Archive for 2006

December – Month of Memories

Tuesday, December 12th, 2006

Today marks the 24th anniversary of the 2nd, and final time, that my father died. The first time he died was 10 days earlier on December 2nd. He died from self-inflicted poor health combined with bad genes, in other words he had heart disease. He had been sick for years, he’d had several heart attacks and had been in ICU at death’s door once before.

The docs had been telling him to change his eating (meaning quit going to McDonald’s) and to quit smoking (he never did) but he couldn’t or wouldn’t take responsibility for his health. He’d take the 50 different prescriptions the docs gave him but, from what I saw, that was his only concession to his disease.

Many of my childhood memories are of Dad lying on the couch reading a novel, while smoking a cigarette and watching ESPN. He loved ESPN, and cigarettes, and reading. And he didn’t feel well enough to get up and do much.

During the last year of his life I chose to live with him, rather than my mother and sister. Maybe I knew that he was dying and didn’t want him to be alone with that. Maybe I just couldn’t stand my mother in those days. Who knows, probably both.

Four weeks before my Dad died a truant officer showed up at the house and informed him that I hadn’t been going to school, in fact I hadn’t gone to school AT ALL that year. When I came home that afternoon I could tell his heart was racing and his blood pressure was high. But he was incapable of getting mad at me. He knew, better than I did, that the public high school there was garbage and was trying to turn me into a non-thinking conformist robot. I think he secretly delighted in my 10th grade attempt to buck the system.

The school, in their great wisdom, reacted to my prolonged truancy by suspending me for a week. Brilliant! I loved that. But in the end I did have to go back to school wherein I proceeded to get a stomach ache and go hide in the nurse’s office every single day until the day my Dad had his final heart attack.

The day he died I came home and he was not home, he was at his Doctor’s office, some 30 or so miles away. I remember that when he walked into the house I was in the middle of drawing a picture of a deer. I was copying it from a photograph in a book, and it was coming out pretty well. My dad said hi to me and then went off into another part of the house. A few minutes later the phone rang, and I expected him to answer it, but he never did. I went into the kitchen, where the phone was, and picked it up only to hear a click as the person hung up.

I still wonder who that was on the phone.

Then I looked into the living room and saw him, lying on his side on the couch, with his arms up about his chest. He looked like he’d simply fallen over. And I guess he had. When I ran over to him and touched him I knew he was already gone, already dead. And I thought about not calling an ambulance for a little while; but of course I didn’t wait at all, I picked up the phone and called the operator (this was before the days of 911).

The ambulance got there in less than 3 minutes, which I thought was amazing since we lived 15 minutes from the hospital. The paramedics immediately starting barraging me with questions “how long has he been like this?”, “is he on any medications?”. When I showed them the shelf where he kept his medicines one of the paramedics said “holy mother of god” because there were so many bottles. And then he asked me for a bag to put them all in so they could take them along.

I did not, could not, ride in the ambulance. I needed to call my mother and my sister (who lived in the next state) and tell them what had happened. So I stayed behind and made my phone call and then a cop gave me a ride to the hospital. When I got to the hospital the doctor wouldn’t tell me anything, because I was not an adult. Finally when my mother arrived we started getting answers. He was on a respirator, he had little or no brain activity, and that big ‘ole liberal’s bleeding heart was pumping on it’s own. I thought it was amazing that they got it pumping on it’s own. And I remember wishing that they hadn’t. He was gone, why drag it out?

Over the next 10 days people gathered in his hospital room. His brother came from a 1000 miles away, his friends came, and my mother stayed there, next to the man who had left her. And people would say things like “his skin is warmer today than yesterday”. And everyday I would go and see him with his eyes rolling around in his head, not seeing, not there. And everyday my younger sister would wait outside and not go in and see her already dead father with his eyes rolling around in his head.

The day he finally died was such a relief. All that hissing of the respirator and the rolling eyes and the clammy skin would be gone, over, finally over.

My father’s body was shipped “home” to his mother in Kentucky for a military funeral. My father was drafted into the army in that time between the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He hated the army, he hated the government, “bureaucrat” was the worst epithet he could throw at someone. But the army did their duty and gave him a military burial. We did not go.

