Archives for the month of: September, 2014

Was seriously talked about [ announced?] today. Yeah!

And it is returning with the ever useful Start Menu. Yeah!

And combined with Intel’s new Core M processors, next year’s consumer will get desktop performance in a variety of small form factors all with lower power consumption and a more wonderfully friendly UI like the old Win7 type user interface.

If they don’t f **k it up… Imagine a retro-future – a laptop that you can take apart. Replace the battery yourself. Upgrade the memory yourself. Even swap out the HDDs/SDDs yourself. And imagine a laptop where you can pop the keyboard off and leave it at home if you want. And don’t forget things like USB3.1 and the latest PCIe will be standard. Speed, power, and accessability in a variety of form factors promising true cross platform interoperability all with the same GUI. And some sources have sited there will be onboard, built in virtualization support.

Let’s face facts – Android powered phones and tablets, Chromebooks, and ultrabooks all sucked. Shit you can’t take apart. Shit – in that you can’t upgrade individual components. All said, shit – with a high obsolescence factor.

I want my all future devices to have utilities like that simple but very useful Command Line Prompt. Ahh, to be able to ping once more from any device would give me untold happiness. And I want all my future devices to have some aspect of right clicking to get to [Manage] Computer. And I want all my devices to have the equivalent of a Control Panel.

I am majorly tired of shit not working in Android and then only being able to find a bunch of useless users forums from which to try to troubleshoot from. I am tired of Android downloads with cutesy names that breaks shit. Can anyone on any of the Google forums adequately explain why the latest version of the OS – 4.4 “kit-kat” – intermittently hoses the WiFi on their flagship Nexus 7 tablet? No. Is there a fix? Who knows. That kind of shit doesn’t stand.

Nope. I am done with Android. I want my Windows back. I want real applications. And my data – on my machine – where I can keep an eye on it. And not in some damned cloud.

PS – I’ve still got my old reliable quad-core Win7 64 bit Ultimate workstation that I built 4 years ago. And I still have a Win7 Pro notebook.  But the future replacement prospects were starting to look pretty grim with Windows 8.

PPS – Do you know why Google turned Android loose on the world? To save us all from Apple that’s why. Does Google give a rat’s ass about operating systems? I think that the fact that they pretty much give it away for free tells you what they really think of it (which also explains their non-existent support model).

 

 

 

The Google executive chairman, Eric Schmidt told Bloomberg that their fierce rivalry with Apple has “benefited billions of global consumers.”

In my opinion, saying that their rivalry has benefited the global consumer is like saying that the rivalry between the democrats and the republicans has benefited the American voter.

Why? Because in both cases there is only the illusion of choice.

And an $800 smartphone with a 2 year lifespan is an extremely poor value proposition no matter which brand’s name is on it.

 

What do you do when the Feds come a knockin’?

Me? I let them in.

Why? Because like so many other seemingly complicated mysteries, it started with a simple lie.

Four days ago at 10 am a gringo rang my bell. I threw on a t-shirt and a pair of shorts and went down and answered the gate.

He said, ‘People said there was a nice American guy living here.’ He had an award winning smile and an open demeanor so I automatically invited him in. I explained away the empty first floor saying that I only cooked there. As we walked up the steps to the second floor I said that the house was way too big for me but you’ll understand in a minute why I rented the place.

I ushered him out onto the 3rd floor terrace and he appropriately ooh’d and ahh’d over the spectacular view.

We drug a pair of chairs out into the shade and had a incredibly friendly chat that lasted until 11:30. We had the usual chitchat about life in Mexico then he opened with a slightly anti-Obama remark which I upped by saying that I thought the man was ‘dangerous,’ to which he nodded to the affirmative.

The conversation switched to a problem that he, Mike was having and that a buddy of his whose wife had recently died left him, Mike with all  the furniture. Really nice stuff that he had no use for. He said the guy shut down his house in Chapala  – a small town 40 miles away populated mostly by rich gringos on the north side of Lake Chapala – moved back to the states and gave Mike the furniture.

