Thursday, June 30, 2011

Same Thing Happens Here

I read this in Forbes today about blacks and the disparity of the drug war.  Same thing happens here in Mexico.  In Monterrey they ransack and hunt down the local neighborhood dealers, make news reports out of a poor sack that got stopped in his beat up jalopie because he had a joint or two and ends up in jail for years because he can't pay the 50 dollars bail to get out.  I've said before that Carlos Slim pays for thousands of those poor guys every Christmas so they can be freed and spend the holiday with their families.  On the other side of town, where the fresas and the juniors are, the bars and antros (discos) are open game for drug sales and use by Mexico's middle and elite class.  Once in awhile, they get caught but usually are left to do as they wish.  Sinful.  I still don't know where I stand on all this other than it has been a real battle that "I" believe we are making some ground.  They are pulling in the top guns every week but it is creating lots of smaller and more violent groups.  Punks that have no education and lack leadership skills.

BTW, another story but related and one that up to now I find nothing on the American newscasts:  the police in Ajo, Arizona let a major kingpin slip through Mexican authorities hands in 2009 and it is just now surfacing.  Disgusting.  What were they thinking?

•Black men are sent to state prisons on drug charges at 13 times the rate of White men.

•Drug transactions among Blacks are easier for police to target because they more often happen in public than do drug transactions between Whites.

•The disparities are particularly tragic in individual states where Black men are sent to federal prison on drug charges at a rate 57 times greater than White men, according to Human Rights Watch.

•More than 25.4 million Americans have been arrested on drug charges since 1980; about one-third of them were Black.

•The Black populations in state prisons are majorly disproportionate: In Georgia, the Black population is 29 percent, the Black prison population is 54 percent; Arkansas 16 percent -52 percent; Louisiana 33 percent-76 percent; Mississippi 36 percent-75 percent; Alabama 26 percent -65 percent; Tennessee 16 percent -63 percent; Kentucky 7 percent-36 percent; South Carolina 30 percent-69 percent; North Carolina 22 percent-64 percent; and Virginia 20 percent-68 percent.

•According to the Global Commission on Drug Policy arresting and incarcerating people fills prisons and destroys lives but does not reduce the availability of illicit drugs or the power of criminal organizations.

•The average daily cost per state prison inmate per day in the U.S. is $67.55. State prisons held 253,300 inmates for drug offenses in 2007. That means states spent approximately $17 million per day to imprison drug offenders, or more than $6.2 billion per year.

This war disproportionately targets blacks and other minorities and the poor across all racial demographics.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

We Have 12 Volts!

I know for most of you this is not a big deal but for this rocket scientist (not) it is a real triumph.  I worked slowly on this because I didn't want to short anything out.  Keep in mind, it isn't like we have an rv dealer right down the street much less to say in the whole republic.

To was the day and I decided to just do it.  I didn't have all the necessary tools, clips, etc. but I was determined to get it down.  Black electric tape, the website "The 12V Side of Life", lots of sweat and I got the job done.  Once everything was hooked up, I went in the trailer to turn the breakers back on.  First I turned on a ceiling light so that when I threw the switch I would know immediately if we had 12 volts.   Well, I threw the switch and nothing.  Oh sh--! I thought.   Then I remembered that Funfinder now includes a battery cut off switch.  I reached under the cabinet, flipped the switch and on came the light.  Yahoooo!  We have 12 volts.

Also, tomorrow I am picking up a new Guia Roji.  Our old one was a 2005 so I threw it away.  We really don't use maps but I decided it is time to get with the program.  So along with our Church book, Guia Roji and maybe a download of Mexico maps to our TomTom.  They want 50 bucks for the download and to be honest I haven't been too impressed with TomTom in the U.S.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Preparing Our Trip Route To Jalisco

We are down to about two weeks from our scheduled departure from Monterrey to Jalisco.  I am so excited I could burst.   Things are just falling into place and in more ways than one.

