Friday, June 24, 2005

Bla, sleepy!

I am actually sleepy. Yes but i have to go through my blog post obligation :). No, another day without going out. I am just having the quite time now.

Today there were some talks about Bertrand Russell's paper On Denoting at the university. Much of it involved many notions of philosophy and linguistics that i am not acquainted with. I will have a hard time looking up on the dictionary. There were also important things that i could understand. Maybe the most interesting thing was the attempt of Russell to give a denotation to variables. He failed, from what i could understand, he ran into circularities that probably ended up in contradictions or perhaps plain non-sense. The consequence of it is that he had to take variables as something irreductible. This reminded me of something Achim Jung or maybe Paul Levy mentioned at the courses in Birmingham. That finally variables have been understood and he gave us a reference to a paper written by Marcelo Fiore and Gordon Plotkin. Let's hope i didn't make a mistake and pointed to the wrong one. You can surely tell i don't understand the topic very well :). Well, i am eager to do it.

I skipped the afternoon talks, i thought it better to work. I was to unfocused to do proofs and writing so i improved the layout of some figures of the paper i must submit. Fortunately, i started listening to BBC radio. There really cool things in there! You don't get distracted (much) but you feel the company while you are working. I listened to many programs but eventually some pushed me to check some things on BBC's website and i found an article about foreign aid to Africa. They say... What if the aid is stopped? They mainly claim it is for the better. Less dependency is better, let the country get out of poverty by itself. That and many recomendations, make trade easier, stop encouraging the brain drain (is it my case? :)), etc. Relevant to Bolivia as well since we were among the countries whose debt was forgiven. It turns out to be that this is a series of programs called "what if". There was another article about the legalisation of drugs. Again, this is another issue related to Bolivia. Do you know that half of the jail population in Bolivia is in there because of the 1008 law? (this law punishes a broad range of activities related to drug trade) Would there be less human misery if drugs were legalized? This is not exactly the scenario in the article since cocaine was still outlawed there.

On bolivian news papers there are still articles about the unhappy happenings last weeks. Stuff already discussed by articles i already linked before, coercion for demonstrations, violence, etc. This one discusses about the effect that demonstrations had on parliament people. You see, the parliament decided to abandon La Paz because of the protests and left to Sucre to meet in peace. However, the movements responded quick and they moved to Sucre to effect further pressure. At some moment the police told them that they could not be able to protect parliament any longer. So they were really afraid, some fainted, cried and even had hearth attacks. It seems the pressure was fundamental for the resignation of Vaca Diez and Cossio, now, as you know, Rodriguez is president.

So what's all this politics stuff and philosophy? Can't i blog something nice? Well, these weeks haven't seen anything exciting. Tomorrow i shall be having some barbecue, so i might show you some pictures from it, guys.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

A public apology

I would like to apologize to all my friends, male and female for the lack of attention that i gave to their physical pains. I don't mean the well-aimed-punch-to-the-face kind of pain, but rather the pain that is constantly there and nibbles you away to madness. I am talking about headaches and of period pains. I was often oblivious about it when my friends very loudly complained about it. Now, i know what it is guys. Alexey shall pay attention next time you have it!!

Now on happier topics...

In the train from Belgium i was reading and enjoying the third volume of the autobiography of Beltrand Russell. This mathematician started a topic that is very dear to my hearth: type systems. He wrote on philosophy, etics and morals and plenty of other stuff; surely the Russell paradox rings a bell to you, isn't it? Russell was also a politics activist, he campaigned for women's right to vote, against the first world war, against nuclear arms race, war crimes, etc. I find his autobiography extremely interesting and i think i will read books such as History of Western Philosophy, Marriage and Morals, and perhaps others.

On today's readings i found the following gems:
At present, children are taught to love their country to the exclusion of other countries, and among their countrymen in history those whom they are specially taught to admire are usually those who have shown most skill in killing foreigners.
Wonderfully phrased, isn't it? This is in fact what happened with much of my school education, a lot of teaching about heroes and their deeds.

Another thing that i like about him is his search for happiness. Many people think, and believe it myself to a certain degree, that people who make works of importance have some serious emotional and/or psychological disturbances. Quite on the contrary, Russell criticizes a remark made by another writer with respect to a poet. This other writer remarked that the genius of that poet is due to his tragic life. Instead, Russell thinks that the poet might have produced more work in happier circumstances. A very refreshing point of view! At least to me!

Pain pain

Is is very silly. Since my trip to Germany i caught some pain in my back. It might be because of the small space between your bed and the bed of the next guy above. You have little space to change!

Besides that life has been very good to me. I am writing now from Belgium where i am visiting my mom and Jean Michel. The weather is changing for the better finally, we have a lot of sun and very few clouds. Now i must finally repair my bike, there is incentive for it!

