That’s OK, he’s always been old

Some of the places I used to live have a very high median age, Belgium, Florida. I remember walking into the old Langford Hotel in Winter Park with a friend of mine who was in his 60s at the time. One of the patrons at the bar said in all seriousness “nice to see a couple of young guys in here!” So I’m a bit fascinated in Peru by the mob of young people you see everywhere, the median age here is so much younger than in the places I used to live.

Mamacita Linda went to Lima earlier this week to see Aerosmith live. Big week for rock fans here in Peru, Aerosmith played in Lima on Monday and today the much hyped Guns N’ Roses reunion tour hits Lima. BTW, is that why you’re on the road Otto?

While Mamacita Linda was in Lima for the concert, her and a few friends were browsing rock stars on Youtube and she called me in a great big panic:

Mamacita Linda: “Papiiiiiiiiii!!!”
Me: “Erghh? You OK?”
Mamacita Linda: “Nooooo!!!”
Me: “What happened?”
Mamacita Linda: “We were looking up videos on Youtube and we saw Jon Bon Jovi, he’s old now!!!!!”
Me: “Erghh? He’s about 10 years older than me?”
Me: “And by the way, you just saw Aerosmith, I think Steven Tyler is older than Jon Bon Jovi.”
Mamacita Linda: “But for me Steven Tyler was always an old guy, so it doesn’t bother me that he’s really an old guy. But Bon Jovi used to be young and PAPI*!”

That’s one of the sentiments that fascinates me the most: the young people in Peru just know when they see an older person, that that person has always been old.

I have to admit, subconsciously I do the opposite: when I see all these young people who don’t remember a world without cellphones or internet, I somehow think that in 20 years time they’re going to understand a world without internet, cellphones or 24 hour news just because I used to know that world once, when I was the age these young kids are now. Of course that’ll never happen, no matter how old these young people ever grow up to be, they’ll never go back in time to a world without internet or cellphones.

(*) “PAPI” is used to describe handsome guys.

When Joe Biden and Mitt Romney had lunch

The other day Joe Biden and Mitt Romney got together for lunch, I happened to be sitting at the next table so I listened in (*). After a while the conversation naturally turned to politics:

Mitt: “Dude, you should’ve run.”
Joe: “I know, I know. I wish I had.”
Joe: “Dude, you should’ve run.”
Mitt: “I wish I had!”
Joe: “I suppose you’re still voting for Hillary?”
Mitt: “Exactly, a Hillary Clinton victory might be the last chance to keep the fringes and nutjobs on our side from taking over completely. I hold out some hope that a Hillary Clinton victory will lead to serious soul searching on our side, return us to a vision of big tent conservatives.”
Joe: “It isn’t my thing but I hear you dude.”
Mitt: “You still voting for Trump then?”
Joe: “Absolutely, a Trump victory is the only way to get rid of the Clinton clan once and for all, return the party to its ideals and progressive values, instead of selling our soul to hang onto power and money.”
Mitt: “I hear you…”
Mitt: “By the way, Barack’s kind of aloof and for so-called progressives I can’t believe what you guys are doing with the drone program but other than that, I’ve got to give it to you, you and Barack did alright.”
Joe: “Thanks man!”
Mitt: “Out of curiosity, who’s Barack voting for anyway?”
Joe: “I think he’s writing in Beyoncé.”
Mitt: “Good call, I mean I don’t totally agree with the cause but at least she owned her cause.”

* * *

(*) No I didn’t, I made it all up but you knew that already. I did want to say I no longer believe my own stupid prediction from back in Feb when I said the Rio Madre de Dios would freeze over before Donald Trump becomes President of the USA. At the time I believed there was no way the business/political establishment would allow the final choice to come down to Clinton vs. Trump. As that is the final choice, I’m giving Trump better than 50-50 odds. I think the media, the polsters and political elites are very far removed from Main Street USA and they’re likely underestimating both the dislike for the Clintons and the general feeling of being fed up with the status quo. The pollsters might be in for a shock just like the Brexit pollsters were.

The Gold’s Gym debacle in Cusco

I don’t work out, I probably should but I stay pretty active walking to the office, taking the kids to school, lifting my coffee cup, etc. Soon I’ll do a post on where to work out in Cusco, for all you fitness fanatics out there.

Mamacita Linda had been working out at the Gold’s Gym in Cusco, which turned into a hot mess here recently. Mamacita Linda worked out at the Gold’s Gym because it was the biggest, nicest gym in town. Had new machines, nice looking trainers and above all, it was located in a prime space in the only real mall in town, Real Plaza.

