Saturday, June 27, 2009

This is Not Me - Do Not Worry!

William Lawson Henson Obituaries The State
GREAT FALLS — Mr. William Lawson Henson of 601 St. Peters Church Road, Chapin, SC, and formerly of Great Falls died Friday, June 26, 2009, at Lexington ...

Ley Seca means no Alcohol at Election Time

The Mexican government(s), in its'/their infinite wisdom, prohibits the sale of alcohol during elections and July 5th, when there will be elections for diputados (a political sub-species of popular representative that makes a huge salary and does precious little for those he or she is supposed to represent) is no exception.

The all-caring government doesn't want the nasty populace having the opportunity to buy a beer on election day, in case it gets drunk and votes incorrectly. Or gets drunk and disorderly if the election results turn out not quite the aforementioned populace wants.

IMHO, a ridiculous and useless law since those who will want to be drinking during the voting process will have bought their alcohol prior to the cutoff date, July 4th.

It's all part of the great simulation that we live in a "democracy". Call me a cynic. My wife does. :)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Can I Run for Public Office? No.

If I could run for office, here are some of the 'propuestas' I would run on.


As part of a plan to make Yucatan the most ecology-friendly state in the country:
  • An immediate 'hold' on all ongoing construction permits to review and if necessary, include, greater 'green' areas in all housing developments. A swing set and a palm tree on a minuscule corner lot do not a 'park' make, nor do they provide the beneficial temperature controlling effects of a larger, more generous 'green' area. All future construction permits subject to increased allocation of space to 'green' areas.

  • A real 'reforestation' campaign, emphasizing replanting of vegetation indigenous to the area. No more palm trees and grass. This is not Miami.

  • No more golf courses.

  • Increase the budget for inspection and control of all well and water drilling activity in the state. The water is being contaminated at an alarming rate and soon it will be useless.

  • Immediate implementation of a tax credit for all purchasers of hybrid vehicles.

  • Promote installation of plastic and glass recycling plants to reduce soda and beer bottle garbage, which is part of the landscape now. All soda and beer bottlers in the state must either offer a refund for their bottles, or pay a tax in lieu of. No exceptions. Out of state bottlers must pay tax which will be used to pay refund to the general public on bottles collected.

  • Invest in solar technology in order to have most state government buildings run by solar power by 2020.

  • Tax credits for homeowners who install solar or alternative energy in their homes.

  • Tax credits for homeowners who plant indigenous vegetation on their properties.


  • Any and all Yucatan state taxes to be rolled into one flat tax.

  • Push for the federal IVA tax to be applied to everything, as well as pushing for a flat federal income tax.

  • Eliminate tenencia tax on autombile purchases for all hybrid and 4 cylinder models.

  • Increase vehicle tax on 6 cylinder models and a maximum tax on 8 cylinder models.

  • Tax credit (percentage based on vehicle purchase price, used or new) for purchases of hybrid vehicles.

How am I doing so far?

Elections in Yucatan!

Hooray for democracy!

Yucatecos and Yucatecas have, once again, the wonderful opportunity to exercise their hallowed democratic rights and obligations, and elect a diputado!

What the heck is a diputado, you might ask? It is said that the diputado is some kind of legislative political creature, that is supposed to represent the interests of the people in the district that voted for him or her. However, voting always along party lines, the diputado is about as representative of the people as a panucho would be representative of Swiss culture.

This time around, we have a few candidates to choose from according to the distrito to be 'represented'. Today we will look at two: the PRI offers up Angelica and the PAN suggests former police chief Javier Medina.

A quick look at their websites (linked above) shows this casual observer that while the PAN continues its use of the traditional blue colors, the PRI has abandoned its green white and red colors to distance itself from its rather unpopular track record, while at the same time banking on that record and emphasizing it's experience. OK. If you say so.

