Ben’s Periodical For March 1, 2012

A person can promise themselves to do something perfect until the cows come home, but eventually, either that something gets done or it doesn’t. Time, of course, is on the side of it getting done – you can always get started at any time, so long as you are still breathing and have control of your fingers and mind.

Of course, the something I’m talking about here is continuing this blog. I promised myself to do one perfect thing after another, following the first two entries, and kept getting distracted. First was after “making the mistake” of trying to fit my family genealogy into the history timeline I had been drawing up since 2006. That got me all wrapped up in Geni’s shared family tree project, where I was somewhat flattered to be asked to be a volunteer curator back in December 2010. Around the same time, I started writing for I Love Chile, an English language publication in Santiago. Dan Brewington, the publisher, kept me busy for about a year before it became all too clear that the time had arrived for me to give up on South America and return to my family and be part of my wife and daughter’s in-person life again. Some gaps in your life, Skype or no Skype, you simply can’t ignore forever.

So, here it is, my next attempt at an entry. It’s probably going to seem a lot like what I used to do with I Love Chile. To be honest, I really liked keeping people informed about events here in Valparaiso. This is a town that deserves attention. At least deserves more than it gets. So while I’m here, I might as well continue to do so, even if it isn’t on the regular basis that a real periodical requires.

How I’m going to format these reports will be something like you are about to see, should you decide to continue reading, of course. Enjoy.

Art from B1mbo via Wikimedia Commons

Regional Report: For Region V, Valparaiso, in Central Chile: The big news seems to be talk about Chilevision getting cut from the Festival Internacional de la Canción de Viña del Mar over irregularities in hosting this year’s International and Folk Music competitions. Apparently Andres Celis, member of the Municipal Council for what Chileans call their “Garden City” (Cuidad Jardin), brought up the charges, if I’m reading the Radio Bio Bio report correctly. In any case, Mayor Virginia Reginato is apparently on the case and has an evaluator prepared to look over the situation.

Of course, with the colegio kids starting to become visible walking to and from their appointed place of secondary school study, the strike season appears to be coming in upon us again. Up in Santiago, a lot of it is in solidarity for the strikers who are battling lenzagas-vehicle reinforced carabineros down in Aysen. Here in Valparaiso, the protests appear to be in support of teachers who have been laid off. Not sure how big this is going to be but apparently there is supposed to be a rally at Plaza Victoria tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. I would suppose if it got big enough, they could try for the National Congress Building. If they do, chances are the remaining tear gas vehicles hanging around up in these parts will probably be deployed, meaning it might be a good day to not spend a late morning on Avenida Pedro Montt. In general, I agree with what most embassies have to say about hanging around protests. Unless you have a press pass, a reason to be there, a waterproof camera, and a decent gas mask, it’s probably better to watch it all on television.

Photo by B1mbo via Wikimedia Commons

Country Report: The protests in Aysen continue to be big news here. These sprung up about four weeks ago when price rises in the remote southern regions, most of which resemble the Alaska panhandle in being connected to “mainland Chile” by either boat or plane, triggered large-scale protests blocking the President Ibanez Bridge, a strategic bottleneck connecting Puerto Aysen with the Austral Highway system. At first, the fishermen acted, blocking the bridge and then the nearby airport. Then other groups followed.

Finally today, the government tried negotiations, but it appeared mostly of the type where the authorities say, “If you give up blocking roads, we can talk some more,” without putting anything on the table. You’d think from last year they’d know that wouldn’t work. So my best guess is that this was mostly just to try to generate momentary positive press before sending in the lenzagas (tear gas) vehicles.

Meanwhile, as I mentioned earlier, Santiago is erupting in protests now that the schoolkids are back from summer break. This could turn into an interesting upcoming three months.

A lot of the news today also appears in the south. The Mall Plaza Trebol in Talcohuana, near Concepcion, is slowly reopening the 75 percent of the shopping center that didn’t burn about a week ago. On the other hand, further south, people in Castro are appalled at the new mall being built there. The huge structure dwarfs much of the world heritage buildings that surround it giving people south of Mainland Chile another reason to protest. On the plus side, boat fares for short-haul runs appear to be dropping by 10-20 percent, according to Radio Bio Bio (my main news source online for Chile).

Of course, the other big scandal, besides Aysen and the emerging Chilevision irregularities thing in Viña, is Turbus getting caught doctoring records and disregarding safety rules by allowing drivers to drive more than five hours in a 24 hour period – apparently sometimes they would let drivers pull 48 hour shifts, if I got the report correct. Naturally, that sort of gross violation got the Ministry of Transportation involved, and now it’s looking like there is going to be a scarcity of green buses on the road pretty quick. Pullmanbus is going to have a field day with the intercity bus fares.

