Monday, November 30, 2009

Colorín colorado, este cuento se ha acabado

All good things come to an end. As this is my final night here in Spain, and I have no immediate plans to return, this is probably the last post I shall make on this blog. No two ways about it, I've had a lot of fun since the adventure started way back in March 2007. But, some 650 posts later, it's time to call it a day.

Upon my return to San Francisco, I plan to apply for U.S. citizenship. The process takes an indefinite length of time, but probably at least 3 to 4 months. During that time I will not be allowed to leave the U.S. My plans beyond that are fluid, but will almost certainly not include a return to Spain in any kind of visiting academic capacity. For various reasons, my contacts with the two local universities in Madrid made that a less appealing possibility, primarily because I consider that one of the strengths I have to offer is the ability to excel in interdisciplinary work, and here in Spain, well - basically, they not only do not do "interdisciplinary" well, they just don't seem to do it at all. Teaching a basic intro statistics course to undergraduates while trapped in an isolated ghetto of statisticians who have little or no contact with their colleagues in the medical school a few buildings away is something that frankly just does not interest me in the slightest.

To all the visitors to this blog - thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it.

Adiós. Fue un gran placer.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Book Review: "Sharp Teeth" by Toby Barlow

Los Angeles has always disturbed me. All that sunshine. Those über-toned bodies. Packs of werewolves roaming the canyons and arroyos. It's enough to make any catlover nervous.

In this awesome, exuberant, first book Toby Barlow strips away the city's thin veneer of civilization and lays bare its raw, violent, lycanthropic underbelly. It's the cross-species love story between dogcatcher Anthony and his damaged werewolf lover, which unfolds against a backdrop of drugs, murder, revenge, and the battle for pack dominance. It's noir, funny, riveting, tender, completely over the top, and by rights it shouldn't work at all. But it does - it's completely addictive and unexpectedly moving.

Part of its power is a consequence of Barlow's choice to write it in free verse. The resulting rhythm give the whole story a driving momentum that keeps the reader riveted -- I read the whole book in two sittings. The plot, which seemed inextricably complicated at the halfway mark, is resolved neatly by the end, though I do feel that I need to give the book a second reading to figure out the various strands.

The sheer momentum built up by Barlow's writing works against a careful reading, so I anticipate that a second reading will bring further rewards. Depending on how my second reading goes, I may yet have to give this most excellent book a fifth star.

If you have time for only one lycanthropic love story this year, then look no farther than "Sharp Teeth". Toby Barlow can be proud of this totally impressive debut.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

El internado - un lugar donde todo puede suceder

Things have spiralled a little into the territory of the truly bizarre in Season 3 of "El Internado", but it still has that delicious mix of everyone furtively lurking in the hallways and secret passages that makes it irresistible to some of us. I have only one more episode to go in Season 3, by the end of which it's safe to guess that Hector's deep secret will be revealed. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that he is actually the twin of Irene Espi, who is currently being held prisoner by the evil Latin teacher in a secret lair in the underground passages. She is, of course, the alleged-to-be-dead mother of young Marcus and adorable little Paula.

But the details are just far too complicated. That 30-million dollar Hieronymus Bosch triptych is still at large, to mention just one random plot thread; then with all those runic symbols carved all over the joint (I really need to brush up on my Futhark), it doesn't seem too much of an overreach to think that the main plot twist has to do with overzealous neo-nazi human genetic/eugenics taken a little too far, what with the availability of all those orphans for experimenting on, no questions asked, back in Franco's time. But I've been chastised for letting my enthusiasm for this series get the better of me, so enough already.

I failed to mention that when I went to pick up the Sunday newspaper in Cadiz, I was able to secure, for a paltry 5.95 euros, my very own Internado fan-pack:

internado fan pack (with 3D gafas!)

Note those far-out 3D gafas, and that stylin' school crest. Plus full cast bios, and a special 270-minute DVD replete with details of the archivos secretos*. Unfortunately, I won't be able to take full advantage for a while, to avoid spoilers for Seasons 4 and 5. Season 6 just began aqui en Espana.

*: Including, one hopes, details of the creepy "Project Gemini" files. If there is one thing that is abundantly clear by now on this series, it's that being a twin anywhere in the remote neighborhood of El Internado is a very bad idea indeed.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The anti-Santa faction

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Yes, Virginia. There is an anti-Santa faction.
"How can this be?", I hear you ask.
Una buena pregunta.

Well, the thing is, here en España, the established tradition has always been that children receive their Yuletide gifts from the three Wise Kings -- Caspar, Balthasar and Melchior. As we know, the Magi, or Reyes Magos, don't put in their appearance until the feast of the Epiphany on January 6th. So the prevailing custom throughout Spain, for centuries and centuries, was that little children would hang their stockings on the balcony on January 5th, in anticipation of whatever goodies the Reyes Magos would bring. Unlike that fat old gentleman from the North Pole, Melchior & co are way too dignified to mess with stuff like chimney entrances.

Everything was fine until - inevitably - those nasty hegemonistic Americans, hellbent on subjugating Europe to their materialistic, capitalist will, began to poison the minds of innocent Thpanish tykes with their Saturday morning cartoons, their holiday Christmas specials, their seasonal technicolor motion pictures, all prominently featuring Santa Claus, arriving on December 24th with a cornucopia of consumer goods for young and old alike. It didn't take too long for the avaricious little Iberian rugrats to figure out that here was a perfect opportunity to guilt-trip mama y papa into delivering a double dose of holiday gifties.

A vocal minority of defenders of true Thpanish tradition holds out against the evil influence of the fat interloper from the North Pole (most often they blame Disney), but the battle has essentially been lost, and they are fighting a rearguard action at this stage:



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In related news, tonight the Christmas lights were turned on throughout the city. I am so excited, as I had been afraid it might not happen until after I left. Here are some random photos I took while out walking around earlier this evening.

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The Christmas tree at Sol.

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Lights over the Plaza Mayor.

I know that I will be out shopping this weekend!

End of the adventure?

end of the adventure?

No matter what the folks at the Cervantes Institute decide, if the certificate above is to be taken at face value, in the eyes of Don Quijote I have now attained the highest possible grade at the highest level of Thpanish. So I will permit myself an immodest YIPPEE!

It's a little bittersweet, however, because it becomes more and more clear that I can no longer use "learning Spanish" as an excuse for further globetrotting. Which raises the immediate question - what now?

I have a few thoughts on the matter, which I need to mull over a little more before sharing them with you. Watch this space for further developments.

OPERATION BAKED GOODS : POSTSCRIPT

I should mention that this week saw a repeat of the Saint Patrick's Day episode of OBG, in honor of Thanksgiving.

