Friday, March 30, 2007


I won't bore you with the sordid details of my life right now, but suffice to say it's the complete opposite of playing poker for a living. Damnit, I miss that poker guy sometimes.

All my whining about wanting to be "challenged" and all that? Well hell, I got what I wished for. In spades.

Tis all good - I'm in a great place right now.

I was thinking about my stint at PokerWorks during a smokebreak this morning and realized my Mexico trip report was posted over there and not here. Which is weird, because I had promised to deliver exclusive poker content over there.

So I'm posting my damn Mexico trip here. Where it belongs.


"If you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags please know that I think this is a pretty good way to depart this life. It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs.

To be a gringo in Mexico - ah, that is euthanasia."

Ambrose Bierce

I'm back from beautiful Mexico.

Upon my return, I'm not so sure what the hell is going on in the USA anymore.

Neteller announces they are going in the tank, Michael Craig is leaving PokerWorks and now Hillary is announcing a run for the presidency?

What's next?
Cats and dogs living in peace?

Lord, I have no clue what's going to happen but these are frightening omens, to say the least. Truthfully, I was more stunned when Pinnacle dropped out of the US market than Neteller. I mean, at least the writing was on the wall with the latter.

So it's a mess right now, but damnit, I'm an optimist. So I decided to take a peek at PokerSiteScout and see some numbers, and I'll be damned if they don't have a nifty page with graphs showing the effects of the UIGEA and Neteller.
Effects of NETeller Leaving the U.S. Market on All Sites Accepting U.S. players

It will be interesting to keep on eye on that page - I sure hope they keep updating it.

Stay tuned - I'll catch up on my reading and post on this insanity soon enough.

For now, I wanna do a quick trip report on my vacation to Mexico. It was my first visit there (outside of Tijuana sojourns) and it was fantastic.

We flew into Cancun and were whisked off to our uber resort near Playa Del Carmen. We hung out for a day, drinking and eating, and basically chilling at the beach.

We decided to take a local city bus into the town of Playa Del Carmen. This is when I realized that buses didn't have numbers - the drivers just stuck their head out the doors and yelled where they were planning to go.

To say the bus was jammed is an understatement. I was smushed in with two other adults in a seat designed for two six year olds. Amazingly, two people stood in the aisle between each seat, and somehow more kept getting on. My wife was trapped between two people who had basically brought this years harvest on board. Did I mention that all the windows were jammed shut?

I did not fail to notice the ever present giant Jesus figurine on the dashboard - better known as the Mexican emergency brake.

My favorite part of the bus trip was when the driver yelled to the people standing in the aisle to duck the hell down as we drove past the police checkpoint because, apparently, the government has regulations about cramming four times the legal amount of passengers onto a bus. It was far too crowded to duck, so people just bent their heads a little. The police gave them credit for trying and let us pass.

I learned some new Spanish later that day in a restaurant bathroom. No papel de hygienetico en el servicio. (Don't put toilet paper in the toilet).

After two days of resort town hell, we decided to get the hell out. So we rented a car and drove into the heart of the Yucatan, nearly three hours inland. My sister had told us about this eco-lodge in a Mayan village 300 meters from the ruins of Ek Balam.

We ended up hanging out here most of the week, even though we had only planned on one day. The place was more international hostel or bed and breakfast than a lodge. There were 7 completely screened, Maya-stylized cabaƱas, complete with mosquito netting over the beds. The netting didn't help. To be fair, my wife never was bitten once. For some reason, I am a succulent gourmet meal to mosquitoes. Our first night there (without bug spray) - I put on some aloe vera in hopes that it would deter the bugs. Nope. Instead, it was like the icing on an Iggy cupcake.

We met the most interesting folks: Israeli's, Swedes, Greek couples were there. And a fascinating Aussie couple who were nine months into a round-the-world backpack trip. I'll dig up their site and link them up when I get the chance. The end of the day was usually spent in the main room, drinking a few beers and shooting the shit about a variety of fascinating topics.

At the lodge, I learned some more new Spanish: tenga cuidado (be careful). This was when I nearly electrocuted myself in the shower, thanks to live wires that made up the small electrical heater in the shower head. Apparently, you are supposed to wear rubber sandals when showering, but no one informed me.

After recovering from the morning's electroshock therapy, we took a fascinating personal tour of the Mayan village. As my Israeli friend remarked the first night, "The Mayans are everywhere. Who knew?"

