Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Why Should I Vote for Yanqui Mike?

Well here I am on vacation in Villa La Angostura with my 4 and 6 year old daughters and wife and I have had a great time except for one thing; I had to make sure and vote for Democrats Abroad Argentina.

Normally this is no big deal, but this is Argentina and technology is great when it works, and it is the absolute worst when it does not work. I finally got passed that hurdle and put my vote in yesterday after visiting three locutorios.

I have been quite isolated from what has been going on with this race in Buenos Aires. This could be fortunate or unfortunate for me. I don´t know, it´s too early to tell. I read somewhere that there has been some negativity flying around. I have not been able to count on a consistent internet connection and sometimes I can´t even get into my e-mails; I can only read the titles.

Regardles, I just wanted to get something off my chest regarding this whole thing. Our last head chair, Mike Skowreneck, was on the wrong end of a vote of no confidence by his executive board. This guy was the one who I saw work his ass off to create this thing in the first place.

The charges were that he used funs illegally and that he censored a mailing or a post and that he was just a tyrrant.

When I heard about the first charge I took pause and asked him myself. His answer cleared him of any illegal conduct in my book. He basically took the proceeds from the debate party and sent it in to the Obama campaign against the wishes of the other members. This was a group and they were fighting. However, the tag of "illegal" was thrown around with ease.

He sent the money to Obama, he didn´t try to sell the DAA database or buy his wife a leather jacket or anything like that. I was one of the donors and have been throughout the groups existance. Believe me, the option of the money going to the Presidential campaign seemed like a good idea to me.

Anyway, he did have a reason for doing this and he was going to answer all the charges brought against him in a meeting that was first called and then cancelled. He never got to defend himself. The charges against him just hung out there like dirty laundry that was never washed and was forgotten, but was visible for everyone to see. He already posted about this in the DAA board so if you are registered you can see it there. He will also no doubtedly have the opportunity to answer any one else´s question regarding this during the meeting on the 31st.

The censorship charge was just laughable as I understood it. He wanted one word changed from an article, and that word was "oligarch" or "oligarchy". In Argentina it is a word that has a lot of weight behind it. It is not something to be taken lightly. He understood the negative connetations of that word and just did not want it in that article. For one word he was labeled a censor.

As for the tyrannt thing? Well he has never been my boss. I have disagreed with him in the past and I found him to be passionate, but not so stubborn as to insist that his way is THE way and nothing else exists. In fact, I kind of like dissagreeing with him almost as much as I like dissagreeing with him. Now if I can stand up to the Yanq in a civil manner, why couldn´t these four people do it¡?

After that is out of the way I would vote for him based on what he has already achieved:

He created Dems Abroad Argentina

Responsible for the very first DAA elections, a virtual event

Organized Super Tuesday Party, co-sponsored with Expat Connection

“Yes We Span”, worldwide visually symbolic show, invited photographer: Cate Kelly

“Unite for Change”, worldwide reach out effort

4th of July Celebration, co-sponsored with Good Morning Buenos Aires

Film Festival, co-sponsored with INADI (National Institute Against Discrimination), invited film director: Sebastian Cordoba

Cocktail Party Membership drive, co-sponsored with Good Morning Buenos Aires, organized by: Samuel Warde

2008 Democratic National Convention Finale Party, co-sponsored with Expat Connection


DAA Designs Contest

1st Presidential Debate Watch Party (at Sacramento Bar)

1st Vice-Presidential Debate Watch Party (at Sacramento Bar)

2nd Presidential Debate Watch Party (at Sacramento Bar)

2 weeks rally “Phones for Obama” to all US citizens in Central, South America and the Caribe, organized by: Americans Abroad for Obama

Democrats Abroad Argentina Election Night Watch Party in Buenos Aires (at Sacramento Bar)

Now that I got this out of the way, the second time I post about this election I will write about how I plan to run the Treasury of Democrats Abroad.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tickets? Update - Novedades

One of my favorite bloggers in Argentina has asked me, pretty please with cherries on top, to print the letter that I left on the windshield of the idiot that parked in front of my garage.

Yep, that is the only thing that I did. I wrote a letter in Spanish. I was in the middle of an interview when she came out to her car so I could only see from a distance that she actually read it.

I could not confront her. I don´t feel too bad about that though since I will have other opportunities, and so I should have plenty of practice in the art of confronting some of these people. In fact, I could make it a project and try different approaches.

