Monday, March 31, 2014

Tequila anyone?????

I finally finished the first draft of my second book in the series, and was feeling pretty good about myself this weekend.  I was up early doing my morning ritual of speed-walking a mile and a half or so; and decided yesterday that I should finally try out the pool in the back yard.  The landlord has been keeping it clean all winter, but no one has really used it yet.  And it was hot yesterday, about 37 C.

After a little siesta in the afternoon, I heard activity coming from outside near the pool area, and one of our German students that lives in our casa, was skimming the pool and one of her girlfriends was already in, soaking up the coolness of the water.  I quickly changed and headed down my spiral staircase to the back yard (my apartment is new and the only one on the second floor of the house).

I learned that the German tenant had a visitor from her home country for a few weeks, and they were too hot in their room; which faces directly into the afternoon sun, unlike mine.  It wasn't long before the student had to leave to Skype her family back in Germany, and that left her friend and I to get acquainted.  We spent almost two hours chatting in the pool, and of course I had a beer to keep me even cooler.  She got my whole life story, children, writing, career and everything.

After the pool, I had a visit from Raul, my landlord.  He and his girlfriend, and everyone else I assume, had a meeting a decided that they would get food and beer and come up to my veranda for an evening dinner and party - if it was alright with me, of course.  How could I say no?  Even though I had planned on having a quiet evening, a quiet party was nothing to worry about.

I drove the gang to Tres de Mayo and we bought ribs and chicken from a carbon vendor (one chicken for 70 pesos including rice/tortillas and onions/chiles).  I had already eaten after swimming, but bought a chicken anyway - I love barbecue chicken in Mexico.  When we got back to the casa, I headed upstairs to get the tables and chairs organized and open another beer.  I put my chicken in the fridge for another day.

Everyone arrived, and Raul and his girlfriend had their ribs and rice with Bloody Mary's to drink. They love the Lea & Perrin's I brought from Canada.   Later they switched Paloma's (tequila with squirt, and salt around the rim).  The two girls are vegetarians and brought a salad and tortillas.  We later convinced them to try a shot of tequila, but they didn't particularly like it.

However, I do, and I proceeded to have about four Bandera's, (meaning flags, containing tequila, limon and Sangrita) as the conversation bantered around.  After lots of laughter and food and drink, it was about 11 PM when everyone finally left.  I was glad we got together, but also happy that I was able to get into bed at a relatively early hour.  Besides I had to do my morning walk today and get to work writing Book #3.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Driving in Mexico - Traffic Circles, my favorite...

I hate traffic circles, wherever they may be.  I have been told the rules are simple, but I just can't seem to get them to stick in my brain.  People that have grown up with them all their lives seem to have a good understanding of them, but I still don't get them.

Now throw traffic circles into bustling Mexican cities, both one lane and two lanes (if you can even tell because of the lack of painted lines), and you've got problems.  Especially for new drivers in Mexico such as me.  Okay, I think I understand that if you are entering a two lane traffic circle, and you plan on making a right turn or going straight through, you should enter in the right lane.  If you plan on circling around and exiting on one of the left streets, you should enter the circle in the left lane.  Right?

Also in Cuernavaca, the people entering the traffic circle have the right of way.  In Mexico City the people IN the traffic circle have the right of way.  I'm not entirely sure about other cities like Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun and Acapulco.  I'll investigate and let you know about these, and other cities, at a future date.

As a final note, and not exactly on the topic of traffic circles, I just had to mention this little quip.  My landlord, a wonderful source of information for me and these blogs, told me a story recently about a problem with a very busy street in Cuernavaca.  I guess people were complaining to the Government that there was too much traffic on this one particular street.  The Governor gave this matter some serious thought, and finally reached a solution.

He had the city crews get out some paint (I'm sure they had a lot of it) and repaint the lines on the street.  Instead of three lanes, he had them paint three lines to create four lanes.  He didn't widen the street or put in turn lanes or anything like that; they just painted in another lane.  Everyone was happy.  I love Mexico....

Saturday, March 29, 2014

I'm really learning to drive well in Mexico...

I must have at least 50 hours of driving practice now, mainly in Cuernavaca, and I think I am starting to get a handle on how things work in Mexico.  I can now almost completely ignore STOP signs, and my landlord (Raul) actually complemented me on it yesterday.  I was so proud.  I can't wait to get back to Canada and try it.

As I have mentioned before, although there appear to be lots of rules on the driving test itself, once you have your license, none of these seem to really apply.  The main rule of driving is to follow the flow.  For example, if everyone ahead of you comes to an intersection and plows right through, whether there are cars coming from either side or not, you do the same.  Don't try to figure out the rule, follow the crowd.

Another important thing to learn is to watch the other drivers eyes and body language.  I know this may be difficult as you are dodging potholes, topes, dogs, children, buses, taxis and a variety of other obstacles;  but when you meet another car and are not sure if you should go or not, look at the other driver.  If he has acknowledged you with his eyes and stopped his car - go.

