Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Story of an iPad, Lost and Found

Carting a huge load of merchandise with both hands, I struggled, iPad securely under my arm, to maneuver the key and open the trunk, having lost the use of the remote due to unexplained reasons resulting in shrugs from the técnico and the obvious and brilliant deduction that escaped his lips as he looked me in the eye: “no sirve“. The two giant bags of clothing deposited in the trunk, I climbed in the drivers seat of my trusty Impala and drove to my office.

It was only then that I realized in that adrenaline-shot-to-your-brain way that goes beyond the usual irritation I feel when I can’t find something, that I did not have with me my trusty iPad. A quick look through the car and trunk. Nothing. Maybe I left it at the store where I bought the clothing? Nothing. They even sent someone out into the parking lot to check but found nothing. A sinking feeling overcame me. I had set the iPad on the roof of my car and driven off. Obviously, it had fallen onto the street. Obviously, someone had picked it up. Obviously, it was gone for good. Right?

So I lost an iPad you are thinking. Poor me right? But it’s not prostate cancer, you think. Whatever. On that iPad I have all my bank account, credit card, supplier and other business info in the form of a nifty app called PocketMoney. I use GarageBand to create what I think are cool little riffs and the occasionally brilliant recording. Then there is all the email info, Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, WhatsApp – all accounts semi-permanently open to avoid me having to log into everything every time. PayPal, Skype. That’s all going to need to be changed.

iTunes! The master account that controls everything. Have to change that real quick.

After making all the password and login changes I turned to the Find My iPhone App and found myself on the icloud.com web page. There, after signing in with my newly modified iTunes account info, is the button and I push it. The screen changes and a map of Merida shows up and promptly shows my iPhone’s location, next to me. Yes I have an iPhone. The iPad, however, is not found. “Offline” says the app.

Turns out I never got a SIM card for the iPad, thinking that Carlos Slim would not miss one more account paying for his museums and extravagant lifestyle; instead, I use the iPad exclusively with WiFi. Apparently, if my iPad was in the hands of someone, that someone had not exposed it to Wifi just yet. I waited.

The FindMyiPhone app has the option to

a) send a message to your lost iPad or iPhone

b) block your iPhone or iPad with a 4 digit numeric password

c) wipe your iPad or iPhone completely clean of all installed programs, all photos, everything.

I chose options (a) and (b). A message was sent (two actually) to whomever had it that could they please call me at such and such a number. Por favor. Y gracias. The number code would hopefully prevent snooping while the text message would help the potentially honest holder of my iPad find me.

Option (c) was a last resort. I wasn’t ready to wipe it just yet.

A week went by and little by little I was forcefully weaned off my iPad dependence. My biggest regret was having all my business info on it and my music. Everything else was replaceable. No sign from icloud.com. Apparently my iPad had either been hacked or smashed to smithereens when it fell off my car. I installed a new money tracking app on my iPhone called CashFlow that features a pig, presumably alluding to the piggy bank concept, in bright pink.

Then, about a week later, the following message showed up in my inbox: “Se ha encontrado tu iPad” I had to read it again just to be sure. Yes, there it was, it had been found, charged and connected to the internet via WiFi! Another email arrived on the heels of the first one, telling me that the message I had sent had been seen. Yet another email informed me that the iPad had been successfully blocked with my new numeric password. Excitement flowed through my veins and I waited for the phone call that was surely coming.

The phone did not ring.

After some time, I went back to iCloud and clicked on the found iPad icon, which was miraculously still online. A map of Merida appeared and I was able to determine that my iPad was in someones house, very close to Plaza Fiesta. Zooming in, I saw that the house was two houses in, across from a bunch of trees. Hoping that the satellite image was recent, and with no street view to go on, I drove as calmly as I could to the area, keeping an eye on the icloud.com map which was now displayed on my iPhone. No movement; the iPad was there, perhaps being hacked at this very moment!

When I arrived at what I surmised was the right place, I found two possibilities. A house, and next to it, a dental office.  I opted for the house.

All windows were open and looking in while tapping on the glass with a key, I saw my iPad right there on the kitchen or living room table, in the middle of the room not 3 meters from where I was standing. I mulled over the idea of slipping in and stealing back my iPad when a German Shepherd bounded into the room and jumped up against the glass, barking and trying to slip his head sideways through the windows to presumably take a chunk of me. Someone had seen me coming and had let him loose as a warning perhaps? A girl, about 17 or so, came into the room behind the dog who was now being quite noisy and ferocious. Being the great believer in the basic goodness of humankind I asked her if she could return to me the iPad which was sitting on her table as I was the owner and had seen over the internet that it was here. She said no, it belongs to a friend of my Dads and he wants to sell it to us. “You’ll have to talk to my Dad”

My response was straight out of an NBC sitcom. “Seriously?”

