Thursday, February 28, 2008
happy birthday, madre
Sunday, February 24, 2008
a cuba sugar
Saturday, February 23, 2008
the flowers that bloom in the -- spring?
Friday, February 22, 2008
the once and future soup
1 jalapeño pepper
1/2 pineapple sliced in chunks
2 cups mango juice
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (red and/or white peppercorns)
This soup has been a hit at my home dinner parties. I would not advise serving it at potluck functions where the diners may be put off by soup that is (1) cold, (2) made out of fruit, and (3) sometimes spicy enough to generate hallucinations of Carlos Castaneda.
If you try it, let me know.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
. . . and checking it twice
- My mother will be 80 at the end of February. She is winding down her real estate business. My brother and I need to get her set up where she will be comfortable, not have any financial needs, and be close enough to medical facilities that accept her insurance.
- The dog. I have swung back and forth on this issue while reading the blogs of other dog owners who have relocated to Mexico. Some dogs accompany their owner; some stay up north. I thought Jiggs might be too old for the trip. He does not travel well because I need to lift him in and out of the truck. He is also very sensitive to loud noises due to his deteriorating hearing. Even the gas trucks would startle him these days. Finding a place to rent in Mexico will also be an issue with a dog as large as the Professor.
- I need to sell my house. The proceeds from that sale will be either the money I use to buy real estate in Mexico or it will be the basis to provide any major medical emergency that may arise. But, this is not the time to sell a house in my home's price range in this part of Oregon. I see a potential solution between this item and the prior two. My mother could stay in my home as long as she chooses. She could then rent her house in Bend. It would also force me to rent in Mexico, rather than buy -- a good thing as I decide where I want to settle. The downside is that the house will act as an escape hatch to the States. I really wanted to cut all ties when I move. If I take this option, it will also let me avoid the task of getting rid of everything before I head south.
- If all goes as planned, I will have my home mortgage paid off in the fourth quarter of this year. That will clear up my sole financial debt. Unless I pay it off, I literally would noy have any income to live on in Mexico. This one is a deal buster.
- I am chair of the Salem Salvation Army advisory board. We are currently in the process of building a new community center. My term runs through April of next year -- the date we originally thought the new center would open. I have promised to stay here until my term expires. (Before anyone says it: I know I am not indispensable. Someone else could easily take over my chair duties. However, I have spent so much time and my passion on this project over the past two years, that I want to see it through to its completion.)
Mom, the dog, and the house could be wrapped into one package. (That has all the makings of a Fox sitcom.) And I could do that today -- or as soon as my mother is willing to take that option. The mortgage and the advisory board are not so easily resolved -- today. However, time will heal both of them. By April of next year, each of these issues will find its own level of resolution, and I will be free to hit the road to Mexico.
I have received some very excellent comments from several of you that I need to just do it -- to hit the road to Mexico. And I can hear Michael Dickson (correctly) noting that I have listed a series of excuses, not reasons. But as an old pilot, I know that every successful landing has an envelope. I just need to find mine.
Now -- I need to get my brother to agree to take the Pátzcuaro scouting trip with me. We should be able to arrange that trip at our mother's birthday party at the end of the month.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
spice girls and mango
Do any of you have a similar recipe? I know some of you are noted for your cooking. Willing to share? (The internet has not been very helpful -- not very helpful, at all.)
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
reading my carmen miranda rights
Monday, February 18, 2008
he's no walk in the park
I added this last picture as a tribute to Andee -- who I still speak and think of often. She loved photographs of doors. And I understand why. They are the very metaphor of life. There are so many, and they all open onto new adventures.
back to the invisible future
Sunday, February 17, 2008
peter piper picks a winner
Saturday, February 16, 2008
i left my heart in accounts receivable
I was going to stop at the clinic when I got to work, but I walked by when I realized the nurses would simply refer me to my doctor or the hospital. Even though I was not feeling in top form, I got everything set up for the work day, fully intending to call my doctor.
My big event for the work day was my performance review for 2007. That went extremely well, better than I had anticipated. I am not big on getting stroked for simply doing my job. But it is nice to hear that people appreciate what I put into my work.
