Wednesday, March 30, 2005

4 High school students from Phoenix beat the best from MIT

Can you imagine that 4 students from Carl Hayden Community High School with a $800 budget can beat the best of MIT with a $11,000 budget at the National Underwater bot Championship?, well it did happen!.

Wired Magazine in their April issue have the story of how in June last year these 4 undocumented Mexicans built an underwater bot with PVC pipes, off the shelf electronics and some tampons and won 4 awards at the 3rd Annual Marine Technology ROV championship for: Special Achievement, Design, Technical Writing and Overall Winner click HERE to see the 2004 winners.

I just checked the 2005 competition website and they are already inscribed to participate this year with other 17 Universities, Colleges and High Schools including MIT, Maine Maritime Academy and University of California Davis, so I don't know about you guys but any group of 4 high school students that can beat MIT students are on my "People to look up to" list.

Friday, March 25, 2005

March 22nd was the World Water Day, Wanna help bring safe water to Ethiopia?

Clean water is something most of us take for granted, but over a billion people in the world do not have access to it and over two and a half billion people lack basic sanitation. Every 15 seconds a child dies from water-related diseases as a result.

WaterAid is dedicated exclusively to the provision of safe domestic water, sanitation and hygiene education to the world's poorest people. It was established in 1981 and, to date, has helped over eight million people. It currently works in 15 countries in Africa and Asia. WaterAid projects giving safe water, sanitation and hygiene education cost around �15 or 23 euro per head. Can you think of a better way to make a difference?

Through the aquaplastics website, WaterAid and the European plastics industry are working together to help tackle this huge problem. Every day you click on this site, the European plastics industry will donate 10 cents to help WaterAid deliver clean, safe water and sanitation to people in Ethiopia. If we reach 1.5 million clicks by 22 June 2005 then a total of 150,000 euro will be donated to WaterAid.

Ethiopia is one of the poorest and driest countries in the world. A staggering 76% of the population does not have access to safe water supplies and 88% are without access to adequate sanitation. This, compounded by a limited health service means water, sanitation and hygiene-related diseases are rife and infant mortality is extremely high.

So what are you waiting for? GO CLICK

Thursday, March 24, 2005

God works in mysterious ways

Being so close to become a father and working as a intern with AIESEC is giving me some headaches as far as how to stretch the money well enough to pay all my debts, buy everything I need for my baby and try to save some for the future.
Of course the biggest pain was the healthcare bill taking into consideration that in the US a c-section could cost you around 15 to 20 thousand dollars, and a normal delivery in a hospital at least USD 3000 plus the doctors, anesthesiologist and any extra fee for medicine, epidural, etc. So reviewing and investigating we decided to go with a more natural and financially viable approach: midwives and natural birth. Although it is not that widely used in the US it's a great approach to give natural birth, and of course it's better for both the baby and the mother.
After Healthcare, we have invested some money in stuff for our little one, but we were still fighting to see what to do about the crib, crib set, stroller, car seat, etc. which could set you back between 500 and 1500 dollars. Well last week a colleague from DHL approached me and told me she was selling her baby's crib (which she never used as she didn't like it) with the changing table for $300 and she was going to give us the stroller, car seat and a bunch of clothes.

Even though things have been tough and rough, getting married so fast in Mexico, then getting everything ready for my wife to come here, going trough the pregnancy even though I was working every day, it has been amazing how things have worked out at the end always, I have to tell you everything that has happened lately just made me realize more than before that "God works in mysterious ways" and as we say in Spanish "God squeezes but he doesn't hang you" (makes sense in english?)

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

For those of you Sonic fans out there

Browsing the internet I found this Flash version of the sega game "Sonic", so for those of you fans out there, here it is:

Monday, March 21, 2005

How safe is your car?

