Harrison Farm

for now, the only thing we're growing on this farm is kids - not the goat variety

Month: September 2013

Cajon del Maipo

"Cajon del Maipo" is a string of little valleys in the Andes to the southeast of Santiago along the Maipo river. It is the only place of significant population in the Andes near Santiago, because of the usable land created by the unusually gentle decline of the river. Marathon decided to take Doodle and I on a "birthday trip" (our birthdays are 5 days apart) to this place that we had heard a lot about from various friends here.

Getting there was impressively cheap. There is a bus service that will take you from a subway station in La Florida to Any of the little towns in the valley for under 2 dollars a person, and Doodle was free.

Because the price of using this bus system is so close to the price of using the government bus system, some people use it to go from one place in Santiago to another, just because it covers a route that the government buses don't. So, we did many little detours down side streets just to pick people up who weren't going to Cajon del Maipo.

Our bus driver, G-force McLeadfoot, drove like he was several years behind schedule. He did stuff like not coming to a complete stop when letting a passenger off, going over speed bumps so fast that your butt came off the seat, and when in the mountain roads, driving at a pace most people associate only with Ferraris.

We got off in San Alfonso and did a three-hour hike at "Cascada de las Animas", a huge, private nature reserve/camp with the highlight being a farm up on a plateau only accessible by a very steep trail. All the infrastructure of the farm houses, sheds, etc. was brought up the trail by mule. They had cows up on the plateau, and when we were hiking up, we passed some folks carrying a basket of cheese down the hill, to be used in the restaurant at the bottom.

After that, we took a "collectivo" (looks like a taxi but operates like a bus) to San Jose, the largest town in the valley. We hung out there for a little while, then took a bus back to Santiago.

Here's Doodle with the valley in the background

This is the pasture atop the plateau. Not accessible by automobile of any type.

Naturally broken rocks. Pic doesn't demonstrate how counter-top flat they are

Fiestas Patrias

"Fiestas Patrias" means "national holidays" or literally "homeland parties." In Chile the independence day is on September 18. Unlike in the US, they have an entire week of celebrations. The celebration for the eighteenth is called the "Dieciochera" which means something like "eighteen-er".

We live close to a well-known park in Santiago, Parque Ines de Suarez. It is a nice gated park with a large playground, concrete soccer and basketball courts, one large field, two fountains and a nice walking/running path around it. Every year the park closes at the beginning of September while they're setting up tents and a petting zoo, constructing stages, inflatable bounce houses, a mini Ferris wheel, and other mechanical rides. Yesterday we went early (before it got super crowded) and I got some pictures.

You probably don't realize how much work they did on these basketball courts. Here they are (the basketball courts) doubling as a food court.

This is a stage they set up in the middle of one of the big fields. Everything is red, white or blue! Well, almost everything, the chairs are black 🙁

Behind the stage along one side of the park is a large artesian fair. Lots of little booths with people selling their own special thing: Flowers, jewelry, origami, wooden kitchen utensils ect.

These are very realistic paper flowers.

This is a glass spiral with rocks inside of it, made into the glass. Also, if you'd like to buy it, it's only 70 dollars!

There was also LOTS of food and drink booths, of which I didn't take any pictures. Also, we can't forget the inflatables and mechanical rides. This is the mini Ferris wheel that Doodle and Rosebud didn't ride because of the huge line.

Throughout the days there are concerts, circus shows, story tellers and dance competitions of the national dance, cueca. This is what google.cl looked like on the 18th:

Sometime later this week we'll probably go and watch the dances. I tried the dance the other day (one of my friends tried to teach me), but it's the kind of dance that goes with a certain song, and you have to memorize what happens when.

There is a law here that all buildings/businesses must have a flag in front of them during Dieciochera (Sept 17-23): apartment buildings, grocery stores and even churches.

How many flags can you spot?

Monster Toilet Clog part 2

Continued from "Monster Toilet Clog part 1"

The great Idea was.... A swimming noodle! Cut in half.

Yes! The green thing! PEOPLE, THIS IS A REVOLUTION!

This thing is way better than anything mankind has come up with thus far. It is completely sanitary (we drew a smiley face on the top so we could keep the ends straight), very quick, and very powerful.

Clearing a clog that if done with a plunger would take 5 minutes and give you water on the floor, takes about 4 seconds with the noodle.

This thing is so cheap, so clean, and SO EFFECTIVE.

It worked perfectly for about 10 months. And then we had the Monster Clog.

Sadly, It was my fault. I still occasionally forget to put my toilet paper in the trash can, and that probably helped it clog.

I tried the noodle. I couldn't clear it. This was very rare but had happened once or twice before, there being a clog that I couldn't blow out but my dad could. He tried it, and couldn't either. So we filled the toilet to the top with water, and let it sit overnight. In the morning, the water level was exactly the same. This meant that the clog was a complete seal! We tried blowing periodically throughout the day with no avail. Marathon poured some muiratic acid into the toilet bowl. The next morning nothing had changed. We tried many different things, using an old shower hose as a plumber's snake, using an air mattress pump to provide pressure, and were about ready to get a professional involved when we had the breakthrough.

