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

A girl who fell from a train

I’ve met many fascinating people.  Yesterday the heartbreaking picture of the Syrian boy who drowned and washed up on a beach in Turkey reminded me of a girl I knew many years ago, Anne, she was a friend of a friend.

In the aftermath of World War II and the advance of Mao in China, an American GI named Frank Chisari watched a train packed full of refugees go by at a railroad crossing when he noticed something fall of the train.  He walked up to find an infant beside the dead body of her mother, a young Chinese woman.  Chisari took the infant to his base and – along with a few other GIs – sheltered her in the fuselage of a disabled C47 airplane.  Upon his return to the US, Chisari was forced to leave the girl in a Chinese orphanage but enlisted the help of the NY Daily News to adopt the girl and bring her home to New York.  Anne went on to have, for lack of a better word, a normal life: she raised a family, moved to Florida, had several jobs, opened her own restaurant, she had what you might consider an All American life.

The poor Syrian boy who washed up in Turkey will never have those chances, he wasn’t as fortunate as Anne was.  But just like Anne these refugees are real people.

I’ll say this about the current refugee crisis in Europe: don’t believe for a moment these events are just an unfortunate circumstance or the result of some crazies in Raqqa, they are the result of years of geopolitical policies that prioritize business and strategic objectives while marginalizing the value of “ordinary” lives.  I’m not saying the so called West is to blame for everything but you can’t see the current events separate from foreign meddling, Cold War politics, Europe’s colonial past, go as far back as the Crusades if you will.

Finally, if you think this refugee wave is “bad”, forget the Middle East and look at the demographics in Africa.  Do you know what the median age is in Tanzania?  It’s 17.  Anytime people feel they don’t have a fair shake at life or a representative government, it’s only natural they’ll look for greener pastures elsewhere.

Think about that next time you entrust your foreign policies to some dude in an expensive suit who’s never traveled outside of their own country other than 4-star resorts and diplomatic missions shielded in bullet proof limousines. Whose interests do they represent? Have they studied the history of places like the Congo or Guatemala? Until there are structural changes in geopolitical policies, I’m afraid the refugee crisis won’t get better.


Back side of the lagoon

Monday morning musings.

The moon circles the earth in 28 days, exactly the same amount of time it takes the moon to rotate around its own axis. This means that the same portion of the moon’s surface is always facing the earth – just take a pair of binoculars and look, the moon always looks the same. Until the US and Soviet space programs in the 1950s and 1960s, humans had stared at the moon for centuries but never seen the far side of the moon.

So it happens sometimes that you look from a different angle at a sight you’ve known for a long time and find yourself surprised by what you see. This weekend we took the unimproved “dirt” road from Izcuchaca to the back of the Huaypo lagoon. We’d been to the lagoon before but always from the main road between Cusco and Urubamba, I’d never been to the far end of the lagoon before. I’ve seen the Urubamba mountain range many times – and it’s always a great view – but never from this particular spot.

I’ve been fortunate in my life to have seen many beautiful places and stunning scenery. From the Greek Islands to the Florida Keys, the Yucatan to Niagara Falls. I’ve seen the Greenland Icecap and the Canadian Arctic, flew over a volcano in Iceland and stayed on the shortest street in the world. I’ve seen the Saudi desert and the Amazon jungle, Budapest, Nairobi and London too.

I think most of my traveling days are behind me now but that’s OK, to see great sights you don’t have to travel to the 4 corners of the world, all you have to do is ride out to the back side of the lagoon.

Urubamba mountain range

Urubamba mountain range from the back of the Huaypo lagoon

2 thoughts on the Minera IRL (MIRL.L) ( saga

I’ve been casually following the Minera IRL (MIRL.L) ( saga on IKN and at this point there are 2 thoughts I just must share:


Seriously, if there was a love triangle in this story I would never need to watch another soap opera again (*). The Minera IRL (MIRL.L) ( saga has intrigue, deceit, money, power struggle, exotic (sort of) location… everything a soap opera needs except the love triangle. Come on, somebody please get on with it on the romantic slopes of the Andes.

2) IE9?? Seriously?? That lawyer outfit uses IE9? What freaking year they think this is?

In all seriousness this saga isn’t funny, it affects real people, real lives, real investments. There’s no way the Minera IRL (MIRL.L) ( board has any choice other than to clean house, start over and fix the community relations at Ollachea – fast. This far up in the Andes mountains the Peruvian gov’t has very little practical say, the local community leaders call all the shots. Lose the support of the community and you’re screwed for a long time.

(*) I don’t, really.

Andes mountains lagoon

Not too far from Ollachea. In these parts the locals live a hard life. Treat them with respect.

If you’re self conscious, read this

We had a lovely day today, I drove mamacita linda and the kids around the Puray lagoon near Chinchero and then on to Urubamba for lunch. We love to get out of the city on weekends, the kids enjoy the countryside, the views are spectacular and frankly the best food in Cusco isn’t in Cusco, you find it in the country style restaurants “quinta campestre” outside Cusco.

Sunday mornings are always a bit of a rush when we want to go out to the country. Have to walk the dog, get the car out of its garage, get the kids ready, and so on. Our middle child wakes up early with us so I take her with me to pick up the car, she loves to ride in the car with papucho. By the way, did I tell you there’s a middle child now? Things are crazy around here with 3 little munchkins.

But I was going to tell you about being self conscious. When I cranked up the car this morning a Madonna song was on the radio. Now I’m not a fan per se but at that particular time and place I wasn’t out to intently listen to one of my favorite pieces of music, a mindless pop song was just fine for the middle child and me.