As all gyms do, Gold’s Gym in Cusco was quite aggressive at selling long term memberships. Mamacita Linda re-upped her membership for another year just 2 months ago.

Then word got out a few days ago that the Gold’s Gym franchise in Cusco was closing effective Sept 30. Mamacita Linda went to the gym to see what arrangements were being made for members only to find a mob of angry customers. So far there has been no agreement from Gold’s Gym to refund any partial contracts or transfer the contracts to the new gym that is set to take over the location. The next nearest Gold’s Gym is 8 hours away, so that’s not exactly an option for existing customers either. Some customers had signed 2 year agreements with Gold’s Gym Cusco as recently as 2 weeks prior to the announced closing. Surely the gym management knew they were signing customers up and taking payment up front for services they had no intention of delivering.

Every customer who came to the gym to see what arrangements were being made only ended up being hounded by Gold’s Gym staff to sign the piece of paper below, effectively saying “I acknowledge my membership is being terminated and I have no complaints with respect to the above.” In return for signing said piece of paper, the customers got a few discount coupons to the gym franchise that is set to replace Gold’s Gym. Of course, since no gym memberships ever sell at full value the discount coupons you get for giving up your entire Gold’s Gym contract are effectively worthless.

Should Gold’s Gym change their mind and do right by their customers I’ll let you know but for now it’s not looking good.

Update 10/3/2016: The new gym at Real Plaza, Smart Fit has offered Mamacita Linda a comparable membership to her previous Gold’s Gym membership at no cost for the remainder of her original Gold’s Gym contract. It’s not clear to anybody to what extent, if any, Gold’s Gym facilitated this or if it’s just “good business” on behalf of Smart Fit. The perception among customers is the latter. I’m glad that Gold’s Gym customers aren’t left with nothing but the transition was handled very poorly by the Gold’s Gym Peru franchise.


Mama’s always right.

If you ever felt like a drunken waste of time who used to care but doesn’t anymore, just remember what Mama said. While we’re on the subject of drinking, I always recommend young people not to drink too soon, alcohol abuse is so much more meaningful when you have a family and kids.

The internet has to be the biggest disappointment of our lifetime

I know, that’s an ironic statement from a guy who writes a blog, has a couple of web sites and makes his living developing web applications, but just hear me out.

The other day I saw a young lady crossing the street, nervously carrying a big birthday cake. I’ve always envied waiters who effortlessly carry 7 plates, I’m kind of a klutz, I probably would’ve been nervous carrying a big cake like that as well. However, despite her obvious nervousness this young lady was carrying the cake with just her left hand and part of her right forearm, wedged firmly in her right hand was her smartphone.

Crossing the street in any major Peruvian city is dangerous even for a careful, healthy adult but there she was, in the middle of the street, eyes fixed on her phone, cake wobbling on her hand, her mind blissfully lost in a virtual world.

This had me thinking about the promise the internet once held. The median age in Peru is about 26, many Peruvians don’t remember a world before the internet and few know much about the first internet stock boom of the 1990s, the days of Henry Blodget’s infamous $400 target. There were so many lofty promises in those days, the internet was about to change the world. For sure the internet has changed the world but the noble promise academics and business leaders envisioned back then is nowhere to be found today.

There would be no more hunger

The thinking was, if we are able to freely share enough information about crop status, weather patterns, warehouse inventories, market prices, household incomes and the like we could solve world hunger. If the internet allowed us to see or predict where there is food and and where there is hunger, with that information we could take measures so there would be no more hunger.

According to the World Food Program about 1 out of every 9 people goes hungry in the world today.

Democracies would flourish

The internet would enable free and open discussion. No longer would voters have to rely on media or other intermediaries to know a candidate’s thoughts or track record. Constituents would be able to share their experiences and views of elected officials. With so much information available to everyone in real time, voters would know candidates better than ever. We would elect our representatives based on merit, experience and vision.

It’s hard to find an objective measure of this, you could argue that today’s populist sentiment shows this is happening but I would counter that when more than $1 Billion flows into a single US election cycle, we are far removed from the promise of democracies based on open sharing of information.

We would be able to solve the most complex problems

In the old days of the original Napster, you could often see or hear your computer “wake up” to share a file over the P2P network. This was an easy way to visualize all the dormant computing power sitting around homes worldwide. The thinking was, if Napster could access idle computers around the world, surely major computer companies would similarly be able to apply all this unused computing power to solve some of the world’s most complex problems in fields such as genetics, cancer research, environmental research, etc.

Instead, cancer rates are up, Greenhouse Gas emissions are up and we still can’t accurately predict earthquakes.