We stayed and had a Memorial service for him. We filled the Unitarian Church with 200 people who had loved my father. He had been a writer for the local paper and also for a national magazine; he had lived in the area for 13 years and he had had many friends. The Memorial service was full of people reading poetry and singing folks songs, he would have liked it, not one bureaucrat present.

After his death I had no choice but to live with my mother. I also had to change high schools mid-year. The new high school was better, at least academically, than the old one. Though they didn’t have a Latin class which was the only class I had liked in my old school, and they told me that I could not take an Electrical Engineering class because I “would be the only girl in the class”. I wonder how many girls they told THAT too? So I muddled through the rest of the year, getting B’s and C’s in all my college prep classes and refusing to actually STUDY! This new high school had received awards for being the best public high school in the whole state of Massachusetts, and I was getting passing grades without doing a lick of homework! Useless!

In the late Spring my mother did something I will always be grateful to her for. She got me an interview at Simon’s Rock College. I remember the interviewer asking me if I had ever tried in school and I remember telling him that no I never had actually tried. I remember being excited by the idea that trying in school would be WORTH IT! I wrote an essay, took the PSAT tests and I got in. I never did get a high school diploma. I entered as a Freshman in college when I was 15 years old and I never looked back. By my second semester I was on the Dean’s list and my stomach aches were a thing of the past.

I don’t miss my Dad anymore. But I used to wish he could have seen Simon’s Rock. And I still wish that he could meet his granddaughter and his son-in-law, my husband, the bureaucrat who also hates bureaucrats.

Livin’ the Online Cancunense Life

Sunday, December 10th, 2006

It’s party season in Cancun folks. And this is the time of year when I, yet again, realize that 95% of the people I know here are folks that I met because of the internet. In case you you live under a rock, and haven’t noticed, the internet is an integral part of the social climate here.

And it’s normal for me to meet someone and once I start to yapping to have them suddenly interrupt and say “Are you RiverGirl?”. Click, click, all the connections get made and the online world crashes headlong into the reality of a friendly person standing in front of you. It’s a trip and every-time it happens I try desperately to remember what the heck I actually SAY in my blog…but I usually can’t remember anything and so opt for an uneasy sense that maybe I should be embarrassed, maybe or probably!

Well enough on that, here’s an update on some of our recent parties:

Last weekend we got invited to a party at Mexico Way’s apartment, and when I got there I was lucky enough to meet Mexico Way’s hot shit mother and also her cool friend LurkerGirl (when are we having LUNCH?). And I saw my best buddy the AlmightyAdSenseGod. And also good old (old as in trusty not as in OLD) CancunCanuck was there. And probably some other folks from my online circle of friends, but you know, it was a party and so we were, like, drunk at some point.

All I really remember was some moron who claimed to know everything about everything web related and was such a complete idiot that I was forced to turn my back on him and talk to CancunCanuck about sex instead (she knows a lot). What a tough life.

And then yesterday we had 3 parties to attend, the first was the International Women’s Club’s Holiday Tea. I dragged hubby to it with the promise that he would not be the only man there. And he wasn’t, there were a whole 2 other men there! Poor guy was surrounded by 35 women for 3 whole hours.

After that we had a fiesta over at the casa del AlmightyAdSenseGod (Happy Birthday Dani!), where we encountered another motley crew of online buds from the CancunCare forum including Drewbert and notSteveCoker (who swears he’s not a Republican, though no one believes him). We also encountered lots of beer, Jannet’s yummy curry, birthday cake and the most lovely kitten in the whole world. Truly that little guy puts our 9 cats to shame. Shame, shame, shame on each one of them for not being that cute or cuddly, damn spoiled cats!

Then we finally topped off the day with a party for employees of Grupo Ritco (hubby’s Residencial La Playa real estate gig is with Grupo Ritco) at Carlos ‘n Charlie’s. Remind me never to go to Carlos ‘n Charlie’s again!

I know I’m a complete wuss but the floor was sticky and I had on NEW SHOES! And the waiters kept dropping metal trays just so they would clatter noisily to the floor and the service was impossibly slow. And it was so stupidly loud that the only person I could hear was my husband and, well, I’ve already heard everything HE has to say seeing as he talks all the time, even when he’s asleep.

