mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (Default)
2011-07-14 07:55 am

Those People, Part Two

Thing Flail revisited. The first time around, I felt like the whole thing was really jealousy over a new pro writer, with the alleged cause just an excuse to beat someone up. Various hands who were professionals came to the neo writer's defense against the academic amateurs and various wannabes and ex-publishing firm employers. Shrug. The cause simply allowed the attackers to feel self-righteous, sort of like the US's various excuses for using other countries to keep its military in shape. Plenty of writers out there to call on racial stereotypes, why pick a newbie?

The latest uproar in a LJ blog or two is basically one writer whose career is stalled flailing around trying to blame someone for his problems. He's wrong, comes across as crazy, but the people poking him still look like a bunch of self-inflating people of great self-importance.

Good causes are not sufficient to making a good person. And who thinks their causes are bad?

Being wrong because of some craziness deserves more compassion than being a bully because of self-righteousness, at least in my value system.

Comments disabled.
mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (Default)
2011-07-12 09:11 pm

New Book Signed for

Aqueduct Press will be doing a second Velius book which is the companion volume to Centuries Ago & Very Fast, for people who would like to read the work that inspired the erotica, only this was the erotica inspiring the more vanilla piece. It's sort of like fanfic in reverse, backward and in high heels or something. Straight narrator, hurt/comfort for Vel, not a tenth as much raw sex.

In other news, I'm still in Jinotega, Nicaragua, and I appear to have a house toad, along with the house geckos. I did evict the green spiny from the shower pan.
mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (Default)
2011-07-02 10:12 am

Everyone's unreality bubbles

I think one of the things that makes us human is our ability to believe in the reality of our words -- and that defending ourselves against the reality that our brains knew was one of the advantages of language (painting is always more death focused and more ironic).

What annoys me about the various people who talk about thing that would, if made real in the world, might be good is that they identify more with having made those utterances than making something of those utterances. Kenneth Rexroth, I believe it was, said something about the hypocrisy of the guy with a flame thrower in Vietnam who didn't feel the flame thrower identified him because he had a copy of WALDEN in his back pocket. Politics as identity in an "we are superior to those people" requires losing because if the politics worked, the politician would melt into the crowd.

We all identify with what we think we'd like to do more than with what we do.
mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (Default)
2011-05-30 01:30 pm

Theories of People

Theories of people: Basically, the left appears to have two theories of people: classic Marxism in terms of guiding the proletariate to good consciousness ("The poor are jobs for the middle class, especially radical professors" version of "The poor are jobs for the middle class, black as well as white" that I heard in Charlotte. The proletariate are different from the middle class in kind and social mobility is deprecated. Striving for it is false consciousness.

The other theory of people is the Oscar Wildean, and pretty much what the actor was saying on the link I put up recently: the differences between people are much more trivial than the habits of life people find themselves in, and that individual social mobility isn't, all and all, a bad thing, though it may be an incomplete thing. If the differences were really great, the maneuvers to discredit and discomfort others (the teacher, Vernon Crumpler, who told me in my senior year that I'd never finish college) would not be so vicious. It's the vehemence of the defenses that make them look like so much poppycock. 7 IQ points average between black and white? Gets lost in the noise of testing -- I've had far greater differences between IQ test scores. (I've heard one study showed that if black adult gave black children tests, and did not tell them it was an IQ test, the differences between average black and white test scores was even less.

When dealing with genuinely retarded people, the people working with them attempt to get them to do as much as possible. When dealing with threats to one's habit of command, the tactic betray the lies and the fundamental uncertainty.

The other thing is that when men put down women or attempt to describe experienced sexism as something else, all the men, including ones who are markedly less competent at something than I am, use the same patterns. "She had a man help her," "no woman can write as well as a man," "I'm the more important one because I'm male."

If any of this was genuine, the vehemence wouldn't be there. We don't generally make a big issue to our dogs that we're smarter at math than they are; we do attempt to put down people who challenge our assumptions about our innate superiority.

The third theory is that despite us being more alike than not, we all have parts to play that our circumstances put us to, and that all these parts have drawbacks and compensations and boundaries set by the social realities, the world we're born into. This is the old Teddy Rooseveltian conservativism, not the "the rest are disposable if our income is going up" of the current right.
mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (Default)
2011-05-29 10:51 am

Writing for Women

Many male writers assume that they are the important ones and that the way for women to be important, too, is to be under their guidance. The women who don't cater to the guy privilege are assumed to have inflated ideas about the quality of their writing.

