Rambling man

THIS MORNING, shortly after  dawn, I stepped out onto the upstairs terraza, as I often do at that hour, looked at the thermometer and saw 60 degrees. That rarely varies a degree much of the year at that hour.

The moment brings the standard thought: I’m lucky to live here.

I pause. I listen to the roosters. I listen to the burros. I listen to the dogs, all distant enough. Sometimes I listen to a passing freight train. It’s music to my ears, as someone famous once said.

Almost every day I head downtown in the afternoons for café at a sidewalk table, and there are options for baked sweet potato, lemon ice, shrimp cocktails from sidewalk stands and hot fig bread from a woman with a basket on the small plaza two blocks away.

Truth is, I rarely am interested in going elsewhere. When you’ve landed in a sweet spot, as I have, why climb out of the bowl? I’d just as soon not, but sometimes it’s necessary.

We’re heading to Mexico City shortly for as brief a visit as I can manage. We have to air out and dust the condo, plus my wife is going to try to make a hair more headway toward getting the deed to that place.

We paid it off years ago.

And then we’ll come home. Bus both ways. And the following morning, just at dawn, I’ll step out onto the upstairs terraza. There will be sounds of dogs and burros and roosters, and the air will measure 60 degrees.

And the red sun will just be creeping over the mountains.

The email safari

safari

WHAT’S MORE important than your email address?

Some people have stuck with the same email address since Al Gore invented the internet. I am not one of those people. There is quite a bit of difference between email services.

My first email service, in the late 1990s, was Hotmail. After moving to Mexico in 2000, I switched Excite, which still exists, but God knows who uses it. Then I migrated to Yahoo, where I still have an account.

(My first year in Mexico, I emailed from an internet café a few blocks from where I lived alone above a garage in the state capital. My email was almost entirely with my old mama, my daughter, a sweetie in Mexico City, and financial institutions. Yes, I checked financial balances on an unprotected public computer. You’d be nuts to do that today.)

Much later, before Gmail debuted, I put myself on the wait list and was one of the first with a Gmail address. I liked it and stuck with it for years. I still have Gmail on almost all registrations across cyberspace.

But it is far from perfect. First off, it’s grown to a Gorilla’s girth. If something goes haywire with your Gmail, try and find a person with whom you can communicate directly. Buena suerte with that, amigo.

When I bought my latest desktop, a Hewlitt-Packard All-in-One, about two years ago (Buck Rogers Zapata), I opened an email account with Outlook.com, what used to be called Hotmail.

At first, I liked it. I had my Gmail and Yahoo mail automatically routed to my Outlook.com inbox. Outlook.com and the older Outlook are different, you may know. But Outlook.com is not perfect. It has bugs and often freezes up. Phooey with that.

Yahoo seems too vulnerable to hackers, plus its revamp a couple of years ago left it worse, not better, in some ways. The only reason I hold onto the account is to read Yahoo forums focusing on my area of Mexico.

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LOADED AND LOCKED

So, last week, I went on safari, a hunting expedition. Here is what I bagged, most of which I skinned and left lying on the plains for buzzards to enjoy. But, at last, I found my prize, something to hang on the wall.

Let’s look first at the carrion:

  1. AOL. It has what many say is a good email service. I opened an account. It worked for a few hours till this happened: Every time I opened  email, a pop-up box told me I had to sign in again. On clicking OK, which was the only option, it immediately started signing me off so I could sign in again. When I tried to contact someone at AOL, I found that was possible only with a paid account. Adiós.
  2. GMX. According to reviews, this is a good one. I opened an account. Within an hour, the account had been locked down due to “suspicious activity.” I opened “a ticket,” hoping for a simple solution. Three days later, I received an email from them, announcing that the problem had been resolved. But it had not. Adiós.
  3. Lycos. Again, good reviews. I opened an account, and it started well. Two days later, I could get my email, but its Account Page would recognize neither my Lycos email address nor my password. I emailed Lycos. A day later, they told me to clear my cache and try again. My cache is cleared automatically daily, but I cleared it again, and problem was solved, but I doubt it was the cache. I was left with an uneasy feeling. Plus, I could not get the Calendar to work right. More on that later. Lycos ain’t bad, but it ain’t a keeper either.
  4. Yandex. More great reviews. I opened an account and immediately noticed two problems. One, no calendar. Two, Yandex is in Russia! Do you want Vladimir Putin handling your email? Me either. Adiós.
  5. Zoho. Now this one is pretty sweet. Zoho is primarily for businesses, but there’s a personal-email arm too. I liked it, but I couldn’t get the Calendar to send reminders correctly, a serious flaw. And I didn’t much like the look of the main page. Kinda boring.

