Friday, July 22, 2005

I haven't lost my touch with pets

I have been busy with real life lately. Very little internet and a lot of time spent with people that i care very much about. Let's use this little time before entering shopping spree (it's saturday here in Utrecht!) to dump an update.

I am doing cat-sitting for two weeks, one week is already over and that leaves us one week left. It has not been easy because i am very attached to my house (to my houses in general, not the current one in particular). I am a very homey person, well, sometimes.

Anyway, this cat was giving me a little bit of a hard time. But several days passed and we have seen a lot of progress since then. While at the beginning the kitty would barely stand my presence, now it purrs when i am serving food. Maybe this can be attributed to my natural charisma with pets. I have had many throughout my life; i i remember my dogs, cats, lizards, hamsters, oh! It's only that? Anyway, my point is that i liked them and most of the time they liked me too (or they ignored me for the sake of pacifical coexistence).

Another explanation given to me by someone (don't take it too seriously, folks) is that cats have a two bit brain for persons. Consider it as two switches that can be in the on or off position. One switch tells the kitty whether it knows or not this person. The second switch tells whether the person is a source of food or not. I seem to have put both switches in the on position. It does not run away like before and it purrs! I just trained it to associate me with food. Oh well!

I think these last years i suffered a slow transformation. Little by little, i need less and less sleep to feel sufficiently rested. I consideredt this while having my morning shower at half past eight in the morning, even though i came back at half past two last night. I don't feel tired at all and i had little sleep the last days too. From a 10 hour sleeping lizard i have become a 6 hour sleeping lemur. Funnily enough, it was one of my wishes. One of these things that people ask you at parties. If i could wish for a thing, what would it be? My answer was to be able to sleep, say, 2 hours but feel as if i am just waking up from a very productive (rest-wise) 10 hour sleep. That goal is very far away. Let's go slowly to keep sane.

Saturday, July 16, 2005


I do not know what is the position of the reader of this blog with respect to the war in Irak. Was it waged because Saddam really had weapons of mass destruction? Most people i know assume (as i do) that the war was waged because of oil. In the beginning one might be a little bit shocked, but then one just gets used to it. "Such is the world" we say.

The end result of this war is that there are new stable reserves of oil in the world. It doesn't matter if there are bombings and resistance in Irak, as long as the costs to run this operation is lower than the profit had from extracting and selling the oil. Most probably my readers are rather bored at this points, they have been repeated endlessly elsewhere. What is maybe more interesting comes from an article i read about "Peak oil theory" and its relation to the war. This theory asserts that since oil is not a renewable resource, it will eventually be exhausted and we can predict when it will happen. There will be a time when drilling new wells will be more expensive than purchasing existing ones. The new wells are going to be to small to be economically profitable, all big, productive, efficient wells have already been found. Once we reach this stage prices are bound to rise, given the diminishing supply and the increasing demand. This is not an apocalyptic scenario, be assured. The increasing prices of oil will make that other sources of energy will become reasonably profitable and, thus, exploited.

However, a controlled transition is highly desirable and also the ones who have the wells will make juicy profits in this last stage. Thus, the article makes the case that these reasons are behind the war in Irak.

Related to this, there is the question of the renewable nature of oil. There is a russian theory claiming that oil is produced by bacteria. According to its proponents, the oil fields are replenished regularly. This sounds crazy on a first reading, but i found some web pages of apparently clever people saying that this theory might be credible. I do not have the link right now but i remember reading it from an energy professor of a university in Rotterdam. If there is someone knowledgeable on the subject i would love some comments on this theory.

Anyway, all this is very far from my domain of expertise, but it was on my blogging list :). Later in this week you will find more down to earth subjects, although not less important. Cheers!

Venezuela's redistribution of wealth

Unfortunately i will not manage to finish my paper for the deadline. There are some problems related to the soundness of my type system and ensuing tasks. It is like a domino, whatever i change will affect the next changes. So, what i am working on will have to wait a little bit before it is finished.

So, this week i was reading many things, and as always i was saying to myself that i should blog on this or on that. But then i have so many tabs open on my browser. I keep them open so i can close them when i have blogged on them or diggested them. Guess what, there are still many tabs open, so many that my browser may crash any time now :).

I have added two more links to my "Alexey reads" section. One is a link to the blog of boli-nica and another is to the democracy center. The authors of those blogs have different ways of looking at the world. The readers may do well of looking at both of them to not commit too quickly to an opinion.

If you have been following this blog for a while, you notice that i write about (not so deeply) personal things and sometimes about bolivian politics. Well, this time, i will write some more about politics. Although, my dear reader, i ask for your indulgence in my ignorant quoting of things i that read and think :).

Normally, i am not very sympathetic with leftist positions of organizations within my country, Bolivia. Mainly, because such positions have not worked well in the past. However, this week i was reading some articles written by authors that had more of a "izquierda" viewpoint. I will provide the link to one that talks about the Chavez regime in Venezuela. It describes the situation that maybe the social movements would want to take place in Bolivia. Namely, the resditribution of money for the improvement of living conditions of the poorest people in today's society. One of two main components are healthcare for poor neighbourhoods provided by cuban doctors in exchange for oil for the cuban governement. The supporters of this measure argue that in this way there is cheap healthcare in places where, otherwise, venezuelan doctors would not normally accept a job. As a consequence there is already a protest from venezuelan doctors that argue that this scheme hurts their source of employment and reduces their income. Furthermore, they claim that the cuban doctors are a vehicle for political indoctrination.