First off, I am in my physical exams period.  I had a complete work up last week.  Everything looks good from that standpoint.  I could do a little better on the old cholesterol but that I can drop by reducing some of my favorites in my diet.   Next week I am scheduled to see the cardiologist.  He still charges the same for a complete work up including x-rays, blood tests and stress test.  I am anxious to see how I have improved as I have been working out more, lost a couple of pounds and have been consistent with my Q-10 supplement not to mention my reduction of alcohol (don't fret, it won't affect any New Year's Eve plans).

Don't ask me about the batteries for the rv.  Remember the lights in the slideout and all the work I did only to find out I was using the wrong bulb?   Well, as you know I bought the batteries and they sat in the trailer for a week.  Today I bought the missing connector and the cables to connect the two 6V batteries.  I took off the LP bottles and bingo!  There it was.  If I can explain this so it makes sense, the green cable comes out of the trailer and has the built in 20 amp fuse.  This is supposed to be spliced into the black cable which is the positive side.  After removing the bottles I found the other end of the black cable with connector taped to the frame.  So all I need to do is buy a crimped connector to put the two cables together.   Bingo.  I'll do that tomorrow.  Amazing things I do.   I said on the Funfinder forum that it is amazing we are able to have rv'ed for over 12 years without any major problems.  I guess it shows you how easy it is to rv :)

As for our stops on our way to Jalisco we were thinking the easiest would be to stay at the Las Palmas Hotel in Matehuala, SLP.   Now after some research, we may have found the ideal place and it may be a boondocking spot.  I am asking for your comments because I am not a long-haul driver.  We usually drive from about 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.    About 140 kms south of Matehuala is a place called "Guadalcázar El Realejo". 

This small town has a camping spot along with cabin rentals and is known for mountain climbing and their caves.  Check it out!   My question is, on our first day I like to make ground.  We would leave on Sunday the 10th about 7 a.m.  to avoid any traffic which should be nil considering the day and time.  Passing through Monterrey to Saltillo and down Hwy 57 passing Matehuala to Guadalcázar El Realejo.    Do you think 500 kms is realistic for a first day?  I'm thinking about 7 hours total by the time we get through Monterrey, taco stop at the toll booth on the 57, gas and potty stops.

Work keeps coming.  I got a call today to work in Nogales this Thursday and Friday.  I figure I have time, it's easy and the pay is good. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

FM2 Reposición - Positive Changes In Immigration

I posted this yesterday on regarding my renewed FM2:

This last week I had the pleasure of renewing my FM2, inmigrado or permanent resident. I have had that status now for 15 years and my poor little booklet literally fell apart and had no more room for the stamps I receive each time I leave and reenter Mexico (a total of 140 days allowed per year outside Mexico ). They now offer an ID card instead which is much more convenient as well as resistant.

After all these years of not visiting the office on official business I was wondering how long this would take. Well, to my surprise, they asked for four things:

a payment

a copy of the cover and picture page from passport and FM2

passport photos

copy of the payment

I received my ID this morning. It was ready yesterday. Less than a week. All professional employees, no bureaucracy, and everyone wore a smile. There are no lines anymore, in fact there are no chairs to wait in, no television to watch. In my two visits, it was a total of 45 minutes.

If other Mexican state and federal departments could run with such efficiency we might get somewhere not to mention those of other countries. Ever try to do something at a Texas state office in San Antonio? Forget it.

I asked about notifying them about retirement. They said I need to give them a thirty day notice in writing, no income statements, copies, nothing. It might be wise for those who would like to spend more time in Mexico to consider an FM2. Once you obtain "inmigrado" status (five years after recieving the FM2) you are here for life and no hassles. I say consider doing it now because nobody knows what changes will come in the future.

I applaud our local immigration office for their excellent service and hope that anyone who enters Mexico has the same experience. I am sending a letter to our local paper with the above.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Getting the Rv Ready

This heat sucks.  July 10th couldn't come any sooner.  I have given up on the yard.  It is a waste of water, money and time.  In Texas there are so many restrictions for watering that the yards are all brown so why should I worry about it here.  The rains are coming on Wednesday from the tropical storm that is hovering over Merida.  

