Monday, April 28, 2008

A Short Week, Not Much To Do, Too Much To Do

First off, Barry Zito is 0-6. I'm not particularly concerned since we've somehow managed to hover a little below .500, but leave it to to do it up right -- click here and you can calculate how many years it'll take you to make as much money as Barry Zito, as well as how many garlic fries you could order on your salary. So for instance, I could order 2,963 orders of garlic fries, while Barry Zito could order 2,148,148 -- just a little more.

Secondly, it's my last week here in Quito and it turns out that Thursday and Friday are both holidays (May Day and then the day after May Day). That means I've actually only got two more days to get anything done, which means, probably, that I'm not going to get anything done. Today I tried to get a couple books photocopied in blatant disregard for copyright law, but one got checked out in the time it took me to use the slow-ass elevators in FLACSO. I did get a few more that I'll get some chapters copied out of, I just need to hit the copy center up tomorrow.

In addition, I still haven't gotten any specifics from Wuyke about his friends in Caracas. I've got to call him tomorrow too.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Watch Your Butts, Philippines; Caracas Logistics

First, from the "Only in the Philippines" department a story of a medical procedure gone hilariously right, but embarrassingly wrong: `"[Health Secretary] Duque Rues Missed Glory in Rectal Surgery Video." Apparently, during a procedure to remove a perfume bottle from some dudes butt, the surgical staff of a Cebu hospital started to crack up. One screamed "baby out!" once they got the bottle out. I´m all for professionalism, but the crackdown is just as hilariously Filipino as Health Secretary Duque said, “If protocol had been observed, it (surgery) would have been praise-worthy. Instead of highlighting that we have excellent and world-class doctors, we shot ourselves in the foot."

That´s right. The video of removing a perfume bottle from a dude´s ass would have put the Philippines on the medical map. THE ENTIRE WORLD could have been assured that if you use the incorrect means of anal self-pleasure (by the way, always use something flexible and with a base), you could have peace of mind knowing that you did it in the Philippines. But no, we missed the boat for international glory and national pride yet again.

But what did we reaffirm from this episode? That a group of medical professionals found it funny that (and perhaps "and") some dude decided to use a perfume bottle to please himself shows that (1) we´re really all very sexually repressed and/or (2) gay plays funny in the P.I. Also, of course, we confirm that our bureaucrats are glory-seekers who seek said glory by the (non) work of others. The foot we apparently shot had lots of holes in it already. And also, never say "shot ourselves in the foot" again, my people -- along with "cagers", "would you like to avail", and "solons".

I´ve been talking to Coach Wuyke off and on for the past couple weeks about finding a place to stay in Caracas. He´s hooking me up with close friends of his who "will take [me in] as a son... They will introduce you to all my friends. Just think you are going to live with my family." So that´s actually pretty reassuring. I talked to my mom about it today, too, and she definitely concurs that knowing and staying with known quantities is far better than winging it in a city whose crime rate has shot up in recent years.

They live in the eastern Caracas neighborhood of El Marqués, which I´d linkity-link for you, but there´s nothing on the web that´s coherently or extensively written about the place. One American piece called it "upmarket" (mmok...) and a few so-called "middle class" protests have originated from there recently.

Now I still have to find myself an institutional affiliation. Here´s hoping that Wuyke knows his Venezuelan sociologists.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Quito had the equivalent of the Station Nightclub Fire a few days ago. Pyrotechnics at a goth concert set the venue on fire, and with no emergency exits and highly-flammable furniture and decor, many people -- really just kids -- died. Supposedly (and ironically), the event was a battle-of-the-bands where the winners would get coffins. Of course, the venue -- The Factory -- was not up to snuff with the fire department.