But their biggest crime was that my fake-yarda-sized (2 not 3 foot tall) mango margarita had about one tablespoon of cheap tequila in it. And on top of that those people put too much sugar in everything, the marg had more sugar than booze, the appetizer had sugar in it, the entree had sugar in the sauce. And the cheesecake was so sweet I couldn’t eat it (it didn’t help that it was FROZEN solid also). I am completely sure that the chef at Carlos ‘n Charlie’s must be a major diabetic who is trying to spread the fun! Still, the Grupo Ritco people were all nice, location aside. Hopefully they will have another get together somewhere a little more conducive to, you know, enjoyment!

And looking at my calendar I see at least 5 more parties are scheduled on the immediate event horizon. Some how I’ll just have to muddle through, what a tough life.

I Hate Dan Cederholm

Sunday, December 10th, 2006

Well, actually, I just envy his gignormous talent so much that it HURTS! He recently gave a face-lift to his Simple Bits web site and it’s just full of all those little touches that make the web designer in me drool. I’m just a droolin’ and a droolin’ all over the floor, what a mess.

His use of color is great as is his use of type styles. And his use of {brackets} as his persistent page indicator is just so subtle and effective that I will have to steal it the next chance I get (clients, be ye warned). And his code is so nice and neat and clean that it just makes me want to break out in hives of jealousy.

I saw Dan speak at the WebVisions 2006 conference and he impressed me with how easy he made everything look. And then I read one of his books and it made everything look so easy. Well, screw you Dan for making it look so easy. (And thanks for the inspiration!)

See the Simple Bits site.

OMG Tacky Loud Neighbors Strike Again

Sunday, December 3rd, 2006

Well dear readers, my nasty neighbors have struck again. They’ve had another marathon party, in fact it’s still going on right now and it’s the NEXT DAY!

This time they violated what I had thought was a hard and fast rule in their campaign to be the WORST neighbors in the world; they had their party on a SATURDAY NIGHT! Normally these people have their parties on work nights. They are especially fond of Sunday nights and also Tuesday nights. But this time their party began on a Saturday night. I’m certain that the only possible explanation for this is that somebody’s birthday must have accidentally fallen on a Saturday, so they were obliged to have their party on a non-work night.

I can’t imagine how disappointing it must be for them to know that by having their fiesta on a non-work night they are giving the surrounding neighbors a chance to recover from their torture before we all have to face our own lives and jobs.

Now, this party also began earlier than normal, I think they began to assemble over there and start with their tacky loud music at about 9 pm. And they were in full swing by about 11 pm which was more-or-less the first time that we noticed they were being OBNOXIOUSLY LOUD. My hubby and I were on the couch at 11 pm watching the Fifth Element (well, technically I was watching it for the fifth time and he was SLEEPING THROUGH it for the fifth time) when suddenly we (I) couldn’t hear the movie because the almighty-OBNOXIOUS-ones suddenly cranked up the tacky Mexican music.

These people normally start their parties at 11 pm or midnight, often with live mariachis, but this time they began earlier. I have no reasonable explanation for why they would start early. In the past their parties have been particularly obnoxious precisely because they wait until everyone in the houses around them is in bed asleep before they start. The normal pattern is to wake us all up and then keep us up all night. This time I don’t think anyone had gone to bed prior to the commencement of the LOUD TACKY MUSIC. I think they lost some of their edge by starting early, although I have to admit that by starting earlier they have have managed to torture all of us for MORE TOTAL HOURS. Perhaps that was the thinking, drag it out as long as possible.

For a variety of reasons I did not actually TRY to sleep until about 2 am. Knowing this party was going on was reason enough, I kept staying up hoping that someone would ruin the party somehow and lots of people would suddenly leave. I was personally rooting to have someone suddenly throw-up all over the main table and cover all the food in vomit, and then I hoped all the grossed out people would scurry off to their cars so they could drive home drunk and have to bribe a Cancun cop to get out of a DUI…alas I was not so lucky. At 3 am they were still going strong and I could not sleep to save my life. I tried lying on my side with one ear buried in my pillow and then putting another pillow over my head, on top of my other ear but no matter how much pressure I put on that upper pillow, and no matter how thick that upper pillow, I could still hear every gruesome word of their LOUD TACKY MUSIC and the off-key wailing of the guests which constantly accompanied it! It was pure hell!

