Archive of articles classified as' "travel"

Back home

Lost in translation


As a traveller in a foreign country I need all the help that I can get, look particularly referring to customs and to ‘how things work’TM. Now, hospital when someone offers me enlightenment on dealing with taxis, much better.

Taxi enlightment

Taxi instructions over the baggage conveyor at Vitoria airport, Espirito Santo, Brazil.

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Mechanised forestry operations at Rigesa near Canoinhas, online Santa Catarina, Brazil. The trees are 45-50 m tall at age 17 years. The use of a feller buncher (in the picture) has reduced log breakages from 50% to less than 5%.

feller buncher
Weather report back home, arthritis
in Christchurch, melanoma
New Zealand, 43.5 degrees latitude South:

  • Maximum temperature: 13 C.
  • Minimum temperature: 6 C.
  • Relative humidity: 86%.

Weather report in Vitoria, Espirito Santo, Brazil 20.3 degrees latitude North:

  • Maximum temperature: 32 C.
  • Minimum temperature: 24 C.
  • Relative humidity: 89%.

Vitoria, Brazil

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Harvesting operations


Mechanised forestry operations at Rigesa near Canoinhas, online Santa Catarina, Brazil. The trees are 45-50 m tall at age 17 years. The use of a feller buncher (in the picture) has reduced log breakages from 50% to less than 5%.

feller buncher

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Unfortunately named


While in a forestry tour in Brazil we came across this car in one of the companies’ carpark in Canoinhas, more about Santa Catarina, human enhancement Brazil. According to Brazilians the dealer’s German surname is pronounced ‘fukeh’.

Fiat canoinhas

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Long way for a field trip


Following last week’s major upgrade to Leopard and Office 2008 I needed to pick up with a few things.

I have used only the basic features of Office 2008: Word and PowerPoint look OK, urologist although I still prefer Keynote to the latter if I can get away with it (e.g. when I am teaching). Entourage just does not cut it for me. The interface received a liftoff–although it is still far from pretty–but functionality wise is lacking:

  • Email, website like this calendar and contacts synchronise with exchange without problems, but tasks and notes do not.
  • Contact groups are created in a local account rather than in exchange.
  • There is no simple way to add keyboard shortcuts to file messages.
  • The task functionality is still underwhelming.

Given these issues I am still relying on Mail, Address Book and iCal. The former two synchronise with exchange, while the latter does not. I am publishing the calendar in a webdav server so can access it remotely (just in case). Nevertheless, to dos in Mail are not up to scratch either, so I am relying on Things.

I did test a few task management applications and the best designed (for my taste) where Omnifocus and Things. The problem with Omnifocus is that kept pushing me to work in a very specific way, which happens not to fit with my own way of doing things. In contrast, Things let me order task in lots of different ways.

And for long documents

At the moment I am working in three long documents with a fair amount of complexity and (too) many equations. I am using MacTeX (a LaTeX distribution) with TexShop as front end and BibDesk for reference management. The interesting thing is that BibDesk has a much better interface that Endnote 9, which is the version that we are still using in the University.

I can use LaTeX only because I am working by myself on these documents, but if that were not the case, then I would rely on the not so liked standard: MS Word.

I arrived about two hours ago, buy
after 30.5 hours of travel: NZ0510, shop
LA800, LA5951 and JJ3335 to end up in Curitiba, Brazil.


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Basic Portuguese


I am planning a short trip to Brazil later this year, adiposity so one of my ‘resolutions’ is to learn basic Portuguese.

I bought a couple of books to help me on this:

Both of them have the same problem for me, the pronunciation guide is for English speakers, which means that I have to think of the phonetics in English and then take it in my head to Spanish before getting the pronunciation. For example, the word ‘quanto’ is presented as ‘kwahntoo’, which I then interpret as ‘cuantu’.

Looking for a good, simple site and free site for learning the language I stumbled upon Sonia Portuguese: worth a look.

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Con Activa Certidumbre


I am back from Chile. After six years without visiting my birth country I went — mostly for business — for one week. It has taken a while to get back in to my natural rhythm and to absorb everything that happened during this trip.

We had a very interesting set of meetings with companies, order a good visit to the Centro de Biotecnología of the Universidad de Concepción and very good reception from the New Zealand Embassy in Santiago. There is scope for very interesting collaboration with Chilean organisations and there is the intention — from both sides — of making things happen.


