Archive for 2005

Christmas Parties

Sunday, December 25th, 2005

On Friday night we went to a party just outside the city of Cancun. It was the home a a local expat and he’d just finished building it this past spring. The house is at the edge of the jungle and it seems like a serene place to live. I noticed that I could see the milky way clearly and could hear the chattering of myriad forest creatures. And there were no neighbors for the party noise to bother.

We had a great time and the hours flew by. Suddenly it was 3:30 in the morning. I was stunned, I had lost about 4 hours, I must have been really enjoying myself. A group of us left the party in two cars and made our way to downtown Cancun where we stopped off for another beer (I had orange juice since I was driving). I was impressed to see just how much traffic there is in Cancun at 4 am, we had to struggle to find parking. My husband and I finally made our way home at 5:30 am, which is when we’d gotten up the day before, making it a 24 hour day for us. We crawled into bed and stayed there until 3 pm Saturday (yesterday).

Then last night, Christmas eve, just as we were going to bed, our neighbors started having a loud party. Their guests filled the street with cars, parking us in so we couldn’t get our car out. Then they lugged a karaoke machine into their backyard and cranked it up. Since we live in the center of Cancun when a neighbor has a loud party it bothers many, many people.

But these people were seemingly unconcerned with the effect their party had on others. As the night grew longer they turned the volume up and up. By 5 am it was loud enough to wake the dead and they’d run out of tacky Mexican music for the karaoke machine and had started to repeat the songs. My neighbor is a doctor but I can tell he wishes he could have been a Mexican version of that old crooner Lawrence Welk. The neighbor himself dominated the microphone, belting out more than half of the songs himself, about half of them off key. It’s hard for me to imagine liking anyone enough to voluntarily listen to that nasty singing for that many hours. But the reality is that it was not voluntary for me, and I do not like this man much anyway, so all in all it was pretty much torture for me to put up with that party. It was impossible to sleep but staying awake meant hearing all that awful warbling! Finally at 7 am this morning they turned off the karaoke machine, but even now, one hour later, I still hear laughter and people talking loudly over there. It looks to me like all my neighbors will be sleeping away most of Christmas day since we were all up all night.

Tourists and More Tourists

Friday, December 23rd, 2005

I dropped someone off at the airport today and it was PACKED with tourists heading home for Christmas! And my spy at the airport tells me that there have been thousands and thousands of tourists arriving today too. I’ve sure heard a lot of planes go over today. It looks to me like Cancun is back on its feet!

Little Drummer Boys

Friday, December 23rd, 2005

I had a rush of nostalgia today. As I was crossing Av. Kabah in front of Costco today I heard drumming. And there in front of me was a ragtag band of hippie kids in a drumming group. They were intent on their task of filling the block with the sounds of their drum circle. There were 5 drummers and two of them were working their hardest to match each other’s playing beat for beat. I had a moment of deja vu which took me back to the mid-80’s when I was myself a lowly college student and spent altogether too much of my time hanging out with people whose life ambition appeared to be to hang out and play the drums all day.

But somewhere along in there I graduated and had to go get a job…and let’s hope these kids do the same, but until they do I will enjoy their endeavor whenever I’m in the neighborhood.

Cancun: Tourists Returning

Sunday, December 18th, 2005

There’s lots of debate in the the press right now about whether Cancun is or is not back on track in it’s Hurricane Wilma recovery efforts. I’m not really paying all that much attention to how far they’ve gotten in the recovery effort, because I see that everyone here is working as fast as possible. It doesn’t really matter what was promised, they can only do what they can do.

What I know to be true is that the tourists ARE coming back, and in numbers which are becoming signifigant. Yesterday more than 14,000 people came through the Immigration booths at the Cancun airport. That’s way up from a few weeks ago. And it’s a little better than half of what might be expected for an average Saturday during the high season (and December is part of the high season). I consider this to be very strong evidence that tourists are returning to the area. And that their confidence is being restored.

An Audio Interview with a Web Usability Guru

Wednesday, December 14th, 2005

Most people who put time into studying web design, and especially those who care about web usability, have heard of Jakob Nielsen at one point or another. Jakob is a speaker, author and a researcher of web usability issues. He is widely regarded as a leader in the field and I always find myself agreeing with the points he makes.

