A Few Things About Pigeons

This amazing video reveals three Things You Never Knew About Pigeons.  As most of my regular readers are aware, I like pigeons and animals in general.  You can read more about the Prison Pigeon Project over at prisonlawblog.com.  But before that, please enjoy this short video about our feathered friends.

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LGBT Month Celebrated in Federal Prison: A Validation for Lives Dismissed

By Christopher Zoukis / Huffington Post At the start of June, pink flyers announcing LGBT Month started appearing around FCI Petersburg, a medium-security federal prison in Petersburg, Virginia, where I am incarcerated. The fliers, along with many colorful postings in the Education Department, explained what LGBT means: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. They profiled famous […]

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ASSORTATIVE MATING: Is there such a thing as a soul-mate or is that just a marketing ploy?

By Christopher Zoukis

No image captures our attention quite like the human face — its ability to communicate is unparalleled.  All of mankind believes they are ‘face readers,’ too.  Phi, or the golden section, would appear to be the universal standard of beauty (whether we like it, or not).  Phi is 1 to 1.618.  Shan Baker, the president of the AAFPRS (American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery) puts it this way:  “While beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, there’s a real mathematical equation for measuring a person’s attractiveness.  In fact, the skeletal proportions are the true determining factors.”  According to the AAFPRS the perfect face looks like this:  high cheekbones and a clear complexion are givens, but the well-proportioned face also divides into equal thirds when lines are drawn through the forehead hairline, the brow, the base of the nose and the edge of the chin.  For women, short, delicate jaws, fine chins and graceful noses, along with prominent eyes, full lips and visible cheekbones.  For men:  broad foreheads, deep-set eyes, imposing brows, and strong jaws make up the most desirable male.  Photo courtesy www.remybumppofieldguide.org

And that, ladies and gentlemen, brings us to the concept of ‘assortative mating,’ i.e., the attraction to others who are like oneself.  “Wanna’ go for a ride?!”  Well, here we go:  most couples, husbands and wives, tend to be similar.  They come from similar religious backgrounds, from similar ethnic backgrounds, have similar levels of innate intelligence, and many similar personality traits, including moral codes.  From whence comes this congruity?

Well, Aristophanes, the comic satirist, presented a unique take on the concept.  It goes like this:  the god, Apollo, divided man into two parts, each part desiring its other half; and once they came together, throwing their arms about each other, they entwined in mutual embraces, longing to once again become one.  Eventually, they were on the verge of dying from hunger and self-neglect, because they did not like to do anything apart from each other.  But when one of them died and the other survived, the survivor sought another mate, man or woman as we call them, and grabbed hold of that. 

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Making A Profit On Bad Credit

By Christopher Zoukis

Anytime there’s a financial crisis is a good time to buy a home or re-finance a home.  Why?  Because nothing has more value than ‘real assets.’  And there isn’t anything more real than owning a home or land.  According to the old adage, God is done making land.  Image courtesy bradydenbleyker.com

At the present time, real estate is as cheap as it has been in thirty or forty years.  Now is a good time to buy a new home or refinance your existing mortgage.  Even if you have bad credit, programs exist to make mortgages affordable.  If you have a job and a monthly income, you can qualify for a mortgage.

Mortgage rates are as low as they have ever been.  Thirty-year fixed-rate mortgages are below 3 percent, and are unlikely to go much lower.  Simultaneously, the cost of houses has dropped 20 to 50 percent, depending on geographical location.  So it’s a win-win situation.  If the economy continues to improve, the price of houses will go up, which means added equity.  If king dollar starts to lose value, lots of investors will move the money they now have in financial investments into houses, commercial real estate, and land.  This movement will support rising real estate values.

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Microsoft Buys Nokia

By Christopher Zoukis

It’s no secret that Google is intent on world domination.  Apple maintains the same aspiration.  Other than their similar ambition, Google and Apple have little else in common.  The two companies approach the marketplace differently.  And their corporate cultures sit at opposite ends of the spectrum.  Yet Apple and Google are focused on the same goal:  technological hegemony.   Image courtesy www.latimes.com –

In their battle for total world domination, neither Apple nor Google pulls any punches.  There’s nothing subtle about the conflict.  It’s like watching Monster Zero clash with Godzilla. 

Recently, Apple announced that it would allow Verizon access to the iPhone, which had been the exclusive property of AT&T.  It’s safe to say that the thinking behind the move was market share and profit.  So in that sense, the move was understandable, especially since Android-based smart phones are outselling iPhones by leaps and bounds.  In another sense, the move might have been a mistake, because by allowing Verizon’s customers the iPhone option, Apple may have diminished the iPhone’s exclusivity, which makes it hard to justify the smart phone’s price tag.

Historically, Apple has had a tendency to price its products right out of the market.  Witness Apple’s computers, which are not even an alternative for the average consumer.  If I can purchase a Dell laptop for half the price of an Apple laptop, it’s a no-brainer.  I’m going with the Dell.  And pretty soon, Apple will have the same problem with its iPad, because Samsung is ready to rock n’ roll. 

But things are about to get even more interesting.  Microsoft has elected to become a device company.  The first step in their strategy is to buy Nokia.

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A Case For Being Nice

By Christopher Zoukis

According to the psychologists we presently reside in an age of diminishing expectations.  And since all of us are products of this enormous bubble called the ‘social reality,’ we don’t expect much.  We actually believe that the future is “selling less of more.”  Image courtesy twitter.com

In other words, we expect little from life, society and our culture.

