Friday, August 17, 2018

JFK on universal health care

JFK arguing for universal coverage almost 6 decades ago. Amazing that we are still having this fight.



Wednesday, August 15, 2018

On Privilege

"When you are accustomed to privilege, equality can feel like oppression."
-Stephanie Herrera

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

On Living

“To lament that we shall not be alive a hundred years hence, is the same folly as to be sorry we were not alive a hundred years ago.”
-Montaigne

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Monday, July 30, 2018

Jesus '20

"If Jesus showed up and ran for president in 2020 on the platform that human empathy and compassion is more important than personal wealth, do you think Trump supporters would call him a libtard to his face or just behind his back?"
-Dvora Koelling

a warning for crows

“Archmaester Rigney once wrote that history is a wheel, for the nature of man is fundamentally unchanging. What has happened before will perforce happen again, he said."
-A Feast for Crows


“I prefer my history dead. Dead history is writ in ink, the living sort in blood.”

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Was the 2016 election legitimate? It's now definitely worth asking the question

"We need to talk about a forbidden subject: the legitimacy of the current president.

There’s been a code of silence around President Donald Trump’s shady victory in 2016. It’s one of those tiptoe-around-it things that the American family just doesn’t talk about. And with good reason. Whatever your politics, it’s perilous to question the soundness of an American election.

Raising the question of Trump’s legitimacy risks detonating a full-blown crisis of faith — kindling distrust not just in Trump, but also in the system that installed him.

But fear of facing the legitimacy question has not stopped Americans from harboring profound doubts, if only “deep down in places you don't talk about at parties,” in Aaron Sorkin’s phrasing from “A Few Good Men.”

As more and more facts about Trump’s incongruous victory emerges, the doubts gnaw harder — and grow harder to ignore.

A nation devoted to majority rule has a minority president. Who squeaked into office on an electoral college technicality. Against most data projections. Using dark money. Using voter suppression. Using Russian disinformation."
-Virginia Heffernan, "Was the 2016 election legitimate? It's now definitely worth asking the question"


Friday, July 27, 2018

Hacking the Vote

"U.S. officials will admit that Vladimir Putin interfered with the 2016 election. They don’t specifically deny that Russian operatives altered votes.

They will only say they cannot confirm that fact. They will say that there is no conclusive evidence to support it. That is simply not true.

When one dissects the publicly available information on Putin’s state-sanctioned campaign to elect Donald Trump, the same evidence that supports the intelligence community’s assertion that Russia wanted to elect Donald Trump also points to the inescapable fact Russian actors most likely changed votes....

When Bradley Moss, a cybersecurity lawyer, won a freedom of information suit against the U.S. government for data on the Russian hacks, the documents revealed that Russia actually got inside the voting systems of seven states, including 4 of the 5 largest states in terms of electoral votes—California (55) Texas (38) Florida (29) and Illinois (20).

 U.S. intelligence officials disputed the claim at first. But days later, on Feb. 18, DHS acknowledged that seven states were actually breached, and Homeland Security didn’t inform the individual states until eight months after the election, according to NBC. 

Yet, in recanting its initial lie, a statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said the intelligence community’s assessment “found that Russian actors did not compromise vote-tallying systems. That assessment has not changed.”

 Those states have vehemently denied that any votes were changed in the 2016 elections. Then again most of the states had no idea their systems had been penetrated until they were specifically told.

 In fact, 6 of the 7 states still deny that their systems were ever breached."
-Michael Harriot, "Evidence Shows Hackers Changed Votes in the 2016 Election But No One Will Admit It"

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Big Lie

"They’re all dead now. All the unofficial fathers of modern conservatism: William F. Buckley, Russell Kirk, Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan. All of the self-anointed torch bearers for Edmund Burke are dead, and you might be tempted to think that these men (always men) would be aghast at what the Republican party has become under Donald Trump. Trump is, after all, a graceless, ignorant sack of shit. Whereas the forebears of his party were men of principle. Good men. Strong men. The kind of men you could have a whiskey and civilized argument with! These were the mythical good conservatives.

And being a “good” conservative is a very marketable thing to be right now. It’s done wonders for Senators like John McCain and Jeff Flake, both of whom have earned lavish praise for offering the occasional STERN REBUKE to Trump and doing little more. And it’s made stars out of columnists such as Bret Stephens, who was hired off his #NeverTrump cred and who has since spent his tenure at the New York Times taunting college students and defending Woody Allen.

Because we live in a two-party system, there is an eternal need for legacy media outlets like the Times and CNN to be “balanced,” to give conservatism a platform to rebut all those dirty, screeching liberals. It’s as if the Times strives to recreate every hallway conversation on The West Wing by dishing out a healthy salary to any conservative writer who imitates a William F. Buckley fart from 1971 like it's a bird call. It’s a nice thought, this balance. And lord knows that liberals (like me) have a habit of shouting down those that they don’t particularly agree with.

But here’s why I do that from time to time: it’s because conservatism is a big fucking lie."
Drew Magary, "The Great Lie of Conservatism"

Friday, July 20, 2018

Norman Wilson Sablosky

I am updating my previous post about my grandfather with the remarks I gave at his memorial service

Norman Wilson Sablosky. 

A dapper gentleman, if ever there was one. 

