South of the Border, the End is in Sight

Long-time readers will know that I have been working on a complete history of Latin America for nearly four years, since November 2010.  The sixth and last chapter in the series, going from 1959 to the present, I began composing last March.  Well, this morning I finished composing that chapter, so in MS Word document formats, the whole history series is now complete.

Of course, not too many people are going to see a Word document from my desk; I’d have to e-mail it, at a minimum.  The next task is to convert the document into HTML form and check all the tags to make sure the resulting webpage looks just right.  Because I like to do all this myself, it’s a tedious job, though it doesn’t require as much brain-sweat as the original composition.  My guess is that it will take another month before the whole thing is uploaded for the world to see.

Because I am covering current events in thirty-four countries, this is the second longest history I have written so far; in Word it came out to 167 pages.  As a webpage I expect to present it in seven parts, and as with Chapter 5, I will include plenty of links for those who only want to read part of it, like the history of one country.

I’ve gotten a few e-mails from friends who are eager to see this series completed.  Well, your wait is almost over!  In the meantime, click on the link below if you want to take another look at the previous five chapters:

Published in: on October 19, 2014 at 7:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Bolivian Water War

In the course of doing research for the final chapter of my Latin American history project, I came across this item. I found it interesting because Bechtel is one of the five engineering companies that is active at my current place of work. While Bechtel is not the company that hired me, it is by far the biggest on site, and I work closely with some Bechtel people (my immediate supervisor is one). Here’s the story:

In the 1990s, the government of Bolivia ran more than a hundred corporations, most of which were not very profitable. To cut losses and deficit spending, more than one administration opted for privatization; they sold off those corporations to private investors, And because most Bolivians were poor, a lot of those investors were foreigners; many Bolivians thought there were too many foreign investors. This led to the so-called “Cochabamba Water War” of January-April 2000.

As part of the privatization program, the water utility of Cochabamba, Bolivia’s third largest city, was auctioned to a firm named Aguas del Tunari. This was a consortium made up of several companies, some of them Bolivian, but the controlling interest (55% of ownership) came from a British company, which was in turn controlled by Bechtel, the big US-based engineering corporation. Once it had the water works, the firm steeply raised water rates, to pay for the construction of a new dam. This led to demonstrations all over the province, the blockading of a highway for several weeks, and violence; one seventeen-year-old boy was killed and 175 injuries were reported. The government declared a state of siege and put Cochabamba under martial law. Protests continued for ninety days, until officials of Aguas del Tunari fled after the government said it could not guarantee their safety; then the government announced they had abandoned the water works, and declared the contract void.

That ended the water war, but the story wasn’t over just yet. In 2002 Bechtel sued the Bolivian government for $50 million, charging that it had lost at least half that amount from damages and because the closing of Aguas del Tunari kept it from earning any profits. The case dragged on in court for years, until Bechtel got tired of it, judging from how it was resolved; in January 2006 Bechtel settled by accepting a payment of two bolivianos – 25 US cents (US $0.25 or 25¢).

Published in: on September 26, 2014 at 10:48 am  Leave a Comment  

17 Reasons to NOT Become a Technical Writer

Yesterday marked twenty-five years since I started working at Ticketmaster as a senior phone agent.  At a little over eight years (September 1989-December 1997), it is the longest-lasting job I have had so far.  Still, I am hoping to beat that at the place where I am working now.  I have now been at my current technical writer job for five months, and as I put more experience under my belt, I am having a better time in the office.  Yesterday, for instance, I was asked to help train a new technical writer who started this month – definitely a good sign.  And this project is expected to need folks like me until 2023, so if it runs late, I could be here until I am old enough to retire.  Job security is welcome, inasmuch as I have seen terribly little of it for the past four years.

Anyway, I just read an article on the downsides of this kind of work.  For some reason I cannot copy and paste even an excerpt from the text (is the whole article one big graphic?), so you’ll have to follow this link to read it:

I’m wondering about the reference to interpersonal skills in #13.  I became a technical writer because my people skills were never very good.  Are they referring to the mania of meetings you are expected to attend?  Some of the places I have worked in seemed to consider meetings more important than work.

Now if I had written the article I would add an eighteenth point:  This is a feast & famine profession.  The jobs pay great when you can get them (I couldn’t pay the bills on what I made as a teacher), but they are only common in areas with high-tech centers, like Silicon Valley or Oak Ridge.  Although one of those jobs persuaded me to move from Florida to Kentucky in 2006, Kentucky is not a high-tech center; hence my long period out of work until last April, and the job I had in Connecticut during 2011 and 2012.

