Monday, April 30, 2007

My First Weekend at a Hospital

I spent this past weekend in the hospital. It was my first time ever at a Hospital. I mean I have visited but I have never been visited at one before.

Last Thursday I woke up feeling just like I do when I have a fever except that I did not have a fever. I also felt a little bloated. I had an important meeting that morning so I sucked it up and went to my meeting. Afterwards I headed back to the office, put in a couple of hours before I threw in the towel.

I got home around lunch time, decided to skip lunch because my stomach just didn't feel 100%. I crawled into bed and fell into the fever that finally arrived. It was slight but I rode it out until 7pm. I took a couple of Advil. I then ventured to have just a little bit of dinner. It was chicken and rice so it wouldn't be tough on my stomach anyway (just in case I did indeed have a stomach problem). I only took several bytes.

In the morning (4am) my stomach was worse. I mean it felt bloated, full and painful. I couldn't even stand up straight without bringing on some pain. I called a doctor. He looked at me and he did not like what he saw. He wanted me to go to a Hospital for testing, reassuring me that I should not be worried, that he wanted to rule out some things. He even said that I could go sometime later on during the day.

I did not want to wait. I got dressed and went right over to the La Trinidad. I checked in and the prodding started. The surgeon attending the emergency room was sleepy but I did not know if he was just arriving or he was towards the end of his shift. I mean he asked me to lower my pants while on the table because he was going to insert a thermometer and once I did that he forgot something and left me there for about 5 day was not starting out too well. I had x-rays done, blood taken, and got plugged into an I.V.

Another surgeon showed up and he asked me a bunch of questions similar to what the other two doctors had asked. He was trying to determine if maybe I had no more need of my appendix. The pain was on the wrong side for that to be a possibility (for the third time).

Anyway, I seemed to have filled my small intestine with air. I was told that this is not normal. Basically I had trapped gas in my small intestines. Things sort of stopped. Kind of like when the "subte" (subway for my foreign readers) stops in between stations and no one announces what the problem is. This puzzled the doctors because I should have been belching and passing gas like a fiend except my intestines were just sitting this one out. I was getting the silent treatment. "What could I have done to offend you?" I thought.

A fourth doctor shows up in my room and sums up what has already been told to me previously in different chunks by different doctors. He tells me that all my tests show normal. According to the tests I had nothing wrong, except for the x-ray that showed my small intestine trying to look like his big intestine brother. He wanted me to stay in the Hospital so that I could stay on the I.V. and therefore avoid drinking water and avoid being dehydrated. He was guessing that if I just give the little guy a complete rest that either of two things would happen. I would either get diarrhea, fever, and possibly throw up or things would go back to normal with little fanfare.

Instead of getting the "Collect $200 as you pass GO" card I got the "Pass gas to go home" card. I certainly did not want the alternative third card. So it's Monday afternoon. In the end, the doctors did not know what caused my little predicament and the little guy started working slowly but surely. The doctors and the nurses were all great. The room was nice and had a flat panel TV with cable so I got to see a whole bunch of soccer this weekend.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Oil for Chocolate

Dan from Saltshaker - one of Argentina´s worst kept secrets because his closed door restaurant is so popular - has just written about a sad day in US food history. The FDA is considering changing the legal definition of chocolate. Currently when a food company uses "chocolate" made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil the company has to state it as "chocolate flavor". They want to change this so that from now on they can now call this "chocolate".

To put this into perspective, it is just like letting the margarine companies call their product butter. They would think that you are too stupid to know the difference between margarine and butter. Besides with time, hardly anyone would remember what real butter would taste like because all the big companies would make margarine and just call it butter.

In this case, you wouldn´t know the difference until you actually put the "chocolate" in your mouth and got a waxy, funny tasting thing.

"The labels says it´s chocolate hunny, really."

After a while who would be the wiser. If everyone starts making the "new chocolate" who would know the difference?

To clarify the difference a bit more, one is a well known health hazard while the other one is filled with healthy antioxidants and it tastes fantastic.

Go here for directions on how to fill write to the FDA and let them know that this is a bad idea. You have to do this today since it is the last day.

Oh, and if you are not an American citizen you can still write, and you can write if you are physically in another country.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Raked over the coals

This is a saying in English that comes from when people used to burn at the stake for heresy, witchcraft, or denouncing your faith. Recently I have seen this phrase used more often over at the BANewcomer´s website. People were starting to brace themselves for follow up remarks that they were sure were going to be nasty.

The newcomers site was originally created by an American expat who had a terrible time adjusting to Argentina. She wanted to create a site where other expats could pool their knowledgebase together and maybe keep from getting ripped-off by the plumber for example, or find out where you can find Peanut Butter since the locals are not too keen on the stuff. You know, she just wanted a way to make her life a little easier and other expats as well.

This list has mushroomed and there are more than 1600 members. The owner has since left to go back to the United States but she still kept moderating the group. Recently she has run into a bit of some bad luck and she really can´t look after the group any more so she asked me and a couple of other people to moderate it for her.