She nodded her head “And he’ll be back in about two hours” she added.

“I’ll wait” I replied and went to my car to settle in for a two hour wait.

Meanwhile, my secret weapon, aka the Better Half, whose faith in the honest intentions of possessors of strangers iPads was considerably less than mine, had flagged down an SPV patrol car to ask the nice policeman what one does in these situations. “You see” she explained to the policeman who obviously had time on his hands and was prepared to help out, “my husband is an extranjero and, well you know…”

The policeman did indeed know and showed up a minute later in front of the house. Notified by Better Half that the forces of the law were coming, I was there, waiting.

Meanwhile a boy had left the house and now returned with a man and a moment later, a second man showed up as well. Man A was the father mentioned above and Man B it turns out was a motorcycle messenger. They had come to negotiate with me but found themselves facing a patrol car, lights a-flashing and a stern looking cop alongside the silly gringo. Neighbors appeared from surrounding houses and talleres to watch this little drama playing out on their street.

The motorcycle messenger spoke first.

Y quien me va a dar mi recompensa?” he asked loudly. “Yo lo encontre!” He pointed at his own chest for added emphasis.

If there had been any doubt, his asking for a reward and saying he found it convinced the policeman that this was indeed the right house. I told the messenger to shut up and that I would make sure to give him his reward, but wanted to have my iPad in my hot little hands first. Man A, the father, came out of the house with the iPad and handed it to me saying only that he was charging it and had been looking for its owner. I could tell he was exhausted from all that looking.

Anticlimactically, the policeman took down everyone’s names, I tried out the iPad which was thankfully intact and undamaged and paid a small sum to the messenger to get him off my back and a larger sum to the policeman who said that this was the third iPad he had recovered thanks to the GPS function this month. It turns out that there was an open WiFi signal in the neighborhood and once the iPad had been connected to electricity, it had automatically connected to the internet, making the happy ending to this story possible.

Better Half and I went for a celebratory lunch, iPad securely under my arm.

*********************************************************************************

You can make sure your iPhone is locatable at http://icloud.com

If you have only WiFi on your Apple device, make sure that it’s settings allow it to connect to any available WiFi signal.

Make sure you have your Apple device registered through iTunes.

Download the FindMyiPhone app here.

New Restaurant Ku’uk Muscles in on the High End of Merida’s Restaurant Scene

Picture this: A cool, subdued and yet warmly lit environment, sparsely furnished and discretely lit. Innovative, creative, strikingly beautiful dishes presented before you in a dazzling succession of colors and flavors (and sensory experiences) that amaze, tantalize and delight your senses. Three and a half hours of celebrating food, glorious food, in ways you could not have imagined, enjoying a chef’s menu where each magical creation leaves you gasping and wondering “what can possibly be next?” or “how did they do that!”

A newcomer to the Merida restaurant scene, definitely at the higher end of the spectrum and not for the quantity-conscious (the “es mucho, so it must be good” crowd) has arrived in the form of Ku’uk and this may just be a valid a reason to come to Merida as the city’s colonial mansions and Mayan relics.

Ku’uk is not an abomination of the English ‘cook’ but rather the Mayan term for sprouts or shoots, as in all things organic that start with a sprout from a seed, and the concept is all molecular gastronomy featuring local ingredients presented to you in ways your abuela never dreamed of (more on molecular gastronomy here). In addition to the restaurant itself, Ku’uk will feature a market where one can purchase delicacies and also a culinary workshop featuring classes for food aficionados. There is an herb garden out back and the entire place is visitable, so do make sure you get the full tour. The kitchen is equipped with the usual grills, ovens and mixers, but also with equipment straight out of a mad scientists laboratory, from nitrogen-based fast-freezing to humidity extractors that remove all water from foods leaving only intensely flavored concentrated flakes to other strange (and most definitely expensive) pieces of equipment that help chef Mario Espinosa and his team perform their magic. The wine “cellar” is a spectacular room that can be reserved for a special dinner and must be seen to be appreciated.

