Desierto norte de Chile

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Streak and EURO 2008

1. As I amended below, the US (through today Sun June 22) has now had 32 consecutive tornado-report "days" (defined by the SPC as a convective day, spanning from 7 am to 6:59 am the following day). While some of the one-report days might be dubious, this high number of consecutive tornado-days is indicative of a very active convective season.

2. I've enjoyed watching the Euro Cup 2008 on t.v. The teams have reached the semifinals, with Russia playing Spain and Germany playing Turkey. It'll be fun to see who wins it all next weekend.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Fútbol and banking

Yesterday I joined up with my neighbors and again cheered Chile on to a victory in the World Cup 2010 qualifying matches, this time against Venezuela. La Roja ("The Red") scored 3 goals in the second half (Venezuela scored 2), with the final goal coming in the 2nd minute of stoppage time. My neighbors really enjoyed the match, and it seemed that Chile played pretty well ... at least better than they did against Bolivia (who was in last place until they somehow stomped Paraguay, which was in first place, 4-2... go figure that one?!) The continental powerhouses, Argentina and Brazil, figure to win the division handedly even though they are in 2nd and 5th places, respectively. The differential between 1st and 5th place is only 4 points (1.5 games), so obviously things will change in the next 12 games to be played. Regardless, it was fun to watch on TV - and listen to the simulcast on radio. The announcer didn't pull any punches with his preferences.... proudly yelling "GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL" whenever Chile scored, and quietly muttering "gol" whenever Venezuela scored. Maybe I'll get to go to a national team event in Sept or Oct when Brazil, Colombia, and Argentina come to Santiago.

In other news, this morning I finally received all my paperwork to go back to Banco de Chile and apply for a checking account. The executive was much friendlier this time, helping me complete the multi-page application and sign & fingerprint all the necessary spots (the application was about 10 pages long, and I think I signed it at least 10 times!) She said she'll call me in about a week after the main branch of the bank reviews all my documents and makes the final decision. *Hopefully* the decision will be affirmative! Will keep you posted.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

¡No account for you!

Yesterday (Wednesday) I went to my local Banco de Chile branch to finally open my checking account. I've already posted about my adventures with government and institutions in Chile, so why was I surprised when I was turned away again Wednesday. It's as if the bureaucrats really enjoy their bureaucracy, and are all but happy to continue it. I arrived at 9:25 a.m. yesterday (giving them a full 25 minutes for their morning cafesito and conversation!) with photocopies of lots of documents:

- Contract from the university
- Notarized apartment lease
- Receipts of my last 6 months of paychecks
- Passport photo page
- VISA page in my passport
- National Identity Card
- University of Oklahoma diploma

These documents were requested by my first meeting with an executive of the Bank of Chile (Alejandra Négreier), and I was happy to finally be able to present them and request my checking account. Alejandra was relocated to another branch in the intervening 4 months since Feb., so yesterday I met with Isabel. She took a quick glance at my documents, and after no more than 15 seconds, told me again that it wasn't possible for me to open an account because I am a foreigner without permanent residence status. But I told her I work for the Univ of Chile (even using the word "para", which my colleagues have told me is a very strong way of presenting your employment... "trabajo para la Universidad de Chile"), and that I had a 2-year contract. She then examined my the copy of my employment contract and pointed out that it only listed my payments up to July of this year, and did not state anything about my 2-year agreement. Thus I was sent back to the University to search for a copy of my contract.

This morning I spoke with the financial secretary of our department (who, of course, was out of the office yesterday), and she told me that no such document - with the official signatures of the decanos of the University - existed. Instead I am being paid in thrice-yearly "revolving" contracts, their convenient way to avoid having to pay my health insurance, retirement, or other benefits. Not to be deterred -- I really want this checking account, you know, since I really look forward to paying that $10-$15/month maintenance fee for THEM to safeguard MY money and let me write checks (I only think I'll use the checks to pay the Gastos Comunes in my apartment building, or maybe if I buy something really large!) -- I asked my supervisor (who's now the director of our department) and he is working with our section secretary to produce a "Certificate" that states my monthly salary, dates of employment (the two-year deal), and the terms of my pay period (that I'm paid through a revolving pay schedule).

Hopefully when I return to the bank today or tomorrow, I will be a proud (?) customer of the Bank of Chile. Stay tuned!