But I never made it to the doctor.
Once again, I have run right into the middle of another of life's little analogies. I have no doubt that part of the reason for my cardiac episode is related to the stress I have been feeling at work over the past few months. In turn, I am extremely well-paid for the work I do. At some point, though, I need to realize that I can only give up so much of my life in exchange for money.
Will Mexico be better than this? In some respects, yes. I will have stresses, but of a different nature. I will probably eat as many unhealthy foods, but not out of nervous habit. And I will have a better opportunity to daily get out in the community and exercise new socials skills and atrophying calf muscles. Perfect it will not be. But better.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
my funny valentine
And then, excuse from pain-
And then, those little anodynes
That deaden suffering;
And then, to go to sleep;
And then, if it should be
The will of its Inquisitor,
The liberty to die.
I recently read an interesting article by Roger Scruton explaining his philosophical objections to celebrating Christmas. He summed it up in one word: kitschification. He was not merely talking about the material kitsch of plastic santas. His concern was the very theological basis of the holiday (the incarnation) had been reduced to papier-mâché platitudes.
As much as I agree with him about Christmas, I think he picked the wrong holiday. Today's little celebration of the life of St. Valentine (or Valentines, since there are 13 of them) has nothing to do with martyrdom -- unless you take into account all of those long-stemmed beauties who give up their very lives in the cause of love. For a manufactured holiday, 14 February takes one of the top prizes. If love can be reduced to roses, truffles, and rank verse, kitsch will rule. But kitsch may be better than the other legacies of this day -- with blood in a warehouse on North Clark Street. Even though both are evidence of a hollow where a heart should be.
So what causes this musing? I cannot be certain, but my visit to the dentist this morning may be cause enough. I had two root canals before noon. They needed to be done -- I seem to clinch my teeth tighter than a pit bull while asleep. (Reason #1 to move to Mexico: my job is eating up my eating utensils.) The pulling of the pulverized pulp was easy enough. The most painful part came at the desk: $1,186 (US) for the root canals, $1,369 (US) for a new crown -- and not the type that will allow me to order the decapitation of knaves. (Reason #2 to move to Mexico: I have read enough to know that the dental care is every bit as good for a fraction of the price.)
Where does that leave us? Perhaps wondering why the multiple St. Valentines were martyrs and why we find honor in eating the little chocolate hearts that symbolize the second greatest commandment -- to love one another. And to remember that Al Capone does not hand out greeting cards at his warehouse.
Monday, February 11, 2008
practicing what we preach
Many things can be said about such occasions. To Kurt Vonnegut, of course, they were granfalloons. The more common reproach (for those who do not simply make up words) is that getting together with high school classmates is simply a chore (or bore).
I cannot speak for others. For me, this was a great occasion. I would not have missed it for almost anything. And it gave me a different perspective on a topic discussed on several expatriate Mexico blogs recently: civility and acquaintances.
We have all encountered people who comment on our blogs who take offense at some slight -- imagined or real. Too often, the reaction is for the "victim" to become the aggressor and to lash out at the original poster -- usually in very personal terms that do not address the original idea.
And we all have talked about what to do. Some have talked about not allowing comments. Or simply stop blogging. Or just letting the rhetoric rip.
But that reminded me of the discussions we had at the table on Saturday. No one dealt in the type of guerilla conversation that has become de riguer (the irony is unintentional) in popular culture. Instead, we dealt with touchy topics (such as, politics) as the adults we are. The reason is obvious: we respect each other as individuals. We can disagree about ideas without demeaning the people with whom we disagree.
I had a similar experience on a blog recently. I commented about the tendency of my neighbors to be more orderly, than spontaneous, and used the generic term "germanic." A German reader took umbrage. However, when I explained how I was using the term, the level of conversation not only cooled, but we have now started exchanging further (polite) comments.
Of course, that does not always work. But if we try to converse without offending and are willing to apologize when we do offend, we could most likely reduce the level of animosity in the blogging community. I am happy to say that the expatriate Mexico blogs are usually very civil. But we need to work at keeping it that way.