I was sympathetic and wished him luck. The conversation then switched to other topics. I learned that Mike has two sons both studying in Portugal. That they both speak 7 language fluently. Mike lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming where he drives a truck 7 months out of the year and takes the other 5 months off. Mike is 60 years old. Very fit, no fat. Speaks impeccable Spanish. He was dressed in pressed chinos with a nice button down shirt, wearing tan colored cowboy boots that were not fancy but well cared for. He had close-cropped hair and wore a small well-trimmed beard. His nice smile suggested that he never missed a single bi-annual dental visit.

The subject turned back to the problem of the furniture. And I agreed that it was a problem. And told him that it had been my experience that the reason that one couldn’t buy second hand furniture in Mexico was because there wasn’t any. Furniture was continually recycled by the family.

The conversation turned to sandals. And we had a long discussion on my efforts to make and sell sandals. I drug out several boxes of sandals and he told me that he liked what I was doing and that he wanted me to make him a pair (of the Italianos). I said you bet. I really liked this guy. He said that he was going to be in Mexico for the next 3-4 weeks and that we should hang out, maybe take a couple of short trips together. He had a Ford F250 up in Chapala and all he asked for was for a little help with gas. And he went on to say that he knew some people in Puerto Vallarta that could definitely give me some serious help on getting my sandals out there (as in marketed and sold).

I told him that I was working on getting a business visa and he said that what I really needed was a resident visa. To that I absolutely agreed but I told him that it had been my experience that getting a resident’s visa was almost impossible. He said, just the opposite. And that the process was very easy. You didn’t even need a lawyer. He told me that he’d hook me up with a couple of savvy old gringos in Chapala who’d show me how to do it.

The subject turned back to the problem of the furniture. (To which I still wasn’t biting). And finally he said, ‘Look, I’ll just give it to you. You don’t give me anything. Maybe just help out someone else along the line like people have done for my sons.’ To this I reluctantly agreed. Granted, my house was way under-furnished but did I really want more stuff? Even if it was the nice stuff that Mike was telling me it was? Sealy Posturepedic beds and a washer and dryer,  and tables and chairs were a few of the things that he mentioned. I mean the house doesn’t even have a washer hookup let alone an outlet for a dryer.

And then I did something that I didn’t do when the last gringo came knockin’ a year and a half ago; I offered him a room. I thought that if he was that generous then the least I could do was offer him a place to stay. Not that I really wanted company. But Mike was a pretty cool guy and so if I could put up with anybody it would be someone like Mike.

He thought that was great. By this time we were well on our way to becoming pretty good friends. He didn’t pry. He never asked me any embarrassing or personal questions. He didn’t talk about uncomfortable things like whoring in Mexico or talk like he had a sordid shameful past or that he was running from something. He had no discernible flaws. And I am pretty hip to picking up the most subtle clues. If someone is hiding something I am usually pretty good at picking up on it. But nope. In other words, Mike was the complete (un)idiosyncratic opposite of every other man his age – including yours truly. He was too perfect and I just didn’t see it at the time.

I walked him out and he mentioned again that all he asked for was a little help with the gas. And I was thinking, yeah with a Ford F-250 I’d want a little help too. So without hesitation I fished out a 500 peso note and asked if that would be enough. He said, yeah that should do it. He’d load up the furniture and be back in a few hours.

I never heard from him again.

PS – So what were the inconsistencies? What makes me so sure he was a fed? The fact that he was so damned good. A polished liar with a firm, dry  handshake. And he couldn’t hide the fact that he was educated. Not that he was quoting Shakespeare (which is something that an uneducated person would more likely do) but it was the cadence of his conversation. The words he used. His sentences. Nothing fancy. But it has been my experience that it is hard to hide a university education. So as a truck driver he was both too educated and too fit.  And an F-250? I should have caught that right off the bat. You can’t get a houseful of furniture on an F-250. Not more than a washer and dryer and a pair of beds.

So why the furniture ploy? Because he was a fast study and quickly saw when he entered my house that my lack of furniture could be a point of leverage.

So why the 500 pesos? He certainly didn’t need 500 pesos. And the furniture story would have had a completely different spin if he did. I know because I’ve been hustled by the best. It has been my experience that the hustler is always a little too greedy and always has a fatal flaw. And to spend an hour and a half in very pleasant conversation just to squeeze me for a measly 500 pesos also doesn’t add up. No, if it were money that he was after he would have been pushing the sales aspect of the furniture and the buy in would have been much higher.

