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Magic Beans


Things are moving fast nowadays, even though I have been working a lot from home lately I needed to take a break, but a real break, like mentally. Things happen for a reason, right?

Well, it happened that one of my best friends emailed me a link to promote a vegetarian farm/guest house he runs with his girlfriend in the outskirts of Belgrade, which couldn’t come in a better time for me to literally switch off from routine. I decided not to simply snoop around our write a fake review but actually going, so I just jumped in the next plane to Serbia.

View from the window of the guest house

The story of my friend is indeed interesting, since he has dropped the traditional way of living after a couple of trips to India. What I mean is a job, salary, and other stuff that we consider “normal” and “necessary”, while it really isn’t. So the positivism, energy and spirituality flowing around during my staying in this place were actually what I was looking for and helped me put some thoughts in place before moving forward with the next steps in my life.

I even had the chance to eat vegetarian food for a few days, even though where I come from in Mexico is really a meat and heavy food oriented diet, but certainly as an experience it is great to open yourself to it and I perhaps consider taking a few habits and apply them every now and then.

Eating healthy and respecting your body is indeed important. I had a couple of thoughts about the non sense of taking our cars or scooters for maintenance, but yet we fail to see and address what our bodies are demanding, which is just a little attention and a time for relaxing once in a while.

Magic Beans Resort

Bread slices with vegetables cooking in the oven

Magic Beans Resort

Bread, real bread

 

 

 

 

 

 

At some point we even had a tea made out of a fruit that was hand picked from the hills of Bosnia by my friend himself, I don’t have to mention how it was to enjoy a cup of delicious tea while looking at the pictures of those beautiful green hills.

The last day before coming we had a massage given by a chiropractor who gave me some good insights about my posture, relaxing exercises and how to listen to your body by understanding how stress and urgency gets reflected in our organs, so the trick is to listen timely before you crash with stress and unnecessary self inflicted pain.

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Tea made out of handpicked fruits from the hills in Bosnia

Overall the message I can take out of this experience is to give more attention to ourselves and put aside some proper time and care to be in peace mentally and physically. And by the way, Belgrade is an amazing city I will have to write about it separately since my staying at Magic Beans Resort required a dedicated post!

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View of the Danube from the hills of Belgrade


2013 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,000 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 33 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


Coca-Conomía


Es por todos bien sabido que México tiene los índices de obesidad infantil más altos del todo el mundo, lo cual no sorprende cuando se sabe también que somos el consumidor más grande per cápita de Coca-Cola. Ambas cosas parecen absurdas dado que somos un país donde 40 millones de mexicanos viven en la pobreza de acuerdo a parámetros económicos internacionales, lo que quiere decir q es prácticamente el resto de la población que alza la media para llegar a superar indicadores no muy honorables de países con problemas similares, como Estados Unidos.

Durante las últimas semanas se habló del impuesto a algunos productos, entre los cuales se encontraba precisamente la Coca Cola, donde uno de los argumentos más mencionados del Gobierno era la obesidad en el país. Esto es particularmente difícil de creer cuando se analizan productos, como por ejemplo también pueden ser los cigarros, que son prácticamente inelásticos, que quiere decir que un aumento en el precio de ese producto tiene poco efecto sobre una posible disminución en el consumo del mismo.

El relación particularmente al punto de los impuestos a la comida chatarra, incluida la Coca-Cola, esta semana sobresalió el tema del director de ARCA, mencionando en una conversación que debió ser confidencial, la posibilidad de incrementar la fructosa en la bebida para disminuir el costo de producción (con peores efectos para la salud), buscando nivelar básicamente el impacto del alza del impuesto a las bebidas endulzadas y mitigar en cierto modo el precio para usuario final. Lo anterior fundamentalmente anula el efecto del alza de precio para evitar la disminución en el consumo, o sea estaríamos como empezamos.