Today I was very happy to stumble across an audio interview with Jakob. I started listening and immediately found myself furiously scribbling notes. During the interview he discussed the most common usability mistakes web designers make, the value of keeping a site simple, the importance of making content scanable and many other wonderful things. The interview may be found on the IT Conversations web site and is about 10 minutes long.

If you enjoy that you might also wish to check out Jakob’s own web site www.UseIt.com. Jakob’s site is not beautiful, or even very usable, in my opinion, but his articles are always worth reading.


An Anteater on my Street?

Wednesday, December 14th, 2005

This afternoon, just as I was opening my gate, in order to back my car out of the driveway, I saw a very odd little animal limping down the street towards me. At first I thought it was a coati, which is a raccoon-size mammal that is very common here, but it had the wrong markings and the wrong snout for that. I finally figured out that it was an anteater.

But our house is smack in the middle of Cancun? Where in the world did this creature come from I wondered?

When we looked closer we saw that it had an injury to one of it’s front wrists and couldn’t put weight on that leg. But the strange thing was that it had a bandage around the upper part of that injured front leg. So clearly we were not it’s first human encounter.

The poor thing was thirsty and settled down to drink from a pool of water in front of our house. Being that we can’t handle not helping every single injured animal that comes our way we quickly got the cat carrier and began stalking the injured anteater. The little guy was kind of tame and was even curious about the carrier; he stuck his nose in there a little, so my husband was able to just push his little anteater butt and he went right in. Then we put a bowl of water in there with him.

After capturing the anteater we needed to decide what to do with him. One of our two favorite vets has an office within walking distance. But before calling her we decided to talk to the guard on our street, who is paid to know who belongs where (and especially who doesn’t belong). Well it turned out that the guard DID know where the anteater belonged. The anteater had escaped from the home of a yet another vet, who is one of our neighbors. We should have guessed this in the first place since that house always has cages with all manner of exotic animals stacked around in the front yard.

So my husband took the anteater back to the vet’s house. We breathed a sigh of relief that the little guy had someone to take care of him. And thus ended our brief anteater encounter.

Kitty Kat Kvetch

Tuesday, December 13th, 2005

They are always hungry. My daughter will feed them and then 10 minutes later they are able to convince my husband that they haven’t been fed in YEARS!

Now Lilah, my calico love cat, who I found STARVING and skinny as a rail in the Parque Kabah, figured out long ago that she could tear a corner off a newly-bought bag of cat food and have herself a little snack. So we are very careful to immediately pour all new bags of cat food into a large plastic bin with a lid on it.

Well the other night I heard a loud crash downstairs and when I went to see about it I found Lilah had knocked over the plastic cat food bin, knocking the lid off in the process. She was halfway inside the sideways bin with her butt and tail sticking out and she was snacking away. The other cats were all lined up patiently waiting for her to give them a chance to pig out. Damn cats!

A Little Blue Road

Monday, December 12th, 2005

The city of Cancun has been working at a furious pace since Hurricane Wilma to make the city ready for the usual mad crush of tourists who come for the holidays. One of the things they’ve been doing is improving the ciclopista, which is the bike path that runs from downtown out to the Hotel Zone (the H.Z.). The path goes the entire length of the H.Z., which is somewhere around 14 miles, so it’s a big job to fix the whole thing.

I normally run on the ciclopista, starting from downtown, about 2 or 3 times a week. So I’ve been able to see the gradual progress of the new and improved path firsthand.

The city started the week after Wilma by marking off places in the old concrete path where they would put patches. Then the next week they came and cut away the concrete in these spots and put down new patches of concrete.

A few weeks later they came along and put a layer of tar down over the old, newly patched concrete. And early last week, after the tar was down they came along again and neatened up the edge of the tar. I’ve never seen such concern for the edges of a tarred surface, they packed and picked and they raked and they got those edges perfect.

And then, late last week, they put down the final, finishing touch; they painted the whole path with BLUE PAINT! I didn’t see them working on this. Instead I saw it Saturday afternoon as I was driving back to town from an event in the H.Z., a river of blue paint where my new path had been. It seemed to glow and as I drove along it, completely distracted from driving, I imagined that if I came back at night the path would be visible in the dark.

This afternoon I finally got my chance to try out running on the blue path. The first thing I noticed was that the path is only blue in some sections. Some areas are blue but places where the path wiggles or splits around a tree or a flower bed are not (yet) painted. Then I realized that there are lots of places along the path where the grass next to the path is blue from some serious overspray.