One final important thing I have learned regards topes or speed bumps.  They come in a myriad of different sizes and heights, and each and every one of them has to be respected differently.  The long gently rounded ones are almost a joke, but slow down a little anyway.  The ones that are lined up in twos or threes and appear to be relatively small can trick you.  Make sure to keep your teeth clenched going over these because you will sound like you are shivering if you talk.

The ones about one and a half feet tall and about the same wide are the really nasty ones.  You must leave yourself just enough acceleration to get to the top of the tope with your front tires and slowly start to descend. This is when your braking strategy kicks in.  Slowly apply the brakes so that when your tires come back down to meet the pavement, your vehicle doesn't bounce.  This is the time you can do some serious damage to the underside of your car, or worse, the engine.

Then give the car a little gas to get the back tires up and over the tope gently.  This part is tricky because you don't really have time to hit the brakes as the back tires come down to the pavement because you are now having to accelerate before the guy behind you rams into the back of your car.  Plus, you have to get to the next tope, and repeat the process.  I sincerely think there is enough pavement wasted in these topes to pave all the streets in a small town.

Anyway, I've followed Raul's two main rules well, and haven't hit or been hit by anyone yet...

Well, finished the first draft of my Second Book....

I can't believe it has taken me so long.  My winter life in Mexico is getting busier every day, and I am finding it difficult to assign specific time to writing on a daily basis.  I think what is happening is that even though mornings are my dedicated specifically to writing and writing related tasks, with all the interruptions, it is hard to concentrate, focus and get the job done.  I'm sure this is a problem all writers face from time to time.

Even though I'm not accomplishing as much book writing as I had hoped, I have developed my Twitter, Facebook and a new Blogger accounts.  I am writing on these almost every day, and consider them all a type of promotion for my books.  I guess I'm not totally wasting my time.  It is, however, becoming a juggling act to keep my life and work on track.

On another good note, I have found a potential translator to eventually translate my series of books into Spanish.  Down the road I also hope to find a Mandarin translator for the vast Chinese market; once I discover how exactly to publish there.  Oh well, I had better get this second book off to the editors...

Friday, March 28, 2014

My landlord's new Mexican apartment.....

When I think of apartment buildings in Canada, I think of one lone building that has anywhere from 10 to a few hundred apartments located withing the building.  We don't call them a house or a condo, they are in one building and they are apartments.

My landlord and his brother recently purchased apartments in a newly built residential area in south Cuernavaca.  We first drove there a few weeks ago, and I couldn't believe what I saw.  The number of apartment buildings in this neighborhood, which must have been roughly three or four miles square, was so large that I couldn't count them all.  Raul told me that there were over 40,000 apartments located in these two or three distinct neighborhoods.  To view this was absolutely mind boggling.

We first visited his brothers new apartment which was located in Building D (1 of 16) on the 5th Floor (top) of the building.  His apartment was the standard two bedroom apartment, but because it was on the top floor, it had very high ceilings that angled up to the peak of the roof.  It looked really nice, but the highest parts would be difficult to paint.  The apartments were all finished with cement only, and we had to be careful not to brush up against the walls or we would be covered in dust.

The bathroom was tiny, and was the only room that looked even remotely finished.  It had tiles on the walls and floor of the shower stall, a toilet and sink.  There was a stainless steel sink and water dispenser in the kitchen; and the laundry room contained a cement sink and a hot water tank.  These apartments are relatively cheap by Mexican standards, but are so far out of the city that they would never pay for themselves if you decided to rent them, if you could even find a tenant.

The city is currently building a series of bridges to these new residential areas, and the airport located on the far side.  Once this is built, the drive to the neighborhood will be faster and safer.  Currently the drive to the apartments is through some quite dangerous areas. Raul's brother Juan is currently having his apartment (they call them houses here) painted and new tile flooring installed.  I have driven the workers back and forth a few times now, and am starting to remember where most of the speed bumps (topes) are located.

Before beginning the inside painting and construction, however, Juan had to make sure his home was secure.  Even though he was on the 5th Floor, he had square metal grates built and installed on the outsides of all the windows.  The front door also had a solid metal outside grate installed.  Re-bar was installed around all the openings and the metal grates were then welded to them.   He also had to purchase a gas tank for the hot water, and then exchange the new tank for a filled one.  To secure the new tank, he had a metal security system welded into the outside gas area and attached his tank to it with a chain and lock (within a week, the chain and lock were stolen - but not the 1000 peso tank).

The first day driving to the site, we had to give the workers a ride.  They were waiting on the street outside our neighborhood security gate and were quite surprised to be getting a ride in a car being driven by a Canadian.  We dropped the workers off at the apartment and I couldn't believe all the tile and paint inside.  We left the workers and drove a few blocks to Raul's apartment to get his windows and doors measured for his steel grates.

We then returned home to do our daily stuff and returned about 6 PM to pick them up.  On this first day, a coat of protector was applied to all the walls, the first coat of paint, and most of the second coat.  I guess paying by the job rather than by the hour is the way to go for projects like this.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Canadians DON'T live in Igloos...

