Tuesday, March 3, 2015

More Cold Fronts - But Spring Is Here!


The weather this winter has been a really doozie!  It's up and down.  Today the high was 23C and tomorrow it will be 30C.   Don't get excited and a warning to Bill and Bonnie who will be coming this way soon, check the weather.  It will hit 0C here at the ranch on Thursday night and stay that way for a few days.  Trees are all in bloom but I'm sure they will be fine.  We cover up our plants and flowers that are on the well in the front of the house when the fronts come through.

I spoke with Contessa today.  Colin is at an international guitar fest in Culiacan and ran into some care problems.   He wanted me to help translate but I got to them too  late.   However, I had a nice chat with Contessa and we got caught up on what is going on here and there.

Still lookin' good!

The SUV hit 300,000 kms this week and also it's ten year anniversary.   Hmm, leave well enough alone?   I'm still going to look around but I think we will stick with the Durango for awhile as it has been nothing but trouble free except for one issue a year ago November.  We towed thousands of miles with it and when it starts to act funny I think it sends a message to hook up and take the rv for ride.

Yesterday morning at the gym, I saw a kid (he's 24 now) who used to work out with me a few years ago.  When I first met him he was a stick and had little to no inkling of what his future held for him.  I encouraged him to continue to work out and he always felt that being skinny was his enemy.  I told him just the opposite.   

So when he showed up yesterday I didn't recognize him.   I went to take a sip of my coffee and he was sitting nearby and said, "Usted no quiere hablar conmigo?" jokingly of course.   Then it dawned on me who he was.   Get this.  This kid didn't have a pot to piss in, his dad sells tacos and his mother is a housewife.   He didn't think he would make it through the university.   He told me he is now in his 10th and final semester of mechanical engineering, looking for a job and finishing his 12 level of English at an institute in Monterrey.  For four years now he takes the bus to the state university that offers him a 50% scholarship, studies all day, comes home and works.  Because it is his last semester it is reverse, he works mornings and studies afternoons until 9 p.m. and takes the bus back.  We're talking over an hour on the bus.  

The next time you hear a Mexican say there are no opportunities, remind them that it's about desire and perseverance.  He's done now, will get a good job and in five years he'll be making $4000 dollars a month, easily.   Hard work, conviction, desire and perseverance.   Remember Juan's story, anybody can do it.  It's not about where you come from, the odds against you, but wanting to make a change.  I wish him well and told him to send me his resume as I have many contacts in companies and am more than willing to pass it on to those I know in HR.  

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Saturday Event and Something Bizarre


More crappy weather.  It's still cold and wet.  Tomorrow the sun will shine until next weekend and it will turn yucky again.  Funny though, the trees are in bloom and the grass I planted last year is growing.  Oh Mother Nature, I try to understand her and I am sure we are doing things that affect her.

Saturday I had another mega event but here in Monterrey.  I left the house in the the fog, 3C and wet.   I got downtown in good time only because I left early.   I doubted many teachers would show up because of the cold but with a promise of a full breakfast and and a wonderful coffee break they came in record numbers.

The book's auther was here for the plenary and I did support talks to groups of 100.  It was great and the good thing is that after all these years many in the crowd are recognizable faces.   A lot of fun and sharing of information.   We had a raffle at the end including a new IPod.  

Now for the bizarre.  We have a Sony Bravia flat screen in the studio that we never use.   In the bedroom sits a Philips 27" that was purchased in 1996.  We use it for the news and DVDs.  I decided it was time to ring out the old and ring in the new.   The remote control quit working.  It does everything but turn the television (or what do we say now? screen, flat screen, video device) and off.  I switched out the remote batteries, nothing.   I unplugged it to reset it, nothing.  

I decided to go on line and do some research.  I found the manual and began reading.  I didn't see much of anything except for a million features I never knew it had.  Then came the trouble shooting section.  Here is what it has for the remote control:

  • To determine if the problem is with the remote control or not, press a button on the TV.
  • Check the polarity of the batteries or replace the batteries.
Slide the cover to open.
  • Point the remote control at the remote control sensor located at the front of the TV.
  • Keep the remote control sensor area clear from obstacles.
  • Fluorescent light can interfere with remote control operation; try turning off the fluorescent light.