The PAN Javier website home page features a serious Javier making a speech, with carefully furrowed brows and much animated finger pointing and waving, indicating his experience and seriousness, while the PRI/PV home page loads up a video of a crowd of happy singing red-tshirt clad jovenes singing, clapping and dancing around Angelica in a kind of rapturous, can't wait for the tortas and refrescos/I'm on TV!!/Michael Jackson We Are the World kind of way.

Oh and if you are wondering what this PV is about, it's the Partido Verde Ecologista de Mexico (Green Party) who have allied themselves with the PRI. This is the most hypocritical of all political parties; if they have done one thing to protect the ecology or a blade of grass, I would be enormously surprised. I suspect the 'green' part refers to their political acumen, as in lack thereof.

As for their novel ideas, of which practically all sound very populistas, Javier's sound a little more coherent, while Angelica stresses her 'sensitivity to the needs of the family' which begs the question "Whose family?" Yours? Mine? Hers, maybe? Neither of these candidates is saying "Yucatecos and Yucatecas, get off your butts and work" Probably not a real popular message.

Which brings me to the subject of how much the diputado makes in a year! According to El Semanario, in an article from 2008 (it's probably increased by now) a diputado earned 77,888 pesos a month, along with another 45,786 to attend legislative sessions and 28,772 pesos to cover other activities. This makes a tidy little sum of $152446 pesos. A month. There is, on top of that, a savings program equal to 12% of their regular salary, medical coverage (you can bet they are not standing in line at the local IMSS (Importa Madres Su Salud) and an aguinaldo or Christmas bonus, equivalent to 40 days of salary.

No wonder they are so excited to 'serve' selflessly the needs of the population. And no wonder we have to pay more taxes!

Have a look at the candidates, their proposals and make up your mind. Imagine who you would vote for if you could vote. If you can, but don't want to, you could try the Voto Blanco option, proposed by former elected officials now out of the running, who are now saying that the voting system is flawed and people should abstain from participating (in the system that elected them in the past) Sour grapes? Gee, ya think?

Have a great election season, enjoy the visual and audio pollution!

Viva la democracia!

Another Unfair Comparison - Vancouver Life

Everyone has seen the dilapidated motorcycles here in Merida that carry one driver, one wife, one child (some or all helmet-less) and a carton of 24 eggs; or perhaps a worker wearing a construction site hard hat (counts as a helmet right?) his assistant on the back and a 12 foot aluminum ladder. Somehow, while it scares the bejeezuz out of a first time visitor, they all seem to make it home or to work safely, for the most part.

In the land of plenty aka the 'First World' ie. Canada, things are so controlled that the government is involved in regulating and protecting to the point of smothering.

Take bicycles on Vancouver streets. Starting this July, the laws governing biking on streets, which fall under the jurisdiction of the Motor Vehicle Act, will be strictly enforced. What are some of those laws you ask, dear reader(s)? Here are a few, along with their fines, handily converted to pesos for your enjoyment:
  • No helmet - $348.00 pesos
  • Riding on a sidewalk - $1308.00
  • Two bikes side by side on a road - $1308.00
  • Not riding seated - $1308.00
  • (this includes hills; your butt cannot leave that seat - imagine the fun police officers will have, being able to justify watching people's butts!)
  • Carrying a passenger - $1308.00
  • Hitching a ride from a passing vehicle - $1308.00
  • Look Mom, no hands - $1308.00
  • Not paying attention - $1308.00
  • Not having reasonable consideration (sounds uniquely Canadian doesn't it?) - $1308.00
  • No bell on your bike? - $1308.00
If you bump into a pedestrian and cycle away, that's considered hit and run and a criminal offense under the aforementioned MV Act.

No wonder Canadians stare in wonder at the transportation possibilities here in Merida when they see their first 100cc Kazuki loaded with entire families off to the beach at Progreso!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Perfect Time to Visit Uxmal and Chichen!


A reliable source has informed me that the average number of daily visitors to Chichen Itzá is down from 6,000 to 300. That's right. Three hundred.

Meanwhile, at Uxmal, the average is 60 people a day.

