apete's apage

A place for me to speak and be heard.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Final 4

Fitster made it! More tomorrow...hopefully. I have a PowerPoint presentation to do though.

Student Design Competition

So it feels pretty cool being in the student design competition now that we are here. It was really nice being selected, working with a fine group which couldn't be better, and getting a paper published in the proceedings. It feels 10 times better after hanging out at our poster with people stopping by who are genuinely interested in our design and hearing from others that ours is one of the better ones. Today we also found out that we were 48 total entries and we were one of the 15 that were selected to show our posters at CHI2006. We find out Tuesday if we will be one of the top 4. If we are, we will have to do a presentation, but I think that we can muster that...we've done it before.

It is difficult work though, especially while trying to get in 20 hours of student volunteer labor in. I really haven't seen much of Montreal at all yet. On Sunday, I was in the conference center from about 8 AM to 8 PM without leaving and today it was about 9 AM until about 10 PM. The cool part about tonight's opening ceremony was they had Cirque du Soleil performing and free drinks.

Don't fly United Express

So, I am in Montreal now. It seems to be a fun city from what I've seen of it which isn't much yet. Getting here was an ordeal though. Ugh.

I am currently a student volunteer and in a student design competition at the CHI2006 conference. I flew out to Montreal on Saturday after getting 4 hours of sleep the night before. We left Detroit on United Express. Don't fly United Express. It was about 15 minutes late leaving Detroit. that wasn't so bad except that we really only had about 45 minutes to get onto our connection at Dulles. This was before we realized that it was pouring rain or that we needed to take 2 shuttles to the other gate in DC. So as we are landing, we see the rain and of course we have to get off the plane without a bridge and had to run through the rain to the terminal. Our poster is too long to fit in the poster tube so we had to cover that and what better to cover it than with a barf bag...I knew they were good for something. Mattbot was kind enough to go to GAP and buy me a new jacket which looks pretty smart because otherwise, I would have froze for those two rainy days.

So we got off the plan successfully, only to encounter the first of two shuttles that looked like a stormtrooper carrier. No, I am not geeky enough to know what they were actually called in the SW movies. Anyway, the best feature of this machine was that the driver had to walk from the one 'cockpit' all the way through the tram like inside to get to the other side in order to get into the other 'cockpit' to drive away in the other direction. After that we got to another terminal in which we walked through for five minutes in order to get to yet another shuttle. Finally, we get to Terminal G which just has a whacked out way of getting people to the gates. There was a series of about 7 doors in which each had about 4 gates attached to it and the doors had a line of planes above it. It was so confusing. When we got there our flight was delayed as the passengers deboarded in the rainstorm. When we finally boarded, we saw all of the baggage lying on the ground in about 2 inches of water. Don't fly United Express. After carefully covering our poster again, we ran to the plane one by one in the rain.

After boarding we were delayed another hour as they had to rescan the luggage because they mixed them up with some other plane. (Remember this and don't fly United Express.) Once we're off the ground we're fine until we wait for our bags in Montreal...and wait...and wait. Three of our bags didn't make it. We have to wait in a long line to fill out a claim because there were several people whose bag didn't make it. Don't fly United Express. They tell us that the bags will probably be sent to Chicago or Toronto which have more flights directly to Montreal and we may get them that night. Cool.

No it was a lie. We called on Sunday and they were still in Dulles and they were probably going to be on the same flight that we took the day before...so we should call back at 7 to see if it landed. They did arrive this time. The downside was that they were soaked. It was probably because they were sitting in two inches of rain for 24 hours. As we speak, my clothes are strewn throughout my room drying. Don't fly United.

Oh and by the way, we also left the poster at the airport as we were trying to find a shuttle to the hotel. We didn't realize this until we were halfway to the hotel and there was no turning back. Yes, this was also United Express' fault because the airline made us temporarily insane. Finding a printer in Montreal on a Sunday was difficult but we did find one and it was done by 8:30 Monday morning and I got to set it up myself.

The hotel is nice. We were booked in a Sheraton for being student volunteers for the 5 days that we will be here. No complaints about the hotel.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

I have no friends.

Originally uploaded by apete.
I have a problem when a computer tells me this. I don't know about you.

Anyway, it looks like this is a combo between friendster and delicious. That looks weird without the dots in it.

I don't have time to look at it right now but here is my profile.

Be friends with me....

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Procrastinating and Sharing

Yeah, I am supposed to be doing something else.

But, I just wanted to share the fact that I just received one of the new crisp $10 bills. My only comment is that the color makes it looked like I was laundering a large sack of cash and there was a red sock that I didn't realize was in there with it. The government calls the color: "subtle shades of orange, yellow and red." Whatever? The oval on the backside containing the US Treasury was also cheesily done if you care to look any closer.