Today was a productive day.   I purchased the 6V batteries from Costco.   1300 pesos each.  Still cheaper than hauling them across the border having to pay taxes on them.  I can also return them easily for replacement anywhere in Mexico so that is a plus.  We don't make any major purchases in the U.S. anymore.  Too much trouble if something goes wrong.  Here they are:

I also had to redo the shelf for the window air conditioner that fits in the bedroom slide.  Good news, it works beautifully and cools the bedroom.  I know after the sun goes down, it will cool most of the trailer too, no doubts there.  Bad news, the slide is much more fragile than the structure on the frame and it sits over our heads.  So it is more noisy than it was in the other trailer.   Such is life.   If it means sleeping in comfort when we have to, it is worth it.   Could be worse.

I also bought the cables for the batteries.   I still need to get the cable clips or eye connectors for the cables running from the trailer.  AutoZone only sells them in packages and I wasn't sure which size to buy.   I can pick them up individually at a local hardware store here in our town.

So here I am, running around all day doing my errands happy as a lark.  In fact, I sent Juan a message to ask him if his day was going as good as mine.  I came home, took a nap, and when I got up I walked into the kitchen and straightened up all the stuff I had on the countertop.  I had my driver's license, CostCo card, my RFC, and where was my debit card?  I last used it at AutoZone.   I called them and of course they know nothing.  So I transferred the money via internet into another account.  I don't want to cancel it in case they have it at the AutoZone.  No biggie, but a hassle.  Funny though, I had stopped at HEB before that, and the checker had problems swiping the card.   I laughed and told him I had had it forever.   I guess I created my own destiny :).  If I have to go to the bank the only hassle is to go to my original branch which is in the center of Monterrey.  I get a new card same day.   I was hoping to add it to my collection of "me".   A wierd secret, I keep my cancelled stuff, including my hair when I have gone from long to short, any teeth I had pulled, molds of my mouth from the dentist, all have little tags with dates on them (OMG,  TMI).

Friday, June 17, 2011

Taking A Beating
The heat is relentless.  We are now finishing our second month and it won't let up.  We have had a couple promises of rain but they have all fallen through.   I know it isn't only here but all across the continent.  We are so looking forward to our trip to Jalisco in a couple of weeks.   Here is the weekend forecast through Wednesday.

Máxima: 104°    Mínima: 74°
Máxima: 104°    Mínima: 73°
Máxima: 98°    Mínima: 74°
Máxima: 102°    Mínima: 75°
Parcialmente nublado
Máxima: 101°    Mínima: 77°
Escape the heat and that has a double meaning.  This week has been one of the bloodiest yet in Monterrey.   I have a very good article I would like to share but it is in Spanish and I just don't trust the on line translators.  Here it is for those wish to read it, you can use your own translator.
In English the title is:  The Root of Violence  it is about 20 pages long and includes some interesting charts.  It is actually an analysis of what is going on here in Mexico and it says that the large organizations have been hit so hard and their leaders captured but they can no longer function and have broken into many smaller groups.  In other words, becoming rag tag bands of very violent people fighting to win territory.  Check it out.  Maybe someone can find it in English.  There is hope in all of this.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Replacing My Old FM2

I finally did it.  My poor old FM2 booklet was worn and faded after 12 years not to mention full to the brim with "entradas y salidas".  For those that may not know, even though I am a permanent resident I still have to check in and out each time I leave and enter the country.  They will be counting the dates on the stamps in my book this week to see if I violated the rules for any year of the last 12.  The rule indicates that I may not be out of Mexico for more than 140 days per year.  So far so good.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the office to get the list of requirements to replace my FM2.  Now it is a carnet or ID card, magnetic strip and computer chip.  I will still have to check in and out on every trip outside Mexico.   The following is a list of requisites for replacement:

