Friday, November 16, 2007

Language skillz - we has them!!!

Oh hell, the internet is no place for modesty, right? So I'll just take a little time out from my massive reading binge to share the results of my Spanish exam in August. You will recall, I took the intermediate level DELE test, administered by the Cervantes Institute.

Part I : Written comprehension (20) and composition (15)
Maximum possible score : 35 points
Passing score: 24.5 points
My score: 34.75 points

Part II : Grammar and vocabulary (20)
Maximum possible score : 20 points
Passing score : 14 points
My score : 18.33 points

Part III : Auditory comprehension (15) and oral expression (30)
Maximum possible score : 45 points
Passing score : 31.5 points
My score : 44.5 points

Overall grade: "APTO"

I even have my official diploma to prove it. Which I'm to lazy to take a picture of, so you will have to take my word for it.

So, bring on the advanced exam in May!! I'll be looking forward to it.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Postcard from San Francisco

So, I've been home for about 4 days. I had half-expected a sense of letdown at this point, but quite the reverse is the case. If anything, there is a sense of exhilaration about life in general. I'm really enjoying the comforts of being home - being able to play the piano whenever the mood takes me, playing with the kitties, seeing friends again, walking around the neighborhood, catching up on my correspondence, going on a reading binge. (What a binge - my goodreads "currently reading" shelf has expanded to 8 books, which is probably something of an underestimate. And, no, I don't have ADD, I just read very fast - for instance, last night I inhaled Carolyn Parkhurst's wonderful "The Dogs of Babel" in a single, 3-hour sitting).

Part of what contributes to this exhilaration is a sense of deep appreciation for what life has given me, as well as a renewed sense of optimism about the future, buoyed by a sense of accomplishment. Because, you know, I did plan and execute my Spanish adventure. And had a blast. Giving me the confidence to imagine, and start to plan, further adventures.

So I think that Buenos Aires in the new year is a definite possibility. Maybe it's time to set up an Argentinian bookshelf on goodreads.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

More bad poetry

There is a volcano in Mexico called Popocapetl.
I have a friend in Minsk who lives in a shtetl
And who, though I can't be sure, I'm willing to bet'll
Never visit Mexico because, if he does he says all he'll get'll
Be a bad case of the revenge of Montezuma
And anyway that his favorite Mexican volcano is Ixtaccihuatl
Because, as volcanoes go, the crater is much roomier.
But rather than visit either Popocapetl or Ixtaccihuatl
he'd rather stay home in his shtetl made of wattle
And not risk invoking the wrath of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl.

Monday, September 17, 2007


San Francisco Bay, that is. Got home at around 6pm local time. It's now close to 10pm. I'm going to mail my estimated tax payments to the guvmint, then go to bed.

I am pleased to report that the kitties both seem pleased to see me, and no sulking behavior has been observed so far. In fact, Boris is doing his best dynamo act, purring like a furry furnace.

Perhaps tomorrow I will be more coherent. It's good to be home.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Alma Mater

On Friday afternoon I had a chance to visit my alma mater, University College Cork (UCC). Here are some pictures:

University College Cork, main Quad

Main quadrangle

Ogham stones, U.C.C.

Ogham stones

septiembre 074


septiembre 070

Honan Chapel
(My parents were married in the Honan Chapel, in 1950)

septiembre 073

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Postcard from Ireland

I've been here for three days already, so it seems as if a few sweeping generalizations are in order. Based on my acute powers of observation, applied to the experience of two days in Dublin and a day in Cork, I can safely say that:

1. Ireland is more expensive than Spain

Some random pricing observations:

  • Price of a pint: dangerously close to 5€
  • Price of my (delicious, but unremarkable) 3-course dinner at Jury's Hotel in Cork: 32€
  • Typical price range for coffee-and-panini lunch in Dublin: 10-12€
  • Price of a one-way train ticket from Dublin to Cork (about 220 km): 56€
  • Price of "jelly and ice-cream" (jelly = jello, for my American readers), featured on Jury's late-night room service menu: 8.50€
  • Reason why Jury's would feature such an odd item on their room service menu: anyone's guess (did somebody really think this might come in the category of "comfort food"?)
  • Price of a taxi from Dublin airport to the hotel: 22€ (though I am reliably assured that a cheaper express bus service to downtown hotels is available)
  • Price that the taxi-driver's mother's house (an unremarkable 3-bedroom semi-detached in Ranelagh, but with a granny-flat) fetched last year: 680,000€. I know this because she insisted on showing me pictures on her cell-phone, as well as quizzing me about what I paid for my condo in SF. Information that I shared with her, but have no intention of divulging here.

2. Ireland is more prosperous than Spain

Minimum wage is currently set at somewhere around 8.40€ an hour. While this is unlikely to get you that house in Ranelagh any time soon, it certainly places the benchmark considerably higher than that for Spain's typical "mileurista", with a median salary of 1000€ a month. Other indications of prosperity abound, an obvious ongoing construction boom, the high preponderance of specialty stores catering to the affluent in both Dublin and Cork's main shopping districts. Less tangibly, there is an overall sense of increased efficiency - things work now in Ireland in a way that is taken for granted, but that seems quite foreign to someone like myself whose memories of the place are rooted largely in the 1970's. While 56€ to get from Dublin to Cork by train might seem a little steep, I have to acknowledge that the trip was extraordinarily smooth, both stations were pleasant, well-designed spaces. All the conveniences a traveler might wish for, with no residue of the almost penitential aspect that characterized train travel in my day, when you considered yourself lucky to get from point A to point B, and certainly didn't expect the experience to be a comfortable one.

Family members nod sagely in response to my observations about the impression of prosperity and remark darkly that it "comes at a price". I'm sure this is true, but I'm equally sure that this is not something I can hope to make intelligent comment on based on four days here.

3. Ireland is infinitely less homogeneous than when I visited five years ago

Surely a good thing. The accession of Eastern European countries, Poland and the Baltic republics in particular, to the EU has meant greater freedom of movement of workers throughout Europe, and Ireland's relatively strong economy has been a magnet. The number of different languages I've been hearing since arriving here (Polish seems to predominate) is a refreshing change.

4. Politicians seem as rascally as ever.

With the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, about to be called in for a second full day of testimony before the Tribunal investigating (potentially significant) financial irregularities in his past, and stories of wads of cash being accidentally left on his desk by visiting businessmen (this was back in the 90's), there is a definite sense that little has changed. Yet, despite the whiff of scandal, he was comfortably re-elected in this spring's general election. My favorite nugget from the Tribunal hearings so far - the excuse for the prevalence of large wads of cash in Ahern's office at various times was that he "didn't have a bank account". This despite the fact that, at the time, he was Minister for Finance.