Honest.  I'm a Canadian who recently retired, and now lives in Mexico for 7 months each winter - and I've never lived in a igloo.  Canada does get a lot of snow, but I don't miss it at all.  I have always loved Mexico, it's people and it's climate and consider it my second home.  My first visit to Mexico was over 25 years ago and was the result of a coin toss.  Heads, I went to a beach in Mexico, or Tails, I went skiing in Canada.  Mexico won, but I think the toss may have been slightly rigged.

During my winters in Mexico, Facebook keeps me connected to all my family and friends back in Canada, and I follow all the news up north while enjoying the warmth down south.  I recently saw a posted photo of a man that had dug a huge path through the snow to an outside bench.  He was wearing a swimming suit sitting on the bench drinking a beer.  This reminded me of Igloos for some reason.  Maybe it was because the path leading to the bench had snow on each side about 8 feet high that made it look a little like an igloo.

Seeing this photo reminded me of something I had seen on TV years ago.  People in the Southern USA were interviewed and asked what types of homes they thought Canadians lived in.  I distinctly remember one man replying - 'Igloos'.  He was serious.  Sorry buddy, but you have to go quite a bit further north of Canada to find any igloos.  This guy probably thought that we have penguins as pets too.

I later showed the swimming suit photo to my landlord in Mexico, and he couldn't believe it.  Of course he has never seen snow and couldn't even imagine what it must feel like.  I then explained that we Canadians also drive in the snow.  He shook his head in disbelief.  I told him that my house was made out of wood, and showed him a picture of it covered in snow.  He was amazed that it didn't collapse.  At least he didn't think we lived in igloos...

No, we Canadians don't live in igloos.  That would be the Eskimos I think.  We live in real houses just like you do.  And Canada isn't that much farther north than the USA.  If you look at a map (OK, use Google Maps), you may notice that some of the Northern States of the USA are farther north than parts of Canada.  Hmm, I wonder if the people in Maine live in igloos?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mexican Barbecue anyone???

I absolutely love barbecues in Mexico now, but you know, it took me a few times to get used to them.  They are not the typical Canadian/American barbecue, with a propane or briquette barbecue unit;  here they are called 'carbon' barbecues. Carbon meaning with wood, not charcoal.  The wood flavor is what everyone seems to like.

A typical Mexican barbecue pit is made out of bricks or concrete blocks.  Ours is located on a cement bench built next to my landlords 15 foot rock wall.  It consists of 4 concrete blocks, two on each side, with a metal grill placed on top.  The back of the barbecue is the wall, and the front is open so that wood can be easily placed inside on the fire.  The concrete blocks are loose so the barbecue can be moved easily.

Wood for the fire can be difficult to find, and fortunately there are two empty lots next door with trees and brush on them.  This gives us a readily available supply of wood, and with my recent purchase of a small Swiss saw (for 115 pesos), we can easily cut dead branches and fallen trees to obtain our fuel.

Food items required always consist of Chorizo (wrapped in aluminum foil before cooking), Cactus (which is also great for reducing cholesterol), Onions (the smaller kind about the size of a golf ball with the greens still attached) and lastly the beef (thinly sliced the Mexican way).  OMG, did I forget the hundred or so tortillas.  We get ours from the Mega Store.  They are corn tortillas, but not hand made unfortunately.

Raul, my landlord, always makes a marinate for the meat that is made using one bottle of beer, salt and pepper and a few dashes of Maggi Jugo.  The meat should marinate for at least an hour if possible.  The cactus leaves are sliced starting about an inch below the slightly pointed end, all the way down the leaf to the rounded end, into about 1/2 inch strips so that the leaf remains in one piece.  The cactus, onions and chorizo are placed on the grill first - usually near the back of the grill.

Usually one person does the barbecuing while the rest of the guests cheer them on; drinking beer or tequila or other similar beverages.  A few tortillas are placed on one front corner to warm, and the meat is then added to the other front corner.  This meat cooks relatively fast because it is very thin.  Darn, I almost forgot, we also need homemade salsa.  This consists of green Mexican tomatoes (tomatillo's) and cilantro and avocado - all blended together with a little chile, onion and garlic - I hope I didn't miss anything.

Men typically do the barbecuing just like in Canada and the USA, and women are served first.  Chorizo and the onions are usually eaten separately, but in many cases, the cactus, meat and chorizo can be placed in a tortilla with a little salsa, and eaten like a taco.  If a few kilo's of meat have been purchased you can feed a lot of people, and the eating experience can go on for hours.  Well, as long as the tequila and beer don't run out, that is.

Oh one last thing, if you have your barbecue on the lawn in the evening, be sure to wear long pants.  Mosquitoes here love to hover under the table and eat your legs and ankles while you are eating barbecue.  I guess they gotta eat too.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I'm thirsty, what should I drink in Mexico?????

First, what not to drink.  Water out of taps is generally something NOT to drink.  Also street vendors that have large juice/drink containers that have chunk ice in them are not made with clean water.  I would definitely stay away from them.  Especially since you can buy a 5 gallon plastic container of purified water for about 30 pesos.  Also, last year I purchased a ceramic water dispenser on a stand for about 100 pesos.  You can either fill the container and put on the lid, or tip the large plastic container upside down and put it on top of the dispenser.