We took over the reigns right when the group was caught with many bickering e-mails. The original topic to a given thread was no longer as important as the many directions in which the thread would take off to. The group started to see messages about racism, abortion, gun control, religion, etc. All juicy subjects for sure but none which can lead to a sensible conversation among mostly strangers sitting behind a computer screen. It was getting ugly.

The new moderators and myself decided that we had to just stop this because it was getting out of hand. I was the vocal one and addressed everyone and let them know that we were going to moderate heavily and basically told everyone to drop the threads that were going around.

I received a little bit of hate mail (okay maybe one), mostly positive mail, and a couple of e-mails expressing dislike for the measures and concern but were willing to live with it for now.

The result was that it worked. For now I no longer see any nasty messages in the group.

I am a very happy camper. Not too mention, I was doing all this e-mailing, talking with the other moderators and bringing the hammer down while I was grilling. The picture shows the results of my labor in between my frantic e-mailing. The chicken was fantastic, the filet mignon was a juicy medium rare and I helped bring a little peace to the Newcomer´s website, all without raking anyone over the coals.

Friday, April 20, 2007


Our newest treat comes from Germany (the idea that is). So what is a Stollen and why would anyone make a 4 ton version?

Stollen was first created in the middle ages in Germany and it was not a very tasty invention. The first Stollen consisted of flour, yeast and water. It sounded more like something you would feed to a prison population not actually sell it for money. The Catholic powers that be prohibited the use of butter during Advent or Lent (4 weeks before Christmas). Eventually the prohibition of butter during Lent was rescinded for a select few bakers, and then they allowed a few more until finally everyone could get in on the deal.

Stollen is very popular in Germany during Christmas but it is available year round. Our stolen is based on the yummy original style (not the prison food fare, the other original). Ours is made with Rosinen (raisin), Mandel (almonds), and Orangeat (candied orange peel) and is very moist. If you like, you can sprinkle powdered sugar for a final classic touch.

Enjoy and Auf Wiedersehen!

Tonel Privado

We have a new client! This is a family run winery. Their main store is in Belgrano in front of the Juramento Market. They have expanded to 10 locations and they are very well located throughout the city.

I have been after these guys for a very long time and finally they have come around. Maybe they were waiting around to make sure I wasn´t a flash in the pan (here one day and gone tomorrow).

But now they have my cookies and I just wanted to say Welcome to them.

La Nación Interview

I was just interviewed by Mercedes Garcia, a reporter from La Nación. I have done interviews in the past and haven’t really been too happy with them. However, she was great. She was friendly, asked questions and kept the conversation flowing smoothly. It was more like talking to a friend who was really interested in what I was doing.

Anyway, I would like to sum up what was covered and it will be interesting to see how much of that gets through or how it gets translated. Click -here- for the post on the actual interview that came out.

Company Beginnings:
My wife and I studied different gourmet food opportunities for export. We visited the USA, Canada, and the UK. We went on guided supermarket and gourmet store tours and talked to importers and distributors. We noticed that in each of these markets there existed clearly defined nitch markets for gourmet foods like coffee, tea, ice cream, spreads, olive oil, pastas, chocolate and cookies and breads.

These nitch markets have been growing in Argentina as well. Locally you have gourmet coffee, tea, oils, spreads, and alfajores. However, there are no gourmet cookies. I mean you have bakeries that offer fresh baked goods but no one had a gourmet shelf stable cookies. Based on this market study we decided to focus on cookies and breads.

We came up with an initial product line-up that included Cookies, Biscotti, Cantucci and Brownies. We used the local bars as guinea pigs (local market study) and get quick direct feedback from them. People loved the cookies. Demand started increasing and we looked for investors, rented our first facility and started growing even faster.

We now distribute our cookies nationwide to the most select delicatessens, wine shops, department stores, virtual supermarkets, gift shops, and duty free shops. We also offer private label and bulk customers like Aroma Café, Freddo, Munchie´s, McCafé, and The Coffee Store.

We moved into our new and current location during November of 2006 and we opened our new store in December of 2006. Our new facility is 600 sq meters and is a state of the art baking facility. This has given us the ability and confidence to start looking past Argentina’s borders for new clients in other countries.

The interview is supposed to come out in Monday´s section titled Emprendedores.
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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Row row row your boat...2

After 36 hours of no electricity we are finally back up. I also realized that the pictures I posted are tiny and you can't make out the tractor almost totally submerged in the construction site. Here is a link to bigger pictures.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Row row row your boat...

Last night's storm caused havoc all over the city. The usual places that always flood well, you guessed it, they flooded again. Juan B. Justo is one of those trouble spots that floods. Mind you, the actual street doesn't since it sits pretty high compared to all the side streets that feed into it. Sugar & Spice sits on one of those side streets.

We knew it and we built the factory with that in mind. Our garage door is street level but the floor is on an angle going up. Our store has a couple of steps so people walk up to the store. We also bought these metal doors for the shop so that the waves can break againts that instead of washing into the store. This works as long as the water level does not breach the height of these metal doors.

So it rained and we put up our door and everything worked like a charm. I just have to remember to get some hip boots so that I can walk out of there in these situations. My employees took to wrapping their feet in plastic bags and sealing them with tape to walk out. It looked funny but it also worked. I managed to leave last night and was feeling pretty good about how the factory and the kids took the storm. That good feeling would be turn a little sour in the morning.