I do not delude myself that observation # 4 applies uniquely to Irish politicians.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Final lap

Dateline Cork: Friday afternoon 5.30pm

I'm here, in Cork, on the banks of my own lovely Lee. In Jury's fine international hotel. Where they actually have real broadband service. Unlike the unfortunate "use your TV as a computer" deal in the Dublin hotel.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Dublin under siege

No, not by me. I'm just here for two nights. However, it is with grief-tinged shock* that I must report the sighting of a little boutique dedicated to peddling the wares of Thomas Kinkade ("The Painter of you know what...") just a stone's throw from Dublin's trendy Grafton Street. In addition to the standard nauseating panoply of radioactively glowing cottages in the purple mist there are - regrettably, very regrettably indeed - Celtic-themed items of dreck. Including a Celtic Santa.

Excuse me. I have to stop now. Waves of revulsion are sweeping over me.

* : or shock-tinged grief, if you prefer. This is an equal-opportunity-cliche blog.

Slan go foill.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Numbers game

Readers are invited to guess the meaning of the following set of numbers (note: the order in which the numbers are presented is not germane to their meaning overall):

94, 61, 80, 89, 84, 88, 82, 81, 89, 68, 47, 88, 85, 59, 87, 84, 92, 97, 80, 95, 75, 85, 93, 79, 81, 58, 76, 85, 79, 89, 88, 80, 72, 92, 88, 80, 90, 66, 89, 85, 56, 87, 76, 50, 52, 63, 90, 91, 65, 91

Obviously, this particular set of numbers does not obey Benford's Law. At least not when expressed in base 10. But perhaps there is some base in which they would more closely approximate the behavior it predicts? (This is just idle speculation on my part)

And you thought my geekitude was confined to matters pertaining to grammar and syntax. Wrong. My geekitude knows no bounds.

Adiós a Madrid

A few final photos

Tio Pepe sign, Sol

Calle Alcalá

ozzie the bear

el gaucho

Rite of passage

La Infanta Leonor, the future queen of Spain, started kindergarten last week. So far, she seems to be taking things in stride.


Warning: of interest only to students of Spanish (major geekdom ahead!)

obedecer: to obey, to stem from
la carencia : lack, deficiency
carecer de: to lack, to be deficient in
vigilar la finca : to mind the ranch
los años de vacas flacas : lean years (literally, "years of the thin cows")
poner cruz y raya a : to wash one's hands of, to have nothing more to do with
el runrún : buzz (also in the figurative sense of rumor, or gossip)
mellar : to blunt, to diminish (e.g. the force of an argument)
la (in)certidumbre : (un)certainty
la muchedumbre : crowd
plasmar : to form
la tregua : treaty
estrepitoso : deafening
la charanga : brass band (figuratively: the charade, sideshow)
anunciador(a) : announcing, prefiguring, threatening
el presupuesto: budget, estimate (from presuponer or, less commonly, presupuestar)
la tamborrada:
uproar, furor (figurative, derived from tambor, a drum)
el parado : unemployed person (literally, "the stopped one", from parar)
el paro : (rate of) unemployment
"El liderazgo, estúpido" : "It's about leadership, stupid!"

Can you tell I've been reading the editorial page? All of the above from a single editorial, alas. So many words, so little time...

¿ Wanna bet ?

Spaniards like to gamble:

A los madrileños les gustan el bingo

It could be bingo.

Casino de Madrid, back entrance

A night out at the casino.

state lottery booth

Taking part in the state lottery, in particular, the huge Christmas draw, in which every family in Spain participates. Tickets for this lottery, the biggest of the year (affectionately known as "el gordo", or "the fat one") are a common Christmas gift. Numbers are chosen by photogenically angelic orphans from the St Ildefonso orphanage in Madrid, in a nationally televised ceremony a few days before Christmas. Then there's also the regular ONCE lottery, run by the organisation for the blind.

salon de juegos

One of the many "Salon de Juegos" in downtown Madrid, home to a seizure-inducing array of one-armed bandits and assorted other slot machines.

I don't have statistics to back this up, but it's hard to avoid the conclusion that gambling is one of the more popular Spanish pursuits.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Speaking of sheep

The scene yesterday at the Cibeles Fountain in Madrid. 700 sheep took to the streets in celebration of something called the Fiesta de la Trashumancia. No, I don't understand it either; I just know that sheep representing 32 countries were in attendance.

Could that be Miss Maple in the foreground? The smart-looking one? Your guess is as good as mine.

I wish I could say that I was there in person. But at 9am, when the ovine invasion was in full swing, I was still sound asleep.

¿ A qué huele Kate Moss ?

What does Kate Moss smell of? In this blog we have on occasion poked fun at Chandler Burr, perfume critic for The New York Times. Thus, it was with a certain amusement that I came across the following paragraph in the Sunday magazine of El País. An article about Kate Moss's new perfume, called - simply - "Kate". Here is El País's take:

Se llama Kate y en su aspecto y imagen domina el rosa, aunque surcado por espinas negras. Porque la fragrancia será floral, de acuerdo, pero la modelo británica no renuncia ni por esas al lado rockero y salvaje... Y al final, ¿a qué huele Kate Moss? Pues a nomeolvides aderezado con pimienta rosada y flor de azahar y a una mezcla de azucena, heliotropo, magnolia y rosa contrastada con pachuli, madera de sándalo y almizcle.

It's called Kate, and its essence is dominated by roses, though interspersed with black thorns. Because although the fragrance is floral, the British model has not abandoned her savage, rocker persona ... In the end, what does Kate Moss smell of? Of forget-me-nots embellished with allspice and citron blossom, and a mixture of lilies, heliotrope, magnolias and roses, contrasted with sandalwood, patchouli, and musk.

Somehow, I think Chandler would have had more fun with this.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

La javelina

¿Quién es? I hear you ask. Well, it's a javelina, also known as a peccary. What is he doing on this blog? Well, it's a long story, related in part to George Clooney's now-defunct pot-bellied pig, Max.

But why ask why? It's Sunday aquí en Madrid, time for a little silliness. And a new sniglet.

peccary: a sinful porcine, a scape-pig.