The best thing for women writers is to ignore what the guy writers have to say about about their relative worth as writers, just don't take male opinions any more seriously than Edith Sitwell took Yeats's opinion ("If he likes Dorothy Wellsley, it's a bit of an insult to have him like me").

I found reading a fair amount of Ballard was like eavedropping in on highly intelligent, but basically laddish discussions between guys. I wasn't the audience for it. I can appreciate what he did, but he's intending that women are in the conversation, however he likes or doesn't like individual women.

The trouble with much feminist writing, though, is that they're still reacting to males as if males can change, should change, should be supportive. I suspect it's more like women should change. The women who cease being abused generally took steps to stop the abuse (studies here in Nicaragua based on research done in Leon). Cherokee women would beat up Cherokee men who abused women and children -- her clan's women were responsible for taking care of things.

Women get seduced into doing children's books, into feeling like they're emotionally responsible for their fans' lives, into feeling they won't matter unless the guys like them. And even some extremely powerful writers had to shake this before finding their audience among women (Helen Hunt Jackson was Emily Dickinson's audience as was her own sister-in-law and her brother's mistress's daughter). The men Dickinson reached out to tended to belittle her, either as a poet, or as a woman.

If the guy writers like a single woman writer over the generality of other women writers, she is not likely to matter to intelligent women readers. She is the women who tells them how satisfying they are sexually (a guy poet wrote in a Controversy of Poets that the thing needed from women poets was a description of what it felt like when men fucked them, something that I suspect he wouldn't say now).

None of us gets to be the only intelligent woman out of all the other women out there. Anyone who says "you're not like other women" is lying to you and making you his bitch.
mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (Default)
2011-05-03 02:21 pm

Inside and Outside

From inside my life, I was an adjunct composition teach at a couple of third tier schools, a published writer whose top advances were never over US $20,000, someone who had various lower level jobs in New York publishing (who stupidly turned down a chance to be a PR person for Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux), a reporter for a weekly newspaper in rural Virginia, and a technical writer/glorified copy editor for two defense contractors in the DC area.

From outside my life, to at least to one person, apparently this sounded so glamorous I have to have made it up. If I were lying, I'd have invented much more status. One of the smartest editors in science fiction told me that if I moved to Nicaragua, I'd disappear (the reality to counter all the fantasies of moving here to become a writer). I moved here anyway (pattern of how I manage advice should be apparent, and this is a man I respect tremendously).

I've come to be happy enough with my decision. Social Security gives me the financial independence that writing only gave me for two years. I have to ask myself whether what I wanted was the financial independence or being paid to write, and then, whether, with the financial independence, I'll put the right amount of energy into writing. And do I care?

People may find that they are happier with less success, less pressure to be successful, and money going further, and more hassles.

Some of you will be sure that Nicaragua needs you, and the solutions for why Nicaragua is as it appears to be are problems for which you can provide the solutions because your home culture obvious solved them.

Me, I listen to Spanish as if it were music, and I talk to my friends all over the world by the net and face to face here. Living in Jinotega works for me in ways that surprise me. I still smile when I walk through the central park.

It's all more complex on the inside. Nobody can really explain it, and it will be different kinds of complex for different people.

People who talk about The Nicaraguans aren't really here.
mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (Default)
2011-04-14 09:18 pm

Nicaragua is not all Managua

We get the sort of weird centricism that New Yorkers who don't live in New York City get -- Managuans and people don't live in Nicaragua see the country as Managua and Managua's suburbs, apparently. So when Amazon send stuff here, it goes to Managua and if anything in the package is electronic, that means a trip to Managua to deal with the shipping agency and then with Customs.

The shipper doesn't have a lot of friends among Amazon's customers out of the US apparently and the local office is considered to be totally useless. But Amazon got the package to Managua and into the hands of customs in two days. Then the waiting began. Then I found out that I have to be the one to show up at the shipper's office to pick up the paperwork and then go to Customs at the airport to pay the duty (rather many USAnos cheat on this whenever they can get someone else to bring stuff down as personal items) and pick up the package.