Anyway, this is from memory and translated, but it is very close to what the actual letter stated:

Dear Medical Professional,

I see from the sign in your car that you are a doctor or at the very least, have some medical training. From that I gather that you managed to receive a privileged education. In spite of this superior education you managed to park your car in front of a driveway with a "no parking" sign in clear view. Your car obstructed the entrance to my factory for the whole day. Clearly, from your education it can not be ignorance at play. Is this that famed "I could care less of others" attitude that is attributed to Argentines? Seeing your vast history of traffic violations, I can only guess that it is. In that case, congratulations! You now know who to point the finger at when people wonder what is wrong with this country. You are one of those that just does not care.

If you would like to start making your own country a nicer place to live please start caring a bit more about those around you. Change starts with one´s self.

Your inconvenienced neighbor,
Frank E. Almeida
Guatemala 5415

So it wasn´t as gratifying as stuffing her tailpipe with bananas, but I felt okay about it. That day we just worked around her car. Of course I told all the delivery people that the car did not belong to us...


Una autora de uno de mis blogs favoritos me pidió que escriba la carta que dejé en el parabrisas del auto que estacionó enfrente de mi portón.

Ahora lo escribo de memoria pero es bastante cerca de lo que escribí:

Estimado profesional medico,

Veo por el cartel que tiene en su parabrisas que es un medico. Por esa razón, asumo que usted tuve una educación privilegiada. A pesar de esta educación, usted dejó su auto en frente del portón de nuestra fabrica impidiendo el acceso a la misma. Es claro que esto no puede ser por ignorancia, ya que nuestro portón tiene señalización prohibiendo el estacionamiento. Sera esto muestra de la fama que tienen los Argentinos por el despreció a sus vecinos y su propia ciudad? Mirando la cantidad de infracciones aplicado a su auto temo que es así.

En ese caso lo felicitó porque ya identificó con certeza, por lo menos, a uno de los culpables de cuando la gente pregunta "Que es lo que tiene mal este país?". Usted es uno de esos que no les importa al otro.

Si quisiera ayudar a mejorar su país, el cambio empieza por uno mismo.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Tickets? Who Needs Tickets?

***Spanish translation follows at the end of post
***Version en castellano sigue al pie de la nota

One of my pet peeves on living in Argentina has raised its ugly head. This particular behavior by a segment of the local population really drives me up the wall. No it´s not the one where they let their dogs shit anywhere they please and don´t pick it up. Although, that one is up there as well.

This one has to do with their cars.

When I first came to Argentina one of the things that struck me as an ugly and potential road hazard where these yellow iron bars or tubes that you would see going from the curb out onto the street. You can see an example of them in this picture.

I did a complete 180° turn on this one though, after living here a while. The reason people put them out there was to keep idiots from parking in front of their garages. I guess it just is not obvious enough that you should not park in front of a garage, let alone when they have "no parking" signs on them, the curb is painted yellow, and just the common sense that where there is a garage door normally there are cars going in and out of them just doesn´t dawn on them.

No, this little observation is just completely lost on a certain segment of the local population.

The new mayor in town has been an overachiever in road maintenance since the National Government doesn´t really let him do much of anything else. One of the things that he wanted to do was to put the police under city control and to have the revenue destined for police salaries transferred over to him to pay for them. Since he is a political enemy of the current National Government it was pretty obvious that they were not going to let him have his police.

He is going ahead with it anyway and creating his own police force. In fact, he is accepting applications right now. Meanwhile, the city has adopted tough new laws aimed at increasing control of its roads. For example, all of us start out with 20 points and depending on what infractions you are caught committing, you get points deducted.

The city inspectors have all been given Scooby snacks and they have been out in force actually doing their jobs. They visited us several times and made me take my own garage-space-saving-bars out. Since I have a business I am a very easy target for them, and so I took them down.

I immediately applied for a no parking city sign and have not heard from them yet. I also filled out the paperwork for them to come by and take an abandoned car out of the road that is in front of my store, and is currently being used as a home sans indoor plumbing. I have also yet to see them do anything about that.

And today, I arrived to see some idiot leave their car parked in front of my factory´s garage door. The first thing I did was to call the police. They showed up and tell me that they only thing they could do was to make a $37,50 ticket since the police does not have the power or ability to tow cars away. However, today they could not even do that. They said that the national police does not have any tickets (which are supplied by the city) because the city is giving them all to their own traffic control cops that are busy trying to take peoples points away.

I noticed that the offending car has a sign in it that explains that it belongs to a doctor. I went over to the hospital next door, but they assured me that their doctors park in their secured parking lot, but they were kind enough to ask around and could not find the owner.