My aunt remarked how the factory and the deli are meticulously inspected, with the inspectors telling people to move brooms around for various reasons, etc. How a club could escape that was a surprise to her, but perhaps since it was in "el sur" -- where the boogeymen live for most middle-class Quitenos -- a place where I venture to guess the state's reach isn't as extensive, and maybe enough cash was passed under the table; we won't know for a bit. But perhaps as evidence that things have changed a bit after 2005, a citizen's council is going to investigate and pressure the city to look into the incident.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bake It Off

First order of business, I wonder what my Paraguayan readers think of the recent presidential elections -- Paraguay's got its very own center-left government, the vogue nowadays in Latin America. 61 years of the Colorados -- that's like the 70 or so years of the PRI in Mexico; I had no idea. When I attended IQRM in 2005, David Collier mentioned that studying Paraguay was a career-killer, which for me produced a little resentment and a little relief: my original Masters thesis plan was to study state formation in Chile, Venezuela, and Paraguay, "original" being the key word here as I didn't follow through with it. Despite what David Collier thinks, I still think the idea held some water, and so maybe I'll be interested in Paraguay -- again -- sometime in the future.

But back to another important milestone in Latin America. This weekend, Ecuador was treated to a bunch of Fulbrighters and their friends applying their baking and dancing skills for a... "competition" of sorts: a competition between baked goods, their bakers, and those who love both baked goods and bakers. And for you fans of interpretive (and sketchy) dance, there was some of that too.

Yes, we had a bake-off/dance-off this weekend. The idea of having a dessert competition had been floating around among us for about a couple weeks or so. We were supposed to have one for Juliet (or "J-Braz" as we call her*) as a going-away event for her, but plans fell through -- well, mostly because of too much "fun", as depicted in a previous post. Anyway, with a good week to plan and scheme (and scheme we did), I joined forces with Martin, Lisa, and Greg (later joined by Greg's s.o. Beth) to bake up our entries for the bake-off.

We spend Saturday afternoon working on two desserts while listening to old-school freestyle from the likes of Debbie Deb and Sa-Fire, and took breaks by watching "reruns" of Welcome to Our House, Groove Fighters, and the pilot for Future Book. So our desserts had some dance baked right in. That made up for the lack of alkali absent in sweetened Ecuadorian cocoa (and present in Dutch Process cocoa, fyi), plus it gave the desserts a little "bounce".

After a small hiccup in setting up one of our entries, we presented them in their full glory:

- "Lemon Anything Better Than [An Unnamed Fulbrighter] Ever Made": Two lemon cakes, sandwiching a thin layer of lemon merengue, covered in whipped cream and fresh strawberries and blackberries
- "Coat, Waistcoat, and Breeches": A chocolate cake topped with two layers of mousse and rounded out by a garnish of whipped cream and nutmeg. Note that the concept of the cake was Martha Stewart's, but we used GQ's recipe for the mousse, resulting in "a good thing" (tm) with quite a masculine, but mostly metrosexual intensity.

Our "competition" (if you could call it that) consisted of the following tripe (I say that with love):

- Raspberry Cheesecake (so lame that Sarah had to steal fruit from our desserts to spruce it up)
- Peach Pie (which, causes cancer** -- a little-known fact. Hence its official title "Peach Cancer Pie")
- Lameness (which everyone but us had in copious amounts)
- Mediocrity (which also runneth over the cups of our dear friends)

We all voted for our favorites (the cool kids*** voted in a bloc for Coat, Waistcoat, and Breeches), and it turned out that people like cancer so much that we tied with Peach Cancer Pie. So it was decided that we'd have a dance-off to determine the winner. Jessica and Sarah appealed to the base urges of the 5-men, 1-woman panel with what could best be described as a striptease right out of a Kidz Bop video,**** while we, and our copious combined knowledge of dance (one semester in college), presented the "Obama" of bake-off dance tiebreak dances -- a conceptual piece in which the life-giving qualities of Coat, Waistcoat and Breeches were contrasted with how Peach Cancer Pie reminded us of our own mortality, i.e. the following line said by Greg as he crumpled to the floor:

"I ate a piece of plastic... I'm getting cancer... in my face"

Of course, the judges were clearly more interested in sanitized stripping than "true art", and they awarded Peach Cancer Pie with the victory. But because Sarah and Jessica knew they had stolen the competition from the rightful winners with their soulless suburban burlesque, we got "prizes", among which were a copy of Highlights for Children.

