Saturday, May 31, 2008

If you're having girl problems...

Everytime I see this, I crack up.

(From the always awesome rap graphs)

Note for the older folks who might read this: this refers to Jay-Z's song "99 Problems." If you don't know the song, you probably won't find this funny. Just try to focus on the fact that somebody made Excel graphs about famous rap songs.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Ethics question

Awhile back, I did some freelance public relations work. I operated under an NDA ("non-disclosure agreement"...oddly, at that point in my life, I had three separate NDA projects where the NDA terms were ambiguous), so I'm going to make this as nebulous as possible.

My client made a certain luxury retail product. It is essentially the most expensive luxury product in the world of its kind. It's somewhat of a niche market, though potentially could be a significantly more mainstream market in the future. My client essentially took someone else's product, marked it up by 2000% and then did some fancy marketing. My client was exposed for this. They decided on a strategy of a carefully-worded non-denial denial. They didn't explicitly deny the allegation (and to be fair, I'm not 100% sure that the allegation was true, though I assume so)

I was hired for some of the operations. They had mostly already decided on their strategy. I found their strategy to be somewhat distasteful, but I admired their moxie. Their entire business model was to markup the price on something that could easily become readily available! My skills were valuable, but definitely replaceable in this instance (that is, if I hadn't taken the gig, they would've found someone else who performed just as well). I was well compensated on an hourly basis, though it had negligible impact on my income for that year (eg, less than 5%).

Of course, this isn't really an ethics question. I'm ok with my decision, but in talking with other people I've found that others hold different opinions, ranging from "no way would I take that gig" to "why would you ever even consider not doing it?*" In that sense, it has seemed to me that it is something of a Rorschach test. In this situation, you see whatever ethics you want to see.

* My sticking point was that I had to be ok with my message, and I decided that our PR strategy was carefully enough parsed.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

I should have been reading for the CFA

Yesterday I went to the zoo. And actually remembered to bring the camera along.

I took the D line down to the A line, to the stop where we were meeting. I had heard that the A line of the subway has crazy cars. And in fact, I felt like I was in a movie.

Pretty cool, those wooden benches with the old school lighting. The doors you actually had to manually open and close for each stop. Meaning that occasionally someone wouldn't close the door and it would be open. Clearly Argentina doesn't have the number of trial lawyers that we have in the US. Somehow their society has survived anyway.

We met close to the Argentina Congress. They've got a bunch of plazas and parks. And because Argentines love their dogs, there was this random enclosure where people apparently leave their dogs? Weird.

Here's a picture of Congress.

Here's another picture of Congress. Neither are that great. I couldn't be bothered to get closer. ?Deal with it.

Flamingos at the first exhibit when you walked into the park.

Nice beak.

Manew? This was the last picture I took at a regular exhibit (we were at like the 5th exhibit). I'm not much of a picture taker. Requires too much discipline.

This is what happens when you feed fish from the bridge. Mass carnage. That swan amused me.


This was at the kid's area. Yes, as always, I am wearing the same Kappa warmup that dates back to my junior year of high school. I would be lost without it.

I am flying. Should've taken a movie while I flapped those wings.

The story of the zoo is actually pretty interesting. It started around 15 years ago as an ice cream store out in the suburbs called Munchi's, with some livestock hanging around. Apparently it became popular, in part for the helado and in part for livestock. Eventually, with some 3rd party capital invested in it, Munchi's became a full-on zoo as well as a chain of ice cream stores.

Afterwards, I went to dinner with 5 Dutch girls.

Things I never thought I'd do

Straighten things up in advance of my maid coming. It takes all of 2 minutes, but still...I would've never understood why one does this. Until I did it, of course.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Since OJ had isotoners

I think I've found a place to live, starting June 30/July 1. Conveniently, that's exactly when I must move out of my current place. I have a thing for wasting money on rent.*

First the negative. It's in Belgrano, not Palermo Viejo or Recoleta. Of course, Belgrano is supposedly actually the richest barrio**. So, while it's a slight negative, it's actually only about 5 blocks from my current place, and is actually right next to the supermarket I walk to. It'll mean that I take the subway to spanish lessons everyday -- a move I've resisted only because I like feeling more proletariat by walking. But I think I can afford the 67 cents for the subway round trip. I'm going to have to tolerate walking a few more blocks to my favorite restaurant though.