I decided to just write a letter and leave it for this guy this time. However, I was also very curious and I just had to look up the history of this car. It turns out this guy has a three page traffic rap sheet. This guy runs red lights, parks in front of garages, makes left turns where he is not supposed to and either talks on the phone or has headphones on while driving.

Click on the picture below to see the car in question and images of his rap sheet...

What should I do to these guys the next time they park in front of my garage?


Una de las cosas que odio del comportamiento de un segmento de la poblacion local tiene que ver con los autos.

En este caso en particular tiene que ver con gente que estaciona en frente de portones.

Una de las cosas que noté y me parecio mal y feo fueron los tubos en las calles que se usaban para proteger contra los que estacionan en frente de portones. No entendia como la ciudad dejaba a su gente instalar estos tubos en la via publica.

Con el tiempo aprendí que justamente porque la ciudad tampoco hace nada para proteger a sus ciudadanos contra conductores de autos que estacionan donde quieren. El gobierno se auto borra y los ciudadanos tratan de hacer lo que pueden.

Ahora Macri (en nuevo alcalde) esta arreglando las calles ya que no lo dejan hacer mucho mas. Una de las cosas que quería hacer era tener la policía bajo el control de la ciudad. Como el es enemigo del gobierno nacional era obvio que esto no lo aceptarían. El, igual, sigue adelante con su plan y esta formando su policía. Es mas, ya esta aceptando aplicaciones.

También iniciaron el plan de scoring para tratar de ordenar el caos vehicular de la ciudad. Todas cosas que me parecen barbaro para una ciudad del tamaño de Buenos Aires.

Los inspectores han salido a la calle y estan trabajando. Me visitaron y me pidieron que saque los tubos de la calle que teniamos nosotros. Yo los saque.

Hoy llego a la fabrica y veo que un idiota estacionó en frente de nuestro portón. Lo primero que hice fue llamar a la policía que después de una hora llegaron para informarme que lo único que podían hacer era laborar una acta de $37.50 pero que hoy ni podían hacer eso porque la ciudad no les esta dando libretas de actas.

Mi curiousidad me llevó a buscar los antecedentes del auto. Este estupido esta acostumbrado a hacer lo que se le cante. Tiene tres paginas de infracciones. Parece que a esta persona le gusta cruzar en luz roja, estacionar donde no debe, girar donde no debe, hablar por telefono o escuchar audifonos mientras conduce.

Bajé los antecedentes y tomé fotos del auto. Si quieren mirar solo hagan click.

Que debería hacer la próxima vez que se estacionan en frente del porton?

****** UPDATE ******

I was being interviewed by Para Ti Magazine so I could not go out and confront her. Yes, it was a woman--not that there´s anything wrong with that. I am just being observational. Anyway, she read the note that I left for her and she left. I am sure she was in a hurry to make a left turn somewhere while talking on the cell phone and eventually parking in front of someone else´s garage door.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Clarin´s Top 10 - Sugar & Spice Makes the List

Not a bad way to end the year or start a new one. Clarin, Argentina´s largest newspaper, included us in their round-up of entrepreneurs with the most innovative ideas. For some reason, the online article is not complete so you would have to read the actual paper or you can click on the picture above if you can read Spanish.

Another expat (this one from the UK) was also mentioned. His company is 0800-Vino and it is a wine delivery service that promises to have your order delivered to your home within the hour.

Clarin chose among all the companies that they interviewed during the year. This was a complete surprise to me, and I found out about it after a friend of mine wrote to me congratulating me on the article. Thanks Tom!

The article is in Spanish, so what follows is my own personal translation of our part of the article.

Frank Almeida said that he came to this country out of love. He arrived in 1999 with his then girlfriend, now wife, but he soon started to miss some things. "I could not find cookies, like I knew cookies". To satisfy his nostalgia, his wife started baking out of their home. Today they are the owners of Sugar & Spice, a brand of gourmet cookies that invoiced $1,500,000 pesos in 2007.

We first "baked them at home and sold them to local bars and cafés of Palermo Viejo". Later they rented a space, bought an oven and designed their packaging. They managed to sell to Falabella (multinational departement store chain) and that is how they started their relationships with large clients. They also obtained angel investment to the tune of one million dollars. With that money they bought a factory with 800 sq meters of space. Today you can find their products in Jumbo, Disco, Libertad and La Anonima.

Of course we can also be found in many small gourmet shops, cafés, wine shops, cheese shops, video stores, chocolate shops, etc throughout the country from Tierra del Fuego to Misiones.