Postcard from Madrid

As my time here in Madrid winds down, here is an extremely subjective "top 10 list", covering everything from cafés to museums:

FNAC (metro Callao) FNAC

Faborit (calle Alcála) Faborit

Museo Sorolla Museo Sorolla
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza Thyssen

Hotel Ateneo (calle de la Montera) Hotel Ateneo

Root (calle Virgen de los Peligros) Root
la Finca de Susana La finca de Susana
Cubik (calle de la Aduana) Cubik

public spaces:
Plaza de Oriente Plaza de Oriente
El Retiro Jardines del Retiro

I hope that all of the links work. Take a virtual tour - it may give you an idea of what a great summer I had.


Saturday, September 8, 2007

¿ Language Skilz ? ¡ We has them !

¡just ask the don!

¡we has them!

C2 : notable*. 568 hours.

Note that this certificate does not include the 120 hours spent preparing for the DELE intermedio. So my total is actually closer to 680 hours in class, all told.

* "notable" is the second-highest grade. I've been told that it is almost impossible to get the highest grade "sobresaliente" at level C2. Though, IIRC, one student that I know, the inimitable Dawn, from Chicago, did so earlier this summer.

It leaves me something to strive for. That, and the DELE superior, of course.

Friday, September 7, 2007

And the Oscar goes to ...

Thanks to Paul B. for sending me this update on Oscar, the pussy-cat-of-doom:

Ode to a recently departed tenor

In times of great grief, nothing unites us quite like some truly dreadful poetry. What can I say? When the muse comes a-calling, all one can do is receive. I'm just an empty vessel:

To a recently departed tenor

Oh dearly departed Luciano Pavarotti
My sister thought you were quite a hotty
My father also liked you a lot, he
Used to say often, very wittily,
That all the best tenors came from Italy.
Myself, though I found you at times a bit sweaty,
I liked you much better than your compatriot Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Felled at 71 by cancer of the pancreas,
There is no doubt at all that you sang much better than Olivia Newton-John in "Grease",
And because of your death, the joy in the world is perceptibly decreased,
So, as you join the heavenly chorus of angels up on high, may you and all the other celestial choristers rest in peace.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Counting sheep

I will get to the somewhat primitive looking drawing above in a moment. The title of this post refers to the book I am currently reading, the wonderful Three Bags Full . To quote an reviewer:

"If you read only one detective novel about a murdered shepherd told from the perspective of his sheep, translated from the German and written by a woman who looks like Emily Watson's twin this decade, this should be the one."

Yes, indeed. crime-solving sheep. They are hilarious.

But this post is also about counting sheep in the figurative sense. This week, for reasons unrelated to ambient noise (my hotel room looks out on a quiet side-street), I've been having difficulty sleeping again. The Spanish have a nice way of expressing this - they say "me cuesta dormir", literally, "it costs me to sleep". The reason is simple - as I lie in bed, words and phrases that I've heard or read during the daytime gambol around in my head, like so many unruly sheep. Of the 25 or so weeks I've been here in Spain, I estimate that I've had this problem roughly 20% of the time, usually for about a one-week interval at a time.

Oddly enough, though it does leave me a bit tired during the day, this "problem" no longer bothers me. Because I finally figured out that it is actually a very good sign, as far as my progress with the language is concerned. Which brings me finally to the crude sketch at the top of this post. What the drawing is meant to represent is an approximate sketch of my (self-perceived) mastery of the language over time. (I've edited out the temporary backward slide attributable to my week in San Francisco earlier in the summer).

You will notice that the graph consists, for the most part, of a series of straight-line segments, representing gradually decreasing linear rates of improvement - that decrease in the rate of improvement is the law of diminishing returns in action. But every so often, there is a distinct jump in the graph, which corresponds to a substantial improvement that happens almost overnight. This has actually been the case - on several occasions I've shown up in class on a Monday, with a noticeably better command of the language that seemed to just arrive over the weekend. What I finally figured out is that these significant improvements always happen during, or towards the end of a week where I've been having difficulty sleeping because of the "words bouncing around my head" phenomenon. It's as if some part of my brain is driven into overdrive during these periods, with the result that, although my sleep patterns suffer, there is a definite payoff at the end.

OK, this post is decidedly geeky, and probably of little interest to anyone other than my own self. So I will leave it at that. Except to note the analogy with the received wisdom that children's physical growth is also subject to sudden short-term spurts of a similar nature. I'll spare you the geeky details about the pulsatile nature of nocturnal growth hormone secretion, because really, enough is enough.

The plain people of Ireland: This is possibly your most boring post ever.

The management: You may be right. But why don't you just be quiet and move on?

The plain people of Ireland: Crime-solving sheep, though. That's an idea with some potential. Sinéad was always very fond of them "Freddy the Pig" detective books growing up.

The management: An astute girl, Sinéad. The "Freddy the Pig" books are an overlooked treasure.

Ni Hitler ni Superman

Dateline Caracas: Venezuela trata de prohibir los nombres extravagantes para los recién nacidos (Venezuela tries to outlaw bizarre names for newborns)

Hitler Adonys Rodriguez Crespo, Usnavy, Usmail, Superman, Makgiber, Yuvifred, Genghis Khan o Nick Carter Backstreet Boys no serán aceptados en un futuro como nombres para los venezelanos (will no longer be accepted as names for Venezuelans) ......

No, I'm not making this up. According to an article in today's El País, the Venezuelan government has introduced a bill designed to prevent parents from burdening their infant children with names which could expose their offspring to "ridicule" in later life. In a country which is home to at least 10 people rejoicing in the name "Superman González", passage of the bill into law is not expected to occur without some heated debate.

Just thought you would like to know.

¡ Los pandas! ¡ Los pandas!

España has been panda-less for eleven years, ever since the death of Chu Lin (Treasure amidst the Bamboos), the first panda born in captivity in Europe. But, the long national wait is almost over. On Saturday, the 7-year old male Bing Xing (Star of the Night) and the 4-year old female Hua Zui Ba (Colored Mouth) will arrive at Terminal 1 in Barajas, to be greeted by a reception committee befitting a foreign head of state. Following their 35-hour journey from China, they will be whisked, with full police escort, in a refrigerated van to the Madrid Zoo, where they will take up residence for the next two years.

OK, fine. I'm not ashamed to admit it. The only reason for this particular entry is that it is a thinly veiled excuse to include cute panda photos.

Because everything, blogs included, is better with pandas!

Disclaimer : pandas depicted in this entry are not the actual pandas who are, even now, winging their way Madrid-wards.

¿2016 Olympics?

