mind. I could tell he was probably wrestling with a lot more than just the doll in his life, and he took this as a little test for himself.

"And I've been there. I used to give myself these moral tests; I used to believe that you're being tested, and I think you are to a certain degree. Anyway, he wrestled with it and came to the conclusion, 'Nope. I'm not gonna push that button.' And he really wanted to; he was denying himself some pleasure there."

In "a life full of tests," as the band Carbon Leaf once put it, most tests are not tests at all. Nor are they so black and white, boiled down to the act of to push or not to push. Sometimes you ignore the button, rendering it powerless. Sometimes you lean on the button a little; other times you sit back and imagine what it would be like to push the button.

Some days you push; some days you don't.

"Some days you throw it up against the wall," says Christensen.

To give in, or not ...
In the end, everyone must ask and answer for themselves: Could you live without pushing it? Could you go on with your day not giving into your own curiosity, born of the primal urge to merge with the black magic, no matter what the consequences?

"First time I saw it, bam – I pressed it," says Java Jack's owner, Jerry Nelson. "Reverted right back to my 6-year-old self: 'Don't do that?' 'Yeah, right.' "

Here it must be said that the tiki doll is not exactly legendary, or a big draw for the shop, or anything quite so exotic. At best, he is a mascot, often relegated to a storage shelf behind the counter when things get too busy and the staff doesn't want to bother with the mass internal tsunami he inspires. At most, the tiki doll is a source of organic entertainment for the members of the jury behind the counter, most of whom blanch when customers ask if they should push or not.

Barista Josh Heffelfinger: "Don't pin your dilemma on me, man."

Barista Mandy Rismon: "I'm not your moral compass."

Drums and vibes just keep going
Some customers push the button without giving it a second thought, and, when the drums and vibes keep going and the entire coffee shop is looking at the pusher, shaming him or her with Scarlet Letter looks, panic sets in.

"They feel really uncomfortable," says barista Brittany Jane Jewkes. "They say, 'How do I turn it off?' I say, `I don't know, you have to take it apart. That's why we say don't touch it.'"

The other day, a customer asked Christensen what would happen if he pushed the button. Christensen said he didn't know, and when the man pushed the button and the doll did his thing, he said, "I think you just cursed your family."

So beginneth the legend of the Java Jack's tiki doll. Think not? When told about the demon and the dilemma, Kristin Thoennes, a writer, teacher and mom who lives near the coffee shop responded, "I can't wait. I'm going in there tomorrow, just to push the button."


* Source= http://www.minnpost.com/

Friday, April 9, 2010

"A Poison Tree" - by William Blake

William Blake (1757-1827)
"A Poison Tree"

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I watered it in fears
Night and morning with my tears,
And I sunned it with smiles
And with soft deceitful wiles.
And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright,
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine, —
And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning, glad, I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree. 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

"Stress Management" * - by St. Francis Hospitals

"Stress Management"
St. Francis Hospitals

A lecturer, when explaining stress management to an audience, raised a glass of water and asked, "How heavy is this glass of water?"

Answers called out ranged from "20 grams" to "500 grams".

The lecturer replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long you try to hold it."

He continued, "If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance. In each case, it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."

After a slight pause to clear his throat, he resumed his lecture. " ...And that's the way it is with stress management. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on. As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden .... So, before you return home tonight, put the burden of work down. Don't carry it home. You can pick it up tomorrow. Whatever burdens you're carrying now, set them down for a moment if you can."

Then, he reeled it all in. He said, "Relax; pick them up later after you've rested. Life is short. Enjoy it!"

And then he shared some ways of dealing with the burdens of life:

- Accept that some days you're the pigeon, and some days you're the statue.

- Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.

- Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.

- Drive carefully. It's not only cars that can be recalled by their maker.

- If you can't be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.

- If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again,
it was probably worth it.

- It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.

- Never buy a car you can't push.

- Never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because then you won't have a leg to stand on.

- Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance.

- Since it's the early worm that gets eaten by the bird, sleep late.

- The second mouse gets the cheese.

- When everything's coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.

- Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you have lived.

- You may be only one person in the world, but you may also be the world to one person.

- Some mistakes are too much fun to only make once.

- We could learn a lot from crayons. Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull. Some have weird names, and all are different colors, but they all have to live in the same box.

- A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.
* source: http://www.stfrancishospitals.org

"Dreams" - by Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Taxation on Tips - by Hénock Gugsa

Taxation on Tips
by Hénock Gugsa

( A letter to my congressman *) ...

