Cuesta Cinco Quetzales

Just a quick comment on one aspect of how things work here in Guatemala. Zach, Mikhail and I went up to the track at the sports complex yesterday morning to run an interval workout. The cost to use the track is five Quetzales (about $0.65). No problem. We have the money, we’re ready to pay, we’ve done this once before… but…

Here’s how it usually works: When you enter the Complejo Deportivo you have to turn in an ID and get in exchange a visitors badge. Just around the corner from the entrance is a little office, where you go to pay the 5Q fee and are given a nice ticket to use the track:

Ticket

You never actually have to use this ticket for anything, but it’s probably a good idea to pay the fee and keep it in your pocket just in case.

Here’s what happened today: we went in and I handed over my driver’s license as usual in exchange for the visitor’s badge. No problem. Just as we were turning to head for the office, the second guard asks us if we want to use the track. We say yes, and he says, “Cuesta cinco Quetzales.” It costs five quetzales. I’m not really thinking (it’s early, all right) so I just go to hand him my 20Q to pay for the three of us. The first guard says that he doesn’t have any change. The two of them go into a little act like they aren’t going to get any change and just expect us to pay 20.

At this point it occurs to me that they are trying to execute a pretty simple scam. They’re the ones responsible for checking tickets, so it doesn’t matter if we don’t have them. They’re just trying to get our money. We would still pay 5Q each, so for us it really doesn’t matter. Doesn’t hurt anybody, right? Except what really happened is they got greedy, we clued in, and walked the 10 feet over to the office to pay the guy there and get our tickets.

It struck me as interesting, that’s all. Such a simple little scam that they would never try to pull on a local. And the fact that we almost fell for it even though we’ve been here a while. Maybe I should just pay the guard next time, he probably needs the money more than the local government does.

Incidentally, the sports complex here in Quetzaltenango is really nice. A newish track, a couple football fields, a baseball diamond, an indoor swimming pool, basketball courts and more.

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Boo Credit Card Issuers

I knew I didn’t like some of the practices of the major credit card issuers, such as applying all payments to the portion of the outstanding balance that has the lowest interest rate, but I had never really thought about how strange it is that interest rate changes are applied retroactively. That is, if something (anything) happens and the card issuer decides to jack up the rate, that new interest rate applies to the whole outstanding balance, not just to amounts borrowed in the future. Imagine if a mortgage lender could change the interest rate whenever it felt that the borrower had become riskier. Not the way your typical loan works. I realize this is built into the contract, but I don’t think it should be, and apparently neither does congress—I read about this, among a list of other bad practices, on an article about some proposed legislation at Credit Slips: The Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights. Go read it, but prepare to be disgusted.

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Sean Wallace – Book Reviewer?

A while ago I signed up for LibraryThing‘s Early Reviewer program and each month I’ve been picking the books I would be willing to review if they sent them to me.

Here’s the deal: free books are good, right? LibraryThing has arranged deals with an ever-growing list of publishers that in exchange for free copies of books their community will write reviews. I suppose they probably sell it on their fancy algorithm that matches books to interested and ostensibly informed readers. I figure, hey free new books, sounds fun.

So this month I finally got chosen for one. It’s not my first choice, but if I write a review of it, even a one-liner, I’m more likely to score more free books in the future. It’s called Hedge Hunters: Hedge Fund Masters on the Rewards, the Risk, and the Reckoning, which is a mouthful, but I’m sure it’ll be at least slightly interesting. I think I got it because I have Den of Thieves in my library, which is about scandals on 1980’s wall street.

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Cantopop: Sam Hui

Once upon a time there was a genre of music called Cantopop. Really, it’s still around, but it sounds better to say once upon a time. My friends Stu and Becca combined their forces to re-discover this song. I guess as a kid Stu listened to it a lot. It’s by Sam Hui, called 半斤八兩 (I’m told this translates as some obscure measure of weight). I’ve never heard it before today, but it is very funny, very catchy, and the music video is great. Enjoy!

Sam Hui’s Working Class Song:

We, the working class,
Roaming the street everywhere, ruining our digestive system,
Earning so little, of course we don’t have enough to spend at the end of the month (thin like a stick),
This really sucks.

The worst is the boss who gets pissed constantly (crazier than a chicken),
Doesn’t matter what the reason, he/she just barks and barks (inserts barking noise),
Makes a mean face at the sound of a salary raise (nag and nag),
That surely increases your appetite.

You work hard like a Jack, *as in Jack in playing cards*
How can a wet firecracker make a sound,
If you have the guts, grab a gun and go rob,
Giving my all, thinking that I’ll receive plenty,
But with the shitty working environment, of course this is only a fantasy. (I’m defeated)

We, the working class,
Become slaves for money all our lives,
That arduous work can be used as a ghost story (dare me to die),
Don’t say that it doesn’t matter.

Even if there’s profit, it’s not yours,
More horrible than hot water boiling pig intestines,
Meager as bits of chicken feed, you still want to peck,
Giving my all, thinking that I’ll receive plenty,
But with the shitty working environment, of course this is only a fantasy. (I’m defeated)

We, the working class,
Become slaves for money all our lives,
That arduous work can be used as a ghost story (dare me to die),
Don’t say that it doesn’t matter.

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This is a super idea, yes?

I know Ben, at least, will appreciate this one.

How great of a shirt idea is this?

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems - Design Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems - Model

It’s called Biggie Was Right, from Threadless T-Shirts.

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