But even with the points mentioned in the article, it’s good to be back at it again.  Now I’m telling my co-workers this is the most complicated job I will ever love!

Published in: on September 26, 2014 at 6:46 am  Leave a Comment  

Are You Pinterested?

I have had an account with Pinterest, the famous picture-sharing website, for a year of two, since I learned that pictures from The Xenophile Historian are being “pinned” there.  It gives me an idea of what’s popular on the site.  Currently it looks like the picture of Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau dancing behind the Queen of England’s back is very popular indeed.



Anyway, here is a link to The Xenophile Historian board:


Earlier this month I decided to pin as many pictures from my website as possible, to increase traffic.  So far I have put up 289 pins, on three boards.  One board is for African history, one is for East Asian history (India, China, Korea, Japan and Southeast Asia), and one is for European history.  And much more will be going up in the near future; I haven’t gotten to the picture collections for the Middle East, Russia or the Americas yet.  Click on this link to see them for yourself:

Published in: on September 21, 2014 at 9:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Israeli Spies Falsifying History to Show Jews Built Pyramids


Well, well, well.  A few times in the past I have reported here about the crazy crackpot ideas that have come out of the Islamic world, especially Egypt.  See my messages from June 13, 2007 and April 30, 2012 for a few examples.  Now the article I just linked to shows us that the Moslem Brotherhood may no longer be in power, but Egypt is still producing more than its share of anti-Semites and conspiracy theories.  This one comes from the same guy who tried to sue Israel for inflicting the Ten Plagues on Egypt, without saying a word about the enslavement of Israelites that started the whole affair.

With the latest claim I would point out, for a start, that the theory suggesting that Pharaoh Sheshonq I = Shishak is not a recent Israeli invention.  Some European reading hieroglyphics at the temple of Karnak, nearly two hundred years ago, came up with that idea.  Perhaps Mr. Gamal would prefer David Rohl’s theory, that Shishak is none other than Ramses the Great?  And as for the treasures found in the tombs of the pharaohs at Tanis, I can make a case that they were stolen from earlier pharaohs like Amenhotep III, not from the Israelites.

Published in: on September 14, 2014 at 7:07 pm  Comments (1)  


With me too busy in the real world to write whatever comes to mind for at least half of every week, it looks like this blog is going back to the original function I had in mind for it, to announce updates to The Xenophile Historian.  Here’s one that’s different – it has a new Internet address.  Sometime back I bought the domain name; I figured that those who know me in the real world will find it easier to type that into the address bar of a browser (and find it easier to remember) than .  I would have preferred a better known suffix, like or, but those were already taken.  Still, since the purpose of this website is to share information, .info will do.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not planning to get rid of anytime soon.  It is the first URL the site had that made any sense.  You should have seen what I was using before I moved the site to its present host, in September 2000.  On Geocites, for instance, the URL was ; that doesn’t tell you anything about the site, does it?

If you’re used to the old Xenohistorian URL, or bookmarked it on your computer, it will still work for you.  I started the job of associating the new URL with the old one last Saturday, and today is the first day that it worked, so give it a try.  Two URLs for the price of one!

Published in: on August 15, 2014 at 9:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

It Was a Short Summer

July is ending as I write this, and for the past week it has looked like summer has passed its peak already.  We had a few days in July where the temperature got to 90 degrees or more (it was 93 degrees on the hottest day, 7/13), or as one local weatherman calls those days, “the muggies.”  But most of the time it was in the 80s or even 70s, and for much of this week it was in the 50s at night (it got down to a record 51 on Tuesday morning!).

Overall the average temperature for central Kentucky in July was a degree and a half below what we got in June.  It has been eight years since Leive and I moved to Kentucky, and in none of the other years was June hotter than July.  August was hotter than June, too, but so far there are no heat waves in sight; the forecast over the first week of August is for highs in the 80s.  Of course the weatherman could be wrong and it can get hot again in August; again, I haven’t figured out how Kentucky weather works, and old-timers tell me it can’t be done.  In Florida we at least had rules, like a thunderstorm just about every afternoon from June to September.

Published in: on July 31, 2014 at 10:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

What Civilization Suits You Best?

I came across this quiz over the weekend.  Just answer a few questions and it will tell you which civilization best suits your personality.  Will you get along best with the Romans or the Vikings?  Or someone else?

I got the Greeks.  That’s a good answer, in view of how much the Greeks achieved, but I was a bit surprised.  For the first question, “Where will you settle your people?”  I picked the desert, because most of the earliest civilizations, like Egypt and Mesopotamia, got started there.  However, I also know for a fact that the Greeks prefer living on a seacoast, because they do a lot of sailing and fishing, and the coast was another possible answer.