I went through each one until I got to the last one.  Juan has a regular bulb on a dimmer, the only incandescent bulb in the house, and I have an LED.  We turned off our table lamps and bingo.  The remote turns off/on the television.  I'm guessing it's something in the electronics of the LED bulb.  Who knew!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Looking Around For A Trip


Paula and Jerry are back home in Nova Scotia.  We enjoyed visiting them for a weekend along with a visit and party with Uli and Heinz.  Too much fun at the beach.

I am enjoying my work.  I have another event on Saturday although it is local.  A group of 300 teachers attending an event at a hotel downtown.   It is a mix of commercial and academic and I am looking forward to it.

This weekend we will be hosting a Couchsurfing guest.  She is from New Jersey and has been living in Mexico for the winter.  She is an English teacher also and we are anxious to meet.   We made contact, talked on the phone and it looks like we are good to go.  She says she drinks wine, perfect.

The weather here remains crappy.  Hot and then cold, dry and then wet.  The good part is that Spring has sprung and the trees are filling up quickly with leaves.  If Marina and David swing by they will be in for a surprise in comparison to what then encountered on their way down to Puerto Escondido.  

I have the itch again and I'm ready to take off.  I am working on the bent hitch crank issue and the install of the new 600W inverter as well as the cable connect.   We may sleep in the trailer one night this next week to see if it will cure my problem.  

We are going to Mexico City for Spring break if I haven't mentioned it already but wheels are much better under my bed.   I am researching the option of renting an rv in Nova Scotia sometime this summer.  Sorry to all our Canadian friends but we fell in love with the province.   We want to return soon.  

That's about it for now.  I will introduce you to our CS friend Mercedes when she arrives on Saturday.  I hope she likes us!

BTW, somebody had a birthday.  We don't go out much but I treated Juan to an Argentinian haute cuisine restaurant in Monterrey on the 23rd.   It was excellent food and the service was exquisite.  We went there thirty years ago.  Imagine how time flies.  

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Cerro de la Silla (Saddleback Mountain) Hike


We got up early this morning and headed into to town for a hike up Cerro de la Silla.  That is our famous symbol of Monterrey and I am sure if you have visited us you have seen it unless it was a foggy day.  

The trail is packed with people early on and the crowds coming up die down on the descent because of the sun.  It can become baking at times because of the elevation.   There are two trails; one goes to the old teleferico platform and the other goes to the antennas for television broadcast as well as government microwaves.

The cable car was built in the late fifties and the first ride in 1961 was a disaster.   The cable didn't have enough tension, jumped the track and the four designers and engineers were killed.   The cable car was never put in to service after that.  You can still see the towns, the platform and what is left of the visitor's building.   We have been up to the platform before and we decided it was high time to do it again.

Not easy going even up to the entrance.  The neighborhoods in the area are upper middle class but these houses are built on very steep streets with wonderful views.  You start to build up some pressure going up the main street to the park entrance.   

Off we went and we only made two five minute stops along the way.   On the way up you pass the shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe and then it is off to the platform.   It took us almost three hours to go up and come back not including the picture taking at the top.  The antenna is about another hour and a half up and it gets pretty dicey.   From there, you can go to the peaks but it is recommended to have a guide and camp overnight.   I was satisfied with our hike and the great views. 

Thermal inversion was well at work.  It was chilly this morning and the temperatures soon began to climb.  We arrived at 8 a.m. to start the hike and it was already getting warm.   By the time we made it back down at 10:45 it was already 28C and went up to 32C today.  Tomorrow it will drop again to 12C and rain.  Oh brother!   We took a bag to pick up trash and others were doing the same thing.  It was pretty clean overall considering the amount of people. 

Now my three complaints:

I don't want to listen to your music
I don't want to pick up your trash 
and I definitely don't want to step in your dog's poop  (lots of dogs on leashes)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Cold Weather Blues


I haven't posted since we returned home from South Padre Island.  We had so much fun with Paula and Jerry and then the party with Uli and Heinz.  It was  a great weekend and we had a nice trip home as well.  We stopped at Costco for vitamins in Pharr before heading home and then a stop at our friends house in Hidalgo to pick up the new inverter and a shorter 30 amp cable.   

