Sunday, September 25, 2011

Another Video about Talent


This video was sent to me a while back and I had forgotten where I’d saved it. It takes place in a nightclub, most likely in Paris from the accent of the MC.

Tomorrow, back to construction.

Here’s the link. Enjoy!

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Reflections on a Quote


I have been revising my plans during the past two weeks. I also went to a small store that specializes on talaveras or decorative ceramic tiles. Shamelessly, I copied on Yvonne’s idea of using tiles to make a unique design for my dining room table. As soon as I begin “production”, I will supply photos and depict the actual making of it.

This post is about a quote from Solzhenitsyn, the Russian philosopher writer who was imprisoned in the gulag, the Russian prison system, for 20 years. He wrote about it in “The Gulag Archipelago”. I will admit right here that I never read it for fear of being depressed at horrific descriptions of hate and evil.

What prompted me to reflect on this quote is a short story on how Howard Triest, a German Jew whose family had been sent to Auschwitz and killed, served as an interpreter to notorious Nazis about to appear for crimes committed. This was in preparation for the Nuremberg trials. Major Leon Goldensohn was charged with psychological evaluations of the prisoners to try to gain an insight in what may have turned these men into mass murderers. I would add monsters.

For those who might be interested, the Nazis were Hermann Goering, Luftwaffe Chief, Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s former deputy, Julius Streicher, Nazi propagandist, and former Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Hoess, whose interview must have been very painful and difficult for Triest who had lost his parents in Auschwitz. Triest had been chosen as a non-threatening interpreter. He was tall, blond and blue eyed, and spoke flawless German. His appearance was such that the prisoners considered him a true Aryan. The fact that he was a Jew had been kept hidden from the prisoners. They had no hesitation in opening up and confiding in Triest.

The conclusions reached from the interviews were that “…no great insight was gained”, and that nothing had been found to “…indicate something that would make them the murderers they would become.” Triest even commented that Hoess didn’t look like someone who had killed 2 or 3 million people. A final quote after the interviews was, “In fact, they were all quite normal. Evil and extreme cruelty can go with normality.”

Reading this, I recalled Solzhenitsyn’s quote that I had copied to my book of important quotes. Here goes:

"If only there were evil people out there insidiously committing evil deeds and it was only necessary to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being, and who among us is willing to destroy a piece of their own heart?”

My heart freezes thinking that this is likely true… How can we truly know anyone? How can we truly know ourselves?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Expenses for Construction of my Casita


When I posted my last construction report, I had a nagging feeling that I was forgetting something—the expenses! So I went back to check on my previous post and found, to my dismay, that I had also forgotten to include them in that post! Since I had bought some supplies for the preceding period, and they were in sufficient quantity to take me into a following one, even two or three, (such as sand, gravel, etc.) I will cover here what my costs have been from my last expense reporting period up to September 9. I’ve stuck a yellow note next to my monitor screen to 'INCLUDE EXPENSES’.

I usually have Demetrio and his helper Ruben on the last week of the month and the first week of the following month. In between, some work had to be done and it was towards the last part of August. Holes that had remained from the trenches needed to be filled and I bought tepetate to do the job. Armex for building the cadena (armature for the concrete base) were needed. Then I prepared for the erection of the walls by buying supplies in advance of this last work period but fell a bit short.

Supplies – Manpower Cost in pesos Details – Notes*

Fill holes 900. 3 Days work @ about $27. dollars a day
1 truckload of tepetate 380.  
11 bags of cement 1,232.  
250 cement blocks 1,250.  
300 red bricks 540.  
another 300 bricks 540. Miscalculation-had to get a second load*
11 Armex 1,195. For metal armature
8 kg metal wire 174.  
Wood planks 10’ x 5/8” x 8’ & 4” x 4” x 8’ poles 390. Had some from before, but missing some more*
Manpower 2 weeks 2,550. Demetrio @ $300/day
Ruben @ $210/day
Black tar paper 120.  
Waterproofing compound 373. Bucket – will have use for more later*
Glass blocks (5) 210. To show detailed plan *1
Manpower 2 weeks 2,550. Demetrio @ $300/day
Ruben @ $210/day



Roughly in dollars equal to $1,094.**

** I am showing a rough estimate for the total only. The exchange rate fluctuates many times a day. There are also service charges tied in to the exchange from dollars to pesos, (I’m receiving my pension in dollars and paying in pesos). The best that I can do because of these fluctuations and the service charges is either hire an accountant to give me the minute-by-minute costs or stick to a rough estimate of the total.

*1 – Note on the plan

I had first made a floor plan on a very large squared plan sheet, which had to be detailed into an excavation plan showing where castillos would need to be erected. Then I moved on to an actual house plan. This turned out to be many sheets of squared paper, one for each outer wall corresponding to each room. As the construction progresses, I will take photos of each wall and include the corresponding plan.

