Thursday, July 31, 2008

I wisely saw the EMT doctor and nipped a minor ear malady in the bud. I got an appointment on an hour's notice and am back at my desk, and on the mend...

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Four hours sleep on the plane, two in my bed, a stuffed ear again (arrgh) and late for a very busy work day. Weekend cannot come soon enough...

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Give Aaron A Few Maps

..and he'll be busy for hours... I collected maps when I was a kid - they used to give them out free at gas stations...

I thoroughly studied this map of greater São Paulo, pinpointing the location of our 25 meetings, to better orient myself in this often confusing megalopolis....

Google Maps Brazil made a delight of finding our appointments, and placing them on the city's topography...

Cartoon du Jour:

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

There Will Be Oil

Flying now home am I, we board in an hour and I should touch down 6am NY time Thursday morning, to help end July. Well, the hotel stupid failed failed to wake me on time so I leaped from my slumber at 5am and scurried, unwashed to minijet that spirited us some 250 miles east, to the middle of nowhere.

I am pleased to report that the oil field was a highly photogenic experience.. I took a hundred photos and half a dozen videos which I will no doubt be dribbling out for weeks to come..

Much different than I expected, it was more green fields than desert plain, though the actual drilling sites and treatment plants were major industrial installations. I had to be weighed to get on the minijet, in both directions. My reaction to this number, and the reactions of my peers to theirs, are not suitable for publication...

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I'm flying home from Colombia tonight, hopefully in decent condition...

Consultorio Andres

I am very proud of my dear friend and first boyfriend, Andres, who, through six years of intense studying, has become a psychologist! The little boy in the fields of Encarnacion, Paraguay has come a long, long, long way indeed... Here's Andres in his home office, or 'consultorio...

The diploma and the door....

Among Andres' favorite famed quotes: 'The heart has its own logic, that logic itself cannot fathom...'

In his spare time, Andres paints on his beautiful terrace... Sometime soon I'll do an entire post on his paintings, which are lovely...

Here's the painting he's working on now:

And here's the aforementioned terrace, in (Argentine) winter mode..

Cartoon du Jour:

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Please Wake Me At 4:45am

You read correctly.
To see an oil production field 250 miles from Bogotá, I must be picked up at 5:30am, to finally return to the hotel around 2pm. And my red-eye flight home Wednesday night doesn't leave until 11pm. At least I got business class... Maybe I can take a nap tomorrow afternoon. Oh dear, it's 8:15pm. Shouldn't I be getting to bed? : - )

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Greetings from Colombia, and interminable meetings.  Feeling much better, happy to report - cold nearly gone, and bump on temple better I think.

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To Know, But Not To Know

I'm in Colombia on business as you read this, for the 4th time. Sadly, that's my record for number of visits to a country without seeing it at all. Intense, two-day business junkets to Bogotá. Though I did see a beer factory on my first visit.

And, I expect to see an oil field on this trip. I wanted to see this so badly, that I made the questionable decision to fly home red-eye and coach, when as of Sunday I am not totally recovered...

For those who love statistics, as I do, it's my 116th foreign trip, my 66th to Latin America (69th if you count Dominican Republic), my 38th trip to South America, and my 75th business trip. It will be my 27th trip with an ABN business card, and probably my last, since we should become RBS pretty soon.. Just waiting for Dutch Central Bank sign-off on the number of ATM machines in Winnetka, Illinois, or something like that. : - )

For some Colombian flavor, here's Manizales, a mid-sized mountain city in Colombia and the main center for coffee production. I'm in Bogotá for this trip, nowhere near Manizales.

But Manizales also the birthplace of my good friend Paula Puerto Wiske, whose son, also a good friend, is John Puerto Wiske, and is working with me these days... I used to tease Paula by calling her home town 'Saltamontes,' which means 'grasshopper.' Hey, I was a kid then...

Elevation is 7,054 feet - at the foot of an active volcano, alas. Population, according to the Wikiexperts, was 414,349 as of 2005...

Cartoon du Jour:

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Monday, July 28, 2008

ooh, did I mis-under-estimate this project (to paraphrase that sage in the Oval Office)... My 5 hours of work became 8, then 9, then 10, it was midnight, several half done projects, a cab tomorrow at 10am to JFK and Colombia, a headcold with congestion that hasn't entirely gone away and could have used more sleep, and to cap these calamities, I banged my face on something, nearly giving myself a black eye and wounding my temple, superficially, I hope... What do I for an encore? : - ) It's 1:25am. Bedtime.... Wish me luck...

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I'm headed to Colombia for a very quick business trip, back in the wee hours of Thursday morning. More about that tomorrow. Today, like any Monday, belongs to music....

But Who's Watching Reykjavik?

Today's Song/Video of the Week is 'Gobbledigook,' a left-field treat from Iceland's second-most-famous music maker (after Björk), the four-man art-rock combo Sigur Rós. (My Mom and I visited that spendid country four years ago, pictures click here)

'Ethereal', 'classical', 'minimalist,' and 'pretty' are four adjectives frequently used to describe the band's style. A three-minute single like 'Gobbledigook' is unusually short for Sigur, who prefer to take seven or eight minutes to fully flesh out a musical idea.