It's an awesome place. It's in a good location in Belgrano, close to Cabildo Ave, but not too close for noise purposes (my current departamento is too close to the train tracks for my tastes). It's a swanky, new building. Unlike my current building, the portero (doorman) actually does his job once in awhile. Yo esto quiero. And the apartment is on the top floor. Meaning that it has some good views. Oh yeah, and there's this sweet, sweet rooftop terrace with an asado parrilla (barbecue grill, argentina-style). If you come to visit, we will eat red meat and drink red wine, as if we are Argentinos.

It's also quite cheap. Like living in Houston at Castle Court cheap. Given that it is a short-term lease in a furnished apartment in a great building with a terrace in a great part of town, I think I can tolerate it. Yeah...I think so.

It's also going to be a Spanish-only environment with my roommate. Which I really need, because my progress right now is pretty limited because I am taking 4 hours of classes a day, generally putting in 2-3 hours outside of class, and not improving nearly enough. It's not true immersion when you read in English and think in English all day.

Pictures when I get around to going to my place and taking pictures. Which means, not soon. I'm studying for the CFA, remember? Gosh!

* Phrases like "a thing for" make me nervous that I will never, ever be fluent in Spanish. That's not even a phrase you'd expect someone over 35 to use, but is fairly normal among my generation. As Skye told me, you can get to 90% fluency with effort, but the last 10% requires at more effort than the first 90%.

** Don't think this counts Puerto Madero. But I'd never want to live there anyway.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Wah. No vacation for me. Don't cry for me, America.

Remember this post? Yeah.

I hate winter. Despise winter. I moved back to my homeland of Texas when I could, because it didn't have much of a winter (among other reasons, ldo*). So I moved to Buenos Aires. Alas! This means that I get winter twice this year. So I wanted to leave for a significant amount of time. Winter makes me sad, and I don't like being sad.

Here's one of the biggest drawbacks to Buenos Aires: horrible socialist government. True, but, specifically, I mean: aviation. It's expensive to fly into here and out of here. Flying to South African is like $2k+ USD. That's tough to justify. I'm way more likely to fly to Holland and visit the land that gave birth to me.

Well, sigh, I guess I'm just going to tough it out in heaven on earth. Well, fine! I'm planning a trip to Florianopolis (the best beach in Brazil) in the spring though. This is supposed to be an amazing beach. Argentine guys tell me that this place is full of beautiful Brazilian women. Are these Argentinos simply innured to what is around them or is Florianopolis that great? I am confused.

Also, one factor that I confess weighed into my considerations not to take a vacation: liquid assets. I just moved $xxx,000.00 into less liquid trades. Sigh. Even when you're quite confident that the future rewards is worth the current risk, it's still sometimes annoying to lose the liquidity. But measured against my utility curve....

*ldo = laughing, duh obviously. best expression ever.

Childhood memories

I've never thought my sister was that funny before the last few years. But recently, she can crack me up like no one else when she and I start talking about our childhood. She probably doesn't know this, and she'll probably read this, but oh well.

Not terribly sure why I took a picture of this. Not sure why I'm putting the picture up either.

This hotel development on my street, a few blocks from me. There's also going to be condos. It's going to be very modern and swanky, I imagine. Within two or three blocks, there are lots of construction projects in progress that are going to be nice.

My spanish teacher [she calls herself a professor, which is weird to me. Cultural difference? She's my age, not exactly wizened and gray. I know what you're thinking...and yes, she is cute.] says that she doesn't like Palermo Viejo anymore, because she remembers it when she was a girl. From what I read, this used to be a working class neighborhood. Now, I think it's something akin to Montrose in Houston -- the hip, artsy, young part of town that is gentrifying like crazy. Unlike Montrose, its restaurants are awesome.

If I was more optimistic about Argentina's economic prospects, I'd buy a swanky condo and start a business here. Alas, the wife of the ex-president just became president, no one likes her, and she totally hearts Hugo Chavez. Enough said? I think so.

What I ate today

Actually, I think I ate this 3 days ago, but whatever. Torta con jamon y queso. I am not sure the picture conveys the size of this slice of love.

Got this at the local confiteria. $5 pesos, or about $1.60. Yeah...I could live here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What I ate for my birthday dinner

For dinner, I chose to go to Aire Creacocina, my favorite restaurant here so far.


Don't know why I took a picture of this. Still, yum. My dining companion snuck my glass of wine into the picture. I'm not sure why.


Croquettes de Jamon. They don't look as good as they tasted.

Not pictured is the free appetizer that the owner brought me. I've made friends with her -- I think she knows I'm going to be a good customer -- and I got the free app never even telling her that it was my birthday.

