Friday, February 29, 2008

Frying

I left my comp on yesterday morning, since I only had a couple hours of interviews to do and then I´d be back home. Of course, my first interview forgot that he had an interview and we had to reschedule to 3:30. But, my second interview (or rather, the new first one) was solid, and, feeling inspired, I walked all the way to the Mariscal for bad ceviche and then to FLACSO to work (read: sleep at my desk) before I went back for interview #2. And, just like Ecuador, it was sunny all morning and then when I was done with my interview, thunder and lightning.

When I got home, my comp had mysteriously turned itself off. I pressed the power button a few times, and it didn´t start up. When I finally got lucky, I couldn´t, for some reason, connect to the internet. I tried a whole bunch of stuff on the modem (including a made-up shamanic chant), but no dice. It seemed like the modem wasn´t picking up the computer, not the ´net. And when I looked at the back of my comp, the light that usually indicates that the LAN connection was working was off.

Lucikly I had a USB cable for the modem. Unluckily, I needed a driver. So I turned my comp off, went to the internet cafe, and dled the drivers. When I got back, my comp would not start up -- the lights would light up on the keyboard, the LCD screen clearly received a jolt of electricity since it changed shades, but the fans didn´t go and the Windows boot screen never came to the party. No matter how I tried to press the button -- holding it down, sneaking up from behind, etc. -- it still didn´t catch.

So, to drown my sorrows, I played three hours of SimCity DS, but resolved to get the damn thing fixed. So, today I lugged it through the streets of Quito to the "dividing line" if you will, of the city, 10 de Agosto. Not having been to this side (corner) of town, it was markedly different from the center-center: shabbier buildings, more trash, sidewalk food, and no one wearing suits. It reminded me a bit of what some of Manila was like -- like "modernity" arrived in the 70s and never left, even when it found out it was passé.

I decided to walk to FLACSO from there, and as soon as I crossed Colon, I was back in suit-town. I wanted an ice cream and when I stepped into Crepes and Waffles, I finally (an unfortunate finally) noted that the people from 10 de Agosto would probably not be anywhere near Crepes and Waffles on weekdays.

And so my reflection is this: while it´s been easy to collect raw data here in Ecuador, I think me being Filipino helped me to more quickly see these distinctions in class while I was there. Sucks to know that with 6 weeks to go, I finally noticed a class barrier.

Anyway, I won´t have my comp at home for awhile. If things go right, by Monday I´ll be back to my old procrastinating self. But otherwise, I´ll be hanging tough.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ankle Nothwithstanding

Back in 6th grade, I was convinced that if I showed up just a few minutes late to class that I'd never make it to college. Since we had three minutes between periods, I developed a technique where I'd slide sideways through the hallways to avoid people. It looked as dumb as it sounded, believe me.

Well one day, I guess I must have gotten it in my head that I was going to be really late for shop class, which was at the bottom of this long ramp that ran the distance of the school. So, I started running like the devil himself was chasing me, and, as a sinner, I was running really, really fast. But somewhere between where I was and where I was going, I turned my ankle -- for the first time in my life. I made it to class, but I was winded, in shock, and seeing all sorts of pretty colors. Oh, and I was in pain. That too.

Anyway, since there I've sprained both ankles probably around 2,341,980,004 times, give or take 2,341,979,973 or so. As a result, my body has tended to heal pretty quickly, like I've got an immunity to sprained ankles (they should harvest my tendons when I die for the vaccine... the Villegas Ankle Vaccine...). So this week's sprained-ankle beginning didn't really hamper me much as I thought it would -- by Monday, I was walking with no problem (sparingly), and Tuesday I spent in the Centro Historico doing some research at the Centro Cultural Metropolitano.