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But the participants were distinctly more engaging (and enthusiastic):

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Pedro

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Julian

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Olivier and Emily

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Ana and Cathal

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Sergio

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Charles

A good time was had by all.

At the Post Office

Gentle readers. Pride goeth before a fall. So says the old saw, and its accuracy was once more demonstrated this morning, when I trooped along to the "Correos" office, bearing the first of my packages to be shipped home. As I waited on line (an entirely civilized experience at the Spanish post office, as in Spanish railway stations, as you just take a number when you first arrive, and wait to be called, thereby sparing everyone the agony of trying to figure out which line moves fastest), I noticed that the lady next to me had a "caja verde" just like the one I had assembled at home. To my chagrin, I noticed that her final assembled version did NOT look just like mine. Further comparison with the assembled model in the display case verified that I had indeed managed to screw things up, ending up with two external cardboard flaps that were evidently meant to have been tucked inside the box itself. What an idiot I felt!

Now, had we been in Germany, things could only have gone from bad to worse at that point. Rejection, public ridicule, probably even a fine for misuse of state-issued property. At the very least, I would have been forced to buy another box, cast out on the street to attempt to repack things there (because obviously packing a box on government property would contravene at least one by-law), then forced to stand in line all over again, as the bovine bourgeois Germans looked on in amused contempt.

Fortunately, here in Spain they do things a little differently. The fine postal employee behind the counter could not have been more helpful*. Once he diagnosed the problem, he made it abundantly clear that this was not just my problem, but his - and promptly went about solving it, with oodles of sticky tape and plenty of reassurance that lots of people made the same mistake (which I very much doubt, but I really appreciated his kindness in saying it). Three minutes later, we were done, and I was on my way. (Still trying to imagine any German bureaucrat even loaning me so much as a pen to write with, let alone half a roll of packing tape).

So, my first 7 kilograms of books are winging their way homeward. For a mere 50 euros. To put this in perspective, recall that it cost me 450 euros to ship 15 kilos by DHL last spring. And though it will take 10 days by post, it's not as if I will be needing any of those books any time soon. And yes, my next 7 kilograms are packed, in a correctly assembled box, ready to ship out tomorrow.

*: On the four or five occasions when I have visited the post office here in Madrid this visit, each of the employees I dealt with has been not only helpful, but friendly and genuinely determined to solve whatever issue concerned me. So this post is dedicated to those good folks. They really managed to make a difference in this visitor's day, something I don't take for granted.

OPERATION BAKED GOODS - SPECIAL FELIPE ii EDITION

Our featured item of the month is a delicacy purchased in Cadiz, known as a mantecado.

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Bearing the royal endorsement of none other than that old Grumpy McGrumperson, Felipe Segundo.

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At this point, I'd have to say things don't look particularly promising. Better have some emergency liquids on hand:

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Oh my God! It's indescribably bad. Like biting down on a cube of the caked ashes of ol' Felipe himself. How did they manage to make something so hideous? And do they have a deal with the local crematorium?

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The explanation becomes clear. I should have paid closer attention to the wrapper. Still, when it says "el mantecado mas antiguo del mundo", I didn't actually think they were referring to the particular one that I was just about to consume (read: "ingest, attempt to masticate, and spit out in a fit of coughing, as I desperately reach for the reviving mineral water").

But one has to admit that their choice of royal patron is an inspired one.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The revolting cigar-makeresses burst into the stage

Act 1.
Carmen is a cigarmakeress from a tobago factory who loves with Don Jose (Duet: "Talk me of my mother"). There is a noise inside the tobago factory and the revolting cigar-makeresses burst into the stage. Carmen is arrested and Don Jose is ordered to mounting guard her but Carmen subduces him and lets her escape.

Act 2.
The Tavern. Carmen, Frasquito, Mercedes, Zuiniga, Morales. Carmen's aria ("The sistrums are tinkling"). Enter Escamillio, a balls-fighter. Enter two smuglers (Duet: "We have in mind a business") but Carmen refuses to penetrate because Don Jose has liberated her from prison. He just now arrives (Aria: "Slop, here who comes") but here are the bugles singing his retreat. Don Jose will leave and draws his sword. Called by Carmen's shrieks the two smuglers interfere with her but Don Jose is bound to dessert, he will follow into them (final chorus: "Opening sky wandering life").

Act 3.
A rocky landscape, the smugler's shelter. Carmen sees her death in cards and Don Jose makes a date with Carmen for the next balls fight.

Act 4.
A place in Seville. Procession of balls-fighters, the roaring of the balls is heared in the arena. Escamillio enters (Aria and chorus: "Toreador, toreador, All hail the balls of a Toreador"). Enter Don Jose (Aria: "I do not threaten, I besooch you") but Carmen repels him wants to join with Escamillio now chaired by the crowd. Don Jose stabbs her (Aria: "Oh rupture, rupture, you may arrest me. I did kill her") he sings "Oh my beautiful Carmen, my subductive Carmen."

Shamelessly lifted from this link: garbled Carmen plot

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Come on down to Andy's!!

For a Thanksgiving feast that doesn't stint on the pumpkin:

thanksgiving dinner at andy's

Er, make that 'pumking'. With oodles of croutons and mounds of wipped cream.

Cajas verdes

This trip, the extent of my bibliomanic debauchery has been so extreme, and the exchange rate is so feeble, that I have been moved to consider other delivery options besides the truly extortionist services of DHL. Thus it was that I found myself in the post office this morning, enquiring about shipping options, tariffs, weight limits and the like. Compared to DHL, the post office is a steal, so I came away with two fine eco-friendly boxes, pictured below. To be assembled en casa.

david's nightmare

Now, to a normal person, this last requirement, that of assembling the boxes oneself, would be a mere trifle. I, however, am not a normal person. Anything even remotely involving constructing a three-dimensional object from a two-dimensional template strikes fear into my little dimensionally-challenged heart. All you engineers and architects out there can scoff as much as you like, but the fact is that the wiring in that particular part of my brain just never got installed at the factory. And this is one situation where my facility with the subjunctive is of no bloody use at all.

So the only question remaining is - "should I start drinking before I make my first effort, or wait until after I've managed to wreck the box I bought specifically to practice on?"

The whole situation would be funny if it weren't so pathetic.

But wait .... Maybe there is hope yet:

Ya está!

Ya está! And without even a single drink!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hay un montón de fotos!

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El ciervo dice: "David ha sacado muchas fotos de Sevilla y Cádiz. Es imposible mostrar todas las imagenes aquí. Por qué no echas un vistazo? Haz clic en el enlace":

(The stag says "David took a bunch of photos in Seville and Cadiz. More than can possibly be shown here. Why not take a gander at the link below?")