Mmm. It would be cliche to say that my beef tenderloin was so tender that it melted in my mouth like chocolate...but I'm not very original.

I skipped dessert because we had to go somewhere. Another excellent meal. It felt pretty weird taking pictures in a nice restaurant. Look at me, I'm a tourist!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Move to 3rd world country, start drinking tap water*, repeat

I've never drank unfiltered tap water until now. It's just not worth the hassle of carrying the jugs of water home from the store. And the water is fine. Still, it amuses me that this is the first time I've done it is in a less prosperous country.

* I don't consider Argentina to be a 3rd world country, for the record.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I think I'm going to take a new identity

I don't really like the way Spanish speakers pronounce my name. Evan starts being "Aben" and me molesta un poquito.

So I tentatively decided to assume a new name here. My spanish teachers think this is hilarious and we spent a few minutes discussing this after class.

Adopting a new name may be more complicated than I thought. It's got to be something that sounds like it could've been my real name in the US, eg Antonio ain't gonna fly. It also has to be something that I can pronounce (my teachers love Rodrigo, but I don't think I can pull off the Rs effectively). My teachers think it has to be "fuerzo" and masculine, so they nixed Lionel. It's also got to be something that I like. Bonus points are given if it is the name of a soccer player, especially an Argentino.

I'd probably go with Eduardo, but the diminitive of that is "Edu" and I'm not so sure how I feel about that. Others on the current short list: Maxmilliano (Max) and Daniel.

On the other hand, I'm pretty partial to Evan. I just don't like the way my name is pronounced. I don't even recognize it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

It's official, I have become "that guy"

This is a picture of my cellphone here. It cost me $60, which is quite a bit for the cheapest model. I probably paid a little too much, but that's part of the tourist/non-Spanish speaker tax. But -- and this is key -- the charge on the battery lasts over a week and the phone is small. Hotness.

It's not a blackberry. And I end up texting on it way too fricking much. If you're reading this, you probably know that I blocked text messages on my phone in the US. The last thing I wanted to do with my valuable time is be punching things in at a snails pace using horrible grammar...especially when it costs me extra.

I have Claro (just renamed from CTI) but every other ex-pat I know has MoviStar. I honestly don't really know what anything costs here, but my understanding is that calling someone is like 90 centavos a minute (or about a quarter a minute). Sending a text is maybe 10 centavos (3 cents). Receiving calls or texts is always free. When you run out of credit, you run out and buy another card to stick more credit in. Now that I've done this, I can tell you that it's actually not that difficult, but it chafed the first time I had to do it.

So yeah, I now end up standing on street corners punching away furiously on my phone for a minute or two. It's really annoying, especially for the guy who hates texting. The only way I solve the cognitive dissonance that allows me to function long enough to finish my text is to tell myself that I am experiencing the culture. And that if I called my Argentine friends, I would become the rich American guy* who liked to call instead of text.

That said, I refuse to ask a girl out by text. I must have some principles, and that's where I draw the line.

*At least I have a cheap phone to ameliorate the fact that I call more than your average Argentino. I think expensive phones are status symbols here (not that they aren't in the US too, but relatively more so in Argentina), so most everyone has a more expensive phone than me.
Yup, my neighborhood is gentrifying:

That's about 7 or 8 blocks from me, I'd say. I don't actually see many Mercedes cars on the road here though. Sorry for the picture quality.
I took this picture yesterday because this is the room I spend 4 hours a day in.

And then I moved to a different room today. Figures.

What I ate for breakfast yesterday morning

That's my cafe con leche on the right, 1 of my 3 medialunas on the left (I'd already eaten the others before I remembered to photograph), and the little glass of agua con gas (Perrier) that they seem to bring with so many things.

Medialunas (half moons) probably look quite a bit like normal croissants. They are, only they are sweet. They're great, and ubiquitous. Although it's a little weird having a ham and cheese croissant where the bread is sweet and sticky.

I went to the cafeteria (coffee shop, but it's different here) to study espanol for a few hours. You can see the top of my spanish book at the bottom of the picture.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

What I Ate Today

My Sunday lunch and dinner:

I stopped in at a nearby panaderia (bakery) for lunch. The girl who helped me kept laughing at how much I was getting. I actually was going to get more, but she was was quite a bit of food. Even after lunch and dinner, I haven't quite finished it all.

Two empanadas (I ate one on the way home, so it didn't make it into this picture), a pizzeta, raviolis*, bread, chocalate cannoli. $7 US.