If you knew my Poppy, you would know it is no exaggeration when I say: Rudolph Valentino has left the building.

He was a man who always appreciated the finer things in life.

He was the last of an era now long gone. 

An era of ascots and fedoras.

Of foxtrots, box steps and waltzes.

To me, he always represented the finer things--like the chandeliers he used to sell.

To me, he is remembered in touchstones:

like tan camel-hair jackets;

corduroy evening coats, earth tones---patches and all;

rich mahogany wood;

fine dark leather;

white linen suits;

copper, bronze; 

agua lavanda aftershave;

dark cognac in a snifter. 

The country club. 

The symphony.

Impressionist art, something my grandmother called “old friends”

Poppy represented class and a demure style that has long since faded--disappeared in the immediacy of now, cheap plastic and digital. 

He was not so much a red-string to a bygone era, but a fancy, impeccably-tucked cravat.

He was of a genteel, gilded age, a veritable belle epoque, that has long since passed.

It was he and my grandmother who influenced me most to try new things: you don't have to like it, you just have to try it.

He opened my mind to different cultures through culinary exploration; he expanded my world, and made me curious of all corners of the globe.

There exists the slivers of immortality that rests in the memory of others.   

I feel that now as I hear his voice echo through my head, and I am deeply saddened that I won't hear it again. 

Not in this life time, anyway.

The author Rebecca Solnit wrote in her essay "Now and Then":

“The present is by common definition the instant between the not yet and the already, a moment as narrow and treacherous as a tightrope.

But you might instead define it as all that is remembered by those who are currently alive.

A version of the now ends when living memory gives way to secondhand memory or recorded history — when the last veteran of a war dies, or a language loses its last fluent speakers.

As long as such witnesses are on hand, the now is something bigger than it seems.”

Saturday, July 14, 2018

A History Lesson for the NeverTrump crowd

"I was educated a Democrat from my boyhood,” a Republican delegate confided to his colleagues at Iowa’s constitutional convention in 1857. “Faithfully, I did adhere to that party until I could no longer act with it. Many things did I condemn ere I left that party, for my love of party was strong. And when I did, at last, feel compelled to separate from my old Democratic friends, it was like tearing myself away from old home associations.”

 As often seems the case today, American politics in the 1850s were nearly all-consuming and stubbornly tribal. So it was hard—and bitterly so—for hundreds of thousands of Northern Democrats to abandon the political organization that had long formed the backbone of their civic identity. Yet they came over the course of a decade to believe that the Jacksonian Democratic Party had degenerated into something thoroughly autocratic and corrupt. It had fallen so deeply in the thrall of the Slave Power that it posed an existential threat to American democracy.

During the presidential campaign of 2016, and for the better part of the past two years, these Never Trumpers could plausibly speak of extracting their party from the grip of white nationalism and angry populism. Now, with midterm elections approaching—with broad majorities of the GOP electorate firmly in the president’s thrall and the Republican Congress all but fully acquiescent to the White House—such talk is fanciful.

Like that Iowa delegate in 1857, today’s Never Trumpers face a stark choice: passively acquiesce to the further ascent of Trumpism, or switch parties and play a vital part in stopping it.
If they do choose the latter, they might be surprised at the result: Like the GOP’s founding generation, in the process of leaving a party they once loved, today’s Never Trump Republicans might also free themselves from partisan dogmas that have lost relevance in the current age. At the same time, they might find Democrats demonstrating a new spirit of flexibility and accommodation—leading to a new unity that could cure the country of some of its worst ills."
-Joshua Zeitz, "NeverTrumpers will want to read this history lesson"

Chiles en Nogado

In honor of my grandfather, I went out for dinner last night.  That was always something I associated with him and my grandmother--eating out, trying new restaurants, trying new foods.  I wanted to find a place to try the iconic Chiles en Nogada.  

The story behind chiles en nogada is that General Augustin de Iturbide, the victorious commander of the Mexican War of Independence (and soon-to-be-Emperor Agustin I of the First Mexican Empire, my imperial grandfather would have approved...) was on his way back from Veracruz in 1821 after signing the Treaty of Cordoba.  The city wanted to honor the conquering general, so they threw a feast in his honor.  Like with the creation of mole, the town turned to a religious order of nuns (this time, the order Agustine nuns) to create a dish to honor their guest.  The outcome was the iconic dish that bears the colors of the Mexican flag.

But first, the soup.  The meal came with a delicious vegetable soup served in a rustic clay bowl.  The rich soup had chunks of carrots, zucchini and some sort of leafy green.

Wikicommons image
Then the piece de resistance, the chiles en nogada came.  The dish consists of whole green poblano chile stuffed with spiced shredded beef, fruits and nuts--such as apples, pears, peaches and almonds.  The green chile is fried and covered in a white walnut cream sauce--from nogal, walnut in Spanish from which the dish derives its name, and then covered in sprinkled red pomegranate seeds.   Hence the green, white and red of the Mexican flag.

The dish was a phenomenal combination of savory and sweet.  The texture of the shredded beef and fruits and nuts was utterly delicious.  Interestingly, the dish is really only served in the months of August to September, when the pomegranate is in season.

I washed it down with a nice Negra Modelo oscuro, a dark beer that is always a fav.