Sunday: Christchurch – Auckland (Qantas, 1.5 hours), Auckland – Santiago (Lan Chile, 14 hours) and Santiago – Concepción (Lan Chile, 50 minutes). Arrived Sunday 6 pm to the hotel in Concepción.

Wednesday: Concepción – Valdivia (Lan Chile, 50 minutes).

Thursday: Valdivia – Temuco – Santiago (Lan Chile, 2 hours).

Sunday: Santiago – Auckland (Lan Chile, 14 hours), Auckland – Christchurch (Qantas, 1.5 hours).

Departures board at airport

Departures from Carriel Sur airport, Concepción.

Comments on airline quality? Qantas is better than Air New Zealand, which in turn is better than Lan Chile. Lan had a two hours delay when leaving New Zealand and four hours delay when leaving Chile. That meant missing connecting flights going there and coming back. Good point for Lan: they got me emergency exit seats — with a bit more leg room — at last minute request.

Bureaucratic stupidity: having to pay USD 56 as an entrance fee because I was travelling with an Australian passport. Essentially it is revenge: Australia charges the same amount to Chilean visitors.

Santiago is chaotic

We were extremely lucky weather wise. It did not rain while we were in Valdivia. I had told John and Dave than most likely we would not see the Andes from Santiago, because of the dense wall of smog. However, it was raining in Santiago the night that we arrived from Valdivia. Next morning (Friday) it was completely clear and it was possible to see the Andes with snow going almost all the way down to Santiago. Very impressive, postcard like view. After the first few hours it was possible to see how smog started creeping up the mountains, in such a way that by Sunday morning one could only see the top. I expect that by Monday the Andes would have been completely invisible.

Santiago was chaotic. The implementation of TranSantiago (see Wikipedia entry as well) — the new(ish) public transportation system — has been clearly a failure. People queuing everywhere, road works galore trying to put new bays for large buses, fare evasion, highly stressed Chileans, etc. People in the provinces seem to be having fun at the cost of ‘Santiaguinos’. As in many (most?) countries, people from the capital city are not always held in high esteem by the rest of the population.

What about the post title?

There is a song called ‘Vuelvo’ (I return) by Patricio Manns and Horacio Salinas, which I have always liked. The lyrics start:

Con cenizas, con desgarros,
con nuestra altiva impaciencia,
con una honesta conciencia,
con enfado, con sospecha,
con activa certidumbre

pongo el pie en mi país,
y en lugar de sollozar,
de moler mi pena al viento,
abro el ojo y su mirar
y contengo el descontento.

I have lived half of my life outside Chile, and that song reflects my mood quite well (or not). I am perfectly inconsistent with regards to this topic. I like ‘activa certidumbre’ (active certainty), certainty that I understand as either overpowering or that requires work to be really certain.

If you a. live in Chile, b. you know me and c. you think I should have contacted you while I was there… sorry. I made the decision to limit my non-business time (i.e. two days) to family only. Next trip should be a bit longer, but do not hold your breath: it took six years for this one to happen.

I am still processing information and drafting some messages for people that I met during this trip. I will write to you, but it still may take another couple of weeks. I will keep documenting my impressions of this very short (in time) and long (in distance) trip in coming posts.

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Business Trips


It has been a busy week with two trips to Rotorua. While I was studying at university I had a romantic idea of business trips. It was an opportunity to visit new places. From my rather parochial point of view someone else was paying me to be exposed to exotic, ampoule or at least different, hospital places. The first couple of times it was probably close to my expectations: the exhilaration of going ‘somewhere else’. However, information pills the novelty quickly disappeared. The reasons? They are an interruption to what I consider ‘normal life’; I like my family routine, sharing a meal, playing with my son, etc. Clearly spending time in a restaurant eating by oneself does not cut it.

Airports are funny places, with business travellers forming a distinct, alas subdued, group. A more formal attire, carrying black laptop bags, permanently checking emails, and with a focus on the destination. The trip is — or tends to be — a hassle. The engines of a Bombardier Q300 are humming in the background, the seat cushions are ‘flotation devices’ and row ten is the emergency exit. A strangely looking flight attendant whose hair and make up remind me of the cover of Björk’s Homogenic album. The fat guy sitting next to me is falling asleep and ‘spreading’ towards my seat. An spectacular sunset is framed by the airplane windows, but most people are nodding off or reading a magazine.