What did hamper me this week, though, was a very middle-class problem: I had no clothes. Or rather, since it'd been raining, I hadn't been able to wash and then hang my clothes outside to dry. I definitely resigned myself to wearing some things three or four times this week, but what I did wash and hang unfortunately started to smell like sweat, so much of my clothing was just not "up to sniff," so to speak. I ended up wearing shirts and ties towards the last half of the week, and then on Friday, my suit. I looked like, in the words of a cabbie, "the son of Bill Clinton." And, a man-hating Fulbrighter made fun of me for a shirt-and-tie-and-down-vest combination, which elicited nearly the opposite reaction from an Ecuadorian-dating American. Goes to show, I don't look good enough to stop women from hating men.

Speaking of man-hating Fulbrighters, most of the women left for parts unknown for a bit, and "the party" in the RPG sense changed a bit: and a new dude from U of Arizona showed up, a dude from Yale came back from Brazil. We were all "insulation" the other night for one of the Fulbrighters who kinda only sorta wanted to go out on a date with this Ecuadorian dude. Despite the fact that persistence is for bitches, he still invited her to milk cows with him on Sunday -- a wholesome activity.

And apparently, I'm some sort of living legend with these folks now for having simply been Filipino at the right place and the right time -- I am now associated with a half-naked Asian dude used to advertise tea here. Please note that I have not taken off my shirt for these State Department spies and no amount of cachaca, wine, or whatever it was they gave me last night will induce me to do so.

Also note that Filipinos are still among the most dateable Asians, according to Fulbrighters and Friends Polling Services. I can imagine what the Fulbrighters in the Philippines are up to right now...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ankletacular

So I sprained my ankle today walking down the hill back home. I had a few hundred meters of downhill cobblestone car slalom before I got home, and it was actually much more excruciating that I had expected it to be. I made it through lunch before I found out that all the ice in the fridge was only partially frozen, but I put what I could into a plastic bag and headed to my room to do some field triage.As you can see, I should buy an ace bandage to take with me to Venezuela. That contraption you see is a belt, tied around a pair of paisley boxers and a sock. Amazingly enough, it held the plastic bag of half-frozen ice in place pretty well. Currently, I'm elevating it as you see here while I surf the internet for mercy (and maybe tenderness. Not porn).

In other news, the Fulbrighters invited me to a movie tonight and to Papayacta -- a hot spring-y place -- tomorrow. Well the ankle sprain's making it hard to do either atm. That plus it just started raining again. I'm probably going to want to put myself on crutches for at least a couple days, and while my magical powers with clothes can conjure up a pseudo-Ace bandage, I really doubt I'll be able to make a pair of crutches out of what I've got here.

As usual, this ankle sprain interrupts a pretty decent stretch of exercising. Since I graduated and stopped running track, my exercise life typically goes about three or so weeks until I get sick, get hurt, or have a paper due. In either of those cases, I basically stop doing anything and I'm back to where I was when I started. Clearly if I intend to become so sexy no woman can deny me, I have to watch where I'm walking.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Haircutation


A few years ago, I decided that I'd damn hair gel to hair hell (by the way, "gel" is pronounced "hell" here) and see what happens when my hair grows out. The whole deal turned out all right: I had bangs for the first time since I was 2 -- my mom pointed that out. But really, every child of the 80s wanted to some day be able to have long flowing locks of golden black hair like this guy. It was my chance to live the dream, minus the lion robots. And when you get older, it's so you can nail princesses -- they clearly go for that shit.

Since I wasn't gelling my hair, I decided it'd be best to let it go fallow for 6 or 7 weeks before cutting it each time. If you know me, you probably already know that the results after each 6-7 week period are different but the same -- unkempt and perhaps (perhaps) passably "stylish" but harder to manage, which defeats the purpose of not using gel. But, I'm under the impression each time that someone will be able to give me rockin' non-mullety Keith hair so I can nail princesses, well, six weeks later of course.

Part of the fun of fieldwork is looking for places to get your hair cut after you've decided that it's time to stop pretending you look like Keith from Voltron. Here, upon the suggestion of my cousin-in-law, I went to a peluqueria in Mall El Jardin. As you can see in the picture above, the results are o.k., and I have hopes that (1) once I'm done unsexily eating that peanut butter and banana half-sandwich and (2) after 6 weeks, I'll be all Keith-ed out again.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mentos, Destiny... More Mentos?