Finally after doing some reading on user-interface design, which even in broad daylight, even when I actually CARE about it, is still boring, finally, I got more sleepy than annoyed and I was able to drift off to sleep. I think that was about 3:45 am.

Well, at 5:45 am they woke me up. Perhaps I shifted position and knocked my sound-blocking-pillow off my head? I’m not sure but when I awoke that was it. I knew I was up for the duration. I knew I would be up until the very last loud-mouth over there finally passed out nose-first in the cheese whiz.

So what was my recourse, what was my solution, what salve could I apply to my wounded, exhausted soul?

I decided right away, I would put whatever was left of that horrible party on the internet! YouTube is my friend. And it’s amazing how a lovely sense of peace came over me when I made the decision to post video of the end of their party on the internet. I no longer felt spiteful, I no longer felt angry. Just tired and mildly amused.

Please forgive how the camera in this video shakes a little, that’s because my hands were shaking from having slept only two hours. I tried to find our table-top tripod to put on the windowsill but my husband probably put it somewhere logical, like in his underwear drawer, hence I had no idea where it was. Anyway here’s the first video I took, it illustrates the ugliness we had to listen to all night, though the volume, by this point, was much lower.

A little while ago it started raining. It wasn’t hard rain, and it only lasted for a few minutes but it was enough for the few remaining partiers to decide to head indoors. They had a little trouble with the big woman (seen in my video) because she had finally passed out at the table and they had to convince her to wake up and get out of the rain. That was something of an ordeal. But now they have all retired to the sanctity of their house with its internal-organ-shiny-pink floor tiles (wretch) and (this is the BEST PART) they have SHUT THE DOOR!

I can still hear them in there, squawking, as they sing along to Beatles songs but it’s bearable, sleep-able now. So, at least for now, they’ve done away with the tacky music and aren’t keeping me awake. Too bad it’s after noon!

If you like, you can read my original post about how much I hate these neighbors.

One caveat, I do not think all Mexican music is tacky. But these neighbors have an excellent collection of Mexican and Latin music which I find irritating, tacky, simple-minded, not-deep, musically uninteresting, boring and, did I say, TACKY?!

A Rude Awakening

Saturday, November 25th, 2006

Just before I awoke this morning I was having this weird dream in which I was holding one of my cats, Rudy, and he was covered in garapatas (ticks) and half the fur on his back was missing. I was out at some big mall, located at the top of a very large concrete skateboard park which ran down a big hill, and I found Rudy wandering by and decided that he needed to come home and get healed before I would let him out again. [In real life we have trouble keeping Rudy in the house, he’s always escaping.]

As I’m walking, cradling Rudy in my arms, back to my car I pass some people who are making a movie. They are almost done filming and need only to shoot the last scene. The main characters are 3 assassins or maybe they are terrorists. They’ve been killing specific people for the good of some “cause” which is not clear to me.

In the final scene the target they need to kill is one of their own, the only woman on their little team. The woman is standing in front of a concrete wall by herself. They trick the her into holding two items in her hands which help to guide an incoming missile. Then they blow her head off with the missile, and without moving the camera position they immediately roll the credits right in the blood stain on the wall. It was cinematically perfect, and horrific. And now I know for a fact that I dream in color because the wall was an ochre/yellow color and the blood was bloody.

I’m sure you all think I’m nuts for dreaming this. Normally I don’t remember my dreams and when I do they are boring, even to me. But once in a while I dream about movies being made and those are always my most interesting and vivid dreams. I think that I’m so practical that even in my dreams extraordinary things only happen in the movies.

But the real reason I wanted to blog this morning was not to tell you about my sicko dream, it was to tell you how I got woken up.

I was lying on my right side, with my head on the edge of my pillow. Another of my cats, named Ariel (after Shakespeare’s character in the Tempest), was lying ON my pillow with me. She had her spine up against the back of my head. Then she started scratching her neck with her hind leg; with her spine still pressing up against my head. So every time she scratched herself she bumped up against my head. I woke up with someone bonking me on the back of the head! Maybe THAT’S why I remembered my dream!? Now I know the secret.

