Thursday, December 27, 2007
Christmas Day was warm, and everything was closed during the day, while people have asados (barbecues) at home. Some restaurants opened up for dinner in the evening, and the streets livened up a little with people out for evening walks.
Overall, it was a mellow holiday, a quiet day at home for us. An Eddie Murphy marathon was on TV (dubbed though, not subtitled), and an improvised home-cooked dinner.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
1. A technician comes out and says our signal is low, and the problem is with the wiring on the roof. But to get to the roof, he needs to go through the restaurant next door, which is closed. Someone will come mañana. Fine.
2. No one shows up the next day. When I call, we have an appointment scheduled for the next day. Fine.
3. The next technician shows up (two hours earlier than his scheduled appointment) and says our signal is low and the problem is with the wiring on the roof. (Yes, I know.) After half an hour of waiting to talk to someone next door, he finally informs us that he can't get to the roof because they just re-did the floor in the restaurant and no one can walk on it. We need to call back and have someone come again in two days.
4. The next technician shows up (three hours earlier than his scheduled appointment) and says that he knows what the problem is because he is the technician that serviced the restaurant next door. We need an amplifier, but he is not the person who installs them. We need to call and ask for a different department to install the amplifier.
5. I call the service provider, but can't communicate what we need because my Spanish is too poor. She is asking for the administrator of the building (we don't have one) and a bunch of other stuff I don't understand.
Our next step is to get someone who speaks Castellano to help us negotiate this . . .
Link to the article in the Buenos Aires Herald
Monday, December 17, 2007
Saturday, December 15, 2007
One of the biggest warnings we heard before we came to Buenos Aires was: be careful. Keep a close hold on your purse. Call a taxi rather than hail a random one. Make sure you are not followed after using the ATM. Etc., etc.
Yes, it's true. There is a lot of petty crime here in Buenos Aires (and some violent crime as well), and possibly more than in some big cities because the recent economic collapse has created more desperate people. It is wise to be careful. But not enjoyable to be paranoid.
Paranoia can slip in easily in an unfamiliar city, especially when you don't understand what people are saying around you, and you don't know what the signals are that let you know you are in danger. Strange noises keep you awake at night, and your heart will start racing when walking after dark. We are afraid of the unknown.
As I have become more familiar with the area I live in, the paranoia has started to subside. Yes, I watch my purse. But I also notice how many parents are walking with their children, how many women are comfortable walking alone, how the delivery guys at the restaurant next door recognize me and say hello.
Looked at with a wide-angle lens, it is a big, scary city. But zoom in closer, and it is a collection of neighborhoods, each one its own community. The neighborhood I live in is one of the safest. The longer I live here, the chances are greater that someone might steal my purse, and the truth is, as long as I don't carry credit cards with me, they will get about $300 U.S. But as long as I don't do anything stupid, I don't fear for my physical safety.
There's a balance between being aware enough to feel safe without feeling paranoid, and I'm starting to strike the balance.
I think we discovered the mystery to Rob's fainting. The clues were these:
1) I see a lot of people (especially on hot days) drinking this stuff , which looks like soda, through a straw. I thought it was soda, in fact, because so many people drink that too. Coca-Cola in bottles is very popular here. Then, in the grocery store, by the Gatorade, I noticed it-- water with electrolytes added. Aha!
2) People liberally salt everything. In a café, you typically have a salt-shaker on the table, but no pepper. And when everyone gets their food, the first thing they do is pour salt over everything. I thought this was a little weird.... until....
3) Rob's acquaintance (an Irishman met in the same ex-pat bar), asks him if he's getting enough salt. That's the medical advice he got when he first arrived and wasn't feeling well.
4) We're sweating. A lot. I'm not a very sweaty person, and on a normal day without a lot of exertion, my blouses are wet under the arms. Imagine how much water we are losing through evaporation that we don't notice.
So. I bought the water + electrolyte stuff at the store (which costs 1/2 the price of Gatorade because it is made in-country), and after we each gulped down a bottle, we felt like we had more energy than we had had since we arrived. And Rob hasn't fainted or felt light-headed since. We had already been drinking water, but I guess it wasn't quite enough.
