Sunday, September 14, 2014

A reef dive with sea turtles in Akumal, Mexico

Today I swam with some green sea turtles as big as a table top. There were three of them sort of nuzzling each other on the reef, about 40 feet down, and a couple of remora clung to the shell of one.

These were big adults. They can reach 400 pounds. I swam slowly alongside one of them, an arm's length away. Its yellow and green coloring stood out from the russet and brown corals.

Even at our depth the clear water allowed the noonday sunlight to brighten its coloring. Later I saw some other turtles hiding in crevices in the reef. One was underneath the skeleton of a motorcyle standing on the sand.

Photo from AnimalsTime.com Green sea turtles swim beautifully.

We were only about a half-mile offshore of the town of Akumal, Mexico, about an hour south of Cancun. The town is famous as a nesting ground for loggerhead and green sea turtles. An ecological center uses staff and volunteers to make sure that when female turtles come ashore to lay their eggs, the nests are protected from predators and poachers.


Friday, September 12, 2014

When you say it, it's like magic: Tepotzotlán



Mural inside the town hall (ayuntamiento) of Tepotzotlan shows its Spanish and indigenous roots.
Big chair in the town square.
 Cindy keeps a list of places she wants to visit in Mexico, and there is usually a church involved. This time the church was just a 20-minute cab ride north from us in a town called Tepotzotlan (tay-po-tso-TLAHN).

I find it highly ironic that a young lady of Presbyterian upbringing should find Roman Catholic churches so attractive. But then the Protestants stripped their churches of the excessive adornment common in the 15th century. So it's somewhat new to her.

This particular church was built at the end of the 17th century to honor a co-founder of the Jesuit order of priests, St. Francis Xavier.  This church and this town were a major Jesuit training center in the New World.

The church did turn out to be stunning, but the town itself was charming. It is one of Mexico's so called Magic Towns (pueblos mágicos) and it deserved the designation. A lot of it has been preserved.

In most of these magic towns you get a good feel for how the indigenous culture and Spanish culture mixed while maintaining their separate identities. In the Spanish style town hall, the walls are decorated with murals showing indigenous heroes and historical figures.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

How did you learn Spanish? One word at a time

Parade in El Alto in Bolivia, where I worked with newspaper publishers and editors.
When you go to parties, adults of a certain age often express one of two regrets. They wish they had stuck with studying piano. Or they wish they had learned a foreign language.

That may explain how Rosetta Stone booked $265 million in revenues last year offering its language learning products. They have great marketing.

The advertisements I see for various language learning products all suggest that with their special technique, you can learn to speak like a diplomat quickly and painlessly. I don't believe that.

Languages are a passion of mine. And while I find studying languages fun, interesting, and rewarding, I don't think that the learning is easy. Just like learning to play the piano, it takes practice. A lot of practice.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Land of opportunity in digital news media: Buenos Aires

Miranda Mulligan, right, and me, left, with the startup teams.
We hear a lot about the next Silicon Valley, but we don't hear much about the Valley of Death. That is where 80 percent of tech startups go to die.

Startups die or join the walking dead mainly for two reasons: they don't have enough cash or they don't have enough knowledge to get to the next stage of development. They are unable to show investors that their project could be commercially viable.

The Media Factory News Accelerator, based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, wants to change those odds of making it across the Valley of Death.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Holy Week in Taxco: the religious pageant

Cindy in a cafe overlooking Taxco's 18th century cathedral, built by a silver baron.
Cindy and I spent part of Holy Week in Taxco, a couple of hours south of Mexico City. To get to Taxco you have to drive along steep, winding roads that hug the mountain on one side and drop off on the other into a frightening abyss.

Taxco is a Unesco World Heritage site and is considered one of the country's "magic towns" because of its architecture and cultural attractions.

It has been a center of silver mining for five centuries, and there are lots of shops displaying handiwork by the silversmiths.

Lots of indigenous artisans bring their work into Taxco for the tourists.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

How many species of hummingbird do we really need?

A hummingbird we saw in Costa Rica in 2005.

Today I was reading a review of the book "Hummingbirds," which has photos of most of the 338 known species, and it got me thinking: 338 species of hummingbirds? Nature's abundance and variety amazes me.

And then I thought about how a friend of mine who is against all tree huggers and in favor of all real estate development might respond to this information. He might say, "Well, how many species of hummingbird do we really need? Do they all need to be protected? Don't construction people need jobs? Don't people need places to live? Should we stop building highways so we can all spend the rest of our lives stuck in traffic?"

Monday, March 17, 2014

Our neighborhood in the exurbs of Mexico City

The air is thin where we live. We notice it most when we hike uphill two-thirds of a mile to the campus.

According to Google Earth, our apartment is 7,600 feet above sea level, and the track where we run is almost 7,700 feet above sea level. We are not high enough to feel altitude sickness, but we definitely feel the stress of breathing thin air.

Technically we are in the Colonia (neighborhood) of Villas de la Hacienda, in the city of Lopez Mateos in the Municipio of Atizapan de Zaragoza in the State of Mexico.