Monday, September 20, 2010

The Bicentenario Celebrations in Pátzcuaro

We don't usually attend nighttime events in Pátzcuaro, as we live way out in the country and don't like to drive at night. I'm also in the habit of going to bed early and arising very early.

But as this was Mexico's Bicentenario year, we decided to attend both La Noche del Grito on Wednesday, Sept. 15 and the next day's Independence Day celebrations.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Our Gated Community

Following up on my previous post "Don't Forget To Take Out The Trash", here is the latest news on the trash dump news front.

Wednesday evening saw the first known garbage truck dump its load in the new basurero. We weren't there to see it, as we were in Pátzcuaro to celebrate La Noche del Grito and El Día de La Independencia.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Things That Go Bump In The Road

Not a bra! Slow down!

Full stop!
Anyone familiar with driving in Mexico knows what "topes" are: speed bump barriers to excessive velocity as well as tranquility. There are various forms of topes, ranging from the basic raised ridge to metal plates set into the pavement and the elegant "reductor de velocidad" along Morelia's Avenida Camelinas. Then there's the racy "vibradores", a series of corrugations sometimes known in the U.S. as "rumble strips". In ritzy Montclair, NJ, they have "speed humps".

But there are lesser known variants of topes, which I'll describe. Poor communities, which don't have the funds to install raised barriers, sometimes just make a short and steep ditch, a negative space I dubbed a "nope". That's pronounce "NO-pay". In the hardscrabble outlying burg of Tzurumutaro, the back street sports concrete tank barriers that could be called "golpes", Spanish for "hit" or "blow" in the hurting sense. Those are best negotiated by flanking maneuvers when possible and when that's not feasible, a slow aproach at an angle may allow your vehicle to pass without damage. In pleasant contrast, the highway bypassing Tzurumutaro to one side has two of the most gradual and gentle tope mounds ever seen. Crossing them is like eating Mallomars candy.

In a labyrinthine colonia in lower Pátzcuaro, the not recommended route to the Panadería La Espiga includes a horrendous tank trap with a vicious, protruding reinforcing rod. Other routes are advised, or foot travel only. I recommend hiring a knowledgeable guide for your first visit to the Panadería. Contact me.

Possibly you like topes; maybe you want to experience the "Real Mexico". If that's the case, I recommend a drive to Morelia's International Airport, close to the town of Álvaro Obregón. There are something like 27 topes between the turnoff from the main highway out of Morelia and the Airport entrance gate. What's not to like?
After a reckless encounter with topes, you may need this Tope's Auto Repair.

I have now found what I think is the ultimate topes nightmare.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Don't Forget To Take Out The Trash

Sometimes changes take place quickly, and one's point of view changes just as fast. That happened this week, all within a very short time span.

Lately there has been an unusual amount of public works activity here in our pueblecito. There's a crew of citizens, both young and old, working on widening the road near where it meets or roughly paved street. All that cooperative community work gladdened my heart. Perhaps our street would be the next to be resurfaced?

(Doña Cuevas says that if it were improved, vehicles would be racing up and down it. In my opinion, God gave us topes for that very purpose.)

Click to go to video

But as the work progressed on the road widening below our house, there came the disquieting roar of heavy rock and gravel hauling trucks passing our house and returning empty. We live a few meters from the end of the pavement, where the gravelled stretch inclines lazily up the ridge.

Geni Certain photo
There are some nice views from there. Until a few years ago, the gravelled road was a horrendous bog of cow paths wandering from boulder to boulder by way of mudholes. Now, it's a nice walk.

You have to look out for the odd, dead and rotting animal just beyond the picturesque stone walls. This month's special is a smelly, dead cow. But these carrion are ephemeral. Given a month or two, they are reduced to bones by decay and coyotes.

The other evening, rumor flew to us via cell phone that the enterprising gentleman who'd improved the road, and late last year had 7 power poles installed and extended to his property up the way, was planning to have the municpal trash dump placed up on his terreno. It's entirely possible. Our informant told us that all the other local inhabitants are against the plan. A petition was circulated among the local gente. I was asked by an expat amiga whether one person's will could prevail against a majority of popular opposition. Sure it could. Depends.

Don't forget to take out the trash

We await the outcome. Updates will surely follow.