The meal was a nice treat, and a nice way to remember my grandfather in a way I think he would have appreciated.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Cómprame cacahuetes y crackerjack...


After the rain the day before, I decided to try again last night for getting out to a besibol game of the Pericos de Puebla.

It was a little cloudy in the evening when I started out towards Boulevard de Heroes de Publa to catch the little bus towards the stadium.  I waited a little bit in traffic before the right bus came, and whisked up and away towards the stadium.

I arrived and walked over to the ticket vendor.  I bought a general seat for 30 pesos ($1.50) in the outfield bleachers.  Only after did I realize that there was no cover over the bleachers and it was about to pour.

The evening rains came in, and soaked us.  I was outside the stadium, killing time over a beer in the parking lot.  I huddled under an overhang at the next door theater, drinking a Victoria mestiza (Ni oscura; ni clara--neither dark nor light as the slogan states) and waited for the rains to pass.  When it stopped pouring down, I made my way to the stadium to wait inside.

At the stadium, I waited for the rains to pass and grabbed some ballpark grub.  It was some of the best, cheapest ball park food I have ever had.  They had cemitas, the local sandwich specialty.  I got a cemita de polla, a thin, breaded deep-fried chicken filet covered in fresh-sliced and fried potato chips, onions, stringy quesillo cheese, jalapeno rajas anda avocado in an enormous seeded brioche.  The sandwich was immense, and only 50 pesos ($2.50) which is not that more than getting a cemita in the city.  I washed it down with an Indio beer--at the park, they don't have a tap but rather pour two bottles simultaneously into a souvenir cup.  It was 50 pesos ($2.50) for a 32 oz beer, as opposed to the obscene price of $15 for a similar size at Nats Park.   

And I wandered around the small stadium and gift store.  It was funny, they were selling Pericos de Puebla jerseys and hats that had similar "P" logo style to the Philadelphia Phillies.  And their opponents, the Saraperos de Saltillo reminded me a little of the White Sox logo style

After a long rain delay, the game finally began.  It was a lot of fun.  Little things gave me a chuckle like the Tercera Base (3rd Baseman) and Jardinero Izquierda (Left Fielder).  I recognized the name of one of the players, Delmon Young from the Tigers and Orioles.

Just for reference, the Mexican League is Triple A ball.  It was a lot like being at a minor league game in that you are much closer to the action.  Due to the rain, there was maybe 1k people if you include the concessions workers, and players on the field.  But it is fun to watch up close baseball.  Especially in such a small crowd, there was an strange quiet when the action stopped and no music was playing. 

And there was a cheering section that would play loud music and drums.  There was also an odd version of the music used for the Braves tomahawk chop only sped up with a more Mexican beat.

I even got a foul ball that bounced near me.  I ended up giving it to a little girl that was sitting behind me (F' you, Dad....).

It was a fun game, but I left after the 4th inning because it was almost 11pm due to the rain delay and I still needed to get back into town.  For those of you keeping score at home, the Pericos triumphed 9-4 over the Sasperos.

I made my way back to the main thoroughfare to try to catch a bus back.  I thought there might still be buses running my route, because I saw them coming the other direction.  But after waiting a while, I asked a woman and she explained that it had ceased running this direction--the buses coming the other way were ending their route.

So I hopped a taxi back into town.  The taxista and I chatted politics, Trump of course (el peor, the worst), and also AMLO.  He had supported AMLO and was hopeful that AMLO could clean up the corruption.  My ride back, a fifteen minute jaunt cost me 60 pesos ($3).  I may try to catch another game before I leave Puebla, or try to get to a CDMX Diablos Rojos game.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Without allies

"Like today’s other populist leaders, Mr. Trump knows that his standing with voters hinges on making good on his most radical promises. For a populist leader to succeed, he or she doesn’t need to solve problems, nor outdo his or her predecessor. All the populist leader has to do is be different from the mainstream — to do what mainstream politicians would never do. For example, insult Germany....

Peering through Mr. Trump’s twisted prism, one finds not friends and enemies, but fans and enemies. Fans are those who are loyal to you no matter what; they never expect reciprocity. Enemies are also valuable because they help you solve problems; you can assert your power by breaking them or befriending them. The Trump administration’s approach to the North Korean enemy is a perfect example of this. Its relationship with Russia — Mr. Trump is meeting with Vladimir Putin next week — could be the next example."
-Ivan Krastev, "Sorry NATO, Trump doesn't believe in allies"

Heroica Puebla de Zaragoza; Cinco de Mayo

Puebla holds a profound spot in Mexican history.  It also holds a few names.  Originally named Puebla de Los Angeles, the city was the first that the Spanish founded in New Spain that wasn't built upon the conquered ruins of an indigenous city.

Fast forward to 1862, when the French Emperor Napoleon III invaded Mexico to create a client state.  This was actually the second French intervention in Mexico, there had been a prior intervention in 1838-9 called "The Pastry War" over the sacking of a French pastry shop (I'm not making this up, I swear).

Initially, the French, British and Spanish invaded Mexico over claims of nonpayment of debts.  America at the time was busy with the Civil War so couldn't enforce its Monroe Doctrine to keep European powers out of the region.  But the latter two European powers withdrew after it became clear that France was intent on conquering the whole country.  However, the French intervention came in part because Conservative forces in the Mexican upper-class and nobility, who were hostile to President Benito Juarez' social and political reforms, welcomed and collaborated with the invading French forces. 