The panaderias produce the most divine smells here. I just wrote and then deleted a rather ridiculous metaphor about how good the smell is. It's good.

* I'm pretty sure that's what she said. Interestingly, they added that big chunk of beef after I ordered it. Mmm, carne.
I went for a walk after church today. It was a beautiful, blue-skied sunny day and I wanted to enjoy my neighborhood and find something to eat.

Palermo Viejo is gentrifying right now, with towers of lofts going up and buildings being redone like it was Midtown or the Heights. This is a representative picture -- I know it's not a great one -- of a couple of towers of departamentos. There's actually a third tower just to the left of this picture also. Each tower is probably 30 floors high.
This is looking towards la calle Avenida Juan B Justo, which is the divider between Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood.
Someone convince me I shouldn't buy an apartment there...please?

Assertions Argentines have made to me

Since I've been here, various Argentinos have claimed to me that their country has the best: steaks, wine, women, pizza, and ice cream.

Steaks -- the cuts are different, but I have yet to have a bad steak. I am not a steak connoisseur, but my guess is that this is true. The bife is phenomenal.

Wine -- I agree that they have the best Malbecs, but they don't have enough variety to have the best wines. I'd personally go with the US because of the diversity, although I tend to love wines from New Zealand and Australia. I think French wines are overrated, but perhaps I am not entirely objective. So put this one down as true, but only one-dimensionally.

Women -- I'll go with true on this one. The girls here are very attractive. As one of their sayings go (or at least as I understood it), the angels must be falling from heaven today.

Pizza -- I haven't had that many pizzas here, but to me this is just not true. Give me pizza on the east coast any time. It's a little too greasy and cheesy for me here, plus they tend to cook whole olives on the surface of the pizza (see pictures previously) which gives an olive taste around that spot.

Ice Cream -- In Argentina's eternal quest to be Italy (kidding), their helado is pretty fantastic. I'm not qualified to say whether it's better than gelato, but Argentine tiramisu helado would probably be my current pick for dessert at my last meal.

Amusement park

My life isn't terribly exciting right now. With the impending CFA exam on June 15th, most of my time is spent in Spanish class, doing my homework and trying to learn the language, and studying for the CFA.

Yeah, I moved to this awesome, fun city and I hunker down to start studying immediately. Great planning!

That said, today I went to El Parque de la Costa with some Argentine friends and a German girl. I confess though that my thought when getting on the first roller coaster was, "if I die on this ride, how are my parents going to find out?" I have no idea what safety inspections are like there. It was only $10 to enter after all (and you get to go back once in the next 3 months for free!), so I don't know what their margins are like. On the other hand, labor for inspections can't be that expensive...hmm.

The German girl apparently hasn't had an easy time meeting people here, so she and I are supposed to hang out sometime this week. Grr -- cutting into my study time, although it will probably get me out of Palermo and into MicroCentro (downtown) or Puerto Madero (the super nice, rich, touristy place) which is good.

It was weird how we spoke mostly English during the trip, even though I was the only native English speaker. The advantages of American hegemony, I guess. Quite a few of the younger Argentines can understand some English because they listen to rock music or watch Hollywood films -- in Argentina most films are subtitled, not dubbed -- even if they've never learned English. That makes them the opposite of me, who can speak a little bit, but can't understand a bloody word.

It was also my first time outside Capital Federal (the city limits of Buenos Aires) and into Gran Buenos Aires (the suburbs) since I've been here. It was nice up there in el Tigre.

Oh, one more thing. We went to McDonalds in el Tigre. The burgers were different, and there weren't that many options. I got the Big Tasty and the McNifica. For Argentina, it was pretty expensive -$8 US total. The meat was so much better though than in the States, it was definitely a worthwhile experience.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Pictures from when I actually remember to take them

This was my pizza a week or so ago from the pizza shop around the corner (literally about 40 yards of walking distance from my door). I ordered a ham pizza. Little did I know that this meant the entire pizza was covered in ham. It was weird at first, but I dug it. I wasn't too into the olives. Note the faina, which I had to pay extra for.

I went out just now in search of a late night snack and didn't really find anything open. But I did find an ice cream shop called Cumelen. No idea what that means. It was very cute; I would've taken some pictures, but I don't normally carry my camera on me. The little button on the left is a little wooden chip with a magnet on the back. They handpainted their name and phone number on the chip. Very cute-- I'm a sucker for things like this. Next to it is their list of flavors. They explained to me that they deliver "muy rapidamente." Sweet. They could probably tell they'd found a sucker repeat customer.