UPDATE September 10, 2010: We have been unable to drive in or out of our street for 2 days, while the concrete sets at the foot of the street. Yesterday, we used the combi vans to go out and into Pátzcuaro. It was easy going out, but we had to wait nearly an hour coming back, arriving in a deluge of rain. We walked up in a small graywater rapids to our gate.

It occurred to me that the street improvements might be in a large part for the benefit of heavy trucks that otherwise could not pass the "nope", my neologism for "negative tope" at the foot of the narrow street, and the widening is intended for waiting trucks to layby until their turn to haul their loads upward.

UPDATE September 12, 2010: we didn't have our regular trash pickup last Wednesday. I assumed that that was because the new concrete was being poured at the foot of our street, and the trash truck couldn't cross it. But now it seems as though the trash collectors are boycotting our pueblo in protest of the proposed new trash dump up the road from us. The new dump might cut into their regular routes. I don't know exact details, or what, exactly, is going on.

Power to the people!

New gate to the proposed project area
                                        The Fine Print:
I am forbidden by the Mexican Constitution and the laws governing my migratory status to engage in any political activity, sign petitions, and perhaps even comment negatively or positively on such issues. I've gone over this post with the proverbial fine-toothed comb, looking for any indications that might reveal my sentiment on this subject. I'm sure that none can be found. I leave the rest to your imagination.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Glorious Anniversary of Five Year Plan

We arrived to live in Mexico on September 14, 2005.
We now approach the Glorious Anniversary of our first Five Year Plan.
Last week, we completed our applications for our second FM3 visas.
On Wednesday we went to pick them up. Now they are laminated cards instead of passport like booklets.

We celebrated the beginning of our second Glorious Five Year Plan with a nice seafood lunch at La Jaiba.

Five years ago crossed the frontera just before dawn on September 14, 2005, and got to to Morelia a couple of days earlier, and not without some car problems.

We obtained temporary housing over the cold winter of 2005-2006, then house sat for 4 months in the spring of 2006. Then in June 2006, we found our present home waiting for us. It was outwardly unattractive but inside it was a gem. Since then, it has been variously improved by the owners: new roof, paint and rewiring. Our rent has risen only 500 pesos in the 4 years we've been here. Knock knock. Recently, the monthly charge for pueblo piped water rose from $50 to $70 pesos.

The rancho/village in which we live has recently gotten funding and a community effort public works project is under way right now. The hub of the pueblo at the crosswalk has been widened.

We felt the spirit move us, and with a gift of utility shelving from dear, departed friends, we reorganized or garage! ¡Que milagro!

Could be turned into a guestroom or a small store!
A couple of years ago, the rough, upaved cowtrail that was the upward extension of our street was bulldozed and graveled. Last year, seven concrete poles were placed to carry current upward to a projected house site. We don't like the poles, as the spoil the view, but hey! It's not our land.

Pole Land

A new tienda opened at the entrance to the pueblo about 6 months ago. It's a progressive, modern store, allowing the customers to come inside and actually see and perhaps handle the merchandise before buying. The other tiendas here have little windows where you knock, ring, push a bell and you ask for whatever dusty, out of date article you desire. This should quiet and calm (but it won't) the critics of Big Supermarkets who fear that those threaten the small, Mamá y Papá tiendas. We have at least 5 tiendas in our pueblecito. Some are hidden away on side streets, serving the neighborhood.

The 3 kilometers of paved road in from the main highway has had its potholes patched a couple of times. Keep up the good work. We like being able to drive in and out without swerving to avoid potholes.

This is a good place for us, and we hope to enjoy at least another 5 years here.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Developers' Plans Setback As Yacht Club Lake Vanishes

Now this; just in:

Developers' plans for an elaborate yacht club faced a devastating setback when the lake vanished overnight to parts unknown. It was speculated by amateur geologist and ex-spelunker Don Cuevas that, "the lake had drained into subterranean caverns, the extent of which we may never know, due to the heavy contamination from agriculture and animal husbandry deterring exploration*."

Below, before and after shots of the lake property.
Laguna antes

Laguna despúes
Developers stated that although it was indeed a serious setback, they were forging ahead with other elements of their development plan of the  Tzu-Tzn Regional Airport, the Monte Fuji-Taco Club Campestre, and a multi-tiered luxury condo fraccionamiento. Much depends on government funding for building the Morelia-Tzu-Tzn cutoff highway, which would not only access the development, but would save motorists a valuable 11 minutes, on the average, while enroute to Tzn to buy Christmas ornaments.