  •  5 passport photos; 2 portrait and 3 profile
  • a payment to the government of 1292 pesos
  • copy of my U.S. passport and FM2 (cover and first two pages of both)
  • online application
The only thing that needed three copies was the payment from the bank (more on that in a minute).  The first day I went I had a run in with one of the agents.   As you enter there is an information desk.  Very friendly bi-lingual people.   They direct you to a counter, no more waiting for hours in line.   I walked right up to the counter and she asked me want transaction I wanted to make and we began the process.   I handed her the payment and then trouble began.   Without saying anything else, she said, "esta mal" (it's wrong) and she tossed it back on the counter.  Well, "esta mal" is very impolite and shows lack of courtesy and education.   So I asked her what was wrong and she said the payment I made at the bank had an error. I looked it over and found nothing wrong.  She said that I had my mother's maiden name on the payment.  Well sure I do.  At the top of the payment slip it says; Registro Federal de Contribuyente (RFC), CURP, father's last name, mother's last name, first name, second name.  For the last 26 years by law, all my legal documents use father and mother's last name.   The agent said it had to appear as it does on my passport.  Fine, I can change it but don't treat me like shit.  I started to see scenes from the immigration video that went around recently from Spain.

Okay, I drove 50 kms back to the bank the same day and they were able to fix it.  The next day (yesterday) I went and got up to the counter with everything in order.  The guy who helped me was very nice and he said it should take a week to get the new ID.  Let's see what happens.

As a side note, I have nothing better to do but pester people.  I purposely left some things blank to see if they will catch it and reject my application.   My reasoning will be that the agent asked for the documents, reviewed them, and I see him as responsible.   Nothin' like yankin' a chain. 

I have to say, the system is truly streamlined now.   They are doing a good job here in Monterrey.   I will be checking on line everyday for updates from the office to see if everything is going well.  They will notify me on their webpage with a special code and password they gave me.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Not Sweating The Small Stuff

I got home yesterday afternoon about 6:30.   The trip home was uneventful but I was able to see more sitting on the other side of the bus.  Also, the plane ride from Guadalajara takes you over the west to east route and the view of the mountain ranges is awesome.   So much to explore but how would you ever get there?  I would love to have a helicopter.  Remember the one that was built as an rv and fully equipped inside!  That would really be something but I would have had to have chosen a different profession, one that made big bucks.

Today I did my reports from the weekend and took them to the Multipak office twice.  First time their system was down and then they close for lunch.   I drove over to Juan's office and dropped off some stuff that he had left at home.   His windfall check came in today and he deposited it .  It took two years to fix the problem he had with his name.  One letter was wrong and that screwed up the whole thing.  Didn't matter anyway, the money was earning interest all along.  

So now to get the rv ready.  I'm thinking like we are going around the whole continent on this trip and I don't want to forget anything.   It is sinking in slowly and if something doesn't get done it really doesn't matter.   We can do things there as easily as here.   Today I made a list of things to do.

I called the factory about the wiring on the battery.  They blew me off saying they had no idea as models change from one year to another.  I posted another question on the Funfinder group and I think I have an answer.  The green cable, for those that remember, is spliced into the black cable on other owners' Funfinders.   But what I want to know is what that darn cable with the fuse is for.   I'm complicating the issue.

On my list for this week is to buy the black rubber flooring material with the circles on it, not a clue what it is called in English.  That is to line the outside compartment so it doesn't get fowled up with tools, hoses, and the like.  LEDs for the bedroom slideout now that I have that figured out and some screws to screw down some diamond plate that didn't get done at the factory, and to build my black water hose compartment.  All easy stuff but I need to get crackin'.

I also want to go by immigration tomorrow and get my new FM2 ordered.   I don't have to have it but I have a feeling that we will return home for a week in August and might just head to the mountains in the U.S.  I'm thinking of Guadalupe National Park and Franklin State Park in West Texas.   We love Hwy 90 heading west and that will take us there stopping at Amistad, Seminole Canyon, and Balmorhea.  I would really like to make a stop in San Antonio and have the a/c unit at the house there checked out while I am there.  I don't like things that don't work well.

We are really excited about all that is happening. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Return Trip From Valle de Juarez - Hacienda Contreras

What a trip!  I can't wait to get back here and spend the summer.   I was nestled warm in my bed in the old fifth wheel they rent out when I woke up this morning and it was freezing cold.  Finally,  a summer escape from the heat of Monterrey.

