Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Emigrante!

Sometimes you need to make a change.

While life here at the Hacienda is placid and idyllic, and interrupted only by my monthly fights with various telecommunications companies, it became clear that it was time for Don Paco to give up the life of luxury and plunge back into the thick of things. That being the case, I hereby announce the bittersweet news that I will be leaving these fair shores to go over the ocean to Washington, D.C., where I have accepted a job doing voter rights work. That’s right, Don Paco may soon be suing an election official in a state near you!

The job doesn’t pay tremendously well, but do you remember Katherine Harris, the Florida Secretary of State in 2000? Didn’t you ever wish you could have sued her? I may well get the pleasure of suing whoever the new Katherine Harris is, which is compensation in and of itself.

But Don Paco, you may ask, what does this mean for your sporadically-updated and mildly amusing website? Never fear, for it shall live on. I make the move this week, and many things—including my computer—will require shipping, and it may take a while to get settled in. So during the next few weeks, there will be little to no action here. Then I will hopefully do a slight site redesign and get back to cranking out new updates for the three of you that read this.

I am leaving my faithful dogservant Santiago in charge of the Hacienda, which he is not too thrilled about, an opinion he has taken to expressing by defecating on hard-to-reach carpeted areas. I would threaten him with a sacking, but he has the most seniority of all the staff, and I would not want to antagonize the union. And really, he shits because he cares, so it’s really the thought that counts. Plus the last few times I haven't had to be the one to clean it up.

And so for the moment I leave you with this picture of the campaign headquarters of San Juan Mayor Jorge "El Gran Gansini" Santini, who for some reason seems to be trying to get re-elected by... looking like he's ready to come over and give you a good fucking? Is the man fixing his tie or fixing to give it to you Santini-style? You be the judge, but I just want to say that when I look at that poster, I immediately experience an irrational fear of being impregnated. Also, thank the Lord that Rudy Giuliani didn't think of this first.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

There Goes the Neighborhood



Urban decay is a terrible thing. Hard economic times have hit Puerto Rico, and you can see the signs of it everywhere. The street where the Hacienda is located is no exception. A few blocks from the Hacienda’s palatial grounds, there is a house that has been abandoned for some time. The likely scenario is that the owner is asking too much for it given the repairs it needs (the houses on this street being of a “classic” vintage). Perhaps it is tied up in an inheritance dispute, which would bode ill, given that the complexity of the estate provisions of Puerto Rico Civil Code and the lumbering inadequacy of our local courts would give rise to the inference that the property dispute would most likely be resolved at around the same time that we settle our political status questions. In either case, the fact remains that there is an abandoned house on our street, and now the wrong element has moved in.

You see them out in the yard in the afternoon, just lazing about, not working, flaunting their grass for all to see, their eyes all red and bloodshot. They reproduce like rabbits, so you can’t even know how many offspring are running around; who knows how many of them are squatting on that property. And no one has ever seen any of them leave the property and go to work.

You know who I’m talking about.

That’s right, you guessed it—wait, what? Seriously? Wow, I had no idea that you were such a racist. I’m very disappointed in you.

I’m talking about rabbits!


Yes, the house down the street has been colonized by a clutch of rabbits. As I was walking down the street a few days ago on my way to go jogging at the nearby track that I sneak in to through a hole in the fence (which they’ve simply just stopped repairing because someone—not me—always opens it up again), I looked in the yard of this abandoned house and realized that it was teeming with rabbits, all just sitting there munching on all the overgrown grass.

Now, you may not be familiar with Puerto Rican fauna, but we don’t just have feral rabbits running around. I mean, I was walking around and I saw all these white rabbits just chilling in that yard, my first thought was to look around for Alice and to wonder whether I’d done things I couldn’t recall when I’d been in San Francisco. But other than seeing those rabbits, everything else remained normal. I could not taste colors, I could not hear smells, my feet did not turn into angry marshmallow rhinoceroses, and my mother, who was with me at the time, could also see the rabbits (but then again, she’s probably an unreliable witness, because God only knows what she was getting up to during the late 60’s-early 70’s.).