My takeout ice cream. This probably doesn't capture the size. Also, I intend to do a longer post on the ice cream here eventually, but this is Tiramisu and Frutilla de la Crema (Strawberries and Cream). In Buenos Aires, you get multiple flavors. Learn it, love it, be unable to ever live without it again. Also OMG TIRAMISU!!!!!!!1!!!11!!111

There are the keys to my apartment. On the left is the apartment key, and the right is the key to the building. Keys look a little different here. The locks are completely different too. You stick these in sideways, instead of vertical like in the US. And...oh, i'll just take a picture of the lock to my apartment. Un momento.

I'm forever asking myself the question: are BAires locks more likely to be safe than American locks? The patriot in me would like to assume that Americans are likely to have the best. Plus, most of these locks don't look new. But the extranjero in me thinks that although personal safety seems high in this country, property safety might not be as high, so perhaps they have better locks as a result of this incentive. Anyone who knows the answer will have my respect.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Best sentence I've read today

No link:
I recently quit blogging, though maybe I'll pick that up again if I start running good.

I laughed for a good 30 seconds at this. So true.

Bring it.

The CFA is in 5 weeks today. It's horrible, but I haven't really started studying. I'm halfway through the 3rd of 6 books, and it's...a facile reading.

Without spending lots of time explaining, I'm not sure how to delineate how far behind I am. The best I can do is to give you my best statistical estimation -- and yes, I think it's quite accurate. If you took your average CFA candidate (anyone who has even heard of the CFA is definitely significantly above average IQ) and put them in my situation, there's about a 2-4% chance of passing Level 1.

Game on. I love pressure. If I don't pass Level 1 June 15th, I am staying in Buenos Aires for another year and not applying to business school. Hold me to this. If I donkey up the CFA, it's not my time yet.

Trained monkeys can pass the bar exam (no offense to the law students). So let's see how I do on the CFA (which has a lower passage rate than any bar exam).


I've been thinking I should take a vacation. My life is so terribly stressful, I need it.

Ok, if you're reading this, you probably know me well enough to know that that's ridiculous. But I've got a ton of Starwood points* and Continental miles saved up that I think it is about time to burn. Ostensibly, this savings was intended for my honeymoon, on the off chance I got married. However, as the real chances of me getting married in the next 4 years are under 10% (and probably more like 1 or 2%), obviously holding my SPG points risks very significant devaluation over that time frame.

So where should I go? Most everyone reading this is probably more cosmopolitan than I am, so do tell. Keep in mind that I live in fricking Buenos Aires, so it has to be competitive to here.

My early favorites are South Africa (weak currency), India (still relatively cheap, I think, and an interest of mine for the last 6 years or so. If they can ever stop being socialists, they'll be the world's next hegemon), Bora Bora Nui (I don't even know where this is but it's supposed to be one of Starwood's star (ahem!) resort properties), and New Zealand/Australia (ldo). For the record, I'm planning on taking a trip to the beaches in Brazil during the spring-ish time, and if I have cojones (and convince a friend to go with me) then I may spend a week in Rio or Sao Paolo.

Areas I'm not interested in going: Europe (bad timing, but I'd go from the UK to Greek isles to the Ukraine), Asia (although I am intersted in some of the central Asia -stans), places with strong currencies vis a vis the dollar.

* If you pay for stuff with your debit/credit card and don't have the Starwood American Express, then there's something wrong with you. Seriously. Let me put it this way: the girlfriend of a friend of mine here is a relatively senior manager with American Express in Buenos Aires, and she was impressed when I pulled out my Starwood AmEx. "That's what every person I work with has, because everyone knows it is the best credit card out there." Yes, it is. She was correct, but I didn't realize that everyone in the industry knew it too.

For reference, I have immediately cut up the Corporate AmEx cards provided to me by former employers. Even after they pay the Membership Rewards fee for me ($85ish or so?) it's still -EV (expected value) to switch to Membership Rewards. Anyone who doesn't have a Starwood AmEx is leaving significant money on the table. If you're interested, I'll refer you to the best sign-up offer out there.

I'm in a trade

I'm long on Valero right now. I was close to shorting crude, but instead I decided to go long on Valero. Valero is a refiner and marketer that suffers initially when crude goes up, because the crack spread (the difference in price between crude and gas) narrows and thus hurts the margins of refiners. Thus usually when crude bounces back to the moving average, it should help profits.