While thinking of starting to look for a car to buy I found that The Insurance institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) issued a new report on Death Rates for cars in one vehicle versus another crashes, so I decided to read it a little bit in order to know what I was getting into, here are some remarks from the report:
  • Large cars and minivans dominate among vehicle models with very low death rates. The models with the highest rates are mostly small cars and small and midsize SUVs
  • The 2 door, 2 wheel-drive Chevrolet Blazer had the highest Death Rate with 308 driver deaths per million registered per year� also had the highest rollover death rate (251 per million)
  • There has been a pattern of improvement. In the late 1980s the overall driver death rate was higher than 100. The latest overall rate was 87 (makes you feel better, right? 20 years and 13 people per million less are dying)
  • The vehicles with the lowest Death Rates were: Mercedes E Class(10), Toyota 4 Runner (12), Volkswagen Passat (16), Lexus RX 300 (17), Toyota Rav4 (18), Honda Odyssey (19), Mercedes S Class (25), Nissan Pathfinder (25), Cadillac DeVille (26), Nissan Quest (26), Toyota Camry (27), Cadillac El Dorado (29)
  • The vehicles with the highest Death Rates were: Chevrolet Blazer 2 door (308), Mitsubishi Mirage (209), Pontiac Firebird (205), Kia Rio (200), Kia Sportage 4door (197), Chevrolet Blazer 4dr (190), Ford Explorer 2dr (187), Chevrolet Camaro (186), Mazda B series (185), Chevrolet Tracker (183), Chevrolet S10 (182), Chevrolet Cavalier 2dr (168), Chevrolet Cavalier 4dr (162), Kia Sportage 4dr 4WD(162)

Of course you always have to take into consideration that people driving luxury cars will tend to protect their investment and drive carefully, while people driving sports cars tend to push them to the limit hence ending in a higher death rate, but I have to tell you this numbers are really interesting to me, as back in Venezuela my parents have a Cavalier and a Blazer, both of them in the top 10 of vehicles with highest death rates.
Although I don't plan of buying a Mercedes E Class any time soon, it's good to have this info handy when shopping for a car.

US Passports to go High Tech!

That's right folks, in a PCWorld article titled "Biometric Passport Set to Take Flight" it is mentioned that for mid 2005 the department of State plans to start issuing US Passports that will hold an RFID with all the information contained nowadays in the first page of the passports.
Some concerns are starting to raise as with the proper reading device you could check the information on the RFID from a distance (some experts say from 10 to 20mts) without the holder even noticing, the data on the chip will be no other than the one in the information page of the passport but would you be willing to walk around with your passport knowing that anyone could access that info? As there are no plans to use any kind of encryption to protect it.
Adding this technology to the current passports will increase it's price, so passports will range from 85 to 97 USD, and if you do not want to have your information on the RFID you better try to get a new passport right now before they go HIGH TECH!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Baby Shower

Amazingly yesterday at work all my colleagues got together and they did a baby shower for me and my wife.
To be completely honest I had never been in one before, and this one was wonderful, it's just great to see this kind of event happenings in the working environment, it's definetely an improvement from Guatemala and it makes you feel like you belong to this place.
Gifts were really great and useful so now that we are just 3 weeks away from the birth of our little girl, they are more than appreciate it.
THANKS EVERYONE, no words are enough

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

I have a driver's license

Yesterday March 15th I had an appointment to get my US driving license. I reserved to rent a 4 door compact and when I got to the counter they told me "We only have a new red munstang, is that OK for you?"
I have to tell you I was a little bit nervous of having the driving test in a 2005 4 liters V6 munstang, but it went well after 2 hours waiting and 10 min turning around in the parking lot I am done!.
For the moment I have a temporary permit, in 30 days I will have it with me, the funny thing is that I didn't make it in September as I thought I needed a SSN to apply for it, but you know what YOU DON'T NEED ONE, so if you are trainee in the US GO NOW!, your drivers license is only 20 USD and some waiting hours away

Homeless in the US

Originally uploaded by rafuchoski.

I have to tell you that a lot of my friends and people I know in Latin American Countries have this idea that in the US there aren't any homeless, there's work for everyone, everything's perfect, it is the land of opportunities.
Going on the streets and finding homeless and indigent people in the US makes me realize that although things are a lot better, there are still a lot of things to work on and improve, like:
House prices: In Broward County (where I live in FL) a 1.600 sq.feet house could go for $400K-500K, and I am talking about a normal, no poool, 1 store house. For a young couple starting a family that is CRAZY. A 2 rooms 1000 sq.feet apartment could be $140K-200K EASYLY, how can a family that is making less than $100K afford a house?, and even if it is seen as an investment because prices are still going up, how do you sell your house? where will you live?
Healthcare: Prices for healthcare in the US are INCREDIBLE, only the room in a hospital for having a baby could cost you $5,000 and you need to add the anestesiologyst fee, doctor fee and any special care you or your baby could need, if you have C-Section (over 20% of the births in the US are done nowadays with C-Sections) it could set you back $20K. Insurance premium to cover pregnancy could cost you an extra $100 a month and sometimes you need to be covered for 12 months before getting pregnant. Now if there's an emergency medicaid will cover that for you, but it's still just too much
Public Transportation: Although you can get to almost anywhere you want in Florida with Public Transportation it will take you forever to do so, most of the people have cars and because of that Public Transportation is not as reliable and constant as it could be. I know that it is something particularly true in South Florida as in New York and other Big cities public transportation works, but I have to tell you there's just TOO MANY CARS out there.