Sal and Barb are wonderful people and we had a great time.   We went into Valle de Juarez last night for dinner at Sal's cousin's restaurant and had some delicious enchiladas de pollo con mole with a cold beer.  We chatted up a storm and as usual I may have talked to much.   We tooled around town and they showed me all the things there are to do; where to eat, where to shop, where to go to feed their dog and use the internet. This morning we headed out for barbacoa de borrego.  Wow, we are going there when we get back.  The best corn tortillas around not to mention the meat.

They have a wonderful rv park and I hope that over the weeks we are there we can share with everyone what a great place Mazmitla, Valle de Juarez and the Hacienda Contreras Rv Park are.   The air is so clean and fresh, the rain washes away any hot air, the little that there is.  

Here are some shots of the rv park and Mazamitla.  I think we will be spending a pretty fun and interesting summer!

First time I ever slept in a fifth wheel. 

Views of the rv park.

Plaza in Mazamitla

More later, I'm ready to board the plane here in Guadalajara for Monterrey.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

On My Way To Mazamitla

Just getting on the bus.  The adventure begins.  I will be posting pictures as I have signal.  The bus station in Guadalajara is enormous.

Can't wait to meet Sal and Barb.  I hope they like me.  Yikes.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Just Under The Wire

Sweating it out would be a nice way of putting it.  As you know, I am an avid reader of my electric meter.  We only get 800kwhs for every two months before being kicked up to the commercial rate.   This bill, I was afraid I had read the meter wrong.   The bill came via email yesterday and we were at 719kwhs.   Wow, that we had some room to spare.   The bill is 1,291 pesos.  Had we had 801kwhs it would have been 2,350 pesos.  

We are now in the summer rate (oh god bless you CFE you are so kind) basic 250kwhs at .64 centavos, intermediate 150 kwhs at 99 centavos, excedente 399 kwhs at 2.54 pesos and once you hit the 800 mark you are billed at the commercial rate of 3 pesos per kwh for the whole bill.  

The good news is that in a month we will be sitting in the mountains of Jalisco enjoying chilly nights that require a jacket.  Fantastic.  And here at home, the electric won't be an issue.  Tomorrow I will be in Guadalajara for the weekend speaking at a state convention and then Saturday night I will visit the rv park where we will be staying.   I am looking forward to meeting the park owners Sal and Barb.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Tomorrow The Caravan Arrives

Tomorrow the caravan with Sicilia arrives.  He is the Mexican poet whose son was killed by organized crime.  He is pursuing the issue by taking a caravan from Mexico City to SLP, Monterrey, Saltillo and then ending up in Ciudad Juarez.

We will join the march tomorrow around 17:30 in the main plaza downtown.  More and more people are coming forward, looking for answers and solutions.  There are many proposals on the board.  New spots are appearing on television warning Mexico's youth of the dangers of participating with the delinquents.  Finally.

More on that tomorrow, I am taking my camera with me.

The weather continues to be hot and the yard is really taking a beating.  The watering continues but sometimes it seems futile.  As I said I fertilized last week in hopes the roots will retain more water.  Wait and see.

The rv is getting closer to ready for the big trip south.  This week they will give an estimate on the shower doors.  I am purchasing the batteries on Thursday.   I will be working in Guadalajara on Friday and Saturday at a convention.  I am hoping to take a bus to the rv park where we will be working for the month of July.  Can't wait. 

I need to figure out my battery hookup though.  I've got three wires.  One white, one black and one green with a built in fuse. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Open Borders

I found this video on The Future of Freedom Foundation this morning.   Very interesting.  I've always believed that the employer should be to blame not the illegal worker.  Here, the thought is that neither is guilty.  This goes back to some of the beliefs and theories of the economist and intellectual Milton Friedman.  It appears that Milton has been right on all along.  I wonder why we don't listen to people when they present the facts and prove their validity.  Instead we follow people who lead us down the wrong path for their own well-being.

As for today, the workers finish up the work on the wall; repairing the cracks and painting.  The leak in the pool is not where I thought it was and we followed the line all the way to the filter with no luck.  It isn't a major leak although I hate wasting water.  This will be put on the back burner until next year when we will probably do some pool remodeling.