Unless the market is pricing in some non-public information, this should be a good trade. It's trading at 6 PE, 11 PE for next year, and is trading at approximately breakup value. I got a good price yesterday afternoon. We'll see if it hits my target in a sufficient time frame.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

This is what I think about in the shower*

Thought experiment: consider the game of chicken, played at a non-lethal (or at least very close to it) but heavily significant pain incurrence if both players "win"/"lose." I'm thinking along the lines of 8 year olds riding their bikes at each other** (as I used to do this on the occasion...Mom/Dad, don't worry my injuries were never from chicken).

So here's my question: does someone's success at playing this game of chicken correlate with their IQ? If so, does this factor correlate with someone's political views? Religious views? How would this correlation change if the game were played with a significant chance of fatality? ***

Also, for bonus points -- and unfounded assertions are otherwise sufficient -- what is your model for determining the answer to this question?

In a sense, although I do believe there is probably a right answer -- probably different for each society, however -- I think the interesting thing is not whether your answer is correct (I doubt the correlation is so high as to be massively significant), but what your answer says about you.

* Seriously. This is pretty typical of my shower ruminations. And there's research that suggests a small positive correlation with thinking better and showering. As I recall, it was posited that warm tempatures increased the blood flow.

** For what it's worth, I recall being pretty good at chicken, and I played it with a very bright friend.

*** I almost said that family folklore indicates that I am distantly related to Aaron Burr, who fatally shot Alexander Hamilton in a duel. But after reflection, I'm pretty sure that it's actually Aaron Burr's second who I'm related to. Which is much less interesting. And probably as famous as anyone in my family has ever been.

Worst MVP pick ever

Kobe Bryant is the single worst MVP pick ever. He's an above-average shooting guard. He may be the toughest guard to defend, he quite clearly was not the most productive player this year or anywhere close to it.

I'm not really a KG fan, but I'd have voted for him. If not, Chris Paul and Lebron James are also excellent, reasonable options. Kobe Bryant as MVP is just the product of idiot sportswriters.

upcoming posts

Prolificacy has left me, apparently. Rather than actually post something, I think I'll just publish the list of posts I've got in my to-write pile. Bueno.

* los perros
* adventures in being dumb
* picking a spanish teacher
* sudestada trip report
* encuentro un iglesia
* for a minute there, i lost myself
* eine kleine _lift_ musik
* media reviews
* what i ate today, partes muchos
* The best and worse decision I made in my life was to go to Rice.
* When am I joking? A guide
* The intellectual zone of comfort of epistemological arrogance.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Upcoming media reviews

If you've ever spent much time with me, you probably know that I love to offer my opinions. Especially about politics and media. I sometimes think I missed my calling to review music. (True story: my music reviews won a statewide journalism award in high school. I can actually kinda demi semi halfway pseudo-write when I spent time on it. Sometimes. Obviously this doesn't apply to the blog.)

So here's my upcoming media reviews. Movies: Atonement, Bank Job. Music: Chris Walla, Death Cab for Cutie.

They'll probably be quite pithy, as I get quite intense if I try to write serious, in-depth reviews.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Allison Stokke? No.*

I start Spanish classes Monday at noon. I'm pretty pumped about the deal I found. I'm paying a ridiculously low rate, I'm going to pay by check, it's closeby in Soho. Because I want a group class, they're going to give me private lessons until they find other people to take the class with me. Therefore, I get the best of both private lessons and group class, while paying a very low rate for the group class.

I feel a little bad not hiring the girl my age. She works for herself (I have a strong bias towards entrepreneurs) but she's 3 times as expensive. There are some positives to choosing her, but ultimately it doesn't make as much sense. Having met with her, I have a decent idea as to her quality, so if things don't go as planned I'll switch to her. However, as I said previously, I may use her assistance in opening a bank account. And I think that after a month or so in class, I may switch to her. Despite the cost difference, it wasn't as easy a decision as it probably sounds.

At dinner, I was explaining to a friend the pros and cons of both choices. He looked at me and said, "So she wasn't that cute, huh?"


* This is a cultural reference. Seriously.

What I Ate Today: Pizza de Argentina

First in a series. And this is actually what I ate yesterday for dinner (and lunch today).

Napolitan pizza from Kentucky on Santa Fe in Palermo:

There's a pizza place about 7 blocks down Santa Fe that's been around since 1942 called Kentucky. Kentucky? Yeah, that's what I thought. Not a state known for its pizza. The decor seems to be horse-racing related, so perhaps this explains it?