The Critic won’t go into the hows, whys, or pros and cons of molecular cooking and will instead stick to a short review of the experience:

Breathtakingly sublime.

There, that was it.

Better Half and the Critic enjoyed 3 and a half hours of culinary bliss, enjoying the chef’s menu which featured a total of 14 dishes, each more spectacular than its predecessor. The idea was to go through the different dishes but the Critic thinks you will be better served trying them yourself and coming to your own conclusions. Besides the full tasting menu, there is a shorter menu of about 7-8 dishes and there are also some items available a la carte. The photos (below) will speak for themselves.

Service is formal, a little stiff and there is some confidence lacking when presenting dishes but if you are as enthusiastic about the food as Better Half and the Critic were, they warm right up and the experience from the service perspective becomes more fluid and relaxed and one can even elicit a smile from some of the servers, who are mostly young foodie students.

The restaurant is currently in “soft opening” mode, so you can go, and avoid any semblance of a crowd and help them get on their feet before the official presentation to society at the end of the month.

Definitely put Ku’uk on your restaurant “to-die-and-go-to-foodie-heaven-at” list!

The Ku’uk website is here for more info on reservations and location. Or call  999-315-5825

Enjoy the photos!

The Casual Restaurant Critic – Luciano’s Ristorante Italiano

Lucianos Interior

A Gaggle of Teens

The Casual Restaurant Critic – hungry and celebrating with Better Half the recuperation of a lost item which will be explained at some point but not right now – decided on lunch at the new Italian restaurant called Lucianos, located in that bastion of fashionable Merida mall-ness, Plaza Altabrisa.

There was only a table of young kids celebrating a birthday or something with pizzas and giggles in the entire restaurant which is huge, covering the corner second level of the mall, directly over Chili’s restaurant. About a hundred waiters abound and one is immediately struck with the thought that it is a lot like Italianni’s (Gran Plaza) and the now defunct Contenti’s (remember that one adjacent to and a part of Friday’s?). A hostess takes a name and leads you inside.

The noise level will probably be too high for many of my readers, who often prefer something a little more tranquilo, but on this occasion at least, a Ricky Martin concert on all the restaurants video screens accompanied by the ‘music’ on the sound system drowned out the possibility of any conversation but a word to the waiter changed that. Actually, the exchange went something like this:

Better Half  – “Excuse me, but I think we are not going to stay because we really can’t talk here”

Waiter – *grin*

Better Half – “Is that OK then, if we leave?”

Waiter – *grinning* “um, OK”

As Better Half turned to the Critic incredulously, Waiter disappeared and magically, a moment later, the volume went down to a more normal level. Loud enough to make the place seem more exciting than it actually is, but low enough that you can actually talk to the person sitting across from you.

The Critic and Better Half both ordered pizzas; 4 cheese with anchovies and pepperoni. Both were fine, but it was not an OMG moment featuring groaning and mouthgasms. No, it was a decent pizza, but you can do better at Rafaello’s downtown or Boston around the corner or Bella Roma out in the sticks.

All in all, the Critic might be back to try the pastas, but for the time being, is not in any rush to do so.

 

 

Casual Restaurant Critic vs. McDonalds Montejo

It would, at first glance, seem almost sacrilegious; putting those two terms in the title together (Montejo and McDonalds) but then again maybe not. The Montejos and their ilk rolled over the native population like a steamroller and imposed their supposedly superior catholic customs on their ‘subjects’ and so it is only fitting that several generations later, the McDonalds (and the KFC’s and the Sam’s Clubs) of the world impose their materialistic and money-driven worldview on the mixed bag of white and brown Yucatecans that inhabit the area today.

Driving along Montejo, the part that is still the Paseo and not the Prolongación that borrows shamelessly from it’s Paseo counterpart to give it underserved prestige, the Casual Restaurant Critic, stomach growling in hunger, saw the orange and yellow epileptic fit inducing logo of McDonalds and, judgement clouded by said hunger, stopped to have a bite to eat.

McDonalds on Montejo is located in that awful shopping center by the Monumento a la Patria; the latter a monumental labor of love created over 14 years by a Colombian artist for the city of Merida and the former a monument also, to hideous architecture, neglect, crass commercialism and the pursuit of money at any aesthetic cost. What was once a stately colonial mansion has been converted into a garish McDonalds complete with plastic playroom while the mansions former gardens are now concrete covered, housing businesses that no one wants to visit.

But the Critic digresses. Again.