Anyway, let it be known that Coat, Waistcoat, and Breeches rules all desserts. And that freestyle rules all mid-80s to mid-90s music.

* Actually I'm the only one who calls her that.
** Not really.
*** Us.
**** With love.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Fight Goes On, the Fight Kinda Stops

Welcome to having a cold in Quito. Well, actually, my sickness a combination of two somewhat unrelated events: (1) sharing drinks with Peruvian Fulbrighters (never again!), and (2) singing without proper breath support. So, I have a cold that I fought off because I was under so much stress the following week and I've lost my voice. Together they equal something I like to call "worse than it sounds, but still bad" disease (in the future to be known as Villegas' Flu, once, of course, I die from it).

Yesterday, I wasn't feeling nearly as bad as I do now. I had that lingering half-cold from a few weeks ago and I was whispering, though as Lisa suggested, I sounded a lot worse than I did over the weekend. But, with some guessing, I figured that I'd probably need to be preemptive with Villegas' Flu, lest I actually die from it. So, before Greg, Martin, and I dropped by Bungalow to play some poker (i.e. lose money) and taste their buffalo wing sauce (not bad), I went by a pharmacy and picked up the three items you see in my beautiful photograph above. If you can't make them out they are (from L to R) a roll of Halls (reserved in this country as a breath mint), Robitussin (sounds better as "Robotussin, indestructable expectorant"), and some menthol-laced tissues.

You may be asking yourself, "why do I keep reading this douche's blog?" It's because I'm now an unofficial shill for those damn menthol tissues and by my psychic powers, you will be so interested in these disposable hankeys you'll want to come to Ecuador, roll some up, and smoke 'em. Blowing your nose in one is like Vicks without the goo, a humidifier without the humidity, and like tissue but like Vicks and a humidifier.

I'm sort of addicted to these things, which makes me wonder if they've got nicotine in them (which makes me wonder what would happen if anyone did actually try to smoke them). Sadly, while I bought a four-pack, they only come 10 mentholated tissues to a pack, which in retrospect makes that the first bad purchase of the night, the second being buying in $10 for poker. I've taken to using toilet paper so I can preserve the ment-holy goodness of these tissues for when I really need a nose-blowing pick-me-up.

In other news...

- I was somehow suckered into presenting a dissertation chapter in two weeks. At least it'll keep me off the streets
- The two dudes charged with assault in the Baker's Dozen case are off the hook, for now, as the judge decided there was insufficient evidence to take the case to trial. The BD's are still going to take these dude to civil court, which if I recall correctly, is for charity.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I Wasn't Gonna, and Then...

I had a few ideas about what I'd blog about today -- Obama's idiot comments about religion and guns (and how William Kristol did an excellent job of reading his Marx, but since he's Kristol, got a "yay-boo" from me a la the Waterfalls), about how I heard Adam Przeworski talk today (booooring), and perhaps how you shouldn't even appear to be sleeping in a cab, lest the cabbie lock the meter at a specific rate.

But God's light shone upon me and a new Gleegate story hit the digital pages of sfgate. Apparently the trial has finally started for two of the dudes, one of whom is being charged with sucker-punching one of the Yallies. According to the comments on the story, public opinion seems to be siding with the Yallies, though I still stand by my comment that I wonder why anyone hasn't beaten up an all-male a-cappella group in such a beautifully overkill way.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

How Much Fun?

First, some good news: I'm getting over my Peruvian cold. Now some bad news: I've replaced it with a lost voice, er, I lost my voice and it's just like having that cold again. I lost my voice because I had too much fun this weekend, measured, of course, by the number of times I ended up sleeping at home (zero), and the volume by which I explained to the partygoers at Bungalow that "the working class gave us Saturday" -- both in English and Spanish.

Because this isn't Paris Hilton's blog (or a blog about Paris Hilton), the details of said weekend shall remain "in the vault", accessible by just asking. But some highlights included a rousing game of Kings wherein I unearthed my Will-Ferrell-Doing-Harry-Carey to stump Greg in Questions; an intense reading of the best passages from the steamy romance novels available at Mister Bagel; and a strange adventure into Level where we saw 15-year olds, a family in the VIP/coatcheck room, and lots of incredibly sketchy dudes that burned holes in Lisa as we tried to find an open and not sweaty place to dance (we ended up leaving).