Here in Madrid the municipal authorities are nothing if not far-sighted. Thus, efforts to lure the 2016 Olympics to the city are in full swing. For instance, this week, on the Paseo del Prado, residents and tourists alike are invited to vote on the logo for the 2016 games, should the city's efforts be successful. Five concrete cylinders, representing the Olympic rings, were constructed to display the ten proposed designs. Here are my three favorites (all ten may be found among my Flick'r photos):

septiembre 009

septiembre 013

septiembre 011


  • Ensnorkelled: bewitched by one's deep sea diving instructor
  • Pollyglot: a multi-lingual parrot
  • Sinchronicity: Group misbehavior of post-menopausal urban women
  • Atrial fibrillation: Excitement induced by perjury in the courtroom
  • Zugma: Figure of rhetoric exemplified by the phrase "He missed the train, and his mother"
  • Myrrhmaid:

The plain people of Ireland: What does this have to do with anything?

The management: You're perfectly right. Never mind.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The trouble with Tribbles

Here at MOTP, an unspecified (but shameful) percentage of our time is spent trolling (trawling?) the internets for the good stuff, so that you don't have to. These surfaced in our net this evening:

The trouble with Tribbles (a television adaptation in the style of Edward Gorey)

I can has Tribblez


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Sinous infection

If there were any doubt that dictionaries can be dangerous, the following vignette provides corroborative evidence.

One of my classmates is suffering from a cold. Perhaps contemplating the possibility that she might have to go to the doctor, she tried looking up the word "sinus" in the dictionary, to find the Spanish "equivalent" seno. That's what my dictionary says too. Problem is, if you look up the word "seno" in a Spanish-language dictionary, you come across a multitude of meanings, but none of them corresponds to the word "sinus". One of the most common meanings is the trigonometrical term "sine".

So that when she tried to explain to the teacher that she had a "sine infection", much hilarity ensued.

The plain people of Ireland: Here, don't you think this post is going off on a bit of a tangent? Get it? Tangent?

Fadeout to the sound of rural thigh-slapping mirth...

La secreta de Letizia

From the vile TV program "Está pasando" (the sacrifices I make for my readers!), breaking news. The secret of Doña Letizia. She is the owner of two "escopetas" (hunting rifles), indicating a "desconicida aficion a la caza" (secret love of hunting).

Just thought you would want to know.

The plain people of Ireland: ¿And just who, exactly is this Donna Letitia?
The management: ¡¡¡ Imbeciles!!! Have you been paying no attention whatsoever all summer. Doña Letizia is, of course, the divorced commoner who is married to El Principe, mother of the future queen of eSpain, la Infanta Leonor.
The plain people of Ireland: Wouldn't Diana be a better name for her, given that she is a huntress?
The management: Oh, spare me your faux-erudition. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to get back to this breaking story. You will be pleased to know that El Rey always chooses escopetas manufactured in eSpain.

News from Japan

Thanks to my good friend PB for these links:

Hello Kitty folk dances

Dancing robot

Can the Riverdance Robot be far behind?

La vida intelectual

"But David", I hear my imaginary reader ask, "¿what of the life of the mind allí en España? ¿What is up in the vast exciting world of the eSpanish intellectual?"

I thought you'd never ask. Well, over the last week or so, two events have dominated the eSpanish intellectual landscape:

The first was the forced departure, a little over a week ago, of the director of the Biblioteca Nacional, Rosa Regàs. The proximate cause of her departure was the disappearance, the previous week, of two 15th century maps from the collection, removed from Ptolemy's Cosmografía. Regàs clearly took the fall for the robbery, having had little option but to resign after the Minister for Arts and Culture blamed her publicly for negligence, adding - somewhat ungraciously - that she had accomplished "nothing" in her three-year tenure as director.

Things heated up when Regàs announced publicly, in an interview with a Catalan radio station, that she knew the identity of the thief, an Argentine investigator who had been sent to the library with letters of introduction from the Spanish ambassador in Buenos Aires. This instigated a lively kerfuffle, with denunciations and counter-denunciations on both sides of the Atlantic. Later that same day, Regàs retracted her statement, on the grounds that she had been "misunderstood", a somewhat difficult claim to support, given that the radio station was gleefully making transcripts of the interview (in Catalan and in Spanish) available to any and all reporters on the Iberian peninsula.

The brouhaha continues: the maps are still missing, nobody has been charged, and the authorities are keeping mum, pending results of the "official investigation".

The second major event of note was the death last week of the writer and journalist, Francisco Umbral. A man whose death provided a vivid reminder of the truth of the dictum "friends come and go, but enemies accumulate". One rarely looks for good news in the paper these days, but even I was surprised at the level of vitriol that surfaced in the various "tributes", many by his former colleagues, that appeared in "El País" on Sunday. De mortuis nihil nisi bonum is a concept apparently unfamiliar to eSpanish intellectuals. They also seem not to grasp that it is rarely the target of vitriolic pettiness that ends up looking small.

But all is not seriousness and internecine strife in the world of the arts. Here are two, dare I say "fluffier", items from the home page of El País:

a moustache to remember (video)

Shilling for tea (video)

Regular readers of this blog will remember that the last time Adrien Brody was featured, he was shilling for Schweppes, not for Darjeeling.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Translation nuts and bolts

I'm currently reading an excellent novel (Carlota Fainberg) by the Spanish writer Antonio Muñoz Molina. Which led me to the following interesting discussion of the difficulty in translating proper names by Verónica Albin:

More whining about language

Consider, for a moment, the ubiquitous Spanish verb "tener". In your naive innocence, you may be thinking that this word simply means "to have", or "to hold". Indeed it does mean those things. But, depending on the context, it can mean so much more. Here is just a partial list of other verbs which can be substituted for "tener", depending on the particular context in which it appears:

  1. mostrar
  2. presentar
  3. sufrir
  4. conservar
  5. alcanzar
  6. conseguir
  7. lograr
  8. adquirir
  9. ofrecer
  10. ocupar
  11. llevar
  12. buscar a
  13. tender a
  14. perseguir
  15. mantener
  16. retener
  17. ganar
  18. alimentar
  19. soñar con
  20. heredar
  21. padecer
  22. contraer
  23. fichar
  24. ejercer
  25. desempeñar
  26. llevar a cabo
  27. attraer
  28. alojar
  29. dar
  30. proporcionar
  31. profesar
  32. compartir
  33. producir
  34. vivir
  35. soportar
  36. sostener
  37. conocer
  38. hundir
  39. cobrar
  40. percibir
  41. arrastrar
  42. medir
  43. emitir
  44. sacar
  45. lucir
  46. exhibir
  47. exhalar
  48. desprender
  49. incluir
  50. englobar
  51. hacer
  52. despertar
  53. atravesar
  54. alimentarse de
  55. escondir
  56. cumplir
  57. jugar
  58. guardar
  59. archivar
  60. presumir de
  61. vanagloriarse de
  62. conservar
  63. exponer
  64. sostenerse
  65. mantenerse
  66. acarrear
  67. coger
  68. contagiarse

and whatever you're having yourself.

