Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Start-Ups Buenos Aires After Office gets first podcast mention

I love it when cool things happen without you knowing about it. It's makes it even cooler when you stumble upon them. Today I had this happen when listening to a new podcast called "Awaken", by Mattias Dutto and Alexis Garbarz. I decided to give it a try since I have met Mattias and his wife Lindsay a couple of times, and had heard Alexis is behind OLX, a popular free classifieds website. I figured at the very least it would expand my podcast listening beyond my current selections of NPR On Point radio, This American Life, 60 Minutes and the Bugle all of which are in the English language. I wanted to add an Argentine Spanish podcast to the mix.

I'm very happy I did. In only their 4th progam, the production was top notch, the commentary lively and most of all lots of Buena Onda (good vibes) . They sound like they are having fun and you can't help but have fun with them.

I also found it very interesting to get an Argentine perspective on a number of topics ranging from movies to social media. The cherry on top was when they spoke about events going on in the city and to my surprise Start-Ups Buenos Aires After Office got a nice mention and a high recommendation on our choice of venue.

What podcasts do you recommend?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Start-Ups Buenos Aires After Office Wed, Jan28. 19:30-22:30

We are back for our first After Office of 2009!

CARNAL on Niceto Vega 5511, WEDNESDAY, Jan. 28 from 19:30-22:30.

I'm very excited that our group continues to grow and our turn out to this After Office just gets bigger and better every month. Our official group on Face Book is about to crack 250, plus we have another 20-30 on our mailing list. Because the group has now expanded to a point beyond our collective circles of friends and acquaintances, we will be encouraging the use of name tags. This will not only help new people identify us, but also help Name Retention Disorder (NRD) sufferers like me.

We highly encourage you to bring friends who have or are interested in StartUps, especially your local Argentine friends so we can have a good mix of perspectives, opinions and more opportunities to make valuable connections.

Look forward to seeing you all there!

Estaremos lanzando el inicio del primer After Office Buenos Aires del año el Miércoles 28 de Enero en Carnal. Asegurate de acercarte y mirar en la terraza.

Este es un gran evento de networking para conocer otros empresarios, freelancers y candidatos. No olvides tus tarjetas de presentación.

Espero verte allá!


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Women in Science and real-time Oceanography

The New York Times ran an article recently, "In ‘Geek Chic’ and Obama, New Hope for Lifting Women in Science". Boiled down, the article explains that while the number of women in the sciences has grown in leaps and bounds over the decades, there are still not enough. Those women that do manage to make a career in the sciences, do so at a cost of higher rates of divorce and fewer children. With President Obama's stating in his inaugural address to “restore science to its rightful place”, many scientists are hopeful not only for more research funds, but changes in policy to support women who choose science as a career.

Why does this matter?
In addition to running that connects Spanish-speaking tutors and students for academic support in Math and Science among other subjects, I have a special interest in this topic because the woman in my life is a budding scientist in Physical Oceanography. Physical Oceanography examines "oceanic motions, from small-scale mixing processes to basin-wide circulation patterns...that requires a thorough understanding of fluid mechanics and the laws of thermodynamics." In layman terms, understanding these processes and how they interact with the atmosphere are incredibly important if we are to reveal the truth and consequences of global warming.

Being located in Argentina, the research topic for her thesis has centered around chlorophyl phytoplankton blooms in the Patagonian Sea, (a crucial link in the food chain) where she authored a chapter for the Conservation of the Patagonia Sea, (in Spanish, Exec Summary is in English)

Currently she is at sea on the RV Revelle for the DIMES project, a joint US/UK field program to study mixing in the Southern Ocean. What has been fascinating is keeping track of their progress through real-time updates and Surf Swell forecasts. The ship is even equipped with a few webcams that snap photos in various sectors of the ship every 10 minutes. So one can see what a real oceanographic research expedition is all about. I am guessing once Telefe (a local broadcast channel) gets a look at this, we will have our next season of Big Brother mercilessly upon on us. :-S

So to all those interested in the sciences, it does not necessarily mean a life in a lab or behind a computer (though those options exist as well). Oceanography is a rapidly growing field and as the article "Sea of Dreams" in Nature magazine does a good job of pointing out, new careers are opening in environmental, commercial ventures, government, international agencies and more.

P.S. The pictures of the icebergs they are passing and the equipment they are deploying are particularly impressive.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Kayak Startup and a relaxing day on the Tigre

As I mentioned in a previous post, most people try to escape the city in the summer. The heat and humidity, noise and pollution of down town can really wear one down. However, if you do find yourself in the city, you need to make the best of it and a new Kayak startup El Dorado Kayak ( might be just the thing.

El Dorado is the name of a local fish found in the Tigre. I've been kayaking with El Dorado twice now. Once I went with my girlfriend and my parents who were on a visit. The second time I took a couple of good friends from Boston who were here on their honeymoon.

What is special about El Dorado Kayak is that they take you away from downtown Tigre, about an hour by Bus Boat or 20-25 min by private charter, to the island off a sparsely traveled canal where a few locals live.

Each time we went, Chapa, Martin and Carol took great care of us. Upon arrival you start off with a little snack which I didn't think we would need, but when you get are hungry! Next we got outfitted with life jackets, adjusted the seats in the kayaks and got a kayak lesson from Martin who was our guide on both trips.