US is like any other country, it has it's pros and cons I have to tell you I really like it, even my little daughter will be born in here. I just wish that with time I will find more opportunities to interact more with the culture and see other parts of the country I haven't seen yet. Hopefully within a month I will buy a used car and will be able to see more of it.

Office Buildings and Fire alarms

Today the fire alarm lights started to flash, and I have to tell you NOBODY moved in my floor, so I started to ask around if it was a fire drill or what, and someone said "If the fire department isn't here, and there's nobody outside then it must be a problem with the alarm".
I remember in Guatemala in Novartis, they made fire drills 2 times while I was there, first time after 30 min we realized it was a fire drill and had to go down, the 2nd time we stayed and carried on with a meeting until the turned it off.
How much does a fire drill actually helps employees trust the alarm system and evacuation routes if it wasn't correctly communicated? If there isn't a person by floor or department with the knowledge of the fire drills and is contacted in the event of a real fire then how will employees know there's something really happen? How much would you pay attention to a fire warning light without an alarm sound?.
It reminds me of a fire drill that was made in a school I went for a week in Russia, every single one of the students got out safely and orderly, all the teachers knew it was going to happen, all the students knew exactly what to do, in less than 15 min over 400 students were evacuated. I think these fire drills also take place in the US Schools, so what changes when we all get to work?

It turns out that what happened is that someone burnt some toast turning on the alarm flashing lights on floors 1, 2 and 3 of our building. It seems like the fire alarm is intelligent enough to react to such instances where there's truly not a fire and treat them as containment, cool ah?

Buses under surveillance

Originally uploaded by rafuchoski.

I have decided to start posting on things that although now seem normal to me, they are different and interesting about living in the states, so expect more postings like this one.
One of those things is the fact that most of the buses have surveillance cameras looking into the bus and also trough the front window, for the users' security.
As a matter of fact last week a bus ran into a van in an intersection when it didn't stop at a red light, of course it is all on tape and there's nothing the bus driver can say in his defense.
I just wonder, are all these security cameras and measures keeping us safer? and when does it become a invasion of privacy, Itreminds me of the movie"Enemy of the State", and a series they are showing here in the States called "Boss swap" where they take 2 managers from completely different businesses and swap them to see how they adapt and work in a different environment and company, well there was a guy that owned a car dealer and he had cameras everywhere in his company to see at any moment who was working, who was not and take action for that, would you want to work for him? I tell you no blogging there!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Venezuela lately in the Spotlight too much

Being the Venezuelan that I am I try to keep myself informed of what is going on there as much as I can trough the internet, and I have to tell you that something is definitely being forged, I just hope that it doesn't end up being more deaths and problems to my country and its neighbor's.
Lately Venezuela has been in the international spotlight in many different ways, and it likely that we will be listening to more news soon. In the last days several things have happen like:
  • President Chavez accuses US of assassination Plot: During his weekly televised address to the country he said US was planning an assassination plot against him, and that he was warned by President Castro (Cuba) who had managed to survive hundred of documented assassination attemps by the CIA. "They're preparing the ground for a suicide, which won't work with me,'' Chavez said during a news conference today in Uruguay on Venezuela's state television station. "If I'm killed, the U.S. can forget about getting even one drop of oil.''
  • Venezuela Rebuffs U.S. on Arms Deals: Venezuela said they were going to buy 100,000 Russian automatic rifles, Russian Helicopters, and are studying about Mig-29 fighters as possible replacements for their F-16s. US said they were concerned about on whose hands where these arms could end up in (talking about guerrillas and other movements), and at the fact that 100,000 rifles exceeds the number of Venezuelan regular armed forces. To which Venezuela answered saying that US was only worried about the fact that they were not bought to the US
  • US to alert fellow countries against Ch�vez' moves in the region: US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega Wednesday stated that the United States intends to make Venezuela's fellow countries more aware of the "destabilization acts" Venezuelan President Hugo Ch�vez insists on. The countries of the region are expected to "join us in the defense of the region's stability, safety, and prosperity," Noriega added.
  • Venezuela detects several US battleships near its coasts: Armando Laguna (Navy Commander) said that the Venezuelan Navy detected several foreign vessels 75 kilometers northeast of the Paraguana Peninsula in western Venezuela. According to Laguna, the presence of U.S. military ships near Venezuela is part of their "routine maneuvers", and told people not to be alarmed. What, in fact, concerned Venezuelan officials is that Washington did not announce the maneuver as it has traditionally been doing it. Some of these ships have been seen stationed in Curacao and Aruba, and the government said they were "Provocations", of course rumors of a new coup started appearing throughout the country.
  • Chavez is looking for ways to Diminish Venezuela's dependency on the US oil market: You have to understand that Venezuela is the 5th oil producer in the world and the 2nd supplier to the US after Saudi Arabia, so Chavez at the moment signed already agreements with Uruguay , Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia for the creation of a Regional Oil Company (PETROSUR). Other agreements have been signed about Telecommunications and Trade with these countries.
  • Venezuela's Central Bank devalues currency: The Venezuelan currency was devaluated today and the official exchange rate is 2,150 VEB/USD. In February 2003 the government made a fixed official rate of 1,600 to stop all the capital that was being taken our of the country. Just for you guys to have a historical background, 30-35 years ago the exchange rate was 4.30 VEB/USD

