10,000 steps have to start somewhere

Making sense of complicated decisions. Here in Honduras, it´s just a countdown until Dengue.

Note: everything expressed in this blog comes from my own thoughts and opinions and in no way reflects the policies or opinions of the Peace Corps.
(forced disclaimer, but duh!)

Jan 5
good:

The Fact That Changed Everything: Michael Karnjanaprakorn and Skillshare- Bekah Wright and Jessica De Jesus contributed in Education and Nonprofits

In America, college graduation is usually a momentous occasion, an initial step towards achieving various life goals. Possibilities of a bright, new future stretched ahead for the newly matriculated. But with skyrocketing tuition and the growing number of students graduating every year, ask what college graduation today and the immediate response will likely be… debt.Continue reading on good.is

Illustration by Jessica De Jesus

I’m certainly on that tragic bandwagon

good:

The Fact That Changed Everything: Michael Karnjanaprakorn and Skillshare
Bekah Wright and Jessica De Jesus contributed in Education and Nonprofits

In America, college graduation is usually a momentous occasion, an initial step towards achieving various life goals. Possibilities of a bright, new future stretched ahead for the newly matriculated. But with skyrocketing tuition and the growing number of students graduating every year, ask what college graduation today and the immediate response will likely be… debt.

Continue reading on good.is

Illustration by Jessica De Jesus

I’m certainly on that tragic bandwagon


May 4

A powerful commentary on symbolism and its affect on our psychology. 

Despite the intentions of the group that created this, what I hope people see is: 1. the commonality among religious groups and their fervor when it comes to reinforcing their own belief system through rituals and symbolism; 2. everybody is doing it; 3. this kind of behavior tends to shut down the intellectual and logical part of the human brain and exalt the emotions over thought; 4. extremism appears in every form. 


Nov 5

In January 2002, a dull star in an obscure constellation suddenly became 600,000 times more luminous than our Sun, temporarily making it the brightest star in our Milky Way galaxy. The mysterious star, called V838 Monocerotis, has long since faded back to obscurity. But observations by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope of a phenomenon called a “light echo” around the star have uncovered remarkable new features. […]

Light echo it is light from a stellar explosion echoing off dust surrounding the star. V838 Monocerotis produced enough energy in a brief flash to illuminate surrounding dust, like a spelunker taking a flash picture of the walls of an undiscovered cavern. The star presumably ejected the illuminated dust shells in previous outbursts. Light from the latest outburst travels to the dust and then is reflected to Earth. Because of this indirect path, the light arrives at Earth months after light from the star that traveled directly toward Earth. […]

This sequence of pictures from the NASA Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys dramatically demonstrates the reverberation of light through space caused by an unusual stellar outburst in January 2002. A burst of light from the bizarre star is spreading into space and reflecting off of surrounding shells of dust to reveal a spectacular, multicolored bull’s eye. (via Hubble)

(via picturesoftheday)


Sep 29

Lost in the “Is it an iPad Killer?” hype is the audacious introduction of the Silk browser. Under the guise of increasing speed (on WiFi; there is no 3G Fire where download speed would be a larger issue), Amazon is performing astonishing jujitsu on Google.

The “split browser” notion is that Amazon will use its EC2 back end to pre-cache user web browsing, using its fat back-end pipes to grab all the web content at once so the lightweight Fire-based browser has to only download one simple stream from Amazon’s servers. But what this means is that Amazon will capture and control every Web transaction performed by Fire users. Every page they see, every link they follow, every click they make, every ad they see is going to be intermediated by one of the largest server farms on the planet. People who cringe at the data-mining implications of the Facebook Timeline ought to be just floored by the magnitude of Amazon’s opportunity here. Amazon now has what every storefront lusts for: the knowledge of what other stores your customers are shopping in and what prices they’re being offered there. What’s more, Amazon is getting this not by expensive, proactive scraping the Web, like Google has to do; they’re getting it passively by offering a simple caching service, and letting Fire users do the hard work of crawling the Web. In essence the Fire user base is Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, scraping the Web for free and providing Amazon with the most valuable cache of user behavior in existence.

And all of this on Google’s dime. They use a back-revved version of Android, not Honeycomb; they don’t use Google’s web browser; they can intermediate user click through on Google search results so Google doesn’t see the actual user behavior. Google’s whole play of promoting Android in order to aggregate user behavior patterns to sell to advertisers is completely subverted by Amazon’s intermediation.

Fire isn’t a noun, it’s a verb, and it’s what Amazon has done in the targeted direction of Google. This is the first shot in the new war for replacing the Internet with a privatized merchant data-aggregation network.

Apple employee CHRIS ESPINOSA, remarking on Amazon’s Kindle Fire via his personal blog.

Something to think about.

Also, I can’t believe I understood everything I read just now.

(h/t The New York Times)


My apartment has finally become my space. I feel relaxed here. I like being able to control the cleanliness of my environment and not having to deal with screaming children or miscellaneous infestations of critters/rodents.