There are many, many pizzerias here. Given the number of Italians who've come here over the years, this is not surprising.

First thing to note about pizza here is that it is a sloppy, cheese-happy, sauce everywhere affair. You will need a napkin. Or four. There's un poquito of grease involved. Olives seem to be quite normal, which is not a plus for me. I'm not sure if the picture does it justice, but it is quite filling. I wasn't expecting that, but it is definitely filling. It's pretty deep dish. New York-style or Margherita's (still my favorite pizza in the world. Good things do come out of Newark, DE) this is not.

If you've looked at the picture, you're probably thinking: what the heck are those things on the left and bottom quadrants of the pizza? That's faina. What is faina? Excellent question. I tried to ask this myself, but I didn't have much luck understanding the answer. My spanish ain't that great yet. Duh.

Faina is a thin slice of chickpea bread that you put on top of one of the pieces. It then forms something of a sandwich. It's actually pretty good (plus it helps in containing the "joy" that is pizza de Argentina), and I could definitely see myself getting used to it, and wanting faina with all my pizza down here.

It's also traditional here to wash your pizza down with moscato, a sweet white dessert wine. I didn't do that. I'm going to do that when I go to Guerrin, which is probably the most famous pizza shop here. Trip report when it happens, of course.

I knew it hard to happen eventually

Last night I had a bottle of wine that I wasn't terribly fond of. It was a Syrah, the 2006 Los Haroldos. That's what I get for trying to branch out into something that isn't a Malbec. I found it bland, uninspiring, and a bit on the tart and acidic side.

I decided to try out another Syrah tonight. Normally, I'm quite the fan of Shiraz/Syrah, so why not? This Syrah is the 2007 Trapiche. A bit more fruit, a note of pepper. Something else I can't quite get my finger on -- I guess I'm not enough of a wine snob.* It's definitely better than last night's. But then, I'm still not a huge fan. This leads me to think that perhaps I'm not a huge fan of Argentina's Syrahs. Which is quite sad, because in the States I tend to look at the Pinot Noirs first, and then the Shiraz/Syrahs -- in truth, I generally choose the Australian or New Zealand Shirazes, as I prefer them to the Syrahs. [Edit: After writing this entire post, I have to say that this bottle is steadily improving. I'm particularly getting more complexity towards the finish, which is rather odd for Syrahs.]

Quite odd that I like Syrahs but apparently not so much Argentinean Syrahs because I was never a big fan of Malbecs until I had Argentine Malbecs. Hmm.

In other news, some ex-pat friends and I were discussing the best values in Argentina right now. We all agreed that it was the wines. Followed of course by the beef.

* In truth, the vast majority of my life's wine drinking was done with Kelli. Of course, since we were together for 2 years, that was a fair amount of wine. But not terribly recent.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Socialism is bad for you

Today's Wall Street Journal has an article about three countries "where the dollar rules": South Africa, Argentina, and Indonesia. And then the whole article was about South Africa until near the end was this bit:
In Argentina, before an economic crisis hit at the end of 2001, the peso was trading one-to-one with the dollar. Today, a dollar buys more than three pesos. In a land known for superb beef, a steak at a nice restaurant costs about $12, and it is less than $10 at more-modest places. A subway ride is 25 cents and a 20-minute taxi ride is about $5. Like South Africa, many small, stylish hotels are available in the $100-to-$150 range.
And that paragraph was followed by 3 paragraphs about Indonesia.

In other words, strange article. But yes, things are cheap here for Americans. That's what happens when your two main political parties are both leftists: your economy sucks.

A Day in the Life

Just did some grocery shopping at the supermercado on my block. Total cost of my groceries, including 5 bottles of wine: about $23 USD. Bueno.

Getting a bit of work done now, and then I'm going to head out to eat at a fancy Thai place called Sudestada with some ex-pat friends. It's pretty good; not quite what you could expect out on Bellaire Blvd in Houston, but spicy food is not exactly common in Buenos Aires. Friends claim this is the only spicy place in the city of good air. Personally, I'm just hoping we get the same waitress as last time.

Tomorrow is the Superclasico. Boca Juniors v River Plate, one of the biggest rivalries in the world. I'm trying to decide if I want to go find a bar in a poorer neighborhood to watch the game or if I'll minimize my variance on this one, as the severity of negative variance could be quite costly. More than just your average derby (non-soccer fans: a derby is when two hometown rivals play each other), this is one of those world famous clashes. The two biggest clubs in the country, plus the match has class overtones: Boca fashions itself as the club of the working man, while River is known as having a more tony fan base.