I traveled to Radio La Luna yesterday to see if I could get recordings of the 2005 protests. Radio La Luna was a sounding board and coordinator for the protesters, with people calling in to give their eyewitness accounts of what was going on in the streets.

First, of course, I had to find out where they broadcast from. With nothing on the website, I looked up the address in the phone book. But unlike most addresses here, it was only listed with one street -- Av. America, which is a big street -- with no cross street. But, after an online search, I found out it was across the street from Colegio San Gabriel. Ok, so far so good, but Colegio San Gabriel's website again only mentions one street. So more searches finally got me the cross-street and I was able to locate it on my tourist map of Quito.

Of course, I decided to walk there. And of course, my two-dimensional map of Quito (I blame the map) blinded me to the fact that there's a bit of an uphill walk from the Ecovia line to Av. America. And of course, I walk the wrong direction down the street. All the while, I'm munching on a 60 cent roll of strawberry Mentos (I remember one stretch in high school when, for some reason, all I was eating was mint Mentos and water. Strangely enough, I have a fond recollection of that week).

Anyway, it turns out that Colegio San Gabriel is fucking huge and you can even see it from my window at FLACSO (I wish I could find a good picture of it to show you how much of an idiot I am). I did finally locate Radio La Luna and asked if I could get copies of the tapes of their broadcasts and calls from the protests. Without much stress, they transferred all the mp3s they had of those broadcasts as well as protests songs to my thumb drive, and, with some "mercy bartering" ("I don't have $10"), I got a copy of a DVD on the forajidos as well. And it continues to be true that doing fieldwork here is a billion times easier than in the Philippines.

On the way back down "the valley," I finished my roll of Mentos. I still have the wrapper sitting on my desk, and let me tell you, I want more fucking Mentos. I want all cakes to magically turn into Mentos cakes -- cakes whose spiritual essence (flour, eggs, sugar) consists of Mentos -- and then I will finally love cakes so much that I'll eat cake every day for every meal and use it for toothpaste and toilet paper (well, not toilet paper). This week's Gospel was about Jesus being tempted by the Devil in the desert, but I bet if the Devil said "turn these rocks into Mentos," Jesus would probably have had a difficult time finding the corresponding line in scripture to rebut Satan, for it is not written that "Man does not live on Mentos alone," which while suggesting it Man probably couldn't live on Mentos, not all ravens are black, no? Right, Popper?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sisyphus Runs for President, The Lester Bangs of A-Cappella Reviewers?

First of all, let me remind you that this blog is not a politics blog, but a blog about me. With that very middle-class caveat, I want to say that I like Mike Huckabee as a person. I like how, as a point, he does not campaign negatively. I like how he defended his education policy for the children of illegal immigrants in Arkansas as providing for "humane treatment of human beings" (though he flubs his response to Stephanopolous' extension of the point to federal Pell grants). I like that he doesn't God-drop as often as you might expect him to. And as much as he's painted as (or tries to paint himself as) the candidate of conservative Christians, he's not aggressively dogmatic or Manichean in his discourse.

But despite the fact that he's committed himself to staying in the race for the Republican nomination, it seems like Huckabee's either just really relaxed or he knows deep down inside that he's not gonna win, and so, he feels free to treat the entire enterprise ironically. The first time I ever heard the guy talk was at the YouTube debates when he was asked if he'd accept the support of the Log Cabin Republicans. His response: "... my position in this election is that I need the support of everybody and anybody I can get." And to a certain extent, he's like this year's Al Sharpton -- he speaks a little bit of truth-to-power with a little deadpan humor that betrays the fact that presidential he's not, but at least he's sincere. I've never seen him laugh at his own jokes (like our current president), which makes him sometimes seem too-cool-for-school, but all the more reason to like him, as a person.