Anyway, check it out and have fun!

Published in: on July 29, 2014 at 9:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Summer, Canadian Style

The last five days, Tuesday through Saturday, were unusually cool.  A cold front passed through on Monday the 14th, bringing some needed rain (there had not been any rain for the previous two weeks), and then after that came the chillier days.  Temperatures each day got up into the 70s (only 72 degrees on Thursday), and at night they went down in the 50s a couple of times.  I can’t remember another time when I experienced a July that felt like a May or September; somebody on the radio called it a Canadian-style summer.  We even slept with the windows open for at least half the time.  Today it finally reached the low 80s again, and we’re supposed to go back to the usual summertime 90s tomorrow.

The cool snap was well-timed for us, too, because we had three guests in the house last week.  My brother Chris came up from Florida last Sunday and stayed with us until Saturday morning.  Then on Wednesday Leive’s cousin Sonny and his wife Mencie stopped here, on their way to Michigan, and spent two nights here so they could see both of us (I was in bed when they arrived).  They are supposed to come by again tomorrow, on their way back to Georgia.

In other news there has been a virus infection on my computer for the past week and a half; only today can I declare the last of the viruses gone. And since I last wrote here there have been two birthdays in the family, Leive and Brin-Brin.  Or maybe in Brin-Brin’s case I should call it an anniversary.  Last Tuesday marked seven years since we got Brin-Brin from a bird show in Bardstown, KY.  It’s hard to believe it has been that many years, though parrots do have quite a long lifespan.  It also means he is eighteen years old, but he still acts more like a kid than an adult.  We were amused to find he liked Mencie while the folks were here, and let her carry him around the house.  Well, Brin-Brin always had a thing for Asian women, except for Leive’s niece Rezia, who married his worst enemy.  Maybe I will share the pictures of Brin-Brin and Mencie here, if I can get copies of them.

Tomorrow marks three months since I started the job in Richmond.  Boy, where did all the time go?

Published in: on July 20, 2014 at 9:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Movin’ On

June has been a time of transition for us, in at least two ways.  First, our church has moved to a new building.  The congregation Leive and I have attended since 2006 has never owned its own building.  Instead, they have shared space with another congregation, and held their services on Saturday night, instead of Sunday morning, so they won’t get in the way.  Myself, I liked going on Saturday night, because it is always easier to get Leive out of the house in the evening than it is in the morning!

Now the building has been sold, so both we and the other congregation had to get out.  The church had been meeting there since July 2000, almost fourteen years.  We had our last service in there on June 7.  This group picture was taken on that night; it’s probably the last picture anyone in the congregation took in that building.  I’m on the left in the pinkish white shirt, while Leive is wearing red and purple.


Fortunately our pastor had known since January that we would be leaving.  Around May he found out that the Assembly of God church on the north side of Lexington would be willing to share space with us.  Thus, we had our first service in the new place the next Saturday, June 14.  So far we have gotten along great with the other church; their pastor spoke at our June 21 service, and we are planning to meet together on July 6 to hear our local congressman.  My pastor is even starting to talk about their congregation merging with ours, after he retires.

For Leive and I it is a longer drive -– six miles instead of two and a half miles.  Still, because the new location is just off New Circle Rd., we can usually get there in fifteen minutes.

The other move is work-related.  Yes, I have been at my new job for just over two months, so it looks like I’m going to succeed there.  Two weeks ago, my supervisor decided he wanted all technical writers in the same office where he resides, an unmarked building at the Richmond Mall.  So last Wednesday, the 25th, I moved from the office outside the entrance to the Blue Grass Army Depot, into the Mall.

They have a funny tax structure in Madison County.  I have learned that the county income tax is 2 percent in the city of Richmond, and 1 percent in rural areas; I don’t know what they charge in Berea, the county’s other significant community.  That means they will be taking a bit more out of my paycheck every time.  I hope I have enough in tax breaks elsewhere to get it back as a refund next spring.  By contrast, when I worked in Florida, there were no state, county or local income taxes – but the sales tax was higher, and it varied from county to county.

So far I have found two advantages to the new location.  First, it is two miles closer to my house; with all the driving I have to do every day, that matters.  Second, there is a Wal-Mart Supercenter on one end of the Mall, and a Kroger on the other end.  At least once each week, Leive sends me on an errand to get something at one or the other of those stores.  Now if I run over there after work, I won’t be going out of my way!

Published in: on June 29, 2014 at 9:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.