The kids showed up to a lifeless factory. No electricity was running. They didn't know what to do. The culprit was the construction site right in front of us. The building is part of Quartier. They have several apartment towers. This one is scheduled to be finished by 2009. So far, everytime we have had heavy rain the construction site has become a huge pool as you can see by the pictures. These pictures were taken from the roof of Sugar & Spice.

Obviously, we call Edenor to see what they can tell us. On the phone they said that they had no record of their being any problems in the area. I was wondering then what the big semi with the huge generator and several small Edenor vans were doing along Juan B. Justo? She repeated that she knew of no problems being reported. Meanwhile here are pictures of the Edenor vans and pumps working feverishly to pump the water out of their generator room or whatever they call it. It seems that this time the water from the construction site broke into Edenor's generator, which is below ground.

Normally the construction site has several pumps that would be working to take all the water out but because there is no electricity... I think that a snail will have a better chance of crossing this block before Edenor can empty the water out with that one little gas pump.

I do have to hand it to them though. They have been working since 3am regardless of their lack of progress. I just hope that they get a bigger pump. I wonder if maybe they can plug that semi directly to my factory??

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

New Look

Mother Nature was mucking it up. If you want things done right sometimes you just have to do it yourself.

I shaved my head. I wanted to do it for some time now. I finally had a long weekend with a promising forecast in the weather and nothing but time on my hands in Punta del Este, Uruguay.

What I found funny though has been the reactions I get from people. Mostly the first question is why? Most don´t know what to say. Hey, I didn´t loose a pet or an arm. I just decided to shave my head. If Bruce Willis can look good with a shaved head then why can´t I try it? I like the look and now I am experimenting with either shaving all the time or once a week.

One of the things I did before I dove into it was actually look up information on the Internet. I thought maybe I could get some pointers on shaving. I found a couple of good sites: - Headshaver org has a step-by-step guide on how to get a perfectly good shaved head as well as product reviews, FAQs, articles, and a section just for women. - I liked the title of this one. Message boards, stories, etc.

Friday, April 13, 2007


Don´t pack your bags just yet. Didn´t you hear that prices are actually starting to fall? I have to get this out to my providers, the ones that keep increasing their prices just to check that maybe they pressed the wrong button on their calculators, you know they pressed the + sign instead of the - sign.

I really could not sum this up better than a fellow blogger already has. If you would like to read more about this in detail (and in English) visit Pablo´s site.

If you want to look at the article directly in Spanish you can go here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

What are you going to do?

I participate in a virtual group called Buenos Aires Newcomers Group. This group was started by an American expat in Buenos Aires. She started this group as a sort of support group for expats moving to Argentina. With this group the expats can share their experiences and knowledge of their new temporary home. This group has mushroomed into more than 1,600 members!

There was a recent surge in messages around the topic of dog shit on the sidewalks of Buenos Aires. I can’t remember how exactly it got started this time (there are several topics that rise every once in a while like the tides in the ocean and this is one of them). What I did find interesting was the different reactions from both locals and foreigners that participated. One expat actually created a flyer, and has the flyers inserted in the newspapers in her neighborhood. The reactions went from people saying that as a foreigner we should not try to change the local habits to various levels of support for this type of initiative. One other person also chimed in with the idea of giving your local homeless person the job of cleaning up the block in exchange for some pay.

My reaction to this situation, speaking as an expat who has adopted this country or has been adopted by it however you want to look at it, is that this one falls under the category of changeable habits. I mean, I don’t see anything wrong with complaining about this one and definitely nothing wrong with being proactive like the person who went out with flyers informing everyone about the negative impact dog shit has on the community. I mean they have been able to change the smoking experience here, why wouldn’t it be possible to change this one as well? I think it can be done.

I was coming home one day and there was this woman walking her dog and the dog and the woman stopped right in front of my door and the dog proceeded to do its thing….right in front of my door….in front of me. No readers, I did not loose my head this time like the poor dope who decided to play bumper cars with my car. This time it was a combination of me being tired, wanting to go home, and facing a cultural difference at this time just was not on the top of my priority list. I did shake my head and made a face at her. She got off easy.

I had a friend of mine visit once and we were walking home and I happened to step on some dog do. I cleaned most of it on the sidewalk and curb. When I got home I did separate the shoes and asked our maid to clean the rest of the shoes. We do periodically have our shoes cleaned. However, my friend started to ride me about the shoes and proclaimed that he would hate to be my maid. It was much funnier the way he put it but that was ages ago. Now I hardly ever step on it because I have mastered the art of walking and always scanning the sidewalk ahead. No I do not walk with my head looking down gingerly stepping around all the land mines. I feel like a local now being able to walk down the street, talking on the phone, being a little late sometimes to where I need to go and being able to sidestep the dog shit on the sidewalks and streets.

So, in the end it’s your call people; you, as in visitors, and locals. The ones who don’t mind the dog shit on the sidewalks, well that’s easy, you don’t have to do anything.