Sevilla y Cádiz

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cadiz wants to dance!

hotel room door - cadiz

Confession

Gentle readers:

I know this will come as a major disappointment to some of you, but the fact is, I never did make it to Gibraltar yesterday. Yes, I know, you were promised pictures of Barbary apes, so you have every right to be peeved. But I had not done my homework properly, and it turned out that it would have taken two local buses (and 2.5 hours) just to make it to the border town of La Linea, and three hours to get back. Which just didn't seem all that appealing, to be honest. In retrospect, I might have been better off travelling to Manchester and getting one of the direct daily flights from there.

Instead, I lay in bed shamelessly until 10:30, then had a leisurely breakfast at the generous hotel buffet and bought myself a 15-Euro City tourist bus ticket for Cadiz. Fifteen euros well spent, as I was able to hop on and off at will, and explore the various nooks and crannies of that enchanting city. Fortunately, I was able to avoid being gored by the various bulls that were marauding through the city centre, injuring various passers-by (see link at previous post).

Cadiz is gorgeous, and I don't regret the decision one bit. I will just have to return to see Gibraltar on some other occasion. Alas, I cannot provide compensatory photos of either Señor Cruise or Ms Diaz, as neither was there in person during yesterday's aborted film shoot.

The plain people of Ireland: But you promised us pictures of monkeys!
MOTP: I know. But sometimes life is like that. Get over it already!

An open letter to Ms Cameron Diaz

Dear Ms Cameron Diaz:
I've been following your career on and off for some time now and the thing I just don't see is,
Why would a star of your caliber want to make yet another cliched Thpanish movie with Tom Cruise?
I mean, the guy's bad news.
Just ask that fine Thpanish actress, Penelope what's her name, oh - that's right - Cruz.
Or that misfortunate actress currently acting the part of his wife who is always in the news
For all the wrong reasons. I really have to say,
Filming a movie with the not-so-genius title "Knight and Day"
Seems destined, as they say here in España, to go directly to DVD*.
And though I know that you were nowhere near the set in Cadiz yesterday, being instead somewhere well out of reach,
Surely it should give you some pause to know that the bulls escaped the set and trampled a few onlookers before finally ending up frolicking on the beach.
But these are just the musings of one random Irish gay gent,
Who wishes you nothing but success in your future endeavours, but also thinks that maybe you should hire yourself a new agent.

*: given the Thpanish pronunciation, "day-oo-ve-day", this does, in fact, rhyme.

Bulls run amok

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Update

Long time readers of this blog will remember the tale of Gladys, the serving wench:

In the picaresque city of Cadiz
I'll tell you what the latest fad is
The sailors at leisure
Line up for their pleasure
With the amiable serving wench, Gladys.

Here at MOTP central, we are committed to tracking down full details of any story as fraught with human interest as this one (our readers deserve no less), so we are happy to be able to provide this recent update (despite its somewhat sobering nature):

The tale of our serving wench, Gladys
Has an end, you'll agree, that quite sad is.
The sailors they skipped
Town, now Gladys has trip-
lets, and is not even sure who the dad is.

Word on the street locally is that Planned Parenthood may be considering adopting Gladys as a spokesperson. Strict rules concerning the privacy of minors prevent us from providing any further information on the three little bundles of joy, though we can reliably inform our readers that the rumor they were each born with tiny little tattoos is an urban legend. A canard, if you will.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

OK, I lied

Yes, I know. I promised I would leave you all in peace until Monday, but here I am in my gorgeous hotel in Cadiz, with at least an hour to go before I can respectably head out for dinner, so I thought I would just check in.

Seville was beautiful, as always, though I think I might be forgiven for developing a slight persecution complex. When I arrived at the station, refreshed from my trip on the super-sleek AVE (which whisks one from Madrid to Seville in just two and a half hours), it turned out that the taxi-drivers' union had called a strike that morning. So, after chatting with the singularly unhelpful woman at the tourist office at the station (why do they hire people for whom dealing with the public is such an obvious burden?), eventually finding the relevant bus stop (which was at least two blocks from where she had said it would be), fighting my way onto the bus among hordes of schoolkids (who were infinitely more helpful with directions than the lady at the tourist office), I finally arrived at the hotel, sweaty and more than a little flustered, about an hour later.

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This was not the scene which greeted me upon arrival in Seville.

An hour after that, feeling much better after a shower and a delicious lunch, I was taking my cafe cortado seated at the little square outside the hotel, when what did I notice? One taxi after another, pulling up outside the hotel, dropping people off, picking people up ... you know, doing the things that taxis usually do. It appears that, by 3:30 pm, whatever the taxistas' beef had been with the city was settled, and they went back to work as usual. Which was of little consolation if one had had the poor judgement to have arrived an hour earlier.

But I have to admit that lunch was all the more delicious after such a minor setback.

I´m currently here in Cadiz, apparently still being stalked by the Hollywood stars who complicated my stay in Seville*. Getting to Gibraltar tomorrow seems to be more complicated than I had imagined**. But I am resolute. There are apes to be photographed.

* To be continued.... What movie stars are (apparently) stalking me across the breadth of Andalucia, and why? Tune in next time and find out.

** Obviously, what I should have done was arrive on a cruise ship, like my sister and her husband did a few years ago. But I feel roughly the same way about luxury cruises as did the late David Foster Wallace.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Closed for the weekend

I am not taking my little laptop to Andalucia, so will not be blogging over the weekend. Why not make a comment or two in my absence? The silence out there is deafening, with a few honorable exceptions.

Hasta lunes!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hamstermania!

From the "we roam the web so you don't have to" archive:

Hotel lets guests live like hamsters

You know, I can honestly say that I never once dreamed of living like a hamster as a child.

(Thanks to Teresa, the brilliant creator of the frogapplause comic strip , for bringing this to my attention).

Poultry update

All the dead partridges have finally been sold from the local polleria. Instead, the display window features a prominently displayed ostrich egg. It's very big.

ostrich egg for sale

About fifty yards down the street, the main feature at the X-rated movie theater is:

foot porn?

which seems to suggest that they are catering to an extremely specific fetish that one might have naively imagined to be rather narrow.

Meanwhile, over in the Lavapies district, all the pirates are getting tattoos:

arr, matey!

to the obvious delight of their lusty, buxom pirate wenches.

Lazy Day

Well, after staying up past two o'clock to watch the final episodes of Season 2 of "El Internado" (and an excellent cliffhanging final episode it was too, but I will spare you the details, except to say that both my guesses were right), I didn't roll out of bed until 10:15 this morning. A leisurely day, assorted phone calls to sort out minor credit card issues, then to RENFE Atocha to buy the train tickets to Seville, Cadiz and back. Lunch at ROOT, then stopped in to the Museo de Bellas Artes to see the Goyas again. Went by the school to sign up for one last week of classes next week (even with the unfavorable exchange rate, it's still good value - 30 hours of instruction, in a class of only six students, for about $420, though admittedly it would be cheaper in Guatemala). Then I went to see "Julie and Julia", which I enjoyed thoroughly.