For up to the minute developments, stayed linked to this blog.

*That is, the caverns are full of BS.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Remembrances of Things Karst

For those of you interested in the esoterica of cave explorations, I have started a blog, "We Once Were Cavers." The introduction, The Adventure Begins has been posted, with remembrances of things karst soon to follow.

Somewhere in China. I have never been there.

Monday, July 05, 2010

La Semana Ch***ada

La Semana Ch***ada.
Or, in Bowdlerized English; "That Was The Week That Was."

(I found out that there is actually a place in the state of Jalisco called "La Chingada" Increible.)

Please pardon my Español, but this has been a very interesting Week, as in the Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times." It deserves that appellation.

When we returned fron Mexico City on June 23, both Doña Cuevas and I had suffered various degrees of intestinal upsets. We had taken only over the counter medications for it, and Pedialyte electrolyte replacer.

On Friday, her ilness was dormant and mine was becoming more active. On Saturday, I went to Dr. G. who prescribed to me some Ciprofloxacino 500 mg. tablets and Lacteol Fort, a concentrated Acidophilus culture.
By Sunday morning, I felt fine, in fact, energetic, and I cooked a big comida for us and one guest.

Monday, came the Storm. It was a driving, wind-swept rain, pushing, punishing hail. Water came under our front door and into the garage. Because we have EZ-2-Kleen tile floors, that was not a big problem to soak it up.

Meanwhile that afternoon, Doña Cuevas was showing signs of fever and tiredness, but otherwise seemed fine. Abut 10 p.m., she got up to visit the bathrom, and all was silence. I went in and checked on her and it was obvious by her semi conscious awareness that she needed to go to a hospital. We are familiar with these symptoms from previous incidents.

I called Dr. G, who arranged to meet us at Clínica Don Vasco in Pátzcuaro. (This is an example of one of the exceptional times we drive at night.)

Once inside the small, neat clinic, she was treated with fast acting solutions via IV to rapidly improve her condition.

By morning, she was much better, and by late afternoon, she was released.

There was a followup at Dr. G's consultorio next morning. Traffic in and out of Pátzcuaro has been ch***ado since we'd come back on the bus from Mexico City. Tree trimming was underway along Avenida Lázaro Cárdenas, and the traffic flow diverted to narrow streets through Colonia Revolucíon. One of these streets resembles a malpaís of lava blocks punctuated with elevated sewer covers. Buses and all vehicles choked this route and a barely better one a few blocks west. So the usual 5-10 minute trip to Centro was taking 30 or more minutes at times.

Dr. G prescribe her the same meds, and after 2 days of taking them, is almost completely recovered.

Back home, we rested and cleaned up. Late in the day Tuesday, a friend told us that the Rancho water pump se ha decompuesta. (BUSTED.)
Next morning our landlord told us that a bolt of lightning had struck it. Money had been raised among the rancheros to repair and replace it, but for now, all our running water depended on what we had left in our tinaco.
Conservation measures were  begun, and we got a lot of buckets and a 55 gallon drum from a friend in Tzintzuntzan.
Adjustment was difficult at first, but after a day or so, we got the hang of bathing with a cereal bowl and heating rain water on the stovetop.

Meanwhile, we struggled to prepare for a special July 4th comida slated for Sunday afternoon. The prospect looked grim for that event, but our amiga in Tzintzuntzan saved the day by offering her home and grounds. We gratefully accepted.

The comida and party take place this afternoon, and we hope to have a good time, if the lake doesn't rise nor the volcano awakens.*

 Don Cuevas

* PS: Maybe our luck has changed for the better. The party and comida went smashingly well and all the guests enjoyed themselves.

PPS: YES!! Our luck has changed for the better. The pump was fixed and we have running water once again.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The Old Baker's Club—A Sleepy Reminiscence

Old and Crusty Donuts
I was reading Steve Cotton's blog the other day, and encountered this blogpost on siestas.
Then, I left this comment:
Same Life--New Location
Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Don Cuevas said...
I must have naps, due to my long engrained baker's habit of arising in the early morning hours. It's when I do my best work, that is, after a mug or two of strong Chiapas coffee.

In my real experience, bakers arrived at work sometime between 2 and 3 a.m. There's a certain special feeling of belonging to an exclusive club.

Siestas are a must. Our usual siesta time is after la comida, at about 3:30 until 5:00 or so.