My next report will cover the week of September 26th and the following one of October 3rd.

If you have any questions, please either post a comment to which I will respond with a comment of my own so that everyone will be included, or send me an email at

Friday, September 9, 2011

Walls Going Up, Tasha

Days of rain were a bit of a let down in showing the progress. Besides, after explaining all that went up from the mamposteo, the castillos, the next was the building of the cadena. The cadena serves to anchor the castillos well into the mamposteo with a horizontal armature, as explained in a previous post. Now, when finished, here’s what it looks like.
Walls going up, Tasha 008

Walls going up, Tasha 010

However, before erecting the walls, the cadena is covered with a water repellent and black tar paper at the bottom of the photo above. This to prevent the humidity from penetrating the walls above the cadena.
All that began with the excavation, the building of the mamposteo, erecting of the castillos, the cadena, was very time consuming, which gave the impression that things were going slowly. At least in my unpracticed eye. But at the same time, it reassured me as to the solidity of the foundation!
So finally, I can see progress beyond the ground level! The walls consist of bricks in three layers followed with cement blocks also in three layers. The bricks prevent any cracking in the larger blocks.
Walls going up, Tasha 011
The spaces between parts of the walls, where the castillos are, will be filled with concrete poured between forms. The erection is done first half-way up the walls, then the joints filled with concrete as can be seen in the photo above in the center and the corner. Once the walls are erected half-way, the second above phase will begin. The center opening in the photo above will be the living room window.
Demetrio and Ruben have been here two weeks and will return to their other construction site for the next two weeks. Needless to point out that nothing will be worth reporting for the next two weeks and some days. Every time I look though, I can SEE that my little house is becoming a fact, which is quite exciting. To think that on a minimal retiree’s budget, I can still dream of one day having my own house without a mortgage is beyond explaining. I have had houses before, larger because I was raising a family, but with a mortgage to pay, how can I really claim that they were MY houses?  This one though, will be really mine, without a single peso of debt. So yes, it is a bit hard right now, but the outcome is really worth the sacrifices.
Now as to Tasha. Although she’s been with us only six months, and has had only six months of training, her growth belies her age. She’s outgrown Tina as can be seen in the photo below.
  Walls going up, Tasha 002
The only downside is that in her body of about 10 months, she’s acting like a 6 month old puppy. A handful at times. Plus she’s REALLY a shepherd. She goes nuts at the smell, the sound of sheep and cows passing by. She runs around all over in an attempt, I suppose, to round them up, yet never finding them... She’s made a trench around the RV and the bodega from her industrious efforts. And she’s followed by Tina who does it just for the heck of it, as it is clear that she hasn’t the faintest idea what’s going on. Queenie will follow for a while, then shrug it all out and go rest. Every day after the workers are gone, I let them run all over the lot. They take pleasure in jumping over whatever obstacle presents itself. It makes for a day’s exercise well spent and a peaceful sleep at night.
To my blessed relief.
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Friday, September 2, 2011

Getting on my Soapbox - Please Pardon Me


At times, I’ll ask for your indulgence. I just need to share my thoughts on things that are of vast importance to me. Last night, as a gentle rain fell, the pitter-patter on the roof of my RV brought me back to the many times that I’d be in some place, somewhere, listening to the falling rain and I would feel so cozy in my RV. How I appreciated my little shelter from the elements watching my dogs resting, confident that all was taken care of.

In the last few days, traveling back and forth to Tequis and San Juan, I’d noticed how almost dried up the corn crops were. Here, not everyone can afford an irrigation system. Rain is the only source of the blessed water without which no living things or creatures on Earth can survive. How elemental! Yet how tragic it can be when it’s lacking.

So I prayed and prayed some more. When the thunder clouds pugnaciously rolled in, I watched and rejoiced, grateful that the crops might still have a chance to survive.

I wrote this by hand last night by candlelight. There had not been sufficient sunny hours to fully replenish my batteries. But if the exchange might be full batteries VS saved crops, I’m all for the latter. My small inconvenience hardly measures up to the misery that could befall families without basic means of making the minimal staple of tortillas.

We get so used to our creature comforts. How spoiled we are. Sadly, it can foster a sense of entitlement. When many nations are yearning for something as basic as clean drinking water, how much we take so many blessings for granted.

So, last night, I said thank you for the rain clouds, thank you for the life sustaining water without which our lives would be forsaken. While we may not be in a position to share at large, perhaps we can pray with genuine concern and pure love for our fellow human beings. That they may be blessed with some of what we take for granted.

OK. Now I feel better for sharing these thoughts. Whenever I need to do so, I’ll warn you that I’m getting on my soapbox. At times, I just have to please myself, if no one else.

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