The heat has let up a bit and now hovers around 97F during the day.   At night, after around midnight, I woke up and opened up the windows.  I had shut down the a/c around 10 p.m. when I went to bed.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Getting An Early Start

Workers are coming today.  The leak is back in the pool and I'm sure it is in the same place.  Having a large tree next to the pool is not the ideal situation.  We had a leak there a few years ago and they will open it up again, look inside and find that the tree roots have attacked the pvc pipes.  The patch that was  done on the decking never matched anyway so I am hoping these birds can do a better job.  These are the same guys that did the remodel on the bedrooms. 

They will also repair some cracks on the backyard wall and repaint.  This guy is a real stickler for using good paint so I know we will have a little discussion.  Another story but one that was interesting about human psychology.  

Speaking of remodeling the bedrooms, the issue was never resolved with the insurance company.  The claim is almost a year old.  We have threatened to sue them and they are now responding saying the claim went by the wayside.  That means that all the calls and emails to our agent were never acted upon.  Since we are going to be here for awhile, I want to get this done so that we can finish the rest of the house, squaring off the arches in the living room, changing the stucco to plaster and putting in laminated flooring.  A more modern look. 

I'll post some pics today as the work progresses.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Another Use For Duct Tape

Today I did my weekly chore of cutting and trimming the yard.  The heat really gets to you when it's 90 degrees at 11 a.m.   I cut the grass with a Craftsman lawnmower we bought 10 years ago.   Great mower and one that has served us well.  It is the mulching type and that is where the duct tape comes in.  I didn't take a picture and I will never show anyone what I did but I taped that sucker up good. 

On the mulching mower there is a flap that goes over the outlet where the grass is thrown, also where you can attach the opening for a grass bag if you choose.   Well, over the years we have had a neighbor's worker cut our grass.  It was always an off and on thing because he is a little older than I am and is very set in his ways.  I don't feel right telling him how to do things but there was always one thing that really hacked me off.  I would come home and find him cutting the grass and he had removed the flap that makes it mulch.  I would tell him he needed to keep it on there and he would explain that it wasn't part of the mower and it would burn up the motor because the mower couldn't breathe.  Well, it says on the mower "Mulcher" in English.  Very easy to translate to "Moler" but he never got the concept.  I would find the flap tossed on top of a shed, on the table under the palapa etc.  Why is it so important?  For one thing, you don't have to rake or use a bag, second, it helps to fertilize the yard, and third, it doesn't throw grass into the pool which is a nightmare to remove.   In the end, one day the flap disappeared.   I know he threw it away. 

Today I made a flap out of a clorox bottle and taped the sh-- out of it.   It didn't hold throughout the whole job but it did what it was meant to do around the pool.   I ordered one from Sears here in San Nicolas and am going there today to see if it has come in.

One of the problems is that Jerry (we'll call him that for today) like many other Mexicans never finished primary and can't read.  Numerous times I have had to help him with his cell phone and when we first knew him we would send him a text message from out of town.  He would say he never got them.  Well, of course not, he can't read.  His kids didn't finish school either.  I asked him one day why they didn't and he said they just didn't like school.   So his two grown sons work as security guards making 100 dollars a week and that will be their lives until they die.  Jerry is also the same person who believes that the size of a person's brain determines how smart they are.  I'm not joking here.  I don't know how we will ever overcome the problem of education in Mexico.  Everyone wants their kids to go to school but there are no examples in the family to encourage them to do it.  Grandpa didn't go to school, my dad didn't finish primary, so why should I go to school.  In my case, I always worked and went to school.  Even in high school I cut grass, shoveled snow, worked a part time job to pay for my books and tuition.

On another note, I ran across an interesting article today.  It is about teachers salaries in Mexico.  They are in the top part of the list of teachers pay in the world.   I keep telling people but they never believe me.  You can read it here:

The article is in Spanish but you can see the numbers.  What it says is that Mexican teachers with 15 years experience (in secondary) make an average of 21,000 dollars a year.  Of the 30 countries surveyed, República, Checklovakia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia are the lowest paid.  BTW, those numbers do not include their juicy Christmas bonus where here in Monterrey that amounts to 5000 dollars.