Just this past weekend I got the chimbo (propane tank) filled. It cost 270 Lempira (~$16.50) but should last me at least a couple months provided I don’t cook beans. (I already made that mistake once. Four hours of propane fire and they were still aldente!)

 Getting it was half the battle because it was stored at the house of my predecessor’s landlord, who, at the time I wanted to collect it, was in Costa Rica attending a conference. Luckily, I already had met his wife. She let me grab it easily enough, but I also had to drag out a set of half-heartedly constructed (yet flamboyantly painted) chairs and their accompanying night stand. No one could carry all this stuff by hand in just one load, but just after I elected to take only the chimbo, the mancomunidad’s truck drives right by me without noticing my existence. (Typical Freddie!) I lugged the empty tank to the office, slogged it into the pick-up bed and commandeered the keys. Within fifteen minutes, the apartment looked like a managed address decorated by modern cubist artist.

THEN this weekend, I lugged the chimbo again by hand down to the highway where a colleague’s host mother told me that someone sold gas/would exchange the tank. It was a brutally bright and hot day and for whatever poorly thought-out reason, I was wearing white while carrying a rusting tank that simultaneous was shedding its orange paint. My friends thought I had been running by the time I entered their house to confirm where gas vendor was located. Then the cousins/misc  family members said not to go to the place across the street because the gas there is ‘filled with air’ compared to the gas that the other lady on the other side of town, uphill, past my house sells. So I retraced my own tracks carrying the thing like it were a massive tray and I were a busboy again, across the park into the house of a lady that my predecessor had introduced me to. The exchange was easy enough and even gave me the opportunity to reconnect with a friendly face. But a filled chimbo is a bitch to carry by hand; it’s about 60 lbs instead of 30. Nevertheless, I had to get it home somehow. At the moment, I am being super cheap trying to afford a fridge and, therefore, refused to pay (or wait for) the 10 Lempira ($0.50) taxi that would eventually pass. The gas arrived in my house, and I got both a workout and a boost to my pride. Score.


Sep 26

Butterflies are notoriously difficult to photograph. They are easily spooked and move so quickly and erratically that not even a sports photographer could get one in flight. 

Once you enter the woods, they surround you like falling leaves in Autumn. I even saw a few that are identical to the ones preserved in the clear boxes I bought in Puerto Rico. Once day they’ll leave storage…

Yellow outcrop? Yellow wings!

Blue fuzz.

Just plain rad.


The highlight of this weekend was a trip to the big waterfall in the mountains behind my town followed by a dip in the “Green Lagoon,” which is an uniquely-colored turquoise, spring-fed pool just land that will be turned into a finca.

This is the second time I have visited both. The hike up there takes about an hour and half to two hours. This time I wore my Chacos since you have to cross a river numerous times and wet sandals are far preferable to wet sneakers. But the bastards gave me whopping blisters near the big-toe lasso that will take at least a week to seal up.

Oh well. Valio la pena


Sep 19

This was one of my last nights in the host family’s home. Everyone was in bed except the muchacha and I. After completing the normal nighttime routine of brushing teeth and showering, I was killing time in my room when the urge to use the bathroom one more time hit me. Blocking my access to the bathroom, however, was a small highway of ants leading to an outright cannibalistic ant FEAST!

Some strange kind of beetle had died right in the pathway to the bathroom. From the looks of the scene, I’d say it was squished. ‘Cause if it wasn’t squished, it died in the process of giving birth. It’s still hard to decide if those white capsule bulging from its abdomen are guts or insectitos

I promptly photographed the bizarre sight. Leo promptly noticed my crouching over something and interrupted my photo shoot with his feline curiosity. One furious blow of air from those nostrils and the ants wisely went scurrying. Half a colony disappeared in 20 seconds flat leaving Leo with a very juicy bug and what could be considered kitty caviar, perhaps?

But you know, it’s not food if you don’t play with it first. He didn’t even hesitate with the white, egg-looking globules, but once they were gone he had to rough up the exoskeleton before sampling. One or two crunches later, he decided it wasn’t worth his effort and pranced offed into the garden. Thankfully, he didn’t try to come cuddle because there was no way THAT face was getting anywhere near mine after eating miscellaneous bug parts. I know, it’s illogical. Compared to his kitty parts, bug guts seem like a healthy thing to put in his mouth. But still, yuck.


Sep 16

Bad Approaches

Open letter to our Country Director regarding new policies that severely limit volunteers’ freedom of movement. 