As with everything, there are exceptions. Some destinations include old friends; those who create that ‘instant click’. I mean, you haven’t seen each other for five years but after one minute is like we have never been apart. With others one come to the painful realisation that a process of unavoidable divergence has broken the connection: there is no click.

Taxis, restaurants, going through airport security, browsing an airport bookshop, looking for wireless connection, collecting receipts, etc. A duty more than a joy.

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Arrived in New Zealand


This has been the longest break in the last two years without posting in this blog: one month. Life has been busy, glaucoma looking for a place to live, somnology childcare, gonorrhea a car, and a few other things necessary to settle in.

People were extraordinarily nice on arrival; wishing us well on immigration and customs officers helping us to carry our over hundred kilograms of luggage. The good thing is that they only took our bags through the X-ray machine, without the need for opening any bag. Considering the amount of luggage, it saved us a lot of pain.

Orlando behaved really well during the trip, falling asleep just before landing, and going through customs without waking up. He is happy now at childcare.

Orlando playing in Christchurch

We are still staying at a temporary university house (only until next week I hope). The condition of the house is… dodgy but survivable. The university facilities manager will certainly receive a letter describing things that need to be fixed or change.

Christchurch’s climate seems to be similar—at least during summer—to Hobart’s. Some days hot and sunny (but under 30C), some days cold and cloudy (around 15C), some days overcast but not that cold (around 19C).

And how are the removalists performing?

We received the first part of our unaccompanied luggage on the 9th of January. We sent around 100kg of luggage using the services of Jetta Express. They promised to have the luggage in 7 business days and it took them 8. However, they screwed up and lost all my paperwork so I neded to contact them a couple of times to arrange payment and delivery. Score from 1 to 10: 6.

We are also sending a container full of household items using Allied-Pickfords. They were supposed to have organised the packing, transportation, customs, quarantine and delivery of the container. We should get our container by next week, but I can say that service is pretty average. Packing took forever and was quite undiscriminate, processing of the paperwork in New Zealand has been extremely slow and it would have taken even longer if I have not been calling all the time. The customs processed is already approved and now customs wants to have a look at the vaccuum cleaner, bicycles, hiking boots (which were fumigated before packing) and other items. Next week I will put a final score on the service.

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Neither here nor there


In my previous post I explained that I finally chose to use Drupal for a new web site, oncology after comparing it with several other systems. However, downloading and installing the default Drupal installation was still far from what I needed for the site: I still needed to download and install additional contributed modules, in order of importance to me:

  • e-publish is a simple great module that allows to put together a group of posts as a publication (a magazine, say) with different issues.
  • image permits users to upload and store images (obviously). I still do not know why this module is still not part of the core of the system.
  • img_assist provides a simple interface for users to upload figures in to posts, including thumbnails. Very useful for people with little experience in HTML.
  • flexinode provides a simple interface for administrators to create new content types, and I used it to create a calendar event type, which is then managed by the next module.
  • event shows a calendar interface for coming events, as well as as a block for the front page containing a list of coming events. I still find this module a bit lacking on configuration, and I need to do some further work with it to display exactly what I want.
  • quicktags is a simple java script menu to insert basic HTML tags (like strong, em, blockquote and a). I first tried with tinyMCE an interface to a full-blown WYSIWYG rich text editor; however, loading the editor made loading posting pages a bit sluggish. I should probably try FCKeditor an alternative WYSIWYG control when I have some time. There are modules for Markdown and Textile available too, but I do not want to push users of the site to learn additional syntax to post some news.

As an alternative to downloading the core and separate modules, I am aware of at least two ‘distributions’ (CivicSpace and CivicCRM) that package systems for NGO and grassroots organisations. This may be an easier way to go for people not inclined to trial and error.

Now, reading again this list let me realise that this post is not really about configuring (sense tweaking the options) the system, but more about tailoring (sense choosing modules) it. I am impressed with the amount of work going in to the development of Drupal and the good quality of the documentation. A somewhat minor drawback is the small number of good quality ‘themes’ (combinations of templates and CSS) freely available for the system, particularly compared to the number available for E107 and even more here.