Basically, Lisa, Greg, Martin, and I spent the entire weekend moving from debauchery, to eating ice cream, and back. Eventually, we reached 2:45am on Sunday morning, and, having started relatively late, we had enough energy to go to an "after club" -- a concept that I didn't think existed: to go to a club AFTER you finished at a club. Actually, now that I think about it, I would have loved to have had tempura udon instead, but 24 hour Japanese food is not something Quito does well (or at all).

We decided to go to Blues, which I'll say now is not a middle-class hangout. I asked a hot dancing girl to come with us to Blues with what I thought was a clevertastic line: "Since I know you're going to be going to church tomorrow..." But, some taller British dudes shut me down and she got distracted, so I left dejected.

Dick Cavett (who's still alive) wrote a great piece on Gen. Petraeus' penchant for using "copspeak" -- or as I like to call it, never having read his Williams.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

More "My Translations": Ecuadorian Political Insults

I have to say, my favorite political insult of all time comes from Chile. It´s unattributed, but I think it came from a Christian Democrat in reference to the Conservative Party when asked if he´d ever switch affiliations. He said, "I intend to become a Conservative on my deathbed."

Unfortunately, unlike Constantine, who converted to Christianity on his deathbed, this dude wanted to switch parties so that "one more of them will die."

Anyway, here´s more "my translations" of some insults I found in an article from El Comercio on political insults:

"I prefer that they call me a liar than stupid, vain, and a thief like the people call [banana magnate and presidential-also ran Alvaro] Noboa"
- León Febres Cordero, ex-President

"The spoiled brat Jaime Nebot [mayor of Guayaquil] only cares about his pink panties"
- Abdalá Bucaram, ex-President

"Armchair socialists, unconscionable Devil´s advocates and sellouts... whores of politics"
- José M. Velasco Ibarra, ex-President

"Madam Deputy Isabel Robalino has the floor. I call her "madam" because of the way she holds the microphone"
- Asad Bucaram, political leader and presidential aspirant before military rule in 1972 (tangental reference here)

"Shut up, you dwarf urinal-tester!"
- Carlos Julio Arosemena, ex Presidente; said to congressional rep Juan Tama Márquez, who was... well... short. Also Tama Márquez wrote one of the two pieces with the words "la clase media" in the title in all of Ecuadorian intellectual history, so it seems. Said piece was, ironically, also very short.

"Former President of the Republic Osvaldo Hurtado is more boring than sucking on a nail"
- Rafael Correa, the current Preisdent of Ecuador. Like his predecessors, he´s always referred to by his former occupation, so "Economista Rafael Correa". Febres Cordero, besides being really rich, was an engineer (I think that´s what you get when you get an MBA here), so he was "Inginiero Leon Febres Cordero". Think of it as like me being Bachelor of Arts, Celso M. Villegas, but not, since I´m Master of Arts, Celso M. Villegas.

Mmmmm insults. However, the article´s political analysis of "insult culture"was lame: it´s because Ecuadorian politicians prefer conflict over compromise, and as such, pretty much suck.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Chileans and Peruvians, Part II: YouTube

Recall that Chileans don't like Peruvians, and vice-versa. Recall that of all Chilean contemporary pop, La Ley is probably up there, if not the best in town (sorry Kudai).

Now, as I'm wasting my time memorizing song lyrics -- something I totally blame my computer for -- I come across this fun little spat in the comments for La Ley's "Fuera de Mi" (my translation. I love saying that, though it usually means the translation's gonna suck):

y4co said:
I'm sorry, but this group is annoying. If I listen to them, it's because "estoy en mancha" (no idea what that means, but it must be like going to a romantic movie to get some later on, or Hell. One of those two). "This group is svck!!!!! [sic]"

pablofigueroaa responds:
y4c0 haha clearly you're Peruvian... Now I understand, always jealous of your superiors... "pobres 4%#%$"#$" (omito los insultos) [sic]"...