In my morning rush I had walked 5 blocks to the garage dressed in my pijamas, boots and a baseball cap. I carried my daughter on my shoulders, dodging low hanging tree limbs along the way. Then we rolled down the windows, cranked up the volume and rocked out to a Madonna song like there was no tomorrow. And no, I can’t hold a tune.

I’m belting out Madonna in my PJs, playing air-drums on the dashboard and in passing I thought, “I used to be self conscious.”

Very much so.

Many years ago I was very self conscious. There isn’t any one particular moment that I would say “I got over it” but I remember going through a bit of a hard time personally and professionally in my twenties and thinking “this isn’t supposed to happen to me“. I’m not rich or famous but in the big picture I was definitely born into a good life, a white kid from a “good family”, in a “good part of town”. Despite that I was very self conscious as a teenager and young adult.

Getting older and having kids changed me completely but long before that, when I was going through these hard times, at first I didn’t want anyone to know. I was embarrassed. I eventually realized everyone has their ups and downs, what defines you is how you deal with it. I slowly quit worrying about what people might think, I got busy pulling myself up by my proverbial bootstraps. I found strength in those days from a few people I was close to but also from some I only knew in passing.

Nowadays when our kids have an event in their school and the teachers need someone to make a fool out of, I don’t think they even ask anyone other than me. No matter how silly they know it’s all fair game with me. People who haven’t known me for 20+ years wouldn’t believe there was a time I used to be self conscious. Sometimes our thoughts dictate too much of our lives. Thankfully, I got over it.

Huarocondo – Authentic Peruvian Pueblo

Hey Lyle, I stopped by the Gringo Wasi last Sunday but nobody answered the door. Not sure if you were out and about or perhaps taking your afternoon siesta?

Other than not getting together with Lyle our Sunday outing was very nice. Huarocondo is a small town about an hour outside of Cusco but unlike the towns on the typical Cusco tourist circuit, Huarocondo is authentic Peruvian. Of course “authentic Peruvian” isn’t one thing or another – it’s many different things – but the average tourist would be mistaken for believing that the towns on the tourist circuit outside Cusco (ie. Pisac, Urubamba, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero, etc) are representative of a typical small town in the Andes.

They’re not. A thousand square meters of land ( < 1/4 acre) outside Urubamba will cost you over $100K US.

Huarocondo on the other hand is a very traditional, authentic Peruvian pueblo. Lyle is the only gringo in town and barely a few dozen city slickers make their way out on the weekend to sample Huarocondo's delicious lechon. If you’re in Cusco and you want to spend a few days away from the hustle and bustle of the big tourist city, give Lyle a call and check out Huarocondo.

Raqchi Ruins

We took a trip to the Raqchi archaeological site a while back. The site is about a 2 hour drive from Cusco, tour buses which take you on an excursion from Cusco to Lake Titicaca or Arequipa sometimes stop in Raqchi but overall it’s a pretty quiet site. Much of the ruins appear to be reconstructed but I like going to places like this because it gives you a glimpse of what life in the Inca empire could have been like. By the way, a good part of what you see in Machu Picchu today is also restored, as you can tell by the pictures from the Hiram Bingham expedition.

Educate Me

Note to self: delete this post before kids reach university age.

I walk about 5 blocks every morning to get our car out of a garage (the parking lot by our house is still not finished). My walk takes me along the back of the main public university in Cusco, the UNSAAC.

The sidewalks behind the university are full of students rushing into their early morning classes. They say looks are deceiving but you can sort of tell the serious academic students from the cool kids and the fashionistas, the privileged kids from the ones who work their way through school. There are 15-year olds who are in university 2 years early because their parents obsessed about studies and there are 20-something career students. Some are happy, some look sad, at 7:00am young kids don’t have their guards up so much, they’re like open books rushing into the university.

One girl was walking while reading a book, getting a quick last minute of study time on her way to class.

“Poor girl” I thought to myself. “So worried to study some useless cr*p at 7:00am on a Monday.”

It was just a subconscious thought, not to be mean to her. However, I do wonder, as university education has become more and more popular have the academics been watered down and traditional liberal arts been replaced by cramming useless stuff?

You can describe pretty much any university course nowadays as “How to survive in your parents’ world, part XX of 250” (or however many credit hours there are nowadays.)

Think about it. Go all the way back in the vaults of your alma mater to, say, the year 2005 and see how many thesis you’ll find in the computer science department on “application programming for Smartphones“. Or how many papers you’d find in the Economics section on “The orderly exit of a Eurozone member because you know some day it will happen.” Or look in the political science department for papers about the normalization of US Cuba relations, or the risk of civil war due to foreign geopolitical influence in the Ukraine.

These are all significant events in our time but 10 years ago barely a university would have touched on them. However, I bet you’ll find loads of papers in the 2005 computer science class on “Transitioning your corporate IT system to Windows Vista”.

We’re bad about predicting the future, so I think universities should teach less stuff that will be obsolete by the time the kids get their second or third job. Don’t cram useless stuff, rather teach these kids to ask questions, especially in a so called developing economy like Peru. Where are we going? What is really valuable in life? Why is traffic so dangerous here? What can we do about public transportation? Why don’t kids in small towns have decent schools? If 2 million tourists come to Machu Picchu every year and each spends a $1,000 where does that 2 billion US$ go? Why does a patient have to fly from Cusco to Lima for a fairly routine medical operation?

I don’t know the answers but somebody bigger than me should be asking.