Here endeth the lesson.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
as time goes by
I was hoping to learn something of my new retirement land from this book, but that knowledge potentially awaits in the next book on my reading table: Morton Keller's America's Three Regimes: A New Political History.
Saturday, February 09, 2008
barenosed in the park
I am not certain why the financial security bug popped up again. The easy answer to the question is that no one can predict the adequacy of resources because we cannot predict the future. It is even a more absurd argument when I realize that my friends who fear not having money are in the top 10% of America’s wealthiest – making them in the top 1% of the world’s wealthiest. (I made up the numbers, but you understand the point.) This is a perfect example of why Jesus criticized the rich; their reliance on wealth corrodes their spiritual relationships.
Even though I cannot guarantee that I will have any more money if I wait to retire, I can guarantee that I will have fewer years to live in retirement if I keep wasting them at work.
Having dumped the “I need more money” argument, I am ready to head south – soon.
I just took the dog for a walk through our favorite park. The sky was clear, the day was warming, and the dog was being a dog – stopping, sniffing, smelling, licking. He was at one with his world. But he was taking forever to get around our usual course. I kept trying to speed up – he would simply slow down.
Need I tell you, it was a great metaphor for my current life. Jiggs is the boy I should be. He was enjoying what was put in front of him, and he was relishing every moment, every scent. I, on the other hand, was creating a phony schedule – I need to be doing something. Well, I was doing something, but I was doing it badly. When I was a boy, I would have been enjoying the stream and the ducks and the fallen leaves and the voles scampering for their lives – just as Jiggs was. So, I slowed down and enjoyed the walk.
Right now, I am going to join him in a nap.
Several of you have added great comments under “jumping the shark.” You are all correct: I am ready to retire. We are only talking about timing now. I have a couple of personal obligations that I need to tend to. They should be resolved (or under control) between October and January.
And then the boy will run free.
jumping the shark
Monday, February 04, 2008
Sunday, February 03, 2008
timing the two-step
Planned retirement date: within 13 months
Duration: 6 months
Start: May 2009
Duration: 6 months
Saturday, February 02, 2008
The discussion on Viva Veracruz will help me decide whether to get my FM3 in Portland, or wait until I can get it in Mexico. Right now, I am leaning in favor of getting it here in Oregon before I head down. Part of that decision is based on the bureaucracy that Juan and other commenters have faced in Mexico. Clerks at tables seem to be an ever-present symbol of official life.
My mind started wandering back to my days in Greece in the mid-70s. Everything I needed to do required a piece of paper and a stamp -- both of which were available only after surviving long lines and baffling instructions. After giving it some thought, I am convinced that we may have heard the answers to these questions in our economics and sociology classes in college.
The economics piece is very intuitive. Where labor and commodities are priced low in relationship to the time restriction on producing a product, there will be no need for efficiency. Government offices throughout the world are a perfect example of this. Government services usually bear no relationship to any market pricing mechanism. As a result, demand for the services can be static or dynamic, but neither supply nor demand will have any effect on the service because its provision is dictated by a hierarchical system. That system can either be driven by an administrator or by legislative dictate, but the person receiving the service will never be in a position to determine the service's cost or quality. Just try to negotiate a Medicare-dictated medical cost with your doctor.
The same dynamic can be seen in the private sector when availability of labor exceeds the time necessary to complete a job. I was watching some new homes being built in Salem a month ago. The first thing I noticed was the new equipment and how few members are now part of a building team. In Mexico, of course, the building teams are larger and there is little, if any, mechanized equipment. The return on capital is so low that the capitalization would be a bad investment.
The sociology piece cannot be ignored, either. Anglo-Saxon societies revere the autonomy and liberty of the individual. Mediterranean societies revere the community over the individual. A perfect example is how I have seen American and Mexican business people begin meetings. Americans expect to get right to the point. Mexicans (and my Greek friends, for that matter) start with social context -- your health, the state of your family.
The Mediterranean approach has a far more human touch to it, but it will never form an efficient business model. In that system, the customer is always subordinate to the good of society. In the FM3 stories, the good of society is represented by the clerk at her table with her pile of papers and her pencil doing her best to stave off the chaos of unregulated society.