Monthly Archives: February 2003

Pirated CDs

Pirated CDs, Anyone?
It’s true, as this Reuters story reports, that pirated CDs are widely available here in Ecuador. The most important line: “But it’s tough to crack down on piracy with police spread thin in the fight against violent crime and little concerned by the losses of the multimillion-dollar music industry in a nation where 60 percent of people are poor.”

Intellectual property rights just don’t mean the same thing in developing countries, where first-world goods (like music CDs and computer software) are too expensive for anyone but the rich to afford.

Unrest in La Paz

Unrest in La Paz
Bloody protests shook Bolivia’s capital last week. Critics are calling for President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada’s resignation. And, as the Washington Post‘s Marcela Sanchez writes, “the country that in recent years had become Washington’s virtual standard-bearer in the war against drugs and the crusade for market-oriented reforms” is now in very serious trouble. A major issue is Bolivia’s budget gap; a relatively small amount of foreign aid from the United States could make all the difference.

I’m Now Training at Altitude

If you could see me now, you’d know I’m stifling a grin. The idea of me doing any sort of serious cardiovascular fitness training is, well, ridiculous. But still, after a two-month hiatus, I’ve started running again.

And I’m here to tell you that running at 8,000 feet is a LOT different than running at sea level.

Within a mile of my first jog in our thin Ecuadorian air, my lungs had started to burn. My heart palpitated in protest; I could almost hear it pleading to me, its tiny voice echoing up through my chest cavity: “Forchrissakes, Newley. Oh dear God, no. What are you trying to do to me? Please stop. Please stop. Please stop. Pleeeeeaaaaase, Newley, I beg of you…”

Many people assume that training at altitude can help your sealevel performance–that less oxygen in the air means your lungs and heart have to work harder and, therefore, get stronger. But some argue that altitude running provides negligible benefits: that your cardiovascular system holds your body back, and so your legs and other muscles can never be pushed to their limits.

I’ll get back to you with my findings.

It Wasn’t Drug Traffickers or ETs. It was Chimborazo

It Wasn’t Drug Traffickers or ETs. It was Chimborazo.
An Ecuadorian commercial airliner that went missing in 1976 may have been found. Some speculated that the plane, which was headed from Quito to Cuenca, might have been intercepted by drug traffickers or extraterrestrials. But it now seems that the doomed flight may have crashed into the 20,000 foot Chimborazo volcano. Climbers recently spotted what might be its wreckage.

Misc. stuff

Strange Bedfellows?
Interestingly, George Bush and Lucio Guitierrez, the leftist, newly-elected Ecuadorian president, appear to be buddies. In the Bush Administration’s new budget plan, Ecuador would get $15 million in military assistance, which is 15 times more than the year before.

The Page is Now Powered by Google. Sort Of.
Google has just purchased Pyra Labs, a company that makes free software used to publish Weblogs. I use one of Pyra’s products to maintain this page.

The deal is a major moment in the world of Weblogs (or blogs), which are online journals, like this one, that are arranged in reverse chronological order and often link to other Web sites. Not only has blogging been recognized by one of the most powerful Internet companies, but it’ll be interesting to see how Google incorporates blogs into their site (will “Blog Search” be a new tab atop their main page?). And Nick Denton wonders whether Weblog links will be used to improve the promising GoogleNews.

“Who Could You Take in a Fight?”

“Who Could You Take in a Fight?”
The Onion A.V. Club asks celebrities who they could take in a fight. Funny stuff. And amazingly, they even asked Mark Borchardt, who starred in the hilarious and morose documentary “American Movie”. His answer fits him to a tee. My favorite responses are those of Chuck “Fight Club” Palahniuk and Conan O’Brien.

Protests and Tear Gas, and “El Hijo de la Novia”

Protests and Tear Gas
This afternoon, I witnessed a sizeable protest in downtown Cuenca. Teachers and students alike–from both high schools and elementary schools–took to the streets to protest cuts in education funding. Some students got quite vociferous, so police tear gassed them; they dispersed quickly.

Later on, a few blocks away, I saw two motorcycle cops apprehend a teenage guy; they pulled over (they were both riding on one bike), grabbed him, put him on the motorcycle between themselves, and tore away. Protests are common in Ecuador, and Cuencanos seemed not to take much notice of today’s excitement.

El Hijo de la Novia
Two nights ago, I saw a great movie: “El Hijo de la Novia” (“The Son of the Bride”). It’s a very well-acted, well-written, well-shot drama about life and love. Unfortunately, I thought it would have English subtitles. It didn’t. I understood approximately 10% of the dialogue.

Deportivo Cuenca

Deportivo Cuenca
I recently attended my first Ecuadorian professional soccer match. It was amazing.

Cuenca’s team, Deportivo Cuenca, faced an Estonian club squad in a pre-season warm-up exhibition. Cuenca, a small, speedy, skillful side, won 3-0. The sold-out crowd of 18,000 was electric: their cheers and songs were perfectly choreographed, and they ignited flares when Cuenca scored.

And interestingly, not only could you buy beer and other snacks in the stands, but roving vendors also offered bottles of the Ecuadorian sugar cane liquor, Zhumir, along with small plastic cups for shots.

(Related item: “On Soccer and America,” an article I penned last summer.)

EX2adventures.com
Back in the States, my friend Jim Harman has just launched EX2adventures.com. Jim masterminded the annual VentureQuest outdoor adventure race, near Washington, DC. I shall never forgive him for convincing me to participate in the inaugural event.

It’s good to be working

It’s Good to Be Working
I got my first CEDEI English teaching assignments: two one-on-one tutorials. One is Monday through Friday from 3:00 until 5:00 p.m., and the other is Monday through Friday from 6:00 until 7:30 p.m. Yesterday was my first day. One student is at the 103 (beginning) level, and the other is at the 302 (advanced) level.