Small bottles of water and a variety of flavored drinks and juices are available from most grocery and convenience stores, but the prices are comparable to Canada and the USA.  However, fruit juices in liter containers are also available in grocery stores, and some of them are fantastic and cheap.  I've found some that are as low as 6.5 pesos but these are generally fruit drinks, not juices.  Some of the better juices (like Mango, Pineapple, Orange, etc) are about twice the price, but also twice as good.

Milk in Mexico is interesting because it comes in liter containers that apparently can be stored indefinitely until opened.  Once opened, they will last in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.  This milk doesn't taste exactly like the milk north of the border, but it suffices.

Now to my favorite drinks - alcohol.  Let's start with the old standby beer.  There are many regional beers in Mexico that are quite good.  My favorites in central Mexico are bottled Dos Equis (and I like the amber best), Indio; and in Jalisco, Pacifico is great.  Canned Tecate is also very good, but it definitely needs limon (lime) mixed in.  Most Mexican's seem to like their beer with both salt and limons.  Another great way to drink beer in Mexico is the Michelada.  To make one, add salt or a mixture of salt and ground chile's to the rim of a glass.  Then put about an ounce of limon juice and Jugo sauce in and add beer.

If you like a little wine with dinners, I would still not recommend buying the wines from here.  However, over the last 20 years or so, Mexican wines have improved drastically and some of them might actually be drinkable.  They are no longer like vinegar.  I prefer to buy Spanish wines which are readily available in the various Walmart's and Mega Stores here.  As far as cost goes though, they are fairly expensive (approx. 100-150 pesos per bottle).  I have found good Cabernet's and Merlot's for as low as 60 pesos that are not bad.

But, of course, the main drink in Mexico is Tequila.  There are hundreds of different brands, but my absolute favorite is Corralejo.  It comes in a tall blue bottle and the Reposado is so smooth you can drink it easily straight up.  It is aged in pottery, and this seems to add a great flavor to it.  It is a little expensive at about 250 pesos for 750 ml, but it's worth it.

Other great ones here are Don Julio and Patron (but I've heard this is only available as an export).  I've found that Reposado is the best blend, and one of my friends here told me that the white reposado is the ultimate.  Now, how to drink tequila properly.  Many Canadians/Americans like to do tequila shooters.  this will definitely warm you up quickly; as well as get you drunk. To drink tequila as a gentleman requires a different technique.

The drink is called a bandera, or flag, and is sipped rather than shot.  The reason they call it a flag is because it is comprised of the three colors of the Mexican flag.  Green, white and red.  Limons (limes) is the green.  Tequila is the white, and something called Sangrita is the red.  You can buy bottled Sangrita, but I prefer making my own.  Put two parts of tomato juice,and one part orange juice (I like to do the orange part with 1/2 orange juice and 1/2 orange pop) into a blender.  Add some limon juice, Worcesterchire or Lea & Perrin's Sauce and chopped onion (about 1/2 cup).  Blend well and then refrigerate for a day or two.

When the Sangrita is ready, fill one shooter glass with tequila and another with Sangrita.  Cut a limon in half and you are ready.  Add a few drops of limon to the Sangrita and then take a sip of tequila; followed by an equal sip of Sangrita.  On a cold winter Mexican day, this will warm you up quickly;  and you won't get drunk for at least a few of these.

Of course there are all of the other types of alcohol available including Vodka, Gin, Brandy and Rum.  Even the favorite liquor Kahlua, and another liquor called Rompope (a banana flavored drink made by Catholic nuns).  All of these alcohols are relatively inexpensive, approximately 120 pesos for 750 ml).  My favorites are Captain Morgan's rum, and recently found the dark version (47 % alcohol instead of the normal 30-35%) for around 150 pesos.  Compared to over 30.00 Cdn. per bottle - this isn't bad.

Tomorrow I'll explain how to have a barbecue in Mexico.

Monday, March 24, 2014

I was in Toluca, Mexico recently, and I couldn't believe...

just how cold it can actually get in Mexico.  Of course it was considered winter when I was there, but come on, this is Mexico.  It was so cold that I had to wear long pants, a long shirt - and my hoody to keep warm.  What's with that?

Toluca is strictly an industrial town, and from what I was told, there are over 20,000 manufacturers located in the city.  Fortunately our hotel was near the Nestle plant, and the fresh aroma of coffee and chocolate helped reduce the dreariness of the city.  I must admit, I've never been in any industrial cities like this, and it was a bit of a shock seeing the constant pollution in the air and surrounding parks.  It was basically a very unattractive city.

But Toluca is famous for it's chorizo and also it's spicy cheese, and I made sure to stock up on both.  We spent two days in the city and also made a side trip to Valle de Bravo.  This was a beautiful little town with winding streets, located on the shore of a slightly polluted lake called Lake Av├índaro.  We took an hour boat tour of the lake and surrounding homes, and it was well worth the 200 pesos for two people.  Lunch was at the Hotel Avandaro Golf Course and Spa; and was fantastic and inexpensive.  But once we checked out the prices of the hotel and spa - inexpensive no longer applied.

