Desierto norte de Chile

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

First 7 days in Arica

So my blogging has really slacked off recently, and I have the VOCALS field project to blame (along with what often seems to me to be a generally uninteresting life... just living it Chilean style I guess!) I am taking various rounds of pictures and hope to post some soon. I've decided it's too hard to post on both facebook & the blog, and since I have a larger audience on facebook, it gets my pics first. (Sorry blog readers!)

So why am I in Arica? I'm working with the forecasting team, preparing daily weather briefings about the synoptic and mesoscale conditions of the SE Pacific stratocumulus field. The project, VOCALS, is funded by NCAR & NSF and involves multiple aircraft (the C130, a Twin Otter, and the G1... and a British plane that should arrive later this week) and boats (the Ronald Brown and a Peruvian vessel). The idea is to take lots of in-situ measurements of stratocumulus, both meteorological & aerosol/pollution, to get a better understanding of what processes control the morphology of the deck. The project is important because the stratocumulus field is highly reflective (when it's well-formed) and it is critical for regional & global climate models to improve their handling of the deck. You can read my daily forecasts archived in the Field Catalog. I've also been in the Chilean press, giving 2 interviews to both La Estrella, the local paper of Arica, and El Mercurio, something similar to the Washington Post of Chile (a well-read, national paper which leans right in the political spectrum). You can see my photo in La Estrella here.

So how is Arica? Well, it's known for 2 things primarily: desert & beach. The airport here averages 1 mm of rainfall per yer (that's about 0.05 inches, per year, an incredibly small amount!) There is absolutely no vegetation growing on any of the hillsides -- only in the irrigated areas in / near town. The ocean is deep blue and pretty clean, and although we're at 19 degrees south (about the latitude of Hawaii, for perspective), the ocean water is quite cool - maybe 60 F - which keeps the air cool & Arica in "eterna primavera" (eternal spring). I've been jogging quite a bit, tackling the large hill near our hotel each day. Running from sea level to over 500 feet is definitely a challenge, but the views are worth it!. I spent part of Sunday afternoon on the beach, reading & enjoying the sun. Most of the time, though, I'm working (the project operates 24/7 for the duration of the project).

I plan to stay in Arica until early November (the project continues until Nov 15). Yesterday a really neat opportunity came up for me to take a much more scenic route back to Santiago, and I hope it pans out. One of the other forecasters brought some of his students from Santiago in his personal car, and he needs to get it back to Stgo (he himself is flying back with his family). It costs about CLP$250.000 (US$500) to ship the car back, and I volunteered to drive it instead. It saves him money and allows me to see lots of the desert. Hopefully it'll work out!

Civic duty

I'm borrowing the idea from BethAnn's blog.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I'd be happy to talk with you about whatever you're calling about

I've been getting several telemarketing calls per week at my home phone, and for a while I was worried about how I could reply to them: you know, graciously say no and try to hang up without being rude. But I've discovered a quick and painless approach that gets them to hang up almost immediately: reply in English. At the first break in their spiel, I kindly say something to the effect "I'm happy to talk with you in English about whatever you're calling about." And wouldn't you know it, they almost immediately apologize and head for the next caller on their list. (I figure if they do know English, I'll probably be so surprised as to end up giving / buying whatever they want!)

I wonder if this strategy could be used effectively in the US? When an obvious telemarketer calls, start the conversation in Spanish. If they are fluent, it's an excellent chance to practice!

Los mouse?

So Chileans use lots of english words (camping, treking, break [as in take a break from work], etc.) I learned today that they also use the word "mouse" when speaking of the computer part. But when they need to pluralize "mouse", they just make the article plural! El mouse = one mouse. Los mouse = two or more.

Good stuff!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A modern-day Sarah and Abraham

You guys remember the story of Abraham, who fathered his son Isaac at age 100 after the promise from God 20 years earlier that his descendants would become a great nation. Well, scientists in Japan are trying to (re-)create a nation from the last two remaining Giant Turtles. The female is about 80 years old and her husband is around 100! Evidently these two turtles have been chilling in Chinese zoos for better parts of their lives while their kin slowly died off. The researchers paired these guys together last spring during the mating season, and - to my surprise - the mating was a success! The female laid 100 eggs, and 50 of them appeared fertilized! Unfortunately, all of the embryos perished in early development, apparently due to thin or cracked shells due to the mother's poor diet (and probably her age, geez, 80 years??). She was fed pork and beef, not fish or crayfish. Here's hoping that next year's breeding season will be better!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

18 y 19 de Septiembre: Fiestas Patrias y Dia de las Glorias del Ejercito

Chile celebrated its national holidays (similar to US independence day) on the 18th and 19th of September. Convenient to me, the major party on the 18th and the military parade on the 19th both take place in Parque OHiggins-- a 3 minute walk from my apartment. So I joined up with Dave, one of the new gringo postdocs in our department, and we wandered over to the party on the 18th. The weather got a lot better for the 19th (sunny and warm, instead of cloudy and cool like it was on the 18th), but I stayed in my apartment and watched the parade on TV (and about 1/4th of it passed by my apartment anyway!)

Here are some photos:

My birthday: 2008!

Last week I got to celebrate my birthday on 2 nights, both Tue (the day before) and Wed. Tuesday I invited all the GBU folks over to my apartment for dinner (sandwiches), chips, cake, and ice cream. We celebrated both my birthday (24th of Sept) and Loreto's birthday (20th of Sept). They sung to us in spanish, english, and portuguese! Wednesday was a regular workday, but afterwards, my Wednesday house group had another cake and celebration for me.

Here are some photos:

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