Which garnered this response from koller1980:
First of all, I liked La Ley from the beginning and don't think I'm forgiving you, Chilean, what with you supposedly being our superiors. That's why your slimy country wants to take everything that's ours and don't worry when a sonofabitch Chilean like you comes over here, I'll personally send you back to your own country all fucked up, you fucking gay shits [...] That's why you steal all that's Peruvian and soon you're gonna say that Macchu Picchu is [yours], fucking dumbasses.

And you thought that relations between Colombia and Ecuador were bad.

That Sinking Feeling

When I left Quito last week, a gigantic sinkhole opened up in a major intersection of highways here. While it gives me something to talk about to taxistas (so they'll be less inclined to screw with me... or I could talk about this), the way that the city is routing traffic, it's sending a bunch through Guapulo on one-way routes. My thinking is that the taxistas are going to be even less inclined to take me back or take me from here, meaning higher rates. And then all that weird stress (or as my aunts put it when I was 1, "little tension") comes back.

It appear that my productivity may be sliding a little tiny bit with my new computer: I didn't make it out of the house today until 4:30. To my credit, I did write some e-mails, though there's a book I have to track down and I should cross-check my current data with some other stuff. Tomorrow, I promise.

And speaking of promises, after I got yet another grant rejection yesterday, I made a bold statement to my committee and to the graduate school dean, our graduate adviser, and Muriel, the grad assistant: I'm finish my dissertation by March. Period.

Now, I figure since the stakes are so low, my natural tendency to try harder than I need to will impel me to finish this thing by then. In fact, I know for a fact that I'll start stressing out in December over what is really nothing, then defend by Feb or March and watch as it ends up being a whole crapload better than anyone else expected. Of course, I'll be killing myself about how terrible it is, but it probably won't be. Such are the neuroses of my life.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Back in the Q

So I saw this on sfgate today: 'The Simpsons' Yanked from Venezuelan TV. Apparently, Baywatch Hawaii is more family-friendly. One wonders where Venezuela ranks among Latin American countries with people with negative body image (I vote Argentina at the top).

Monday, April 07, 2008

Hola Paraguay

So as I wait here in Atlanta, surrounded by people going to Mexico, people going to Ecuador, and U.S. servicemen whom I assume are going to the base in Manta (funny), I noticed that technically as many individual IPs have looked at Your Daily Fix from Paraguay as in San Francisco. This tells me two things:

(1) People back home better step it the hell up
(2) There's people in Paraguay that I hope are really, really hot

Fred pointed out the possibility that people may be re-routing their IPs through what I assume is Ascuncion. While that's partially disappointing, I guess it still means that there are people finding their way here in any case. I welcome all, except for evil.

Update: apparently the soldiers aren't going to Ecuador. There's a whole crizzapload of them and if there were, I'd probably not get on this plane.
So after flying first-class from Quito to Atlanta and meeting a cute (but taken) flight attendant (I didn't give her my card, though), I managed to finally get my feet in the states after those couple days of nuttiness. There was more finagling with Delta's standby system, but to make a long story short, I flew through LAX where I heard two guys speaking Spanish and one said, "mande?" Ahhh Ecuadorians.

I spent a day at home, much to my brothers' chagrin, partly because it was so short, and partly because my new computer had no games on it. Speaking of which, I spent a good portion of my time on the phone with Dell's customer service, which, I have to say, was much better ten years ago. I had a couple issues with my wireless client and with other QOL shit that I ended up fixing myself with a little googling. I was happy to know, however, that one of my calls -- well, the least helpful of the three I made -- was routed to the Philippines.

After another absurd episode with tickets at the SFO airport, I made it to Chicago and saw some family here. My paternal lolo's sister has lived in Chicago since 1977, in Andersonville, and I have to say, I'm pretty impressed with the Chicago -- well, at least the north side.* Yesterday, my cousins and I walked around Millennium Park and took some pictures of downtown. Afterwards, we did a speedy drive-by of Wrigley Field on the way back to the house. This, of course, was after pigging out of Filipino food then crashing on the couch, waking up, and then pigging out again.