What was the secret to clearing the Monster Clog? Hint: It didn't use any specialized equipment.


Linux is a free, open-source operating system that is know for its flexibility and non-dependency on software giants like Apple or Microsoft. However, it is not as user-friendly. Grandma would be rather lost trying to use it, because a big part of it is based around operating through the terminal, as shown below.

Looks intimidating, doesn't it?

We have installed the Linux operating system on a 10 year-old dell laptop. When you start up the computer, you are given an option of Windows or Linux.

The really cool thing about Linux is that all the code that makes up the operating system is in the accessible files! This means that you can change anything about the whole system. Infinitely customizable, and only because it's open source.

There are fluky problems. Like having to shut down the computer because we can't sleep it, because the specifics of that are in a file that I haven't been able to edit.... the security won't let me. I know there's a way to get around that, but I haven't figured it out yet.

Surprisingly, it's no faster, if not slower, that the Windows XP that we were running. It also has more tendency to freeze for no apparent reason, in which case your only option is to reboot.

So, it has it's problems, but for being free software, it's excellent.

Lider (Walmart) employees partying on the landing dock

We live behind a grocery store and can watch from my bedroom window as 18-wheelers go in and out unloading their goods. Most of the time the dock is surprisingly quiet, compared with the nearby school which often contains screaming children.

At Christmas time the workers had a party in the dock area stretched over about 3 days, with loud music and dancing, that most definitely falls into the "disturbing the peace" category 🙂

A couple of days ago, we heard loud music again. There was an aerobics teacher with her speakers blaring loud music while all the female workers (and one brave guy), were doing the moves along with her.

It was quite a funny sight, seeing some of the workers in their uniforms dancing along to the (mostly English) music.

The Bus Lane

If you're riding hard, where's the best place to be? Obviously not the sidewalk, and really, not the bike paths either.

There are several disadvantages to bike paths: they typically run along the sidewalk and merge with them when you come to an intersection, at which point you are waiting in a crowd of pedestrians and have to dodge around them once the light turns green. Sometimes walkers or joggers will use the bike path. There are sometimes blind turns around bushes or trees on a bike path, preventing high speed, and every side street you come to you have to slow down in case a car is coming out of it, and can't see you, because you're still 30 feet away, going 30 mph. Not good.

Riding on the road with the cars is a decent option, but the most dangerous. In this case the slower you ride, the more cars are whizzing past you. Cars whizzing past you is not a good thing. In some cases you can ride as fast as the cars, but it's still dangerous.

So what is the answer? The bus lane.

Some major roads around Santiago have a separate two-way section only for buses. It is in the middle of the road, separated on the sides by a fence or reflectors.... as shown below on Vicuña Mackenna,

on Grecia,

and on Pajaritos. (Note: Google's camera car is driving in the bus lane!)

Because these lanes are only on the biggest roads, the only time you have to stop is when there is an intersection with another major road. Side streets don't hinder you at all. Nor do pedestrians. There is one problem: the buses. When they are on these lanes, the buses drive fast. And the driver will get mad if anyone slows him down. There is not space for a bus to pass a cyclist. And because the blocks are so long, if a bus gets behind you you're in trouble. It happened to me once.

I suddenly heard a bus close behind me, and my options were: slow to a stop and squeeze against the fence to let the bus pass (there was no dirt median where this happened), or ride like the devil's after you. I chose the latter.

I am now somewhat paranoid-- I check behind myself every 30 seconds to make sure no buses are in sight.

If you play it right, it doesn't get any better than the bus lane.

Monster Toilet Clog part 1

Here in Chile construction is generally not done to the quality level it is in the U.S. The cabinets are all made of particle board, The U.S. standard of using nominal two-by-fours (actually 1.5" by 3.5") for studs in the wall are shortened to two-by-twos (which seems odd because Chile exports a lot of pine), and the crown is made of, I kid you not..... Styrofoam (You could never guess by looking at it). One of these differences is reducing the diameters of the pvc drain pipes from 3 or 4 inches to 2 inches of outside diameter, probably because the pipes have to be that thin in order to fit in the 2" space in the walls.

Because of the extra-thin pvc drainage pipes, the toilets have very squirrely trap routes to break up the poop before it gets to the main pipes. The protocol here is to put your toilet paper in the trash can, to lower the chance of getting a clog. Even so, we still get plenty of them. When we first got here, It was a nightmare. We bought a round plunger, the only option in the Walmart-owned "Lider" store a block from us. The problem was, the plunger didn't fit well in the shape of the toilet hole. Sometimes it would work, but if there wasn't a complete seal, a bunch of water would squirt out.

We had many overflows too, when we flushed it because we thought we had cleared the clog but in truth not. Overflows became such a normality during that time that Rosebud is still scared of flushing the toilet, 8 months after Marathon had the great idea that solved our problems.

What was the great idea? It involves one very inexpensive object that we bought at the grocery store a block away, it is quicker and cleaner than a plunger, and we bought it in November (important clue), but it's not available year-round.

This is a normal U.S. toilet trap.

Here is our toilet.

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