He's been on the Colbert Report a few times in the past week already (along with the Tyra Banks Show) and he's successfully out-funnied Colbert. Because YouTube and Viacom are doin' it, I have to link to the NY Times pieces on those appearances. The first one (here), he plays air hockey with Colbert with a Texas-shaped puck, remarking that "Texas is too big to fit in the hole" and when asked why the people of Texas will understand his message, he says it's because "I understand barbecue." In this one, he almost laughs, and pretty much pulls a Brian Williams on Colbert ("pulling a Brian Williams" is what I call it when the guest out-funnies the host, as Brian Williams once did on the The Daily Show... I can't find the link, though. Note that this is different from pulling an Arsenio Hall wherein the guest talks too much and forgets that his show was canceled years ago).

Anyway, if it weren't such a serious matter, Huckabee'd a fine prez. But the real test is, can he out-joke Hugo Chavez?

Aaaaaaaaanyway, on to more a-cappella. Turns out that the dude who's writing the book on collegiate a-cappella read my post from a few days ago and wanted to talk to me. Maybe I'll talk to him soon? But what all this a-cappella-ing again has made me do is read RARB, again. Recently, one reviewer has raised the ire of a few folks in the RARB forums for his acerbic reviews, not particularly because they're mean, but because they're less about the technical merits of the albums, but rather their evocative qualities. To be sure, people disagree with their RARB reviews quite a bit, but the criticism of the criticism of Kevin Sawyer has been fun to watch since it seems to reveal how derivative some a-cappella can be, without people realizing it.

In a review of Elon University's Sweet Signatures' album "Coming into Focus," Sawyer notes the cover art "is altogether troubling. It has the same generically hyper-feminine look of a package of tampons", that "[t]he album is never incompetent, though the inclusion of Take Me or Leave Me from RENT puzzles me somewhat. Why cover an unmemorable song from a decade-old musical? The album concludes with SexyBack, which I am not going to dignify with critique," and remarks on the spelling of "Don't Stop Believin'". As a result, Sawyer turned into a mini-lightning rod in the forums. He was at various points called "Captain Sardonic," "an ass," and by deduction "classless." Sawyer offered a defense:
As far as the album, there seem to be three main sources of contention.

1) The cover art - I thought it was cheesy. I didn't mean this to be sexist or crass. Had a co-ed group offered the same cover art, I would have said the same thing.

2) Sexyback - I didn't have much to say about it. It was a competent cover of an awful song. I don't want the Sigs to make better versions of crap, I want them to tackle more interesting music. So I made a joke of it...

3) Spelling - There were numerous errors, the one I cited was particularly egregious. Using schizophrenia outside of a mental-health context is hardly my own invention. However, your cover art and liner notes are part of the overall product.
Which elicited this response from John Fiander from Elon's Twisted Measure:

If you stand by your review, if this is the light in which music will be reviewed, then why do we bother sending stuff in to be reviewed? Groups do this for criticism, sure, but the criticism should be constructive, or at least more-so than what you've brought to the table. For you to say you didn't mean to be crass or sexist seems an out-and-out lie based on your review. If you didn't, then you need to work on your delivery of any sort of humor-based criticism.

Also, I could be wrong, but I don't think the review is supposed to represent your personal taste, but how you think they sang their songs. Sure everyone's got personal tastes, and it's impossible to remove bias and all, but c'mon, you can dislike something and still be able to give it constructive criticism. If the arrangement of Sexyback was bad, if it was poorly executed or not pulled off, then that's a hell of a lot more constructive than "I won't dignify this with a critique." Same goes for the Rent song. How are the Sigs supposed to benefit from hearing that you don't like the song?

Yes, the cover art and the liner notes are part of the product. So visit it briefly, don't harp rudely about it. Tell us how the songs came out. Maybe instead of bashing on songs try, "The sigs did these songs well, but other songs on the CD suggest they have the talent to tackle more interesting music than Sexyback and Take Me or Leave Me," or something if that's what you think.