The Honorable Jim Ramstad
United States House of Representatives
103 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Mr. Ramstad:

Thank you very much for the wonderful work you are doing in Washington presenting the wishes and aspirations of moderate, independent, and responsible citizens of Minnesota. I am especially glad that you are there holding a very important seat in the House Ways and Means Committee. I am aware that taxes are a major area of focus for HWMC. Although new tax legislation is always in the works, tax reforms somehow seem to have been abandoned of late. But, I am seriously concerned by how the Government is so desensitized to some serious fairness issues. With all the obsession and focus on tax cuts for the well-to-do, it seems that a great number of working poor and those on social security are not getting any breaks from the Government. In particular, I respectfully urge you to address the justification(s) for the taxation on tips, and on social security.

In theory and in general, taxes are for the benefit of all citizens. But some aspects of the U.S. tax system can sometimes be egregiously unfair and unnecessary. In my opinion, taxes on tips and on social security should be eliminated for the following reasons:

a) Tips
• Tips are not the type of income for which the Government can claim any service rendered in the creation of that income. Tips are earned income for hard work, not unearned income from inheritance.
• Tips are important to the recipients who are mostly servers and the like who earn minimum wages or less. Taxing tips accomplishes very little for the Government but foster hardship on the group. We may even be encouraging higher unemployment.

b) Social Security
• The Government should have no claim on social security because it was a form of a saving fund whose interest the Government has been squandering away for many, many years.
• Social security as secondary income barely keeps the squeezed recipient above the poverty line.

In conclusion, permit me to offer two radical tax proposals for your serious consideration – eliminate taxes on tips, and also exempt social security from taxes if it is a supplementary source of income.

Thank you.


Hénock Gugsa


( * Note: This letter was written and sent to the congressman in 2006. Unfortunately, Mr. Ramstad, a Republican, did not respond. He never even bothered to acknowledge receipt.)

"Coyote" - by Bret Harte

Bret Harte (1836-1902)

Blown out of the prairie in twilight and dew,
Half bold and half timid, yet lazy all through;
Loathe ever to leave, and yet fearful to stay,
He limps in the clearing, an outcast in gray.

A shade on the stubble, a ghost by the wall,
Now leaping, now limping, now risking a fall,
Lop-eared and large jointed, but ever alway
A thoroughly vagabond outcast in gray.

Here, Carlo, old fellow,— he’s one of your kind,—
Go, seek him, and bring him in out of the wind.
What! Snarling, my Carlo! So even dogs may
Deny their own kin in the outcast in gray.

Well, take what you will,— though it be on the sly,
Marauding or begging,— I shall not ask why,
But will call it a dole, just to help on his way
A four-footed friar in orders of gray!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

"Don't have a cow, man!" - by Hénock Gugsa

"Don't have a cow, man!"
by Hénock Gugsa
For many years now, Bart Simpson, that incorrigible brat from TV, has regularly and irreverently told everybody: "Don't have a cow, man!" It seems to me that this is the mantra we should adopt when faced with seemingly insurmountable crises and dilemmas in life. The only exception could be if we were somehow personally and individually responsible for creating those situations in the first place. However, we can and perhaps should show a modicum of sincere empathy and concern for all serious situations all the same.

- So, a bridge collapses and kills 13 people. Should the immediate reaction be to find somebody to blame? No, the tragedy has already occurred. As a citizen, I can only mourn the loss of lives, and hope that a proactive investigation is done that will be instructive enough to help us correct the avoidable human mistakes.

- A government adopts wrong-headed policies and stubbornly executes them in the face of so much opposition, then grapples with the predictable disasters that ensue. All I can do is vote against those responsible ... the incompetent and unworthy elected officials. It should not matter what party they belong to.

- Someone somewhere loudly and passionately writes in support of his political party, and bemoans and besmirches the demurrers as liberals, neocons, libtards, democRats, republitards, lefties, righties, commies, fascists, pro-American, anti-American, traitors, fundies, wingnuts, gay lovers, homophobes, hypocrites, zealots, racists, sexists, bigots, neanderthals, progressives, reactionaries, bolsheviks, mensheviks, etc. But what does it all mean? Why even discuss any issue if everything can be settled by just name-calling, labeling, and pigeonholing?

Conclusion: I think that all of us (i.e. each and everyone) are really more complex in our thoughts, our beliefs, and our actions. Even the most "so-called" die-hard capitalist can, at some point, succumb to moments of humaneness and give in to compassion and charity. Hence hope and optimism always stay unvanquished for the nation.

Our country has numerous unsung heroes who have sprung from all walks of life, and they are always doing wonderfully good deeds. But these folk don't advertise their good work. They are quiet, they stay under the radar, and they like to keep it that way. Maybe they are the true practitioners of Bart's philosophy. They try to right a wrong, to mend the broken, to feed the hungry, and to love the unloved.