These indigenous people were still living as their ancestors had for hundreds of years. And they all spoke Mayan, not Spanish.

A wonderfully sweet Mayan girl gave us and the Israeli's a personal tour of the village, allowing us to go inside and hang out with the folks. The locals were beyond gracious people.

We went to three different homes and they demonstrated what it's like to live outside of a cash-dependent society. I was astounded as I was shown how a family of ten thrives on their fruit, herb and medicinal gardens. They do every step of food production from planting by hand, to tending, to harvesting and cooking.

After hearing this, I tried to explain Bonus Code IGGY and why they should be playing online poker instead of this indigenous thing but it didn't get through the translation.

A few anecdotes: when Hurricane Emily crashed through in 2005, all of the western style buildings were crushed and mostly destroyed. Interestingly enough, all of the traditional Mayan huts survived intact. They are low to the ground, built with two openings for the wind to pass through and the thatched roof also allows air to move through. It's kind of a 'bend, don't break' construction mentality that obviously works.

None of them own beds, instead sleeping in hammocks as their ancestors did.

The village got power ten years ago but TV is rarely watched.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Lee, the woman who created this place in the jungle from scratch over four years ago. She was a writer for over 20 years in Calgary before selling everything she owned to move to the Yucatan. Quite an amazing story and woman.

And so, from here we went ruins hunting. Our first was the recently discovered (1997) ruins and pyramid at Ek Balam. And then over the next few days it was on to the massive ruins at Chichen Itza, and finally, to the coastal war ruins of Tulum.

I'm still trying to wrap my head head around this culture. It's surreal to think of this "lost" civilization - I spent lots of time pondering the fate of these ancient cities covered over by the jungle. What the hell happened? Everything written is purely conjecture.

How could the level of social and political organization needed to sustain this civilization be attained in areas of impossible jungle, rank vegetation and dangerous animals? But it was just in such places that Maya culture reached its highest level. In most areas, the ground is nothing more than porous limestone - the topsoil seldom more than a few inches deep.

Without the wheel, draft animals or metal cutting tools, Maya engineers and artisans build outrageously magnificent cities.

Hell, centuries before Christ was born the Maya were the first to develop a system of numeration by position involving the concept and use of zero. This is all the more striking when compared to the clumsy Roman numerical system used in Europe at the time when zero was unknown. Why should an agricultural people living in the jungle bother with a highly sophisticated mathematical system? Why invent it if they wouldn't have use for it? But what was the use? These supposedly primitive people measured time in units of 23,000,000,000 days. Why?

Then sometime around 300 A.D., while the barbarians were sacking Rome and the Dark Ages were spreading over Europe, the Maya entered their golden Classic period. Nineteen major cities - that we know of - were built at this time along with countless minor ones.

It's amazing how much has NOT been excavated. Because the Yucatan is a flat area, any place where you see a hill in the jungle is an overgrown ruin. There are apparently far more unknown ruins down in Belize which brings out my inner Indiana Jones. I won't bore you with the loot found in many of these places, but suffice to say, it's priceless.

The Maya were heavily into astronomy, building observatories at most of their cities. I'm still shaking my head in disbelief. Corbel arches, miles and miles of highways (sacbes) connecting all the cites to each other, solar observatories and water reservoirs are all indicative of an advanced society.

The pyramids cut of stone, majestic temples and palaces adorned with intricately carved facades and exquisite sculpture blew me away. I sure wish I had paid more attention in my Art History class in college.

My wife was purty good at finding the best hieroglyphics. It was too damn cool finding the carvings of a Maya King holding someone's head right next to the beheaded body showing blood gushing out the neck in huge fountains.
But anyway, I could go on and on and on here but it's getting late and I gotta format pictures.

Beyond the mystery of how the hell the Maya moved huge stone heads weighing 20 tons or more through miles of jungle is outweighed by the mystery of what happened to them. Again, it's all conjecture.

OK, picture time. Humour me.
FYI: The Maya calender ends on December 24th, 2012.
Here's a mix of Maya village and ruins shots.

Also, I know it's incorrect to say Mayan.

Guadalupe cooking homemade corn tortilla's fer us and the Israeli's in her cooking hut (one hut is for cooking - the other for sleeping). Click for a larger version. I looked everywhere for a P&G product to no avail.

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