For supper, looks like some fine sheeps cheese and some of the Albariño that's chilling in the fridge. I leave for Seville on the AVE at noon tomorrow - will get back to Madrid at noon on Monday.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Heading South!


Sooo... My original plan had been to take the train to Cadiz tomorrow, stay two nights there, with a side day-trip to Gibraltar, and come back by train on Saturday. The airport "at" Cadiz is actually halfway between Cadiz and Jerez, making flying a relatively unappealing option.

Foolishly, I did nothing about making concrete arrangements until today. Only to find, to my horror, that there is not a hotel room to be had anywhere in downtown Cadiz for either Thursday or Friday nights. So I had to make a change in plans. In place of the original itinerary, I am now going to take the AVE to Seville on Friday, stay overnight in Seville, then continue on to Cadiz by train on Saturday. I was able to book a hotel room in Cadiz for Saturday and Sunday nights, and will return by the early train first thing Monday morning, arriving in Madrid shortly after noon. As my classes at Don Quijote next week are all in the afternoon (from 1:00pm until 7:00pm), this actually works out quite well.

The only snag in the whole arrangement is that I had to cancel dinner plans for Sunday night with friends of Paddy who are visiting Madrid for Thanksgiving week. However, I hope to be able to reschedule with them later on next week.

I am currently still debating whether or not to schedule a trip to Bilbao for Friday-Sunday the following weekend. I suppose I probably should; after all I don't know when I will next get back to Spain.

El Internado: un lugar donde todo puede suceder.

So, having watched six of the eight episodes in the second season of "El Internado", the various subplots are way too convoluted even to begin to summarize. Before watching episodes 7 and 8, I am willing to hazard a few guesses of my own.

1. It seems pretty obvious that the monster who lives in the subterranean passages linking the Internado to the well in the woods is actually the deformed twin of Elsa, currently directora of the school, and pregnant with twins of her own. After all, we discovered at the end of episode 5 that the little baby coffin in which he was supposed to have been buried was empty. Also, Jacinta knows him (we've seen her talking with him on at least one occasion). Methinks that Elsa is going to discover this repressed secret from her past before season 2 is out.

2. Who is Fermin, the mystery thug-turned kitchen help? We know he was sprung from jail by his shadowy backers to find something that's hidden in the school. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that there is a stash of looted artwork somewhere that the Fascists hid there during WWII (when the school was still an orphanage) obtained from their Nazi buddies. Why else would he be peeling off the backs of existing paintings?

Is the new math teacher actually a sex-killer? Personally, I doubt it, this plot strand seems like misdirection all the way.
Will little Paula's math wizard skills, introduced briefly in midseason, then quickly abandoned, prove vital at some point? I'm guessing that they will - for all the wild improbabilities and coincidences, the writers of this soap are actually quite meticulous about tying things together so far. Which is part of what makes it so satisfying.

Well, I realise that this post means little to anybody who has never seen the series. Tant pis pour vous!

Universidad Rey Juan Carlos

Yesterday I spent the day visiting the statistics and operations research department at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, in Mostoles, just south of the city, where I had been invited to give a presentation. Actually, I more or less invited myself to visit, and when they heard I was coming, they asked me to give a talk. So I dusted off the old "Choosing a Dose Regimen when the Average Patient is a Myth" (last given in Killarney, under a slightly different name: OK, it's here , for the obsessively curious; it's an oldie, but goodie) and headed out there.

This is what the campus looks like (it's very new, the university is only 12 years old):

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The talk went well - there were maybe seven or eight statisticians and about half a dozen pharmacologists from the medical school. The latter asked many smart questions at the end (the statisticians mainly smiled and looked encouraging), so I think they definitely "got it".

Afterwards, they took me to a fine lunch, and I met with various people on the statistics faculty. They seemed quite grateful that I had given a talk that managed to engage the pharmacologists, as I gather that Spanish universities still don't do well at inter-disciplinary projects, and their efforts at outreach to the medical school hadn't met with much success to date.

That's me, an international ambassador of statistical goodwill. It was a very pleasant visit, and I gather that they are even going to give me an honorarium (if I can ever figure out the Wells Fargo IBAN transfer number, but that's a whole 'nother story). Still, 200 Euros is better than a poke in the eye, as they say.

The cordial reception I received at URJC was in stark contrast to the response I got from Universidad Carlos III ("Carlos Tercero"), who I regret to say, essentially blew off my polite enquiries about a possible visit.

Hello muddah, hello faddah

Now that I have time to amuse myself, I've been listening to the 5-CD "Best of Opera" set I bought at Corte Ingles to help my studying. One of the tracks is Ponchielli's "Dance of the Hours" from La Gioconda. Which is, of course, completely impossible to listen to without having the words to the "Camp Granada" song flash through your mind, in time to the music (which is 100% orchestral). You know:

Hello Muddah, hello Faddah
Here I am at camp Granada
Camp is very entertaining
And they say we'll have some fun if it stops raining

I went hiking with Joe Spivey
He developed poison ivy
You remember Leonard Skinner
He got ptomaine poisoning last night after dinner

......

Take me home, oh Muddah, Faddah
Take me home, I hate Granada
Don't leave me out in the forest where
I might get eaten by a bear

.......

Dearest Faddah, Darling Muddah
How's my precious little bruddah
Let me come home if you miss me
I would even let Aunt Bertha hug and kiss me

Wait a minute, it's stopped hailing
Guys are swimming, guys are sailing
Playing baseball, gee that's bettah
Muddah, Faddah kindly disregard this letter

Here's a link to the musical version (warning: earworm alert!)-

Hello muddah, hello faddah

This got me thinking about other classical melodies that have been hijacked in similar manner. For instance, Dvorak's "Humoresque", to which my mother used to sing gleefully at least some, if not all, of the following "verses":


Passengers will please refrain
From flushing toilets while the train
Is standing in the station, I love you.

We encourage constipation
While the train is in the station
Moonlight always makes me think of you

If you really must pass water
Kindly call the Pullman porter
He'll place a vessel in your vestibule

As I sit here tearing tissue
Oh, my darling, how I miss you
Everything I do, I do for you.