By the way, did I mention that our drive from Cuernavaca to Toluca was through one of the most dangerous areas in Mexico.  Not only are the roads dangerous themselves with many mountain turns followed by speed bump after speed bump, but we had to navigate around cows, horses, sheep and dogs on the highway.  And, of course, there are the banditos to watch out for too....

We decided to make a northerly circle back home through Mexico City.  We went from leisurely rural driving with only wild animals to watch for; to wild animals behind the wheel in Mexico City.  Thank goodness I wasn't driving that day...

Sunday, March 23, 2014

I'm becoming more Mexican each day..

I just returned from a 4 day trip from Cuernavaca to Mexico City.  My landlord's dad owns an apartment in south MC, and we had to check the previous tenant out, clean and repair the apartment, and rent to the new tenant.  This was to be our big test of all the repairs that we had completed on the 1999 Pontiac Sunfire, and also my initiation to driving in Mexico City.

Suffice to say, my driving was fine, but Mexico City drivers are a different breed.  They call residents of MC chilango's, and I'm not entirely sure what that means, but perhaps it has something with their driving attitudes.

Now that I had learned all the driving rules for Cuernavaca, I had to unlearn them for Mexico City.  No signal lights are used for turns.  It is very unique to see someone use them in the city.  Basically, you just nose into traffic, and do the same for changing lanes.  Entering a freeway can be a challenge because you have to judge your entry point between fast moving cars - oh, and be careful when the guy in front of you suddenly stops.

I think the primary danger of driving in Mexico in general is that drivers here seem to ignore, or just plainly not see, important signs like, Stop, Slow, No Left Turn, etc.  The only one they seem to all see is the Speed Bump (Tope) signs, thank god.  The 90 km drive from the city in the dark was a challenge, and I was successful in missing dogs and people crossing the highway, as well as cars ahead of me stopping for no apparent reason.  Talk about stressful.

We made it home safely last night, after a one day delay waiting for a door repairman at the apartment, and the car repairs held up nicely.  Now I will have to buck up and get ready for my maiden voyage in the car all by myself.  My landlord has been my guide until now thank you very much. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

What does "Alto" mean while driving in Mexico????

I drove to a birthday party yesterday afternoon and almost had to use my insurance for the first time.  This new lesson is starting to sink in.  If everyone in Mexico ignores Stop Signs, then intersections can be extremely dangerous.

I slowed down at the stop sign just like everyone else and quickly looked ahead for cars turning in front of me, looked left and then right.  It looked safe enough to me, but then out of nowhere a tiny red car came zipping from my right and apparently didn't see the stop sign.  Maybe Mexican drivers are all color blind and can't see red.  No, that can't be true, because they know not to park where the curb is painted red.

Anyway, I got to check out the brakes on my car really well, and I'm happy to report they are fine.  After that scare though, I decided to slow down even more at intersections; or anything that even remotely resembled an intersection.  I wonder what effect a "Yield" sign would have here?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

More Mexico Driving....

I have over 20 hour of Mexico driving under my belt and have learned a few more things, and the car is now insured thank goodness.  First, when the curb is painted yellow in Canada (and I believe the USA) it means you can't park there.  In Mexico yellow means you CAN park there, and red means no parking.  Of course if you need to park for a few minutes in a red zone, just put on your four way flashers and you should get away with it.  Unless it happens to be in front of a bus stop, police station or hospital ambulance zone.

Also, I've done more freeway/highway driving, and found that the left lane here is the same as up north.  It is the fast or passing lane, but be extremely careful.  For some reason this lane seems to slow to a crawl or stop suddenly for no apparent reason.  I will have to get more experience and perhaps I'll find out the reason for this anomily.

Another thing to be aware of is that there are certain places that can be more dangerous, and I don't mean just for driving.  Certain neighborhoods have more robberies in them than others, and it is not just home invasions.  One particular thing some criminals do here is stand around near red lights on the street .  Oh, and be careful also, many traffic light bulbs are burned out and not replaced for weeks.

Anyway, what these criminals do is walk up to their victim's window and rob them while they are waiting for the green light.  Because it is so hot here during the day, many drivers have their windows open and this makes an easy target.  It is a good idea to leave at least 20 feet in front of you at a red light so you can speed away from these robbers.  Also be sure to keep all of your doors locked in these areas, and probably all areas at night.

If you are driving a new car with air conditioning and your windows are up, these crooks will use a ball bearing and a string to smash your window in - then rob you.  God it's not just dangerous driving in Mexico, it is dangerous just being on the road.  And remember the two basic rules - don't hit anyone and don't get hit by anyone.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Reviews of my First Book - None...

I published my first eBook a couple of months ago on, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Sony, Diesel and recently Amazon.  I have been checking my statistics and have sold over 300 copies, but to date, not one single review.  Now of course, when I first published the book "A Time Before Facebook", I promoted it on my Facebook Site and Twitter Site, and even set up this blog to discuss it and other writing related topics.

Many of the downloads are from family and friends I am sure, but I also know that other members of the reading public have also downloaded it.  I did receive one positive comment on my Facebook site from a reader in the USA, but even after prompting, she didn't post a comment on any of the publishing sites that I am aware of.

