When it comes to being useful around the house, I can do basic repairs. I come from a family of carpenters and mechanics, so I am fairly handy around the house. I used to be able to do basic auto repairs until the car started computerizing all their systems. I have the basic tools I need for around the house: hammer, pliers, screwdrivers, wrenches, socket wrenches, and assorted power tools.

However, if you do enough home and auto repairs, you eventually will need a very specialized tool that isn’t available on the market, or perhaps doesn’t even exist. For example, sometimes I would have to pry something open, but a crowbar or a screwdriver was too thick to squeeze in. However, a table knife, but not a steak knife, would do the job. Sometimes, a paper clip would fit right in a small circular hole that no other tool could. And, of course, there’s my favorite! A wire coat hanger! I’ve used it as a car antenna that received very good reception. A hanger is also good for reaching into places where your hand and arm won’t fit; you can shape it so it will go directly to where you’re aiming. Coins also help in some situations because they come in different sizes and I will find one that will my needs.

What other objects have you used as tools when an existing tool wouldn’t do the job?


I don’t know why, but I’ve always enjoyed watching the Olympics on TV. So I’ve been watching them as much as possible these past two weeks. I’m not even a sports fanatic. However, Olympic athletes are often inspiring role models, especially when they have overcome overwhelming odds to reach the Olympic finals of any event.

When I went to Mexico City in 1965, I was surprised by how much Mexico was preparing for the 1968 Olympics. They even had garbage cans all over the city with signs that asked everyone to keep Mexico City clean for the Olympics

I began running as a boy because I was inspired by the Olympic track and field events. I even attempted to become the best runner I could be. I never reached world-class level, but I enjoyed improving constantly. I still run to this day because I enjoy running on most days. It’s relaxing and gives me some time to meditate about my problems. On those especially hectic days, nothing relaxes me more than a run through my neighborhood.

Where's my gold medal?


The main difference between Mexicans in the U.S. and Mexico can be summed up in one word: cariño. I didn’t really notice until I went to Mexico with my sons. I guess I had noticed this cariño on previous trips, but I had forgotten all about that affection that Mexicans show one another more openly. Mexicans in the U.S. are very affectionate, compared to the typical American, but their display of cariño keeps diminishing with each passing year as they assimilate into American culture. I could tell my sons were surprised by all the cariño they endured first hand. They just weren’t used to it! Well, every time I go to Mexico, I have to get used to it, too. Once a Mexican finds out that you are his or her relative, you are guaranteed to be showered with affection. My cousins kept hugging and kissing my sons, which really embarrassed them. Especially when they also said things like, “My Baby!” My sons really blushed. Every time! After a while they realized that it was useless to try to avoid all this cariño. Wow! So that’s what I went through on our trips to Mexico when I was younger!

¡Dame un abrazo, mi hijo! También dame un besito.


Pemex is the only gas station where you can buy gasoline in Mexico.

Pemex is the Mexican government-owned petroleum company that is a monopoly. They drill for oil, refine it, and then sell it in their own gas stations. When I drove to Mexico in July, Pemex sold gasoline for the same price as it did in December of 2007, the last time I drove down there. Meanwhile, gas in the U.S. practically doubled. This about the only case that I can think of in which a government monopoly actually benefited citizens. As soon as I crossed the border, I saved money on gas. If gas in Mexico practically double as in the U.S., the Mexican economy would suffer greatly. It has already undergone a significant downturn due to unemployment, the housing crisis, and rising prices in the U.S., thereby causing Mexicans working in the U.S. to send less money home to Mexico. So, I, personally benefited from the fixed prices of gasoline in Mexico by paying less at the pump.

Don't forget to send money home!

Sticks and stones

Last weekend, I saw Tropic Thunder with my sons despite the protests against the R-word that was used in the movie. The R-word, for those of you living in a vaccuum, is retard. People with mental disabilities do not want the word to come back into use. And I can understand that. I’m not apologizing for the movie, which satirizes Hollywood and its movies, but the movie doesn’t really make fun of people with mental disabilities. It ridicules actors and their over-sized egos when using the R-word.

For as long as I can remember, I have heard the word used as an insult whenever someone did something that’s less than intelligent. When I was growing up in the 1960s, everyone called everyone a retard just out of habit. If someone pushed: “Hey! Watch it, you retard!” If someone tripped and fell: “Walk much, retard?” Worst of all was if you did something stupid and you’re name was Rick: “That’s the women’s washroom, Ricky Retardo!” Of course, being called a retard wasn’t as bad as being called a racial or ethnic slur. We were taught: “Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” But, if someone insults you, you’re still hurt by those words. Lately, the R-word was on course to be replaced by “DUH!” But the R-word is gaining ground on Duh!

Duh! What cha lookin at, retard?

Big Brother

So I’m driving around using the GPS function of my new iPhone and I’m amazed at how it’s tracking my movements quite accurately. Somebody or something is actually paying attention to what I’m doing. But I shouldn’t be surprised because I’ve often thought about the many ways that we leave electronic traces of our humble existence. Every time I make a credit card purchase, my presence is documented very precisely. I’m photographed every time I withdraw money from an ATM. In Chicago, we have cameras on most corners downtown and in many stores. We also have those police cameras with the flashing blue light in high traffic areas. We also have the traffic enforcement cameras that take your picture if you run a red light. Every time you make a cell phone call, your location is detected by the phone tower that transmits your call. All incoming and outgoing telephone calls on your land-line are listed on a database for billing purposes. If you pay for the toll roads using a digital transponder, your location, time, and date are recorded. And, they also take a picture of your vehicle. When I was driving to Mexico, while still in Texas, a camera took a picture of my car. When I returned to the U.S., the border patrol officer knew that I was using my passport for the first time. All of this information may be used against you. I often read in the newspapers about cases where prosecutors subpoena records from phone companies, the Illinois State Tollway Authority, banks, police cameras, and credit card companies in order to use them as evidence in court. Now with the internet, every keystroke is recorded. Just because you deleted the e-mail to your mistress asking her if she took her blue dress to the cleaners doesn’t mean it was actually deleted into oblivion. When you delete files on your computer, they’re still there. And it seems like everyone can access them except you. And they’re also archived on several servers that back everything up in case of a disaster. I wouldn’t be surprised if many e-mails are floating aimlessly through cyberspace, or even outer space in the form of radio or electromagnetic signals.

Then there’s the government spying on private citizens for the sake of the safety of the American public. Which reminds me. Once, my neighbor was arrested for allegedly having millions of dollars of drugs and cash, but no guns. I was absolutely floored by this. One morning as I was getting ready to go to school, I noticed plainclothes police officers conducted a raid next door. When I saw the news that night, DEA agents announced this major narcotics bust involving my neighbor who seemed like a nice enough man. We didn’t talk much, but we always said hello to each other. My son played with his son at their house. The DEA agents said that they found money lying out in the open, all over the house. If that were true, I’m sure my son would have mentioned it to me. Another thing that bothered me about the case was the fact that they didn’t recover any firearms. Everyone knows that the tools of the trade for drug dealers are firearms. I’m sure my son would have mentioned seeing guns if there had been any. Something was very wrong with everything about that case. Then to top everything off, I noticed that I’m being followed by DEA agents in unmarked cars for about a week afterward. Having 20-20 hindsight, I realized that they had been following me for a about a week before the raid. If they had framed my neighbor, what was to stop them from framing me, too?

Okay, who's watching me now?