Archives for the month of: February, 2015

I drink fresh squeezed juice here twice a day; half orange and half carrot juice. Pretty tasty stuff. Healthy too.

The first one I buy from Tere’ who lives just 3 doors down. It’s something like a 16 ouncer and costs 11 pesos or about 80 cents US.

I drink it on my way to the Mercado in the morning and it is big enough to last through breakfast.

The second cup of juice I buy after my run, just before lunch from my friend, Alberto who runs a juice and fruit stand in front of the Mercado with 2 of his sisters. All three of them are in their ’70s and even so they still work pretty damn hard. It takes strength to jam carrots into a grinder and cut and mash oranges into pulp all day long, seven days a week, 364 days a year.

Every three or four visits they make me drink down a third of my juice so that they can refill it. All for just 8 pesos, And they do it with a smile.

This afternoon I learned they have 5 other brothers and sisters. I told them I thought it was wonderful how so many Mexicans had big families.

The oldest sister had me laughing out loud when she said, “Our parents didn’t have a TV.”

I got both her and her sister laughing in return when I said, “That game (juego – ‘sex’) is always more fun than TV.”

PS – Yesterday afternoon a hummingbird flew into the house. I can only surmise that he was feeding on the aloe vera plant’s long stem of flowers – the only flowering plant on the third floor northern terrace – before then somehow making a wrong right turn through the open door.

I looked up from my workstation when I heard the thrumming of his wings as he hovered anxiously close by the south side set of windows. I was a bit panicky wondering how I was going to get the little bugger out of the house without him injuring himself. My first attempt – stupid as it was – was to try and get him to land on my finger but he wasn’t having none of that. It then took all of 20 seconds to get the key and open the southern door and he was gone.

PPS – Several times I have been out on the terrace laying in the hammock reading a book and I’ve heard the same surprisingly loud thrumming noise as some other hummingbird was hovering just inches behind my head.

Nature’s own tiny hovercrafts. Thinking about them always puts a smile on my face.

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Viva Mexico!

My recent very well-traveled Italian houseguest said one thing that was astoundingly disingenuously honest: Never confuse your vacation spots with the places where you could live.

As for me, after two and a half years in Mexico, I will never come willingly back to the US. Only in chains, at gunpoint or in a box. Simple.

I appreciate living in a culture that has a grand history. A culture that revers the aged/experienced. A culture where little children can play unprotected.  A culture of friendliness.

I don’t vacation anymore…I live.

The government in China is slowly throttling competition much like it has done to other freedoms there. I have been following the threads of these new developments as news of them have been slowly leaked to the western press. I have also had the advantage to have worked in mainland China in the technology sector. And even back in the ’90s I viewed western companies gigantic investments in manufacturing and R&D sites there with trepidation, aware as I was of the Chinese total lack of respect – or cultural disregard of ownership – of intellectual property.

And now there is new hard evidence out to suggest yet another reason not to buy the mass produced goods coming from China. And it was in an article published by Reuters this morning entitled, ‘Exclusive: China drops leading technology brands for state purchases‘ that gave real numbers to how foreign manufacturing companies are now being excluded from the fruits of their capital investments concerning their own intellectual property, infrastructure know how, and proprietary technology.

Some of Intel’s products have been dropped from the list, as have all of Cisco System’s products, along with all of Apple’s products including their popular iPhones.

What does this all mean? In a nutshell it means that China has successfully reversed engineered – replaced – those products (aka stolen the designs) and no longer needs those foreign products (read competition) in their markets. Yup, it’s as simple as that.

Case in point, the world’s 3rd largest smartphone maker, Xiaomi is Chinese. So what does China now need the iPhone for? In fact Xiaomi are bringing their products to a market near you. They steal the technology and now want to sell it back to you. Why be the 3rd largest when you can be number 1?

Why is Cisco out the door? Simple. The Chinese are using the Eric Snowden revelations of NSA snooping as the argument to shut them out. But the reality is that all a router is (or an IP Softswitch) are computers running special software. It doesn’t take a whole lot of genius anymore to build a router, switch, load balancer, or firewall. It’s all in the software. Software is easy to copy, borrow, or steal.

So why hasn’t Intel been completely pushed out? Simple. The Chinese have a long way to go to master integrated circuit design, fabrication, test and assembly.

