Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Not So Funny Thing Happened To Me In a Forum

          A Rant.

I've been involved in various Internet fora for years, starting with the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree and going on to Mexconnect.com, then others, such as Any Port In a Storm.

Obviously, different fora have different purposes and personalities. Thorn Tree is huge, and different branches have distinct personalities.

Although it's not perfect, (I wouldn't expect that.) I am still a frequent visitor.

What I have realized in the last years or so is that as sources for reliable information, some fora are nearly worthless. It may sound ageist, but the older the general membership of the forum, the less accurate is the info and the higher the noise to sound ratio.

I started to see this on Mexconnect, where a lot of time and text is spent discussing Inmigracíon and Aduana topics. Unfortunately, with a few exceptions, many of the replies are inaccurate, off target, outdated and incomplete. I question how anyone reading the responses can sort out the few grains of gold from the flow of dross.

It's one thing to ask for info on goods and services, but in the area of immigration matters and health, it's best to seek authoritative expertise.

Last week, a question arose on a local Michoacán Yahoo Group about how much it costs to renew an FM 3 visa. There were about 8 responses, one of which was wildly inaccurate while maybe one was close and one other was spot on. Who could tell which was right?

I suggested to the OP (Original Poster) that they go to the Migracíon office, ask in person, and get the official word. Or try to navigate the INM website for an answer. The whole fee chart is on that website.

Similarly, the Expat Forum-Mexico, which I joined about 2 months ago, has been very disappointing to me in that that there are regular posters who might have something useful to contribute but spend much time in rambling, off topic chit chat. I want to scream when I read these waylaid threads.*

In defense, I learned how to turn of the email notifications that came to my in-box when anyone added their nugget of trivia to an already totally wasted topic. Some members seem to be compelled to post a comment to nearly everything, whether or not their response is relevant to the OP.

Others don't seem to understand the difference between a forum and a blog, even when it's explained to them, and write long accounts of trivial events of their day, complete with personal minutiae which don't interest me in the least.

*There is one poster on the Expat Forum Mexico who totally sends me off the edge. Not only is he inclined to be extremely verbose, but rambling and somewhat incoherent. Yesterday he not only posted one of his streams of semi-consciousness blathers, but then wrote two responses to himself, commenting to himself!

A serious example of cluelessness.
The other day, in the Expat Mexico Forum, came a serious request from a woman with citizenship questions. She had decided to hire an attorney to help her make the transition to naturalized Mexican citizen. Fine. But, she had some doubts about being able to leave Mexico for a European trip while her citizenship application was in process.

So she asked the Forum. That set me off. I think it the height of folly to ask a group of inexpert amateurs questions of such a serious nature. I told her to ask at the Mexican Foreign Office (SRE) or perhaps her hired attorney could give better advice. It turned out that she was leaving in a few days on her trip, so that her question was essentially pointless and a waste of other posters' time!

I can only conclude that many expat questions are posed to the group in order to confirm the OP's preconceived "Reality Bubble".

This, just in! 
Another harmless but inherently unanswerable question appeared yesterday on our local Michoacán Yahoo Group. A couple was looking at renting a lovely house in Pátzcuaro. She asked the Group what typical utility costs, heating, etc were.

I attempted to give an answer that sketched out some of the variables involved, but in the end, the answer is, "It all depends.".

That's all I have to say about this now. I can only conclude that I am either socially maladapted, or too damned cranky to put up with the charla babosa (drooling chitchat) on some of those fora.

Below are a few fun questions from my vast collection.
Q:"Is the party still on the 16th?"
A: Your guess is as good as mine.

Q: "How do I get to Santa Juana Fulana to —name of famous artesanías shop— I don't have a car."
A: "Take a combi, a bus or a taxi. Details below."

Q: "Where can I send a fax in Pátzcuaro?"
A: " Walk down any street or two in Centro, until you see a sign that says FAX

Friday, August 17, 2012

Got Gas?

La Cocina, 2006. Not all that much has changed in 6 years.
The symptoms first made their appearance within 48 hours of the big Popeye's Chicken Tenders feed. I went to turn on the gas range, but it wouldn't light. I went around to the back of the house where the gas cylinders reside and checked both tanks. One was definitely empty but the other had plenty of gas.

After I turned the selector switch of  the regulator back and forth a couple of times, I was able to light the stove. But it didn't last.

Later that day, the Gas Express guy sold me a full cylinder. I thought it was good to go.

They rarely look this good.

More like this, but not as nice
Estufa muerta.
Next morning, I got no response from either cylinder. I realized with a wrench that mi estufa se ha muerta. That wouldn't have been so bad in the short run, but I had two braided challah breads rising and needing to be baked before very long.

A call for help.
I called Global Gas from my phone and they said that they'd send some technicians out. Meanwhile, I made a couple of spaces in our chest freezer and put the slowly rising challahs into icy sleep.

Nipples, hosiery, and a bivalve regulator.
I got in the Windstar and drove to Pátzcuaro. There were several errands to do, but my main destination was Vidrioelétrica, Pátzcuaro's largest and most fully stocked ferretería. It wasn't too busy, and I quickly got what I'd come for: a new "bivalve" regulator of the mini type, and two flexible, reinforced hoses with easy to turn knobs. The modern kind, which doesn't require a wrench. Goodbye to stubborn copper tubing that breaks all too easily.