The game is at home for Boca, at la Bombonera. I'll let Wikipedia describe it:
Three sides of the Bombonera are made up of traditional sloping stadium stands, but the fourth side had to be built vertically, with several seating areas stacked one on top of the other, to stay within the stadium's property. La Bombonera is renowned for vibrating when fans start to jump in rhythm; in particular, the unique vertical side will sway slightly, leading to the phrase "La Bombonera no tiembla. Late" ("the Bombonera does not tremble. It beats.").

Friday, May 2, 2008

Cerca mi apartamento

Translated: "near my apartment," but you probably picked that up if you were thinking about it.

This is the view from the front door of mi edificio (building) looking left towards Avenida Santa Fe. That's the very end of Avenida Santa Fe at the left-ish of the picture, which is also the very end of Palermo (I think). On the other side of the subway station is the Belgrano barrio. Couple things to note here: the trash cans are ubiquitous, yet not ubiquitously utilized. That's a definite negative about this place: the main streets (Avenidas) have a bit of trash on them. Also, the cars are much smaller than in the US, especially Houston, where we have a much higher percentage of truck and SUV ownership. Here, a Ford Focus is normal, or possibly slightly on the big side.

This is the entry to my building. You can see the flash and reflection of me taking the picture. That's the elevator on the left, and the end of the hallway is the stairs. Here, you call someone by pressing the button for their apartment. Then they come down and unlock the door. Note that this means that to let someone out of your apartment, you always walk down with them (usually you ride the elevator; I take the stairs) to unlock the door. Then you do the abrazos y abesos (hug and kiss).

This is my call box. I'm not sure why I took a picture of this. You can see this callbox on the picture above.

This is Avenida Santa Fe. I am standing near the Subte entrance, so I'm basically at the very end of the Santa Fe. That's a taxi on the left, and in the center of the road, is the street. You can't really see the street because it goes down below street level, underneath the train tracks, and then on the other side it becomes Avenida Cabildo (which is the beginning of Belgrano).

This is the Carranza stop, which is about 100 yards from where I live. If you look at the previous post, you can see this sign from my balcony. One thing to note: the train tracks are not the Subte. The subway is actually down the stairs in front of you, and then down way more stairs. I'm not entirely sure what these train tracks are. I think it may be a commuter rail of some sort. Also, I think sometimes commercial freight trains run on it, because at night (10pm or so) there is a really freaking loud train that comes by and is very annoying.

Having the subway so close is very convenient. I'll probably post on el Subte (subterranean) another time, but the subway is good for getting into downtown, to Recoleta, an to La Bombanera (the stadium where Boca Juniors play. Literal translation: the chocolate box. Seriously, I can't make this stuff up). Also, the subway is like $0.27 USD per ride. Bueno. However, as nice as it is being close to the subway, the train noise...well, it doesn't annoy me now, as I sleep just fine, but it might annoy me in a few months.

On the other hand, I'm only here til June 30th. As great as this place is, I can find more for less, I bet. Plus, it'll be exciting to move around a little bit with the Recoleta/Barrio Norte/Palermo/Belgrano neighborhoods. Although I'm pretty firmly convinced that Palermo Hollywood is where it is at, so I may not stray too far.

Mi apartamento

My bed. Not made terribly well, my maid hasn't been here for a few days.

Some things never change. This is where I spend all my time. When I move into a new place in early July (or buy a place), I will make sure this a little more comfortable.

More of the apartment. It looks kinda dark in here, not sure why.

You remember that post where I said that the neighbors were having a party outside my window? Well this patio is literally outside my window (but a story down). The party got to be a little annoying as the libations kicked in, as they kept ramping up the music volume. The party was still going when I came back to my apartment at midnight. No idea how long it lasted, as I left the apartment again.

This is looking the other way from my little patio. You can see the Subte sign (Carranza) on the left and a cute little park on the right. Yes, I live very close to the train. It kinda sucks.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

"Let's see if this here thing works"

I meant to buy a digital camera before I left, but kept putting it off, in the hopes that I could get my old 2004 model working.

It looks like I did. Here's Buddy, relaxing on the couch in Matt's apartment, on an early April day. I miss her.
Tomorrow I'll try and take some pictures of my apartment and such. Which is good -- I had read this blog the other day and thought "tl;dr. boring." Maybe pictures will make it more interesting.