When I arise from those naps, no one should engage me in any meaningful conversation until my brain has returned to normal velocity. I just can't process anything that requires more than a grunted response. The amygdala rules.
Think of Steve's crocodle post, above.

Don Cuevas
April 21, 2010 5:27 AM
The NY Times recently had an article, 
What Is Sleep? - Opinionator Blog -

first, you have to adapt to the schedule; sleep is always on your mind

When I started my first real bakery job, my hours were 3:00 a.m to 11:00 a.m.
I wasn't at all sure I could adjust to that reversal of my sleep cycle. I recall an August afternoon nap on a camp mat in the air conditioned living room of our bungalow in Springfield, MO. I was desperately trying to get some rest before I had to arise at 2:00 a.m. I was only partially successful.

Now, after many years of working similar hours, I can go back to my previous sleep routine only with the greatest difficulty.

planning a proper lunch/breakfast is important

I want to tell you something about working in a medium to large retail bakery in the early morning hours.
Often, when I arrived at the loading dock entrance and entered the bakery production area, the two senior bakers were sitting on the flour sacks taking a break and eating bologna sandwiches on white bread. Always white bread. When I expressed a preference for rye or whole wheat, Chester, the older baker, who resembled W.C. Fields, would poke fun at me with comments about my "whale blubber sandwich on kumquat toast." Funny guy. That's only a sample of his humor.

One of my first jobs as a Baker's Helper was washing sheet pans and other things as called upon. Getting mild electrical shocks when washing the outside walls of the walk-in freezer was an eyeopener.

the whole mirth catalog

It was a big moment when the senior bakers called me over to the bench (work table) and invited me to help make donuts. My assignment was to pick the cut holes from the big sheet of dough sprawled on the bench. It was a monotonous job, enlivened only by Chester's jesting, making funny faces, teasing the cake finishers, general ribaldry and hilarious parodies of popular Country and Western songs.

They sheeted the dough through a big machine and cut out the shapes with a die cut roller, and I got to pluck the holes. Somehow, that task would cause my mind to wander. It would often wander to the eastern Missouri Perry County Karst Plain. (PDF, 1.6 MB) Hundred, perhaps thousands of sinkholes...endless cavities, stretching to the horizon.

Later, when I'd graduated to the point to where the trusted me enough, they took some time off and I was left alone in the bakery production area, mixing, kneading, sheeting, cutting and still plucking those thousands of donut holes. It was a big step and a big responsibilty. But it was easier for my mind to wander at 4 a.m. when I didn't have that crazy, crusty old baker banter to keep my mind on the job.

flubbing up can be hazardous

A few mishaps occasionally resulted: like the sugar cookie dough one morning. "Emmett; it just doesn't look right." —I phoned the head baker at 4:00 a.m. on his day off.
"Did you put the sugar in?"— he asked.
No. That was what was missing! Mixing in the correct amount of sugar nearly instantly corrected the problem.

Then there the big floor mixers. These are not your Kitchen-Aid table top mixers. They are powerful machines. I think one was an 80 quart and the other a 120 quart capacity, with electric lifts.

Massive Mixers a lot like these

There was at least one close call when, in my sleepy daze, I failed to properly lock the massive bowl onto the mixer arms. The bowl was loaded with perhaps 100 pounds of donut mix, maybe 60 some pounds of water and and several one pound blocks of fresh yeast. That plus the weight of the stainless steel bowl came to over 250 pounds.
 As the bowl rose, it canted forward, threatening to spill the unmixed contents onto the less than pristine floor, as the mixer rose from the floor on its legs! (This was a hard to achieve feat.)
I was sweating, you bet. After I calmed down, I was able to fiddle the mechanism to safely lower the bowl to its round, wheeled dolly.

After experiences like those, quitting time at 11:00 a.m. was welcome, and then home to lunch with a beer then some sleep. (Breakfast had already been eaten while sitting on the bags of flour in the bakery. My usual, of course: a whale blubber sandwich on kumquat toast.) 

This is not the end of the story, but sufficient for now.

Monday, April 12, 2010

¡Viva Las Vegas!

Last Thursday while enroute to Morelia, I was seeking lodging for a visitor, and had a rare opportunity to visit the Auto Hotel Las Vegas. It's on the Pátzcuaro-Morelia highway, located less than half a mile east of the Tzurumutaro junction. Although we'd often driven past the attractive, new building, we'd never had a reason to stop by, as our home is not too far away.