I finally got a letter from DHL in Managua that gives me a name to hold accountable in case things aren't ready. I still have no idea what the duty will be.
mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (Default)
2011-04-13 10:01 am

On getting Voice Mail in Spanish from Amazon's shipper

No hablo bien el español suficiente para comprender los mensajes de voz me dejó. Si usted está tratando de encontrar la manera de entregar el paquete, mi dirección es "seis cuadras al norte de la Estación Esso en Jinotega, en el mismo bloque en el Hotel Primavera, en la esquina opuesta, la casa con las puertas dobles marrón." Puedo enviar un jpg de Google Maps o Google Earth para localizar la ubicación exacta.

A Google translation of "I don't speak Spanish well enough to understand the voice mail messages left me. If you were trying to find out how to deliver the package to my house, my directions are 'six blocks north of the Esso Station in Jinotega, in the block of the Hotel Primavera, in the opposite corner, the house with the brown double doors.' If you want I can sent you a jpg of Google Maps or Google Earth to locate my house exactly."

They've got both the English version and the Spanish version, which seems a bit less than Nicaraguan Spanish (corda seems to be the local word for block).

Still hung up in customs, but there does appear to be light at the end of the tunnel, maybe.

Meanwhile, I'm also waiting for the Little Android phone to come back from Managua with Android 2.1 on it, which should happen around the 15th.

The other possiblity is that my shipper wants me to come to Managua to pick up the package. Shrug.
mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (Default)
2011-04-12 08:04 am

Now in the blocked IPs for Live Journal

Life has been interesting recently in petty ways. I managed to fix a cerdo/pork stew that didn't agree with me but after one rather nasty night, everything was fine. The body did what it does to fight tainted food quite well.

My IP address is blocked again at Live Journal, which probably means that they're blocking all of CA since only two machines in Managua showed up on their map (bunch more in Costa Rica). I don't know what the LJ saturation of Nicaragua is like, but Facebook is everywhere -- Jinotega has over 200 users and Jinotega is a smallish department capital of about 40,000 to 50,000 people. I'll try crossposting this from here.

A friend has a MacIntosh that's apparently failing in some undiagnosed way. She got it back up enough for now but has my external DVD burner to make copies of everything critical. If that isn't enough, I'll take a bootable USB drive up to her house and run Disk Diagnostics if her machine can boot Snow Leopard.

My Kindle and books are still in Customs. The shipping company seems to have budgeted four or five days for getting the package through Customs in Managua, which is longer than the shipping from Kentucky to Managua, but Customs does take a while.

And I've got to go up to the Mercado and see if the store with one small cast iron skillet has got the bigger skillet transferred from their other store. And I've got to do laundry, which isn't a matter of tossing things into a machine, but scrubbing things on the lavadora.
mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (Default)
2011-02-20 02:00 am

Being Liberal and Being Real

Elsewhere, on another site, I'm reading a guy say he wants more women on the site, but he's not interested in stopping what his friends are doing to newbies who show up there. The people who contributed rather significantly to a recent fracus in which I was not entirely innocent either denied that they'd ever done anything out of line and that the moderator, a woman, was being just unfair and biased against them. The site runner appears to be concerned about what's happening but the site isn't exactly newbie friendly to people of either gender. While no money is changing hands for recommendations, people recommend people they know and flame people who don't take the standard advice on applying for residency (hire a lawyer that they recommend).

And the site runner says he is really disturbed that the site doesn't have more women and women have written him to tell them they were out of there and he really wants more women but one of the ringleaders is his very good friend.


When I came out at work, I got what I felt like was a sort of faux acceptance that was more about the self-image of the people assuring me that this gay thing was okay than any thing real -- I described it to someone as being liberalled on. Most people I know now who I like don't do this. I'm me first, orientation as part but not as definition.

I've seen a disconnect on that site between self-image ("I'm generous to women; I love the Nicaraguan people, especially the poor farmers who are the true Nicaragua, and I attack the petty bourgeois, especially the petty bourgeois who have poorly paying jobs and don't own or supervise anyone) and behavior. I have a special feeling in my heart for Western people want to be cool leftists or progressives but who use petty bourgeois to dismission people in lower circumstances than their own circumstances. Petty bourgeois own at least a shop and have people working under them. They are not contingent faculty, shop clerks, or plumbers.

Getting more women on the site requires seeing them as more than women. The classic observation, often true enough, was that Southern whites of the 1950s would not want to give blacks civil rights but might very well have a black friend, not like those other blacks. Those other blacks were like his stereotypes either, but he didn't know them.