Lesson learned. Don't take salt for granted. Yes, you can have too much, but you can also have too little.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Tonight, we walked down the street a block and a half to a little cafe that serves crepes. We have seen the large lady in the window who makes crépes on the flat round griddles as we pass by, nd have been wanting to try them. So tonight we tried them.
What a nice surprise! We had crepes with yummy fillings (the crepes were a little overcooked, but I will forgive them since they came from the kitchen and not from the lady in the window), and glasses of champagne.
One of the waiters sang songs in French accompanied by guitar. He came to our table later, and said ( I don't know how we understood each other since we speak about he same level of Spanish) that he is from France and has been here three months. (He was totally adorable.)
A little later one of the other waiters started playing his accordion, and accompanied by the cute waiter with the guitar, led the restaurant in a sing-a-long. A couple of the tables were filled with French people, who sang enthusiastically.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Who knew there was such a little gem only one and a half blocks down the street? We'll have to go back, and linger a little longer.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
We saw Stanley Clarke, Al DiMeola and Jean Luc-Ponty in concert the other night.
We saw the ad in the subte (subway), looked up the address of the theater in a newspaper, took a cab there, bought two tickets in the second row, and bada-bing, bada-boom. Culture. (The tickets weren't a bad price, either, considering what they would be in the U.S.)
It was a great show. The porteños loved it. Funny thing, though. They aren't very animated during the concert. Only a couple of guitar geeks were bouncing around to the music in the front row (and me a little bit). Everyone else just sits still and listens. But you can tell they love it when they applaud.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
You can't read the text, because my Mac took it as a mirror image. But it says, "Cristo: Primer Revolucinario" (Christ- the first Revolutionary).
I guess a majority of the people don't see him as a savior.
So the other day, Rob is out walking around Buenos Aires in the 32º Heat (89º Fahrenheit), and it is very humid outside. He goes into Shoeless Joe's, the ex-pat bar, has a couple of drinks. He gets up suddenly, becomes light-headed, tries to make his way to the men's room, and faints. That's right-- faints.
He wasn't drunk. The employees rushed over and helped him. He popped up, had some food, and made his way home.
He says it is the most embarassing thing that has ever happened to him. So of course, I have to blog about it.
Poor thing. He's so fragile. Delicate, really. I'll have to keep an eye on him.
I have a problem with the coffee down here. Not only does it taste different (which I will get to momentarily), but it doesn't seem to have the same caffeine content as in the U.S. Several days after my jet-lag should have worn off, I still felt groggy in the mornings. That is, until I found.... ta-da! Cafiaspirna!
It was a revelation. It's aspirin! It's caffeine! It's Cafiaspirina! Two pills have about the same amount of caffeine as one cup of coffee, so I can ween myself off my Starbucks addiction gradually.
Now as to the taste: well, it just tastes different. I'm not a complete coffee geek, so I'm not sure, but I suspect they brew their coffee at a high temperature which gives it a different flavor. That, and the beans are from a different area than I am used to. Whatever the reason, I can only manage to suck down café con leche, which is a mixture of about half coffee and half milk when I go to a café.
As for the ground coffee for sale in the grocery store: it has sugar added! That's right. Sugar. It tastes awful. I managed to find a brand with no sugar added that is decent, so that is what we use at home at the moment.
We have been told that Bonafide is a coffee shop with gourmet coffee, but of course, as with anything imported it actually costs more than what we would pay in the U.S., so it will have to be many degrees better to be worth it.
Well, they say Starbucks is coming soon to Buenos Aires. I'm sure the locals won't like it, but I suspect there may be a line of ex-pats outside the door opening day. I don't think people will be running around with paper cups of coffee everywhere, though. People don't have coffee to go here. You drink and eat sitting down. The only exception I've seen is a few people sipping soda from a bottle with a straw in the heat. So Starbucks will have to adapt to the café culture here. Let's just hope they keep the same flavor as back home. I can adapt to a lot of things, but my morning cup of coffee is a bit sacred.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Lots of kissing going on in Buenos Aires. Everyone kisses hello: a single kiss on the right cheek. Men kiss hello as well, which is a little awkward for some yankees. If you meet a friend on the street, you kiss them hello and everyone with them, whether you know them or not.