The band's artiness extends to their album covers (example, pictured left) and video clips (featured below). Other quirks: song and album titles in the complex Icelandic language, and, as if that weren't enough, sometimes they sing in a gibberish of their own invention they call 'vonlenska' which they translate as 'Hopelandic.'

Below is some of their album art. 'Who's watching Reykjavik?' is a joke that Sigur Ros is reported to have made when they joined with Björk to give a concert in Northern Iceland to protest building an aluminum plant powered by the island's geothermal steam. Since 35,000 people attended the concert, literally 15% of Iceland's population, the group was wondering if anyone was home minding the store : - )

And now, the high-quality video clip for Gobbledigook, featuring superb cinematography and some nudity.....

Here's another beautiful, cinematic video to a relatively short Sigur Ros song, 'Hoppipolla'..

Finally, a good picture of the band visiting one of Iceland's many volcanoes...

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Food Journey: A Mineira

Two weeks ago I arrived in São Paulo tired and hungry. My friends Milton and Eduardo took me to a 'mineiro' buffet, featuring the cuisine of Brazil's Minas Gerais state, mining center, cradle of independence, and home of hearty cooking..

The basics, clockwise: at the top, delicious black Brazilian beans simmered in salty perfection with a sprinkle of mandioc flour for texture, then, the goodness of white rice... In the middle, okra and chicken breast, at the bottom, a gritty and tasty corn purée. Finally, at the left, 'feijao tropeiro,' or read beans with lean bacon, mandioc, onions, and spices... I didn't need seconds...

Casseroles based on beans are the pride and glory of mineiro cooking. Each of these delights features a different kind - or - combination of meats. I bet mineiros have many words for beans, as eskimos do for snow...

Tasty bits of friend everything, which I went easy on - bananas, potatoes of different types cut or mashed/fried.... Typical Brazilian food has variety but is not 'gourmet,' and generous portions and pleasant textures make up for its workaday flavor combinations. Of course, São Paulo has hundreds of top-flight gourmet and international restaurants that would knock your socks off (and clean out your wallet....

Cartoon du Jour:

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Late for life, as usual. I'm rushing out the door to brunch uptown with Fernando & Sunil. I'll post more later. Below, my Sao Paulo address, the lovely Renaissance Hotel, designed by Brazilian genius Ruy Ohtake...

Cartoon du Jour:

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Link Love

Hey there. TGIF! My slow recovery continues. Before I reach my vacation August 6, I have to take a quick business trip to Colombia next week. Life's not boring. But this weekend will be quiet, lovely, and spontaneous.

Check out Thomas' blog for some great photos (see example, left) of an ecological reserve along the US-Mexican border, and of his grandmother's 90th birthday party....

This border fence goes right through an old border marker, and, as Thomas pointed out, it's built a few inches into the American side so it won't be on Mexican property.... Thomas includes a link to a volleyball game played over the border fence...

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I Work Here Now

At left, I present to you 101 Park Avenue, located on the North-East corner of Park and 40th St. It's a 49-story, 629-foot building built in 1982.

It was built to stand out, facing its corner at a 45-degree angle with a public plaza in front, 'an urban breathing space in an area of town that lacks public open spaces.

It's considered to be one of the most lucrative buildings in NY, and has been fully occupied since the day it opened.

I'm on the 6th floor, with I think a northern view. It's a trading floor seat on a floor with no traders (and not much noise), but it's so modern, upbeat, and well-lit, that it makes my old digs look like the Cubicle Floor Of The Living Dead....

Cartoon du Jour:

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Joy is mine! My Mac repaired, on the spot. My life, back to normal. Joy, Joy, Freude...

Oil, Gas, and Water

I'm rather fond of a Woody Allen movie line where Woody's car inexplicably freezes in a thunderstorm in front of a haunted house.

Woody observes, to his girlfriend and his dismay, that 'the battery's dead and we're out of oil, gas, and water...' Pile on those clichés!

Well, my home computer's broke, my work computer's messed up, my respiratory system is grappling with a cold, and I have... yuck.. mange on my elbows. I've been working like the Dickens trying to publish something about my Brazil trip, and I might have to take a two-day emergency trip next week.

There's going to be no time to have extra pages added to my very full passport... I must optimistically assume that I won't be denied admission to the country either during this work trip or for my forthcoming vacation

On the plus side, I like my new work building, 101 Park Avenue on 40th Street, even though it is quite a bit harder to get to, with no direct train. This morning I took a taxi, with the $10 expense that implies....

Cartoon du Jour:

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I Fell In Love

with this guy, and this song, when I was but a lad of 10...

So Far

Where I've been... Run your cursor over the map....

Cartoon du Jour:

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Good Morning, Baltimore !

I may never live down taking my Dad to John Waters' 'Polyester' for Fathers' Day back in 1981.. Who'd ever dream that his next film, 'Hairspray,' would later become a Broadway show and win 8 Tony Awards! From the recent film of that musical, here's my insufferably perky wake-up song to the world:

My observation: since 1981, pop culture has gotten much nastier, while Waters has inexplicably become sweeter... I still have bad cold, but I don't regret seeing the Argentine version of 'Hairspray' Saturday night with Andres....