Have a cow? No, not them!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Quality Republicans - by Hénock Gugsa

Quality Republicans
by Hénock Gugsa

Recently, I heard someone use the term  "quality republicans", but he did not quite give a good explanation of what that meant or represented.  Presently,  I do not think that the term refers to any established or existing group.  I shall, therefore, attempt to submit my take on what the term implies or how it can materialize.  First, however, let me make an a priori apology in case some  feathers are ruffled, and sensibilities perturbed. My motive is simple: posit a point of view on what I think it will take to be a "quality republican".

As we all know, the Republican party is in a big fight not only for survival but also for future resurgence and grandeur. The Grand Ole Party needs a serious overhaul, and this should be an exciting time for the institution just for the challenges alone if not for anything else.

What needs to be done?

- Retain your core philosophy which separates you from the democrats? But, be more moderate and tolerant of opposing views. Compromise when common sense demands it.

- Don't form a passive government that serves only corporate interests.

- Put out competing ideas on how to improve health care, the environment, and education. Follow Arnold Schwarzenegger's example.

- Curb or cure neophobia, fear of the new.

- Curb or cure tropophobia, fear of change.

- Do a balanced and objective self-analysis. Are you too offensive? Are you too defensive?

- Are you flexible and open to any political eventuality (crisis)?

- Will you consider and accept the logic behind the majority/minority power allocations. The current argument, (the "fear") that a one-party domination in Congress and the White House is a bad or dangerous thing, is without merit.

The nation is fed up of gridlock and a do-nothing government. Let one party take over for a while. Let's see how they do in two years? If they fail, they will have no excuses and will be voted out by the voting public. Finger-pointing and blame game would make sense when one party is in total control of the government.

A minority party can always state on the record its opposition to the majority, alert the voting public and actively develop and promote the differing position for acceptance.  Those republicans that do all of the above are, in my humble opinion, indeed "quality republicans."

Friday, April 2, 2010

Beware of Meganya! - by Hénock Gugsa

Beware of Meganya!
Hénock Gugsa

One thing is obvious, uncomplicated, and most common about humans … and that is their capacity for fear. It is both instinctive (natural) and learned. Go to any country, any culture … and there you’ll find at least one or two mythical personifications of fear. Bogeymen, vampires, wolfmen, demons, and a myriad of horrible creatures are the stuff of literature and folklore everywhere. In Ethiopia, however, there is also the mysterious and enigmatic Meganya!

We cannot be perfectly unequivocal in explaining the phenomenon - Meganya cannot be put in any clear or defined category of fear. One may say that Meganya is the single embodiment of all the fears and ills that are manifested in a society. By and large, the terror itself is certainly psychologically propagated. What’s more, Meganya is generally used to explain away both the unreal (the supernatural, the imagined) and the real or day-to-day personal catastrophes.

Examples abound …

People with skewed chins, for example, got that way because they probably crossed paths with Meganya. It is an irascible being that detests any rude surprises. Let me explain. A house or a room that has been shut up and left unlit and unaired for a long time is Meganya’s favorite resting place. If humans suddenly opened that place up and just barged in, that would startle and anger Meganya. And it would react by slapping the first person it encounters so hard in the face that it will be cruelly twisted up and frozen for life. But, believe me: the person has gotten off easy this time ... Meganya could have taken away the person's sight or caused other serious bodily damage. Worst of all, the shock of such an encounter could even cause instant death.

Often, people warn you not to be out and about in the dead of night or even in the early hours of the morning before sunrise. Meganya has been known to loiter in dark streets and alleys or in places where refuse is kept. Fiercely territorial and aggressive, Meganya would attack you even if you were armed with holy water. Should you be outside at an ungodly hour, you are advised to cover your face and look at the ground and nothing else as you walk. And should you hear your name called out from any direction, do not look up or respond in any way. Meganya could be trying to trick you to let your guard down. And when you do, end of story.

To this day, people in Ethiopia still believe that epilepsy and some forms of madness are the work of Meganya. And when people are really angry and resentful about something, it is not uncommon to hear them wish for Meganya to strike down the object of their wrath. And this wish or curse cannot be undone unless immediately followed by spitting at the ground. This is similar to what people do to avert the evil eye, their own, from hurting other people.

The interesting thing about Meganya is that no one knows what it is exactly or what it looks like. Those that have encountered it and survived are too shocked out of their wits to tell any tales. Thus, we are all left to our own conjectures. Some say it is a huge dark entity with mighty arms, and others say it has to be a black smelly cloud of heavy air that leaves telltale misty tracks when it is gone. I guess that is why when people first open their doors in the morning, they usually douse their front steps with water to wash away Meganya’s remnants.

To be sure, there are other demons and terrifying beings out there. But for Ethiopians, no one or no thing is as fearsome as Meganya. An old country such as Ethiopia has a lot of stories to tell. So perk up your ears and listen well when Ethiopians caution you to “Beware of Meganya!”