Lots of public "necking" as well. It's not uncommon to see a couple sitting on a park bench kissing away, blissfully unaware of what's going on around them.
In fact, I would say there is a lot more physical affection here in general. People will routinely touch you when they talk to you, either on the shoulder or arm. Couples hold hands while walking down the street, even septuagenarians. Many couples choose to sit next to each other at a restaurant instead of across from each other, so they can cuddle.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Venezuelans scramble for food amid oil opulence
Sunday, November 11, 2007; 11:14 PM
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan construction worker Gustavo Arteaga has no trouble finding jobs in this OPEC nation's booming economy, but on a recent Monday morning he skipped work as part of a more complicated search -- for milk.
The 37-year-old father-of-two has for months scrambled to find basic products like cooking oil, beef and milk, despite leftist President Hugo Chavez's social program that promises to provide low-cost groceries to the majority poor.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
This is my Britannica Great Books collection packed up and ready to be put in our baggage. Since it is so difficult to ship things to Argentina, we are only taking what will fit in our suitcases. And my books are going, dammit!
Letting go is difficult. I am letting go of everything else: the cats, the dog (who now have happy homes), the dishes, most of my clothes, the cars, the furniture..... the only thing I can't bear to leave behind is my book collection.
Oh. And my husband, I suppose. :)
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
"I used to think a reference librarian was like a docent to guide one through a neatly structured inventory, nonchalantly pointing out perfectly relevant documents. I now think of a reference librarian as a professional guide on an information safari, navigating through a wild, ever-changing landscape, able to hunt down and target elusive sources."The whole paper is published here.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Sunday, April 29, 2007
I subscribe to Encyclopedia Britannica's online service for $10 a month. This gives me access to the full articles online, some of which have been written by influential figures in many genres. Case in point: the article on money (25 pages in the paid full edition, but you get a one-page summary for free) was co-written by Milton Friedman, and is well worth reading.
Of course, Wikipedia's article on money contains the basic facts about money, and is full of links for further inquiry (Milton Friedman among them.) But the Britannica article is a wonderful primer on the history of currency and the modern monetary system, with a cohesiveness missing in the Wikipedia version. Sometimes an article written from one or two points of view is extremely valuable, especially considering who the author is. Britannica has many articles written by prominent figures.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
I have been experimenting with them as alternatives to potatoes. The tastes are definitely stronger, but the consistency is satisfying. Turnips are sweet, and parsnips have a gingery taste . Parsnips are about half the calories and half the carbohydrates of potatoes, and turnips are about one-sixth!
I have cubed and roasted both of them, which was easy and yummy. Tonight I boiled and mashed the parsnips with a little butter and salt. They tasted good, but they are not as easy to mash as potatoes, because of their stringier texture. I didn't peel them- perhaps that would help. They have a higher water count, so there is no need to add liquid.
Kenpo says, "I forbid you to ever make mashed potatoes again!"
Nutrition Data for Turnips
Nutrition Data for Parsnips
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Friday, April 20, 2007
When I first started trying to lose weight, my goal was 135lbs. Now I am 5lbs. beneath that, and my body fat is still around 30%! (give or take a few %, since the scale is not perfectly accurate.) It just goes to show how much muscle mass I have lost in 15 years.
I'm not really using weight as my primary goal now, I'm using body fat instead. I'd like to be around 20%. I don't know what weight I will be, since I am putting on muscle mass at the same time.
High-Intensity Resistance Training Improves Glycemic Control in ...High-Intensity Resistance Training Improves Glycemic Control in Older Patients With Type 2 Diabetes. David W. Dunstan, PHD1, Robin M. Daly, PHD2, ...
