Archive for May, 2013

Winter weather is here.

Posted: May 29, 2013 in Life
Tags: , , ,

The first rains of fall started a couple of weeks ago, but so far have not been more than a drizzle. Today, however, it was raining heavily, for Santiago, and the fallen leaves coupled with the water was clogging city street drains and jamming up the pedestrian and car traffic downtown. Santiago, much like other desert cities, seems ill-equipped to deal with heavy rainfall.

In the process of dodging a suicidal taxi rampaging its way through the flooded curb and its accompanying tsunami, I managed to run straight into a puddle just as deep. Much to the amusement of my fellow pedestrians, and BermudaBob, who is here for a visit.

The storms are leaving fresh dustings of snow on the surrounding mountains, which have been bare for quite some time.

No biting social or political commentary this time, just observations 🙂

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On the 14th of May, the Dolar Blue reached 100% higher than the official Argentine Peso exchange rate. The official rate of 5.22 Pesos/USD was dwarfed by the black-market rate of 10.45 Pesos/USD. It has since scaled back a bit to 9.4 as of writing.

What does this mean?

1. Argentina lies.

2. If you go on vacation in Argentina with US Dollars and change them through Arbolitos, you can have your vacation at half price. Party like a Rock Star.

Other examples abound. I have a travel agent in Argentina who plays the arbitrage between currencies, and I can save hundreds of dollars by booking flights through him if I pay in USD (we split the difference). He’s happy, I’m happy. This summer after I visit my mother in the USA, I will fly from Chicago to Indonesia, and then back again, for about USD$1800 round trip. Thanks, Kristina!

What does this mean for Argentina’s future?

1. They will devalue soon.

2. They will devalue soon.

3. They will devalue soon.

4. Argies are all using USD anyways despite the currency controls.

There’s no way around it. They will have to stop forcing people to go by an exchange rate that is twice as crappy as what folks are trading with now, and the only politically “viable” way to do it is to rob those who have saved in Pesos by chopping their currency off at the knees. Look for Chavez-style revaluation in the very near future.

Two reporters claim to have “printed the first plastic gun in the UK” and took it on Eurostar without it being detected.

Well, duh. It’s a harmless piece of plastic:

“We did not attempt to smuggle the firing pin or bullet for safety and legal reasons, but small metal items could be easily concealed.”

So, then, what was the point? There was none. Without a firing pin or a bullet, what use is the item they took with them on the train? None. It’s as useless as a hammer without hand to swing it, or as useless as an empty beer can. As dangerous as a toy gun.

Gee, you’d think that with all those metal detectors meant to look for metal, that they would see metal if they went looking for metal. So if we don’t put metal in it, it won’t be seen as metal. What rocket science! Hooray for England!

Then, you might ask yourself: how can it be dangerous, without its metal parts?

Quick moron answer: It can’t be.

Therefore I suggest that in the future, said reporters avoid using statements like “Weapon capable of firing a live round smuggled on to packed Eurostar,” and, “the reporters were able to assemble the pieces to create a fully functional firearm.” It was neither capable of firing a live round, nor fully functional.

I also really doubt it is the first one in the UK. The plans have been out for several days and they are not the only ones with a 3d printer. Don’t get ahead of yourselves, kids. More than 100,000 people downloaded DefCad’s Liberator before the Nazis played their censor card, and I can guarantee you that just about anyone with a 3d printer and thoughts of Liberty are printing one as I type this.

This stunt is just another display of English gun ignorance and an attempt by fascist fearmongers to make the sheep of the world afraid of 3d printing and guns.

“Last night, security experts and politicians said they were horrified at the implications of our investigation. Lord West, the former Labour security Minister, called for a review to see how the ‘extremely dangerous’ weapons could be better detected.”

What a surprise that those who have a monopoly on force feel threatened that just about anyone can now print their own firearms. Short of thorough body cavity searches, you can’t detect them better. Time to make peace with the fact that you are obsolete, “security experts and politicians.”