Don't believe me? Think I'm making this up, self-pitying whiner that I am? What would it take to convince you? Perhaps you'd like to see all of the sentences with 'tener', and the appropriate substitutions. Well, hold on - I'll be happy to oblige. But it may take a while.

Don't even get me started on 'hacer'. Gaaaaaah!!!!!

Bocabulary update

Some of you may be wondering, now that I've take the exam (el DELE intermedio), what's next on the agenda, language-wise. A reasonable question, and one to which I don't yet have an answer. But I will offer the following observation. My experience in trying to learn Spanish seems to be the opposite of when I was learning German. It is a truism that German grammar is difficult. As with all truisms, there is more than a grain of truth to this - there is no denying the ugliness of German grammar. However, once the grammar is mastered (which can take quite a while, admittedly), one makes the reassuring discovery that learning German actually becomes easier. The reverse seems to be the case with Spanish. That is to say, Spanish grammar is not all that hard (despite my occasional whining about its difficulty on this very blog). But, once it has been covered, improving one's Spanish appears to get harder, not easier. (I've had similar experience with French). There remain all of the infinite nuances, the expressions, shades of meaning. Which, sadly enough, it seems, can only be mastered with the passage of time.

I thus find myself caught in a stage where progress is imperceptible. My passive vocabulary is not the problem - I can now read most newspaper articles with little need to resort to the dictionary (unknown words can almost always be deduced from context, or etymology, or both). But there is the annoying sense that my active vocabulary is stuck, or at least being augmented at an imperceptibly slow rate. Other than immersing myself as much as possible in the language - seven hours a day of class, a couple of hours of TV, a couple of hours with the newspapers, a couple of hours spent conversing with fellow students, I don't know any way of accelerating the process. It may be that my expectations are set too high - after all, toddlers don't go from zero to full fluency in six months, so why should I expect to be able to? Presumably the law of diminishing returns applies to the exercise of learning a language, as well.

Here are some words I've learned recently, which illustrate some of the difficulties I'm experiencing:

tableta de chocolate : six-pack abs (literally, a bar of chocolate)
la nuca: the nape of the neck
la nuez: the Adam's apple (literally, walnut)
la sien: the temple (anatomically speaking)
la nuera: the daughter-in-law
la suegra: the mother-in-law (aka la madre política, which cracks me up)
el sauce: the willow-tree

It's the short words, like nuca, nuera, sauce, which are the killers - there are so damned many of them, and there is no etymological clue whatsoever. They are also very easy to mix up.

So that's my tiny little first-world problem of the day. I feel almost ashamed to bring it up. And now, if you will excuse me, I will go take today's copy of El País and go for a stroll in Madrid's delightful Retiro gardens.

¡Hasta pronto!

Saturday, September 1, 2007


This is a brief post just to say that I am here in Madrid, comfortably ensconced (sounds like a wall fixture, doesn't it?) in the fine Hotel Ateneo, just a stone's throw from the school and the city center (defined as Kilometer Zero at the Puerta del Sol, just a strawberry's throw from the bear statue). Where apparently my ability to write syntactically acceptable sentences has vanished temporarily, but everything else is hunky-dory.

The bus ride from Salamanca to Madrid was comfortable and uneventful, though I shudder to think what it would have been like if I hadn't unloaded those 56 pounds of books earlier in the week. Unlike some airlines I could mention, the bus company provides a free headset with each seat.

Although I did wander through FNAC earlier this evening, readers will be relieved to hear that I maintained strict discipline throughout and contented myself with just pawing the books (lovely, lovely books) without actually buying any. It remains to be seen if this same discipline can be maintained for an entire week. Personally, I wouldn't bet on it, particularly since, tomorrow being the first Sunday of the month, all the shops will be open.

I did donate all my recently read Penguin Classics (The 39 Steps, Riddle of the Sands, Railway Children, Aspern Papers, Three Men in a Boat*) to the Don Quijote library, so maybe there is some hope for me.

*: OK, I didn't actually finish this book, which seems fundamentally unreadable. Besides which the name Jerome K. Jerome always conjures up images of Danny Kaye being silly. (Yes, the Danny Kaye show was a staple of Irish television in my youth).

Friday, August 31, 2007

Adiós to Salamanca

summer and winter costumes

Summer and winter outfits

Cocina vanguardista

Cocina vanguardista

Enforced quaintness

Ear, nose & throat and ???? doctor

Every sign on Salamanca's streets, whether municipal or private, is written using the exact font and paint color shown in the picture above. At first it seems charming, but eventually the cumulative effect of so much enforced quaintness is kind of sinister, in my opinion.

It's the end of August, this is post # 250, so this seems a good place to call it a night. The next post should be from Madrid again.

Hasta mañana.

More regrettable doggerel

This one definitely is inspired by current events:

The train station john's kind of icky
But convenient if you want a quicky
You can go just to cottage
Or engage in some frottage
Though the floors are deplorably sticky.

This one too:

Ode to a recently departed royal couple

Knight errant of the football field
Of course I mean you, David Beckham
Your twinkle toes like weapons you wield
But your knees, it's like you're trying to wreck 'em.

The City of Angels welcomes you with open arms
And your lovely wife too, Victoria "Posh" Spice
And I'm sure everyone hopes you can keep out of harm's
Way. And your glamorous consort too because she seems so very nice.

And though it's true that when you left Spain, no tears were shed in Madrid.
Nor, for that matter, was there any evidence of rampant grief in the streets of Valladolid.
I'm sure that, although people in Spain thought your wife was a bitch,
That you will show them what they missed when and if you finally manage to strut your stuff on the soccer pitch.

The plain people of Ireland: Oh 'tis limericks you want, is it? Here's a nice clean one for you:

When I think of the hosts without no.
Who are slain by the deadly cuco.
'Tis quite a mistake
Of this food to partake
It results in a permanent slo.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The bunny cycle (a tribute to William McGonagall)

Jared: you bear full responsibility for this post.