Dear Emily,
Thank you for outlining these policy changes. Although you have probably already heard an outcry of disappointment from other volunteers, I’d like to voice my confusion and disagreement with a number of these changes. While I understand the intent behind many of these new policies, I believe that PC is attempting to change a behavior without addressing the root causes of that behavior. In my opinion, such an approach is bound to fail and cannot produce the long term behavioral changes that PC is hoping for.
I am speaking directly about the new rule of “no large gatherings that aren’t PC/Honduras pre-approved.” Cancelling one holiday (Halloween) due to a rapidly deteriorating security environment in one town (Copan Ruinas) is completely understandable, but it appears that PC has taken a legitimate threat and turned it into a boogyman excuse to limit volunteer’s freedom of movement. The most obvious problems with this new rule are:

  • what constitutes a ‘large gathering’? 3? 5? 7? volunteers? In my case, there are ten volunteers that could be at my site within an hour and a half if I were to hold a dinner party, for example. Does that mean I need to get pre-approval for dinner parties because the buses stop running after 5-6pm  (therefore dinner guests would need to spend the night).
  • Wouldn’t all this pre-approval put additional stress on a staff that is already getting pared down?
  • How will this policy be applied to other large holidays during which volunteers traditionally go out of their way to spend time together, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Fourth of July, etc? 
  • What are the conditions and stipulations under which large gathers may take place? Is PC really expecting us not to have despedidias for some of our closest friends?
The root of my complaint lies in PC’s approach. This policy attempts to change the culture of excessive drinking by simply limiting gatherings and freedom of movement as opposed to investigating the causes/inspirations behind binge drinking behaviors. Although I have been in site less than four months, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that there are individuals who know when to stop and those that don’t. This policy punishes those who are responsible according to the actions of the irresponsible. I am not encouraging a which hunt (and I will not supply names), but at the parties I have attended the individuals who usually binge drink lose control of themselves and bring down others via peer pressure by encouraging others to match their drinking ‘abilities.’ This is a cultural problem that I think would be better addressed if PC were to discuss the problem of binge drinking and the problems of peer pressure particularly because peer pressure becomes amplified in an environment as insulated as the one we volunteers find ourselves in. 
As much as I would like to say that all volunteers are strict rule-abiders, experience has proven otherwise. These policy changes will definitely limit security incidences but only because it will keep volunteers locked up and isolated in their sites, not because it will prevent anyone from binge drinking. Those individuals who are heavy drinkers will still find ways to get together, get drunk and put themselves at risk. In my opinion, this policy simply transforms PC Administration into a nanny and returns us to a culture of fear in which volunteers are at the mercy of an every increasing number of rules that substitute personal responsibility for administrative oversight. 
My suggestion would be to discard this ‘large gathering’ rule and instead focus in directly on the reasons why volunteers binge drinks, who are the primary abusers of binge drinking, and how can PC strengthen individual volunteer’s resistance to peer pressures that can compromise their safety and security.
That said, I am thrilled to hear that additional site visits are planned and that PC will be placing additional resources in the process of site development. Lack of direction from my counterparts and unfamiliarity on the part of PC as to the needs of my Mancomunidad have resulted in three months of tension and directionless pet projects for me. More resources in site development will greatly improve volunteers’ effectiveness, I believe, by better matching volunteer skills to community needs. 
Thank you for your time and your dedication to improving the safety and effectiveness of our volunteer experience. I look forward to hearing how this new policy can be better defined. 
Sincerely,
Craig Souza
La Labor, OcotepequeH-18


I loved that the sky gifted me such a lovely backdrop.

Yes, those girls are free-falling. 


Today, “free to choose” has become “free to die.”

I’m referring, as you might guess, to what happened during Monday’s G.O.P. presidential debate. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Representative Ron Paul what we should do if a 30-year-old man who chose not to purchase health insurance suddenly found himself in need of six months of intensive care. Mr. Paul replied, “That’s what freedom is all about — taking your own risks.” Mr. Blitzer pressed him again, asking whether “society should just let him die.”

And the crowd erupted with cheers and shouts of “Yeah!”

The incident highlighted something that I don’t think most political commentators have fully absorbed: at this point, American politics is fundamentally about different moral visions.

Now, there are two things you should know about the Blitzer-Paul exchange. The first is that after the crowd weighed in, Mr. Paul basically tried to evade the question, asserting that warm-hearted doctors and charitable individuals would always make sure that people received the care they needed — or at least they would if they hadn’t been corrupted by the welfare state. Sorry, but that’s a fantasy. People who can’t afford essential medical care often fail to get it, and always have — and sometimes they die as a result.

The second is that very few of those who die from lack of medical care look like Mr. Blitzer’s hypothetical individual who could and should have bought insurance. In reality, most uninsured Americans either have low incomes and cannot afford insurance, or are rejected by insurers because they have chronic conditions.

So would people on the right be willing to let those who are uninsured through no fault of their own die from lack of care? The answer, based on recent history, is a resounding “Yeah!”

Paul Krugman, writing in today’s New York Times.

Yeah.

(via inothernews)


The harsh sunlight reflects off the gongs and casts a gentle glow on her face.

More in-line dancing.

In the zone. 

Gurl, this hat sh!t gets HOT!


I can’t wait to see how colorful things get for Carnival if this is just Independence Day.

I can’t wait to see how colorful things get for Carnival if this is just Independence Day.


Werk it to the beat!


A coed group of dancer break it down Latino style with batons and jazz fingers. The men were quite talented and would have fit in excellently in a gay club in the states. But here, they’re just good dancers, or are they??? It’s just not acknowledged, ever. 


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