Kinda like the Republicans turning a blind eye to the Russian intervention in our election.....

Wikicommons image
Anyway, the French forces in 1862 marched all the way to Puebla.  Puebla  was home to the Loreto Fortress, which was built in 1821 as a major military garrison.  At Puebla, a battle ensued that pitted the vastly out-manned Mexican forces (2,000 soldiers) commanded by General Ignacio Zaragoza against the invading French forces (6,000 soldiers).  Yet the Mexican forces under the spirited Gen. Zaragoza managed to beat back the French army.  The outcome of this victory at the Battle of Puebla is what is now celebrated as Cinco de Mayo.

Unfortunately, General Zaragoza died a few months later from his wounds in the battle.  After his death, President Juarez renamed the city, Heroica Puebla de Zaragoza (Zaragoza's heroic Puebla).

Alas, Zaragoza's victory only slowed the invasion and the following year a French force of 30,000 arrived to install the Emperor Maximilian and create the Second Mexican Empire

However, the Republican forces kept up pressure and eventually overthrew Maximilian and restored the Mexican republic (read more of the history at the link above on the second French intervention).   

El Patio

I spent the day on the usual job hunt grind, albeit with some more positive responses.  I had planned to go last night to a beisbol game of the Pericos de Puebla.  However, just as I was going to leave, the heavens opened up and poured down on me.  I braved the rain for a bit because I knew it would pass at some point, but it lingered enough towards the game time that I decided to bail and would try a later day (like today).

Rather, I found a local spot around the corner called El Patio.  El Patio had some solid reviews online as good local food at a good price.  I found the spot, and sat down for a dinner of Tampiqueña.  It was a bit of a Puebla variation on the Tampico style.  The plate came with two chicken enchiladas covered in delicious chocolate mole sauce.  It had a helping of refried beans and a marinated flank steak covered in french fries, with some fresh warm tortillas on the side.  The meal was stellar.  The mole was the right sweet and savory; the steak was delicious, especially rolled up in tortillas with fries, refried beans and some guacemole  The whole meal including a beer came to 99 pesos ($5). 

Mexico, you treat me too well. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Republic Minority Rule

"Within the next few months, Brett M. Kavanaugh will get a vote in the Senate to determine whether he joins the Supreme Court. In all likelihood, that vote will be close but will work out in Kavanaugh’s favor. Republicans currently have a 51-to-49 majority in the Senate, and even if the ailing John McCain (Ariz.) doesn’t vote, if they hold the rest of their members (and they will) the result would at worst be a 50-50 tie that Vice President Pence would break.

That vote will be a vivid reminder that we are living in an age of minority rule. In fact, that is one of the central features of this political era. The Republican Party represents a minority of the American electorate, yet it controls not only all three branches of the federal government but also most state governments, as well.

Why do I say that a vote in Kavanaugh’s favor is an example of minority rule? Because the body that will confirm him is built in its current formation to almost guarantee Republican control, despite the fact that most American voters selected Democrats to represent them there.

Using Dave Leip’s invaluable election atlas, I added up all the votes cast for Democrats and Republicans in the 2012, 2014 and 2016 Senate elections, which put the current Senate in place. I didn’t bother with the few special elections since 2012, which in total wouldn’t change the results much, but I did include Bernie Sanders’s and Angus King’s last elections, since they are nominally independent but caucus with the Democrats. Here are the results:

Republican votes: 102.3 million

Democratic votes: 117.4 million
In the elections that determined the current Senate, there were 15 million more votes cast for Democrats than for Republicans. Yet Republicans maintain control and therefore get to confirm President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

Well, that’s just how it is, you might say. Blame the framers. And that’s true: They set up a system in which Wyoming’s 580,000 residents get two senators and California’s 40 million residents also get two senators.

But that doesn’t mean it’s fair or right or that Democrats shouldn’t be livid in cases like this where it leads to such an antidemocratic outcome. And the GOP’s built-in advantages combine to make the country much more hostile to the policies the majority actually wants.

So we will now have an intensely conservative Supreme Court in which five of the nine justices were appointed by Republican presidents, despite the fact that in six of the past seven presidential elections, the Democratic candidate won the most votes. That’s because of the electoral college, another feature of our system with a built-in Republican advantage.

Were it not for the skew of the Senate, Mitch McConnell would not have had the ability to refuse to hear the nomination of Merrick Garland, in which case the margin would have been 5-4 in favor of Democrats. Were the presidency determined by which candidate got the most votes — as it is in every other democracy on earth — Hillary Clinton would be president right now, and the margin would be 6-3 in favor of liberals.

There’s a related situation in the House, where most analysts believe that in order to take control Democrats will have to not just win the popular vote, but win it by a huge margin of 6 or 7 points. And all this is why enormously popular policies like minimum wage increases, greater funding for education, and universal health coverage never see the light of day, while our national legislature eagerly cuts taxes for the wealthy and corporations whether that’s what the public wants or not. And one of the things you can absolutely count on from the newly (even more) conservative Supreme Court is that they will approve every step Republicans take to suppress the votes of those inclined to oppose them, making their continued hold on power all the more likely.