Snazzy American version of the same thing

A fast course in assembly.
Back home at the Rancho, I returned to the ailing old regulator and quickly gave myself an intensive refresher course in how to assemble this rig. It's actually quite easy when you know how. So of course, it took me a while. I had it all connected and working well in an hour or so, after several trips back and forth to the porch. The oven lit.

I removed the semi frozen breads from the freezer and let them come back to life on a table out on the porch. The day was pleasantly warm and the breads responsive.

The bread was almost ready to go into the now heated oven, when the Global Gas techs showed up. The looked over my work at the new regulator, disconnected everything, rewrapped it more securely with Teflon tape, but were unable to reconnect the main gas hose. The screws were stripped. I was told that the entire hose should be replaced, but there was no way I was going back into Pátzcuaro that day.

They suggested taking the working hose from the separate hot water boiler in the front, and it would serve to let the baking and cooking continue. But of course, we would then have no hot water from the boiler.

I told them to do so, as I needed to bake those two loaves that had undergone so much waiting. There was no charge for their services, but I gave them a propina para unos refrescos.

The oven quickly recovered its heat and the loaves went in. I took advantage of the gas supply to make lunch: rice, sautéed fish filets, etc.

The bread came out acceptably good.

archive photo

After lunch, I put a big kettle of water on to heat up for dishwashing.

Suddenly, I was exhausted. I lay down for a siesta, and when I arose an hour or so later, I decided to try the old hose on the hot water boiler. I was able to make a tenuous connection, one of dubious safety, yet enough for us to shower. Afterwards, I turned off the cylinder as there was a distinct smell of gas hanging about the porch.

I hope to conclude this project today by buying and connecting a new, replacement hose. Then all will be right in our little corner of the world.

Back at Vidrioeléctrica the next day
The store was even less busy than the day before. At the counter I asked the salesgirl for a gas connector hose. She rejoined with, "How long do you need?"
 I told her that 3 meters should do the job.
"¿Económica o reforzado?"
" Reforzado."
She brought out a pre-measured length of Coflex Conector Flexible para Gas. VG-B300. It is shiny and beautiful. It was fabricated in Monterrey. This is their website. Coflex.

The Gold Standard in Gas Connectors*

Look over the packaging. It has illustrations of the parts, with the names in Spanish, so that you can learn the difference between trenzado, manguera, férula y tuerca.

Back home again, I could hardly wait to connect it. In fact, it took all of two minutes. Once again, we have gas for cooking, washing dishes and bathing.

* Except that Coflex also makes a stainless steel reinforced flexible connector. Ours is vinyl reinforced.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Kuar Tukuni

We are big fans of hot springs. The more natural their setting, the better we enjoy them. The aguas termales of the Balneario Kuar Tukuni more than meet our needs. Too bad that it's so far from Pátzcuaro.

Our energetic and ever enthusiastic, bird specialist friend Georgia Conti had discovered this place and organized our excursion. We were nine in number, including amigas from Georgia's neighbors of her village.

The trip from Pátzcuaro takes about an hour or more. The correct exit from the autopista is marked by a sign for Ario de Rosales and El Tejaban. There, a graveled road winds eastward for about 3 miles until reaching a turnoff to the left, which descends to the balneario parking area. There are  a large swimming pool (cool, I think) picnic tables and changing rooms close to the parking area.

Upper pool

Picnic area
From there, a paving stone pathway descends to a stream which is crossed on a suspension bridge. I call it, "The Bridge on the River Kuaar".
The Bridge
The paths lead through phantasmagoric woods, with cascades and dense trees, the spookiest of which are the ghostly "saurian" trees.

Hold tight to your Mommy's hand!

Kuar Tukuni (or "Tukuri", speliing seems to vary from sign to sign.) is a simply outfitted, rustic balneario. There are no flashy water slides and other child frenzy magnets. What it does have are three, circular thermal water pools, about 3-4 feet deep and 15 feet in diameter. Two are filled with very hot water and the third with lukewarm. I didn't take any photos of the hot water pools nor of the picnic palapas. Fortunately, Georgia had some photos from an earlier visit, which she generously sent to me.

Lower hot pools. Photo: GC
Additionally, there's a large, apparently cool water swimming pool near the upper parking area. Another, with somewhat turbid water, is below at the end of the lower thermal pools clearing. There are several palapas  lined concrete benches, and simple cooking facilities, a rough table, and most important, the roof that shades you from the intense sun of la Tierra Caliente.

Lower cool pool. Photo courtesy of GC
This pool was the hottest, at a measured 111º F. Photo by GC
We didn't see this "natural" pool on our visit. Photo: GC
Costs: Adultos $30, niños, $20
Hours: I don't recall: about 9 a.m. to 6 p,m., I guess.
Pools are drained and cleaned Tuesdays and Thursdays Fridays, (Georgia wrote me to correct the days of cleaning).
Restaurant available on the grounds on weekends and holidays only. Pescado sarandeado a specialty.
We didn't try the restaurant, as we were headed to La Mesa de Blanca, some 35 minutes drive north. in Ziracuaretiro.

I recommend Kuar Tukuni for a pleasant day out if hot spring pools in a rustic setting appeals to you.

Georgia Conti deserves great thanks for organizing this outing. If you are interested in birding in México, she can take you to the best spots. You can see more on her blog, Pátzcuaro Birder.