The next thing you know the kayaks are in the water and off you go. What is especially nice is that their launching point is towards the end of a narrow canal so it is very peaceful and calm. Also they use wide, double kayaks which are very stable. My parents, who are not frequent kayakers, were very comfortable in them. The biggest challenge for us was deciding who will kayak together. I'm happy to report both my parents and the honeymooners are all still married. :-P

The kayaking itself can be very relaxing like when I went with my parents. We meandered down the delta in absolutely no hurry at all, taking lots of photos. Or it can be more invigorating like when I went with my friends and we hauled ass for parts just for the fun of it.

Regardless, each time I have gone I have had what I can only describe as a moment of zen. It must be the combination of green and quiet. I felt extremely relaxed and amazed this change of scenery is so close and yet seems to transport you so far from the stress of the city.

Once back at the island, the asado (barbeque) is in full gear and we ate and drank while chatting away. Some others took advantage of the hammock or a dip in the delta. Time does fly and before your know it, you realize you have to head back to reality. If you are looking for an up close and personal view of the delta, I doubt you can find a better way.

What recommendations do you have for spending the day out in Tigre?

Full disclosure: the folks at El Dorado Kayak are good friends of ours. So I do hope you give them a try. They recommend week days as the delta is a lot less busy. If you do go, like any startup, they would highly appreciate anything you can do to help them get the word out such as writing a testimonial, sending them some photos for their website, writing a blog post and of course word of mouth and word of Facebook, twitter and whatever else to your friends and followers.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Top Five survival tips for spending New Year's in Punta del Este, Uruguay

Happy 2009!

Expats find out very quickly that Buenos Aires is not the IN place to be for the holidays. The city empties as people find family and friends anywhere else they can. The most popular place to head, of course, is the beach. There are options in Argentina such as Pinamar and Mar del Plata, which I'm sure have their supporters, but the fashionable place to see and be seen is Punta del Este in Uruguay.

When you go to Punta del Este you need to clarify if you are staying on the peninsula of Punta del Este or if you are out on one of the other beaches like La Barra or Jose Ignacio etc. These recommendations are for those who are staying on the peninsula of Punta del Este. After 3 years of navigating crowds during New Year's on the peninsula with family and friends, we have slowly managed to turn this art into a science.

Why stay on the Peninsula?
What it has is infrastructure (lots of shops, restaurants, and beach with mostly calm water, all within walking distance) As you will find, this is attractive to families with small children and seniors. Secluded and natural it is not. For that you should head further north to Cabo Polonio.

Top recommendations for Expats:

When to go?

Shoulder season is the best time to be on the peninsula. Late November/early December and Easter are perfect since the weather is usually still good, and their are no crowds. New Year's in particular, all bets are off. It is a zoo. So the name of the game for New Year's is crowd and ripoff avoidance.

Eat Fish
After spending the year eating nothing but the cheap and plentiful meat in Argentina, fish is a welcome respite. The king of fish to eat in Punta del Este is Corvina Negra (Black Drum) and the place to eat it is at La Marea in the port. They cook the fish over the grill with the scales on one side and with a thick provencal topping of parsley and garlic which steams the flesh. One piece is enough for two people who order a couple sides. The price is very reasonable which makes it an even rarer find.

My other recommendation is right next door. El Artico. This restaurant is a fast seafood type place perfect for your after the beach munchies. The highlights are the Rabas (Fried Calamaries) and new this year, they added fried chipirones (squid) which were also scrumptious. Want to fill up a little more, buy some extra bread and make little fried calamari sandwiches.

Bring white wine and then drink Clerico or Medio y Medio
Argentine wines are very expensive in Uruguay. Bring over a couple of bottles in your bag and you won't regret it. The temptation to bring red wine will be great, but with the heat and the fish, white wine is the way to go. Once you go through your bottles, try the Clerico (white wine Sangria) or find some Media Media (half and half), an Uruguayan invention which is simply a blend of white wine and spumante. It's very refreshing.
If you drink beer, Patricia is the one. It is brewed by Salus who also sells the best bottled spring water you will ever taste.

Hit the beach early
The beaches on the peninsula during New Year's remind me of a National Geographic special where you see the thousands of seals laying next to and on top of each other. The key to hitting the beach is getting there early. From 8-11am or so, the beach is empty since everyone went out eating and partying the night before. It's also the best sun.

If you have some transport, even better. There are some very nice and less crowded beaches on the Mansa side over near Casa Pueblo. One of our favorites is Las Grutas which is about 15-20 minutes by car. For New Year's make sure you reserve your car far in advance and prepare to stretch your wallet.

Speaking of transport, don't try to save a few bucks and go the long way to Punta del Este by bus. The bridge that connects Uruguay and Argentina over at Gualeguaychú is a popular place for locals to set up road blocks, especially during the high season, in protest of the cellulose processing factory that Uruguay built on their side of the river. .

Get a nice work out
The salt air and sun is a great contrast to the dreary city heat of Buenos Aires. A relaxing way to work out is to walk the peninsula. The far end of the peninsula has smaller houses so you don't feel as urbanized as in the center. There is a walkway next to the ocean where you can burn off those extra calories and take in the sunset. The best kind of multi-tasking! For the more athletic, keep on going to the front of the Conrad Casino where they have an open, outdoor gym (pull up bars, push up stations etc)

So there you have my top 5 survival tips for Punta del Este. Enjoy!