Cybertheft? That all started a long time ago. The NSA hacks other countries for information just like the Russians, Chinese, and Iran continue to compromise the information systems of the US.

Cyberwarfare? We could say that really went major league in 2009 with the brilliantly conceived and successfully launched worm/virus called Stuxnet.

Unbeknownst to a lot of people, something like a Stuxnet can destroy something physical, even something huge like a building sized electrical generator. And just as easily and effectively as if the air force dropped a precision guided 30,000 pound bunker buster on it.

How? Insert a malicious piece of code that jacks with the programmable logic controller (PLC) that controls the lubricating oil system. It’s true. It’s been tested and proven that within minutes the machine will literally shake itself to pieces.

Big picture, what does that really mean? It means that if that massively broken huge generator is sitting out in some remote desert, the facility boys can’t just duct tape it back together or waltz down to Walmart and pick up a new one. And hosing that one generator (or a string of them) that’s been supplying power to some critical piece of infrastructure –  that critical system goes down for the count: it could be days, weeks, or even months before it’s up again.

The US government has identified and classified all the critical public pieces of infrastructure: water (purification, storage, distribution), electrical (generation, transportation, distribution), chemical, refining; 16 in all. And in further study they have discovered that many of these critical systems – their control systems – are not air-gapped, meaning that they in one way (or more) touch the public internet. Scary.

More on that later.

 

This past week I have been playing lots of basketball with my neighbors and consequently must be running some sort of serious carb deficit as I have an irrepressible appetite for things like all sorts of different kinds of pasta dishes and anything cooked with lots of potatoes.

Yesterday I bought half a kilo of longaniza sausage off my friend, Ramon. At 100 pesos per kilo it is the most expensive in town (by twice) but it is by far the best. Longaniza is nothing like its greasier cousin, chorizo. Where chorizos are short, fat and ooze a viscous red grease when cooked, longaniza comes in skinny long ropes which are typically found draped over suspended iron bars in select vendor stalls where they hang in the open air until they are sold. Thankfully, flies for some inexplicable reason do not find them attractive. The sausage cooks up with next to no grease and consequently very little shrinkage.

So here are the ingredients for yesterday’s evening meal; which btw is enough to last me 4 days or feed 4-6 people.

  • 1/2 kilo of longaniza sausage
  • 1 large package of linguini
  • 5 medium tomatoes
  • 2 medium onions
  • 5 fresh serrano chilies
  • 1 cup of fresh chicken stock (Optional, mine was leftover from another time. You could easily substitute white wine)
  • 1/4 kilo of fresh cheese

I diced the veggies and put them in a skillet with vegetable oil to cook through. Then added 1/2 of the chicken stock to keep the veggies from sticking. I took the sausage out of its casing before adding it into the skillet in thumb size knobs. Brought the works up to temp before adding the rest of the chicken broth. Covered the skillet, turned down the heat to simmer while I took a shower.

I cooked the pasta in a separate pot, drained it when it was finished and then folded the sausage and sauce over the pasta, crumbled the cheese before adding, and then let the cheese melt and the flavors intermingle.

Pretty delicious.

PS – Today I bought 1/2 kilo of fresh ‘hongos’ from my neighbor who sells her homegrown oyster mushrooms for 75 pesos/kilo. So tonight’s menu is going to be sauteed oyster mushrooms in olive oil/butter; mushrooms respond well to this oil/butter mix (but I think I’d add a little bacon grease if I had it). Then I’ll remove the mushrooms when done and reuse the pan to heat up some of that leftover longaniza pasta. Then garnish my plate of pasta with some of those lovely fried mushrooms.

PPS – This isn’t my first choice for cooking oyster mushrooms but their availability was immediate. And then I hate to let them sit around especially as they are so pristine; they are unblemished and their gills are sharp and undamaged.

So use them I shall.

 

My houseguest of two nights (and 40 consecutive hours) just pedaled away. And I confess to having feelings of both relief and freedom. Who would have ever thought that I would be so majorly pleased in seeing a man with such immense experience in world travel, the rough uncatered off-the-map kind, ride away?

His presence in my house was really not such a totally unsatisfying experience but I deleted my warmshowers.org account this morning just the same. And for the record, my biggest disagreement with the guy was that things in my house tended to have gotten done his way while he was my guest; in that (and most things) he demonstrated a surprising lack of flexibility.