I've known a lot of people who were women over the years -- very few of them were generic women (probably selection bias here, but hey).

The men don't think of themselves as the men except when someone, generally female, points it out to them. They to themselves are people. We're women, something less diverse than people, apparently.

One of the things that I liked about being in Nicaragua was finding out that we were Gringos and we did have body language that make us obviously not ordinary people from the back. Most people here are not us. I'm not impressed by the Gringos who find ways to be the unmarked case, the human observing the Nicaraguans, particularly the Wise Campesinos of the Real Nicaragua, as opposed to thinking about Lester, Marcos, Rosario, Pachita, Roberto, Glenda, or Wilber (I know a Wilber here and a Wilber in Patrick County, both into computers and at least one into Dr. Who).

When the women are the Woman Problem, even if it's in terms of wanting to have more women included in, I'm not really sure what's going on. As with the people who saw me principally as the object of their liberalism, I'm not being seen as a person who isn't more than the sum of my gender when the point of having me around is to have more women on the site.

Nicaragua is a flavor in the people I've met but not who they are. Nicaragua is a starting point for who they are, not the end point. I've seen people who lived for decades among another social group who could never stop stereotyping it, so I'm not impressed by time on the ground. I've seen a number of people live on a land, but not in a place. We've got people here who live on but not in Nicaragua.

Real diversity allows for real diversity within any group. Blacks don't have natural rhythm (I've seen some quite clumsy black dancers in urban areas where the kids weren't brought up dancing); women aren't naturally nicer unless there's something wrong with them; Nicaraguan women aren't all slimmer than North American women.

Using other people as the towel for polishing one's self image is more annoying than mostly treating women in a stereotyped way, but making exceptions for people the otherwise bigotted person knows really well as an individual, a complex person who can still surprise, who can break thinking out of its accustomed ruts.

The biggest mistreatment of women in North American/British/Western European culture is to assume they can't possibly do things without guidance, to try to force advice on people and be upset when they don't take it. It perhaps looks like a milder mistreatment than some of the other things guys do to women, but it means that women are considered less capable, less intelligent than men, and men are necessary to liberate women.

In Nicaragua, some women have led men into combat, which even the most liberated man isn't going to be comfortable with unless he trusts the intelligence of the person leading him. Commandate Dos got results. Women's positions in Nicaragua have regressed from that in some areas (there are people who argue that human rights begin with conception -- I don't agree with them but I respect their belief more than I do someone who loves abortion rights because he can make his girl friend get rid of it).

Societies can have generalities that are mostly true except when they aren't. Most Cherokee have wonderful relationships with their fathers, the parent who traditionally can't discipline them, except when they don't (he decides the rule is bunk or he's a nasty person).

I don't want to be one of the women that the ones who get to define want to diversify their group. I want to be me, and not be seen through the lens of the last experience people had with someone with internal genitalia and the potential (or past) ability to bear and nurse children. Transsexuals will disagree strongly with that definition.

Will those characteristics produce a uniformity in the people who have them compared to those who have external genitalia and higher levels of testosterone?

"I want more people with wombs and relatively high levels of estrogen in their systems to join us here" really sounds odd. These entities are people first, then the definition goes all technical on the details.

I have neither a womb or high levels of estrogen in my system at this point in my life. I used to have a womb and functioning ovaries. Maybe I don't qualify as a woman now (and some societies have completely different roles for post-menopausal women). I don't have the fine motor coordination that women are supposed to have (I flunked typing in high school and love computers for their ease of correction of the finger splay). I've never been docile.

A woman might be a person who had a womb and high levels of blood estrogen at some time in her life. Some people who strongly feel they are women never had a womb.

Most human being are complex and clever social mammals. None of us can really be reduced to a three sentence character description, much less a single word.

Women as women have problems. Those problems would be reduced quite a lot if their being women wasn't seen as their most important defining characteristic, whatever the stereotypes connected with that characteristic.
mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (Default)
2011-02-04 09:53 pm

Jinotega Day

When I got outside after futzing around on line, water from an overflowing sewer line was running in the gutter nearest my house. One of the neighbors said something in Spanish that sounded like a warning and pointed to the water. I took a breath...