In a later review of the Cornell Class Notes' album "A Hint of Lime," Sawyer's overall rating of 2 (out of 5) was remarkable insofar as the other reviewers gave the album a 3 and a 4, but his review was focused on whether the album was "good" versus, again, technically proficient. Again, his fascination with album art -- an atypical subject for most reviewers -- leads into his thesis:
"To their credit, the album art is appropriately sophisticated and classy. At best, the music is utilitarian and functional. At worst, it is an absolute bore." Overall, he suggests that the group missed the point of music: emotion. He says in of their rendition of Where You Are:
The soloist ably replicates Broussard's nondescript sound. Congratulations, Anderson Clark. What do I say about this? There's nothing particularly wrong with it, and I didn't like it in the slightest.
He concludes that "Rather than make their own musical statement, with all the nuance implied by the title and classy cover art, they have settled for the vocal equivalent of limeade. Alas, this tonic is drinkable but forgettable."

The initial forum response was befuddlement. But noted producer Tat Tong suggested that "perphaps [it's] a sign of things to come?"

That, now that we've conquered most of the technical challenges of creating an in time, in tune, nice-to-listen-to product that can match up to stuff on radio, that reviewers now approach albums simply on the basis of whether the music moves them, technicalities be damned. Kind of like what Rolling Stone does - all Top 40 albums are well produced and technically sound overall, but some of them still get 1 out of 4 stars...
But what seems clear from forum posters is that they do want an "objective" analysis of their recorded a-cappella, meaning, leaving one's personal opinions out of the review and a focus purely on whether the album was executed proficiently. The lame thing about this is that neither a Lester Bangs-ian review nor a purely technical one will have induced the vast majority of the people who'll buy the album to have bought it. Well, that sentence sucked, so let me restate it: there are more moms and dads and siblings and aunts who will buy a collegiate group's album out of love than people who will buy it for its technical or emotional merits. For the vast majority of collegiate a-cappella is like an arranged marriage a la "Coming to America" -- "I grew to love your father" the Queen tells James Earl Jones -- you'll fall in love with one of those songs on there, but just like Eddie Murphy, you're gonna want to go to Queens to find some song that "has opinions of its own." To the extent that Sawyer's reviews are a step in that direction, the step that most of us take is to STOP listening to collegiate a-cappella and to "real" music -- the source material.

As Chuck Klosterman argues, video games have yet to reach a level of "class" since there's no Lester Bangs of video game criticism. I remember reading a review of Final Fantasy XII in the College Hill Independent that went off on some comp-lit analysis of the storyline and then forgot to tell me whether the game was fun or not. Collegiate a-cappella reviews have been utilitarian in the sense that -- like contemporary video game reviews -- they've talked about the technical merits of an album as a way to suggest that one should buy it. But that's worked for collegiate a-cappella because, well, when it comes down to it, the whole deal is derivative in the first place, so focusing on technical merits is one way to avoid the nagging question of aesthetics that I don't think an entire genre based on doing covers can ever overcome.

But can we expect collegiate a-cappella to rise to the challenge? No way: not as long as its oriented towards jumping on a popular song as soon as it comes out, getting freshmen girls wet, and feeding middle-class desires for fame without the troubles of "the hustle." It's the "college" part of collegiate a-cappella that holds it back.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sick Again, But Not in the Butt

It seems that my shifts between sweating and being incredibly cold, coupled with body aches and a strange headache-dizziness double feature probably means I'm sick. I did some grocery shopping at Quicentro today since the supermarket there sells chocolate soy milk and I hoped that getting out would help. And it did a bit; it distracted me for the most part, but I still felt like poop. Still, I walked all the way back to Guapulo from the mall, which is kinda far. I came home and tried to nap, but I was way too cold. So, I went to a cafe above us for a light dinner and I was sweating bullets. I did eat a whole plate of dried meat and mozarrella, so that was good.

