Archives for the month of: April, 2015

I think a more fitting description for the dish would be Steak Ceviche but either way it goes by two names: Carne Apache (locally/N. Mexico) and in Mexico City it’s called Carne Jugo.

Carne Apache - Mexican Style Raw Beef in a salad

Carne Apache – Mexican style raw beef in a salad

And I made my first run at the recipe yesterday morning and this is what I did:

  • Bought 1/2 kilo of two different steak cuts; thinly sliced filet migon and some other equally lean thinly sliced steak. Mixing the cuts seemed to be a butcher’s discretion kind of thing. He first tried to sell me ground beef (traditional?) but I wanted to do it the way I saw Jose prepare it.
  • Bought 1 1/2 kilos of small limes. Very inexpensive here; like $0.70. Lesson learned – buy larger limes in the future to cut down on the cutting/squeezing/de-seeding part of the job.
  • Cut the sliced steak into smaller pieces, covered it with fresh lime juice and put it in the fridge. (9 am yesterday)
  • Pulled it out 6 hours later, stirred it up and added more lime juice. (The meat had absorbed some of the lime juice).
  • Pulled it out 6 hours later and stirred it again. Added a pinch or two of salt.
  • Let it sit in the fridge over night.
  • Pulled it out this morning, stirred it again, and added the rest of the juice from the remaining limes.
  • Will add the salsa (diced tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and chilies) about 5 pm and let it sit till 7 pm to when I’ll eat some of it.

Notes: So the meat to gross lime weight ratio turns out to be 1:3 (that’s 1.1 lbs of meat to 3.3 lbs of limes). And I deliberately withheld adding the salsa to the very end of the process to keep those flavors as bright as possible. And I am not going to do it with the traditional tostadas. Instead I’ll use a crusty French style bread and will have avocado slices on the side; fatty, rich to offset the acidity of the lime. PS – On my third meal/tasting I added some capers, a tad more salt to the beef slices, and a bit of mayonnaise and whipped it into more of a salad form. See the photo above.

In all my time in Mexico and in all my many trips here; and then 10 years spent living in South Texas, not just have I never seen this Mexican raw beef preparation, I’ve also never even heard of it. How can that be?

And it was unbelievably outstanding. Simple to prepare. Healthy. And positively delicious.

I don’t know what it’s called – I guess I should have asked – but here is how it’s made:

  • Take a thin slice (or two) of lean beef and marinate it in fresh lime juice over night in the fridge
  • The next morning take it out of the fridge, dump out the lime juice, and slice the beef into short, small strips
  • Cover the beef with more fresh lime juice and return it to the fridge
  • In the early afternoon, make a crude salsa of diced tomatoes, cilantro, onion and chilies
  • Add the salsa to the beef, lime concoction and mix it all together well and return it to the fridge
  • Come cocktail hour, serve with crunchy tostadas
  • Beverages: shots of tequila/sangrita and cold beer

Note: Sangrita is the way the fancy folks in neighboring Jalisco accompany their tequila. You don’t mix it together, you alternate sipping from one to the other. Sangrita is simply tomato juice, a healthy squeeze of lime, and a generous shot of hot sauce all mixed together. (In Michoacan us common folk just chase shots of tequila with a lager beer.)

And a note about the dish. It tastes exactly like a slightly chewier version of Ahi Tuna Ceviche. So, I’m guessing that if fresh Ahi Tuna is going for something like $20-$30 per pound whereas lean, cheap cuts of steak are around $6-$8 per pound; then I reckon I know what I’ll be serving at my next party.

PS – I learned this from my neighbor, Jose yesterday when he decided that it was going to be a cooking afternoon. He invited me down and I didn’t go to eat – It was 2 pm and I’d just had lunch – but I wanted to see him in action in the kitchen. He had promised some nachos to the woman who lives next door to me for her birthday. That’s what got it all started. He made a ton of nachos, a batch of white rice, frioles, and cooked up some sausage. And then there was that awesome beef ceviche, which between you and me, never saw the inside of the refrigerator. I am guessing the non-frig thing wasn’t so much a lapse in food prep hygiene as it was a mom thing (and we know what works kind of thing).

I love the stuff. And making stuff out of leather is even better. I include leather in the same quality of material category with wood, stone, and iron. There is something about those materials that properly taken care of just gets better with age. Someone told me way back when I was laying down the wood floors in my new house that there was no such thing as a bad wood floor. I don’t know, but maybe you’ve got to live with wood floors to truly get the meaning he was driving at.