Cartoon du Jour:

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Monday, July 21, 2008

I'm back from South America, with a bad cold, but still just a cold. I'll shake it off somehow. I'm working out of my apartment today, but later I will go poke my head in at 101 Park Avenue, my new work location...

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Happy Friendship Day / Feliz Dia Del Amigo (Sunday July 20th)

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Father and Son League

Today's SOTW, as I arrive bleary-eyed from Argentina, is the endearing 'You Can't Fool Me Dennis' by Mystery Jets. There aren't many father and son pairing in the annals of rock, but Blaine Harrison launched Mystery Jets with his Dad, Henry Harrison, firmly on board. Dad now records with the band, but doesn't tour with them for some reason..

That's them at left, on either side of the blond kid.

The Harrisons and their friends make full-bodied but quirky music with one foot in prog-rock and the other in new wave. The family hails from Eel Pie Island, an odd sliver of London stranded in the Thames River than can only be reached by footbridge or boat!

Shades of the Beatles, this group has different releases for the UK and US markets! Mystery Jets caught on here by word of mouth when album one, 'Making Dens,' was thoroughly played out at home and album two, 'Twenty One,' was nearly complete. So their American record company put together 'Zootime,' combining the first album with some EPs and singles, to launch them here. You can't buy their more recent, and very well-reviewed 'Twenty One' album in the US yet, for love or money. But you can see its charming singles on YouTube, which are 'Young Love' and 'Two Doors Down.' Today, we'll focus mostly on the treasure trove that is 'Zootime.'

Clip for 'You Can't Fool Me Dennis':

Clip for 'The Boy Who Ran Away':

Brand new & Unreleased in US: 'Young Love'

Cartoon du Jour:

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Happy Friendship Day / Feliz Dia Del Amigo

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Now I am full-blown sick. Uggh. I get to see my friends here so infrequently.....

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Dark Argentine Sonata

My last day here in South America, I'll be home tomorrow morning, back in summer, in a new office on 101 Park Avenue. As promised, some scruffier spots of Buenos Aires and environs.. Let's begin with the Old Bridge of La Boca, a stone's throw from the pretty colored houses of Caminito - this part of the waterfront is called the 'Riachuelo,' literally 'miserable little river,' and smells the part...
BA 13 - Old Bridge At La Boca

About 4-5 miles down the coast, southward, is the Dock Sud Petrochemical Complex, captured here in all its greyness and gloom..
BA 9 - Petrochemical Pole Dock Sud Avellaneda

Here's a Shanty Town on the Riachuelo. In Argentina, they're called 'Villas Miseria,' literally 'Poverty Cities,' formed by squatters with no other dwelling options...
BA 12 - Via Sobre El Riachuelo

Cartoon du Jour:

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Hey there - arrived in Argentina very late last night and woke up this morning with a &%@*&% sore throat...

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The Uniqueness of Buenos Aires

I arrived here late last night, and it's more wintry than Brazil, a brisk 45F at night.. I've walked every corner of this vast yet intimate city, let me share the views, at their finest.. (tomorrow we'll peek at the city's darker corners). But first, the joy of wooden subway cars!
BA 2 - Subway, Still Running in 2005

The city's most impressive rococo building belongs to the water company, Aguas Argentinas, and was built from 1887-1894 by Scandinavian architects - here's a closeup of its beautiful façade, followed by a full frontal view.. A long-lost relative of Paris' Hotel de Ville (City Hall).
BA 14 - Palacio de Aguas closeup
BA 15 - Palacio de Aguas

Avenida Libertador is a very, very wide boulevard-cum-highway, captured here on a typically sun-drenched day...
BA 7 - Avda Libertador

Cartoon du Jour:

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Happy Birthday, Rich!

a big Happy Birthday to my Cousin Rich, who's off vacationing in Slovenia. Rich is a photographer, photography teacher, rock climber, and all-around great guy!

Around Rio

Just one night and one day in Rio, my umpteenth visit to 'The Marvelous City.' Here's a look at Rio's less-appreciated peripheral wonders... The Charitas Water Station in Niteroi, the adjacent city which plays Oakland to Rio's San Francisco (or Lido to Rio's Venice?)...
Rio 2 - Estação Hidroviária de Charitas - Brasil - by LAMV
Rio 3 - Charitas

I've never been to Petropolis, about 40 miles inland from Rio, up in the cool hills... This was the royal residence when Brazil was an empire, from 1808-1889.. Here's the Imperial Palace..

The Rio-Niteroi bridge is an imposing 8 1/4 miles in length, of which 5 1/2 miles over water. Niteroi was the capital of Rio de Janeiro state, back when Rio de Janeiro was Brazil's capital, which was of course moved to Brasilia the year I was born...

Niteroi's most famous landmark is its futuristic, flying-saucer-like contemporary art museum, built in 1996 by Oscar Niemeyer, the man who designed Brasilia

Cartoon du Jour:

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