Since I'd had to have wiring work done of my house to get two grounded outlets for the computer stuff and wanted to be able to test the wiring in future rentals I might consider, I walked up to the hardware store which didn't have the right sort of AC circuit tester, but which did have modern versions of the double knife switch with two flat wire fuses that had been my original and ungrounded junction box. The hardware store didn't have a circuit tester with a second probe, so I couldn't test grounding with the one they did have for AC.

A box of books I'd mailed out of Virginia on January 5 had arrived with a charge of C$5 for customs. Someone from Direccion General de Servicios Aduaneros, Administracion de Aduana Postal had been through the box, put a list inside describing the contents inside, and then taped it up. Aduana/Customs in Nicaragua wants us to know it cared, just like Homeland Security went through my check on bags and left a note, I suppose. Duty on the box was five cordobas, with cordobas now running 22 or so to the dollar. The box was in transit or Managua for one day less than a month. It still weighed 27 or so pounds, so I got a taxi home.

Got the box up packed and called the guy making my bookcase, asked how that was coming and said the books were now all over the sewing machine but not to rush since I didn't have any cloth. I then asked if his friend the Nicaraguan electrician would want to see what the gringo electrician did to put in proper wiring for computers. He thought that he would (and we're talking about it as wiring for computers, not as any criticism of how the guy wires houses for lights and refrigerators).

One of the books was a book on growing tropical fruit in Florida that I'd saved since finding it about fifteen years ago in a used book store. It also tells what the nutritional components of each fruit is and whether it's for jams and jellies or for eating out of hand. I also had more Spanish books, and a bilingual reader I need to start working through.

After that, I bought honey at the Coffee Growers Coop and crema from my landlord's renting agent who also runs a pulperia.

Then I hooked up the OWC Neptune firewire case and found out that the hard drive inside had died. I think the Seagate drive is under warranty still, but would have some difficulty proving it hadn't been dropped in shipping it here. I took the case apart to get the drive out and will see what the boys at the shop have in the way of replacement drives. If they don't have something I can use or if the problem is in the case (which is older than the current drive), I'll see what the USB external drives look like. I could possible partition one and make a Windows XP partition for the Acer and a Mac partition for the Mini. The Neptune case only works with FireWire, advantages and disadvantages with that.

Note to self -- consider preventive maintenance replacement of the cased external drives every two years, especially if they've been stored without running them for a while.

I shudder at getting inside a Mac Mini, but people have added more memory and larger notebook drives to those.
mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (Default)
2011-01-28 05:54 pm

In a Rented House that's for Sale

I want to get certain work done on the house to use the computer more safely (there's no breaker box, no grounding) and wanted to get a circuit for hot water. But today two guys came by to look at the house (with the landlord's agent's mother). It's on the market for US$50K which is more than I would want to pay for it and we'd technically have a month to find new accommodations if it did sell.

I've got a Medrano Express box on its way by sea and have no idea whether anything will happen before that comes, but today was a reminder that I can't count on this place being mine forever unless I had US$40K or so to offer and wasn't facing better offers.

In other news, I am waiting to see if the guy coming in from Managua will have the USB headsets with microphones so I can do Skype phone calls on the Mac. My young friend at the computer store and I attempted to discuss the virtues of Windows over Mac and Linux. I told him I'd run a Solaris machine once but that was mas deficile. Linux no es deficile. I don't think he believed me. The kids in the store looked like high school students and apparently are -- this kid was out in the morning until 3 p.m. There's a whole swarm of them, then two older guys who I think own the store. It's a small but deep storefront, fairly typical of things around here. They do computer repairs, sometimes out in the street. The kids are very different in some ways than US computer kids (more polite and very much still Nicaraguan kids) but the same in other ways (OS arguments).

I'd love to stay here, but that might not be possible. I've had leads on other places, but will wait and see. One person had her office in the building and wanted someone to be around at night in a separate apartment. Haven't checked further to see if that was still available, but selling a house here would probably take at least as long as selling one in the US. Should have reasonable notice, I hope.