Bolivia has been peaceful these days, that is fine because i spend less time reading stuff on the internet :). Our favourite revolutionary comittee has been assessing the happenings of the last weeks. Of course i will share the article with you my dear readers! I also wanted to share some other links with you these days, but i was busy working :). So, the first is a discussion that ensues from a prediction that Bolivia may not last long. Finally there is another fine discussion on Jim Schultz' blog. Pay especial attention to the posts of Andrew. For a long time i felt that Jim was overly simplifying the bolivian situation in his analysis but could not quite articulate it, Andrew does it very well for me.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Great weekend and tuesday

Yeah! Today i went to the concert of Nigel Kennedy, playing the four seasons of Vivaldi. It is the first time i saw a virtuoso. On top of that he was slightly excentric and a funny show man. All the credit goes to my friend Gar Yein who payed for my ticket as payment of a service. I wouldn't have paid for the ticket myself. But now, having seen it, i would! If you have the chance, go and see him, he is great.

Clara and AndresI mentioned before that for the weekend i travelled to Konstanz to attend the wedding of Clara and Andres. Every detail was carefully arranged from the religious marriage to the reception at the Konzil. It is the first time i go to a german marriage and i was delighted at the participation of the family. Many of them made plays, sang, made special gifts and even made a movie!!

In that weekend we had time to walk around the city and sightsee a bit. Fortunately i was able to borrow a camera to make several dozens of pictures. I saved costs by staying in a youth hostel in Switzerland, the saved money went into the tons of food drinks i had during that weekend. The youth hostel is just within walking distance from Konstanz, it is very easy to get there since there are no border controls! The first day i was alone so it wasn't so much fun to walk around Konstanz. After my colleagues arrived things became more interesting and they could make pictures of me :).

Alexey at the bunny fountain

On sunday i went to Zurich to meet my friend Osmar. This visit didn't produce many pictures which is a pity, i think that the park by the lake in Zurich is my favourite city park ever. It just goes on for kilometers, ideal for a walk and a talk. There are many street performers over there. But by far the most impressive one was this guy who managed to balance stone on top of stone in an unbelievable way!

Osmar at the temple of the mystic stones

More pictures at flickr: here and here.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Back from trip

I had a very nice weekend in Germany and Switzerland where i attended the wedding of a colleague. Pictures may soon follow since i took many. I can't post them now since it is late and i just came back from the PhD graduation party of my friend Thomas.

So, about Bolivia, we have a new president and it seems that he is willing to make new elections. However, the social movements are still insisting in nationalization. Interestingly enough, most of the people are in favor of it, even in Santa Cruz. So what should be the conclusion? That we should nationalize even if it is a mistake? Big issue, huh? How do you make decisions based on the opinion of people that doesn't know all the details? You can see here how these movements can coerce you to join them even if you don't agree.

I might be posting something about my weekend trip tomorrow, stay tuned.

Update: I wanted to link to this article. It is favourable to former president Mesa which has been quite rare these last months. When he entered office there was a lot of hope but unfortunately things didn't turn out good.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

More news

I spend already enough time reading articles, blogs and news so i will not do long posts now.

From La Razon and La Prensa, we have two items about the situation in La Paz. Happily water is running again although the protests are becoming more violent. Also two interesting editorials, one might even prove prophetic. Let's hope not.

It is not all about bad news. There are good things going on as well. A linux user group in Cochabamba (known as the PiMI) and many others around Bolivia organized the penguin week to evangelize the use of free software.

Ok, now let's go back to work!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

President of Bolivia resigns

Carlos Mesa, president of Bolivia, presented his resignation to the congress in the face of the social movements (protestors) that have sieged La Paz for (i believe) two weeks. This move is not going to demobilize the movements, that will depend on who is the person who is going to succeed Carlos Mesa. According to the bolivian constitution it has to be the president of the congress. However, social movements do not want a politician to take in the presidency. Instead, they demand that the two next persons in line (both politicians) resign and that the president of the supreme court assumes the position. Still, this will not be enough to end the crisis, the movements want by all means the nationalization of the gas reserves and a constituent assembly.