Efectivamente la obesidad en México es causada por diversos factores, por lo que el ejemplo de Coca Cola es sólo el caso seguramente más conocido por todos, ya que el mexicano medio consume la modesta cantidad de casi 200 litros al año. Tampoco es el motivo de estas líneas satanizar las estrategias de una empresa en particular, ya que la industria de alimentos y bebidas no es más honesta ni deshonesta que otras industrias donde se presentan situaciones del tipo en donde antes que nada están los beneficios económicos por sobre la salud de las personas.

Es cierto que el Gobierno recibe impuestos por el consumo de estos productos, por lo que el balance en estos casos es analizado a detalle para saber si el resultado es positivo en términos de recaudación y posible pérdida de empleos, pero al mismo tiempo como ciudadano quisiéramos confiar que estas decisiones son basadas en los impactos positivos que una medida del tipo pueda tener efectivamente en la salud de las personas. El Gobierno también tiene que pensar posiblemente que el día de mañana habrá una población con problemas  de diabetes, cardiovasculares, etc. que representan una potencial carga financiera al sistema de salud que pudiera ser más grande que el beneficio de recaudar impuestos el día de hoy.

Recientemente, por ejemplo, en EUA aprobaron la prohibición de grasas transgénicas, de las cuales médicos y activistas sociales se promulgaban en contra desde un inicio por los riesgos potenciales en la salud. Tal vez también ayudaría pensar un poco, qué tipo de productos estamos consumiendo hoy que serán prohibidos en 5, 10 o 20 años? Podríamos ver en los envases de refrescos y productos de comida chatarra imágenes de gente obesa advirtiéndonos que podríamos terminar así si los consumimos en sobre medida? Los padres de familia se están organizando en las escuelas para revisar lo que están consumiendo sus hijos en los recreos?

Así que la pregunta es muy simple, queremos cambiar y mejorar nuestros hábitos alimentarios por efectos de elasticidad de la demanda y otras leyes económicas? o simplemente por algún efecto sobrenatural raramente visto en la actualidad como pudiera ser, llamémoslo… la convicción propia.

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Smoking Like a Turk


One of the things I first noticed in Italy was that people smoked a lot. It turns out that from my perspective, being Mexican, it is true that the rates of cigarette consumption are higher than where I come from.

Additionally, being a non smoker it’s sometimes a big problem because tobacco kills nearly 6 million people each year, from which 600,000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. So I’d rather not take my chances, you know?

Of course, whatever happens within the geographic boundaries of a country, and their social biases, would be normal for them. So sometimes I find useless and pointless to discuss about perceptions, instead, to support my arguments I like to use numbers:

Cigarretes per adult per day

An interesting fact is that the biggest smokers outside of Eastern Europe are South Koreans, Kazakhs, and Japanese. In the same chart I pointed out Germany as a reference point to Western Europe to be fair of not only comparing Italy with underdeveloped countries like India, and to some extent Mexico itself.

But the funniest part, and the reason why I’m writing this blog entry today, is that in Italy there is a saying that goes He/she smokes like a Turk, when they mean to say that someone smokes a lot.

Well, it’s true I lack background of where that phrase actually comes from or what it used to mean, but certainly today if I’d like to say to my Italian friends that they smoke a lot, I should say that they smoke, not like Turks, but maybe like… well…. uhmmmm… like Italians do.


The Barilla Scandal


I’ll start saying that my opinion on Barilla’s CEO declarations is irrelevant, I’ve just been concerned lately about how and why in the world we think we’re more knowledgeable and informed just for the fact that we are exposed to thousands of stimuli in the digital world that in my opinion are just making us more ignorant simply because we’re becoming lazy to think, letting others think for us.

Let’s not forget that this guy didn’t just woke up one morning and screamed to the world that he is anti-gay, no, it was part of a longer interview in which other issues like marketing approach and traditional values were discussed. The declarations of Guido Barilla make reference to the concept of his company towards representing the traditional Italian family. Under such scope, I guess anyone that is able to think reasonably could also see the other side of the story. So one of the questions I would ask, as quoted by an Italian colleague of mine, what if a modern liberal Italian woman wouldn’t like to be depicted in a TV spot as the one who cooks and take care of the family, would they have arguments to get angry because they are being represented as a housewife?