Let’s consider calendars. Online calendars are a Godsend. They keep life running smoothly. I read recently on a Yahoo forum about a woman who came to visit Mexico and, while here, noticed that her U.S. passport had expired. Oops! You kinda need a passport to go home these days .

If only she had noted that on an online calendar, she would not have been blindsided. Everything important is on my calendar — and lots of trivial stuff too. I currently use Google’s and Outlook’s.  Calendars email reminders, so I never forget anything, especially passports.

calendarAnd I consider two calendars essential in case one goes haywire.

I want to dump Outlook completely, so my new email provider must have a good calendar. And this brings us to the end of my hunt.

But first, let’s remember the old saying that you get what you pay for. All of the above email options are free. Some have paid arms that give you more, but all are available for nothing.

“You get what you pay for” is usually true. I had discovered the above outfits by doing an online search for freebies. Disappointed with my catch, I turned to paid services, expanding my safari.

That’s when I blasted the beast I’ve hung on my wall.

* * * *

IN THE CROSSHAIRS

After what seemed like weeks walking in the searing sun, shooting at hyenas and other critters, my dream prey suddenly charged out of the high grass, straight at me, so I raised the .300 Winchester Magnum and squeezed (not pulled) the trigger. It fell at my feet with a smile.

It was well-organized. Everything made sense. It was easy to use. It was good-looking. The calendar was simple enough. My email from Yahoo, Outlook and Gmail could be sucked into it easily, and responses could be sent out with the original addresses to fool folks.

It was not free, but the prices were excellent. The cheapest program, “Lite,” was just $10 a year. The next is $20, then $40 and lastly $120 a year. Each level includes more stuff, of course, mostly storage, domains and mobile sync, whatever that all means.

I’m buying the $40 package because it includes “priority tech support.” The first month is a free trial with the $40 plan. I’ve already sent two questions to HQ, and got responses immediately.

Try that with Gmail or any free plan.

This service does what Outlook did to attract me away from Gmail in the first place, but it does it far better. So what is this thing I discovered, you likely are wondering. What did I lug home from safari aside from a sunburn? Drum roll, please: Not Cecil the Lion but Fastmail.

It’s stuffed and mounted on my screen.

Load of caskets

caskets

HEADING DOWNTOWN from out where the Hacienda sits, just before a hard curve to the right that will take you over the sewer creek and up to the Big Plaza a few blocks on, you will pass the funeral home.

Two, I’m told, side by side, but you can’t tell the difference, so I’ll treat it as one. It’s the most popular place in town to check out.

On passing, you often see wakes in there, frequently spilling out onto the sidewalk. The other day I witnessed one where they had put up a canvas roof to cover the overflow of mourners from sun or rain.

There’s another, more modern-looking, funeral home out on the ring road. It’s just been there about five years, I suppose, and I’ve never seen anything going on there. The first, by the hard curve, has been in business far longer, even before I arrived here 15 years back.

Though I have driven by it a million times and walked by maybe 10,000, I’ve never stepped inside. It appears to be just a middling room and nothing more. There are display coffins along the wall.

A big black hearse is usually parked outside.

I doubt running a funeral parlor here requires much training, perhaps none at all. I don’t know if the business is regulated by the government. I tend to doubt it. That’s one of the beauties of Mexico.

I doubt much training is required because embalming is not common, which is why funerals occur quite quickly.

Probably about all a mortician has to do is pick up the dearly departed, drop him or her in a casket, perhaps wipe off some blood or whatnot, spray some Raid, light incense and candles, and open the door.

The wake, an overnight affair, follows, and then the coffin is driven slowly to the cemetery with the mourners walking behind.

I’ve witnessed many of these processions while enjoying a nice espresso on the Big Plaza because the coffee shop sits on the shortest route between the Basilica up the hill and one of the two cemeteries.

Most are silent jaunts, but now and then there will be a mariachi band when someone’s being sent off with a little pizzazz. I like that.

I shot this photo yesterday. The truck was parked just around the hard curve. I was driving by, so I braked, got out and snapped.

I added the photo to Eyes of the Moon, but decided to share it here with you folks too because I’m a sharing sort of fellow.

Evolution of a yardman

SOME THINGS just stick in your mind.

As a kid, a century ago, living with my family in Florida, one of my responsibilities was mowing the yard. I was not fond of it.

That ended when I graduated from high school and headed off to college in Nashville, Tennessee. Vanderbilt. Ahem!

Flash forward about a quarter century. I bought my first house — in Houston, Texas. It had a yard. Two, actually. One out front abutting the street and another out back abutting the rear neighbors who, strangely, in my nine years there, I never met.

Once again, I was faced with mowing a lawn, and here’s where the moment came that sticks in my mind.