Leather goods, wood floors, hand-forged ironwork and things like stone walls all hit me in a way that can only be described as visceral.

And yesterday I made the trip over to Leon, Guanajuato to go leather shopping. And the shivery part was, I was at what is quite possibly the finest leather Mercado in the entire western hemisphere. Please know that Leon has a 450 year tradition of leather tanning and leatherworking that goes back to the time of the conquistadors. And the tradition is kept alive today, not servicing horses and armor anymore but providing leathers to the largest shoe making center in all of Mexico.

IMG_3029

Imagine a market filled with dozens and dozens of vendors selling nothing but leather. All types of leather. In all colors.

IMG_3032

I spent my pesos on some really nice leathers that I am going to turn into some fine leather totes. I first bought three buttery soft pale yellow pig skins to be used as forro (the bag lining). Then picked out three very supple cow hides and five gorgeous sheep skins that are so soft that you can wad them up in your hand like the softest tissue paper. All in the same cafe color of dark brown.

PS – It is wonderful living in a country where still so many things are done by hand. Where natural materials are readily available. I cannot imagine wearing anything on my feet other than my own leather sandals. And if I have to carry a bag, it’s one of my own.

The only clothes that I’ve bought in the last two and a half years are six cotton pocket t-shirts; two navy blue and four whites. A kind lady down the street is a seamstress and she has been doing a fine job of keeping my four pair of cargo shorts in decent repair.

Every day it’s just cotton shorts, a t-shirt and leather sandals. Dress doesn’t get any more simple than that.

If even a silly news reporting paper like Fox News can publish something bad about Google “Google is the New Evil Empire” then you might want to think again about the stuff you do on the web.

I am writing this post as to provide a work-around solution for some of you who haven’t been paying much attention to this rapidly changing digital world that we are all living in.

But first the back story. Google is the largest manufacturer of servers in the world. Yup, the biggest. It builds its own to populate the 24 massive data centers that it has scattered around the world. It builds its own because they are all highly specialized machines that serve three basic functions: search, store, and analytics. These machines are all hived in massive pods (think 10,000 powerful machines working as one super machine) and are interconnected by both hardware and software that Google also makes.

So for the record. Google is not a Cisco shop. It is not a Linux shop. It is not a Microsoft shop. Everything is designed and built in house, hence, everything is proprietary. Recent estimates (Google has been close-lipped since 2009) puts their server population now somewhere significantly north of 10 million.

Back story, search. Their new and improved search engine was where they made their bones. To invent search is where they first deconstructed the entire WWW and then meticulously analyzed each and every webpage, how those webpages were linked (aka interrelated), and how we human beings used them.

Mapping the Adware piece to the search engine – no mean feat in itself as that was probably the most genius piece of advertizing gotcha since the ‘Got Milk?’ campaign – was the company’s turning point, profit wise. Until Google solved how to really make money on the web – big money – it was largely considered a mostly intractable problem.

But Analytics is where Google finally knitted everything together: the search stuff, how your searches are related to you, and then the deductive piece to where they can pretty much predict our next move. Taken all together to where they now effectively know just about all there is to know about each and everyone of us. Their shit is all so powerfully serious that by comparison, the NSA (hearing Snowden) is still tramping around in the technological equivalent of the Bronze Age. I am totally serious about this.

Read “In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives,” a 2011 book by the American technology reporter Steven Levy. And Levy’s intent was not to paint Google as evil but rather to report on the specifics of what Google did and how they did it. It was an absolutely fascinating read.

So the work around to Google being all up in your shit is simply this. Use VMWare Player to create a virtual machine. And keep Google everything off of this virtual machine (VM). And then create and use a new identity on this VM.

For example, just who is the Mexican Sandal Guy anyway? This is not a hard thing to find out. And I truly don’t care if you do. What I do care about is the fact that my real name isn’t scattered all over the web. I find that if I do a Google search on myself that there are literally hundreds of people with my name. I like that anonymity.(And no, obviously I don’t have a Facebook page).

And this isn’t about having anything to hide, as I certainly don’t. This is about privacy. There are absolutely zero harmless reasons to where Google needs to know anything about me at all; let alone everything. In fact from my point of view, Google should only be there for me to handle my web transactions. And anything Google learns along the way about me should go the way of a digital paper shredder.