So what was his angle? Why furniture and why the 500 pesos?  My guess is that the furniture was the conversational hook and perhaps a ploy to gauge my greed. And the opening anti-Obama gambit was put out there to test my loyalty (or degree of radicalness); after all I’ve been expatting it down in Mexico for 2 years. And the length of the conversation was there to measure my criminal factor.

I know if you give me 5-10 minutes with someone – especially if you let me lead the conversation – I can tell you if they’ve either done time or if they have an appetite for criminal activity. Most criminals think that they’re so much smarter than everyone else – when in fact it is usually the opposite – so they generally have very easy to spot ‘tells’.

Now Mike took an hour and a half. Why so long? Maybe I amused him. Maybe he had time to kill because it wouldn’t take an expert in criminology to quickly conclude that I have no criminal tendencies.

And then in true genius fashion he played the ‘have to go the pick up furniture’ angle to terminate the interview.

And the 500 pesos? Smoke, pure smoke. You could never (ever) imagine a federal agent asking for gas money. Nope. He wanted to leave me feeling like I had been scammed. Why? Because if you can get someone looking firmly in one direction then it is highly unlikely that they’ll look in another direction.

Brilliant.

PPS – But the clincher? He said, ‘People said there was a nice American living in town.’ And that my friend was the lie. And it took me all this time – because the lie was so disarmingly simple – to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together.

Example, when the other gringo, James Jessup rang the buzzer at my gate a year and a half ago, I was asked the same day – by at least a dozen people in town – if James, the gringo with the big beard had found me yet.

However in this case, not one person in these last 4 days have asked me anything about this gringo. Like did he find me? For that matter, not a single person in town even asked me if I’d seen some new gringo around town. Or was he a buddy of mine? Nada.

Which means that he knew exactly who I was and where to find me.

Kinda gives you the shivers doesn’t it?

 

“Bah! I have sung women in three cities, But it is all the same; And I will sing of the sun.

Lips, words, and you snare them, Dreams, words, and they are as jewels, Strange spells of old deity, Ravens, nights, allurement: And they are not; Having become the souls of song.

Eyes, dreams, lips, and the night goes. Being upon the road once more, They are not. Forgetful in their towers of our tuneing Once for wind-runeing They dream us-toward and Sighing, say, “Would Cino, Passionate Cino, of the wrinkling eyes, Gay Cino, of quick laughter, Cino, of the dare, the jibe. Frail Cino, strongest of his tribe That tramp old ways beneath the sun-light, Would Cino of the Luth were here!”

Once, twice a year— Vaguely thus word they:

“Cino?” “Oh, eh, Cino Polnesi The singer is’t you mean?” “Ah yes, passed once our way, A saucy fellow, but . . . (Oh they are all one these vagabonds), Peste! ’tis his own songs? Or some other’s that he sings? But *you*, My Lord, how with your city?”

My you “My Lord,” God’s pity! And all I knew were out, My Lord, you Were Lack-land Cino, e’en as I am, O Sinistro.

I have sung women in three cities. But it is all one. I will sing of the sun. . . . eh? . . . they mostly had grey eyes, But it is all one, I will sing of the sun.

“‘Pollo Phoibee, old tin pan, you Glory to Zeus’ aegis-day, Shield o’ steel-blue, th’ heaven o’er us Hath for boss thy lustre gay!

‘Pollo Phoibee, to our way-fare Make thy laugh our wander-lied; Bid thy ‘flugence bear away care. Cloud and rain-tears pass they fleet!

Seeking e’er the new-laid rast-way To the gardens of the sun . . .

I have sung women in three cities But it is all one. I will sing of the white birds In the blue waters of heaven, The clouds that are spray to its sea.”

Ezra Pound

“Laziness in doing stupid things can be a great virtue”.
The High Llama speaking

 

“It always seemed to me in my profession that a good deal of what passed for success would be rather disagreeable.”
Conway speaking

 

(2 unrelated excerpts from James Hilton’s 1933 novel ‘Lost Horizon’ )

I. A man is the sum of his experiences. (Possessions don’t mean shit).

II. A person does not need a partner to define or give substance to their life. (A partner adds flavor or texture).

III. One does not need to get approval from peers, business associates, or lovers before changing their life (or ordering another beer).