Look for the motel behind the power pole
The facade is white, with a can't-miss, bright red sign. It immediately gained points with me for its clean, uncluttered, yet Devil-may- look. No lighthouse, no crenellated towers, no throbbing neon sign.  Just inside the curving entryway is a placard with the rates. I wrote them down.

  • Normal $180
  • Especial $200
  • Jakuci $500
All the posted rates are for an 8-hour stay.
(I have to state at this point that the designations, "Normal" and "Especial" don't have any relation to the variety of activities that might transpire within, but only to the size of the rooms.)

At the office, I inquired about 24-hour rates. The woman on duty called her manager for further information. After a while, I obtained the following:
  • Normal $300
  • Especial $400
  • Jakuci? I didn't bother, as our visitor would be on a tight budget.

Now, we step beyond the semaphore barrier...

This is a semaphore barrier, or something like it.

I was pleased that without even asking, I was shown two rooms. The first was a Normal. Its overhead garage door is electrically powered and rises smoothly and quietly at the touch of a button.
The interior of the garage was not only spotlessly clean, it was far nicer than a few scruffy hotel rooms we'd stayed in elsewhere.

It's notable that there were no stairs to climb, as the Auto Hotel is built on one level. This is thoughtful planning, as both the electric overhead door and the lack of stairs mean better energy conservation.

A simple door lead into the habitacíon itself. The decor was neutral but not unattractive. There are small and subtle decorator touches.

Inside was the immediate, unmissable, suffusing presence of a powerful air freshener. Inescapable, but fortunately not to the level of gasping and choking.
The room itself was small, but serviceable, with a neatly made bed, two shelves as nightstands, a shiny, flat screen TV, and a tiled floor. I didn't have the nerve to jump onto the bed to test it, but it looked new and firm. Firm is important.

The modest sized window was well curtained. That, too, is important. There may be a deficiency of ventilation. We noticed that the garage door descended to within a foot of the pavement. Maybe that's to help the ventilation.

Over in the baño, just past the entry door, the necessary was behind a partition, opposite the sink and an attractive, glass enclosed shower. Every thing about the place was clean, modern and upright.

On the vanity in the bedroom was a plastic-laminated menu, listing foods and drinks, a select line of your favorite tipples, plus Health and Beauty products that might be useful for your stay. (Like a comb...)

There is an on-site restaurant, probably not open to the public at large, for example, tour bus groups, but solely intended for the comfort and sustenance of the Auto Hotel guests. I'm also speculating that there's no dining room, but that there's 24-hour room service. I didn't notice any pasamuro opening for food delivery. Maybe I just wasn't paying close enough attention. (Later...nope, there is no pass through. I wonder how room service makes its discreet deliveries.)

The Especial room was next on our tour. It was on the same floor plan as the Normal, but perhaps 25 to 30% larger. This particular room was next door to the office, and had no window but a false one. The bath also was a little more spacious.
It's up to the individual guest whether size matters in choosing a room, but the Normal is certainly cozy, yet functional. If you were to bring a trunk full of special doohickeys and accouterments, then you might wish to pay a little extra for an Especial.

That was my first visit to a true motel de paso*. If we didn't live nearby and were traveling, I'd certainly consider it an excellent and economical lodging option. But it would not be my choice for an extended stay.

I returned Sunday afternoon with our visitor, who approved of the standard layout, and it was then that I quietly took some photos. I noticed that a few luxury details were missing, such as the fancy glass shower partition, but no matter; it was fine with him.
Bedroom with mirror
The garage; not the living room.
A "Normal" room.
Cinderella's coach goes here.
The air freshener was more muted in his room.

I'm hoping to obtain a man on the sheet interview with our visitor when we see him today, to get his effable evaluation of the lodgings and services. So, stay tuned to this URL. §

*The Hotel Pal in México, DF has a motel section, but we stayed in the family and business section, so I have no observations of the nether regions of that hostelry.

§ This, just in: the bed was fine, but the room was warm and he wished for a fan. I didn't get any info on the bathroom and hot water supply. He didn't call for room service food.