Of course, being a self-proclaimed writer, I would like to know what people think of my book (I am also a musician and appreciate it when people dance and party to my band's music).  I would prefer to receive positive feedback naturally, but any kind would also be welcomed at this time.  I hope the reason for no feedback is that the book isn't worthy of comments, or friends don't want to hurt my feelings.

I'll be positive and imagine that my readers are just too busy to respond at this time.  I don't want to hire professional feed backers, that just doesn't seem right to me.  Any suggestions?

The new improved 'Robocop' - My Personal Movie Review

A group of us went to the theatre here in Mexico last night to catch the English version of this updated, new and improved movie.  I must say I came away slightly disappointed as did my Mexican friends.  It was apparently supposed to be an action movie, but it seemed to miss many opportunities to provide just that.  The special effects were improved over the original version thank goodness, but that was all that was.  The visuals of the remaining parts of Robocop's living body were very unrealistic to me.  Maybe this scientific factor is way beyond the ability of my little mind to comprehend.

Oh, and more than a half hour of commercials and trailers before the movie (which included one movie trailer twice) was a little much.  Cinemex, smarten up...

The acting was good, and the screenplay was passable, but thank goodness we went on two for one Wednesday.  I give it a 3 1/2 out of 5.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

'Creature Sightings' in Calgary, Alberta...

I viewed this CNN News report about this group today, and couldn't believe it.  Actually I think I recognized the guy with a black eye in the cover photo - I'll try to remember his name.

Who are these idiots anyway?  I wouldn't doubt that they are the same morons that walk past an elderly person on the street and then hit them in the head from behind.  Maybe it's because these gangs are insulted by old people out in public.  Trying to justify taunting the homeless by saying the general public is disgusted by homeless people, is the type of response normal people would expect from these bullies.  Don't use people like me to justify your distorted morals.

Perhaps one day they will themselves become homeless, and reap the benefits of this perverted group that they've created.  Get a life you losers, and remember 'what goes around comes around'.

Oh, and I loved one of their founding member's response to the news media questions: "...if you don't like this group, find another one to look at, like its an easy grade 2 solution i can't believe im even having to present to someone over the age of 12."  I love the spelling and punctuation - talk about Grade 2!

But really, what more could we expect from their group's Grade 2 philosophy 12 year old mentality.  Maybe the RCMP should pass out pepper spray to all the homeless in Calgary, or put a couple under-covers on park benches, and we'll soon put a stop this nonsense.  What do you think?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Driving in Mexico...

Well I did it.  I got my Mexican Driver Licence a few days ago, and I must say that driving in Mexico is completely different than in Canada.  My landlord and good friend has given me the use of his extra vehicle, a 1999 Pontiac Sunfire, and after a few repairs we'll be picking it up from the Maestro today.

I was only able to get my licence for one year because that is the duration of my first Temporary Resident Card.  In September I will renew the resident card for a further three years and shortly after that I'll do the same with my driver licence.

There are basically two important driving rules to follow here.  First, don't hit anybody or another car.  Second, don't get hit by anyone else.  Sounds easy - no way.  Because everyone in Mexico follows these two basic rule and apparently none of the other ones, you are kind of on your own while driving.  Stop signs mean nothing to drivers here, and after continuing on through a couple of them, I asked my landlord why he didn't stop.

His reply was that he didn't even see it.  Stop signs are so unused that they might as well just take them all down.  They do however pay attention to traffic signal lights, basically.  A green light means go, a yellow light means go faster, and a red light is a suggestion to stop.  Also, I am living in Cuernavaca, where vehicles use their signal lights to let others know they plan on making a turn.  In Mexico City, no one uses signal lights, and if you are crazy enough to use yours, be prepared to be cut off.

One piece of equipment that all Mexicans like to use, and use frequently, is their horns.  If you cut someone off be prepared for a big blast.  If traffic isn't moving, hit your horn, and by some miracle everyone starts to move.  Also lines in the road are almost non-existant in many places, so the rule is to imagine your path ahead of you and try the best to follow it.

Parking lots in Canada and the USA may have speed bumps (here they are called topes).  Here they are everywhere and can be found in the middle of a highway -- so be very careful.  These things can take out your suspension and throw you right off the road.  Heaven help the motorcycle rider that misses one.  I counted 14 topes on a city street that was about 20 blocks long.  Oh, and some of them are marked and some aren't.

Also there are two types of highways within and between cities and towns in Mexico.  Freeways (Libre) are like country highways with lots of topes and you probably don't want to drive on them at night.  Not because of the dangerous speed bumps, holes and animals on the freeway, but because of the bandits that tend to inhabit them after dark.

The second highway is called just that, or cuota's.  Cuota's are more modern high speed highways, and the only topes they have on them are located at the many toll booths that you have to stop and pay at.  These are much safer highways, but much more costly.  For example, to travel from Cuernavaca to Acapulco (2 1/2 hours away), the cost of tolls one way is approximately 500 pesos -- around $40.00 Cdn.  Add this to your fuel costs and a short trip can become costly, but safer.  It is nice having the Federal Police with machine guns guarding the toll booths;  I feel much safer.