Photo by Beatrice Murch via Wikimedia Commons

Continent Report: In Argentina, last week’s fatal accident at Once Station in Buenos Aires appears to be devolving into a political argument over the safety of the entire Subte (subway) system in that city. Everyone appears to be arguing over who is at fault for not properly funding the trains in the country. Sort of seems gloomy for the prospects of the Bioceanico line, which seemed so promising at the start of December.

In the north of the continent, of course all eyes were focused for a few days on Hugo Chavez’s cancer surgery in Cuba, with his supporters expressing encouraging words, and his detractors expressing hope for a change of regime. That’s probably a good enough summary on that situation.

Meanwhile, the hunt for the hackers who attacked the Interpol website, replacing normal content with images of individuals in Guy Fawkes masks, mostly apparently taken from V for Vendetta, this morning went rather swiftly today, and surprisingly, turned up a bunch of Chileans in Santiago, as well as Colombian hackers, and possibly some Argentines. Apparently, the Chileans had been prepared to attack the firm Endesa, which is involved in the Hidroaysen project, a dam construction project that is politically unpopular. Internet chatter promises that those arrested are merely the tip of the iceberg, according to Associated Press. A Brazilian member of the group “Anonymous,” the group claiming responsibility for the attack, sent a twitter tweat saying, “Interpol, you can’t take Anonymous. It’s an idea.”

Blue: Nuclear Weapons Free Zone by international treaty. Red: Nuclear weapons states. Orange: Nuclear arsenal stationed there. Gold: None of the above (but party to the NPT). Art via Wikimedia Commons.

World Report: U.S. diplomacy appears to be going into overdrive in a number of areas of the world. The big victory for Washington today appears to be the agreement by the new regime in North Korea to step back from weapons production. Not so much a victory is the continued work toward finding a suitable response to what is more and more appearing to be Iranian nuclear weapons production.

In Russia, it’s beginning to look more and more like there is going to be some sort of really ugly crack-down at the start of Putin’s term. Something akin to what was seen in Belarus after the December 2010 elections there. How this plays out is anyone’s guess.

In the United States, beyond the never-ending election cycle and the approach of the landmark Super-Tuesday primaries, when supposedly the Republican Party will have solidified who will be running against Obama in November, the big news is shared by storm-induced twisters and the death of a Baby Boomer icon, Davy Jones of the Monkees.

The Stranger in Seattle noted that Rick Santorum’s Wikipedia page was apparently “purged” of a slang reference that in fact was started by that publication’s editor – following one of Santorum’s earlier diatribes against gay people, Dan Savage, who has held a sex column at the publication since its very first issue, began a campaign to name, well, something rather unpleasant after the then-senator. Today, the reference continues to appear in humor bits by John Stewart on his Daily Show, among others.

Of course, violence continues to plague the United States as a teenager shoots three other teens in Ohio. It still amazes me when people from the U.S. suggest other countries are dangerous to travel in, when there is so much violence built in to the American lifestyle.

Albina via Skype

Family Report: The little one approaches her third birthday, as full of laughs and dances as ever. So far, she speaks more English than Russian, which may be creating some temporary hesitation to socialize with other kids at the preschool she goes to in Belarus, but with time, her Russian should catch up.

In the United States, it appears that the relatives there are staying above water, though in many cases not without a struggle. In Belarus, the relatives there are likewise staying above water, again, in many cases not without a struggle. For me, the big struggle is getting back together with my wife and child. I’ve been too long away from them, and with nothing to show for it other than a greater understanding of our family tree.

Interesting History Items: Okay, this is the section that I’d share something cool that I’ve found. Right now, in Geni, I’m working on cleaning up different sections of tree, and none with any really distinctive finds. Maybe a successful farmer or two from Decatur County, Indiana, from the 19th century…

Genealogy, or rather the study of family histories, amazes me still. As a tool, it’s a great way to introduce history to say a young one. It creates a reason to learn why things happened as they did. If you can follow say a soldier in a battle, or better still a whole military campaign, the whole scene takes on a greater meaning. You gain an appreciation for what has been done in the past, and an understanding of why mistakes were made. If you are lucky, these lessons become applicable in the present.

When I find something more interesting than successful farmers, meanwhile, I’ll post here. Meanwhile, there are a great many interesting lineages that have been found since I started playing around with Geni in the late Austral Winter of 2010, while sitting at a window overlooking a cobblestone street that winds down toward the Pacific Ocean in Valparaiso. At some point, I’ll share them.

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