But that ain’t how it’s working out my friends.

Be safe out there.

Sometimes I find a design so incredibly bad that the resultant outrage renders me into a stuttering speechless clench-fisted heart palpitating manic.

Take my back door. Apart from the unbreakable window pane covered by welded bars, it is solid steel. But as I discovered yesterday when I was trying to replace the strike plate; the entire door assembly had not one but two fatal flaws.

A chain, it is said, is only as strong as its weakest link. And in the case of my 150 pound solid steel door it was the two screws (not the required four) that tenuously (at best) held the strike plate to the wall.

And the door opens inwards. Think about that for a minute. So anybody like me who has ever taken close look at one of these doors would very quickly come to the conclusion that it would only take two hard smacks with a sledge hammer (at the lock) to knock the door in and open.

This wouldn’t be the case if the door opened out because then someone would have to pry the door open from the outside which would be a much more difficult operation even with a potentially weak strike plate.

My home security all this time has been a complete illusion. (And by my reckoning, someone deserves a serious beating).

So I fixed it. I replaced the lock and the strike plate and for extra security put an additional hasp, staple, and padlock on the door in another place. I wore out two and broke yet a third steel drill bit. And it took 4 hours and just as many trips to the hardware store. But the piece of mind was worth it.

Oh, and I pointed the oversized padlock up instead of letting it hang – as they more traditionally do – down. I wanted the big old padlock to be seen by whoever it is that might think to want to break through that door.

After all, security to a certain extent is still an illusion.

But as my friend, Pancho said to me yesterday, “No one is talking about it [anymore].”

So day before yesterday at 9:30 pm, two policemen were killed and one was seriously wounded in what should have been a routine traffic stop 8 blocks to the northwest from my house on the road leading out towards El Rincon. And I learned this morning that on that same Monday there were two other people killed in a gunfight a couple of kilometers south of town.

And to think it was just after the big shootout at Los Cruces – only something like 6-9 months ago – when everyone here finally thought the war was over. Maybe because that was the gun battle to end all gun battles.

The likes of which haven’t been seen since The Lincoln County War of 1878.

It took place 4 kilometers to the northeast from my house at the principal highway crossroads leading to Guadalajara. The battle started at 7 am and went on for 2 long hours. Needless to say it was witnessed by many (many) people. Everyone was involved: the Jalisco cartel, the Michoacan cartel, the Federales, the vigilantes, and at least one branch of the armed forces.

When it was all said and done, 25 men were dead on the scene and a large unreported number were wounded. The bad guys from Jalisco won and – as it turned out – peace reigned, but only briefly.

Why has the violence returned? Well, it seems the Jalisco bad guys (in public conversations here we don’t use the group names) weren’t content with their little victory over our bunch of bad guys here in northern Michoacan. Oh no, it seems they have a much larger plan for domination.

And why is this little city so important that so many people get murdered here? Maybe because it sits a mere 30 miles from the Jalisco state line and as such is one of the principal gateways into Michoacan. And the city itself I’ve also been told is contentious for private reasons.

When is the violence going to stop? The most logical and improbable solution would be to somehow magically curtail the consumption habits of its northern neighbor, the United States. The logic being, you can’t sell what nobody wants. But the fact is too many Americans need drugs to cope with their shitty jobs and their shitty lives.

So then there is the Medellin solution. That Colombian city reclaimed itself – booted out the drugs and the violence – by offering its people truly better alternatives. They made education more accessible. Improved public transit from the poor neighborhoods to better paying jobs in the city center. They even added libraries to low income areas. The Medellin solution is not as costly as one might think.

Malcom Gladwell in his book ‘Outliers’ noted that many street dealers in the US for example still lived at home with mom. Why? He ran the numbers and discovered that when every expense was accounted for, the average low level drug dealer wasn’t earning much more than minimum wage. And he discovered that the guy running the crew wasn’t much better off. It was only much further up in the food chain where the real money was being made.

So following Medellin’s example: providing access to better jobs, aiding with education, and improving infrastructure all generally add up to improving people’s day to day lives as well as aiding their long term futures. All in very mappable, measurable and pragmatic ways.

But maybe that makes too much sense. I say that because it seems that politicians don’t seem at all interested unless votes or special interest group dollars are at stake. Or funding enormous sums of money to build airplanes that can’t fly. On Capitol Hill and over at the Pentagon that’s all seriously important shit.