And this one is about High Intensity Training
(not necessarily resistance) on football referees:
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Crabtree, Andy. (2003). Work Studies and Design. In Designing Collaborative Systems: A Practical Guide to Ethnography (pp.87-125). London: Springer
Crabtree advocates using a pattern language (based on Christopher Alexander's work) as a lingua franca between ethnographers and designers. However, his adapted pattern language does not include a solution.
"I first learned that the federal government controls milk prices when I owned a convenience store. I aggressively protested the rise of retail milk prices two years ago that sent my customers to big discount stores for relief. Ignorantly accusing our milk distributor of price gouging, I was astonished to learn from our supplier that raw milk prices are controlled by the federal government, and that program ultimately leads to the retail price of milk. "
The rest of the story here.
And a FAQ from the California Department of Agriculture.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
I hadn't worked out in five days- I had a wicked case of DOMS in my arms from doing shoulder presses. I couldn't lift my arms comfortably or sleep through the night until yesterday. But the pain is gone, so no damage done.
I checked my measurements yesterday compared to November, and I have lost two inches in my waist, two inches off my hips, and an inch around my thighs. I had to buy some new pants. My body fat is a little under 30% (27-29%?) , so I still have a substantial amount of fat to lose.
I'm trying to get back to three times per week.
Friday, April 06, 2007
Next time I consider breakfast at Denny's, I'll have to remember this. Considering I need less than 2,000 calories per day to maintain my weight, these breakfasts are ridiculous. Even the omelettes are more than a prudent breakfast should be. And I won't even mention the protein/carb/ fat ratio.
MethodologyResearch Question: What features contribute to a wiki's growth?
The proposed methodology for this project will be a quantitative analysis that compares the growth rate of different wikis with differnt features.
Growth rate might be measured using the following: (These metrics are taken from Jakob Voss: Measuring Wikipedia)
1. Database size (combined size of all articles including redirects in bytes)
2. Total number of words (excluding redirects and special markup)
3. Total number of internal links (excluding redirects and stubs)
4. Number of articles (at least contain one internal link)
5. Number of active Users (contributed 5 times or more in a given month)
6. Number of very active Users (contributed 100 times or more in a given month)
Possible Hypotheses to Test
Exclusive Content: wikis that provide a place for content that is not easily available from other places will grow faster than wikis that replicate easily available content.
How to measure: Measure the difference in growth rate between:
- A set of wikis whose common feature is that they offer a unique place for content, with
- A set of wikis whose common feature is that they replicate already available content.
Competitive magnets: Contests will result in contribution flurry. But do they lead to an increase in overall contributions?
How to measure:
- Compare the contribution rate of a single page before a contest solicitation, and after the end of the contest.
- Compare the overall growth rate of the wiki before and after the contest
Seeding: wikis that are seeded with content grow faster than wikis that expect users to create content from scratch.
How to measure: compare the growth rate between:
- A set of wikis whose common feature is that they were pre-seeded with content.
- A set of wikis whose common feature is that they were started from scratch.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Here's a blog entry that describes a situation in a private school in Washington in which the Lego town class was building was accidentally destroyed one weekend. The teachers thought it was a good opportunity to teach the kids a lesson in economics:
"The teachers devised a game involving Lego blocks. In the first round, the fundamental rule of the game, an explanation what was required to win, was kept from the children until after they had each chosen a set of blocks. Then it was announced that colors have point value, and the child who happened to have chosen all his blocks of the highest-value color was declared winner. In subsequent rounds new rules were added by previous winners. After several rounds there was general disgust with the game. What was the point? The teachers explain it to us as they had to explain it to the children, who in their still unenlightened state
were unable or unwilling to see that the rules of the game — which mirrored the rules of our capitalist meritocracy — were a setup for winning and losing."
Those damn capitalist LEGOs! I guess we should all be given an equal number of blocks, regardless of whether we have earned it.
They should have let kids who perform better in the class (in behavior and academic achievement) have more blocks to add to the city.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
- Erotic content was a factor in the initial popularity of both media.
- The rental model was a new economic model that allowed both books and videos to be available to a wider audience because it was more affordable than owning.