One of the threads over on's TableTalk forum challenges participants to write a poem as bad as the work of William McGonagall
(arguably the worst poet of all time - to judge for yourself, follow either of these links):
McGonagall poems
McGonagall website )

While I don't think I could ever reach the level of atrociousness that came so easily to McGonagall, it certainly is fun to try. So, I'd like to share with you two of my efforts. Collectively, I think of them as my bunny cycle. For reasons which will be clear below, there will (mercifully) be no more poems in this particular cycle.


I like to see the bunnies romp
They fill me full of joy
And circumstance and lots of pomp
It's like having a bright shiny new toy
But when the bunnies eat the lettuce
I hope they won't forget us
I frolic in the dappled sun
Like Gerald Manley Hopkins
Though really what I want to do
Is dress like Mary Poppins

Fuzzy Bunny
(The Bunny Cycle : Poem # 2)

At times when I'm feeling down and think I should end,
This farce of a life, because everyone looks at me funny.
The only thing that keeps me going is the thought of my little friend
Yes, you've guessed it in one: I'm talking about Hector, my fuzzy bunny.

He has a little hoard of carrots, which in Spanish are called zanahorías,
I used to think he had just one or two, but lately I was surprised to find out how many more he has,
Yes indeed,
Hector is a great friend to me in my hours of need.

Or I should say he used to be because recently a spurned admirer broke into my apartment and there was quite a hullaballoo
The upshot of which was that Hector ended up as part of a delicious bunny stew.
All of which, as I'm sure you can imagine, left me feeling very triste.
So now, if you will excuse me, I think I will go slit my wrists.

Furry grim reaper redux

Oscar's got some competition. You will remember the story I linked to about a month ago about Oscar, the hospice cat with the uncanny ability to sense the imminent death of patients. Well, it didn't take too long for the dog-lovers of America to come up with their own harbinger of doom. Meet Scamp:

Dog of death

I am indebted to my good friend, Paul B., for bringing this story to my attention.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Una ciudad rota por el dolor

Today's main story in El País is heartbreaking. During last weekend's game, the 22-year old star player for Seville's soccer team, Antonio Puerta, collapsed on the field, due to heart problems, and was rushed to hospital. After several further episodes of cardiac arrest, leading to multiple organ failure, he died yesterday afternoon. The city of Seville is indeed, "felled by grief" - pictures of the funeral at the El País website are simply heartbreaking.

I am reminded to count my blessings. Further comment seems impertinent. May he rest in peace, and may his family find some comfort in the huge outpouring of grief and support from the people of Seville.

Four stone lighter

After class today, I made a trip (two trips, actually) to the local UPS office (aka Mailboxes Inc) and watched them pack up all but three of the books I had accumulated since coming to Spain, as well as the two pieces of art I bought during the excursion to the mountains near Granada.

art from the albujarra (1)

art from the albujarra (2)

All told, the two packages to be shipped weighed in at just under 26 kilograms, or 56 pounds. Or, in Irish terms, four stone (1 stone = 14 lb).

So that's 26 kg of stuff I won't have to lug back to Madrid, or to and around Ireland. You don't want to know how much it cost to have it shipped, but frankly, it was worth it. I already feel as if I've been relieved of a great burden.

Perhaps because - quite literally - I have.

(Note to self: stop buying books. Yeah, right. Like that's ever going to happen.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Les Roses

Abandon entouré d'abandon,
tendresse touchant aux tendresses...
C'est ton intérieur qui sans cesse
se caresse, dirait-on;

se caresse en soi-même,
par son propre reflet éclairé.
Ainsi tu inventes le thème
du Narcisse exaucé.

From "Les Roses", by Rainer Maria Rilke

Set to music by Morton Lauridsen: (the link is to an mp3 file - if you have difficulty playing it in your browser, you can always right-click and save - the file size is just under 6Mb)


one track from this amazing CD:

Lauridsen Lux Aeterna at

Text for all of the rose poems may be found at the following link (scroll about three-quarter way down the page)

Rilke index

Sad Cypress

In the Retiro 1

Come away, come away, Death,
And in sad cypress let me be laid;
Fly away, fly away, breath,
I am slain by a fair cruel maid.

My shroud of white stuck all with yew, O prepare it!
My part of death no one so true did sha
re it.

Not a flower, not a flower sweet,
On my black coffin let there be strewn:
Not a friend, not a friend greet
My poor corpse, where my bones shall be thrown.
A thousand thousand sighs to save, lay me O where
Sad true lover never find my grave, to weep there!

From "Twelfth Night"

The plain people of Ireland: Well, sure that's lovely and everything, and a few lines from the Bard always adds a touch of class. But, what in God's name are you on about? Is there a point here?
The management: If you'd just hold yer whisht and not interrupt, I'm just about to explain.

The plain people of Ireland: This should be good.
The management: As I was about to say, before I was so rudely interrupted, up until this past Friday, I always thought cypress trees looked like this:

So, you can only imagine my surprise when I found out the other evening that they can also look like this:

skinny trees of the Alhambra

That is to say, the tall skinny trees that I always thought were poplars are actually cypresses. Sure, they're dotted all over Spain. And in the South of France too, if this picture is anything to go by:

That's all I had to say, really. Oh, and that cypresses are an ancient symbol of death, which makes the Van Gogh painting all the more interesting.

The plain people of Ireland: But sure poplars and cypresses are easy to mix up. Are you sure that all the pictures on this page are cypresses?
The management: Now that you mention it, no. Perhaps some of my botanically inclined readers will help out with a comment.
The plain people of Ireland: So, to answer our original question, there really is no point to this vague rambling post.
The management: That's enough bloody cheek! Didn't ye get to read a fine bit of Shakespeare and look at a masterpiece by Van Gogh? What more could ye want, I ask you!

Final itinerary update

In the end, it proved remarkably hard to take the final step and actually make travel arrangements that involved leaving Spain. I'm slightly ashamed to admit that I gave in to the temptation of adding yet one more week of classes, at the school in Madrid, ending on Friday September 7th. Then I booked the flight from Cork to London, needed to connect to my flight back to San Francisco on Monday September 17th. And - finally - my flight out of Spain, from Madrid to Dublin, on Wednesday September 12th. I will spend two days in Dublin, catching up with family and friends, before taking the train down to Cork (or possibly Killarney) on Friday 14th, spending my last couple of nights in Europe in Cork.