Since I'm going with your daughter
I've had trouble passing water
Sorry that I ever came to town

I'm the guy that did the pushin'
Dirtied up the front seat cushion
Footprints on the dashboard upside down

Promenading in the park,
Goosing statues after dark
If Sherman's horse can take it why can't you

Here is the instrumental version. Try adding the words for yourself:
"
Humoresque

Possibly some of my readers can add their own suggestions. Within our family, we had our own "words" to the opening bars of Alfven's "Swedish Rhapsody". Which I am now going to embarrass my sister publicly by including here* (God forbid any of her patients might be reading this - snicker!):

"Our little Emie is the best Emie, the best Emie, the best Emie.
Our little Emie is the best Emie, the best in the whole wide world.
She's the best in the whole wide world, the best in the whole wide world.
Best in the whole wide, whole wide, whole wide
Best in the whole wide, whole wide, world ...
and so on"

Swedish Rhapsody

Well, because she is, no disputing it. Love ya, Emie!

*I'll probably get in deep trouble for this.

The plain people of Ireland: Well, faith, but that's very interesting altogether. Tell us, what arrangement of naked women corresponds to the theme from the "William Tell Overture"?

MOTP: (suspiciously) Is this some kind of trick question?

The plain people of Ireland: (cackling gleefully) Not at all. Think about it!

MOTP: I don't know. I give up.

The plain people of Ireland: (barely able to contain their coarse mirth) Titty-bum, titty-bum, titty-bum-bum-bum!!!


MOTP: Silence, ye salacious wretches! Do ye want to incur the wrath of the League of Blogging Decency. This is supposed to be a fambly blog.

The plain people of Ireland: Yerrah, relax, wouldja? Sure we were only having a bit of a joke. Hi-ho, Silver!

MOTP: Sigh.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Where do you fit in?

Lovers of small numbers go benignly potty,
Believe all tales are thirteen chapters long,
Have animal doubles, carry pentagrams,
Are Millerites, Baconians, Flat-Earth-Men.

Lovers of big numbers go horribly mad,
Would have the Swiss abolished, all of us
Well-purged, somatotyped, baptised, taught baseball:
They empty bars, spoil parties, run for Congress.

W.H. Auden: "Numbers and Faces"

Monday, November 16, 2009

Llama-sighting

Bilby will recognize this picture:



Looks like "la llama que llama" has made his way to Manhattan. But where is he going in that taxi?

Chueca

Now that the exam is done, I have a little more time to poke around the neighborhood (in between "Internado" episodes, natch, of which more anon). Calle Valverde, where I live, is right on the border between two neighborhoods: Malasaña, the heart of bohemian Madrid, and Chueca, the most flamboyantly gay barrio.

While wandering through Chueca over the weekend, I found its in-your-face cheerful gay identity quite heartening. But one phenomenon left me puzzled, even a little depressed. Based on a stroll through Chueca, a visitor from another planet might well be forgiven for concluding that earthlings' preferred mode of pairing off was (i) in the case of heterosexual couples, to pair with someone physically unalike (ii) in the case of male-male couples (lesbians are conspicuous by their absence in Chueca - a legacy of Spain's legendary machismo?) to pair off with your twin, mirror-image, or person who most closely matches your own physical aspect. Couple after couple, they all look like clones of each other.

I don't know why I should find this creepy, but I do. There's something about it that gives me the heebie-jeebies, and I don't think it's just some kind of passive-aggressive response because I'm not currently part of a couple. Something to do with the huge depths of narcissism it suggests, I think. And the thought that it can hardly be considered complete sexual liberation if all anyone seems to want to do is go to bed with someone who looks exactly like himself.

Anyway, it creeps me out, more than a little. Though I guess San Francisco experienced a similar phenomenon back in the early days of gay liberation. So maybe it's a necessary stage of evolution, in a society which has definitely undergone a huge upheaval in the area of sexual mores within a relatively short period.

Enough playing amateur sociologist. Time to go to dinner, and finish preparation for tomorrow's presentation at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos.

Hooray: Kafka se alegra mucho

Yea, folks!! I am pleased to announce that www.gaelstat.com is back in business. Maybe I should work on updating some of its stale content.

Well, maybe in December, once I get home. I can see it in my mind's eye: a whole big fancy book review section, lots more fun word pages, maybe even a Thpanish section (business letters, anyone?). And, of course, I think it's time I stretched my mind (and gave my visitors an opportunity to stretch theirs) by developing another Christmas quiz.

(Rubs hands gleefully at the prospect of hours of geekish fun ahead).

It would be churlish of me not to acknowledge the help of the folks at the Microsoft Business Live support center. After all, it's certainly not their fault that the process to reinstate the domain name was so byzantine, but they guided me through it with professionalism, courtesy, and a determination to get the problem solved that I find admirable. So my thanks go out to them.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Kafka adopts a wait-and-see posture

So, as I finally had the time this weekend, I tried my best to reinstate gaelstat.com. The jury is still out on whether or not I succeeded, as it takes 24-72 hours to take effect. Two points are worth noting:

1. Four separate e-mails to the Indian subcontinent were necessary to iron out the details. Each was answered with extreme promptness and courtesy, with information that was generally reasonably intelligible and to the point. So it wasn't quite the nightmare that I had expected. And I'm quite willing to forgive the gentleman who urged me to "Have a nice day, Dennis!", because it was he provided the vital piece of information that allowed me to complete the process.

2. I was quite pleased at myself for figuring out that Step 19, the final step in the original sequence (reproduced in an earlier post) was in fact a trap, and should not be completed.

Do I have any genuine understanding of what was being accomplished along the way? Not really. I could convince myself that I had a vague idea of what was happening, but this "understanding" wouldn't hold up under any real scrutiny. However, assuming that the reinstatement goes through as hoped, the domain name issue has been taken care of until mid-November 2014. At which point I'd better not screw up the renewal again, because I will undoubtedly be too senile to navigate through that particular maze again. Of course, by then, everything will probably be controlled by google anyway.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

No cambia madroños por bombas

No cambia madroños por bombas

This poster was definitely the best thing about today's somewhat bedraggled peace parade.

Three images by Pentti Sammallahti



DELE

Some of you may be wondering when the results of yesterday's exam will be known. This being Thpain, it will take 3 months. This despite the fact that 85% of the test was multiple choice, fill in the blobs with your #2 pencil, items, and so could presumably have been corrected on the spot. Same thing with the oral exam. But, noooo... I guess both of those 250-word essays I wrote have to be shipped by mule to the University of Salamanca, to be corrected personally by octogenarian members of the Royal Academy wielding quill pens and a lifetime's accumulated resentment about the way the language has had the audacity to evolve.

But it's done, and I don't have to study for it any more. If I'd had to write one more business letter of complaint, I might have had to slit my wrists.