I was mowing the front lawn for the first time, and a neighbor across the street walked over. I mentioned that I had not cut a lawn in decades. Her response was: It hasn’t changed any, has it?

I laughed. No, it had not.

clippersI mowed that lawn for nine years until 1995 when my then-wife divorced me for an illegal-alien yardboy. Just a coincidence that. She worked at a plant nursery.

I moved into an apartment and then another. No yards. And then I moved to Mexico in 2000, renting a two-story house that came with its own yardman. Indeed, I was not confronted with a yard that needed cutting until 2003 when we moved into the new Hacienda.

My new lawnmower was not big, and it sported a Briggs and Stratton motor. Those engines have changed little since I was mowing in Florida. They are clunky. A couple of years later, I bought a bigger, better mower from Sears that came with a good Craftsman motor.

For about six years, I mowed the grass. I got older. I got my wife to chip in, 50-50. I got older. That was when I hired Abel the deadpan neighbor to cut the grass. I still did the edging with a weedeater. I got older still.

About a month ago, I hired a guy down the street who has his own gas weedeater to edge the Hacienda lawn. I am out of the yard business in all its aspects. Last week, after removing the extension cord, I hung my electric weedeater on a wall. That’s all she wrote.

I’ll hit 71 very soon. It’s interesting to watch life wind down.

Time to smell the roses, which hopefully are not growing overhead.

Swedish sickness

SWEDEN HAS long been cited by collectivists as the perfectly functioning social democracy where free healthcare, free this-and-that, exist in a nation where everyone is happy. Overlook those killer taxes.

seIt’s my loony, lefty sister’s ideal nation* and it’s been praised in comments hereabouts too. Yes, Sweden does it right.

Travelling hand-in-hand with social democracy these days are other notions like open borders, diversity and multiculturalism. These latter stances are add-ons to the older philosophy of social democracy.

None of it works well, to state it mildly.

Multiculturalism is flushing Sweden down the johnny hole. Let’s take a break to watch this smart Swedish journalist expounding on the dismal state of her once-nice homeland:

The multicultural issue in Sweden, as it is in most of socially democratic Europe, is primarily Mohammedan, a dismal, backward, violent religion/culture that harbors no desire to integrate with others while simultaneously embracing Europe’s generous welfare systems.

Just this week, immigrant violence involving grenades in the Swedish city of Malmö has led to a huge increase in police presence.

A persistent claim in collectivist circles is that all cultures have value and are equal. This is arrant nonsense. Some are far superior to others. Related is the fact that a nation is a geographical area where citizens for the most part share religion, language, beliefs and skin tone.

Successful nations are homogeneous, not multicultural.

Oh, you can toss in a little salt with the pepper or vice versa, but only up to a point. My being in Mexico is an example. Passing that point, all Hades can break out, and Hades is alive and thriving in Sweden, sadly.

Two years ago, I wrote of similar problems in Nutty Norway.

For your further edification, here is a bonus video:

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* Her second-best place is Oakland, California.

The corn vendor

tumblr_nsw4qdtJSH1ribykmo1_500

I POSTED THIS photo on The Satellite Moon some days back, and the more I look at it the more I like it.

The girl, as do others, sells roasted corn on the main plaza downtown. I have watched her grow up, as I have watched many young vendors downtown since I settled here 15 years back.

During my first year below the border I was talking with a female friend who lived in Mexico City. We were in a coffee shop in that chaotic capital, and a woebegone woman walked by. I commented that the passer-by had a very sad look on her face.

My friend replied: Mexico is full of sad women.

LOL, R.I.P.

I WAS PLEASED to read today that LOL  is dying out.

I was educated too, learning a new word: emoji.

light-brown-thumbs-up-signBeing neither young nor modish, I am ignorant of some elements of modern communication, and I do not care.

I have never typed LOL, not once, and never will. I have never used an emoji either, and doubt that I ever will. I prefer clear, traditional written communication. I think you should too, but that’s your business.

If you were unaware of the growing fuddy-duddy element of using LOL, you have been informed. Apparently, haha is preferred.

And here’s more: Women use LOL and emojis more than men. This is not surprising because women also use multiple exclamation points more than men. I know this from personal observation.

Women get so emotional!!!!!

While I have your attention, let’s look at another abomination that I’ve mentioned before. Even though I have pointed out this travesty, people continue to do it. Please stop it. Right now!

It is putting a string of dots between sentences. Here is an example ……………… Can you see how ridiculous this looks? ………….. If not, there is no hope for you ……….. Many people do this. Have you no standards?

What is the purpose of this hurling of dots?

A sentence ends with one period. Then there’s a space. The following sentence starts with a capital letter. Dem’s de rules, amigos.