IV. Life is best understood (valued) given the inevitability of one’s death.

V. At any moment we are all a hair’s breadth away from disaster (or fortune).

VI. Never discount blind stupid luck (but don’t count on it either).

VII. The biggest difference between success and failure is planning.

VIII. Short term gratification is for Pavlov. Define your goals, set your priorities, and falter not.

IX. Life is once. Get strong and tear it up.

X. Why are we here? Why is there so much pain and suffering? What is the purpose of life? To learn you dunce!

PS – And smile; life is only a test.

I’ve said it before, if you want to see the real Mexico, then flee the resorts and get off the beach. In 2001 Mexico instituted a program called the Magical Villages Program (Programa Pueblos Mágicos). Wikipedia says that there are now 83 towns and villages in all 31 states have been awarded the title Pueblo Mágico.

The closest magical village to where I live is the town of Jiquilpan which lies just 7 km. away. It is a beautiful little town with exquisite architecture. An example of which is the old public library that contains 10 murals painted by the Master Jose Clemente Orozco (1883 – 1949), one of Mexico’s most famous artists (ever) of the cutting edge school of early twentieth century social realism.

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A public library in a tiny village in an obscure part of Mexico that contains not one but ten original murals painted by a genius. Incredible. Think about it.

Yesterday I took an hour bus ride further up into the mountains of Jalisco to another pueblo mágico called Mazamitla. I’ve mentioned in other posts about the weather here in central Mexico being so sublimely spectacular that the people live mostly outdoors.

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I took a few more photos but for the most part they failed to capture the true qualities of beautiful little Mazamitla.

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This central region of Mexico is filled with many other beautiful little villages that didn’t make the official list. The next puebla I intend to visit is the Valle de Juárez. It sits several kilometers off the main road so I’ve only seen it from a distance. The village is nestled between two small lakes and rises partially up the slope of a fairly steep mountain range. I’ve now ridden by it 4 times and each time I ask myself, ‘Who lives there? What do they do there?’

With the mountain range behind it there appears to be only the one road in leading off of the main highway to Colima. It looks like the stuff of fairytales sitting so far off all by itself with just the lakes and mountains surrounding it. It is a mystery that I need to look into.

“Much about your good people moves me to disgust, and it is not their evil that I mean. How I wish they could possess a madness through which they could perish, like this pale criminal.
Truly I wish their madness were called truth or loyalty or justice but they possess their virtue to live long and in a miserable ease.”

Nietzche

Today is Grito de Delores (The Cry of Dolores), or more formally know as Independence Day here in Mexico. Mexicans never let an opportunity to celebrate go to waste so they actually started the fiesta 15 days ago. And unsurprisingly the festivities will go on until the end of the month.

Keep in mind that the Christmas celebration lasts 2 months (Dec 1st – Feb 6th) down here. And then there’s the Patron’s Saints Day celebration – the biggest blowout of the year – which lasts 3 weeks. And there are a boatload of other fiestas in Mexico but those are the real big ones.

So looking at the current celebration through a big bright pair of Mexican sunglasses, it only stands to reason that their version of the Fourth of July should last an entire month. That no mere 3 day weekend long event with a couple of barbeque picnics and a single evening of fireworks would be anywhere near sufficient to properly celebrate such an auspicious occasion.

Yesterday there were a ton of little kids dressed up in old style costumes. The little girls with their hair in twisted up braids piled high on their heads wearing little hand decorated frocks while the little boys affecting early 19th century revolutionaries had painted on sideburns and mustaches and wore sombreros with some of them carrying toy pistols in holsters. The town – with the the central plaza as the locus – was filled with families and all those adorable dressed up little kids.

Of course everyone was snacking on everything from ice cream to grilled giant ears of corn slathered with butter and chili vinegar and sprinkled with salt to big crackly pieces of dried pork skin (chicharrones) that were smothered with red hot sauce. Everybody laughing and talking with kids running around chasing each other, and mariachis playing. Mexicans are very social people. They love their music. And with almost year around perfect weather just about everybody lives outdoors.

This morning I stood in line behind a man outside the Mercado who was buying corn for the traditional Independence Day supper of posole that his wife was going to make. The woman, tending little more than a table, shucked something like 4 dozen ears while the man handpicked each and every one for the two and a half dozen that he ended up buying. Part of the service is getting all of the kernels neatly sliced off in rows with a butcher knife. So what you end up with is a big bag of wet corn kernels.

