Saturday, January 03, 2015

Much ADO about Nada

I had long resisted purchasing bus tickets on line, especially from ADO (Autobuses Del Oriente) which serves southeastern Mexico. If you want, for example, to travel from México, DF to Oaxaca, you are pretty much limited to ADO.

Another reason for reluctance for on-line purchase was that ADO was notorious (at least, on the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Mexico Branch) for not accepting foreign credit cards. And I was reluctant to use my Mexican bank ATM card.

Moreover, the web site interface, as well as its partner site, Boletotal (formerly or perhaps still "TicketBus" was unusual in the world of Mexican bus line websites. The ADO and especially, Boletotal sites had a peculiar, and often nosy way of gathering info of the bus ticket supplicants.

I can't say for sure whether these particular sites qualify, but some Mexican bus websites have a timeout function. You had better complete your transaction in the meager allotted time or be forced to begin all over from the beginning.

While it's true that it's often practical to go to the appropriate bus station to buy tickets on the day of departure. Those of us who are qualified to reap the benefits of Mexico's INAPAM senior discount program usually prefer to purchase in advance to be assured a 50% off discounted seat on the departure of your choice.

After purchasing in person at Pátzcuaro bus station our tickets to Mexico City Poniente on the separate AutoVias line (easy), we learned that we couldn't buy ADO tickets from the AutoVías taquilla (But you can buy ETN tickets there.)

So I bit the bullet and entered the fray on the site. It wasn't as bad as expected. There was, eventually a place to check off INAPAM (although they didn't ask for the numbers of our credenciales. There will be a review at boarding.

At last I reached the final screen, which informed me that "page couldn't be displayed." Oh, woe.

Yet when I opened my email in-box, there was a confirmation of payment from ADO!

Of course, there was just one tiny flaw: there was the word "null" after my name. I don't think this will present any problems at our boarding time.

Space Age Travel in Mexico TAPO

Thursday, January 01, 2015

I Hate My iPad

Borrowed from the Web

Over the years I have bought more than a few nearly useless or quickly obsoleted digital devices. But my most expensive, biggest mistake was to buy an iPad Mini.
Of the millions of users of Apple's iPad tablet, I may be one of a small handful that hates it, and especially its hellish operating system.
Someone else hates their iPad. Read it and be enlightened.

Last summer, while visiting Mom and Sis in New Jersey, I toyed with the idea of buying an iPad. I was sick at the time, and my mind was not working clearly. But on a whim, I ordered an iPad Mini 32 Gb with Retina Display.

I admit that it's a handsome little tablet, and I wasted no time in setting it up.

I'd already had some experience with an iPod Touch of ancient vintage, so I thought that would give me a leg up in understanding this new toy. It did not. It's true that my brain is aging, and I am less open to learning new tricks. I dislike distraction, but the iPad is masterly at distraction.

Even with an instructional book, "iPad— the missing manual", (NOT recommended by this blogger. A silly, silly book.) I found much of the tablet interface to be baffling.

I will say at this point, that I am a long time Macintosh user, and over the years I have learned many useful shortcuts. The Mac presents a logical structure and file system. I can get around quite well on a Mac, even with the silly eye candy junk apps ("LaunchPad" "Mission Control", "App Store") Apple installed with OS X Lion and up. (What's scary is that there are ominous hints at Apple is making the newer Mac OS's more like the iOS of iPads and iPhones. If this is true, what can I do if I buy a new Mac and it operates like an iPad?)

But! An iPad is not a Mac! An iPad has no visible filing system. The user is presented with a vaporous, slippery interface. You are at the mercy of whatever the OS throws at you.  Learning how to use iCloud was an overwhelming, confusing mess. Worse, much of the configuration and syncing is done through the nightmare's nest of the dreadful iTunes.

But even at a basic level of (dys)functionality, the iPad mostly fails to serve my needs. Instead, it gives me endless frustration.

I have many complaints about its failings, but these are a few of the most aggravating.

• Text entry slippage. Start to input text into a text input box, and suddenly, the box disappears.

• Replying to email sometimes shifts the text entry to the wrong line, and it must be Undone, a real pain in the tokhus.

• There's an inconsistency in the virtual keyboards between apps. Is it too much to ask for consistency?

• Apps opening voluntarily. Why do they do that, when I didn't request it?

•Vanishing screens: less common, but the other day I was looking at the Yahoo Finance app (one of the better ones available, and free) and the article I was reading vanished, to be replaced by another.

• Surprise notifications: I'm working, for example, in a Web page, and there suddenly pops up a notification sheet totally unrelated to the subject at hand. It's distracting and annoying.

• Similarly, SIRI is kinda cute, but mostly, it's irritating and distracting. It sometimes appears, unbidden and unwanted. Then it must be dealt with.

• Windows that don't close. A few apps have a flaw in which it's hard to close a window. The close "x's" in Safari are among the worst. Google Chrome  (overall, I prefer Chrome to Safari) windows can be closed, with extreme delicate touches. If you are not careful, clumsy attempts will simply generate yet more tabs.

On of my favorite apps is Google Maps, but even that excellent app has flaws. The other day, I got trapped in Street View and no apparent way to leave. Eventually, after much investigation, I found an evanescent exit arrow that tenuously appears in the upper left corner of the screen.Google Maps is better on the Mac.