And don't get into an accident where anyone gets hurt.  You go directly to jail first until the police determine who was at fault.  Small fender-benders are amazing though because the insurance companies arrive within an hour or two and settle the entire matter.  However, take note, that it is who you know that can save your bacon in an accident.  A friend of mine was hit from behind by a motorcyclist when he was stopped at a traffic light.  The motorcyclist paid the judge and won the civil suit.  The insurance companies are still fighting over it.

I wonder if it was such a good idea getting my driver license.  We'll see.

What is True Love anyway, and can we find it???

This is a question that I've been searching for the answer to for almost 62 years.  After two marriages/divorces and a few other true loves (and some not so true), I'm still searching.  Maybe this topic has been on my mind more recently as a result of Valentines Day.  With all the quotes on Facebook and everywhere else from very thoughtful and insightful poets and authors, it's made me think more about this question.

Even though I haven't yet found the love I'm looking for, and even though I'm one of those people that swear that I'll never get married again (never say never), deep down I think I am like almost everyone else and still searching for my soul mate.  What is a soul mate to me?  Well to me, it's someone that I can feel absolutely comfortable with and who supports me as much as I support them.  I don't know about the saying that opposites attract or finding someone that has similar interests works best; I think love involves many different factors to work successfully together.

I have been single since my last serious relationship almost 15 years ago, and I truly believe that I would rather be a little lonely at times by myself rather than be in a relationship that isn't working and fighting with my mate. Maybe I'm getting cynical or selfish in my old age, but I am truly enjoying life by myself more at this time than I ever have.

This is not to say that I have given up on finding true love, but I think I has postponed it temporarily.  This attitude may, in fact, deter me from finding it, but at least I'm reserved to the idea of being single for the time being.  I guess my search is continuing in my sub-conscious but not aggressively.  Let's see if I agree with this post a few months/years from now.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Mexico Pemex/CitiBank/Oceanografia Scandal...

I have been living in Mexico during the long cold Canadian winter months for three years now, and I know many very successful businessmen here.  This current scandal is, in my opinion, indicative of things to come in Mexico's future.  Many of Mexico's large multi-million dollar businesses have been built by hard working business people - from the ground up.  Sure some of them didn't grow their empires just by hard work, but by establishing important contacts in Government, and they have basically followed Mexican laws such as they are.

Unfortunately many of these business owners also adhere to the traditional cultural and family values, which means they provide everything from the basic necessities of life to higher education for their families.  Many of their children, who are laughingly referred to as 'Juniors', are basically spoiled children that have never had to work a day in their lives, and spend most of their time driving around in expensive cars their fathers have bought for them, and partying their lives away.

Then comes the day that the father decides to retire, and he turns over the management of his multi-million dollar business to his child(ren), who have little or no business training at all.  Of course this transition usually requires the child(ren) to provide a pension for their parents throughout their retirement and old age.  So after the parent has provided absolutely no training, or very little, the child(ren) are basically thrown to the business world wolves.

It doesn't take long before they are taken advantage by corrupt politicians or fellow businessmen, and the once successful business is ruined financially. And that is exactly what I understand happened to Oceanografia.  It is difficult to imagine a business that was probably worth billions being turned over to one of these untrained children and expected to survive, let alone grow.  It is even more difficult to imagine that an intelligent father, who created a mammoth business such as this, would turn it over completely to an untrained son.  Especially since his families future income depends on how well the child performs.

But really, I guess this system in Mexico isn't too different from our democratic process in North America.  We have an election and elect a bunch of politicians, many of them 'Juniors', to run our state/province/country.  Then the head of Government appoints a few of them to important posts.  Let's say for example, John from Little Pebble, Arkansas is appointed Minister of Finance.  We know he is qualified because his father owned a pig farm, and he helped pay the bills.  Or Rita from Red Duck Alberta is appointed Minister of Highways. What's wrong with that, she can drive?  I'm amazed more Governments haven't had these same financial woes - oh, they have haven't they.

I also found it very amazing that large banks throughout the world would make these huge loans to a Mexican company that was well known for it's disreputable business dealings.  Whether they had a big Government contract or not, I would think collateral for a loan in the millions should be required.  Also, I would think Citibank must have known from it's subsidiary Banamex just how business works down here.  Maybe they are run by 'Juniors' too.

Now that the Mexican Government (that's another story) and the news is involved, it will be interesting to see how this drama plays out.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Angelina Jolie and any other breast cancer survivors, I'm sure you've seen this, but...

A very good friend of mine in British Columbia has a double mastectomy quite a few years ago, and seeing a recent article about Angelina Jolie reminded me of this fantastic group and it's therapy.

My nightly movie - review of 'Winter's Tale'

I must be getting old and sentimental because this movie got me pretty darned emotional.  Excellent stars with excellent performances by Will Smith, Russell Crowe, Colin Farrell and Jennifer Connelly.  The two young actresses did a great job too.  A classic good versus evil theme but with some neat twists.  I guess I'm hooked on fantasy romance stories and this one has definitely fit the bill.  The screenplay was very good as well as the cinematography.  Okay, I had better find my handkerchief.