This makes for a unique experience in Mayan ruin visiting!

More on the Mobile Phone Registry

Well I slept on it (yesterday's post was written at midnight and in a rush of indignation) but this morning I find myself still a tad worked up over this 'new' mobile phone registry news item.

I found a better link on the subject on the news site for Milenio. You can read it (in Spanish, of course) here.

The federal government, through the Secretaria de Gobernacion (SEGOB) and its' Registro Nacional de Población or RENAPO (don't you love all the initials!) will be charged with the safekeeping of your personal information. Fear not, Big Brother conspiracy theorists, it's all in good hands.

Meanwhile the cell phone companies, such as TelCel, IUSACel and MoviStar will be responsable for 'control and storage' of your calls and text messages. I am sure you are relieved to know that this information is being stored on your behalf. I know I am.

You have until April 10th next year to register your phone; if you don't, your phone line will be de-activated.

I am not so much concerned with my personal information being in a databse; that's already a given, whether I live here, in Saskatoon or in Phoenix. It's just that this measure, which is supposed to combat crime, and the way they are implementing it, is so onerous and full of loopholes so as to make it useless. And more intrusion by government into our private lives.

Of course we are in Mexico, dear reader(s) and so there is a very substantial possibility that this law will be struck down once the deadline looms near. Remember that mega-million dollar airport project near Mexico City that was cancelled by machete-waving campesinos. Think of all those tenencia, agua potable, predial and other deadlines (deadlines!) that were extended and then extended some more. The discounts given to those who pay their government bills late. If enough people don't register and/or protest, this new law may also just be 'postponed' indefinitely.

So I wouldn't rush out just yet to register anything.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Register your Cellular Phone or Lose it

It seems that when it comes to Draconian laws that infringe on your privacy, the United States (Patriot Act) is not the only country to come up with new ways to create more bureaucracy and poke around in your life.

The newly decreed Mobile Telephone Registry program, now officially a part of the Mexican governments' Telecommunications Law, states that everyone who owns a cellular phone, both on a plan basis or pay as you go, will have to register the number with the 'authorities' who promise to keep your personal information private. Yes. Well. Give me a moment to have myself a chuckle.

The purpose of this new Big Brother law is to have everyone's phone in a database so that if there is a crime involving a cell phone, the all-knowing, competent and completely efficient and honest authorities can trace the telephone used, back to its registered owner, thereby solving the crime! Hooray!

Anyone familiar with laws and police work in this country will probably just shake their head.

Now originally, they said they would like your name, current address, photo ID and even a fingerprint. You had to go and present your documentation to some sallow faced burocrat or some executive at your local TelCel office. Fine and dandy. That might actually have worked.

Now, however, they have made it easier for everyone and have completely defeated the purpose of the new law (matching phones with users) by stupidly introducing the text message option of registering your phone. You type in your name, date of birth and voila! Alternatively you can type in your CURP (another government ID comprised of birthday, initials and some other number or letter) Your phone is registered! Wonderful!

My question is this: HOW DIFFICULT WOULD IT BE (assuming you are one of the bad guys) TO TYPE IN SOMEONES NAME AND DATE BIRTH or another CURP (I bet there is a programmer out there that can generate fake CURPS in the hundreds) and thereby create a false registry and/or cause someone completely innocent to find themselves involved in a crime?

Does anyone else see the stupidity and the futility in this? THIS MAKES NO SENSE!


These are my first impressions. Chances are good that there will be more later!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

More Unfair Comparisons...

Can you spot the Caffeinated Kid?

In the previous post, I mentioned the camp and the rules imposed upon its' operation by the fact that it was a School District run event and therefore had to comply with several sanitation requirements.

This camp, which was run by counsellors and Grade 12 students for Grade 7 age students, featured tents and campfires and all those things that make camp fun. Such as marshmallow roasts at night.

Or not.

My strict kitchen boss had included in her list of camp food a case of marshmallows for evening around-the-fire roasting and on the first night, issued 2 bags to the camps' organizers for the evenings' activities.