PS – That last statement calls to mind a thought. The US spends something like $600B on military intelligence and defense. Yet during 9/11, the once seemingly impregnable fortress of doom – the Pentagon – took a direct hit.

This ironically kind of proves out something the famous modern military strategist Colonel John Boyd had remarked on much earlier – late 80s or early ’90s – ‘that the Pentagon wasn’t in the business of defense so much as it was in the business of the procurement of large (and expensive) weapons systems.’

So here we have the US’s chief defense agency; thousands of admirals and generals all together holding more stars than the Milky Way galaxy, and they couldn’t as much manage to scrape together the where for all to even defend themselves.

And what could possibly have been on their plates more important than protecting the home base? Buying more drones? Maybe ordering up yet more of those marginally operational F-35s?

Whatever. It all resulted in such a complete break down of stewardship.

PPS – And how fittingly embarrassing to get bitch slapped by a bunch of guys who could only scrape but a few riyals together.

My opinion is this: One expat is fine. And perhaps two in any given place is okay. But three or more are poison.

Take me. I am the only expat in this small city of 60,000 in northern Michoacán. And it has been my observation that if you want to get along then you better learn to keep your grumbling at home, listen more than you speak, and make please and thank you your most spoken words. And I’ve learned that it doesn’t hurt to smile a lot. But here in Mexico that’s an easy thing to do.

Teasing small children, talking to old people, and taking a sincere interest in your neighbors also goes a long way. But then again this is Mexico and I’ve found these things surprisingly easy to do as well. And you can’t out smile any of them. And when you do smile you might find like I have that their graciousness knows no limit. Taken one step further, local people can’t get enough about how much you love their town.

But I am the only non-native here. So it’s made it easy for me to learn that to get along is to go along. You consciously need to make an effort to fit in; not stand out. But you quickly find that one hand washes the other; as in a sincere niceness and generosity of spirit are abundantly rewarded.

It has been my experience that expats – in groups greater than three – are generally guilty of committing 3 egregious sins.

First, to cop an attitude of I am special, look at me, I have all this money and back home I used to be a really damned important person. (If you travel enough you’ll soon discover that paradise is overpopulated with liars, scoundrels, and thieves who expatriated themselves for less than honorable reasons).

Second, the natives – when they aren’t being ignored – are there for color, amusement, or failing that – to merely wash your clothes and pick up your shit.

Third, many expats quickly ban together together in their misery to drink, brag and complain. They drink because they are bored. They brag to each other as to band aid over their previous mostly miserable lives. And they complain because they find nothing in this new place nearly as good as what they first imagined. Which combined with no. 1 and no. 2 further tends to poison paradise.

As a mostly misunderstood cliche has it, ‘no matter where you go, there you are.’ And an asshole in paradise is still an asshole.

PS – A comment yesterday pointed to the aphorism “The purpose of going somewhere is to be there.” Truly the best and quite possibly the only real good reason to travel. Thanks Bob.

To a difficult problem.

jjjjound.com

 This brief anti-war message was brought to you by jjjjound.com

I always thought that the headline, in conjunction with the front page, were there to present the reader with the top stories of the day.

But it seems to become increasingly more clear with each passing day that the headlines and the front pages are being used to create the top stories of the day. Where social and political agendas are being presented as existential problems even as more pressing problems are being shunted aside or just plain ignored.

The front page and headlines from this morning were very telling:

  • NYTimes headline – “A white police officer in North Charleston, S.C., has been charged with murder of unarmed black man while he fled.”
  • Foxnews front page – Same story
  • Telegraph (British)  front page – Same story
  • Guardian (British) front page – Same story
  • The Independent (British) headlines – Same story
  • Reuters (US edition) – headlines – Same story

I guess that I might have overlooked this confluence of headlines if it weren’t for another story that ran yesterday in Reuters about the 15 state police killed in an ambush in western Mexico. A story by the way that didn’t even show up in 5 of the other aforementioned online news services.

I find this all so incredibly skewed. So may we deduce that racist white cops are a larger threat to world stability than say Yemen or 15 state police being ambushed and murdered in Mexico?

And as we are all kept busy, outraged by the scourge of racism – and wink wink the politically correct kind (white oppressing black) – the politicos manage to keep the bigger issues (the stuff they keep f**king up) out of plain view.

And to also think here we have 6 major western news services and they all have almost interchangeable story lines. Pity.