My mother was thrilled to see those rabbits (perhaps because of a previous dalliance with a WHITE RABBIT? We may never know), but I respectfully disagree. These rabbits, I have concluded, are Bad for Puerto Rico, and possibly even Bad for America, like the show “24.” Here is just a brief list of why these rabbits need to go:

- They shit all over the place.
- They don’t pay taxes.
- They eat all our precious grass.
- Their eyes are creepy and red.
- They’re cute, and look really cuddly, but they fucking hate you.
- They’re bringing down property values.
- They’re for staying in Iraq indefinitely. (Seriously. Fucking neocon rabbits.)
- They taste delicious, yet they’re not on my dinner plate.
- Bugs Bunny was a terrorist whose reputation was rehabilitated by the powerful carrot lobby.
- My faithful dogservant Santiago wants to catch them but they are much too fast for him.

Moreover, I have photographic evidence that they are ruining the neighborhood. This is an actual picture what our neighborhood looked when we moved in here in the early 90’s:












Here's what it looks like now:


And what do you think was in that little baggie? I’ll give you a hint: who likes grass? Rabbits, that’s who.

Oh, if only Rudy Giuliani could come and save our fair city by fixing all the broken windows.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

War on Phones Update

It’s not a day of paying the bills here at the Hacienda without a little telephonic fraud. Back in March, an internet services account arose from the dead and started sending us bills again. This account was for my stepfather’s office, and was started about a decade ago with Isla Net, a company that has not existed for years. The account we had with them has also not existed for years, since we cancelled it. Apparently, Centennial bought out Isla Net, and I guess as a housewarming present, decided to reactivate all sorts of old accounts. Like ours.

So in March, we get a bill from Centennial for $25. Not one to take this type of thing lying down, I immediately called up Centennial and cancelled the account. They assured me that they cancelled it, and that I would not be hearing from them again. But of course, this month they sent another bill.

Oh, I thought, it’s on now.

What Centennial didn't know is that I’ve fought this war before, in my Vietnam-like battle with Claro, the automated telecom servant of all that is evil and unholy. And Centennial, my friends, is no Claro, and it was simply not ready to counter the lengths to which I was willing to go to send this account back to the billing hell from whence it crawled back into our lives.

Centennial doesn't have the wall of impregnable computer menus that Claro has been able to set up to thwart anyone from actually speaking to any living being employed by them. Their computer lets you talk to an actual human being very quickly. These humans, however, are trained in the ninja arts of not solving your problems, and katana blade of their arsenal is demanding to talk only to the person whose name is on the account. And so, when I called this afternoon, I was posing as my stepfather, the doctor.

I explained to them that I’d called in March to cancel, and that I’d been given assurances that said cancellation had indeed taken effect. Immediately the customer service rep countered with “Yes, but did you write a letter?”

Just the opening I was looking for. I went for the nuclear option. Here’s how the rest of the conversation played out:

[And here et me make clear that my stepfather in no way resembles the portrayal of him here. But my version of my stepfather is out to get shit done. He knows that you have to can't make the trains run on time without breaking a few eggs. Or something.]

Doctor (actually me, in all my Method glory): “Did I write a letter? No, young lady, I did not write a letter, because I was not told that I had to write a letter. And honestly, had I been told I needed to write a letter, I would not have done so, as I consider that requirement to be burdensome and wholly unreasonable.”

Customer Service (thinking, I've got you now, sucka!): “Yes, but we need you to write a letter—“

Doctor: “You listen to me, I’m not writing any letter. Do you know how many times I’ve cancelled this account over the years? I’m a DOCTOR, right now I need to be seeing PATIENTS, not writing letters to CENTENNIAL! There’s people out in my waiting room right now that need TREATMENT and you’re sitting here asking me to write you a LETTER—“

CS: “Yes but we need you to—“

Doctor: “You know what, I’ll write you a letter, I’ll write you a letter all right, but you know what I’m going to do with that letter? I’m going to send a copy of it to the Department of Consumer Affairs, along with a note to my son-in-law, the DIRECTOR of that agency, detailing the ABUSES that you people have subjected me to—“

CS [meekly]: “Doctor, please, don’t worry, I’ll cancel the account right now, don’t worry about that letter, I’ll have our accounts staffer cancel it as soon as he gets back from lunch—“

Doctor: “Lunch? Young lady, it’s 3:30 right now. I’m not waiting for some person whom is clearly not going to return from his 3-hour lunch to take care of this. Kindly go in there and cancel it yourself right now, while I’m on the phone.”

CS: “Yes, Doctor, of course.” [Types furiously.] “OK, you’re all set.”

Doctor: “Well, thank you for all your help. You’ve been very helpful. Sorry if I seemed rude back there.”

CS: “Oh, it’s no problem. I’m just glad I was able to help, Doctor.”

Doctor (triumphantly): “Well you have a nice day now. Bye bye.”