The next morning, one of the counselors came to the kitchen trailer where we were hard at work with hash browns, off-the-grill toast, oven sausages and scrambled eggs for 40, to return the two bags of marshmallows from the previous night. With an apologetic shrug, he announced that one of his senior counselors had decided that there were 'safety issues' with the idea of people sticking marshmallow mounted on sticks into a fire and perhaps 'waving them around' (his words).


My boss and I looked at each other incredulously and tried really really hard not to burst out laughing in this poor students' face.

What kind of lame-ass camp doesn't allow marshmallow roasting at night? The powers-that-be have already gone overboard with mandatory helmet regulations for bikers (bicycles, not Harleys) and their anal sanitation issues; now this? It was just too much! How did we ever get through our childhood, before Mother Government was around to dictate how we were to 'play'?

Geez Louise!

Also on that morning, a couple (as in 3) kids asked for coffee with their breakfasts. The pot was right there at the beginning of the assembly line breakfast service.

The first kid asked for some and I replied, joking "No, this is just for adults".

As he started to walk away, disappointed, I said in my best attempt at morning cheer, "KIDDING! We LOVE to have our kids caffeinated!" and served him a mug, adding that the addition of plenty of sugar would give him a nice early morning buzz and keep him wide awake through the mornings' moss and lichens lecture.

A few moments later, a counselor who shall remain nameless except for his unofficial nickname of Lampshade, informed me that some of the kids were drinking coffee. He said this with the seriousness of an airport immigration officer who tells you "Come with me"

"Yes" I answered, "some kids asked for coffee and I served them a cup"

"Well" he turned to me seriously "actually they are not supposed to have coffee and it should be only for the adults"

I thought of babies drinking Coke from baby bottles in Merida, the complete opposite extreme to be sure, and quietly finished serving breakfast.

Oh, Canada, indeed.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Notes on Life in Canada vs Life in Mexico

Just back from a trip to Canada where I reluctantly was recruited to drive the fat and always cantankerous (spelling?) Casual Restaurant Critic around, I was struck by some of the rather quaint differences between life in Canada and life in Mexico observed. Here are some:

Safety First in the Kitchen - having had the opportunity to participate - albeit only on the sidelines, chopping red onions as cooks' helper to a very strict kitchen manager - in a day camp for junior high school age children, I was able to notice the abundance of positively anal rules regarding the handling of food.

When you come from Mexico, where succulent mystery meat tacos are made and sold and eaten streetside, and delicious tamales can be discovered at the bottom of a battered (not breaded; beat up) cloth covered aluminum pot at a gas station, you are bound to be blown away by the rather hysterical regulations regarding food handling and preparation in Canada.

For one thing, the washing of dishes must be done in a commercial-grade dishwashing machine. If that is not available, there must be a three compartment sink available, one for soaking and washing in soapy, xix-filled water; another with 'clean' water for rinsing and finally a disinfecting sink with a chlorine solution. There are specific instructions as to water temperature, soap content, and chlorine content as well. These are located on a chart which must be posted at the sink location.

One can't forget to leave room at the sink for the handwashing poster, which also must be posted there. It instructs one on how to properly wash hands - in a rotary motion and above the wrist and paying particular attention to fingernails - and for how long.

Refrigerator temperatures are controlled as well and must be in a certain range to ensure there is no spoilage. This brings to mind the Comercial Mexicana's practice of laying out their raw bistek meat on tables in the supermarket, presumably beacuse it is 'cool' in the store, thanks to that chilly air conditioning. Of course they are concerned with your health; just look at the ham n cheese ladies: they are wearing facemasks and hairnets. While the raw meat slowly rots nearby.

My hunch is that this is less about food poisoning than it is about legal concerns. In a society where all the basic needs have been met, such as is the case in first-world Canada, people are on the lookout for a problem - any problem, real or perceived - and are willing to sue at the first sign of what they think might be something questionable.


More fun comparisons later!