Overall he was a pretty cool guy. We are talking about a 42 year old Italian who has been pedaling all the way from Argentina. Two and a half years of bicycling; taking his time, not in a hurry. In fact twelve years of constant travel. Africa. South America. India.

The man was not a poser. He looked at a few of my photographs and quickly identified them. ‘That’s Balsa’ (the overland gateway between Peru and Ecuador). ‘That’s Cajamarca’ (Peru). ‘That’s Leimebama’ (a very small town in N. Peru). So the guy was the real deal.

After a couple of hours of listening to his so many fascinating tales of travel it got me thinking about travel. As in the nature of travel. Specifically, the nature of non-ending travel. Which could almost be viewed as compulsive travel.

I can’t say that I’ve ever met someone before who has been on the road – [not to mention] the international road – for twelve freaking years. A couple of years maybe and I’ve heard/read of those people who’ve been traveling for maybe seven or eight years. But twelve? And if this fellow is any what typical of his clan then unsurprisingly they pick up some traits that can seem somewhat peculiar to their lesser traveled brethren.

But my intentions are not to throw rocks at the guy but rather to ponder these next few days (weeks) over the nature of restless nomads such as himself.

I’ve flittered around a bit myself, to the tune that I also fit into a very narrow demographic band of traveler. The small slice of common ground that this Italian traveler and I share especially gave me pause; enough to make me wonder after those travelers that fall so far out onto the fringe as to be almost unrecognizable.

I discovered that apart from the fact that we’d both been to some of the same places – and he had some gray hair like me – that we mostly had absolutely nothing in common.
And it was my observation that this man liked biking (especially in wilderness places) but didn’t so much like traveling (yup).

He, just like me, has a problem with noise. But unlike me, he recently got punched in the face (twice) by a German woman in a Quito hotel for asking/arguing with her to turn her music down. Curious, the anger we can summon at the most inopportune of times.

After many hours and several conversations on diverse subjects it became my opinion that travel for him had become an almost unbreakable habit. From my place here in Mexico he started out riding north this morning in the direction of Guadalajara. They have some sort of international bicycling organization with an attached hostel where he intends to crash for a couple of weeks before continuing his bike ride north up through California and beyond. As I said before, he’s in no hurry.

Then it’s Mongolia next summer, then Southeast Asia for the next two years. Then Italy. Maybe. As he told me, there is really nothing back in Italy for him; the economy is in the toilet and one needs a network to get either a job or a decent apartment.

I’ve talked to many people over the years that would like to disappear, go on the road, and leave their predictably mundane lives far behind. But sometimes it is far better to go on dreaming then it is to overtake the full substance of that dream.

As for me, it was a pleasure to have met this man. But it was a singular pleasure and one that I don’t need to repeat.

PS – Ernani: Although I wouldn’t want to be on your road, I wish you well. Best wishes, safe rides and happy trails, amigo.

More EEtimes comment stuff –

Again – “I totally disagree with your conclusion. ARM has not won and Intel is not out of the game; mobile markets included.

And you say ‘half of what an engineer can do performed on a quad-core docked smartphone?’ What? The easy half?  Don’t think so.

I spent 10 years working as an engineer for Intel (1989-1999) and believe me, I’ve got much more reason to disparage them then you.”

Another EEtime’s discussion to where I replied –

“We are mixing our metaphors I think. You continue to speak to the marketside of the mobile market and quite rightly state that Intel isn’t a player here. And I don’t disagree.

But the subject of the article ‘ARM cores takes on PC Processors‘ implies a battle for supremacy wrapped around power, not markets.

My final take on the discussion is this – I will begin to take ARM seriously – in the power arena – when (and only when) those mobile devices can start benching their own weight as true productivity tools.

Like an Intel workstation.”

Some of the best rock music of the ’60s and ’70s was released in 1967-69. In fact, there were so many great albums produced in this three year period that many of them go unremembered.

If you haven’t listened to Blue Cheer’s, ‘Vincebus Eruptum’ or their ‘Outsideinside’, both albums from 1968, then you should. They are in my opinion undiscovered treasures of classic, good fun head banging style, rock.

PS – The following year MC5 released quite possibly the finest album of that genre – ‘Kick Out the Jams’. If you don’t own this particular album then your music collection is incomplete.