As for the MPSA Conference (or "mipsa"), I have to say, I will never prepare as much for regional conferences ever again. While I appreciated having a discussion in English of what I've been up to, let's just say I'm happy I can Skype again.

Right now, I'm waiting to see if I'll get bumped off here in Chicago. I'm catching the 4:58pm flight back to Quito from Atlanta.

*The first thing I noticed when we drove down Foster Avenue was the sign for "Amazonas Driving School", complete with an Ecuadorian flag-colored shield. Don't tell me I miss Ecuador...

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Usefulness of Business Cards

Well, I´m still here in Ecuador. My flight last night ended up being full of paid customers, so I think the three or four of us flying standby had to figure something else out. A couple of the other gringos there were scheming to take a bus to Bogotá or Lima and try to connect from there. If I recall, a bus trip to Bogotá is about 24 hours long -- and that was before all this soberanía stuff that happened a few weeks ago. In any case, not a really good idea.

As they were off trying to find a Wi-Fi signal in the airport, and I was making my way back out with my luggage and looking for a taxi, two people from the checkout desk chased me down outside in the rain. They told me that I should try again tonight and that barring a group of high schoolers decide to buy their tickets late (as was the case last night), then I should be able to make it on the flight.

I made it back to Guápulo and talked to my mom about the situation. The short of it is that any way I swing it, the situation is suboptimal. If I do make the flight tonight, I´ll be in SF for just a day. If I don´t make the flight, I have to buy a one-way ticket from here to Chicago to make the conference on Sunday, then fix up my Delta ticket to get me back here -- a prospect that I´m not looking forward to, espeically since it took me two days to mess with that shit last week.

I texted Greg while I was the cab back home and it turned out that the Fulbrighters were going out that night. "Fuck it, might as well," I said. So after I talked to mom, I made my way up the hill -- the latest in the evening that I had ever done so, and, of course, in the rain. As I was rounding the last turn to Gonzáles Suárez, a black pickup truck stopped right in front of me. I spend a second staring at it, and then I started to run with all the runs in me past the truck. I hid around the corner and looked back -- the truck was making a three-point turn to head in my direction. So, I turned on the jets once again and hid behind a wall near a garage door. The truck ended up turning and heading off to La Floresta, but shit, you tell me what you would have done?

Anyway, I met the Fulbrighters at their hotel (they were made to stay in a hotel for the duration of the conference, despite or in spite of the fact that many of them live five minutes from the hotel). Jessica and Martin were in the lobby and apparently the plan was to go to Guápulo. Great. Eventually we went up to a room party and Greg handed me a bottle of rum before he jumped out of the elevator early. When Martin and I got to the room, the hotel staff was already knocking on the door. We sort of half-hid around the corner and I tucked the rum bottle in my jacket. Eventually, the staff got the partiers to sort of turn it down and then Martin and I causally walked in.

I´ll fast-forward from that point. We ended up at a very busy club here in La Mariscal where I proceeded to lose my coat check ticket and had to drunkenly speak broken spanish to the coat check dude to get my stuff back. He made me write down my contact info on a piece of paper -- "No, no! Write it so that I can read it! -- and then just to assure him that the info was correct, I gave him my card, of bunch of which I kept in my card holder in my jacket. He was, I guess, relieved?

That whole incident made me half-not-want to stay in the club, so I went outside with the Peruvian Fulbright contingent where I think one of them told me my research topic was worthless. I ended up showing one of them back to her hostel (sort of), and then when I got back, all of them were gone.

To wrap it up, I ended up giving another card to a Peruvian Fulbrighter to give to another Peruvian Fulbrighter because I think I said "she was cute." That was, of course, I admitted to making fun of her research topic, but I figure the karmic retribution was having that other Pervuian Fulbrighter tell me that the middle class didn´t exist, so maybe that´s a good sign? Though, I figure, karma can accumulate.

In any case, I will try to get on tonight´s flight back to SFO. Stay tuned.