Saturday, September 30, 2006


We ate semi-sushi at Kampai tonight. Kampai is my favorite ersatz Japanese place in Monterrey. Kampai is like a DC-area chic fusion eatery: darkly ambient and stuffed with mirrors and deco light fixtures, then garnished with large metal sculptures. Among the menu's usual suspects, I finally discovered that they have fried barbequed eel "egg rolls," filled with a toothsome chipotle sauce. Where have those been al my life? Most of the Mexican news today is about the US: Last night Senate leaders finally agreed to the "seven-hundred mile fence along the southern US border" thing, and were expected to pass it through the second phase of its journey into legislation sometime today.* They’re in a hurry so they can all run off and attempt to get re-elected. By the end of this year, there is a danger that Democrats will have taken the majority in one or both chambers of the congressional branch, so this border security bill has been tailored to the middle ground in a bid to satisfy conservative constituencies without overly pissing-off liberals. While this comes in the place of far more damaging immigration and border security projects bandied about the House of Representatives off and on all year, many decry this as a detriment to US foreign relations. Who? Well, the Mexican Department of Foreign Relations, for one. They are "deeply worried," saying that the new fence will "increase tension in border communities."* The US Department of Fish and Wildlife isn’t pleased either, saying that the obstructed areas are used yearly as migratory pathways for undocumented jaguars, wolves, black bears, and any number of birds that cross through this area between seasonal habitats.* This ensuing disruption of the course of natural migration could spell the end of certain populations native to either country. [Cavin]

Friday, September 29, 2006


The other day we went to see the Devil Wears Prada, the sequel to Dolly Parton's 9 to 5, Billy Crystal's Forget Paris, and Working Girl. The movie stars the Olsen twins as plucky Anne Hathaway and a cross-dressing Dabney Coleman as the titular "devil." Do you think I'm stupid, Hollywood? Filmmakers have trotted out the plot of Coyote Ugly one more time, added a dash of gay Paree, anchored to bestselling chic non-fic lit. They've justified the resulting cliché-driven plod with a stellar performance by Meryl Streep. The galling thing? Streep still manages to make me happy I saw this. But the words need typing: this is one more movie which demonizes the professional goals of women. The movie presents female success as the abandonment of friends, family, ideals, and happiness, going so far as to equate evil and ambition in the title. In the news: Today in Oaxaca, local business shut down the capital city again for a (planned) duration of forty-eight hours.* Business leaders, tired of the siege-like environment over the last few months are calling on federal police support. Yesterday, Oaxacans raided stores before the shutdown. Ulises Ruiz has appointed people to fill administrative positions vacated by teachers who refused to show up for work on Tuesday (and that's all of them) after an ultimatum last week. Those same teachers are tightening the roadblocks and prepping Molotov cocktails, anticipating an impending clash with counter insurgents in this tourist destination cum battleground.* Seem like a lot of protests? Today in México City, members of the telephone operators union marched en masse along key streets recently reopened after AMLO's reign. The cops responded quickly, erecting barricades.* And a biblical-sounding plague of locusts is protesting Cancún.* Gentlemen militia with backpacks full of insecticide are patrolling the streets. [Cavin]

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Something I neglected to mention yesterday: I don't know if you've ever seen this, but between this Update Column and my blog roll of links below, I have a sporadically-updated link or two devoted to strange things I've come across on the web. This is an homage to Frank's more successfully-updated "Bizzaro Link of the Moment" offering on his MySpace page. Up until now, these items have languished without comment. But something I linked along the way, a service that will fire human cremated remains into space, has made the news. Want a unique and expensive send off? Shoot your urn into orbit and beyond, just as Celestis Memorial Spaceflights is planning to do with the remains of astronaut L. Gordon Cooper, who died October 4, 2004, and actor James Doohan, who played Scotty on the original Star Trek series and died July 20th of last year. This is really New Mexican news, sure, but Tuesday UP Aerospace, the first privately-sponsored commercial space program in the US to attempt a space shot, suffered a blow when its maiden mission encountered a problem at forty thousand feet above Spaceport America: the SpaceLoft XL rocket began to wobble in a corkscrewy fashion and enthusiasts watched it plummet into the desert. The payload included several local high school research projects (running digital and analog watches to measure, maybe, the effect of momentary weightlessness on those things), and, yes, some dead folks with first-class tickets into near orbit.* The crash site six miles from any road in the New Mexican desert, and it might be some time before salvagers can hike in and recover what little is likely to remain. Have no fear, Mr. Doohan's and Gordo's ashes are ticketed to depart on the company's second launch, still slated for October 21st. [Cavin]