Let’s all bow our heads and weep, for the free press – if it ever was – is truly no more.

 

I hadn’t fired up my ancient Lenovo s10e netbook in maybe 3 months. It’s old but it’s been lovingly carried for. (Note: Inanimate or not, I’ve discovered that I am very sentimental about things that work.)

And this netbook might be 5 years old but I’ve upgraded the OS to Win7 Pro, put in a 1TB HDD, turned up the speed using ReadyBoost, and also replaced the battery a year ago.

So I was more than a little surprised when it wouldn’t power up this afternoon.

I looked online – using my workstation – and perused a couple of webpages and one posted suggestion said to unplug it, take the battery out, and then plug it back in with the battery out. Hmm.

I followed those instructions and sure enough it fired up. I stuck the battery back in it and everything appeared to be hunky-dory.

The battery had a 95% charge. Hmm.

I decided to look at the power management scheme. Maybe something had changed but everything looked just fine.

Then I decided to look at what programs were installed using Windows Control Panel. That is always good SOP and what I discovered is another case in point of why frequently checking your installed programs is a smart thing to do.

So I see a program installed called EnergyCut. The publisher was Lenovo. Okay, that jibed and I guess I could understand that.

And then I looked at the date of installation – 8/15/2014. And that made me suspicious because in the few times that I’ve had the machine on in the last 6-8 months I certainly couldn’t recall downloading a new power management scheme, especially seeings how come last August it was practically a brand new battery. And I don’t remember ever having downloaded anything from Lenovo; at least in recent memory. Hmm.

I looked online and discovered this: “EnergyCut.exe is not a Windows system file. EnergyCut.exe is able to record keyboard and mouse inputs. Therefore the technical security rating is 50% dangerous.”

And on the same webpage it went on to say, “Important: Some malware camouflages itself as EnergyCut.exe, particularly when located in the C:\Windows or C:\Windows\System32 folder. Therefore, you should check the EnergyCut.exe process on your PC to see if it is a threat.”

Wow. That blew my hair back. So I fired up Task Manager, affirmed that energycut was a running process, then used CP to delete the damn thing. While nothing in Task Manager could affirm to whether energycut was or wasn’t a threat; still from what I read on that page and elsewhere led me to conclude that at the very least I didn’t need it. I am not overly anal about these things until something makes me suspicious.

I once made an observation about cats after watching my mother’s cat prowl around her house. And I came to the conclusion that a cat doesn’t meticulously check out each and every object in a room because it is necessarily interested in its owner’s life or even its own environment.

No. It’s my opinion that cats constantly spend their waking hours wandering around checking stuff out is because they are interested in discovering only what’s changed. Cats, I’ve concluded, are obsessed about order and possibly paranoid about change.

Tangentially, it’s like what Cormac McCarthy said about horses. He said that horses weren’t worried about stuff they could see. They were only worried about the things they couldn’t see.

Add a cat to a horse and that’s kind of like me. For example, even when I lived in the backwoods of North Carolina I made sure that every door to the outside in my newly built house was locked. That was 7 sliding glass doors, 2 regular doors and a garage door. I never (ever) left a door unlocked unless I was in a reasonable proximity. Example, if I was working on the top floor, there wouldn’t be a door below me that was unlocked. That probably sounds paranoid as hell to you doesn’t it?

But not to me. I’m like that horse in that I don’t like surprises either. And I am like that cat too. If I put a screwdriver (or whatever) down someplace, then I expect it to be where I left it. Nothing should move unless I moved it. And if something did move – and it wasn’t me that moved it – then I certainly want to know why.

So computer security is a lot like personal security inasmuch as both require a big commitment to situational awareness.

PS – Thinking just now about Cormac McCarthy’s horse and my mom’s cat got me recollecting an incident that happened a few years back when I was living in Washington, DC. I was working for a big government contractor at the time out in the Virginia suburbs and a buddy of mine and I were rolling back to the office after lunch and we happened to drive by one of the entrances to the CIA headquarters in Langley, VA. There were barred gates at the checkpoint manned by guys carrying all kinds of impressive ordinance and we both sucked in our collective breaths thinking as to the serious consequences one might get into regarding – metaphorically speaking – straying across that particular yellow line.

After we’d driven by my buddy turned to me and said, “That’s some shit ain’t it?” I said, “Yeah. And just imagine all the bad shit we can’t see.”