§§ NEW! Our visitor stayed a total of 4 nights and reports that the shower was fine, with plenty of hot water, although its arrival was somewhat delayed. He also confirmed my earlier fleeting impression that there is another, smaller mirror on the wall across from the foot of the bed. One could reflect on the possiblities of that arrangement.
(Now I see that I captured it in my photo. So much for my powers of observation!)

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Apple, Inc Collaborates With Pátzcuaro Tourism Commission

DATELINE: Pátzcuaro, Michoacán. April 1, 2010

As a devoted Apple fanboy, I occasionally am privileged to receive insider info from a Silicon Valley source that chooses to remain anonymous.
(For similar reasons, illustrations are not available yet.)

Thus it was that I was astonished when I opened my encrypted email earlier this morning to learn of the collaboration of Pátzcuaro's Tourism Development Commission with Apple, Inc. in regard to the renovations of the Plaza Grande. The newly renovated Plaza will, first of all, be a wi-fi zone where both local citizens, expats and tourists can use their mobile devices to both check their email and chat in real time with their buddies. (There goes The Office.)

Artesanías aficionados will be able to shop online and pay with digital money for the Catrinas, Alejibres and Cocuchas without the bother and added expense of a guide to take them to craft villages around the Lake.

The new multi-story Mercado will feature multilingual touch screen iPads at strategically located stations so that shoppers may view produce, meats and clothing in an easy manner, comparing the prices in advance, and pay with credit  card or PayPal. This lessons the risk of petty thievery as well.

Local fondas and taquerías are eager to jump on the digital bandwagon. Proposals are afoot for an iApp for online ordering from your favorite taquería, birrería or quesadillería for digital micro payments. This is looked on as a major breakthrough in reducing or even eliminating the perpetual coin change shortage.

As an added bonus, digital subscribers will be able to get combi van schedules on line and make reservations for boarding passes, thus eliminating the uncertainty that some persons experience under the present system. Phase 2 will breakout the digital readable passcards to eliminate the scrambling for change that is so aggravating now.

All involved are enthusiastic for the success of this plan. "If all goes well", said an unattributed municipal spokesperson, "we'll be looking at virtualization technology to allow more visitors to enjoy Pátzcuaro without those stinking tour buses clogging our calles."

Other municipalities are watching closely, and may develop similar programs if Pátzcuaro's is seen as successful.

Remember; you read it here first.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Flash Panned: Hospitality Horrors

From the archives of Surviving La Vida Buena comes this relic, freshly dusted off for viewing. Since this post was conceived, I have learned that Flash does not work on an iPhone or iPod Touch, which is somewhat limiting, but perhaps a blessing in disguise. Perhaps we can look forward to it not working on the iPad.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Hotel Pal, Colonia Centro, Mexico, DF

About a year go, while browsing the useful pages of, I found the Hotel Pal near Metro Station Balderas where Lineas 1 and 3 cross. The location seemed a long way from the usual Centro Histórico attractions, but as we found out, we were able to walk to the "Centro Centro" in 25 to 30 minutes. Having the Metro Station on the corner, near 3 Banamex ATMs, was a real advantage. The other attraction was price.

View Larger Map

I'm not sure how they can offer such tremendous value at modest prices, but I think one way is to eliminate costly frills, eg, there's no bellman staff. The lobby is attractive but minimally furnished with a few easy chairs and a sofa.

The non-uniformed reception staff was business like and correct. They work from behind a large, heavily glass window.

There is a restaurant and bar, but we didn't eat there, as we had other dining interests in the area.

The hotel caters to business travelers, families and tour groups, but also the "drive-in trade", with a "love motel de paso" section accessed via a ramp into the garage. This had no feel of sleaze about it to us. Now, some persons might not like that the TV in the room has 1 or 2 porn channels amidst the regular programming; but our solution was to not watch them. The brief glimpses we had were definitely raunchy.

While we were there, a large tour bus group of older Americans or Canadians arrived by for one night.

The maintenance and hygiene are impeccable, and it's clean to the point of looking sterile. Our room was simply but pleasantly decorated.

I have to mention that the free wi-fi in the room and lobby worked well, and for those guests who didn't bring a laptop, there are two well maintained PC's with Internet connection in a glassed in area to one side of the lobby.

The huge bathroom of our Master Suite, on the 4th floor, was a highlight. The floors were faux marble, and in addition to the usual equipment, there was a bidet and a 2-person jacuzzi tub. (Unfortunately, it took 25-30 minutes to fill adequately, which made me feel guilty for wasting water.)