I Love to Stalk... YOU

So if you haven't noticed, there's a new little gadget on the right side of the blog that visually displays the number of visitors to Your Daily Fix by clustering them on a map of the world. Since I put it up last week, I can no longer claim that there are three readers (that's including myself) -- there are at least more than 20 individual IP addresses that checked in.

How do I know that the thing calculates individual IPs? I don't really, but if the Ecuador blip is any indication, it's not counting me going back and forth to the blog (or else that cluster dot would be pimple-sized right now -- real-life pimple-sized). So, we can assume that ten different computers from around Manila have guided their users to me, as well as at least ten different computers from the Tri-State area. And, there's the fun of having someone up near Hudson Bay drop by, Finland (apparently one of the best places to live in the entire world), and as far south as I think Montevideo; it's all kinda neat.

Anyway, thanks for coming by!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Non-Passive Agressive Open Letter, A Schmacapella Book

Dear Checkout People,
Please stop asking me to give you three, four, or five cents so that you can give me back a less-cumbersome amount of change. Clearly you are good at math, but it is not clear that you are advancing customer service. If I am in the express line, I expect speed, not skill -- in the words of Marge Simpson, "like any American, I want it done fast." Give me back $3.84, please; don't ask me for four cents or even thirty-four cents so you can give me $3.50 (which, is three bills, and one coin here).

Love,
Oslec

In other news, twenty years and a couple NPR stories later, someone's finally writing a book on contemporary collegiate a-cappella: Mickey Rapkin, a GQ senior editor. Now, FINALLY the much-anticipated alliance between college a-cappella and men's magazine writing will finally reveal to us the secret of why a-cappella also means drinking Jaegermeister out of huge bowls in some college's arboretum. If I were to write a book on a-cappella, it'd be about how an all-male group from Yale can get the sons of rich San Francisco-ites to "roll 20 deep," get in a van, chase them down, and beat the crap out of them. In fact, the book will be about why no one has been either drunk enough or angry enough to do so since (or before?).

I did follow the "Gleegate" scandal last year too, and, I felt a slight (slight) tinge of sympathy when I found out that my roommate Andrew's brother was an alum of the Yale Baker's Dozen, but the whole affair was simply amazing for how it oozed overkill -- marines were involved (they were apparently part of that 20 deep posse), corrupt city politics, Fox News ('cuz the group was heckled after singing the "Star-Spangled Banner"), high-powered lawyers (for charity!). And, of course, my favorite blog post, that, "lost in the controversy is how the [Baker's Dozen] sounds [!]" -- as if THAT's going to solve the mystery, Scooby!

I hope that Mr. Rapkin's book talks at length about "tradition," elitism, and masculinity as much as it discusses "our quest for fame, and our taste in music" (which, if collegiate a-cappella is our single indication, we seem to like Guster waaaaaaaaay too much). What of singing when it's not done in the hallowed halls of elite colleges (and not-so-elite ones, nowadays)? As there were few colleges fifty years ago, and now thousands, we have a tremendous proliferation of a-cappella from "the masses" so-to-speak that -- for the sake of distinction -- has nearly required a whole network of reviews and competitions; and that's nothing to say of the oft-unspoken competition between groups within schools themselves (or the even more petty shit that happens between members in the same group).

When we think of the American Dream of Music, it's not going from the 'burbs to college, but from "the streets" to signing with a label -- the same general narrative that makes both 50 Cent and Johnny Cash get autobiopics is completely different from the story of collegiate a-cappella singers, unless someone wants to show me a movie about the difficult FAFSA forms and how a-cappella saved them from a life of engaging with frustrating bureaucracies. Notice too that there've always been African-American or African-oriented collegiate a-cappella groups, but the one that gets the NPR story is Penn Masala, an all-male group with Hindi roots -- and it would seem that collegiate a-cappella mirrors the divergent socioeconomic paths of racial groups, too. The point is this: 50 Cent will probably beat up Deke Sharon in a fight, no offense (also, 50 has a posse that probably runs 20 deep -- or more). There's something about class that underlies the whole phenomenon of collegiate a-cappella, and I hope that Mr. Rapkin's book underscores that.