The weather here has been off and on.  I was cold and rainy when we left for SPI and when we got there the weather was great.  Heading home, the weather turned sour again.   Monday was great, Tuesday not bad and then it changed again and dipped down to 4C.   It is getting old and yes I understand the problems of the great Northeast.  Lindsey has been posting pics of the snow blizzards in Nova Scotia to us, that is their weather and foreign to us.  The trees are blooming through all this and so is the grass I planted last year.   The road work has come to a standstill because of the weather and I am afraid they won't return but I refuse to go back to the city for fear of hacking them off.   Best way to turn a Mexican off is to get testy with them.   

The good news from Mexico is that we have seen a couple of changes in Pemex.  One is that they are no longer sending finished product through pipelines.   They have now set up terminals around the country where the fuel will be shipped missing formulated additives, mixed on site at the terminals before heading out on trucks for delivery or to ships.  Why?  Cartel thefts have increased so much.  They call it ordeña de ductos (pipeline milking) and the oil and fuel is sold to factories or Texas oil companies under the table.  Second, here in the north, gas stations now have a price range for selling fuel to make stations more competitive and increase service to customers as well as reducing the cheat factor in the quantity of fuel you receive.  

(don't know what is happening to the text size here, I copy/pasted the ñ and it all went wacky, like right now :) )

Friday, February 13, 2015

South Padre Island With The Nova Scotians


We came up to South Padre Island to visit with Paula and Jerry.  They came down for a month to stay at the island while our friends Dana and Gene are out of town.  Lots to celebrate over the weekend and we are already having a blast.

We got a great deal for the weekend and when I booked it I didn't even know we were in the same building as Paula and Jerry.  It really worked out well.  They are on the fifth floor and we down on the second.  The condo is a spacious one bedroom with a nice living and kitchen area, full bath and the place has recently been remodeled.  Beds are comfortable and there are two big screen televisions with a DVR and a balcony with a great view of the Schilliterban next door.  

The weather is sunny and warm during the day.  It was 70F this afternoon and the evenings are cool.  We had a great Mexican breakfast and lunch and did some looking around at different rv parks in the area and the Long Island Resort which we all agreed was very nice.  Filled with canals lined with rvs and park models.  

After a nap we got together at our place and ordered  pizza from Da' Pizza Joint here on the island.  They have fantastic pizza and home delivery.   We chowed down and talked about all things rving and travel.  Tomorrow Ulli and Heinz are coming down from Harlingen to have dinner and spend the night.   Can't wait.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Mexico And Ignorance


This just has to be the day.  I am reading various forums and Facebook threads and I am amazed at the amount of ignorance and hearsay that exists about Mexico.  Here are a few and I will try to debunk them.

1)  Rv park electric rates are over .25 U.S. per Kwh  (only if that's what they want to charge since the park owns the meters.  They can charge whatever they want.  We have never paid more than .15 per Kwh

2)  Bringing dollars to Mexico to buy a house.  The answer is almost always no and that the maximum is $10,000.  (This all depends on how you want to bring it.  At all border crossings it is clearly stated that you cannot bring more than $10,000 unless declared.  When buying a house someone said, "why would a Mexican want dollars?"  First off, it helps to keep the asking price stable as a house can takes months or years to sell and it is used as an exchange rate.  Also, Mexican banks as well as American banks accept foreign checks for large amounts.  It may not clear for 14 days or more but it is legitimate tender.  Our credit union accepts checks from our Mexican bank.  Bank transfers charge commission and tax but are a good way to get the money where it is going in less than a few hours.  Safe and convenient.

3) Mexico has a fixed fuel price.  (to some extent the price is controlled by government but entering the next year, stations will have a flexible rate with a minimum and a maximum and can choose the price that suits them.  Also, with the extremely low but soon ending fuel prices in the U.S., Mexico has cut the price of fuel at Pemex stations along the border by as much as 50% per liter to compete with U.S. stations.   Goes to show you that Mexico's Energy Reform is taking off)

4) I've heard that Baja is more like the states.  (that could never be further from the truth.  With the exception of a few tourist destinations, Baja is still the Wild West and a place where nature is truly at work in the desert.  There are five distinct types of desert as you head from north to south.  Like most of Mexico, where there are tourists, prices are higher.  Baja is still a very good deal especially if you are a boondocker.  Great weather and starry starry nights.)

Just a personal bug that's up my behind today.   I want to participate on those forums and FB pages but I get called all kinds of names.  Most of them are overrun by a distinct group of people who may or may not live or play in Mexico.