Other measures adopted by the Venezuelan government are subsidized markets, and informal education organizations. The government claims that in this way "1.3 million people have learned to read, millions have received medical care and an estimated 35-40 percent of the population now shops at subsidized, government-owned supermarkets". All this is achieved by redistributing the money that the state gets from the oil business. I suppose that that is the plan of the social movements in Bolivia if the oil industry is nationalized. Let me repeat my position that i am not for nationalization but for whatever arrangement that gets us (bolivians) a good income without getting into trouble with the international community. Oh well, let's go on with the article.

I can summarize the article as follows, the majority of the population is supporting Chavez government because they can see a difference in their life quality. This redistribution of resources was a bold move that roused the anger of the powerful oposition and you could see the results in their rallies calling for the ousting of president Chavez. However, some key actors of venezuelan economy are worried by the actions of the Chavez regime. I copy this quote from Oscar Garcia Mendoza, president of Banco Venezolano de Credito,

In 2004 government spending jumped 47 percent, much of which went to pay for healthcare and education--the missions. But despite the oil windfall, the government has had to borrow heavily. Instead of turning to international financiers, it has increased its internal debt to Venezuelan banks.

"But what makes this really crazy," says Garcia, "is that the government is depositing all its oil revenue in the same banks at about 5 percent, then borrowing it back at 14 percent. It's a very easy way for bankers to make money. That's why I say this is a government for the rich."
Maybe the most interesting quotes come from Jorge Giordani, the planning and development minister. First, he is worried about the corruption problems, simply there is not enough done to mitigate this problem. But most interesting are his opinions about the development of venezuelan society. Is it possible to use the oil money to educate people in order to have a more diversified economy? People educated enough to do "high technology, business services, healthcare and agriculture"?. He replies:

"We've been fighting political battles for most of our time in office. Many people have learned to read in the last few years, but how long will it take for them to work in high technology, or medicine, or services? Ten years? A generation? We are fighting a very individualistic, rentier culture. Everything has been 'Mama state, Papa state, give me oil money.' To organize people is extremely hard."

Giordani seems weary and cynical. "No, I am just practical," he says with a chuckle. "Development in Venezuela will take at least fifty years."

And how long will the oil last?

"Maybe twenty years, maybe thirty."

Of course, the question comes back to Bolivia's situation. How is the money of gas going to be used? How to get the most of it? And, more sadly, we have to realize that development is a process that takes several generations. No miracle or lottery is going to change radically the situation of the country.

Another thing that you see from this article and from what happened to Bolivia in the last months is that politics are very dirty. There are no completely decent political parties or a political Messiah. There are bitter fights among the parties involved and no one wants to concede anything. Are people really thinking that elections are going to bring the chosen that is going to fix things once and for all? That hope has been going on for more than two decades. Most likely, after this coming elections the same problems are going to appear. Confrontations, radical positions and demagogic speeches will be the rule. The change should be bottom up rather that top down. It does not matter if the president is capable if he/she is not able to organize a structure that suits the needs of society.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Monday already!

I am still up on sunday after a copious dinner. My flatmate invited her colleagues over and she prepared lots of great food. There is so much that we will not have to cook for days.

I did not make as much progress as i expected in my paper. The main reason is that i cannot get around a technical problem. If i can get this completeness proff working, then i will have enough motivation to stay awake for nights until i finish the paper. I will code a bit now, maybe tomorrow my head will be fresh enough to solve it.

Last week, Metka came back from Tanzania and immediately she flew back to Slovenia. She couldn't stop telling about her stories there :). I didn't manage to see her pictures yet (thousands). However she sent me a few nice ones from when she was in Zanzibar. I am happy she had a great time there :), now she is catching time up with her family.

Links section

For a long time i wanted to put a link to the blogs i regularly read and finally today i managed. It may look ugly in your browser, because i cannot control the html output of blogrolling without paying. I tried to improve things with basic CSS tricks, but it does not work well, apparently. I am too bored and busy to do more at the moment. Of course, advice is welcome!!

Some days ago Eduardo was writing about the need of keeping your honor high in Bolivia. That is, fight if you are challenged! I have many similar stories as well, fortunately, no injuries or deaths among my friends/family. Sorry for your friend Eduardo.

Update: It seems that CSS is now working well.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

A new creationist theory

There is a non-stop debate in the US about what should be taught in classrooms. Evolutionary theory? Creationist theory? Both?

Fortunately for all of us there are more options. I am very fond of this new creationist theory that answers very sensibly the deep questions of our universe. You can't miss it!

The situations in Bolivia seems to be moving forward. The congress has finally aggreed for new elections. You can find reports at mabb and barrioflores. Some very unusual pictures about bolivia: gay pride in Bolivia.