- Both industries experienced backlash from producers (booksellers and movie studios) that thought the rental market would hurt the overall market, but it turns out to have helped provide more demand in both cases.
Circulating Libraries and Video Rental Stores by Richard Roehl and Hal R. Varian
First Monday, volume 6, number 5 (May 2001),
Art De Vany has made the first chapter of his new book, Evolutionary Fitness, available on his website. His theory is that our genes have not evolved much since the stone age, and we are living a lifestyle not conducive to our genotypes. He advocates intense, short workouts that vary (sounds like crossfit) as opposed to either pure endurance or pure anaerobic (power lifting) workouts. Interesting read. His blog is interesting stuff, too.
I did my first pull-up at Crossfit on Monday. (Actually, I did four in a row. These are "kipping pull-ups, not "dead-hang.") It's sort of a milestone, especially for women. I was as giddy as when I got my first point shoes!
Sunday, March 18, 2007
More books to put on my reading list.... books which feature murders in libraries. Here is an example:
Allen Kurzweil, The Grand Complication. New York: Hyperion, 2001. Bibliophile Henry James Jesson III hires New York Public Library reference librarian Alexander Short to identify the missing object in an 18th-century cabinet of curiosities. Involved in the intrigue is George Speaight, the curator of the erotica-oriented Center for Material Culture, whose nickname is the “Librarian of Sexual Congress.”
Saturday, March 17, 2007
By Tim Harford
Posted Saturday, March 17, 2007, at 12:09 AM ET"
An interesting article. Harford posits that owning a home prevents one from changing jobs easily by saddling people to a particular city. Perhaps this is true. But what is it that prevents people from selling and moving besides their own reluctance and emotional ties?
"So, professor Oswald is right to argue that we should do everything possible to free up impediments to renting or to selling a house and buying a new one."
What impediments? Perhaps he is talking about governments "no growth" policies that drive the prices of homes above what most people can afford, or the fact that selling a house requires so much time and effort compared to moving out of an apartment? I wish he were more specific about this.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
I. Stigmergy: This is a model from the insect world that is increasingly being applied to human collaboration. Stigmergy is a method of communication in complex systems, where the individual parts of the system (agents) communicate with one another indirectly, by modifying their local environment. The result is often a complex artifact, with emergent properties; that is, the artifact has properties that have "emerged" without being centrally planned, and yet have a system of organization. Examples in nature are ant and termite nests: ants and termites communicate by reacting to pheremone trails and build complex artifacts without having a central "architect." This model begs comparison with human collaborative efforts, such as Wikipedia.
A. Motivation: What motivates agents to modify their local environment? The work done by one individual must provide a stimulus for another individual to add to it. Insects have their motivation "cooked in" to them by their genes. What about humans?
1. One theory is that humans are motivated to contribute by competition. Possibilities include competition for social status, as posited by Eric S. Raymond, who talks about open-source hackers motivated by a "gift culture."
a. Some could argue that humans have competition "cooked in" to their genes as well, which is why stigmergy can be so effective.
II. Why this is important: This theory can be a guide to help those who want to build collaborative networks. Many collaborative projects (like wikis) fail to take off.
A. This theory of "collaboration via self-interest" is contrary to some beliefs that cooperation requires altruistic motives. There is a paradox here; selfish behavior results in collaborative products.
A. Analysis of successful and unsuccessful projects- I could look at different collaborative projects and compare the stimuli for contribution with the outcomes.
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Friday, January 19, 2007
Monday, January 08, 2007
The latest version of a stigmergic structure online-- that is, a "pile" that grows when people add to it by simply reacting to the "pile" itself, and not other people, like ants or termites-- is to be found on Amazon.
Amazon sells gallons of milk (yep, that's right, good ol' gallons of cold milk), and people thought it humorous enough to start writing rave reviews of the product. Reviews have now grown into a "pile" of humor that will keep you laughing for hours. There are even epic poems dedicated to the creamy, white nectar of the gods.
Be sure to check out the user photographs as well.