Now don't get me wrong, as a Vox alum, I've done my fair share of RARBing and obsessing over ICCAs and which-group-gets-to-sing-in-what-order at concerts. But I've always felt that Vox was slightly subversive -- yeah, yeah, I know -- with song selection, performances that, indirectly in the words of one Beaux "[aren't] close to the music", and even in not singing well all the time. Harbingers for an a-cappella revolution we were not, but we were different.

I pose this question: If you've DL'ed some all-male group singing yet another "guitarable"-in-your-room-with-a-chick ballad, does that make you more likely to support Obama --whose posse runs deep with the college-educated and the young -- or Hillary -- who fills her van with the less-educated and the older? Errr, and then you have the complication that Obama gets strong support from African-Americans and Hillary from Asians, and then my question becomes a conversation killer. Though, if Obama can unite all musical tastes, then we might have something.

Strummity-strum goes Guster's guitar, dootley-doo is its translation -- panties drop, and we do it all over again.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Otavalo, SLAM JAM THANK YOU MA'AM

So we went to Otavalo yesterday and hit up the world-famous market. After a few bad deals, I did manage to score a pretty good set of pictures made of dried eucalyptus for a very good price. Anyway, we spent most of the day out of Quito, and, more specifically, I spend a good portion of it sleeping in the car after staying awake all night following the Super Tuesday results.

But, who wants to see more pictures? Not I! So, I present you with Tales of Game's(') amazing Charles Barkely: Shut Up and Jam Gaiden.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Quito on a Good Day


DSCN1932
Originally uploaded by TheBosslec.
After a late start, we -- mom, Tita Beck, Tita Nieves, Maybelline, Daniel, Nena, Martin and Sophia -- made our way around Quito to take advantage of the weather. We went to Parque Itchimbia and then to a really swanky restaurant on Volcan Pichincha, I believe. Well, see to believe for yourselves.

At said restaurant, I ate waaaay too much ("Sticky Ribs" indeed) and then unsuccessfully tried to go to the gym later in the day -- it was closed for Carnival (though open on Monday). And then, for dinner I ate about six pieces of fried chicken. Good lord, I have now made up for all the food I didn't eat when I was sick.

Tomorrow, we're going to Otavalo. You were spared yesterday, but now who will protect you, multicolored table runners?

Not Otavalo, VC Online Is Back Online

So we're not going to Otavalo today, but we're going tomorrow. The reason being that Tita Nieves remembered going last year on the Tuesday of Carnival only to wait two hours at a toll booth and then taking forever to get home. Instead, I believe we're going to Parque Itchimbia and the TeleferiQo.

My mom and my titas spent the morning trading ghost stories, after my aunt recounted how she woke up in the middle of the night seeing light traveling through a solid wall and hearing what she thought was someone playing Bejeweled (she's an addict, like my other aunt) in the room next to hers. Turns out, there is a ghost in this house -- a 40-year old man -- who apparently is "protecting something" and manifests himself most often to Martin, Tita Nieves' grandson.

In other news, Vox finally has a web presence after, what, eight years? What I assume will be called "Vox Cameli Online" has a set of placeholder pages up at http://www.voxcameli.com. Maggie and I had maintained the old website at voxcameli.conncoll.edu from about 2000 to 2004, using Microsoft Publisher and some old, old FTP program to upload the pages. I remember being obsessed with the visitor's counter (most of the visitors were "me") and then noticing minor spelling errors that would require me to upload the entire site over and over again, out of OCD. I thought it was sort of neat at the time -- separate pages for each voice part (partly because Publisher wouldn't allow me to make bigger pages), lots of blue, with white text, and my high school friend Jacob's Vox Cameli logo. Oh yes, and the not-terribly-but-somewhat-useful "FAQ" that posed such possibilities as us singing songs that you'd suggest, and where to buy the now-out-of-stock Vox t-shirts.