And we aren’t talking about those demure little ears of sweet corn that are eaten on the northern side of the border. Oh no, these are those big hulking multicolored knobby things more correctly known as maize which bear the distinction of not having been dicked with by Monsanto. This is Aztec corn we’re talking about and one of those ears is big enough to pretty much be a meal all by itself.

I bought a dozen, deciding that I was going to make a highly modified gringo version of the dish. If you’re a Mexican reading this either feel free to laugh yourself stupid or just wince and sadly shake your head. Or better yet, don’t read the next paragraph.

So anyway, I’ve got a bunch of tiny smoking hot red chilies, red wine, cumin, tomatoes, and onion that I am going to use for the broth. (Yes, I know this is totally wrong). Then I cheated and bought some already cooked pork in the delicious form of carnitas that I am going to add at the appropriate time along with the corn. (Also totally wrong). The garnishes I am going to add at the end is fresh lime, sliced red radishes and cilantro. (And yes this is totally wrong too as I neglected to buy cabbage to chop up).

But I am betting that it will still be pretty tasty.

I was thinking this morning about the nature of questions while watching the sunrise. I was just finishing my first powerful cup of coffee (made from a dark roast of the local Michoacan beans) when it occurred to me that we all need to be more thoughtful before posing a question, any question.This line of thinking was the result of a conversation that I had just a couple of days prior concerning some rather rude questions about my new shoes.

My mind wandered back to meeting Simon, a young Italian traveler I met while crossing Lake Atitlan on a ferry in Guatemala back in ’93.  We hungout for the weekend in the village of San Pedro sharing a cheap cinderblock hotel room along with a British mountain biker by the name Michael.

Simon confided during that weekend that he liked the fact that when I first made a conversational overture that it wasn’t in the nature of a question. Like, where are from? How long have you been traveling? Where have you been? In other words, the usual traveler’s bullshit one hears when first meeting someone while on the road. And we all know that sometimes a person asks a question not to get the answer but to use that question as a pretense to deliver their boring soliloquy.

Instead I had pointed to a man precipitously perched on the steep side of a volcano working the soil. He remarked that the nature of our first conversation was rooted in the present and involved things other than ourselves. I am grateful that he pointed this out to me because I wasn’t conscious of it at the time. And forever since I have been grateful for this lesson.

Then I got to thinking about the nature of questions in the true physical sense remembering something that J. H. Wheeler once said, “The deepest lessons of quantum mechanics may be that reality is defined by the questions that we put to it.” And from that mysteriously insightful statement I thought how the very nature of the manner in which we employ questions should hold us to a certain degree of accountability.

“Who knows where a conversation may end? As ours is doing with another mystery, which will on investigation, reveal yet another concealed truth.” So tagging onto what J. Hart wrote in her bestselling novel ‘Damage’, I believe that conversations should be approached soberly and thoughtfully. And to blurt out questions, especially to a stranger, is irresponsible and speaks to the opposite of what was intended, namely an unengaged indifference.

Example, I was back in the US a month ago and a man that I was just introduced to asked me, ‘So you got off the bike?’ These were literally the first words out of his mouth. ‘So you got off the bike?’

How do you answer that?

So I said, ‘Yes, I got off the bike.’

There was some background noise but the next thing he said to me was also poised as a question and was something like, ‘You didn’t like the bike (ride)?’

Someone interrupted and suggested that I should fill this person in on the 800 miles of pedaling that I had just completed the day before.

I was more than a little annoyed that this guy’s two questions, due to their brevity, required an out of band translation as to what he really trying to say. But I dutifully gave the guy a few sentences about my bike ride across the UP of Michigan, then down the LP of Michigan, then the frightful stint on US 23 down through Ohio before calling it quits at the Kentucky state line.

So the next words out of this guy’s mouth was, ‘So you got tired (of pedaling)?’

I was thinking, ‘Thanks for not listening and thank you for being such a conversational bore.’

And yes, I was more than a little pissed at the complete thoughtlessness of his line of inquiry.

My terse reply back was, “No. I loved the pedaling. It was the road that kicked my ass.’ All the meanwhile my left foot and leg were making hunching motions like they wanted to put a sandal up his ass.

What ever happened to ‘Don’t speak unless you can improve on silence?’