Oh and by the way I DO know that Shakespeare’s Ariel was male, but my Ariel is female. When I got Ariel from the Humane Society her name was Oreo, and I couldn’t handle having a cat with such an undignified name. But I didn’t want to change the sound of her name too much, lest I confuse her. Ariel worked as a name, it was similar-sounding enough to Oreo, and it fit her flightly and devilish personality.

Mexican Revolution Day

Monday, November 20th, 2006

My kid is home from school today because today is the day Mexicans celebrate the start of the Mexican Revolution. The Mexican Revolution gave rise to Mexico’s present-day Constitution which among other things is supposed to:

  • Limit the work day to 8 hours. My husband’s shift today as a Federal Agent with Immigration is officially from 7 am to 7 pm, last time I checked that was 50% more than 8 hours! Last Saturday he worked from 7 am to 10 pm which is normal during tourist season (we have about 8 months a year that are considered “tourist season” here). So much for an 8-hour workday, not even government employees enjoy that one.
  • Establish a Minimum Wage. Well, it did do that but the minimum wage is so low that you cannot possibly live on it no matter how frugal you are unless you live in a shack and eat nothing but rice and beans (which is exactly what a lot of people in this country do).
  • Limit Child Labor. I don’t know what the limits are but when I go to the grocery store a child younger than my daughter bags my groceries. I always want to tell them to go home and study and that I’ll bag my own groceries, but instead I tip them well and thank them and put up with it.
  • Restrict Property Ownership by Foreigners. But of course the foreigners have found all manner of ways to get around this one and are now busy buying the coastline from the tip of Yucatan down to the Belize border. Personally I disagree with this restriction anyway, but it certainly isn’t working the way it was intended to.

I have read in numerous places that the Mexican Revolution killed about 1 million people, which was 10% of the country’s population at the time (no wonder people here have so many children). I’ve also read that about 900,000 Mexicans fled to the U.S. during the Mexican Revolution. I can’t imagine the emotional wreck this country must have been after the war ended and roughly 20% of it’s population was either dead or gone to Gringolandia.

So today we celebrate. Well, I’ve celebrated already by sleeping late. I cherish those days when I am not forced out of bed at the crack of dawn. Further celebratory plans include possibly hitting a matinee with said kiddo and having a nice café con leche (oh, I forgot, I would do that anyway). Then I plan to work, work, work for the rest of the day (oh yeah, I would do that anyway too).

In the spirit of celebration I will offer up the below photo of a Mexican Christmas ornament which someone gave me. Incidentally we’ve already put up our Christmas tree, probably ensuring that we’ll be completely sick of Christmas by the time it actually arrives. But I just got the bug the other day and had to put it up. My husband now thinks I’m crazy and tells me so every time he sees the tree (but he secretly loves it).

Here is a decent (but long) article about the Mexican Revolution:
Encarta’s Article: Mexican Revolution

Here’s a much shorter (and less thorough) synopsis of the Mexican Revolution:
MexOnline’s Article: Mexican Revolution

Why I Love Mexico

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006

One of the things I love about Mexico is the people, well, some of them anyway. Today my favorite person is Azucena Puc, who had the vision and the spunk to ask the International Women’s Club of Cancun to help buy a new wheelchair for her cousin.

Azucena’s cousin, Gonzalo Puc, is paralyzed from a birth defect. But despite being wheelchair-bound he sells newspapers in the street and is working his way through school. Gonzalo’s old chair is now too small for him and it’s so worn and broken that it was barely servicable.

So for the last two weeks the IWC has been working to collect money for Gonzalo’s new chair. And yesterday we finally reached our monetary goal and were able to go buy a good wheelchair for this hard-working young man. Today we presented Gonzalo with his new chair and it truly made my day.

But the thing which touched me most deeply was how Azucena fussed over him in that new chair, she was so proud and so loving. Without her he wouldn’t have that chair. My hat is off to her for stepping forward and asking for help! I’m just glad we were able to help.