Firefox 3

Tuesday I joined the millions in downloading the latest version of Firefox web browser, Firefox 3. While I am definitely a fan of open-source code (using Open Office here at work on my Linux box, as well as GIMP and other neat - and free - programs), the Firefox release was a little underwhelming. The version for Linux was timestamped, on the FTP server, as June 8th, meaning the "latest" release was already put out a week before the release date. Furthermore, I've noticed some performance delays here in Linux: for example, using the flash plug-in, images & animations are crawling compared to their speeds in FF2. Also the "theme" of my browser isn't very sexy (maybe someone will create a theme that I like and that is compatible with FF3-Linux!)

Otherwise, I'm happy to use the free and quite useful Firefox 3.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Of hot and cold and 250

The top panel of the figure above shows the past 7 days of temperature measurements taken on the roof of our building here at the university. It reads right-to-left, with newest measurements on the right (and obviously, oldest on the left). One neat automatic calculation is the 24-hr comparison: on the right-side of the top panel, it shows how much warmer or colder we are than the same time 24 hrs ago: dT(24h)= xx. Yesterday was really warm, the warmest we've been in at least a month. The max temp was somewhere near 23C, or about 73F. We were really dry during the day (with RH less than 20%), and because we were also cloud-free, the temp plumetted after dark, reaching a low of around 3C (37F), one of the coldest we've been in the past month. The diurnal range was impressive: 20C, or 36F, in one day. (It's like having a high of 80 and a low of 44). We reached saturation rather quickly this morning which resulted in a thick layer of fog that burned off around 10 a.m.

The dT(24h) is around -11C, which is a little puzzling considering I'm not sure we've had a change of airmass. I note the mixing ratio, measured by the black line in the middle panel, scaled by 10 [so the most recent mixing ratio was ~ 6 g/kg], barely changed. I guess it's possible that around 6 pm on the 16th the airmass changed: the mixing ratio did bump up from 4 to 6 g/kg, the pressure started rising, and of course the temp dropped quickly.

Fellow meteo readers, what do YOU think? (if you're reading on Facebook and can't view the figures, surf to ) Below, I've included the plot of wind speed (top 2 panels), direction (middle panel), and direction standard deviation. Because of our location in the central valley, our winds are normally either northerly or southerly (rarely easterly, which would imply a strong downslope component).

This post is my two hundred and fiftieth post! Thanks, loyal reader, for hanging with me through them all! Here's to much more!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Of earthquakes and tornadoes

**EDIT JUNE 19 2008**

*** NWS Amarillo found tornado damage in the Oklahoma panhandle from a storm on June 15. Thus, as of 19 June, the "streak" of days with at least 1 tornado report continues. We are now to 29 days, including May 22 and all the days to and including June 19. ***

1. Yesterday, June 15, marked the first 24-hr synoptic period (12Z to 12Z) without a reported tornado in the USA since May 21. That's a total of 24 consecutive convective-day periods with at least one tornado report. Unfortunately the tornadoes were not isolated to unpopulated areas, and the SPC is reporting that 18 people were killed during this stretch.

2. While at work about 20 minutes ago, I felt another earthquake. This one was preliminarily rated M4.7 by the USGS, and its epicenter was located about 80 miles from Santiago. The rumbling and slight shaking lasted for about 7-10 seconds, enough for me to glance up and think "this is an earthquake." Then I noticed the water in my water bottle was rippling (as if you had thrown a stone in it). And then it ended. This makes the third definitely-noticeable earthquake I've felt here in Santiago (a couple other times I've felt a slight rumble while in my apartment, but they lasted no longer than a second or two and I figured they were just trucks/busses passing on the street below).

¡Vamos Chile!

Last night I joined my neighbors Danilo and Nelson, and their mutual friend also named Nelson, to watch our national team play soccer against Bolivia's national team. We watched the match in Danilo's apartment (he lives next to me in my building), and "turned down the sound" to listen to the radio commentary. I made some guacamole dip & oatmeal cookies (and bought a bag of potato chips).

Chile won, 2-0, in a somewhat sloppy but none-the-less entertaining victory. It was fun to hear cars in the street honking their horns when Chile scored our first goal. Obviously people were listening! Bolivia, had they been much better, probably would have capitalized on some of their scoring opportunities, but a win is a win! The Chileans play Venezuela on Thursday, and our foursome plans to reuntie to watch Chile play a more formidable opponent.

You can follow the World Cup 2010 qualifying at Wikipedia, where the top 4 teams from South America automatically qualify, and the fifth team plays against the 4th place team from North America for a final spot. Through today, the South Americans have played 5 of their 18 qualifying matches, so there is still a lot more fútbol to be played. If Chile beats Venezuela though, they'll be propelled into the top half of the bracket, which is a much better place to be than at the bottom. Looks to me like all the teams play all the other teams twice, home-and-away, which ensures fairness.
My picks as of June 2008:
-Chile (in the 5th "playoff" spot!)