In other words, our entire political system is built to give the Republican Party a series of advantages, even when they represent a minority of the public, as they now do. In some cases that’s by their design, and in some cases it’s a happy accident, but it all points in the same direction. And when Republicans have power, they work ceaselessly to make the system even less democratic and more rigged in their favor.

So every time the Supreme Court issues another ruling that cheers conservatives, whether it’s restricting reproductive rights or gutting campaign finance laws or undercutting environmental regulations, we should remember that it was made possible by a minority president with the aid of a minority Senate.

When he ran for president, Donald Trump told his voters that they were the victims of a rigged system. Nurture your rage, he urged them, and strike a blow against that system by voting for me. In truth, he was the product of the rigged system, not its enemy. So maybe it’s time for liberals to finally get angry about it."
-Paul Waldman, "We're living in an age of minority rule"

Savoring the Pleasures of Puebla

"There are places to which we travel, and imagine staying. Why not just quit our job, rent a little apartment, tell the folks at home we’ll be back when our money runs out?

For me, one such place is Puebla. An easy two-hour drive or bus ride southeast of Mexico City, Puebla seems light years away from the pollution and buzz of the capital. With a temperate mountain climate, a relatively prosperous and relaxed atmosphere and the best street food in Mexico (or so Poblanos claim, and why not believe them?), Puebla is also visually beautiful. Its historical center, the centro, contains so many gems of Spanish colonial architecture, such a range of beautiful churches, and so many vintage buildings covered in the colorful, patterned Talavera tiles for which the city is famous, that it has been designated a Unesco World Heritage site.

The fantasy of remaining indefinitely in Puebla used to come over me mostly in the Zócalo, the verdant central plaza, where it’s pleasant to sit on a bench in the shade, and where there is always something to see."
-Francine Prose, "Savoring the Pleasures of Puebla"

Monday, July 09, 2018

The Market of Frogs; Museo Amparo

I had a nice, quiet weekend wandering through the market of frogs.  Yes, really but sadly nary a frog to see.  The place is called Mercado de los Sappos, the whole are is a filled with pastel alleyways with antique shops, and little open air markets.  Lots of little vendors selling crafts, books, candies and street musician performers playing all sorts of tunes ranging from traditional Mexican music to an opera singer doing bel canto.  I spent Saturday afternoon wandering in and out of the market, and had an incredible street-side flan sold by an old woman.

I also sat around the festive Zocalo, drinking coffee and reading Treasure Island and Don Quixote.

On Sunday, I made my way to the Museo Amparo. On my way, I saw a little line of people waiting outside a churro shop called Antigua Churreria.  My rule is generally if I see a line filled with locals, I get in it.  It was a wise move, the churros were excellent.  Hot and crispy on the outside but doughy on the inside and covered with a dusting of cinnamon and sugar.  Even better at 4 pesos (20cents) a churro.  I grabbed a churro and a bolo de Berlin, a tiny creme filled dough ball at the same price.  Yum.

And on to the Museo Amparo.  Thankfully the museum is free on Sunday and Monday.  The Museo Amparo hosts a stellar collection of pre-Colombian artifacts.  The museum has been restored and is quite modern and accessible.  And the collection of artifacts is profound.  The exhibits draw through the various stages of indigenous life in the region with incredible artifacts to illustrate the life cycle events, religious touchstones and daily environment of a world long gone.

I am always taken with places whose history I can still see around me, like how I can see faces in statues behind the glass then walk outside and see the same faces today.  I was struck by one statue of a person with an under-nose ring, which are quite popular these days--I don't think the fashionistas would make the connection.

The museum's collection was excellent, and it had some engaging exhibits on the second floor related to design, space and architecture from an art collective.  Also a wonderful exhibit of 19th century Spanish colonial decorative art and furnishings.

And more importantly, the museum had a stellar view of the city from above on its cafe on the roof.  I liked the view so much that I went home for lunch and came back with my camera to snap some pics.

I liked the museum enough that I returned this Monday afternoon, since it was still free today and also because it was so profound I needed another day to try to absorb the collection of pre-Colombian art.

After the museum, I spent the afternoon
wandering through the bustling streets and street fairs just flanneuring it up and people watching in passing.

In the evening, I had a nice chat in Spanish with my apartment host, Gerardo, who is a young lawyer here in Puebla.  He is involved in cases of indigenous rights and democratic activism, and we had a good chat rights here in Mexico and how Mexico's indigenous past is celebrated while at the same time its indigenous present is disregarded.

Today I just job-hunted, and did some laundry.  I forgot how fast the midday sun can dry clothes.  The highlight of my day, besides returning to the museum, was the cemita (Pueblan sandwich) I had for lunch of mole poblano with chicken in the giant seeded bun with the string quesillo cheese.  It was enormous and stellar.  The chocolate-spiced sauce with chicken was delicious in the hollowed-out brioche bun, and the quesillo gave it some added texture.  Mole mole, how well you grind....