I am currently finishing my nourrishing breakfast and preparing my lunch. This is going to be a very long day working on my paper for POPL 2005. There is still much to do. Maybe not too much computer type setting today since i have to work on proofs. I expect i will be sleeping late tonight again.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Bolivian movies

Almadadenoche is commenting on bolivian movies. I am really eager to see the ones he mention there. In a previous post i mentioned two bolivian movies i saw recently. I heartily recommend El Atraco. I especially like the conversations of the main character with the university professor. They approach politics as chess, where moves have to be carefully considered and you have also to consider your position in the board, and the kind of piece you are. Another part i like is the interrogatory of Raul by Bernal, or is it the other way around? I sure must get this movie next time i go to Bolivia. I should like to watch it again.

A read a great book last week, it is called The Passion by Jeanette Winterson. A great story about passion in the times of Napoleon. Its description of Venice is so mysterious that you really want to go after you read it.

Update: El periódico La Razón has this article about two forthcoming bolivian movies. One of them is made by the same director as El Atraco, Paolo Agazzi. I want to see it!

"no al neo liberalismo privatisador!!!!!!!!"

That was the subject of the email that Nancy, my friend working in La Paz, sent me. I paste parts of it below:
Hi folks,
Here everything is back to normal, we have water, gas, food, transport and all restaurants and shops are open again. I guess the entire Bolivian police force and all activist are taking a rest, which means PEACE for the rest of us. it was all quite scary and im glad it is over.
so many of you asked me about the crisis we had few weeks ago here in Bolivia. Well, I have written a small report about it. Look attachment!!!!!!!!!! just bear in mind that the report is what WE think, me and the head of the NGO i work for at the moment. It is subjective and emotional!!!
Here almost everybody is for the nationalisation of gas, not just the political activist, but also the bureaucrats. Im for the nationalisation of gas, simply because it will improve accessibility. privatisation will increase the prices of the natural resources drastically meaning the poor will have less access to it or even no access at all, well...........more on the report.
Like I said im for the nationalisation of gas, but im not sure how realistic it is in these days.
I would love to know your opinion. Are you for or against the nationalisation of gas? and please explain why???????? it doesnt have to be long!
I also received her report which elaborates more on the points above, i am not quoting it here for lack of space and time. Anyway, i sent her the following reply:

El capitalismo no es tan malo, después de todo los países más prósperos del mundo son capitalistas. Algunos piden más impuestos y el estado hace más cosas pero en esencia, todos son mercados libres con un número de regulaciones.

¿Es China una excepción? ¿Es una potencia naciente que no es capitalista? Tal vez no, una gran razón del crecimiento que ahora tiene es la apertura a capitales y compañías extranjeras.

Otro ejemplo dramático, echemos un vistazo al mapa de la tierra de noche. Fíjate en lo oscura que es Korea del norte y lo brillante que es Korea del sur. Korea del sur era más pobre que la del norte al final de la guerra de Korea. Los papeles se invirtieron.

Hablando de Bolivia, las privatizaciones (o capitalizaciones) no siempre salieron mal. Desde que Entel fué capitalizada el servicio mejoró mucho, los celulares bajaron de precio, lo mismo con internet. Seguramente puedes encontrar más ejemplos de esto.

Hay cosas que no podemos hacer ya que somos pobres. Por ejemplo no podemos extender la red de alcantarillado y agua potable. Por lo que permitir que una empresa la administre y ponga dinero no parece una idea tan mala. Lo importante, es hacer bien este proceso e imponer condiciones a la empresa.

En el caso del gas no nos importa realmente si queremos nacionalizar o no las reservas de gas. Lo que nos importa es tener la mayor ganancia posible para nosotros. Si podemos negociar con las empresas un incremento a los impuestos/regalías y el precio interno del combustible tal vez tenemos un buen trato, no? La nacionalización es una medida que es muy posible que nos deje más pobres que lo que podríamos ser.

Ahora que echamos a las dos compañías de agua de Cochabamba y El Alto, ¿Que hará la gente pobre que no tiene alcantarillado y agua? ¿Quién pondrá el dinero? ¿Que haremos cuando no podamos conseguir dinero para industrializar el gas?

La compañía de aguas de Cochabamba, efectivamente subió los precios del servicio. ¿No hubiera sido mejor llegar a un acuerdo que beneficie a la compañía y los usuarios en vez de echar a la compañía sin considerar las consecuencias?

Verás, en Bolivia hay mucha corrupción. Si eliges nacionalizar, la compañia estatal será corrupta e ineficiente (ineficiencia implica menos oportunidad para salir de la pobreza) y si eliges privatizar la corrupción hará que el control sobre las empresas no sea bueno.

Tal vez no es el libre mercado lo que ha fallado en Bolivia, tal vez es toda la sociedad. ¿Cual es la solución, ahorcar a todos los políticos e imponer un gobierno del pueblo? El resultado más probable, será la misma corrupción e ineficiencia. El problema es muy profundo.

Dices que la mayoría de la gente está a favor de la nacionalización. Me pregunto que significa la nacionalización en sus cabezas. En todo caso, si es lo que la mayoría quiere, tendrá que ser.
If you want to discuss comments are welcome! :)