Hells yeah. Soon I shall be ready for my Day of Reckoning with Sprint!


Friday, May 9, 2008

Armageddon It

Here's a guest blog for your Hacienda fix, while Don Paco reorganizes his estate. Say hello to Don Paco's little brother, currently hiding from the law in Scotland.

* * * * * *

It's finally happening - we're gonna blow up the moon.

Ok, no, we’re not there yet, unfortunately. But in the meantime, there’s no shortage of hare-brained space crusades for America to get excited about. You may remember a while back when the news began reporting that Earth might get hit by an asteroid in 2030. Thankfully, that's no longer the case, at least not until 2071.

Not one to let a good cash cow slip past them, NASA are totally riding this asteroid till it squeals – a metaphor that is actually more literal than you might think. The snappily-named Object 2000 SG344 is still going to fly pretty close to Earth, and damned if we aren’t gonna try and poke at it, as long as it’s there. We have the technology.

Except that we don’t. The plan is not simply to poke at it, but actually land a few dudes on it, and have them crash out there for a week. If only that were just another metaphor.

This sexy new plan to land people on a hurtling space-rock has jumped to the front of the space mission queue, ahead of the slightly less sexy, Bush-approved "moon landing by 2020" and "Mars landing sometime" plans that have been kicking about until now.

Jerry Bruckheimer: seems to be funding NASA

And I, for one, am all for it, mostly because I am an unabashed fan of frivolous space crusades, as well as the 1998 movie Armageddon, which has apparently replaced all the top scientists at NASA now that the US government is bankrupt. If you ask me, send Steve Buscemi up there as quick as possible. (Not so fast, Affleck.)


Billy Bob Thornton demonstrates the latest NASA technology

But I am not without misgivings. If Michael Bay’s 1998 opus taught me anything, it is that landing on a space-rock is bloody difficult. We will need not one but two manned rockets because half the crew are certainly going to die awful, spacey deaths. We will need to inexplicably explode a space station en route, and given that Mir is no longer there for us to pick on, it’ll have to be the International Space Station, which was almost starting to be useful. And it almost goes without saying that the mission will require awesome, hardcore space-tanks to drive around in once we’ve successfully landed on the space rock. Unfortunately, the only gear NASA have the money for seems to be a Tonka truck for helping the astronauts build space-sand castles:


Actual Constellation Program graphic from the NASA website

Another thing we all know from spaceship movies is that once you send people into space, one of them (usually the one whose name is Steve Buscemi) will instantly flip out, with murderous results. This is why, as in last year’s spaceship movie Sunshine, one of the astronauts will have to be a psychiatrist with his own holographic chill-out room. Unfortunately, as you may have gleaned by now, NASA are pretty skint these days, and so instead of replacing our ancient lunar module with a sharp new spaceship sheathed in chrome and operated by floating touchscreens, we’re keeping the crusty old pre-digital-watch era design. So, in short, we’re sending three astronauts up for the grueling 6-month journey in a 5 meter-wide tin-foil Hershey’s Kiss:


Actual Constellation Program quote: “A clean-sheet-of-paper design is too expensive and risky”

The funniest part of all this is that, as far as I can tell, no one is quite sure whether Object 2000 SG344 is even an asteroid at all. Given its smallish size, about the length of a “small yacht,” and its tidy orbit, which is suspiciously similar to Earth’s own, NASA has said there’s a good possibility that the object is actually a loose Apollo Program booster rocket from the 60s.

At this juncture, a few predictions are in order.

Outcome 1: we fly a few dudes up to the asteroid, and they actually manage to land on it. Once they step out of their Hershey’s Kiss module, they immediately float off into deep space because the asteroid has essentially no gravity.

Outcome 2: we fly a few dudes up to the asteroid and it turns out to be a booster rocket, causing them to turn on each other, suddenly murderous when faced with the prospect of having to pee into tubes and smell each others’ farts for another three months with nothing to show for it except maybe medals of honour from President “El Comandante” Cheney upon their return.

Outcome 3: we fly a few dudes up to the asteroid, infinitesimally altering the object’s gravitational field and orbit, causing it to fly straight into Russia, with an American flag stuck in it, in 2030.

Outcome 4: we fly a few dudes up to the asteroid and find it is made of crude oil, diamonds, and super-advanced alien technology, but can’t bring any of it back home because our Tonka trucks aren’t big enough.

Outcome 5: Jerry Bruckheimer kills the project and turns all of NASA’s budget towards building robots that transform.

The future is lame.