Sunday, October 25, 2009

Gay Pride and Fake Fossils

Right now the Gay Pride Parade is happening within earshot of where I am sitting. I think it was in 2003 when I was living close to where I am now I heard what was obviously a trio electrico nearby and I went to check it out- it was an earlier incarnation of the same event, with three trios and maybe a thousand people present. Twenty minutes and it had gone by. It has grown almost exponentially since then, and there are supposedly 12 trios today and many thousands of people I'm sure, I haven't gone out to have a look although I probably will in a little while. My wife loves these parades, and she's out there with a gaggle of friends having a blast I'm sure. It's like a little flash of Carnaval out of season.

Yesterday I went out and did a drawing with my paint markers right by the Mercado Modelo, one of the major tourist traps here in the city. I don't have a picture of it yet. As I was finishing up the drawing, I took a look at the pile of rubble next to me. These piles are quite common, as whenever someone does work in their house, they tend to produce great quantities of busted up concrete and tile and so forth- generally folks just find a place to dump it and it's not their problem anymore. I assumed that was what this pile was, and I was right, to a point. Thing was, there were some odd smoothed stones mixed in, flat on one side. I took a look and they appear to be fossils, mostly of fish. My first instinct was that they had to be fakes, but if they are, they are quite well done. And if they aren't, why were they just thrown away like that? I am sure they aren't worth anything, but I took a few of the best ones just because they were intriguing. Have a look and tell me if you think they are real. Click on the images to see the whole thing.

Now I think I'll go have a look at the craziness going on outside.

Friday, October 23, 2009

I Really Don't Like Ants

Well, after a week of a malfunctioning refrigerator that didn't want to cool things off anymore and lots of annoying phone calls with unreliable and overpriced service persons, and hours of wasted time, and a large chunk of money gone, we now have a functioning fridge again.

What was the problem?

You guessed it...


Ants in the motherboard.

Let me say right now that unless you really need something that has silicon chips in it... in other words if you have the option to buy something without them, get the non-chip version. The next chunk of money I am going to throw away is for a new motherboard/control panel for our blender/food processor thingie, which wasn't damaged by ants, mostly by juice.

These big honkin' ants we have in our kitchen have given us various problems, but this is by far the most costly one yet. I've pulled out cabinets and thrown out food and even swatted them with newspapers. If I wasn't so reticent to use insecticides this might never have happened, I may not be so reticent in the future.

The bonehead 'technician' that finally replaced the control panel in the fridge pulled the thing off this evening and hundreds of ants poured out- ants, and eggs, and ants with wings, and even little new ants that didn't appear to have chitined up yet.

They're mostly dead now. I don't like to kill things if I can avoid it, but you gotta draw the line somewhere. Ants and electronics don't mix- take my word for it!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Birds and Luck

Today a bird took a dump on my head.

I've been the victim of such nastiness in the past, but this was a real bullseye. Dead center. Oddly enough, Evani says this is good luck, which is encouraging, if somewhat counter-intuitive. I hope she's right- we could use some good luck around here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Artwork to Iran

Today I sent an envelope to Tehran, with three paintings on cardboard inside. Two were painted by me, and one by my friend Sins. They will be part of the '20 x 20 Tehran' street art show/event, in which all the pieces need to be 20 by 20 centimeters. That's about 8 inches square for all you Luddites. They tell me it will take from 8 to 15 business days for them to get there. I can't help wondering, as a result of a piece I heard on NPR about a show of Iranian street art that took place in the US, whether the package will be scrutinized by government censors- not that I did anything offensive.

Judge for yourself:

I don't know why I'm so excited by this show- I guess because Iran is so much in the news, so mysterious, so potentially dangerous (hmm- kinda like another place I know). But the best thing about doing this is that it's making me see another side to the place- a side apart from the whole media madness. And that's a good thing.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Fire Alarm

Well I got the shit scared out of me today.

It happened as I was leaving my house, I was literally walking out the door. I heard a beeping that took me a second to identify, and then I realized what it was- a smoke alarm. As I am the only person on my street (as far as I know) who owns such exotic items, I knew it must be coming from somewhere in my house. I sighed and shut the door, and I sighed again when I realized that it wasn't any of the alarms in the house itself, but was coming from the one I installed in my attic. This meant I had to unlock more doors, get my ladder, carry it upstairs, and check the attic. I wasn't taking this very seriously yet.