“Authorities should be extremely worried. The obvious danger is that if you have the ability to print out a gun on a 3D printer from a blueprint downloaded online, then the probability is that a terrorist has that capability as well. which could have devastating consequences. They could potentially cause a problem at 38,000ft that would cause the aircraft to crash or be hijacked.” says Chris Yates, an aviation security analyst.

You know, if everyone can print a gun, maybe it would be a fine sight to see: a terrorist pulls out his 3d printed firearm, shouts “Allah Akhbar” and then is promptly ventilated by 100 other people around him who all have their own 3d printed firearms. That would make all of this “security” nonsense unnecessary.

Perhaps people have forgotten that you can still use your hands or other body parts to take the life from another person. A pen? A pencil? Your house keys? Just about anything that you can still find in an airplane can be used to kill someone.

They still give you metal cutlery in first class!

Or, maybe, just maybe, if people were not harassed when they go about their business with the mindset of common self-defense without anyone or anything getting in the way of it, we could just buy guns openly, and we wouldn’t need to use 3d printing technology to protect ourselves.

Since the new director was appointed to the SMA (Uruguay’s Servicio de Material y Armamiento), all manner of delays and holdups have taken hold. Chiefly, lockdowns on importation of new ammunition from abroad, and now major delays in processing of the Carne Coleccionista, which permits sportsmen, collectors, and enthusiasts to own larger caliber firearms and their accompanying ammunition. Normally, all Carne Coleccionista permits must be renewed annually before March 31st, a process which is done through agents in firearm dealerships or directly at the SMA office in Montevideo. However, since the 2013 renewals have gone in, few have come back out, effectively rendering those unprocessed renewals expired and technically making the ownership, use, sale, and importation of said higher-caliber firearms illegal despite any previous permitting.

Whether the delays are on purpose or simply par-for-the-course Uruguayan bureaucratic ineptitude remains to be seen, but the results are nonetheless unsettling.

To make matters worse, reloading supplies have all but dried up in Uruguay, and their traditional backup supplier, Argentina. I was recently quoted $6 per shot to reload .303 British rounds, after waiting over a year for the quote, as the materials had to be found first.

It’s not “news” per se, but it happened. I just never got around to writing about it because I’m lazy. About 10 days ago I was shaken awake by an earthquake. Or maybe I was dreaming it. It happened around 7am so I was still nestled deeply into my bed, in a comatose state, when suddenly I was dreaming that my bed was shaking around as if I was laying in the bed of a pickup truck driving down a rough gravel road. With a Tempurpedic mattress in it.

Still not bad, kind of comfy actually. Whatever was happening, it was not enough to freak me out into awakeness. Maybe I should have been more concerned, or maybe not. I am a newcomer to earthquake culture. Give me floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, baseball-sized hail and freezing rain that bends 100-foot pine trees into curly things that belong in a Dr. Seuss book, no problem. But earthquakes are new.

I was talking with DiverBob the same morning after I had arisen from my coffin, and told him about the weird dream I had.

“No, man, that was real.”

Was it then? Hmm, interesting. Nothing was amiss in the apartment. In fact, nothing had moved at all. Every grain of dust was right there in the pile it should be in, next to the ancient pizza boxes and mountain of empty beer bottles and cans, and the hookers were still passed out on the sofa, etc.

We looked up the info and it was a 4.9, the epicenter of which we calculated to be 30km south of a town called Colina, which just happens to be 30km north of my apartment building.

So if that’s a 4.9, I guess my earthquake virginity has now officially been claimed by Chile, and I am no longer fearful of them. That said I am hunting for disaster insurance.

 

…or two days in Uruguayan banks.

Actually that’s not really fair to the title, because after his two years before the mast, Richard Henry Dana was cured of his ills and much better for the experience. I do not feel cured nor better.

I went in early on Monday to deal with wiring some money to someone somewhere. Due to the amount, they wanted me to provide documentation as to the source of the funds. Which were already in the bank. OK, says I, while the girl behind the counter literally takes 2 hours to fill out the form for the international wire. “I will have to come back later with a copy,” I tell her.

“No problem,” she says, “it will be about another 30 minutes before the papers are ready and signed by the manager.”