The capacious shower stall supplied forceful and plentiful hot water. We never had less than 4 or 5 big bath towels. The bath amenities were basic but adequate.

The main bedroom-sitting room was even larger and had a good, firm king bed, nightstands, a desk, a desk chair, a small round table and two wing chairs. The closet was open style, but had many hangers. There were no drawers of any sort in the suite, but the night tables had undershelves.

Illumination was adequate from recessed spot lamps. There were two large windows, which partially opened, and well shielded by heavy curtains. There was some noise at night (music) from the buildings behind the hotel (some of which are humble tenements) but the noise usually subsided in and hour or so. A friend stayed in a streetside, single room, and he had no trouble sleeping, he said.

The TV remote control did not work, and was inconveniently bolted to the wall next to the bed.But since we don't watch much TV, it was not a big problem.

The wi-fi worked seamlessly.

The neighborhood seems safe enough, at least in daylight hours, and we walked everywhere to the north and east, reaching the Centro Histórico in 25 or 30 minutes. However, I didn't want to make the same walk after dark. The Avenida Arcos de Belén looked fine, as did Av. Balderas. Calle Luis Moya might be o.k., but I wanted to stay away from the areas near Mercado San Juan and east to Eje Central 3 (San Juan de Letrán) after dark. We took a cab back after dinner at Restaurante El Huequito in Centro, and it was only $16 MXP.

We found most basic services within a 2-block walk.

The Ciudadela Artesanias Mercado is 2 blocks away. Mercado San Juan of specialty foods, about 8 blocks.

We will definitely stay at the Hotel Pal again when in Mexico City.

Hotel Pal Location. (Fixed image)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Forwarders

I've always hoped that the Internet would be a Force for better Communication and Understanding. Instead it seems to be an Effing Facility for Forwarding Freaks.

I know these FWD: emails are intended to be inspirational, entertaining and informational. But they are clogging my In Box and slowing down the delivery of useful mail.

Just last night, I got one with seventeen (17) attachments, none of which opened in any reasonable time.

I got a PowerPoint slideshow of Great Pictures, complete with an audio track; Funny Commercials, Nostalgia pieces, on how everything was better when we were young. Those are common, and tend to recycle the email rounds.

I get forwards from people I don't know. I get forwards from acquaintances. My sister won't send me a personal email, but she regularly sends me forwards from work. Her firm's Internet policy forbids listening to Internet music because of bandwidth concerns, but she'll send fat PowerPoint files. I don't get it.

Here's a tip: almost all of this vital info is somewhere on the Web. Google it, and if it's so interesting, send the link to your victims recipients.

There are at least two kinds of Forwarders:
• There are those who ask if it's o.k. to forward you messages of interest.
• There are those who don't ask.
But they have something in common; whatever your answer, yes or no, they'll send them. The Forwarders are worse than proselytizing religious zealots. You can neither slam the door in their face, or politely get rid of them.

With religious proselytizers, you can say, "Gracias, pero no tengo interés. Que les vayan bien." and they go.

Fowarders don't get, "Do. Not. Send. Me. These. Forwards." They are compulsive in their behavior. Their mouse inexorably gravitates to the FWD To All: button. They will ALWAYS find some way to ignore what you'll tell them. I think that some get a sense of empowerment in that with a click of mouse, they can spam* everyone in their Contacts List.

*Most of the spam I receive is from people I know send announcements of local events. They either don't realize that they have me more than once on their contact lists and there are those who forward the orginals, to be sure I don't miss the event. So I get 4 or 5 emails with the same subject.

Some send political messages, of both Right and Left viewpoints, all of which presume I'm interested. I'm not. I'm the Don of Apathy.

I found this article on Responsible Forwarding, and it has some good advice. It reminded me of another reason that I dislike receiving gratuitous forwards: list after list of previous recipients' email addresses. Sometimes, my address is included in the CC:, which is Unforfriggiingiveable.

You are obliged to scroll on and on about who sent what to whom, ad nauseam. Somewhere, past all that unecessary dross, is a nugget of some Priceless Gem with which you have been blessed: "Coca-Cola Caps of the mid-20th Century", for example.

I have a big favor to ask.
Please copy this blog, and Forward it to everyone on your Contact List or Address Book. Your recipients will thank you. Mil gracias.