Digital Nomads

The Washington Post had an interesting piece on Digital Nomads this weekend:
The 41-year-old native of Glasgow, Mo., gave up her six-figure salary and spent a year teaching English in South Korea. Now, in Medellin, she’s part of a community of digital nomads who have moved their lives and work to distant locales — often sun-soaked and always with a solid digital infrastructure — to take advantage of a lower cost of living.
I can definitely relate, given that I have been a digital nomad going on 6 years now.  Although my circumstances are a little different these days.  These days, I am being a digital nomad in Mexico to try to figure my way off the Road and back into the Good Fight.  But if things drag on, I may return to such digital nomadism.

Related to the article, I had spent a little digital nomading in Medellin, while I was working on the Next Level Colombia program in Cartagena, and can attest that La Ciudad de la Eterna Primavera is a great spot.  I had considered it as a place of refuge and exile, and may again.

One thing that slightly bothered me from the article is that she used a service to set herself up for apartment and cowork space.  I generally think such services are a rip-off, and  am more a proponent of doing it yourself, but who I am I to judge.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

A History of Hypocrisy

"In 1968, the NRA supported gun control and evangelicals largely supported abortion. But the country was in flux for multiple reasons. Most dramatically, the civil rights movement helped fracture the foundations of the Democrats’ New Deal coalition, and Republicans took advantage of that, primarily by fomenting a culture war, with a new set of “moral issues” meant to give racially resentful whites a plausible framework for reclaiming the moral high ground and ignoring everything that didn’t fit their newly-minted faith. By the end of the 1970s, both the NRA and evangelicals had not just switched positions, they’d consigned their real pasts to the memory hole."
-Paul Rosenberg, "When evangelicals were pro-choice and the NRA was pro-gun control: A history of hypocrisy"

Saturday, July 07, 2018

La Serpe D'Or

Je suis très fier d'annoncer que j'ai traduit ma quatrième bande dessinée, Astérix et Obélix dans La Serpe D'Or.

I am proud to announce that I have translated my 4th comic book, the Asterix and Obelix comic La Serpe D'Or.

Now time to switch to translating Spanish comics.  Tal vez Mafalda por la proxima.

Holy Pozole; Puebla la Linda; The Return of Abu Hurayrah

(Wikicommons image)
After a bit of job hunting in the afternoon, I took a stroll through Puebla.  I went over to the Zocalo (central square) and into the Catedral de Puebla--the central landmark of the city.  The massive cathedral dates back to 1575, when they began construction on it in a style similar to the main cathedral in Valladolid, Spain.  It was consecrated nearly 75 years later.  The cathedral was built in a Herrerian style, similar to the cathedral in CDMX.  Its two towers (representing the Old and New Testament) are the tallest church towers in Mexico, and it had a magnificent colorful dome. 

Inside, the cathedral opened up in an effulgent renaissance style with some added baroque splendor.  The inside was impressive with its vaulted nave and massive colorful space under the dome.

I have a feeling I will be writing a lot about churches in Puebla, the city is filled with a bunch of pastel, domed beauties.  After wandering through the church, I made my way down a pedestrian street passed little shops, balloon vendors and meat roasting on giant spits.  Interestingly, the city has a specialty called Tacos Arabe, which looks like a giant shwarma (different than the more-rounded and adobo-orange tacos pastor) and yet inedible to most Arabs (and this Jew) because it is pork.  But the smell of the giant roasting spits of pork fills the air of Puebla and leaves a delicious scent of roasting meat on the city's cross-breezes. 

Anyway, I wandered through the market and back down the pedestrian alley before stopping back at the hostel to do some French translation and Spanish review.  I have a habit of learning two languages at once.  I have done it a few times (Hebrew/Arabic; Arabic/French; French/Spanish) and it helps keep me on my toes, even if sometimes words get mixed up.

I ventured out later for dinner to find some cheap street food.  Instead, I found a little hole-in-the-wall pozole shop.  Given that the place had people waiting outside to get into to the tiny spot, I figured that was a good sign and decided to wait as well.  It was indeed worth the wait, and I got Mexico's favorite chicken soap.  It comes with giant hominy kernals in the soup, amid shredded chicken and shredded lettuce and a sprinkle of spices on top.  I ate the delicious soup with some fresh tostadas, and covered the tostadas with the chicken and hominy and some fresh guacamole.

While I was having my soup, a single mariachi began to strum his guitar and sing mournful songs that filled the small soup shop.   His lamentations echoed in the small shop and pulled at the heart strings.  When he finished, he sat down at my small table to get some soup.  We chatted about the melancholy pull of music, of canciones tristes and lagrimas of lost loves.

The next morning, I had one last delicious breakfast at the hostel.  It was tostadas covered with refried beans, mashed potatoes, lettuce, crema and shredded queso.  Really solid for hostel breakfast.  I sat out chatting with a few other American expats, and we discussed the pull of never going back.

And I wandered up to the roof to snap some pics of the city from above.  This was the first shots I had taken this year--crazy, but also this was the first real new city i had been in all year.

Around noon, I checked out of the hostel and headed over to my AirBNB apartment across the small city.  The place is basic but spacious enough, and shared with a fellow named Gerard.  He let me in, and I haven't seen him since. 

from my balcony
After unpacking and snagging some photos off the balcony, I wandered past the artisan market and through the lovely pastel city.  I really have been taken by the vibrancy of the city's colors.  I have been in a number of pastel colonial cities, but this one feels a little different because it feels more alive and less like a touristy disneyland version.  All sorts of vivid colors cover the walls, ranging from tangerine to indigo to crimson.  Some building have shiny vibrant coats, others have a crumbling pastel.  But both are charming.  It helps that the city is filled with wrought iron balconies that add an added depth of charm.