Which leaves Saturday Sept 8th to Wed Sept 12th unaccounted for. I may just have to go back to Sevilla, still my favorite Spanish city, for one last visit.

But, one way or another, on Monday September 17th, I should be back home in San Francisco. Which, in theory, should mean an end to this blog.

But that seems highly unlikely, to be honest. Buenos Aires, anyone? Though I guess that blog might have to be titled MAINLY ON THE PAMPAS.

Raccoons in Space

Just had to share this particular link (no, don't ask where I find these things - it's best that you don't know)


Good intentions

For the first couple of weeks here in Salamanca, I spent some time idly trying to befriend the little feral kitty that used to hang out in the derelict lot across the street. Cats being the way they are, I didn't have too much success. So, on Wednesday, on my way home from the oral exam, I decided to step up my efforts, and stopped off at the supermarket ("El Arból") to pick up some delicious tinned catfood. To be specific, one container of Brekkies Excel* sabor de pollo y pavo (irresistible sabor y más cómodo : contiene cuchara):

and one container of Brekkies Excel* sabor de buey y cordero:

Someone had already been leaving out dry food (the kind that looks like sheep droppings) for the kitty in question, but I figured that two containers of the moist juicy goodness that is Brekkies Excel would raise my likability quotient considerably.

Unfortunately, when I got home I had to leave for my 7pm class, so I put the food in the cupboard and forgot all about it. Until the next afternoon, when I was putting away the dishes and rediscovered the feline treasure trove. So, mentally practicing my little kitty-Spanish phrases, I grabbed the can of "pollo y pavo"(with convenient spoon) and headed downstairs to make a new friend.

Only to be greeted by a street scene taken straight from a bad made-for-TV movie. Two police cars, an enormous firetruck, complete with flashing lights, and four young, highly embarrassed, firefighters, all engaged in deep scrutiny of the wall of the abandoned building opposite. Where a familiar black-and-white feline figure could be seen, about three quarters of the way up. Upon making discreet enquiries, I was able to ascertain that the kitty had made his way up there earlier in the day (lured presumably by the row of pigeons atop the building frame, who were now looking down on him with a mixture of disdain and amusement) and had gotten stuck. So eventually - perhaps inevitably - a neighbor had called the fire brigade to come to the rescue.

Which is exactly what they did. To the delight and amusement of the assembled onlookers, the ladder was hoisted, the youngest fireman was elected to carry out the rescue, and ten minutes later my would-be feline friend was safely in the fire engine, in which he was presumably whisked off to the refuge for wanton kitties. Leaving me with two cans of delicious catfood on my hands. (I would have taken pictures, but was sternly warned off from doing so by one of the policia on the scene).

If anyone is in the mood for some Brekkies Excel, just let me know. I'll be here all week.

*: Nuevo nombre, mismo producto. Ahora CatChow se llama Brekkies Excel.

Goodbye and good riddance!

Question: Internet Explorer has detected an error and must close now. Would you like to send a completely useless message to Microsoft? We promise that nothing useful will come of it.

Answer: I no longer give a damn. Because, from here on, this blog will be brought to you care of Firefox.

The only real question is why it has taken me so long to make this change. ¡Adíos, Bill! ¡Maldita sea la hora en que te conocí! Me cago en Microsoft y en Internet Explorer.

And, with those slightly vulgar words, let us hope that our long technological nightmare is over, and this blog can get back in business. There is much to relate, gentle readers.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

From the internet café

Well, on this extremely rainy (thunderstorms) weekend en Salamanca, of course the wi-fi connectivity in the Don Quijote piso de lujo is completely shot. My understanding of technology is sufficiently limited that I have not the faintest idea whether wi-fi quality depends in any way on the weather, though - frankly - it seems kind of implausible.

Anyway, here I am, sheltering from the storms in the internet café (deserted, though at 6pm on Sunday, some people are probably only just now getting up), trying to make sure that my credit cards remain viable, by making payments, one of which I notice was due two weeks ago (fortunately it's the American Express card, and - of the three cards I possess - they are the least likely to hit me with a late payment fine).

What news? Well, the celebration dinner on Friday evening was a riot. As was the subsequent drinking session until the wee hours on Saturday morning. But it's been a sleepy weekend. I don't think I realized how keyed up I had been about the exam until I had the luxury of sleeping in until noon yesterday. And 11am today.

Enough, I'm boring even myself at this rate!

Hasta pronto.

Friday, August 24, 2007

¡Ya está!

El examen, he is done. So it's off to the cena para celebrar. At some point, about 10 weeks from now, I will be able to check the Cervantes Institute website and find out whether I passed ("apto") or not. Apparently this is all I will find out - they are not big on giving further information. Speed in grading is apparently also not a priority, which seems particularly shameless since four out of five parts of the written exam were multiple choice, to be corrected by a scanner. But I guess they really want to do justice to those two 200-word essays that everyone wrote.

But, el examen, he is done!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Magic oranges of Spain

This loaded somewhat slowly on my computer, so you may want to open it in a new window (it is worth the wait):

magic oranges of spain

lapiz # 2

Just checking in to say that I will be back to post something of more substance once tomorrow's exam (which takes place from 8:40am to 1:00pm) is over and done with. I have my #2 pencil and my eraser, and am as ready as I will ever be. So I am taking this evening off from studying.

¡Hasta pronto!


The plain people of Ireland: ..
The management: ¡Callaos! Not now.
The plain people of Ireland: But we just wanted to wish you "mucha mierda".
The management: In that case, thank you, and please forgive my ungraciousness.
The plain people of Ireland: Ah, sure that's just the pre-exam stress. Nuala had fierce nerves the whole time she was doing her Leaving. There was no talking to the poor girl.
The management: You are very gracious.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The rules of cuteness

Warning: major cuteness ahead. (The URL beneath each photo links to the site from which it was taken).

LOLcat does HTML

Cuteness trifecta (and possible recipe for world peace)

Hedgehog of the month, April 2007

¿Qué dice la gallina?

I am indebted to my good friend PB for the following link:

Spanish animal sounds and associated verbs

El tiburón de Tarragona, que descanse en paz

It is with a heavy heart that I must report the death of the brave tiburón de Tarragona, who now swims in more peaceful waters:


¡Que descanse en paz!