I installed the smoke detector in my attic for two reasons: first, in case something catches fire in my attic I want to know about it, but second and more importantly in case something catches fire in my stupid neighbor Mario's house. I know he has no smoke alarms, I know he has really shoddy wiring, I know he has stupid tenants, and I share a wall with him, so his problems potentially become my problems. I figured that any smoke on his side would pass to mine quite easily, so I placed the smoke detector in the peak, as close to the wall I share with Mario as possible.

I went out my back door to get my ladder, which I keep outside. I looked up at Mario's roof, and my mood changed instantly. There was smoke rising from his house.

I freaked out and ran back through the house and into the house next door. There's at least a dozen people who live there, and they already knew something was burning. Nobody knew where Mario was, but he never goes too far away. Someone said there was nobody in the burning room, somebody else said they were going to break down the door. I ran back to my house.

I got the ladder and scurried upstairs with it, opened the trapdoor into the attic and had a look. It was filling up with dark smoke and the smell of burning plastic. It didn't look like my side was in imminent danger of catching fire, so I descended the ladder once more on my way back to Mario's house.

As I went back downstairs I grabbed my second-floor fire extinguisher, the one filled with water. Once I got to the front door, I had second thoughts and left it inside rather than run into Mario's place with it. I'd already emptied an extinguisher at a neighbor's house when I probably didn't need to, so I decided to have a look first.

I ran up the stairs in Mario's house. It was full of people coming out of the various rooms, some dealing with the emergency, some just standing there. The door to the room in question had been knocked down, and the fire had been put out already. It had been a mattress burning- the same thing that killed my neighbor Antonio.

I have a friend who used to live in a gentrifying building in the Lower East Side. Most of his neighbors were of Chinese descent, living in run-down apartments. Whenever someone moved out, the landlord completely renovated the vacant apartment and probably quadrupled the rent. One time something went wrong in his apartment, and all his neighbors used it as an excuse to go in and have a look around- suddenly his apartment was filled with curious ethnic Chinese.

I took the opportunity to do the same thing in Mario's house. I knew I wasn't needed, I hadn't been invited, but I was sure as shit going to have a look around while I had an excuse. I wanted to see what these rooms looked like, and what other potential hazards might be lurking there. The wiring was dubious at best, the floors were wobbly and the place looks only marginally fit for human habitation. Mario had shown up at this point, looking as keyed up and freaked out as I was. I asked him about the wiring and he said it was fine. He showed me the circuit breakers he had installed and said all was well. I expressed skepticism, and advised him to have a look at his wiring. A couple times.

Apparently it was a cell phone charger that had caused the fire, or at least that was the best we could figure out. The burned mattress was dragged outside, the blackened wall was washed down, the downstairs roomers started complaining that water was pouring down the wall into their room. I left. I still had stuff to do. I doubt the fire department got called, not that they would have been much help if and when they eventually showed up.

I have another longish post waiting to be proofread before I post it. It's mostly me grumbling about how I don't exactly love my neighborhood. One of my first post-emergency thoughts this afternoon is that maybe it's time to sell this house and move on. Ironically, in spite of its faults, this is the house I have lived in the longest in my entire life- a full five years in January. Also, I own it and don't owe on it, and it's about the only thing of real value I have at this point.

The smoke detector that got my attention this afternoon was only installed about a month ago. I bought it in the US, which is where all my smoke detectors have come from- some bought by me, some brought by family and friends. I've never actually seen them for sale here in Brazil. I'm not sure if it was what got the attention of my neighbors, they very likely would not have recognized the sound, but it may have. It may have averted a disaster. I sure am glad it's there. I thought I was done with buying and installing smoke detectors, now that I have eight installed in my house. But I'm thinking maybe I should pick up a few more and give them to my neighbors. It might be a worthwhile investment.

When I first saw this house, one of the things that appealed to me most about it was its wooden floors and big old wooden staircase. They reminded me of home. I didn't even think about this as a potential liability- I mean, I grew up in houses made entirely of wood and we even had wood heat in most of them. You learn to be careful so your house doesn't burn down. But here, they aren't careful like that- most of them are used to living in houses of concrete, which don't burn down so easily. And like I said, fire safety equipment is not easily available and the fire department is not exactly on the ball. There are no fire safety laws hanging over my neighbors to keep them on their toes. And if his house burns, it's almost guaranteed that mine will too. I feel like my house is a disaster waiting to happen.