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


In the news: Mexican president-elect Calderón will be touring Latin America next week. This is an alignment tour: Calderón will be visiting Central and South American nations in an effort to strengthen México's alliances with countries still on the fence over the present Mexican slash Venezuelan diplomatic divorce. This is just the next thing. A year ago Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called President Fox a "puppy" of US president Bush. Then Calderón used comparisons with Chavez in a fit of election year muckraking. Recently, Chavez has joined México's vocal left, publicly denouncing the July election and refusing to acknowledge Calderon's presidential victory. Now all of Latin America is moving to opposite corners. I like to be hysterical: this during a time of massive military spending in various Latin American countries.* Back to topic: Calderón will not be visiting Venezuela on his trip,* and México is still trying to decide whether to invite Chavez to the Calderón's inauguration.* Calderón came out with a bold statement against narcoviolence yesterday, literally indicating that a bad situation seems to be stymieing state and federal governments here and there.* Here? Los Zetas were probably to blame for a Nuevo Laredo firefight with Federal troops late Friday.* No small shootout, this included grenades, rocket launchers, and automatic weapons in a tony residential neighborhood. Four people were killed. Speculation has anonymous tips to the goodguys coming from the Sinaloa Cartel, hoping to use a federal crackdown to remove Gulf Cartel Zetas from the disputed territory. In the "what I said before" department: a long time ago my litmus to determine the dos and don'ts of international destinations was the following multiple-choice question: beheadings: they do or don’t? Sadly, I am not holding up my end of the bargain, anymore,* though I'm not in any danger. [Cavin]

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Yesterday I noted that a lightening storm had amassed moments before I'd gone to bed, and that it had rained here the entire time I was asleep. Throughout the day I ran across tell-tale signs of this having been more than your normal storm: outside plants were battered-looking (and were, indeed, under standing water), there was a large puddle in the dining room, and Sunshine was telling me over and over again that it was more than just your normal storm. The Monterrey papers report that yesterday's storm dumped about half the volume of water as last year's big hurricane (Emily), and that a whole lot of the river valley had flooded. It must have been more than a normal storm after all. Here are some pictures. This comes about week after Hurricane Lane broke up over southern Pacific México, flooding that area (here are those pictures). While the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of North America are having a fairly mild tropical storm season, México is suffering a western deluge complete with roads washed away, landslides,* and loss of housing and electricity. The US State Department has renewed their travel warning (of August 24th*) regarding the volatile state of Oaxaca. This just in time for violence to break out there yesterday after the first glimpse of embattled governor Ulises Ruiz in that city in three months. Protestors gathered in front of his luxury hotel in a demonstration that escalated into a daylight gunfight,* ending with one man shot, fleeing journalists, the Hotel Camino Real plundered, and Ruiz run out of town. He will be meeting with Vicente Fox soon to plead again for federal troop assistance, something the president has so far been reluctant to authorize. Fox, for his part, made several statements about resolving the issue today.* [Cavin]

Monday, September 25, 2006


About five o'clock this morning a super electrical storm formed over our house, and it rained and thundered until just after noon. This actually coincides perfectly with the hours I slept last night. By this afternoon, all of the ants had abandoned their takeover of the kitchen since much of their anthill was under water. We were exponentially more productive today than yesterday: we went to get groceries. Our checkout bagger was an old man. Baggers at Méxican grocery stores work for tips, the store itself does not employ them. Because of this, baggers are usually twelve or thirteen year old kids. When we got back home, I ran an armload of grocery bags inside only to discover ants on every surface in the kitchen. Everywhere, on everything. (You know I mean they were scattered here and there, right? The kitchen was not black with a crawling ants mass.) Luckily, while we were at the store we'd gotten ant spray, and now the kitchen is filled with the tiny black dots of the dead. And stink. The Cat is shut into the maid's room, calling to me through the doorknob hole. And in Oaxaca: remember the teachers (plus other) union protest holding the capital city siege since May? Well, they have started a five hundred kilometer march to México City,* hoping to amplify their calls to fire Ulises Ruiz, the governor. Speaking of Ruiz, he has finally issued a statement warning teachers that they'll be fired if they abandon their students any longer for this protest.* Valid point: due to the teachers' attempt to get a squarer deal (and the multiple interest groups piggybacking on, and extending, the original strike), some of México's poorest and most illiterate populace has not been able to go to class this semester. [Cavin]

Sunday, September 24, 2006


First things first: at twelve-oh-three, central time, Sunshine and I crossed our hearts, promising not to do a damn thing all day long. We spent our time in front of the TV instead. Happy Day Off, everybody. Since there isn't much to write about today, I'll just rewrite yesterday's post with different facts. For the last two and a half days it's been difficult to sleep late. But Friday it exceeded its normal loud state. During our two and a half weeks of intermittent rain, constant construction and renovation in our neighborhood dampened as workers hauled expensive tools out of the wet. Even the workers who sit on our wall and drill all day (neighbors are building a deck) have been laying low. This last day of Summer, however, they were still drilling away after dark. Then, a great discovery: ants were heading over the threshold and into the kitchen from our little alley. Kitchen Fresh Lemon Lysol only sort of makes them irritable. There were many on the counters and an enormous quantity lined-up around the refrigerator, and crowding at the bottom of the dishwasher. Ants are something I don't want, and I spent hours getting every last one of them washed down the sink and hosing them out of the alley. After, we ate Greek food near the MARCO. It is interesting that such a simple meal--cliché, even--can still be one of the most remarkable feasts I regularly eat. I am a garides saganaki fan, and what I ate last night was just jaw-dropping; or rather, the food was so good that my jaw dropped shut on it over and over. The tzatziki and homemade pita were so utterly, humbly, calmly perfect that I immediately got lost in eating, finishing up far too fast. [Cavin]