This is the kind of music that you want to listen to real loud. Like when you’re washing the car and feel some irrepressible desire to light up the whole neighborhood.

Oh yeah.

Street party dance music – Detroit style.

 

Tonight is leftovers. I thought I’d do an uptake on Potato Salad.

The leftovers on hand from last night’s boiled dinner are: cold potatoes, cold spinach, and cold nopales (a tender, tasty green cactus).

And this afternoon I picked up a lovely terrine of tongue from my favorite place in the Mercado that specializes in offal of that kind. So the plan is to make a Potato Salad as follows:

  • 2-3 diced potatoes
  • 1 medium avocado
  • 1/4 cup chopped spinach
  • 1/8 cup chopped nopales
  • 2-3 oz of chopped tongue
  • 1/2 diced small white onion
  • 1 chopped hard boiled egg
  • 1 finely diced large serrano pepper
  • 2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • pinch or two of sea salt

Simple stuff, using what’s on hand. 5-10 minutes. Tasty.

PS – What is about mustard that makes it so good on so many things? I am thinking the best street hotdog in the world has just sauerkraut on it with mustard as the only condiment. Tangy, sour, unctuousness…

PPS – Can you imagine a hotdog made out of nothing but tongue? A denser, chewier model with the same flavor characteristics as the traditional dog? Wow. (Maybe there is a franchise opportunity there).

I just read a Guardian article online. The title was so maliciously provocative that it sucked me in. ‘Stephen Fry (a British comedian) on an Irish TV program denounced God as “utterly evil, capricious and monstrous”, if he were to exist.’

It set off a shit storm of 2550 comments and counting. In case you were wondering, Brits by and large seem to mostly fall on the atheist side of religious spectrum these days. Judging by many of the comments that I have read to both to this and other similar articles suggests the reason being is somehow intellectualism (however pretended) precludes faith in a higher being.

Some of these people were almost rabid in their denunciations. Stephen Fry’s argument of an evil god – ‘if there was one’ (a useful caveat, right?)  – seemed to be wrapped around the raw deal man was getting from a God who was the perpetrator of all mankind’s suffering. Of course this line of reasoning precipitated numerous bilious counterarguments that Fry was a uneducated fool because – well – there is no god.

All of the discussions in the form of comments obviously led nowhere. There were the usual loud bleatings of the anti-god establishment. And the occasional faint voices of people who professed faith. Only to be inevitably shouted down by the most rabid elements of the opposition.

I couldn’t help myself. I dropped in a comment that said, “This is one of those things I call a La Brea Tar Pit discussion. There is no right answer in the context of this type of discussion. And every word one could say on the subject just gets you pulled deeper into the quagmire.”

I  thought I was done till some jack-in-the-box replied to my comment saying, “If the basis of the Universe is Quantum mechanics (probability,) then you cannot have an omniscient God. We seem to have proven the existence of Quantum mechanics, so you cannot have God, however desirable he maybe be.”

What? Like somehow this idiot read my anti-argument (with fools) comment as being one of pro-god? Wherever did he get that? Now, I am not saying I don’t believe in God (because I do). I just didn’t say it there. I didn’t even infer it. Not to mention the reply comment was totally off the hook. And wrong to boot.

I thought about it and just how positively and vilely ignorant the whole thing was and like Brer Rabbit I stepped in and took another swing at Tar Baby. (That’s my other working metaphor for these kinds of conversations).

I did have a few minutes to spare. And contrary to the book stack next to his bed, mine includes the very brilliant and well written ‘ The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory by Brian Greene. So I decided to fire one final meaningless salvo in his direction.

So I replied, “Here I am getting sucked into the quagmire…Einstein’s General Relativity [still] provides the framework for understanding the universe at the largest scales – stars, galaxies, clusters, etc. But Quantum Mechanics provides the framework for understanding the universe on the smallest of scales – molecules, atoms, and all the way down to subatomic particles. Superstring Theory is now being postulated as being the bridge that connect these two antagonistic viewpoints; the one theory for small things and another theory for the big things. However, none of these theories prove or disprove the existence of a god. (That’s it for me. Going to go get some gasoline to wash off some of this nasty tar stuff…)”

PS – I won’t tell you what he came back with – because it was stupid – except to say he called me stupid.

Yep. All in all, nothing but a truly La Brea Tar Pit waste of time.