I wanted to split the electric service and get my service in my name, but I might better wait until I'm in more permanent quarters. The woman next door probably doesn't pay any more than I do, possibly less, and I figured that the owner in Miami would be better off selling the place for $40K (don't know how the figures work for $30K) than renting to us for 10 years at circa US $180 a month (US $90 each). Break point seems to be $21.6K for ten years -- worth the same to rent (minus repair expenses). If I had the money, I'd consider making her an offer at US$30K, but I don't. There are other places to rent in Jinotega, but I've gotten to know this neighborhood.
mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (Default)
2011-01-22 08:05 am

That age, wisdom, perspective thing

One of the things I've come away from the recent robbery and various discussions on line about Nicaraguan crime is that any of us is as safe as our neighbors want us to be and as safe as we're able to read the cultures we're in. I knew that I should have gotten the keys back from my friend, that her boy friend had robbed in the past and was under stress now. Didn't, got robbed of what I hadn't thought to move to friends. He robbed me rather selectively: one pair of commodity boots, but not the handmade boots; the flashlights, but not the kitchen pan worth far more than the flashlights; the parka but no other clothes, and the propane tank (for quick money) but none of the other furniture. I could imagine his excuses for what he was doing.

The other thing I realized is that all my life I'd traded time for the usual middle class comforts, and that most people could barely read one culture, much less several. The easy way is to blackbox all other cultures and classes as dangerous, thus the gated communities, the people who make blanket statements about "the element," who think the Sierra Foothills were ruined by the Hispanics, and all that.

Theft cross cultural or class lines isn't as common as stealing within a culture or class, but it's perhaps easier if the person being robbed sees all of "them" as looking alike.

I've lived most of my life in dodgy neighborhoods and that decision has cost me less than the alternative of living in places that cost ten times what my rent here is, or my rent on Mott Street was. And I'm finding that I don't regret that decision.

And I sympathize with the cultures who have no completely evil humans in their myths rather than the ones who demonize other humans. The Stone Man in the Cherokee myth had to be killed, but in his dying, he gave humans corn.

My thief has given me the makings of a character.
mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (Default)
2010-12-21 03:43 pm

I now Have A Cedula and

...a stamp in my passport which says I have to pay the Nicaraguan government 70 cordobas (less than $5) for permission to exit the country. I am a permanent resident of Nicaragua for the next five years.

I like it here. Stay out. More gringos would ruin the place. Drunk Bob was mugged in his walker while drunk in the bad neighborhood, so it's really not safe, if you're stupid.
mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (orchid)
2010-11-20 12:33 pm

What I thought would be fan fic

...marrying the Torchwood University to my Centuries Ago and Very Fast Universe shed Torchwood and picked up the daughter of Diana of the Ephesians, and will be joining other stories with no media tie ins in a collection that will be coming out from Aqueduct Press sometime in the next year or two. Mine editor has re-write suggestions, so the next three weeks will be work on that.

In other news, I've made Nicaragua geek boys very happy by passing around a Doctor Who DVD.
mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (Default)
2010-10-23 04:08 pm

I'm still in Nicaragua

It's been hot today with intermittent soldiers, young vulnerable looking kids with either pistols on their hips or riding in the back of a truck with something larger. Friends tell me there's a base nearby.

We also have cattle being driven through town occasionally, and once touring my neighborhood without a guide. I had one checking out my house. Photos on Facebook.
mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (Default)
2010-10-01 12:38 pm

Two Months and My Residency Request is Approved

I will have at least one additional phone call to make and a trip or two to Managua (to Intur to pick up the certificate of approval and to Immigration to get photographed for the cedula and then back to Immigration to get the cedula and the permission to go back to the US to sell my car).
mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (Default)
2010-09-21 04:40 pm

A month and a half and more in Nicaragua

Jinotega is the best mix of Lower East Side and the mountains.

Ex-patriation makes me realize that who I am is contingent on things that I didn't have any control over, and some of the great SF, like Disch's "The Alien Shore," is about the more threatening side of this recognition -- if I'd been born here, my life would have been, or could have been, radically different.

I've been sick and think some of the problem is the pigeons living in the space between the drop ceiling and the roof, so with the advice of my landlord's agent, I'm going to see about evicting las palomas. I'd really like to use a German ex-pat I've had do things before, but the landlord's agent wants to use someone cheaper. We shall see how this works out.

On Thursday, I have to call Managua and find out how my application for residency is coming. If approved, I will have to make the trip to Managua and to Immigration and have my photo made for the cedula. The actual card apparently takes a month to make.

Started a new novel with an old character after throwing out attempts to set something with Vel in the Torchwood Universe. So far, it's notes and stretches of various first person dialogue. Vel joins the modern world and gets special dispensation to have a government fake his passports for him rather than having his family do it.