Lately in the news in different International and US based channels there has been several special programs focused on increasing the awareness of what has happened historically in Venezuela in the last years (in the Chavez years), it looks like there's a major strategical move to change the way people are looking at Chavez and his Presidency.

The US is sending a message to Venezuela, and we will see how everything turns out at end, I join all the other Venezuelans in the hope that this will be address without the unnecessary blood spill. Expressing here my opinion of the government will take another long posting, that will have to wait for the moment but will come soon don't worry.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

How much can life change in 1 year?

Giving some thoughts on my last posting about how much can life change in 5 years, I wanted to see how much it has changed year over year, only for three years this time:

Feb-March 2002: At this time I was thinking about what to do after my LCP term, trying to find a way to go on an International MC and having my University validate it as the internship required to graduate. I had a TON of options to apply to, but because of different reasons I decided to put all my effort into AIESEC in Ireland.
I applied for MCVPSN there, we were 5 applying for the same position. I received a call on the selections day saying they will send me some questions and give me 1 hour to call me back and answer the questions to them as part of the selection process. After answering the questions to a dead phone (they could hear me, but I couldn't hear anything from them because of the speakerphone) feeling that my heart was about to explode, they all burped out in cheers, congratualtions and applause as soon as I finished talking (an experience I will never forget or regret).
Sadly I didn't get the position and it was too late to apply to most of the other international positions I was thinking of, but as we never know what life might bring to us next a girl I met at IC 2001 in Switzerland that was elected MCP of AIESEC in Puerto Rico passed by Venezuela to meet me and talk to me about becoming MCVPX in Puerto Rico.

Feb-March 2003: On February 15th I arrived in El Salvador for AXLDS 2003 for the second time, the first time I didn't have a Visa so had to go back to Miami after spending 1 night in the airport, to make my visa and then go back.
We had an amazing and challenging event where we had to move hotels in the middle of the event because of budget problems, and deal with all this logistic and emotional nightmare. After having a great time in the event, the ALDS facilitators went for a little trip in El Salvador and spent 1 day at the beach (where by the way Pedro Oliveira got bitten by a ray). At that moment I wasn't sure on what to do with my life after Puerto Rico but I really wanted to stay in AIESEC after that amazing experience of the conference, shortly after the whole idea behind going to Guatemala started to take shape.

Feb-March 2004: I was in Guatemala, trying to be MCP of AIESEC in Guatemala and also Trainee in the sales department for Novartis. I just moved on Feb 15 to a new appartment with 2 other trainees; an old friend from Venezuela (Pablo from Maracaibo whom I met first time in 2000 in AIESEC) and Perla Garcia (a trainee from Mexico that was just arriving in Guatemala). We just rented the new place and were getting aquainted with each other. Preparing Gaby (MCPe) to go to IPM in Sri Lanka and trying to make things work with my 2 responsibilities and trying to figure out life after my Traineeship ends.

Feb-March 2005: I am in Florida in a Traineeship with DHL in the Human Resources Development department, the theme of not being sure what will happen in July-August once this assignment ends is still with me, although looking for an opportunity within the company. I got married in December in Mexico with that Trainee with whom I was moving in with in Feb 2004, she moved in with me here in Florida at the end of January, we are enjoying our life together and trying to live one day at a time. At the beggining of April we will become parents of "Daniela Gonzalez Garcia", our first born baby.

So guys, anyone that is reading this, has your life changed this much year after year?, Is it an AIESEC thing?, Do you thik it will it continue like this for another 3 years?

PS: I will complement this posting with some pics as soon as I can, so be patient please.