Ah, blessed freedom!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Book review; "Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid" by Virginia Woolf

This slim collection (roughly 100 pages) of nine essays by Virgina Woolf, published as part of the "Penguin Great Ideas" series may be the best book I've read in the past ten years. It's also one of the hardest to review. The explanation is straightforward - every time I try, the review just devolves into tired cliches ("shimmering prose", "scintillating wit", "a writer at the height of her powers", anyone?) or fills up with direct quotes from the work itself. Not just skimpy little quotelets either, but huge, copyright-infringing, chunks of text. Pagesfull. I want to share every genius-soaked paragraph with you, and once I start, I just can't stop.

So, how to proceed? Why not implement a little self-restraint by resorting to that tired old device of listing the individual essay titles (easy) and - for a selected few - giving a few brief comments on wherein I think their genius lies (hard).

Well, duh, the genius lies in Virginia, of course. It pains me to acknowledge that, until about 6 months ago, I had this image of VW that was pretty much completely at odds with her warmth, wit, and ability to write prose that sparkles and enchants. (I'm sorry - that sounds so ridiculously pretentiously critspeak, but it's bloody well true. I will try to avoid the words "limpid" and "limn" in this review, if that's any consolation). How could I have been so wrong - she's smart as a whip, she's funny, and writes as if taking dictation from on high. Boy, can this woman write. I really, really, really hope that you will beg, borrow, or steal this collection to experience it for yourself.

So what does she write about here?

1. Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid.
2. Street Haunting.
3. Oxford Street Tide.
4. Craftsmanship.
5. The Art of Biography.
6. How it Strikes a Contemporary.
7. Why?
8. The Patron and the Crocus.
9. Modern Fiction.
10. How Should One Read a Book?

Each of the 9 essays I've read so far has blown me away, either because it contains one or more flashes of pure insight, or because of the incomparable quality of the writing, and - in most cases - some combination of the two. In six pages, the title essay contains some of the sanest observations about war in anything I've read outside of Orwell. The second two essays capture the quotidian pleasures of walking the streets of London with a wit and perspicacity that leaves me slack-jawed in admiration. Essay #4, one of my favorites (together with the final essay, which is simply perfect) is a spellbinding discourse on the slippery charm of words. Essays 6, 8, and 9 contain some of the most cogent remarks about writing that I have ever read. #7 is a hilarious takedown of those who would write or lecture about literature.
But it's the final essay in this book that raises the whole collection to my top 5 books of all time list (there's going to be some ugly rearranging that will have to take place on my "top 20" shelf, and a difficult choice lies ahead).

"How Should One Read a Book" is where my self-discipline breaks down. This is an essay that demands to be quoted from. In whole chunks. With difficulty, I will confine myself to three:

The only advice, indeed, that one person can give another about reading is to take no advice, to follow your own instincts, to use your own reason, to come to your own conclusions. ... To admit authorities, however heavily furred and gowned, into our libraries and let them tell us how to read, what to read, what value to place upon what we read, is to destroy the spirit of freedom which is the breath of those sanctuaries. Everywhere else we may be bound by laws and conventions - there we have none.

In your face, Harold Bloom!

Perhaps the quickest way to understand the elements of what a novelist is doing is not to read, but to write; to make your own experiment with the dangers and difficulties of words.

I have sometimes dreamt, at least, that when the Day of Judgment dawns ... the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy, as He sees us coming with our books under our arms: "Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them here. They have loved reading."

By the time the title essay of this collection was published, Virgina Woolf had already filled her pockets with stones and walked into the river Ouse. I find her suicide enormously saddening, particularly given the brilliance of these essays. Subsequent deaths, such as those of Sylvia Plath and David Foster Wallace, suggests that such brilliance comes at a price.

But the work lives on. You have to read these essays! They are astonishing, in the best possible way.

Tabby cat humiliation

Horace Walpole's Cat (a book, by Christopher Frayling)



After the test today (about which I will make no predictions, except to say I am cautiously optimistic) I hit the bookstore on the way home, and this gorgeous book was my present to myself, as a reward for the last three weeks of work. Yes, I miss my kitties, Boris and Natasha. So sue me.

I don't use the word "gorgeous" lightly. This is a handsome book, with excellent production values (is that the phrase I'm looking for?). The conceit is slight, but charming. Paraphrasing the jacket cover:

"One day in February 1747 Horace Walpole's cat Selima fell into a large Chinese porcelain goldfish tub and drowned. Walpole was naturally upset and his close friend Thomas Gray wrote a (gently mocking) elegy to console him, ending with the famous moral lesson All that glisters is not gold . Gray's much-loved poem conferred immortality on the unfortunate Selima.

Christopher Frayling has made her fate the focus of a piece of literary research that involves Walpole, Gray, Richard Bentley, Doctor Johnson, cat-lovers Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Christopher Smart, cat-hater James Boswell, William Blake and finally Kathleen Hale (of Orlando the marmalade cat fame). All contribute to this book of charm and erudition lightly worn, that adds seriously to our appreciation of 18th century, and our understanding of people and their household animals.

With 32 illustrations, 15 in colour, by Richard Bentley (1753), William Blake (1797) and Kathleen Hale's drawings, created in 1944 and published here for the first time".

What's not to love?


***********************************

Thomas Gray. 1716–1771

On a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes

TWAS on a lofty vase's side,
Where China's gayest art had dyed
The azure flowers that blow;
Demurest of the tabby kind,
The pensive Selima reclined,
Gazed on the lake below.

Her conscious tail her joy declared;
The fair round face, the snowy beard,
The velvet of her paws,
Her coat, that with the tortoise vies,
Her ears of jet, and emerald eyes,
She saw; and purr'd applause.

Still had she gazed; but 'midst the tide
Two angel forms were seen to glide,
The Genii of the stream:
Their scaly armour's Tyrian hue
Thro' richest purple to the view
Betray'd a golden gleam.

The hapless Nymph with wonder saw:
A whisker first and then a claw,
With many an ardent wish,
She stretch'd in vain to reach the prize.
What female heart can gold despise?
What Cat 's averse to fish?

Presumptuous Maid! with looks intent
Again she stretch'd, again she bent,
Nor knew the gulf between.
(Malignant Fate sat by, and smiled.)
The slipp'ry verge her feet beguiled,
She tumbled headlong in.

Eight times emerging from the flood
She mew'd to ev'ry wat'ry god,
Some speedy aid to send.
No Dolphin came, no Nereid stirr'd:
Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard.
A Fav'rite has no friend!

From hence, ye Beauties, undeceived,
Know, one false step is ne'er retrieved,
And be with caution bold.
Not all that tempts your wand'ring eyes
And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;
Nor all that glisters, gold.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tho far tho good

Today's oral part of the exam went reasonably well, though of course one can never be fully sure - Lord knows what grammatical solecisms I may have committed. The expression of the examiner lady never actually devolved into overt horror, though this too could be misleading, because the setup is that one's interlocutor is not actually the person who does the grading. In a kind of good cop/bad cop scenario, the grader sits behind you while you are talking, taking notes, copious or otherwise.