I have other complaints, but this list will suffice. To sum up, what I feel is a loss of control of my tablet device. With my Mac, I have reasonable control. I dominate it; the Pad, on  the other hand, is a distraction machine.

I welcome your comments.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Video Download Blues

Dig We Must

The Cave Digger documentary movie is a tale of an independent creative artist. This post is not about the movie, but instead, about trying to get a valid download of the same.

I decided yesterday to rent a copy of the Cave Digger movie, from the Apple iTunes Store. That was a big mistake. Although the rental was only $4.99, I was mightily frustrated and bummed out when, after the download, that messages appeared saying that a certain display compatible with Digital Rights Management was necessary to view it. I had less than 24 hours to figure that out. Later, after a lot of "drilling down", I was able to submit a complaint to Apple iTunes Store. For what it's worth, maybe I'll get a chargeback to my credit card.  What pissed me off was that as far as I could see, there was no warning about the special requirements on the iTunes movie downloads page. Plus, it was difficult to locate the video file on my drive. I found it with a Spotlight search on my Mac, but to no avail, as I couldn't play it. Apple, and the iTunes bloatware made me feel technically incompetent.

I went back to bed, then later decided to look on the site for the same movie. There it was. I decided to splurge, and I rented it, albeit as "SD" rather than "HD". (The difference I dimly understand.) Almost immediately, Amazon asked me if I wanted to view the movie right away!. I thought that was incredibly generous, and I started to watch it, uninterruptedly.

When I checked my mail in-box, there was an email from Amazon giving me a $1 credit toward the purchase of an MP3. That, IMO, makes for a very satisfactory customer experience.

With which company would you prefer to do business? At this point I'll hold my rather extensive negative opinions of Apple. I have been a long time Apple loyalist but now I can rant on for a long time about Apple's current negative aspects.

Here's a trailer for the movie.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Big Chill

Lake Pátzcuaro in Winter

The blindness has been taken away. We have lived here in Michoacán for 9 years, starting with cold and getting colder and colder. You can rationalize as much as you like, but it's cold here in winter, and no amount of delusion can make it warm. We are living in unheated houses! This is lunacy. What were we thinking?

Yes, we have portable space heaters and warm blankets but their reach is limited.

What's the answer? Maybe we need to move somewhere like Melaque.

Global warming is a joke in Michoacán.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Three Cylinder Opera (a farce)

Idealized propane cylinder
I was preparing breakfast this morning. Arepas and bacon. I had modified the arepas with an egg, a bit of oil and some baking powder in the hope that they would be lighter.

I had the bacon, almost done in the skillet. I put the griddle for the arepas over two burners and turned them on. Just then, the flames faltered and went out. I donned my LED headlamp and went behind the house to switch the scuffed and battered propane cylinders. As I'd thought, one was empty. It was an easy task to switch to the other.

Back at the stove, I relit the burners, and again, they feebly faltered and extinguished.

Back again at the propane tank, I discovered that it also was empty. How could that be?

It might be hours before the propane vending trucks that ply ciudad y campo would come by..

So, I detached a portable 10 kilo cylinder from the heating stove in the living room. and wrestled it out back. It was frustrating connecting it, due to hose and coupling shortfalls.

Some time later, after I'd calmed down, I was able to get it connected, and it worked like a charm.

The arepas and bacon were good. We are still waiting for a propane truck to arrive. In the meantime, I took a 2 hour long nap.

Moral: always carry an effective spare. This was kind of a once in a lifetime cosmic event, as we have one empty and one partial cylinder at the front of the house. Those are used for the water heater, which we fire up on an as needed basis. (Pilot runs constantly.)

We are still waiting for a propane truck to arrive.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Twistems: Hate 'em! Can't Live Without 'Em!

The Many Colors of Twistems

Twistems (wire ties for plastic bags): Hate 'em. Can't live without 'em. Sometimes pure hell to untwist from the neck of the bag because *someone* has double twisted them. Then there are those that are too short or too stiff to be easily removed. Others are found in the bottom of the chest freezer, having *spontaneously*, of their own accord freed themselves, as the contents of the bag spill into the cavernous depths of the freezer.

And there's the old standby: not to hard to remove, perhaps, but WhereTF is it when you want to re-close the bag?

My policy when cooking or baking is that any twistems removed from bags get placed *off* the work surface. Hardly anything is worse then finding a wire tie in your slice of bread.

Despite my loathing for twistems, we have to ask friends to schlep some in their luggage when returning to México from los Estados Unidos. After all, we wouldn't want to ever run out of them. Twist ties are only now barely debuting in México. Most plastic bags here are closed by twirling the bag and its contents into a usually unassailable knot, the bag openable by ripping or assaulting it with scissors.

In the end, twistems are our friends, although difficult ones, as they help to keep foods fresh and to prevent ants and other insects from entering and eating our foods.

Even the ants are confused and frustrated

Thursday, January 30, 2014

P as in Privacy

Don Cuevas, exposed in the men's room, Restaurant Zandunga, Oaxaca

Below are a few of my observations, acquired over time in Mexico, of the role privacy plays or fails to play in public restrooms in various locals, such as bus stations. If you are sensitive or easily offended, I suggest that you go read another blog. This one will lay it out the way I see it. If you are ready, Read On>>