Everyone would get their fair share

The internet was supposed to be the great equalizer. If you needed a new job, surely the internet could match your skills with the right opening. Online education, work from home, the internet was supposed to open up opportunities everywhere. If anybody could sell their products or services over the internet, big corporations would no longer rule the world. Outsourcing meant small businesses didn’t need big factories or warehouses, just a great idea for a product or service and a web site.

While the internet has certainly changed the economic landscape, income inequality has become a defining issue of our time, in the industrialized world the middle class is shrinking and the global middle class is still only a promise. As for the internet itself, while there are perhaps billions of web pages by now, the internet is dominated by a few large, mostly US based, multi-nationals.

There would be no more wars

If information about governance around the world was openly available and citizens could express their concerns to any audience worldwide, there would be no more wars. All of the pretenses that were ever used to compel people to go to war would be easily debunked before any war ever started. The internet would reveal any threat of conflict and global powers would be able to act accordingly to prevent any wars.

Instead, perpetual overseas war has become the new normal in the industrialized world, accepted even by so called progressives.

You might say these are all highfalutin ideas that won’t ever come true but even on a smaller scale, you wonder where all the promise of the internet has gone? For example, my own developers and I could easily make a geocoded database of all traffic fatalities in Peru and local infrastructure engineers could take corrective measures to reduce traffic fatalities. We could build the database and deploy the application to every police station, insurance agency and transportation department in the country within 12 months. You could probably reduce traffic fatalities by 50% in 10 years but it won’t happen. There’s no will to do it.

The road to Quillabamba (and Machu Picchu)

I’d like to tell you a long story about airplanes to help describe the road from Cusco to Quillabamba and Machu Picchu.

Two important concepts in airplane design are stability and control sensitivity. There are 2 kinds of stability: static and dynamic. Static stability means when a pilot lets go of the controls during normal stabilized flight, that the airplane will maintain its attitude – so the pilot can grab a map or cup of coffee and the airplane will continue on its merry way. Dynamic stability means when an airplane is disturbed from stabilized flight that it will eventually return back to its stabilized flight path. For example when a pilot yanks on the controls to avoid hitting a bird, an airplane with good dynamic stability will enter a slowly decreasing porpoising motion and eventually return to its steady state flight path. Finally control sensitivity means how quickly the airplane responds to the pilot’s control inputs and how much force the pilot needs to exert on the controls to fly the airplane.

In the early days of aviation these concepts were not well understood, for example, in a Ford Tri-Motor you could slam the controls completely back and forth on approach but the resulting airplane movement was almost indiscernible, the controls were very ineffective at slower speeds. I never flew a Ford Tri-Motor but I knew a guy who did, he flew for an outfit that smuggled liquor in Tri-Motors during prohibition. The Piper J3 Cub was one of the first mass produced airplanes that had these concepts figured out, it’s the nicest flying little plane. Of course airliners nowadays are all controlled by computers, their flying characteristics are programmed in, not achieved only by aerodynamics.

At the end of the day, there is an acceptable range of stability and control sensitivity. For example, a training airplane typically has less stability because the designers want to force the student pilot to be attentive at all times. In another example, I flew with a pilot who liked to barrel roll fully loaded Convair 240s and Gulfstream G1s but he swore to never try the same in a Convair 340 or 440, its roll rate is too slow.

In this acceptable range of stability and control sensitivity, if an airplane is not very stable but has sensitive controls, a pilot might say it’s a “touchy” or “squirrelly” airplane.

Legend has it that one of the early pilots to fly the Pitts Special was a bit shook up after landing by the airplane’s power and handling, telling Curtis Pitts “that’s one squirrelly airplane you built!” To which Curtis Pitts famously responded “I’ve never known a squirrelly airplane but I’ve met a lot of squirrelly pilots!”

* * *

I drove the road from Cusco to Quillabamba for the first time last week, Quillabamba is the closest town to Cusco on the edge of the jungle, it’s nice to take the kids there for a swim in the pool. The road to Quillabamba is the same road tourists take to go to “Machu Picchu by car” as you see advertised everywhere in Cusco, I believe it’s less expensive than taking the train. The road goes via Ollantaytambo up near Nevado Veronica at an elevation of just over 4,300 meters (about 14,000 feet) and then back down to 1,100 meters (about 3,500 feet) by the time you reach Santa Maria. From Santa Maria you can continue on to Quillabamba or take the detour to Santa Teresa, then via the Hydro-Electrica to Machu Picchu.