The immediate reaction that comes to mind upon climbing the steps to the entrance is one of “oops, this place needs a paint job”. The doors are missing paint in the usual places where many hands have been and the effect is not good. Inside, there is no welcoming blast of cold air to greet you. In fact, there is no greeting at all. The place is warm; too warm for a Merida afternoon and the employees are positively glowing (with sweat) and look as though they are suffering from heat exhaustion. As the Critic approaches the counter, occupied only by one other couple who obviously made the same mistake as the Critic, one saggy-eyed young female employee who will not win the coveted Employee of the Month distinction any time soon and unable to utter a sound, motions with one weary arm movement and pointed finger to a cash register down the counter.

The Critic orders his Big Mac and the clerk mumbles something in her heat-induced stupor, which the Critic needs to hear again before understanding. Oh, they will bring it to the table. OK.

The Critic finds the air conditioning working in only one part of the restaurant; the enclosed glass box that is the children’s play area, complete with plastic jungle gym and thankfully free of small screaming human offspring. The chairs are red, orange and yellow and extremely uncomfortable as they are expected to be to get you in and out quickly. Although here it is a moot point as there are no lineups to get into this fine dining establishment. The Critic, waiting patiently for his food, then notices the tinny music blaring through the hi-fidelity sound system; all ponchis ponchis with screaming DJs in between “songs”. This McDonalds really wants you out of there, and fast!

Finally, the food arrives and the fries are fine, the Coke is cold and the burger literally falls to pieces about 1/3 of the way through. Although they bring you the burger, the straws, the napkins and so forth are not included in the “service”.

At last, hands greasy and sticky from the special sauce and now cardboard-like french fries, the Critic abandons this abomination of a restaurant, hopefully never to return.

The Funky Exhibits at the Manuel Crescencio Rejon Airport in Merida

Every once in a while, yet another friend shows up in Merida and I have to make the trek out to the airport to pick them up when they arrive on the flight from Continental which is now called United. In spite of the tone of the last sentence, I actually enjoy these little outings, what with the people watching opportunities, passenger and family member bingo (the gringo, 50 points, a mestiza, for 100 points etc.) and the expensive and consistently horrendous coffee at that little place next to Burger King which is always closing as we all wait for the flight to arrive.

On this last occasion, just about a month ago now, there was a new exhibit in the airport called Tesoros de Mexico (Treasures of Mexico) and so I had to check it out. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t figure out what in the hell this exhibit was about. There was a fancy chair, some coats of arms, a series of mini-pyramid sculptures but for the life of me I could not find a theme or even a reason for all this junk to be here. If you can figure this out and wish to enlighten me, please do. In my humble and always correct opinion, the exhibit should have been called “Shit I had lying around the back of the Museum” which would have been much more self-explanatory and then the items on display would have made some sense.

Look at the pyramids for example. In the absence of a sign or something, what are we looking at? Are the models to scale and the idea is to show how they stand up to each other in the great scheme of things archeological? Is it someone’s Lego set? There’s Mayan and Aztec stuff there. Why?

The fancy chair with the coat of arms of the state of Yucatan is there. Why? Did it belong to someone famous? Who? Does it belong to the governor? So why is it here at the airport then?

Here are most of the items you can enjoy while sipping that 700 peso coffee:

Dispatches from the Gym

It has been a while since I last commented on my progress at the gym, the one with all the fancy cars outside and the impossibly fit personal trainer.

I have progressed beyond the exhaustion/vomiting in the parking lot point and have come to enjoy my workouts, actually missing them if I go for more than a day without sweating it out. My physique is slowly but surely changing; there are bulges now where there was only flab or nothing at all and my joints ache, but in a good way, a way that says ‘you are alive, you are getting stronger’ and also ‘don’t push it, you old fart’.

My favorite moments, though, are still those involving the locker room. There is something I find hilarious about all that loud, boisterous male on male banter and the imaginative and creative uses of the hair dryers provided by the gym presumable for us menfolk to dry their hair.

Just yesterday I watched in amazement as a towel clad individual, freshly returned from the showers, blow dried a basket of toiletries.

Two thoughts immediately came to mind: 1) what kind of man is it that has a plastic tray with his shower toiletries? and 2) what kind of man finds it necessary to blow dry this item before returning it to a locker? Presumably his locker is full of moisture-sensitive materials that would desintegrate upon making contact with said moisture?

I don’t know.

Enlighten me?