As usual you can follow the situation in Bolivian newspapers:
For english speaking people i suggest the following blogs which have links to articles reporting the situation in english:
It seems that a pipe that transports water to La Paz has been broken. According to this article :
Protesters broke open the main drinking water pipe to La Paz, cutting off the water supply to the capital, La Paz radio station Radio Panamericana reported.
This explains what Nancy wrote some hours ago:
Hi folks,
just thought I update you with the news hear in Bolivia, the heart of south america.
well, it has gone worse. We had peace at the weekend, I guess the demonstraters and the entire Bolivian police force got tired and decided to have a rest, he he. That meant that I was able to leave the hotel and go for a nice walk. Everybody looked really relaxed on the weekend, that was so nice to see.
However, it all started again on mOnday.
now there is little food to buy, the supermarkets are half empty, prices are gone up drastically and the queues are very very long in all shops. it got worse in the evening, they protesters managed to cut the water.
So no water in 3 areas of La paz, no bread either no where in la paz, and no gas.
yes, it looks bad, all of la paz is blocked you can not go out and you can not get in.
the airport is still closed and there are no buses, no cars.
so even if i wanted to go i couldnt.
most resturants are closed too. and most shops.
well, lets see what happens, I basically lost the motivation to work. The interviews are less fun as everybody is very stressed.
the NGO is quiet to, all the volunteer workers are not coming and even some of the full time employers are not there.
Im working on both reports and hope to finish as soon as i can than I decide how to leave bolivia.
lets hope there wont be a civil war.
im actually a bit scared, but please dont worry any of you, I will be fine, somehow
lots of love to all of you
My brother was trapped in a hotel (a medical congress) last time something like this happened. He explained it was hard to find a place to eat. Actually, the businesses that were operating (restaurants, internet cafes,...) were doing so with doors closed. You had to go around the streets, very carefully of course, and as soon you spotted light under the door you would knock and have an expensive meal. Now the situation is even worse since water has been cut. Some pictures about the roadblocks in El Alto.

In Oruro, the situation is not that bad. We actually didn't have a detailed conversation with my brother to know about the situation there. Looking at the official newspaper of Oruro (La patria) i cannot find anything too bad. The usual roadblocks show up but that's about it.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Mayhem in Bolivia

Although i live in the Netherlands i have to say i am not very knowledgeable about the European consitution debate. My impression is that the victory of the No camp was due to misinformation. More precisely, the arguments used by the No camp did not actually involve the constitution but other issues that should not have been taken into account for this discussion. Take a look at this.

Now let's turn our attention to Bolivia. Although the news are only now emerging in mainstream media such as BBC and CNN, everybody saw it coming. It was a matter of when rather than if. It was precisely the day after i left Bolivia that the problems started. In short, worker unions, poor farmers, teacher organizations, public transport, and many others started protesting against a law approved by the senate chamber. This law increases the taxes that foreign oil companies pay in Bolivia. The protesting groups complain that this law is still not fair, foreign companies, they say, should stop plundering the country's resources.

While this law was being debated the question was how much is a good percentage for the tax. But now that the law has been approved (demanding more than 50% of tax and "regalías"), the protesting groups demand nationalization of the gas reserves. These groups maintain the viewpoint that multinationals will exploit the resources without giving back enough to the people. A consequence of the protest is that La Paz is paralized. The same happens with many roads connecting cities among Bolivia.

All this violence makes me very upset. I think that these leaders are taking advantage of the poorest people to cause a political mayhem which may put them in power. With they in power will things improve? I am very doubtful about their abilities. It is easier to destroy than to create.

Many bloggers have been covering these happenings. Early look at marches in La Paz (some more), some posts about behavior of demonstrations and their organization/financing. I also received an email from a friend who is doing her project of international development in La Paz. Nancy says:
Bolivia could be discribed as a country at the age of civil war!!!!!
The political situation is very very bad, and I have to admit that im a bit scared. There are non stop protest, roadblocks, lots of violant behaviour. Demonstration here is not like the demos in london, there are much bigger and everybody is very violant. They hate seeing people wearing ties, so everytime there is a person wearing a tie they beat them up, 2, 3 and sometimes 4 of them they also attack taxi drivers. they stop the car force them to go out and hit them with a belt.Two or 3 people hold the taxi driver by their feet and hand and one of them hits the poor guy who scared shitless with a belt. Yesturday I saw how an old man was wearing a tie and 2 people were hiting him with a belt and a young man was trying to help him and the protester beat the guy as well and took his bag. there are no buses running and the airport is closed to, so lets see if I can get out of here safely. Everybody is nervous, our boss at the NGO said to us that we can stop with the work if we want. but we feel that being in the office working would be a good distraction. Also the streets is full of gas. The police are not allowed to shut, the president doesnt want any dead people so the police spray the whole city centre with gas, its is horrible you can not breath and your eyes hurt a lot. its all very ugly, most people are very scared, nervous and frustrasted. look on the internet under
is in spanish, but you can see some pictures

I sort of get the idea, the police is very busy protecting the key parts of La Paz while usual citizens of La Paz get no protection for aggression. A cousin of mine told me some scary things that could happen if you were out in the street while the ousting of the previous president happened. The damage caused by social movements is not quantified and their leaders are not held accountable for this damage.

I will end this post with more links, take a look at an article that examines how history repeats itself. It is amazing how many similarities there are with the current situation. It is sad to think that we might lose some more decades of development.

I have been quite critical against these social movements. You can find another perspective from this articulate blogger that has strong simpathy for these movements. Oh, and a link i promised to Metka.

Disculpas a los visitantes que preferirían ver este blog en español. Este blog comenzó para comentar mi vida en Utrecht, y los directos implicados en esas primeras historias no hablan español. En este momento no se si cambiar de idioma, hay una audiencia potencialmente más grande si lo dejo en inglés.