“You mean that you are going to approve it anyways while I wait, without the papers you are asking for?”

“Yes.”

“So why am I going to go and get them, and harass my lawyer to dig up a months-old archived copy of the bill of sale for that apartment?”

“Because we need it,” she answers.

“…to do a wire that you are going to do now, before you get the paper.”

“Yes.”

Riiiiight. So off I go to the lawyer who did the sale documentation, and get a copy. This takes another hour or two. By this time I am worried if I will get to the bank before it closes. You see, arriving early to a bank in Uruguay means 1pm. They close at 6.

And then I go back to the bank with the documents, to wait in line for another hour or so, and hand them over. The bank closes as I am heading out the door. And I know for a fact that those papers will join others in the compost heap in the basement. What a waste of time, and this is just me, one guy. Imagine the amount of trees being wasted to provide paper which is to be wasted for time which is to be wasted, using tax money which is to be wasted, derived from human effort and wealth which is to be wasted… it’s incredible.

I didn’t have time to re-deposit the money I was going to use to buy that lot in Chile, so I’ll have to do that tomorrow. In the evening I meet with VikingBob and SwingdanceBob for some empanadas, but that place is closed, so we go to the Pizza Empire which is open, and what the hell I order Chivitos. It’s been a while.

The gardeners came this morning, saw my truck in the driveway, and left another Cayote melon they found on its hood. But they took all of my bell peppers. Which were looking nice and red and ripe. I was looking forward to eating them until I went out there to pick them and found all of them gone. Not cool. Seriously. Who the fuck does that?

Next day, I go back to the bank “early” when it opens, and deposit said money. The guy puts on his evil face when the large stack of bills hits the counter. Well, it could be constipation, or gas… either way he looks uncomfortable. Because it is over a certain amount, EvilFaceMan tells me that he needs proof of where it came from.

“You see those receipts rubber-banded to the tops of the stacks of bills?” I ask the man behind the counter.

“Yes.”

“They have not moved since I took them from this very desk just a month or so ago.”

“Ahhhh, so they are from this bank?”

“Yes. It says so on the receipts. I decided not to buy the land, so I am putting the money back into my account.”

“OK, no problem,” his evil face flips back into happy mode.

An hour later he is done counting every bill, makes a xerox of the original withdrawal receipts for their official records (which will go into the compost heap in the basement), and hands me my deposit receipt. Then I go to the Mostrador’s desk and ask them for a copy of my entire account history going back to 2007, to be thorough, in order to overwhelm the citizenship nazis with proof that I was here in Uruguay for more than 3 years so I can get my &@^$% passport.

I look for a young, good-looking, seemingly competent person there and find one. You see, I always strike out when I get stuck with the sour, dried-out old prune ladies who view me as everything they could never have (ie: a wealthy, handsome foreigner) and therefore begin pouring on the hate like boiling pancake syrup.

This young lady hears my question, answers it, and reacts. She does so unlike the robotic, “No, you can’t do that,” PruneLady response, and so much to my enjoyment. She actually smiles! What? Her face is still intact? It didn’t break? The world isn’t coming to an end?

No, she actually finds all the back-records and prints it all out for me. Granted it took another hour because none of their machines were working, but because she is such a non-standard Uruguayan, she actually kept trying to get it to work instead of throwing her hands up in the air with an “es lo que hay.”

So there goes another wasted day of sitting in a Uruguayan bank. But my work on this planet is done.

Cayote!

Posted: May 5, 2013 in Life, Travel
Tags: , , ,

After two years the cayote I planted in the backyard of the Uruguay house has finally made babies. They are massive. Well, they damn well better be, because that plant has been repeatedly chopped back and killed and burned and salt-blasted and it still manages to grow a foot per day and take over the entire neighborhood.

Massive melons are always best received in pairs, I say.

Yeah, I’m back in Uruguay, to do more banking facetime. Because you can’t. You just simply can’t. No, señor, you can’t do that. So we’ll see just what all I can’t do tomorrow when it’s Monday and I can’t go into the bank until after noon. Joy.

2013-05-05 15.39.35