Saturday, August 28, 2004

rambles and rambles

So much to say so little time....

should I talk about the security guard that got shot and killed
last week guarding one of the U.S. facilities here? We drove
by on the way to work as the ambulance pulled up. He died
later that day...for trying to help a woman being mugged for her
laptop....

or the electricity here...the housing is so nice, but I wonder
about the electricity, light bulbs burn out as fast as you
replace them. The current is a bit unstable and the electricity
will drop out altogether for a few minutes every couple days,
the battery alarm clock will be my future...

or that everything takes so long...I may have internet again
for the family...someday, if not soon enough the family may
revolt....

I can´t get our tv working, but I don´t have time, nor a U.S.
phone number to call from to fix it, if that will even be possible...

I´ve gotten the hang of driving, Elesa insists I´m too aggressive,
but she has not volunteered to wait until the traffic dies down
at 2 am before we pull out into an intersection either. The one-way
streets remain a challenge, but I´m to the point I have a pretty good
idea which direction a street is going to go...but how far remains a
mystery until I actually take it...discontinuity seems to be a theme
with street design around here...

The keys and cages to get into and out of housing here are incredible.
I think it could get you down, but I´ve decided that the huge windows
in our house that offer spectacular views of the volcano...once you look
past the ironwork bars...offer us a sort of mosaic or patchwork view of
the world outside, this rectangle has the flowers, that one has clouds,
another the volcano top, and when you put it all together, its still a
great view. Plus, its not the jail it seems....not many jails do the inmates
have the keys...

there are hummingbirds, I´ve seen a bunch, even in our backyard,
I can´t wait until our household goods (HHG) shipment arrives and
I can set up my feeders....

a few comments on the world outside, keeping in mind that I
have limited internet access, no TV and no english newspapers...
missed the olympics (not that I´m a big fan though, I find the
U.S. network coverage terrible),
don´t know and frankly don´t care a whole lot about an election that is going
on, I honestly see very little difference anymore between the major parties
both spend tax money way too freely, just a different emphasis on what it
is wasted on, and neither has expressed an interest in protecting the U.S.
borders...

that´s all folks...

Friday, August 13, 2004

jeff in a suit

Anyone that knows me, knows I'm most comfortable in jeans and a casual shirt.
And I like to be comfortable. I wore a tie all through grade school and then
high school, and really have only worn one a handful of times since, like sisters'
weddings. In fact, I think I went 10 years only wearing a tie once, to a friend's
wedding in Germany, I had to buy one (and a shirt with real buttons and a collar)
for the big event. My basic feeling is that the tie is the one piece of evidence that
perhaps women truly rule the world. (In contrast, heels and hose suggest that
it is a male dominated world, although women have told me that heels
and hose are there merely to make men think they dominate the world, but I
ramble...)

My current suit was purchased in the summer of 1999, by my mother, with the
advise and consent of my wife and my mere presence. One shirt and two ties.
The occasion was my grandmother's funeral and the honor was clearly
appropriate. I can name every other time I have worn the suit; a high school
reunion, a father-daughter dance, and a friend's wedding (where photographic
evidence was obtained by paparazzi).

I can now add tonight to the list.

My wife and I were among those invited to the Ambassador's residence for
"a musical evening with the Symphony of the Americas".

I am uncomfortable enough in a suit, add the social niceties required in
situations like this, and you have me miles away from my comfort zone.
Anyway, the evening began with about a half hour of "socializing". You
talk with someone, but only for a minute or three and then move on...more
like musical chair socializing with 60 or so people. They must teach it in
Foreign Service School, and I never went there. All the men were in
conservative dark suits, a few of us (myself included) added a splash of color by
wearing a darker blue shirt. (I bought a few more shirts with buttons and collars
about a month ago in anticipation of my new job...but still two ties...I may be
needing more ties soon though). The women's dress was much more varied.

At the appointed time...like when the Ambassador said so, we all went into a
side room and took our seats. A group of about 18 Czech and Slovak musicians,
about half of which were violinists, some cello, some bassists and a harpsichord
filed in and did a quick tune check of their instruments. I'm hot, (but my wife was
clever enough to sit us near a window), worried I might yawn and nod off, and
thinking "as much as I like live musical performances and classical music, can
this possibly be worth...wearing a suit?"

Fifteen seconds into the first piece, Arcangelo Corelli's Concerto Grosso
In D Major, Op 6, No.4, I had my answer...most definitely yes.
It was one of the finest classical musical performances I've heard, and I sat
enthralled for the next hour. It was nice to be so close. I could watch the
individual musicians fingers, expressions and hear the slight difference
in the various violins (the guy with the thinning hair, his violin was a little
warmer sounding to me than the first violinist's, whose violin was a bit
bright). I thought at the time that it is not many people who get to sit
15 feet in front of the music like this, I also wondered if they could just
set up and play at my house for an hour or so every evening....

Then it was back to socializing chairs for another hour or so. We did
get to talk to some of the musicans. They seem to be having a good time,
but they have a gruelling schedule as they perform through Central
and South America. I believe tomorrow it is San Jose, Costa Rica.

The bottom line though...I'd wear a suit for them again, and that is a
pretty decent compliment in my own way.



Sunday, August 08, 2004

technology is great

We just moved to Guatemala, not even been here 48 hrs yet.
It has been a long, drawn out process since it started over 15
months ago with the decision to take this overseas job.