It's not exactly a walk in the park. You are expected to speak extemperaneously, and are not allowed to make any notes. First they show you two contrasting photos, about which you have to talk with no help from the interviewer for 3 minutes. Then she chimes in with a couple of questions, and there's a further two minutes or so of chit-chat about the photos. Next they show you three different quotations, ask you to pick one and speak about it off the cuff for 5 minutes uninterrupted. At which point the interviewer chimes in again, and there is a back-and-forth dialog for another 5 minutes or so. During the whole process, the grader-person is scribbling furiously (or maybe not) behind your back.

Anyway, I hope it was a good sign that, in the second part, I spoke for 8 minutes before the interviewer chimed in.

I was so hyped-up when I got out of there that I had to stop in the bookstore on the way home and calm my nerves by buying a half dozen books. All in English, I am ashamed to say.

This evening, I figured that further study of the finer points of grammar would be futile, so I have been trying to relax by hitting the Chardonnay and reading Virginia Woolf*. If I could match the wit and clarity of that woman's prose, even in English, I'd be a happy camper indeed. In tomorrow's exam, I'll settle for grammatical correctness and half-way clear expression of ideas.

La suerte está echada. The die is cast.

One way or another, this particular adventure will be over by 2pm tomorrow, and I can move on with my life.

*with a new Internado update thrown in, naturally. (Precocious Paula has been separated from little Evelyn and moved up to a more advanced class. I can relate, as this was more or less the whole story of my primary school education. All it means is that by the time you get to high school you are surrounded by thugs who are two or three years older, who end up bullying you mercilessly. "Character-forming" is the relevant euphemism, I believe. Though, in my case, it has to be said, I probably had it coming, as I was an insufferable little prig when I first went away to boarding school.)

The plain people of Ireland: Why are we not surprised?
MOTP: Silence, rabble!


hasta pronto!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Oh nooooo.....

La pequeña Paula has an IQ of 152.

All of los huérfanos muertos had IQs of 150 or greater.

I fear for the little tyke's safety.

One of life's eternal mysteries

A state of heightened preparedness

So, here at DELE central, things are rapidly approaching the point of no return. Sure, there are a few more exercises I should probably force myself to wade through. But I just finished yet another essay while at dinner ("an interesting story from your past" - did I ever tell you about the time I was going through customs at JFK, and there was this "nun" with a suitcase full of contraband rashers and sausages? No, I didn't think so, because it never happened, but they are not to know that. Yes, it's true, I've already mined my past for the few nuggets of interest it might contain - breakfast in Guanajuato anyone? - so now I'm reduced to making things up. So sue me.)

This afternoon brought the ritual pleasure of the purchasing of the requisite pre-exam necessities - the lapicero #2, with backup, the borrador, the sacapuntas, the black boligrafo, the appropriately shrill despertador. If only mental preparedness were available for purchase at a comparable price.

So, the oral exam is tomorrow afternoon at 4:45pm; the written exam on Friday from 9;00 until 2:00. There's a definite sense that this particular die has already been cast. Anything from here on out is just window dressing, nervous activity to calm the mind.

But the studying has been fun. Here was this evening's soundtrack:

  • Sibelius: 2nd symphony, especially the sublime final movement
  • Saint-Saens: organ symphony, ditto (aka the theme from "Babe")
  • Dvorak: Songs my mother taught me
  • Lauridsen: Dirait-on from the Rose cycle (lyrics by Rilke)
  • Alfven: Swedish Rhapsody
  • Granados: Andalucia
  • Gershwin: Three Preludes for Piano
  • Addinsell: Warsaw concerto
  • Catalani: Ebben? ... Ne andro lontana (La Wally, aka the theme from "Diva")
  • Mozart: Soave sia il vento (Cosi fan Tutte)

The titles of those last two are enough to make a person want to learn Italian.
Right now.

This is music that I find both joyful and inspiring.

And with that, good night. Wish me luck.

Omigod!

Gentle readers! I am, quite frankly, beside myself. But in a good way, I should hasten to add. I am (almost) at a loss for words. I mean what does one say when one's all-time favorite cheesy Spanish soap opera takes that one step further, and goes from being merely magnificent to being altogether sublime. Let's run down the considerable list of merits this show already had going for it before it made that final leap to greatness in this most recent episode:

* the fundamental genius McGuffin of the mystery of the five missing orphans, with all the necessary spooky paraphernalia that surrounds it - jars of eyeballs, the misformed gentle creature that lives in the woods, the secret passageway (to which entry is granted by pressing on a panel over the fireplace in the library, I kid you not) that leads from the school to the woods, the mysterious lights in the night
* the high prevalence of toothsome adolescent eye-candy, more often than not (as previously mentioned) filmed in their sweaty revealing gym outfits, in the showers, or any other situation where there is a plausible reason for displaying maximum amounts of teenage flesh
* the general lax mores of the thirty-something set that passes for the "faculty" at this campus o' carnality, which results in just as much cavorting and exposed flesh (actually even more) as occurs among the student bodies. Whether it's Hector or Fermin lasciviously eyeing maria the crazy cleaning lady as she bathes nude in the lake (or, if you prefer, the "Laguna Negra") every morning, or the randy gym teacher who beds everything female that moves, or the equally hormonally advantaged kindergarten teacher, or the hunky new math teacher - this place is just a hotbed of hormonal lust.
* the satisfyingly high frequency per episode of people being caught in compromising positions - given the general proclivity of these characters for sneaking around the corridors and hidden passageways furtively, they are always catching one another in either genuinely or misleadingly compromising positions. In this spicy gumbo, the plot is always thickening.
* Did I mention the three corpses in the wood? Not to mention the five dead orphans.
* Tender moments provided by the darling 8-year old Paula and her little friend (accessory in modest juvenile misdemeanours) Evelyn:



I mean, you gotta admit, that's some pretty irresistible cuteness right there.

So, I hear you ask, "surely it would be piling Pelion on Ossia to add anything further"?* How could one possibly improve on such a tried and tested successful mix? Well, listen up, and I'll tell you.

By bringing back that feisty old bird, Jacinta, for one thing. She's back - and with a new heart! (Quite literally)
That hunky new math teacher doesn't hurt either.
But .... drumroll please .... here's the very best part:

IT TURNS OUT THAT LITTLE PAULA IS A MATHEMATICAL PRODIGY!!!!

Yes, indeedy. In this latest episode, she's been prowling around the school, true Good Will Hunting style, solving elder bro marcus's Rubik's cube just like that, completing unsolved math puzzles left unerased on the blackboard. I fully expect her to bring home the Field medal by the end of the second season.

