The Hartley Hooligans

There’s been a lot of media coverage about Zika lately. Among all the noise I found this great WaPo inspired life article “What this amazing mom of two girls with microcephaly has to say about Zika scare”. You should go read it too.

The WaPo article links to Gwen Hartley’s blog The Hartley Hooligans, here’s one excerpt from the blog:

It is sad to me that microcephaly is being vilified in the media due to Zika, and I hope that the general public realizes that though this diagnosis would not be something I would have chosen, I am NO LESS BLESSED by having two daughters with this condition than if they’d been born typical. I am just as proud of my girls as I am of our neurotypical son, Cal.

* * *

A long time ago when my parents worked with so-called “disabled” children there was an effort to change the terminology from “disabled” to “different-abled” children, because so-called disabled children have their own way of putting a smile on their parents’ faces and frankly they don’t grow up to do any of the horrible things the rest of us do like invent nuclear weapons or create Ponzi schemes.

I’ll be right back!

Summer vacation! The other day Mamacita Linda took a trip into town from our lovely hotel by the beach, we’d just finished lunch.  She said “I’ll be right back!”

Then she took the 5 minute moto-taxi ride in town and returned just before I took this picture.  Keep in mind lunch is served late in Peru and the sun sets early-ish but still, “I’ll be right back” doesn’t mean the same around here as it does where I’m from!

Sunset Mancora Peru

Sun sets over the Pacific Ocean. Mancora, Peru.


You have beautiful eyes

I went to the market in the Ttio neighborhood of Cusco yesterday, just the middle child and I. Our 3 year old is the one with kaleidoscope eyes: depending on the light (or her mood?) the color of her eyes changes from green to honey to steel blue.

Almost all Cusqueñans have dark or brown eyes but they have a big thing for light colored eyes. When I pulled out of the parking lot, the parking lot attendant took my S/.1 parking fee and said:

“You have such beautiful eyes!”

Sort of looking from afar at my daughter in the back seat she continued:

“But your kid doesn’t.”

Me: “Errghh, thanks, I think?”

Then the parking lot attendant stuck her head all the way in the car to get a closer look at my daughter.

“Oh yeah, she does too!”

I hit the gas and got out of there never to go back again. If you have light colored eyes, consider yourself warned.

Most admired woman

Gallup says Hillary Clinton is the most admired woman in the US.

Gallup says 13 percent of participants mentioned the former Secretary Of State when asked, “What [woman/man] that you have heard or read about, living today in any part of the world, do you admire most? And who is your second choice?”

You can probably guess some of the other names and for the record this isn’t about what I happen to think of Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin or anyone else on the list.

Other women in this year’s top 10 included human rights leaders (Malala Yousafzai and Aung San Suu Kyi), talk show hosts (Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres) and other political figures (Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin).

When I used to teach English (ESL) part time here in Cusco I would often ask my students the same type of question, name a woman you look up to. You know what answers I would typically get?

  • My mom
  • My grandma
  • My wife, the mother of my children
  • My friend …
  • My teacher …

Throw in a few Shakiras, Eva Ayllon and the like but the overall focus of their answers was very different from the answers you get in the US. It’s all about the culture.


Pride – Home On The Prairie

We drove out to Pampa Wasi a few weeks back, Quechua for “Home On The Prairie.” Pampa Wasi is referred to as a populated center, meaning it’s a community too small to be a town in its own right, administratively it belongs to the nearest bigger town. Pampa Wasi is about 3 hours outside of Cusco and a good 45 minutes by car away from the nearest “real” towns, Combapata and Tungasuca. I believe Pampa Wasi is here on the map.

We took a trip out there so our maid Delia could visit her 5 year old son. Delia had her baby when she was very young – I’ve been told diplomatically “it wasn’t voluntary” – and her mother insists on raising the boy in the town while Delia is working in the big city. Delia quit school to care for her baby and now she’s taking weekend classes to finish high school, so she doesn’t get a chance to see her son very often.

We met with Delia’s mom and Delia’s little boy in Combapata, because every Sunday they travel to the market in Combapata to buy their supplies for the week. When we arrived, Delia’s mom pulled out a fully cooked lunch, home grown potatoes and the fattest guinea pig I’ve ever seen, the kind you’ll pay $50 for at a fine restaurant at the Plaza de Armas in Cusco. We didn’t expect all that but Delia’s mom was worried we’d be tired and hungry from the long drive with our 3 kids.

After our yummie lunch we drove the rest of the way to Pampa Wasi, passing by this interesting looking site, it looks as if it could be an unrestored Inca ruin? It’s well known in the town, Delia says the local kids go there to play.

possible unrestored Inca site in Peru

Unrestored Inca site?