I'm 43 years old, I dragged my wife and 2 of 3 teenage children
along for this adventure. I learned to program computers using
card punch technology and card readers. As part of the bribery
process, so that the children might not mind leaving their friends
so much, I bought them each a laptop (and one for the wife!),
and set up a wireless lan. I would venture a guess that the computing
power in these 3 laptops, and the network capacity of the router
represents more computing power than existed in the whole world
when I was born.

I also bought a IP phone (packet8.net, check it out!). We lugged all
this stuff from hotel to hotel, to grandma's house, to the beach, another
hotel and finally to a Guatemalan hotel.
Each stop, I would do what I could to hook it all up. Some places more
successfully than others. The computers and the internet are my
kids link to their old friends, and the link used to meet new friends.
Today, my daughter finally got to meet in person, one of the girls who
will be attending the same school. They started talking as if they'd known
each other for years, they had been "chatting" via the internet for many
months
.
Other people already living here, sent us pictures of the area, pictures
of housing, information on schools, what to bring, and what not to bring.
Much of the school registration process was done via email. And now
that we are here, if we didn't bring something...we'll probably order it
off the internet.

I hooked up the IP phone to our router (which is plugged into the hotel's
DSL). We called back to family to tell them we had arrived safely. This
morning, I talked to the son we left behind (that is a blog all by itself). For
the most part, the connections are better than placing an overseas call
through the hotel's phone and the PBX, (as the landline telephone system
is known here.) The phone has a U.S. number. My parents and extended
family dial as if it is a local call. We call anywhere in the U.S. for the low
price of $19.95 a month and the inconvenience of dialing a 1 followed
by the entire 10-digit phone number. What a deal! I once was on an
extended business trip overseas and missed Thanksgiving. Our phone
bill was in the neighborhood of $1500, $9 per minute. ATT of course
would insist it was only $7 per minute, the rest was taxes.

When something can provide the instant information, easy
communication, and save me money like that, it is great.

Technology is great.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

our cities, our borders

I was listening to the radio driving around this evening and
heard the complaints about closing streets, checking cars
in our nation's capital due to the latest terrorism threats.
I thought...you know they have a point...why would we
try to control streets and access, in cities across the entire
country, yet make no effort to control our country's borders?
It has got to be cheaper and easier in the long run to stop the
invaders...at the border, as opposed to wait until they get in
position and then be forced to fight a war on our own turf.

If we are not willing to control the borders of our country,
will the U.S. remain a viable country in the the long run?
I don't think so.
For centuries, wars have been fought (and are being fought
today!) between countries trying to keep the integrity of their
borders. History has not been kind to countries that left their
borders unsecured, and even today other countries know that.
It is time our border are secured and we fight for the territorial
integrity of the United States of America.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

blogger hell

I didn't know what to say...too much to spit out.
Then I was saved! It took me an hour to log in.
Blogger wouldn't acknowledge my password. I had to
"recover" my password, wait for the email. It sends
me a link to click on...I do...the computer freezes up
compliments of Microcrap. I get on another computer,
now the link won't work, it can only be clicked on once.
I reset again. It keeps sending me back to the login
page. The only thing that saves me from frustration
with it all...I didn't know what to say anyway. Mysteriously,
I get a third email with a link....I don't remember asking
a third time. I click, it works, maybe because I now have
something to say.

After a tough week (...my week is over, I'm moving tomorrow)
its far too much work to assemble something that is eloquent
(and not boring!) yet relaxed enough for a blog. As Anonymous
said earlier, it is a challenge to write anything, blog or book,
that doesn't induce yawns. I'd also like it to read as if it was
effortless to write (its not).

Last thought for myself, who is my audience? Do I blog for myself? To
some imaginary perfect world of audience? To "the choir" or to
the heathens? A tirade on taxes may stir some to a froth (count me
in that crowd) while inducing coma to most others. You can't
please all the people, and you can't fool all the people, because the
bottom line is; you can't reach all the people.

Monday, August 02, 2004

is blogging scream therapy for the masses?

I started thinking..almost always a bad sign...first about this blogging stuff...
that could be fun...
I can do that...
wonder if people would read it...
man could I get a load off my mind!!!

That last thought got me thinking some more. So much so, that at one point on an airplane a few months ago I filled a couple pages with possible "subjects" for my rants:
taxes
terrorism
religion
taxes
schools
politics
taxes
iraq
service at retail establishments
taxes
gay marriage

Besides the fixation on taxes, I basically had a list of topics butchered in any local newspaper on any given day in the U.S.A.
Topics that may be discussed at work.
(if your workplace is not so diverse as to make any topic beyond
the weather and the Redskins is too sensitive for discussion)
Topics that might be discussed outside with the neighbors.
(if you have even met them)
Topics that may prompt a letter to the editor of your paper.
(if you have the time and a stamp)
Topics that are the fodder for AM talk radio and Sunday morning TV shows
(that you don't have the time, the inclination or the patience to call in and be on hold for 26 minutes just to have the host shout over your comments or cut you off for commericial break)

I think most people have a need to have an opinion, not just express it. Why else would so many people have opinions about topics they know absolutely nothing about? When a person expresses an opinion, they want people to listen. I would go so far as to say many want to MAKE people listen. Especially those in the entertainment industry, who tend to confuse their right to free speech as a right to force everyone else to listen. Further confusion reins as they interpret others' failure to listen as censorship.

Expressing opinions vents a little steam on topics that rile you up. This day and age, you can't do that venting at work, with the neighbors, or to the media, but we do have blogs. I think blogs provide a valuable service, a sort of scream therapy for anyone with access to the internet. This makes the world, certainly McDonalds, post offices and workplaces in the U.S. a safer place.