I have no idea whether I can sell the thing or not, but it's fun to be working on something, and be 3,000 feet up and several thousand miles from the nearest dedicated s.f. fan who thinks Science Fiction World has some coherent and perhaps intelligent meaning, and that writing is a job, not who you are.

Who you are is a job -- work is part of it.
mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (Default)
2010-08-12 05:22 pm

The Time in Nicaragua, Two Weeks Now

I've been here two weeks and don't have any desire at the present to go back to the US. The city I'm living in, Jinotega, is somewhat like the Lower East Side in the 1960s, early 1960s before that many artists, poets, and writers discovered the place. The locals hustle, doing different things, some illegal (my driver who took a detour by a mariachi cantina in the opposite direction from Jinotega was recently arrested in a drug sting). It has stone laundry sinks in the kitchen rather than tubs and is surrounded by mountains, so there are some differences, but the strong feel of scrambling to do better, to make money, to survive in a strange world (internet and PlayStations are here)is the same. The people here didn't move from the Old Country -- the different arrived here, starting with the Spanish.

Jinotega has the spread between rich and poor that places with raw material export economies and seasonal work have. Coffee and cattle are the money crops here. Picking is seasonal and there's some attempt to find other crops, mainly cocoa, that are harvested in different seasons than coffee. Jinotega is the service town for the district, the equivalent of the county seat, and has the doctors, dentists, furniture and clothing stores, and such that provide the things that people can't grow for themselves.

Food is cheap; thumb drives are insanely expensive ($30 US for a 1 GB thumbdrive). Couple of restaurants and hotels have wifi. And some people ride into town on horses and burros, while behind the front walls, one catches glimpses of some very beautiful modern versions of the local architecture.

I've left my documents with Suzanne's lawyer for the approval and such of the translations of the originals. Then we have to make three copies of everything, and take them to Managua, next week. If this goes smoothly, it will be much cheaper than hiring a Managua immigration lawyer. If not, I'm out a couple hundred dollars. I don't think all the documents are time-sensitive, but if I have to have things redone, I'll be back in DC in December when I go back to sell my car and arrange shipping of my electronics gear and kitchenware, and shoes, and some clothes.

It's 73 degrees F in Jinotega at 5:25 PM.
mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (Default)
2010-08-08 10:15 am


One of my ex-pat friends coined a term for something we've been observing for a while -- humanotourism. She's been working on translating interviews with people from all points on the Nicaraguan political spectrum, including people who've been Sandinistas, Contras, and back to Sandinista (the photo looked like a guy who liked to have fun), as well as a man whose nom-de-guerre was Suicide (because he dragged his gun behind him in adolescent fool-hardiness). Across the political, Nicaraguans tend not to want all that help.

What we see is a group of people, generally larger than the numbers needed to do the task they came to do, taking over a hotel and talking mostly to each other and not to people who aren't in their group, who don't hire Nicaraguans to work with them, or even have Nicaraguans working with them as volunteers, coming in to do something, but not really anything that requires importing Americans and putting them up at the most expensive hotel in town (Hotel Cafe, with rate up to US standards). They make comments about Jinotega (a city of shop and hotel keepers, many female) not being as bad as they expected (it's actually cleaner than most Central American cities) and not having the expected chickens in the street (too many street dogs and cars, much safe to put the chickens in the back yard as my neighbor has done). They have, by God, come to do good to the Nicaraguans, including painting a house, playing music, and building a community center.

Houses here are generally good to go whether they're painted or not -- it's the land of cinder block and brick houses for the most part and the stucco and paint is more decorative than structurally imperative. Feeding people doesn't really deal with the structural problems that causes people to leave their farms and try to make a go of life in Managua, or with good agricultural land being used for export crops. And it doesn't require 18 people to stay in the Hotel Cafe.

Humanotourists feel good and go home to tell wonderful stories about the dirt roads in town, the cobblestone streets, and the gratitude of the Nicaraguan people (who are very polite and patient with gringos).

Housing issues are more complex, too. Food is an inelastic cost (either in the labor of growing it or in having the money to buy it) if a person is to have reasonably good health. Housing can go down to zero (sharing a house) or pretty damn cheap (many farm worker and even farmer houses here are dirt floored, with no running water, latrine toilets. Seeing the poor housing as the thing that needs to be fixed tends to mean that people become house poor in ways that are far more threatening to people's well being than being house poor in most of the US.

It's the tropics. People need shelter from the rain more than from heat or cold.