Surprisingly there’s electricity and water in Pampa Wasi but other than that it’s very much “off the grid”. About 40 families live in Pampa Wasi, they live of the land, growing potatoes, herding sheep and raising guinea pigs, cuy as they’re called here. Did you know guinea pigs and chickens don’t mix? There isn’t a yardbird to be found in all of Pampa Wasi because there’s some issue with the health of the guinea pigs around chickens.

Kids go to school in Pampa Wasi till age 12, after that they have to go to school in the big towns, which means living away from home. They commute once a week in the bed of a truck, that’s the typical mode of transportation in these parts.

kids riding in bed of truck in Peru to go to school

Kids commuting on a Sunday evening to go back to school the next morning.

But I wanted to tell you about pride. If you’ve never been to one of these small towns in the Andes it may be hard to comprehend the indigenous Quechua (and Aymara) are a very strong, proud people, they consider their ancestral lands sacred. Many have left their small towns to go to the cities but you’d be mistaken if you think they do so to escape the small towns, rather they all have intrinsic motivation like the rest of us to pursue opportunities and dreams. If you ask those who stay in the towns why they stay, the answer is typically “these are our lands”.

I’ll put it to you in terms of money, only because that’s what we Westerners understand: I probably make as much or more money than the entire community of Pampa Wasi but when we arrived, Delia’s mom brought food for us because she was worried about our needs.

These are NOT needy people. The amount of money you make doesn’t change the way they treat you – something we can’t say in the so called developed world.

This is also why so many mining companies have problems doing business in Peru. They venture into the Andes with an attitude like “my money is the biggest thing that’s ever going to happen to this town” and the local people not only couldn’t care less but they feel this attitude is extremely disrespectful of their ancestral lands.

On the other hand if you visit a community like Pampa Wasi and respect the people as equals, they’ll do anything for you. In fact, come hungry because the juiciest guinea pig you’ve ever tasted will be cooked and waiting for you.

Broken bones and beer

Years ago I worked with a man who lost several fingers in a work accident. As a teenager he got his hand caught in an industrial appliance in a pizza kitchen (or pizza factory). The accident caused him such shock and pain that when one of his coworkers grabbed my friend by his other hand to pull him away from the machine, he broke several bones in his coworker’s hand from squeezing her hand so hard as she pulled him away.

The other day I was on a flight from Cusco to Lima, with a stop in Puerto Maldonado. A “dogleg” in industry speak. Two ladies in traditional Peruvian clothing were sitting nearby, an older lady in the row behind me and a woman about my age next to me. I had the aisle seat and she had the middle seat with nobody by the window.

I dozed of a bit while the plane was taxiing for takeoff but when the plane lifted off I opened my eyes to look outside. As I turned my head towards the window, the woman next to me lunged towards me, grabbed my arm in such abject fear as I’ve never seen before in my life. White with fear she grabbed my hand so hard that all I could think of was my old friend breaking the bones in his coworker’s hand.

As my seat mate screamed people all around us started calling for the flight attendants. I tried every distraction I could think of:

“Where are you going?”
“First time flying?”
“You live in Cusco?”

While she was still wrapped around me tighter than Leo and Kate in Titanic I learned she’s from Andahuaylillas and was traveling to Lima to visit her daughter, who’d moved there to work when she was 14. After a while the flight attendants literally pried this poor woman off of me and she eventually calmed down a bit. The flight attendants were very good during this ordeal, which was almost surprising because in Peru many people get hired for customer service type positions by virtue of being young and cute, not by professional ability.

At the stopover in Puerto a young man took the window seat, he was a rather handsome European looking guy, tall, blond hair, early 20s. The flight attendants said to the lady beside me “if you have any problems now you have 2 good looking young men on either side of you to help!”

Of course I feigned surprise and excitement


The woman beside me had relaxed by the time we were descending into Lima and would turn around occasionally to talk in Quechua to the older lady behind us, who was also dressed in traditional Peruvian attire. As we started to descend into Lima the older lady, who looked to be in her 80s, had a bit of a scratchy throat. One of the flights attendants asked if she wanted a cup of water.

She paused for a moment and replied: “Can I have a beer instead?”

Not in “I wanna get waisted kind of way” but rather, “It’s 5 in the afternoon, I’m 80 years old and traveling by myself, and I’d like a beer”.

A bunch of people snickered when the woman asked for a beer instead of water but the flight attendants didn’t care. In Peru jobs as flight attendants are still respected, something to be desired. Flight attendants are typically educated, ambitious, cute young people from so called “good families”. I liked that you could tell for maybe the first time in their lives, those flight attendants wanted to be just like that old traditional lady, strong and confident.

* * *

A special song for my Mamacita Linda.