There is a thing called the ellipsis. It has a specific use, and it consists of three periods, not 856. Study it a moment, please.

That’s all for now, boys and girls. Miss Grundy is though with the lesson. Go out and play, but be back in your desks in an hour.

Haha!

* * * *

(Note: That thumbs-up thing is an emoji. FYI.)

La vida buena

AS AMERICA sinks daily into a deeper sea of racial strife, political snit and socialism, it’s fun to kick back and smile due to living elsewhere.

That elsewhere, of course, is Mexico, a nation on an upward trajectory. If you do not live in Mexico, here’s a lovely video to make you wish you did, and if you do live here, you can gloat and feel smug, as I do.

The video, a series of photos actually, was made by Jack Brock, a wood sculptor of considerable renown, who once was kind enough to pay me a visit here on the mountaintop.

It was also Jack Brock who inspired me to buy my new Canon camera recently. He has virtually the same camera, his being a bit more modern, a tad more pricey. No matter. Both take excellent photos.

The video illustrates Mexico beautifully, and the soundtrack is perfect. It’s important to point out, however, that it’s tropical Mexico, the coastal variety, which is a fine place to live if you enjoy heat and bugs.

The alternative to coastal Mexico is the nation’s interior plateau, the zone of “eternal springtime” you read about. That’s where I live. Here’s a photo taken near here with my old, funky camera a few years ago.

vista

Getting stuff

ONE OF THE many adventures connected to living on the hardscrabble outskirts of town is getting stuff, mostly stuff in the mail.

parcelThere is no house-to-house delivery in my neighborhood. What happens is that all the mail for a certain area is dropped off at a central spot, which can be a small, corner grocery or it can be somebody’s home.

You then have to go there, the store or the home of some stranger, and ask for your mail. Of course, you have to know mail has arrived in the first place. Nobody comes and tells you. It’s a mystery-challenge.

I avoid the problem most of the time by having a post office box downtown, which is where 99 percent of my pittance of mail goes.

The quantity is small due in large part to not getting junk mail like one gets above the Rio Bravo. I wonder if that’s still a problem up there, like dinnertime phone calls. I don’t get those anymore either.

But sometimes I buy stuff from Amazon, the Gringo version. Amazon just recently opened a Mexico branch, which is great. Here’s the problem with ordering from the Gringo version, which I still do if necessary when what I want is not on the Mexican site.

You never know how it’s going to be sent. Regular mail or express mail like FedEx or DHL. Asking does no good. And the express services do not deliver to post office boxes, or so they say. Mexican magic can make it happen on occasion, but don’t hold your breath for that.

So putting the delivery address on the Amazon package is like Russian Roulette. If I put the post office box and they send it DHL, I’ve got a problem. If I put my home address and it’s sent regular mail, I’ve got another problem, though not so serious.

My main problem with the central drop-off here in the neighborhood is that I’ve never trusted it. It seemed like a black hole.

On rare occasions in the past, when I knew something had been sent to my home address, I would go to the fellow’s house where all the mail is dropped off, just over the railroad track, and ask. His wife would answer the door. Or, more commonly, no one would answer.

If the wife answered, I would ask if her husband was home. He never was. I would ask for my mail. She would know absolutely nothing of the mail.  It was her husband’s job, not hers.

Repeated visits to the home got identical results. No answer or an absolutely clueless woman. Living here can be challenging.

A couple of weeks ago, I ordered camera accessories from the Gringo Amazon. For some reason, I assumed it would be sent express mail, so I put my home address on the package. It was sent snail mail instead.

Even so, Amazon provided tracking.

This morning, I checked. It was delivered yesterday, four days before the promised delivery of Aug. 10, next Monday. Though it had been “delivered,” it was nowhere in my line of sight.

Here’s where it gets juicy. That man who gets my mail in his home, the man with the clueless wife, the man who is never at home?

That man is the man I recently hired to weedeat my lawn. This means we have a personal relationship, very important, and not just that. I pay him money. He is now quite interested in me. I have hooked him.

Living in this country is all about personal relationships, which is why Mexicans have the reputation of being so freaking friendly.

Personal relationships facilitate lives. That’s true most everywhere, but it’s more true here. It can even keep you out of jail.

* * * *

While writing the above this afternoon, the doorbell rang. It was the package delivered by my “mailman” who weedeats the yard and lives just two blocks from here with the clueless woman.

The label says it arrived by something called MRU Post. I have no idea what that is. I have never heard of snail mail offering tracking, but this arrived in the typical two-weeks time of snail mail. It appears to be a new sort of snail mail. A Google search provided no answers.

It pays to have a personal relationship with the mailman. He never used to bring stuff to my house. Now he does. We are connected.

He likes the weedeating gig. And I like getting my mail.

Relationships.