A syllogism:

The poor get poorer

The rich get richer

The poor shop at Wal-Mart.

We become self-fulfilling prophecies.  Because we expect little, we get less.  What we get is:  Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Costco, and other retail behemoths.  These monstrosities are the cancers of an economy based upon mass production.  And mass production demands organized consumption and leisure – “the culture of consumption.”

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Introduction of a Nut

By Christopher Zoukis

Almonds were introduced to America by Miquel Josep Serra iFerrer, who was born in Majorca, Spain.  When he finally arrived in California, he was Fray Junipero Serra, a priest in the Order of St. Francis.  He came to California to administer the missions on the Baja California Peninsula.  This system of missions had been founded by the Jesuits, who, because of their political intrigues, had just been forcibly kicked out of “New Spain” by King Carlos III. 

Father Serra brought along a bag of almond plantings, which he planted and attempted to grow.  His attempts failed, because the damp coastal fogs and high humidity of the area were not favorable to almond cultivation.  Image courtesy sfmuseum.net

Meanwhile, far across America, ranchers in New England and the Middle Atlantic States decided to try and grow almonds commercially.  At the same time, down in Texas, New Mexico and Colorado other ranchers were making the same attempt.  These ranchers thought that almonds should grow wherever peaches did.  It seemed only natural, since they were genetically similar.  It didn’t work.  Almonds bloom early and late frosts destroyed the harvests.  And if the frost didn’t get the almonds, because of the relative high humidity, disease did.  The venture was discarded as a waste of time.

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The Gates of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Part 2)

By Christopher Zoukis

Not only was the image on the Tilma a miracle, but miracles continued to escort the image’s passage through time.  In 1785, nitric acid was inadvertently spilled on the Tilma.  Regarding this incident, Dr. Orozco stated, “Besides any natural explanation, the acid has not destroyed the fabric of the cloth, indeed it has not even destroyed the colored parts of the image.”

The second miracle occurred in 1921, when a bomb exploded in close proximity to the Tilma.  The force of the blast shattered the marble flooring, blew out windows 150 meters away, and warped a brass crucifix.  The Tilma and the glass pane protecting it remained unscathed.  Dr. Orozco said, “There are no explanations why the shockwave that broke windows 150 meters afar did not destroy the normal glass that protected the image.  Some people said that the Son by means of the brass crucifix protected the image of His Mother.  The real fact is that we don’t have a natural explanation for this event.”[1]

The eight gates of St. Vibiana’s Cathedral in Los Angeles are the portal to this miraculous manifestation of the power of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

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The Gates of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Part 1)

By Christopher Zoukis

There are eight gates, each weighing approximately 700 pounds.  For three-quarters of a century – from 1922 until 1997 – these gold colored gates surrounded the shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe at St. Vibiana’s Cathedral in Los Angeles. 

Traditionally, gates symbolize the threshold of an entrance into a new life and communication between one world and another world.  Gates represent the protective, sheltering aspect of the Great Mother.  In Christianity, the Virgin Mary is the Gate of Heaven.  Passage through the gate, especially for those in spiritual poverty, leads to rekindled spiritual understanding.  Proverbs 8:3 associates the gate with mystical wisdom. 

The eight gates at St. Vibiana’s stood before a shrine commemorating the Virgin of Guadalupe, who, in 1531 appeared to Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill in Mexico.  Her appearance served as a bridge between the old Aztec world and the new world of the conquering Spanish conquistadors.  The miraculous manifestation of the Virgin’s image imprinted on a peasant’s cape[1] was reported to the Vatican.  The Vatican accepted the occurrence as a bona fide miracle, and a sanctuary was erected on the spot in 1533.  In 1695, construction   on a new sanctuary began, followed by the modern Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1976.  Tantamount to the Shroud of Turin, Our Lady of Guadalupe’s shrine remains second in visitors only to the Vatican.  Pilgrims come from all over the world to kneel before the shrine.  Her image, according to the Boston Globe, “May be the most venerated picture in the world.”  She is the benefactor and symbol of Mexico.

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Fads Come and Go

By Christopher Zoukis

I don’t know if you know it or not, but way back when, before they even had home brewing kits or modern beer brewing supplies – as far back as 3400 B.C. – people were brewing their own beer.  The world’s oldest known barley beer comes from the Zagros Mountains in Iran, as does the oldest grape wine (5400 B.C.).  But the all-time winner is a Neolithic grog unearthed in China’s Yellow River Valley about 9000 years ago. 

There’s a brewery in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, called Dogfish Head, where they take these old brewing recipes seriously – they try to copy them.  Then they take the results and bottle it, distribute it, and sell it.  And surprisingly, some of the ancient-style beers they produce sell very well.    Dogfish Head’s brewery came up with a beer called Midas Touch, the recipe for which was based on old and decaying libations recovered from King Midas’ tomb (700 B.C.).

At the present juncture, the brewery is experimenting with an Egyptian beer.  The process is being filmed by Discovery Channel’s ‘Brew Master’s’ reality show.  Based on libations discovered by archaeologists in the tomb of Pharaoh Scorpion I, they are trying for a combination of savory, thyme and coriander.  To this medley of spices they added oregano and a number of others, such as doum-palm fruit and chamomile.

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