I wandered through the colored city, and over to the main mercado acocota to get my fresh provisions for a week of cooking.  Sacks of lentils, and fresh veggies galore.

After a delicious lunch of huevos a la mexicana with tortillas I bought still warm, I did some more job searching.  After the ending bell, I wandered some more through the city, Puebla La Linda--taking in more of the colors and finding all sorts of colorful churches with cerulean blue walls and white and lemon yellow domes

And more importantly, I found a cat.  Or rather he found me.  There is apparently a stray cat that lives in the building.  I found him this afternoon and gave him a good scratch.  We became fast friends, so I got some milk and beckoned him up the stairs to come have a leche tipple. 

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Holy Mole; La Fruta Del Diablo

As luck would have it, I am now located in a gastronomy mecca of Mex cuisine.  I braved the evening rain with purple umbrella (thanks LBC) and purple hooded sweatshirt (thanks colorblindness) until I made my way to Fonda de Santa Clara, a local tavern that has a few locations in Puebla.  The talavera tiles and bright blue-and-white walls gave the spot a nice ambiance.  I went for the local specialty mole poblana.  Before I go any further, I need to tell the story of mole poblana which is Puebla's most iconic dish.

The story dates back to around 1697 or so, when the Bishop of Puebla found out that the Viceroy of New Spain was coming to town.  In order to welcome the Virrey, the Bishop implored upon the Dominican order of nuns at the Santa Rosa de Lima monastery to whip up something special.  One industrious and inventive sister, named Sor Andrea de la Asuncion had the gastrodiplomatic spark to grind the chilies in a mortar and pestle with pinches and handfuls of garlic, sesame seeds, almonds, peanuts, chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, sugar, anise and other assorted spices.  One of her fellow nuns was so taken with her deft sauce that she broke her vow of silence and exclaimed, "Hermana, que bien mole" (Sister, how well you grind).  Needless to say, the Viceroy was taken with the dish.  So much so that he had the nuns' whole kitchen tiled with Talavera tiles.  Incidentally, Talavera also comes from Puebla but I will save that for a different entry.

But back to my dish.  Out came my mole poblana over a chicken breast with a side of spiced rice.  I took one bite, and proclaimed the glory to mole and to almighty Dios.  It was immaculate.  A perfect mix of sweet and savory with hints of various aforementioned spices and chocolate that coated the chicken.  Each bite brought out an exhortation.  The chicken made the perfect medium to collect the thick chocolate spice sauce, as did the corn tortillas.  It was immaculate.  And for 150 pesos ($7.50), was far more luxurious than the price. I washed it down with an Allende Golden Ale, a good Mexican microbrew.

After dinner, I went to a local bar called La Pasita to read Quixote and Stevenson's Treasure Island.  The bar is named for the local liquor la pasita, which is raisin liquor.  Not bad stuff.  The bar is apparently the oldest in Puebla, and is a funky spot.  Apparently they make the pasita liquor.  It had a sweet flavor as you can imagine, but not overly so.  The aperitif came chilled in a little shot glass with a toothpic of cheese and a raisin in it.  It was a good sip as I poured through Quixote.  I had one more anisado, a shot of anise liquor that helped serve as a digestif after the mole.

My hostel room was empty so I had the room to myself.

I woke up to the hostel breakfast of pancakes (not bad) with local honey, eggs and watermelons squares.

After the morning job peruse, I wandered out for lunch.  I found a hole-in-the-wall spot that had a local specialty called moletes.  Moletes are a kinda-empanada, a half-moon shaped deep-fried pastry made from a mix of corn masa and mashed potatoes.  I had mine filled with tinga, a shredded beef in an adobo sauce.  The mix of mashed potato and corn masa gives it a little lighter flavor, and a little flakier consistency.  Slashed with red and green salsas, it was pretty delicious.  Even more so for 22 pesos ($1.10).

I was still a little peckish after the molete, so I wandered around until I found literally a hole in the wall, or rather a hole in a blue portico.  Some indigenous women had set-up a grill in the portico, and were making milmilletes--long blue corn boat tortillas filled with refried beans, covered with a bandera, a Mexican flag of red and green salsas with white onions and stringy white quesillo.  Best kind of flags, as I prefer this to other forms of gastronationalism and edible nationbranding.  I impressed the ladies as I munched a grilled jalapeno pepper.  They smiled as I told them the phrase someone else had once bestowed on me--"Tienes una cara como un gringo, pero una panza de un Mexicano" (You have the face like a gringo, but the stomach of a Mexican).  Another woman, who couldn't brook the heat said the chilies had the nickname la fruta del diablo.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Pablo de Puebla

I spent my last day in Mexico City with the usual job hunt in the morning, and went for a museum visit in the afternoon.  I made a stop at the phenomenal Museo Franz Mayer, a historic decorative arts museum that holds a stellar collection of wares from New Spain.  Just my luck, on tuesdays the museum was free--which made it even better.  I wandered through the immaculate collection of chests, candle holders, religious wares, pottery and otherwise.  It was impressive.  Even more impressive, the old wood-paneled library held nearly 800 copies of Don Quixote in 13 different languages.  I was in a Quixote Valhalla.