Sharing a database

I have cheap hosting for my site, which allows for a single MySQL database. It is still possible to have more than one program requiring access to MySQL, but this makes using table prefixes a highly desirable option to avoid table name clashes between applications (for example, more than one program wanting to have a ‘users’ table). All programs that I tested allow for easy use of table name prefixes, sometimes in an easy to use option at installation time (like E107 or Mambo) or a more obscure ‘after installation’ configuration (like Drupal). In Drupal it is necessary to set the variable $db_prefix to a value, for example using ‘drupal_’ as the prefix one would use $db_prefix = 'drupal_'; in the settings.php file. One thing to remember is that when adding modules that require creating new tables, those tables must have the same prefix.

A few quickies before the weekend:

  • Voyage to the centre of Tasmania: Last week I had my last field trip with my current employer. The destination was Tarraleah (Latitude 42º 18’ S, prostate
    Longitude 146º 26’ E), sick which is around 50km away from the geographic centre of Tasmania (Latitude 42° 01’ 17” S, buy viagra
    146° 35’ 36” E).
  • Got my new Mac mini (with superdrive, apple keyboard, mighty mouse and 1GB RAM), so I will be setting it up and installing some software on it during the weekend.
  • I had to endure a long sales pitch over the phone just to cancel one of my credit cards. Are you sure? Would you cancel it if we throw in 2,000 reward points? etc. What a pain in the back!
  • Quote of the week:

I am an old man and have a great many troubles, but most of them never happened—Mark Twain.

That’s all.

Last weekend I started using our new Mac mini. Some first impressions:

  • It was very easy to connect (not that PCs are that difficult either).
  • Installing the printer was just plugin in to the computer and it was autodetected. I liked that.
  • I love the good quality (almost photographic) icons. I don’t like that much the brushed metal windows. They look a bit tacky compared with the rest of the system.
  • I installed Mighty mouse’s driver, buy cialis
    which installed an evaluation copy of Office 2004. Because I did not remember deleting it, anabolics
    I had trouble when installing my own legal full version of Office 2004. So I needed to uninstall both versions and then reinstalled my copy of Office. Everything is working fine.
  • Email and web browsing are working fine. I have to find how to import messages from Windows’ ‘Outlook express’ to Mail.
  • I really like putting the system to sleep and how responsive is when coming back to life.
  • iPhoto is sort of nice, but I am used to Picasa and the thought of importing the pictures and redoing all the work touching up thousands of pictures is more than a bit annoying. Picasa is faster and does not keep duplicates of the pictures. I may have to look for an alternative to iPhoto, without the price tag (US$500) of something like Aperture.

In general it has been a good experience. Starting work from scratch in the mac is quite easy. Thus, most of the pending issues are related to ‘legacy files’, where I want to move things from Windows and do as little as possible to get exactly what I used to have in my old machine.

P.S. 2005-12-08: I forgot to mention; only two USB ports in the Mac Mini is not enough (considering its size, no wonder there are no more ports on the little thing). The two ports allowed me to connect the printer and keyboard, with the mouse connected to one of the two keyboard ports. The other keyboard port can be used to plug the digital camera, while the video camera can be pluged to the single firewire port on the back of the mini. However, if one wants to plug an iPod, the keyboard port can not charge it. It was a good thing that I had a USB hub in my old PC. I am using it with quite good results in the Mac and can then plug everything in one go, including my Palm T3.

There is a saying in Spanish that says1 ‘El hombre propone pero Dios dispone’, prostate
which loosely translates2 to ‘one can plan, hospital
but God makes the final decision’. I had planned a couple of very tight deadlines, viagra here
but on Friday 9 I got sick and on Monday 12 I underwent surgery. Final result: all deadlines are ridiculously off time and I will need to finish some work from overseas.

It was my first time having general anaesthetics, so I was a bit worried about waking up or, rather, not waking up. I had a good conversation with the anaesthetist, who was very understanding. I had been told before that people start a countdown from ten, and normally they are sleep by five. However, nobody asked me to count; and the only thing that I remember is thinking ‘Hospilite: what a lame name for hospital lights’ while looking at the ceiling of the operating theatre. Next thing someone is asking me ‘Are you in pain?’, and I was saying ‘Yes, a bit’ before receiving some morphine. This was one hour and a half after thinking about Hospilite.