¡Vamos Chilenos! (Let's Go Chile!)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Welcome back, dollar

The past month has seen an abrupt, and somewhat puzzling, reversal in the trend in exchange rates between the chilean peso and the us dollar. I posted not too long ago that the dollar had plummeted in value, nearly 15%, from when I arrived. Well, as of today Friday June 13th, the dollar has regained nearly all of its value and now stands again at 1USD=500CLP. As I am paid in local currency and buy everything here in local currency, this fluctuation is invisible to me. But I guess after I start accumulating savings, and want to move them back to dollars, I'll be paying closer attention to the exchange rate.

In other money-related news, next Wednesday, I plan to boldly go to Banco de Chile and try (again) to open a bank account there! Woohoo! My postdos advisor and I visited them back in February, and were first told "no, you can't open a checking account here," and then after some negotiations on his part, I was given a long list of documents to collect and bring with me. I now have a photocopy of my university diploma, five months' worth of paycheck stubs (called "boletas" here), the signed and notarized copy of my housing rental contract, and photocopies of my passport, visa, and cedula identidad (Chilean Identity Card). I will keep you posted .... hopefully by the end of the month I might just have a checking account in Chile! (And it would have only taken seven months to do it!)

Finally, RIP Mr. Tim Russert of NBC News. I fondly remember your white-board electoral college musings during the 2000 and 2004 presidental elections.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Filled with foreigners

On our way back to Santiago (from Lo Barnochea) after playing frisbee, I noticed that of the five people in my car, we were 1 French, 1 USA, 1 Brazilian, 1 Swiss, and 1 Chilean. And I thought to myself, how cool is this? :)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Nineteen days (and counting?)

Today is June 10, 2008. As of 10:00 pm, there has not yet been a tornado report in the US. This marks the first day in 19 consecutive days where at least one tornado was not reported. I don't have the statistics handy from storm data, but certainly 19 consecutive days with at least one tornado is quite a lot!

As I type, there are two potential tornado-producing storms, one in Rooks Co. KS (I am certain that the residents of Rooks County are tired of tornadoes.... they've had their fair share this spring! **Edit: 3 of the 19 days had tornado reports in Rooks Co., an two other days had tornado repts in a nearby county**) and the other in central IA. So the string of consecutive tornado days might just continue.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Twenty-seven more millimeters

We received 27 more mm of rainfall this week, bringing our year-to-date total to 137.7 mm. That's about 40% of normal, and if we continue just at a normal pace, we'll likely break the multi-year drought that's been plaguing central Chile. Woohoo for rain (& mountain snow ... see the photos in the previous post!)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Seis meses!! Six months!!

Wow. Yesterday, June 3rd, marked my six-month anniversary in Santiago. And what an amazing time it has been! It's only fitting to respond with a list:

1. Spanish and me are getting better acquainted. While I still struggle mightily in conversations, I enjoy the challenge - and hope (!) I am improving.

2. Living mountain-side is a-m-a-z-i-n-g. The views are spectacular (and always changing, depending on the air quality). God's creation is indeed majestic and beautiful.

The view from my apartment balcony this morning.

3. I am learning to be content in all things. Tonight I went for a walk in the rain and enjoyed a quality time of thinking, praying, and singing (probably was a bit weird for the locals ... it's not every day you pass a gringo on the streets worshiping in english). I have this really strong desire to be involved in the lives of students, as an encourager, a partner in their dreams. And I realized what a blessing it is to be unsatisfied with going to work, returning to my apartment to prepare dinner, watching tv, going to sleep, and doing it all again tomorrow. I feel like it's a huge step of faith for me to be content with this dissatisfaction while waiting for opportunities to develop. It's not like I have many options (see #1 above). Fortunately I do have some fledgling relationships with several students, and I am waiting and praying and dreaming of sharing life and our Lord with them!

4. Music. I don't often listen to music, but I do like a good jam-session. Like right now, I'm going through a wide variety and enjoying it thoroughly: Caedmon's call, Juanes, Ricky Martin, Enter the Worship Circle, Match & Daddy, Tyler Hilton, Roy Orbison, etc.

5. Verses that summarize. In our GBU group, we are studying Ephesians this semester. It's been a bit hard because all the studies are in spanish, but these verses really stuck out to me last Wednesay as great summaries of the past few weeks.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanks, God, that your son Jesus came to earth, died, rose again, and offers the greatest hope that has ever been! Wow.

6. Here's to six more amazing, yes hard, but real months in Chile!

Some of my university friends, after playing football & eating choripan!

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