Useless info, I know.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Almost Done

Me and the President of Nicaragua
Originally uploaded by apete.
I leave for the airport in about 3 hours. I probably should be sleeping but I am just trying to catch up on stuff and packing.

Yesterday, was kind of exciting. We left for an indigenous community, Mozonte, at about 7 A.M. It was about 4 hours away. The President of Nicaragua was opening a new telecenter there. The ride up there was interesting. Because we had to work on our presentation, all four of us had our laptops open until they died on the way. The first thing we did was to head to the telecenter to get them charging when we arrived. It was pretty entertaining because we were by ourselves and we just talked our way into the telecenter which was surrounded by cops because that was where the ribbon cutting and lunch was going to be. At least they looked through our bags.

Time in Latin America isn't so punctual so we waited for an hour and a half for the president to arrive. During that time, we listened to a couple of songs sung by some Nica reality TV show winner named Michael something or other.

The president finally arrived and after an hour or so of speaches we were off to the ribbon cutting and lunch. Edwin, who is our client and the Secretary of Youth, introduced us to the president of Nicaragua, Enrique BolaƱos. Then we posed for a photo. After the official photographer took a photo, the prez tried to move on but I held his shoulder in place and asked for a photo with my camera which he stood for. It was weird because I am not usually a celebrity chaser but this was different. I don't know why. Oh and the lunch which was done by the local women was the best typical Nica meal that I had.

Today, we got up early again; we had a press conference in which we talked about our project and the importance of telecenters to Nicaragua and then continued into a workshop for the coordinators of the existing telecenters. It worked out well. I had a few sections which I tried to do in Spanish...I really don't know how well I did. I was a little nervous and embarrassed because my Spanish sucks.

Back to the states...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Things not to eat in Nicaragua

OK. So I've been there and tried a couple of things that I do not recommend to anyone. First, is the turtle eggs. They come very warm but they are still raw in the middle. Basically you make a hole in the shell and suck out the yolk and white. You are supposed to use a little salt and lime but it didn't help at all. The other was some crazy beer thing that had beer, hot sauce and ice. Yeah, it was gross.


So I always forget, one of my favorite things about traveling is the randomness of the people that I meet. Tonight, I went out to dinner with a crazy UN of people. There was:
  • one Nicaraguan - who we work with
  • one Columbian - the girlfriend of the Nicaraguan and she also works at the Ministry of Youth.
  • one Austrian - I met her at breakfast the other day. She was alone and it was obvious so I showed her how to get her breakfast and she has been hanging out with us ever since.
  • one Israeli - we met her at Casa de Cafe and she was looking at returning to Costa Rica where she was staying until she met us.
  • one German - the friend of the Austrian
  • one Guatamalan - he is our sponsor through the IADB
  • us Americans - there were the 4 of us from Michigan....actually one of us is Venezuelan so that even adds one more nationality.
It was one of our birthdays also so we sang happy birthday in 5 different languages and there was regular conversation in 3 of the languages. It was very cool and interesting.

Sunday, April 02, 2006


Well, most of what we've been doing is work. It has been interesting though. We've now visited 3 different telecenters. Managua, Masaya and San Carlos. We are back in Managua for this last week. We'll probably be at the hotel for most of it working on our presentation before we leave and preparing for our little press conference. We do get a little break on Thursday when we will be headed up to Mozonte, which I keep pronouncing as if it were Brazilian (with a 'che' at the end.) In Mozonte, there will be an opening of an additional telecenter in which we will be attending and it is being opened by the president of Nicaragua. I don't know if or how much face-time we'll get with the President but it should be interesting.

Our trip to San Carlos was pretty enlightening. The fun started before we even got there, we had to cancel our boat trip of 14 hours, which was described to us several times as a puke-fest, so that we could do the 45 minute flight instead. The flight was new to me though as well. It turned out to be a 14 passenger flight (including pilots.) From where I was sitting in the first row, I could have just leaned forward and played with the controls myself. The landing strip looked as if it was a ski slope in the summer. It was a bit freaky flying into the side of a hill but we ended up alright. San Carlos itself was as hot as Managua which is always in the mid-90s but it was even more humid. Our hotel had showers but I never could get water to come out of mine. After 6PM the town was swarmed with these ugly flying green insects that you couldn't escape from. They had people and cars going around blowing this insecticide that probably was worse than the insects for us. It was crazy. I won't be going back, unless I have to.

As for fun, we finally saw a volcano and a market last Saturday. Last Sunday, we went to a beach on the Pacific side. It is always fun to play in the ocean. I tend to get bored doing beach stuff but waves are always fun for part of it. Yesterday, we saw Grenada which has been the best city we've been to so far. We also hit another market. Today, a few of us went to old town Managua and saw the old Cathedral. I took too many photos of it. It was sort of eerily amazing to me in the way it just stood there in ruins. It really looks as if it could collapse at any time.

I've got less than a week left and it looks as if most of it is going to be work, work, work. We'll see though.