What I figured out is that they must have applied the paint with a sprayer attached to a truck. The sprayer must spray an area exactly 9 feet wide because the narrow sections of the path have blue grass adjoining them, and the wide sections of the path aren’t painted fully across.

I was a little embarrassed running on the path, as if my presence there implied some kind of tacit support for its ridiculous blueness. I’m just amazed that after all that hard work, and with all the other things which need to be done here, that the city would waste time, energy and money making the path blue!

Are the tourists going to spend more money in Cancun because the path is blue? Are they going to tell their friends to come to Cancun to see the blue path? Who knows, maybe they will…

A Great Little Graphic Utility

Monday, December 12th, 2005

I don’t know how I ever survived as a graphic designer without this one!

It’s a great little batch processing utility for image files called Bimp Lite. Bimp “can be used to create thumbnail images from your pictures, add a prefix/postfix (with meta variables), rename using a sequential number, change the case of filenames, replace/remove spaces & underscores, flip or rotate images and also apply anti-aliasing, inverse, greyscale and bevel effects” and on top of all that it can stamp a text watermark across your images. The best part is that it can process lots of images at once. Honestly I think it’s too early in the day for a find this good!

Bimp Lite is free to download and you can find it here. Enjoy!

A Mexican Birthday Party

Saturday, December 10th, 2005

In Mexico, attending a kid’s birthday party is a special event. It’s something the whole family looks forward to.

Back in the U.S. when I would throw a birthday party for my daughter the parents of the attending kids would show up and drop off their children; they’d ask when they needed to come back and they’d speed off. One or two moms would stick around to help but people didn’t pretend that it was a”real” party. And the whole thing was over in no more than 2½ hours.

In Mexico, a child’s birthday party is as much for the parents as it is for the kids. It is a real party. So when the parents come with their kids they don’t consider just dropping the kids off, they stick around, they have a beer, and another, they talk too much and they stay.

Yesterday I attended the first birthday of Daniella, the sweet daughter of Steve and Jannet, the owners of CancunCare.com. The party had at least as many adults as children in attendance. Jannet kept stomachs happy with a scrumptious spread of food and Steve kept the cold beer flowing.

In Mexico, no birthday party would be complete without the breaking of a piñata full of candy, and Daniella’s birthday was no exception.

The piñata is hung by a rope over a beam somewhere high, then someone holds the rope and randomly raises and lowers the piñata while someone else whacks it with a bat.

It used to be that a piñata was a clay vessel wrapped in paper and when it broke it would shatter. Nowadays piñatas are made from much safer papier mâché or, more often, layers of cardboard. This means they can be extremely hard to break open. The parents always get the little kids to take the first few hits on the thing. But eventually everyone gets tired of watching the unbreakable piñata take the children’s minor blows. So at some point someone always suggests that a stronger person give it a whack.

Well Daniella’s piñata was virtually unbreakable. All the kids took multiple whacks at it but it showed no wear at all. Finally Steve, who towers over Mexico with his tall English frame, started hitting the thing. He hit it and he hit it harder and he hit it again and harder. And the thing would not break. And he hit it harder and the person holding the rope stopped moving the piñata so he could take better aim, and the thing wouldn’t break. Then he hit it so hard that the bat broke. But he was driven and he picked up the longer end of the broken bat and he starting the beating anew. He beat the hell out of that piñata and I swear I thought he was going to pull out his back. Then he gave it one final massive blow and crack! The rest of the bat broke in his hand! At that point he gave up.

I was laughing so hard I almost peed. And I had to walk away at that point, not able to watch the inevitable next step which was that someone had to start ripping the unbreakable piñata apart by hand, tearing it limb from limb.

The kids came to me a few minutes later laden with the deceased piñata’s candy, which was seemingly no worse for wear despite the intense mixing job it had been through.

After about 4½ hours my daughter came to me and said that she was partied-out and wanted to go home. But a few minutes later she rallied and was able to find another, second, or third or forth wind and keep going awhile longer.

Finally, after about 6 hours the kids were all exhausted, the beer was just about gone and the parents were tired of their tired children. Everyone packed up and called it a party. Another sucessful Mexican Birthday Party!

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