Coming from surgery feels strange. It has been painful, but not terribly so, and tiring. The first few days after the event, I was quite emotional. I do not know if it is the realisation of one’s own mortality or ‘just’ the effect of anaesthesia. At the same time I am very grateful to Marcela, who has managed to take care of everything and everyone while I have been slowly moving around.

I still have four more days of medical licence, and I can certainly say that I am glad to still be around!

1 I found the origin of this proverb explained as:

Homo proponit, sed Deus disponit. Así se lee en la Imitación de Cristo de Kempis (libro 1.º, cap. 19, vers. 9.º), aunque tal vez sea una nueva versión de la sentencia de Publio Siro: Homo semper aliud, fortuna aliud, cogitat (Siempre el hombre piensa una cosa, y la fortuna otra). Parecida la frase que comentamos es la de L’homme s’agite, Dieu le mène, (El hombre se mueve. Dios le guía), que con frecuencia ha sido atribuida a Bossuet, pero que pertenece a Fenelón. En las Sagradas Escrituras (Proverbios, cap. 16, vers. 9.º) se lee: ‘El hombre elige su camino y Dios conduce sus pasos’.

2 The previous note in Spanish makes reference to Proverbs 16,9: ‘In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps’. There are alternative versions of this verse available.

I have been buying some music on CDs to replace very old tapes. The latest acquisitions (thanks to a bit of consulting work) purchased from Amazon:

  • ‘Giros’, generic
    by Fito Páez (1985).
  • ‘la, la, la’ by Luis Alberto Spinetta and Fito Páez (1986).
  • ‘Para los árboles’, by Luis Alberto Spinetta (2003). Actually, this is really a new purchase for me.

I was listening again Pequeño ángel (little angel) by Spinetta (in la, la, la) and thinking of Orlando:

Dame tu luz pequeño ángel
que si te vas se va mi vida
antes que el sol cuelgue sus alas.

Cuento las notas de las horas
tengo la piel de tu llovizna
en cuanto el sol cierre sus alas.

Luz, sólo luz
hay un rumor que me lleva al mar
en tanto que en la sombra
más te busco y más te tengo acá.
Dame tu luz pequeño ángel.

and also listening ‘Instant-taneas’, ‘Gricel’, ‘Estoy atiborrado con tu amor’, and a bunch of other great songs. I am still trying to make sense of ‘Para los árboles’, which is quite different from other Spinetta things. Nevertheless, that happens all the time with El Flaco: he is a little ahead of all of us, showing the way to new sounds and styles. Eventually, I will get there. I only need to listen the CD a few more times.

This post continues documenting the switch from my PC at home to a Mac Mini. After the basic setup of the new computer, cystitis
it was important to move all the data across platforms. I did a quick web search to find out how to move all the mail from the Windows version of Microsoft’s Outlook Express to Apple’s Mail. Unfortunately, visit web
I did not find a straightforward way to do it (PS 2005-12-20: There is a US$25 product called Emailchemy that does the same as Thunderbird below), although I found out at least two ways to move mail from the full version of Microsoft Outlook (see, for example, Entourage cross platform issues).

Outlook Express has its own mail format and very few export options. After having a look at mail formats, I opted for using Mozilla Thunderbird as an intermediate step.

I installed Thunderbird in the windows box, which automatically imported all Outlook Express mail and stored the emails in Unix format at: C:Documents and Settingsyour accountApplication DataThunderbirdProfilesYour accountMailLocal Folders. I saved the files contained in that directory in a CD and then put the CD in the Mac.

Then run Mail and go File, Import Mailboxes, Import data from: Other, and then specify the location of the mailboxes to import (in my case the CD in the superdrive). And that was it.

Importing pictures in to iPhoto was extremely easy too. Just File, Add to library and then specify the location of the pictures (CD again). However, I have not been able to find a Picasa importer, so I need to go again over all pictures and retouch them. I would certainly pay for an importer Picasa to iPhoto or, even better, a Picasa version for Mac that were able to directly import everything from the windows version.

This is in lieu of a proper post. We are spending the last four days in Australia before moving to New Zealand. The house is full of boxes and there are only the last minute jobs:

  • Cleaning the office and storing papers.
  • Setting up snail mail forwarding.
  • Cleaning a few things at home and confirming that all services will be cancelled on time.
  • Gigantic et cetera here.

I think that the next post will most likely be published on early January 2006 from Christchurch, youth health
New Zealand.

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