Don Cuevas

UPDATE: I just received an unsolicited file attachment of 958 kb, of a NY Times Digest. Right after I shot off a snappy reply, I noticed my email program struggling to intake some other wad of uselessness.
(Useless? Yes, as I can read the undigested Times on their website, and if I wanted to, I could probably read the digest form on my own.)

As I knew it would already by in the inbox of my Gmail account, I looked in there. The same person had sent it again with an "Oops, LOL!" that the previous wad had the wrong day in the subject line.

God save us.

I'm increasingly in favor of Internet training to obtain an operator's license.

And people who send me offensive "humor" FWDs are going on my Shit Buddy Reject List

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Las Cabañuelas

A friend gave me a brief note yesterday, suggesting that I'd like this new word, "cabañuelas".

The note reads: "Cabañuelas= the first 12 days of January. Tradition says that the weather during these days indicates the climate during the 12 upcoming months of the year."

If the tradition is true, then we are in for a wild and windy time of rain interpersed with hail and mitigated by rainbows.

After nearly two weeks of unseasonably rainy January weather, the streak seemed to have broken yesterday. Though here at la hacienda the world was covered in fog, it cleared by mid morning and the rest of the day was bright, sunny and less cold. There is hope.

Alas! I just looked outside and there are ominous dark clouds to the east.

It's probably
his fault. (I don't understand this next picture, other than it's a "Wanted" poster. I found it in a Google images search for cabañuelas.

Friday, January 08, 2010

What's So Great About Pátzcuaro?

"Uriel" put this question last week to one of our local forums, Michoacan_Net.

What is so great about Patzcuaro? Why do people want to travel there? The ice cream ("nieve") isn't all that great. There isn't much to "really" see. Or maybe i haven't seen the greatness of Patzcuaro.

This elicited a flurry of replies, many tinged with indignation. Most made references to a "warm fuzzy" feeling they had while in Pátzcuaro.

I refrained from answering, as I thought the orginal question more than a little trollish. Besides, why should anyone feel compelled to defend their choice of where they live?

After an interval, our friend, "DrBosque" (who left Pátzcuaro several months ago for the more southern climes) cut through the warm fuzzy haze and replied thusly:

Many of the people we know who have moved to Patzcuaro shared the impression that it just felt right. For most, immediately. I can think of few who would use the word "great," a rather hollow word for a place and culture that's anything but.

It's one of prettiest cities in Mexico, and perhaps the only one that has such an inspiring tree-filled plaza without a church scowling from one end. That earns it a certain greatness in my mind (but then I do tend toward attitude regarding authoritarian religions).

What are you comparing it to? And what caused you to have such unrealistic expectations, that you're so disappointed you have to ask the question so disparagingly?

I replied privately to DrBosque:

I agree, the word "great" doesn't apply. For most of us, it has a nice feel to it. The geographic setting is attractive. You can walk from one side of Centro to the other in 15 minutes; you almost always see people you know. But there are almost no really good restaurants. :-(
The mercado is a true highlight for me. The vibrancy and color animate me. But I wouldn't want to spend more than an hour at a time in there. It can be exhausting.
The historic center's streets and buildings are charming. Outside of a few choice areas, the town is rather less attractive. (See the Libramiento, por ejemplo, athough it's improving.)
It's a good, cheap place to retire!!!

'll add that although we enjoy living out in the countryside, on the peaceful and tranquilo rancho, I need the stimulus of several visits a week to the vigorous and animated scene of Pátzcuaro Centro. A few hours of walking the charming streets, having coffee with friends, shopping, and I'm renewed for a few more days.

Others, who live close in, enjoy gallery shows, concerts, and playing bridge with friends. Everyone finds what they like best.

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Rainbow Gathering

Central highland Michoacán area seldom gets more than isolated rain showers during the months from October to June. This year we've had several rain showers, and today was a soaker.

We were driving home from visiting friends when we saw a partial rainbow along the foot of the ridge. Of course, we could never quite pass under its arc or overtake it.

On the other side of the road, the windbreaks of eucalyptus were austerely beautiful in their clean washed grayness. Sunshine was breaking sporadically through the rain showers, illuminating Los Tres Picos and the other mountains that form the backdrop to the valley.

When we drove up our street and reached our gate, I was amazed by the magnificent double rainbow in the northeast sky. As soon as the car was inside, I opened my camera and took some pictures.

Maybe these rainbows are a favorable omen for the New Year.