If Italians tomorrow would find out that the CEO of Ferrero once voted, or would never vote for, x or y political candidate would they stop eating Nutella? I don’t think so. And leaving aside for a bit the Italian context, in such case we wouldn’t even be wearing the shoes we have on because they might could have been manufactured in some building in Bangladesh that is collapsing with people inside.

“Liking” stuff on the digital world is a very serious thing because we can’t take for granted that what we’re seeing in a particular microsecond while we’re scrolling down the screen of our super flashy smartphone is the absolute truth in the world. It is true that a discussion such as homosexuality is a very slippery topic and certainly any words that he might have said could have been interpreted in any kind of way.

One thing I can say for sure by knowing the Italian language, and having listened to the interview a couple of times before writing this blog entry, is that words like “Gays can eat someone else’s pasta” could be arguably the exact translation (and even then I’d have my doubts about it), but it’s not the case for the tone and way in which he intended in his own language, Italian.

Anyone who’d like to take this with an impartial approach could also argue that Guido Barilla said in the same interview that he respects gay marriage, yet we don’t see the propaganda in the news about “Barilla supports Gay marriage”. In such case traditional families could also find the arguments to get offended by it as well. Let’s not forget the Vatican is sitting in this country and like it or not, Italy as many other Christian countries in the world, continues to be a very conservative in this matter.

It’s just a matter of perspective, and in any perspective we chose to interpret things and build or opinions on, for good or for bad, we still have to think by ourselves.


Doing The Right Things


Story short, I want to buy a scooter. The details? I must go through hell to do so. Truth is that unfortunately the more bureaucratic a country is, the more the people try to get around procedures to achieve what they need. These going-around is not necessarily illegal, but not the right thing either.

In my case as a foreigner, to buy a scooter I need an Identity Card (Carta d’Identità), just to be a candidate to owning one. Strangely, my working visa/permit is not enough. When I finally asked a lady in the city hall why the work visa is not good enough, she said it’s because to the eyes of the Italian Government I “don’t exist”, until I get the Carta d’Identità. In other words, the working permit allows me to enter the country, work, pay taxes, etc., but it’s not proof that I am actually living in this country.  Things get a bit more complicated, since in order then to get that Identity Card I must have first the Residency (Residenza), which is nothing else than providing a proof of residency, such as an rent contract, and evidently involves taking your number, sitting idle waiting for your turn, filling up paper forms, etc.

As strange as it could seem, the whole process can be avoided just by asking someone to buy the scooter for me, so legally will be his’, driven only by me. Same thing is valid for the insurance, which by the way, can cost you as much as what the vehicle will. Adding up to twisting procedures to going around things, if a person has his “Residenza” in a small town/city, the cost of insurance can come down to 50% of what it would cost for someone with a “Residenza” in a large one. One may argue correctly that the larger the city, the larger the risk of having an incident, which is absolutely true. The problem of the procedure is that the system itself allows you to register a vehicle as if you were actually living, driving in a small town and saving on the cost of insurance while you actually live in a big city.

So long story short, it makes more sense to have the scooter under a friend’s name and save the whole hassle of trying to proof that I’m actually a resident. To my defense I did tried doing the right things, but there are just to many barriers for doing so. This means especially time consumption, and the fact that I cant afford hopping from one government office to another being treated rudely, because well, I don’t have a scooter to help me go around in the first place, nor the patience to deal Italian Bureaucracy, not anymore…


Demonstrations in Turkey


TAKSIM SQUARE

June 9th, 2013: Protests had began since May 31st and Gezi Park was occupied since June 3rd

Taksim

Taksim Metro

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Street art

Protesters observing the crows

Protesters observing the crowds from above

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