But now Fred's got some clips from the new Vox album, boom.CRASH now and a list of the stuff that's supposed to show up there in a few months -- news, online CD ordering, video clips, and the "Vox Camelog" -- a Vox blog (a really excellent and undoubtedly genius idea, probably suggested by some amazing erudite). Given all that, I was debating whether or not to list the site in my "Mmm... Sloth" section to your right or the "Mmm... Pride" section. Ultimately, I decided to list it as the first "Mmm... Pride" link, since, well, I'm proud of them (and of me), though I'll probably add like twenty hits a day to the visitor's counter, so it might as well be Sloth as well.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Touristy Things

So, I went with my mom, Tita Beck, and Tita Nieves to La Mitad del Mundo today, so called because it commemorates the discovery of the equator by the Le Condamine expedition. As many people already know, it's not actually *on* the equator, which makes the whole thing kinda eh. But, there's enough to photograph to take up precious bytes on Flickr's servers.

In other news, it looks like we're going to Otavalo tomorrow. Multicolored table runners, here I come!

A Buffet, Un Super Tazon

Well it turned out that mom and my tita arrived on Saturday night, not Sunday night, so I was a little surprised when they knocked on my window at 12:30am. Anyway, we spent Sunday going around Quito, mostly the Centro Historico, where my mom took about a billion pictures on her iPhone.

But for lunch, we ate at the buffet at the Swissotel. Waaaay out of the price range of most people here (consider that a three-course lunch here is, on average, $2) -- $20 plus tax -- it was clearly where people of some means went to eat. The spread was pretty good too, and I filled up my plate with nearly everything. My mom, in contrast, made herself a huge salad, and my aunt -- the foodie -- came back with a tiny plate of shrimps and caviar for her appetizer. Clearly I have to learn how to select my food at high-end hotel buffets.

Anyway, I ended up watching the Super Bowl in La Mariscal with a couple of the Fulbrighters. I think there were a total of five other people at the cafe we were at for the duration of the entire game, and none, I think, stuck around, except for one American dude drinking a beer by himself. As for the game, it was pretty damn boring until the last five minutes, and because we were watching it on Fox Sports Net, it didn't have any good commercials (well, now I know that Chico and Audax are playing in the Copa Santander Liberadores). There was one with a woman with ample breasts hawking a resealable chewing gum package: worth it.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Pan de Leche


I stopped by a Panificadora Ambato today on my way to the Ecovia station and bought a couple of pieces of bread as a snack. The first was an enrollado -- like a croissant roll -- which, let me say, is better-made at Supermaxi. Still, I was hungry enough to eat it at the bus stop, which got me all sorts of funny looks, so I guess people don't eat in bus stops or I made everyone incredibly hungry. You could say I was an accidental ethnomethodologist, which is a convenient excuse for my eccentricity.

The second was a 25 cent piece of pan de leche. Now, I bought the thing because it was called pan de leche, which, in its Filipino varieties, is my favorite bread of all time; it rules all. As you can see above, it hardly looks like the Filipino pan de leche -- also you can see that part of it broke off in transit. Also, you can see a delicious glass of chocolate soy milk, an excellent compliment to any sort of snack.

Anyway, it tastes more like cornbread than the pan de leche I'm used to. It may be because of the lack of air bubbles inside the "crumb" or that it's made from some other sort of flour that doesn't make it fluffy. And, clearly, it doesn't have the semi-glazed top and certainly didn't taste like it had one. Still, you can see your author enjoying said pan de leche rather unsexily.

Would I get it again? Eh, probably not, though there may be some place that makes really great pan de leche that I'll stumble upon in my travels here. Of course, out of curiosity, I'll have to try it again... and again... and again.... hoping the next pan de leche will taste like the pan de leche I know. Talk about brand loyalty.