I had a last meal at the delicious Pollo Ray, the rotisserie chicken spot near my apartment.  A quarter of chicken, papas, roasted onions and tortillas for 30 pesos ($1.50) which is about as good as it can get.

I left CDMX for Puebla this morning. I bade goodbye to the lovely owner of the apartment, Lucrecia, and the other tenants of the space.  We had a nice chat before I left over coffee and mangoes covered in chili for breakfast.  I had to leave sooner than planned because she hadn't correctly blocked out the dates from AirBNB and someone else booked the space.  She made it up to me by giving me a free night, which was fine.

I packed up and made my way on the metro to the TAPO bus station which serves the eastern part of the country.  I meandered through the tunnels and halls until I found my bus to Puebla on Estrella Roja.  I got my ticket to ride for 176 pesos ($9) for the 2 hour bus.  The bus was sparsely full and I had a whole row to myself as we sped out of the seemingly-never ending Mexico City.  The ride was pretty as we left the cityscape and traversed the green landscape and hills on the smooth highway.
 
I arrived to Puebla ("My exile in exile"), and after a little confusion and a little help from some kind locals I managed to find my bus into the city.  It always works out with a little help.  The passengers on the bus and the bus driver helped me find my stop, and I had arrived to the lovely pastel colonial city.

I wandered past skyblue churches and tangerine and lime colonial buildings until I semi-miraculously found my hostel, the Posada Vee Yuu (stone house in Mixtec).  The place was nice, in an old colonial Baroque house with pastel apricot walls.  It was 190 pesos ($9.75) a night, and included breakfast--not bad.

After dropping my things, I was starving so I headed out to find the local sandwich speciality, the  cemita.  After wandering the numbered blocks (I don't know if I trust quadrant cities), I found a spot that had cheap cemitas.  Cemitas are slightly different than the standard Mexican torta. It has a rounded brioche seeded bun (where it gets its name).  This one was a milanesa de polla, a thin fried chicken filet with avocado, a layer of refrained beans, stingy quesillo cheese that look , and leaves of popola (kinda like if cilantro and arugula had a leafy love child).   It was delicious, and unbeatable at 45 pesos ($2.32).

After a mid-afternoon nap, I wandered around the colorful colonial gem and the lovely zocalo covered in a canopy of trees.

So why did I come to Puebla?  For a few reasons.  First, because I have never been and I wanted to see something new.  Second, because it is a gastronomic hub for Mexico. Puebla invented a number of famous and favorite Mexican dishes like mole poblano, chiles en nogado and the aforementioned cemita.  I will write more about the history of mole poblano and chiles en nogado later, because they have interesting stories.  Perhaps I will write an article on Puebla, or perhaps I will simply just gorge myself and enjoy.

Puebla is Mexico's fifth largest city but in comparison to CDMX it feels like a pueblo.  But it is nice, and a nice change from the bustle of Mexico City.  It reminds me a bit of Antigua in Guatemala, Grenada in Nica or Cartagena in Colombia, but seems to have a distinct feel in its own right.  It feels bigger than Antigua or Grenada and less touristy-enclosed than Cartagena.  It has a lot of old churches to visit and a few interesting museums, so I will have some fun when not perusing for trabajo.

In any case, I am staying here at-least another week, but maybe longer.  We shall see.  At least long enough to catch a Pericos de Puebla baseball game.  I will write more about Puebla's history later, because it has a very interesting past (colonial, not indigenous).

July 4th thoughts

“Our beautiful America was built by a nation of strangers. From a hundred different places or more they have poured forth into an empty land, joining and blending in one mighty and irresistible tide. The land flourished because it was fed from so many sources—because it was nourished by so many cultures and traditions and peoples.”
-President Lyndon B. Johnson

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

NYC vs. CDMX

“When the capital of New Spain already had, in just one street, the first university, the first printing press, and the first academy of fine arts in the American continent, there were still buffaloes grazing casually in Manhattan.”

The value of time

"The high value put upon every minute of time, the idea of hurry-hurry as the most important objective of living, is unquestionably the most dangerous enemy of joy."
-Herman Hesse

And Borges wrote in Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius:
"One of the schools of Tlön goes so far as to negate time: it reasons that the present is indefinite, that the future has no reality other than as a present hope, that the past has no reality other than as a present memory."

Radical Dems are pretty reasonable

"Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upset primary victory has produced a huge amount of punditry about the supposed radicalization of the Democratic party, how it’s going to hurt the party because her positions won’t sell in the Midwest (and how well would Steve King’s positions sell in the Bronx?), etc., etc.. But I haven’t seen much about the substance of the policies she advocates, which on economics are mainly Medicare for All and a federal job guarantee.

So here’s what you should know: the policy ideas are definitely bold, and you can make some substantive arguments against them. But they aren’t crazy. By contrast, the ideas of Tea Party Republicans are crazy; in fact, Ocasio-Cortez’s policy positions are a lot more sensible than those of the Republican mainstream, let alone the GOP’s more radical members."
-Paul Krugman in "Radical Dems are pretty reasonable"