All you need to know about Minera IRL

“There’s been a lot of talk about this next song, maybe, maybe too much talk” (*)

I know “Otto” at IKN personally, consider him a friend. I know he’s been telling the story of Minera IRL because he feels like it’s the right thing to do, and it’s fascinating entertainment for someone like me outside looking in.

Bad stuff happens in business: someone made a bad bet, the economy goes sour, a competitor comes out with a better product, you name it. None of that is the case in this Minera IRL saga, it’s just complete organizational dysfunction. I said a few months ago “the Board has no choice but to clean house” but obviously the problems don’t end at the executive level (do they have any executives left?).

Even if only 10% of the information that is publicly available is true, there can only be 3 reasons any publicly traded company is so dysfunctional:

1) The Board is incompetent.
2) The Board is acting in violation of their fiduciary duty.
3) All of the above.

If you’re voting on the EGM resolutions, that’s really all you need to know.

(*) How U2 used to introduce “Bloody Sunday” when U2 were still cool.

Those husband wife conversations

A few Mondays ago I took our oldest to school and when I got back Mamacita Linda realized she forgot to put Brianna’s apron in her bag.  It’s a weekly thing: you send the apron to school on Mondays and on Fridays it comes back for a trip to the laundry.

Sarcasm is always a bad idea, even when in good nature.

Mamacita Linda: “Oh No!!! I forgot to put Brianna’s apron in her bag.”
Me: “Hmmm, let’s think of a way this could possibly be MY fault.”
Mamacita Linda: “Well that’s easy: you should have reminded me. See, it IS all your fault!!!”

At which point I decide silence is the greater virtue.


I only get dressed up for board meetings.


We do a lot of work now using GO (, a newer programming language developed primarily at Google.  GO is higher level than C but more nimble than Java, we like it a lot so far.  However, we also do a lot of work with traditional SQL databases and there are some features I would like to see added to the GO database/sql package, such as ability to handle stored procedures with multiple result sets and more intuitive handling of NULL.

NULL is an important concept in programming, it means “nothing”, such as in systems programming when you try to address a non-existing memory location. In SQL databases NULL values are used frequently when you have to differentiate between non-existing and zero. For example, a zero degree outside temperature is a perfectly valid value, different from NULL which would indicate the user hasn’t entered an outside temperature yet.

In GO the variable type for time or date (time.Time) doesn’t accept NULL values so we wrote our own NullTime type, a variable that accepts either a valid date/time or NULL if the user hasn’t entered the date/time yet. Our code is essentially a copy of the NullTime type from the excellent lib/pg database driver, with added JSON input and output.

This whole NullTime effort had me thinking about Father Time a bit. I like to live in the moment but I’m also fascinated by the passing of time. We know 2 amazing Peruvian women who are in their 90s now and have fascinating stories of years gone by:

Mama Vicky

Patricia’s grandmother, affectionately known as Mama Vicky, is about 90 or 92 years old now, depending on who you ask. She lived most of her life in the small town of Accha and I don’t suppose in the 1920s civil register recordkeeping in small town Peru was very good. I believe her eldest son once told me Mama Vicky was born in 1925. Unfortunately her health hasn’t been the best for the past year or so but until Mama Vicky was well into her 80s, she’d never been admitted to a hospital. She gave birth to 12 kids – all at home – of whom only 8 lived.

Nowadays you can drive from Cusco to Accha in 3 to 4 hours and from the center of Cusco it takes nearly an hour just to get out of the “metropolitan” Cusco area. But it wasn’t always like that.

Recently Mama Vicky’s back started to bother her quite badly. We were at her house in the Ttio neighborhood of Cusco a few weeks ago when she told us that she believes her back pain stems from a horse accident years ago. Mama Vicky’s family were land owners before the Peruvian land reforms of the 1950s and 1960s. Her grandmother’s house was a colonial style house in downtown Cusco where the prestigious collegio Sta. Rosa is now located. In those days Cusco was many times smaller than it is now, all the surrounding areas which now make up the big city were nothing but farmland and villages. As a teenager Mama Vicky would watch every weekend as the men came from the countryside and each of the men would pick up or deliver hay for the horses, supplies for the land, and so on. Mama Vicky remembered every detail, from how many men would come to what they would each pick up or deliver, who worked the stables, the warehouse, etc.

When all was ready for the men who came to the house, Mama Vicky would get ready for her trip to Accha by horse. The trip from Cusco to Accha by horse would take 4 days, she told us exactly where they would stop every day to overnight, where they fed the horses, where the horses drank, etc. During one of the trips, in rainseason, there was an accident with one of the horses and Mama Vicky hurt her back, which is what she believes is causing her back pain today.