Locals say it’s a dangerous road. If you want my advice, take the train to Machu Picchu. I’ve never met a dangerous road but I’ve sure met a lot of dangerous drivers, and the road to Quillabamba is very unforgiving of dangerous drivers.

Antonio Olave Palomino, QEPD

Antonio Olave Palomino was laid to rest at the Almudena cemetery in Cusco this past Thursday. Fittingly for one of the most influential Cusquenian artists of his time, he was laid to rest on Peru’s national holiday (July 28).

Antonio Olave Palomino was the creator of the contemporary “Niño Manuelito”, a wooden sculpture of baby Jesus in the image of a traditional Andean boy. In the San Blas area of Cusco you can find the “Niño Manuelito” in every souvenir store but the “Niño Manuelito” is actually one of the few authentic Cusquenian souvenirs you can buy. I literally don’t know any Cusquenian family that does not have a “Niño Manuelito” in their home.

I’ve heard a few variations on the story behind the “Niño Manuelito” but the contemporary “Niño Manuelito” was created when Antonio Olave traveled to Vilcabamba around 1975 to help restore a church that had been damaged by a mudslide, there he heard the legend of Q’alito which inspired him to create the “Niño Manuelito”.

According to one version of the legend, ushers in the church would find the image of baby Jesus in their church with dirty feet because baby Jesus would leave the church and play with the local kids. One day a local boy stepped on a thorn and hurt his foot. Another boy, named Q’alito, was hearding his sheep and purposely stepped on a thorn to console his friend, telling him: “don’t worry, I’m hurting too”.

I think the “Niño Manuelito” is so popular here in Cusco because he personifies the themes of “Jesus is one of us”, and that Jesus is hurting for the ordinary Cusquenian.

* * *

I didn’t know Antonio Olave personally but in passing I heard the family talk at his funeral, they didn’t talk about what a great artist he was, they talked about what a great father he was. That’s good enough by me.

Niño Manuelito

Back in the days of the Spanish conquistadores, the traditional Quechua culture was blended into the Catholic religion in Peru, you can still see evidence of that today in the “Niño Manuelito”.

(Spanish) link to article on the “Niño Manuelito” in La Republica.

Arriba o Abajo?

When you’re standing on the North Pole, any direction you take is due South. You and your best friend can be standing back to back on the North Pole, step away in opposite directions and both of you will be walking due South. I recommend doing this in the summer. The same is true if you’re standing on the South Pole, any direction you step away from the Pole is due North.

In a city like Cusco, high up in the Andes mountains, the locals have the same kind of directional system. Everything is either up or down. Arriba o Abajo? The only variations are if some place is way up or way down from where you’re at than it’s Arriiiiiiba o Abaaaaaajjo?

The other day Mamacita Linda was going to the market to buy fresh groceries. I ask “which market”.

“The one arriiiiiba”

There’s about 4 or 5 markets “arriba” from us but since she said “arriiiiiiba” that narrowed it down to either the main market in downtown Cusco or the Huancaro market.

A while back we took the kids to a birthday party at a friend’s house. I’d never been to the house before so I ask where it is.

“Abaaaaaaaaaajo todavia”

That describes an area of probably 100,000 people, maybe more.

Sometimes you don’t know if they mean “arriba/abajo” in the immediate sense or in the long run. For example, the main avenue coming into Cusco, Avenida Cultura, generally slopes up towards the city center and down towards the outlying areas of San Jeronimo and Saylla, but there are a few stretches where the slope is opposite. Whenever we’re out and about I’d give my earthly kingdom for some left/right directions once in a while!!

* * *

The farthest North I’ve been is Qikiqtarjuaq, 68 degrees North latitude.

Runway at Qikiqtarjuaq CYVM

The runway at Qikiqtarjuaq (CYVM) is marked to TRUE North, not magnetic North.

Mooney Acclaim on ramp at Qikiqtarjuaq (CYVM) airport.

Mooney Acclaim on ramp at Qikiqtarjuaq (CYVM) airport.

The stunning Brexit vote

Is only stunning if you know nothing about European history and culture.

I’m already wore out from seeing stunning Brexit news everywhere. All the talking heads telling you how stunning this is and what it means to you (hint: nothing)

While it may be stunning how wrong the pollsters were and how badly the Remain camp miscalculated their political moves, the actual outcome should come as no surprise to anyone who knows European history.

Since when do the Brits consider themselves an integral part of Europe?

They never have and probably never will, and that’s perfectly well and within their right.

* * *

Peace in Colombia. Largely overlooked amid all the Brexit noise is the great news out of Cuba that the Colombian government is now formally at peace with the FARC rebels. Real news that affects real lives.