I give it a 4 1/2 out of 5.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

My Personal Movie Review - 'Non-Stop'..

I love movies and watched this last night because I like Liam Neeson's acting as well as Julianne Moore's.  The movie was well acted, and even though it contained some of those lines and actions throughout to make the lead actor look a little like a fool, it had a lot of suspense and action.  I wish the writers had made the script just a little more believable - maybe script writers should allow events to direct the actions, rather than the characters and their obvious stupid choices.  Liam appears to be an intelligent person, and it was almost embarrassing watching him act like a dumb drunk making one bad decision after another.  Oh, and I did like the trick of Liam smoking in the airplane washroom.  Wonder how many people will try it themselves and get busted?

Anyway to you script writers, please don't treat your audience like a bunch of morons.  We actually know that we shouldn't go into a dark house with an open front door, knowing full well that we locked it before we left, and no one else has a key.  And the first thing we will do is turn ON the lights if we happen to be stupid enough to enter.  I think I'll actually be one of those people that will wait outside and call the police from my cell phone before entering the house myself.  I love good movies and hate to come away feeling insulted.  Oh well, that's my rant for the day.

I give it a 3 1/2 out of 5.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

What is retirement?

It wasn't until my mid-20's that I first started thinking about retirement, and exactly what it would be like.  Until that time I had been growing up, getting educated, trying to find a job, raising a new family, doing home repairs on my new home and a multitude of other tasks to keep me busy.  Retirement was so far in the distance that I couldn't really even imagine it, but only give it a glancing thought.

My career up until this time included delivering newspapers, picking fruit, throwing hay bales, taking a break to get a college degree, managing a security company and finally helping my family run a local business.  At the age of 25 I got married and moved to a private insurance job that appeared to be going nowhere.  Then I decided to try a Government job.  This new job paid better then the private industry at the time, and my insurance training came in handy too.

The Government job had a pension plan, and this focused my attention further on down life's road than I had previously looked.  It was a good pension plan too, and I'm enjoying it to the fullest thank you.

My picture of a retiree at that time was of some old person sitting around all day bored and doing nothing.  They were doing nothing because they were too old to have fun anymore.  Sure, some of them had saved enough money or had a good enough pension to go south to warmer countries for a couple of months each winter, but I could only imagine they did the same thing down there.  Sit around and do nothing, but at least they were a little warmer.

I had a different plan.  My wife and I were going to save our money and when we got our pensions, we were going to spend the warm summer months in Canada and the cold winter months in Mexico.  That was the plan until the divorce.  Funny how life throws these little curves at us.  Needless to say, my basic retirement plan remained the same for the next 25 or so years, and at the end it looked something like this.

Live on Vancouver Island on a yacht that was at least around 50 feet long during the summer.  Then around October, fly to Mexico and stay for at least 6 months, either on, or near a beach.  I wasn't going to stop there and just drink cerveza and enjoy the sunshine;  no, I was going to write children/adult books for the rest of my life.  During my late 30's I even started writing titles of stories that I wanted to someday write.

Now that thirty more years have passed and I have become one of those lazy retirees, I have a different perspective of retirees - and am actually doing everything that I had planned.  Also I am still young enough to be able to actually get off my butt and move around a bit.  I bought my yacht in Florida last winter and moved it across the USA to Vancouver Island last May.  I love it.

I recently published my first book in a series of 8 or 9, and in the process have learned how to write, edit, format and publish online eBooks.  The second book is almost complete.  I also learned how to design book covers, and discovered a great artist for all my book covers.  Luckily I had a friend that was a talented editor, and she keeps my writing on keel (notice the boat talk).

Anyway I wanted to write this blog to all the people at the beginning of their career and family life.  If you look after your health, both physical and financial, you can definitely have the opportunity for a fantastic retired life.  And if you are like me, it won't just be sitting in a rocking chair.  All of life's challenges will sometimes get in the way, but keep your focus, and start planning early.  Retirement can be wonderful.  You will have more time to think, look after your health better, and time to actually smell the roses. 

 I hope to draw my pension for many, many years to come.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Windows Backup and Restore

I back up my writing daily onto two zip drives (16 gb and 32 gb).  I also use a 1 tb external hard drive to back up my books; but I also like to use it to do a full system backup and a full backup of all of my files (music, word and excel documents, photos etc).  A few weeks ago my Windows Backup and Restore suddenly quit working.

I contacted Windows and they referred me to the Support Community.  I have spent numerous hours following the various suggestions on the site - all to no avail.  I was totally frustrated yesterday and tweeted Microsoft Support and received basically the same suggestions.  Again nothing worked.  Finally I noticed that one member of the community had thrown up his hands also and reverted to an old Norton Backup Program that he had kept around.  He also suggested a new free program called EaseUS.

I downloaded and installed this new program and it worked like a charm.  I have now disabled MS Backup and Restore messages and will use this free program.  Microsoft you had better get your act together or you may be heading down the same road as Blackberry.  Sorry my rant for the day.