Mama Vicky hasn’t left the house in a few months, her health doesn’t allow much anymore. Last time she left the house we took her out to eat in Lucre – the best places to eat in Cusco aren’t in Cusco, they’re the quintas campestres in the towns around Cusco. Mama Vicky remembered who some of the houses belonged to 70 years ago, I think the horses stopped in Lucre on the way to Accha, I look at the town differently now.

Doña Laeti

Doña Laeti is one of Patricia’s best friends back in the US. In Cusquenian Spanish you rarely use Don or Doña, it shows a great deal of respect when you refer to someone as Don or Doña.

Doña Laeti was born in Trujillo, in the province of La Libertad in the North of Peru. She’s of mixed Peruvian and Chinese heritage, there is a lot of Asian influence in Peru. Doña Laeti is from a well to do family, pre World War II she would travel with her family from Peru to Hong Kong by steamship. She said the trip took about 4-6 weeks, with stops in places like San Francisco and Honolulu. They traveled well and she enjoyed the trip, I’m not sure but I believe her father was a diplomat.

When World War II broke out Doña Laeti and her family got caught up in the China – Japan conflict and she was interned along with some of her family in a Japanese concentration camp in China. Doña Laeti was only 19 and she worked in the camp as a nurse. Nowadays Doña Laeti and her sister laugh about the poor Chinese guy who died one night in the concentration camp because “grandma slept on top of him” – but you can still see the pain in their eyes all these years later.

Doña Laeti has letters from the Hong Kong government (before Hong Kong formally re-joined China) commending her for her efforts during the war. During the war Doña Laeti’s father got separated from the family – I believe he served in Italy – and when he found their house in China bombed to rubble after the war, her father started a new family only to be reunited years later.

In later years Doña Laeti traveled much of the world with her husband who was a diplomat and then became a writer, I believe he was a writer for the Washington Post, which in those days was known in intelligence circles as the newspaper of the US Army. Doña Laeti had 4 kids in 3 different countries, such is the life of a diplomat’s wife. I’m not sure that she’ll travel again but into her late 80s Doña Laeti would travel regularly from her home in the US to her family in Trujillo, where we’d typically go visit.

* * *

These tales seem so other worldly but they were merely a lifetime ago. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, you get lulled into thinking the world has always been the way it is today. Doña Laeti and Mama Vicky know better.

But I wanted to make a point not about steamship voyages or treks on horseback but rather about people. The median age in Peru is quite young and the streets are full of young people. Whenever you see an occasional elderly person among the mob of young kids you can tell by the looks on the young kids’ faces:

They are convinced that old person has been old for their entire life.

In their youthful ignorance these young kids just know that people like Mama Vicky and Doña Laeti have been old ladies for all of their 90+ years in this world. Look at any young kid in the presence of an elderly person and tell me it ain’t so.

But if you listen to their stories, Mama Vicky still sounds like that teenage girl watching intently how the men came to pick up supplies for the land and the horses. Doña Laeti still sounds like the young kid who traveled the world by steamship. While they’re wondering how this dynamic young girl got stuck in the body of an old lady, young kids in the street walk by knowing that this will never happen to them, convinced they’ll be forever young.

* * *

With Doña Laeti and family in Huanchaco

With Doña Laeti and family in Huanchaco

Mama Vicky with family a few birthdays ago.

Mama Vicky with family a few birthdays ago.

* * *

Our golang NullTime type. We’re launching our first golang API server next month, I’ll let you know how it goes.

package utilities

import (

// Type NullTime.

type NullTime struct {
Time time.Time
Valid bool // Valid is true if Time is not NULL

// JSON output.
// MarshalJSON implements the Marshaler interface.

func (nt NullTime) MarshalJSON() ([]byte, error) {

if nt.Valid {
return nt.Time.MarshalJSON()

return []byte(`null`), nil

// JSON input.
// UnmarshalJSON implements the Unmarshaler interface.

func (nt *NullTime) UnmarshalJSON(b []byte) error {

var myTime time.Time

err := myTime.UnmarshalJSON(b)

if err == nil {
nt.Time, nt.Valid = myTime, true
} else {
nt.Time, nt.Valid = *new(time.Time), false

return nil

// Download from SQL database.
// Scan implements the Scanner interface.

func (nt *NullTime) Scan(value interface{}) error {

nt.Time, nt.Valid = value.(time.Time)

return nil

// Insert in SQL database.
// A golang “zero date” is equivalent to dbase NULL.
// Value implements the driver Valuer interface.

func (nt NullTime) Value() (driver.Value, error) {

if !nt.Valid {
return nil, nil

if nt.Time.IsZero() {
return nil, nil

return nt.Time, nil