La prueba oral

Now, I know "prueba oral" might sound a little invasive, but let me assure everyone that no oral probing was involved. However, the first part of this week's exams is over. I am happy to report that it was uneventful in all the right ways - I chattered on, with reasonably fluency, about the various places I have lived, what there was to like and dislike about each. Although I did manage to squeeze in the term "axilla del mundo" (armpit of the world), in reference to Nueva Jersey, it is with great regret that I have to inform my readers that there just didn't seem to be a natural way to turn the conversation to the topic of duck vibrators. So I never did get to work the phrase "patito-vibrador" into my little presentation.

Maybe next time, in the DELE superior.

This afternoon's test was a walk in the park, I am pleased to report.

With apologies to all the fine citizens of Nueva Jersey, which is - of course - a fine place to live. And if anyone has a particular interest in living in Jersey City, I have a fine condominium there that we could discuss some time.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Shark update

No self-respecting blog would go an entire summer without a shark report. So here's mine:

La Cruz Roja ha capturado el tiburón de Tarragona

Sadly, el tiburón está "muy debilitado" en el Aquarium. On the bright side, the beach is once again safe for frolicking holidaygoers, guiris and españoles alike.

Can you tell I am engaged in avoidance behavior vis-a-vis the oral part of my exam, which has been moved up from Thursday afternoon to tomorrow afternoon at 5. But, as someone once noted, "que será, será". The future's not ours to see.

The Institute of Official Cheer

It occurs to me that, in over 200 posts, I have yet to mention the sheer comic genius that is James Lileks. Let me rectify that right here and now by providing this link:

Warning: you could spend hours of your life exploring the institute's site. But, in my humble opinion, they will not be wasted hours of your life. So, click on the link above, and prepare to guffaw. (Not for those deficient in irony).

Likable Wilma

Likable Wilma
by William Blake

Wilma, Wilma, in thy blouse,
Red-haired prehistoric spouse,
What immortal animator
Was thy slender waist's creator?

When the Rubble clan moved in,
Was Betty jealous of thy skin,
Thy noble nose, thy dimpled knee?
Did he who penciled Fred draw thee?

Wilma, Wilma, burning bright, ye
Cartoon goddess Aphrodite,
Was it Hanna or Barbera
Made thee hot as some caldera?

Well, no, this "poem" was not written by William Blake. It is actually the work of one Francis Heaney, the comic genius behind the slim volume "The Holy Tango of Literature", which contains a series of poems answering the question "What if poets wrote poems whose titles were anagrams of the poet's own name?". Other gems include "Toilets", "by" T.S. Eliot, "Skinny Domicile", "by" Emily Dickinson and - my personal favorite - "Hen Gonads" by - well, you should be able to figure it out for yourself.

If not, here is a link to the content online:

Warning: may cause uncontrollable, hysterical laughter, of the kind which makes you snort liquids out your nose.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Itinerary update

For anyone following my progress by sticking little pins on a map, I added a week here in Salamanca (since I didn't want to have to leave the day immediately following the exam, and - to be honest - I haven't had that much time yet to explore the city fully). Then, on September 1st, it's back to Madrid for a few days, before continuing to Ireland, from where I will leave for London, and my flight back to San Francisco on September 17th.


Just a brief post, prior to Blogger's "scheduled outage" in a little bit, just to say that there will likely be few posts this week, as I am actually trying to study for Friday's exam. Apparently that little striving over-achiever that lives within has not been completely vanquished.

Still brainstorming on ways to work the phrase "patito-vibrador" into the conversation during Thursday afternoon's oral exam. (Snerk!)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Buenas vibraciones (WARNING: ADULT CONTENT)

Ellas también quieren jugar.

So trumpets the headline in one of the articles in this week's Sunday magazine of El País, and who am I to argue? The "ellas" in question appears to refer to eSpanish mujeres in general, the majority of whom, según el artículo, appear to thirst lasciviously for a far greater degree of sensual and sexual stimulation than is currently being provided by their good-for-nothing partners. As a result, it is not uncommon to turn to more prosthetic aids to pleasure, such as the following:

buenas vibraciones

Buenas vibraciones con el 'patito-vibrador'

From the same article:

Esposas en esposas

Esposas y esposas

The word "esposas" in eSpanish means both "spouses" and "handcuffs", a fact which you are free to interpret as you see fit. Personally, even as a card-carrying homosexual (not true, actually, I may have left my card at home in San Francisco), the photograph above gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Then there was this:

For which the caption in "El País" read: "Bolas chinas para ejercitar la pelvis. 'Dildos'. Geles para sensibilizar el clítoris ...... las mujeres quieren que despierten sus zonas dormidas".

Now, please don't get me wrong. I just love it when "El País" talks dirty. And how could I not appreciate that finely placed "despierten", as perfect an example of the subjunctive used to express a wish or desire as one could ever, well, wish or desire. But am I the only one who finds it vexing that "clítoris" en español is a masculine noun?

Of course, the real challenge in all of this will be to figure out how to work the phrase "patito-vibrador" (duck-vibrator) into my oral examination later this week.

Hernández y Fernández

Or, if you prefer, Dupont & Dupond, Thomson & Thompson, دوپونت و دوپونت , Schultze & Schulze, Jansen & Janssen, Skapti & Skafti.

Yes, you've guessed it, it's our beloved pair of bumblers from the Tintin series. Why do they appear on my blog, I hear you ask? Well, because, for some unknown reason, Salamanca appears to have a love affair with Tintin, at least as far as the naming of restaurants and bars is concerned. There is not just one Tintin restaurant, but two:

as well as a bar named for the irascible Captain Haddock:

And, of course, a café called Hernández y Fernández, abbreviated as H'dez y F'dez.
Why this Salmantine obsession with the characters of Hervé? I have no idea. But it was something to blog about.
The widespread changing of "f" to "h" in Spanish (e.g. "faire" to "hacer", "fungus" to "hongo") is a whole 'nother linguistic kettle of fish, one to which I will return in a future post.

(Images in this post are illustrations of a character or characters in a comic book, video game, or animated television program or film. The copyright is most likely owned by either the publisher/producer and/or artist(s) producing the work in question. It is believed that the use of low-resolution images of character artwork, for commentary on the character or characters in question, qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law. )

The plain people of Ireland: Here, what's this? You can't fool us. Our Farsi might be a bit rusty, but there's not a speck of difference between them two Persian names above.
The management: How very astute of you to notice. I had the same thought myself. But, truth be told, it was cut and pasted from the relevant Wikipedia article, so believe at your own risk.
The plain people of Ireland: Well, why didn't you explain that in the first place? Sure 'tis a known fact that them Wikipedia fellas are downright shifty.
The management: How sadly true.