Here is Azucena with Gonzalo in his new wheelchair:
Azucena Puc with Cousin Gonzalo J. Puc and his new wheelchair

If you would like provide more help to this family please let me know and I will put you in touch with them directly.

More Photos and Info:

Thoughts on Hyperlinks & Reading Rhythm

Thursday, November 9th, 2006

I was running the loop in the Parque Kabah, here in Cancun, this morning and I came around a corner and suddenly the entire path in front of me was underwater. The recent heavy rains we’ve had here have left their mark, and that mark is lots of mosquito-larvae-infested pools of standing mucky brown water in my park (that and all those potholes I keep raving about).

My first reaction was to get upset because running is all about rhythm. And this water in my way was breaking my rhythm. Suddenly I had to pick my way slowly around the edge of this huge pool. That meant a significant off-trail trek involving balancing on tippy rocks, jumping farther than I can and trying my best not to use any of the nearby Che Chen trees to help me balance (Che Chens cause an awful skin irritation when you touch them). Needless to say all this fussing about destroyed my “running mode” which was no fun.

As I began running again I started thinking about work, normal for the girl who dreams in standards-compliant xhtml with some CSS on the side and a little Javascript to spice things up. And I finally figured out why I hate it when web designers and bloggers put hyperlinks in the middle of paragraph text!

The reason is because hyperlinks in the middle of a paragraph break the rhythm of the reader. They are like that stupid huge puddle in the middle of my path when I’m running. They are a diversion from what you were already doing. And they are an invitation to get side-tracked.

When I see a hyperlink in something I’m reading I have to decide whether to stop reading mid-paragraph and go see what this link is about, or to keep reading and visit it later (knowing I may well forget to). If I stop reading and visit the link then there’s a good chance I won’t finish reading the original paragraph (like most people, I’m easily distracted). If I decide to wait to visit that hyperlink until later then I always find myself wondering if I missed something that would add to the value of what I’m reading.

As a general rule it’s a bad idea for a web designer to give users anything to wonder about. Users shouldn’t have to think or wonder about how to get what they need, or get what the author intended, from a web page. It should be obvious. And so from now on my new method will be to put hyperlinks that are relevant to my pages together in a list, so the user can decide to visit them independently of deciding whether to read the content on that page.

A Hurricane 5,000 Miles Across

Thursday, November 9th, 2006

Here in Cancun we recently marked the 1-year anniversary of Hurricane Wilma. Hurricane Wilma was the most powerful storm on record to come out of the Atlantic Basin. At its peak Wilma had maximum sustained winds of 175 mph (though thankfully they slowed before it hit us here), and its hurricane force winds extended out 85 miles from the eye. It also had the lowest central pressure ever recorded in an Atlantic hurricane, at 882 mb.

It turns out that the Cassini spacecraft has recently recorded images of a huge “hurricane-like” storm which is stationary over the south pole of Saturn. This storm makes Wilma look like a little dust-devil. The winds in this storm on Saturn are moving at 350 mph (550 km/h) and the storm is between 2 and 5 times taller than any earthly storm. But to me the amazing thing is that this storm is 5000 miles across (8000 km). I just can’t fathom a storm that big, especially not one moving that fast.

Related Information:

Pothole Madness

Monday, November 6th, 2006

I just want to kvetch about the potholes in Cancun. OMG some of them are so big they could eat a car. If we get any more heavy rain the roads in Cancun will just disintegrate completely.

My commute to my daughter’s school today was an adventure in pothole-dodging. And the north-bound lane coming back is so bad that it took an extra 15 minutes to get home. Normally the cars move along at a decent clip on the way home but the road is so bad they had to slow down a lot. And then many people were driving in the shoulder to get around the slow-pokes, but the shoulder still has huge puddles which sometimes cover huge holes. I gave up on driving in the shoulder after narrowly missing a monster hole that would have surely drowned both of us.

Today was forecast to be worse than yesterday. And my daughter says it rained very hard at her school today. But here in Centro it was nowhere near as bad as yesterday. The rain didn’t even pour in the windows at a 45 degree angle or anything, in fact I don’t think I even had to shut the windows to fend off the rain today.

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