Gentle readers, you have no idea how ineffably happy this makes me.

*: In my mind, gentle reader, you are a cultivated, well-read, kind of person. If not, you could always look it up.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Just stay calm, David

All in all, it was a productive long weekend - I managed to churn out four business letters (mainly complaining about stuff - I may actually have found my true calling - apparently complaining about stuff in Spanish comes fairly easily to me), and the same number of essays. Let's be clear here - we're not scaling any literary heights - you'll not come across any feuilleton-quality gems in the bunch. But if you have ever wanted to:

  • write to the publishers of Lonely Planet guidebooks, pointing out imaginary nitpicky errors in their latest guide to San Francisco
  • complain to your local municipal traffic bureau about the dangerous placement of a traffic light
  • get satisfaction from some fly-by-night bookseller on the internet because your alleged first edition of "The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire" wasn't up to snuff
  • complain to the municipal authorities because you got a permit to open a yoga studio, not the "Business English for foreigners" school you had planned to

then I might have some templates I could pass on.

In other news, Brad left for home this morning. When I got back home from lunch at around 4:30, I suffered a major panic attack upon entering the empty apartment. i hadn't realized how much I would miss him. But after an hour of lying on the couch with a full case of the heebie-jeebies, I rallied and pulled myself together. Enough to - you've guessed it - write another letter of complaint, before going out to the supermarket to replenish my stock of Albarino.

I've also been catching up on Season 2 of "El internado". Can't possibly do it justice in this post, but I will just pass on that the number of corpses in el bosque has now risen to 3. And that's not even counting the cadavers of the 5 dead orphans, because they are over 20 years old. Bad boy Ivan continues to brood (this mainly involves biting his lip a lot and glowering - the young man who plays him has definition limitations as far as his acting repertoire is concerned, preferring to rely on his good looks, which are undeniable) , while goody two-shoes Marcos engages in a kind of behavior that can best be described as smoldering. Somehow the plot finds many excuses to have all of the better-looking teen actors on the show prance around a lot in their skimpy gym outfits, when the camera team is not just lingering voyeuristically in the girls' shower, for no particular reason that advances the action. Did I mention how much I love the cheesy goodness of this show? Plus, it improves my Thpanish - they are a foulmouthed bunch, who enjoy cursing up a storm, so it's quite helpful.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Bird beats big bang with bit of baguette

GENEVA : THE $6.5 billion machine designed to recreate the conditions present at the beginning of time had to be switched off after a bird dropped a "bit of baguette" into it, causing it to overheat.

As a result, scientists at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland had to postpone their plans last week to emulate the universe's Big Bang.

The European particle physics laboratory near Geneva launched the LHC in September last year. Physicists hoped to prove the existence of the Higgs boson, or God particle, which gives matter in the universe its mass.

But the LHC, which when running will collide protons travelling at 99.9 per cent of the speed of light, has been out of action since a helium leak caused it to be shut down nine days after its start-up.

The bird dropped bread on a compensating capacitor – where the mains electricity supply enters the collider – cutting power to the LHC during a test run.

Source: smh.com.au

Thanks to bilby for bringing this to my attention. As he commented, "it is strangely comforting that the beginning of the universe can be undone by a bird with a chunk of bread".

Betty and Vincent!

november2009 122

They are examples of this trip's quest, and the focus of tonight's, and future, Sunday night dioramas.

For further examples, see Buttons!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Kafka feliz

In fact, I'll wager he's laughing his mid-European ass off somewhere. Herewith the necessary steps in order to reinstate the domain name for my other website (the cyberpage formerly known as gaelstat.com):

Now, to keep your domain name "gaelstat.com", you need to unlock your domain from Melbourne IT using the Domain Registration Key (DRK) of your domain and you need to pay the domain renewal amount to Melbourne IT. After unlocking and renewing your domain name "gaelstat.com" from Melbourne IT, you can re-delegate your domain back to your Microsoft Office Live account.

In order to redirect your domain name back to Microsoft Office Live, you need to create an account with Melbourne IT. After this, you need to unlock and manage your domain at their end.

To unlock and manage your domain from Melbourne IT, please follow the below mentioned steps:

1. Go to http://www.melbourneit.com.au/cc/godirect/.

2. Enter your domain name and registry key and click on continue.

3. Click on 'create a new account' below the text box where you are prompted for My account password.

3.1. Fill up all the information needed :

3.1.1. Contact Information

3.1.2. Login Information

3.2. Other Information:

3.21. The Country Code is "1" for United States (for UK it is 44)

3.2.2. The email address you enter must not be related to the domain you are attempting to transfer/manage.

4. After filling up all the information, check the box that says I have read and understood the Sign up Terms and Conditions. I agree to abide by the terms and conditions, as stated there in.

5. Click Create. Now your account is created.

6. On the My Account Console page, click Logout on the right side of the page.

7. Now you will be redirected to the Melbourne IT web site.

8. Click Manage Domain Name on the right side of the page.

9. Type your domain and registry key.

10. Click Enter Management.

11. Click Transfer management to Melbourne IT.

12. Sign in using the username and password for your Melbourne IT account using the username and password, which you created for your Melbourne IT account. .

13. Click Continue after you have verified all the information on the page.

14. Click on My Account console.

15. Click on the link "View/Manage domain name" under the Domain Names.

16. Click on your domain name (customer domain name) under the Domain Name section.

17. Click on the Unlock Domain Name.

18. To change name server, click on Change Delegation Details under Name Server Details on the right side of the page. Here, you can change the domain name server settings for your new service provider.

19. To obtain new authorization code in order to transfer your domain, click Retrieve Domain Name (authinfo) Password (on the same page on point 17).


If you have not received the DRK, please provide us with the information mentioned below to verify your account ownership. Once we will verify your account ownership, we will provide you with the DRK.

1. First and last name associated with your Microsoft Office Live account: (David Giltinan)

2. Billing address associated with your Microsoft Office Live account: (Required)

3. Telephone number associated with your Microsoft Office Live account: (Required)

4. Year of birth associated with your Microsoft Office Live account: (Required).

I'm not making this up. I truly wish I were. It's a wonder Bill Gates has not yet been assassinated. Please note, that last remark is not to be interpreted as an incitement to violence. I mean that. But it's hardly a wonder that Microsoft has, let's say, an image problem. To be fair, Sandeep at the support center couldn't be more helpful, even if he is not entirely idiomatic. Something that, given my current situation, I sympathize with entirely.

Website Snafu

There currently appears to be a snafu with reaching my main website, formerly known as gaelstat.com. At the moment, that domain name appears not to be working (for reasons I am trying to ascertain from the provider). However, its alias www.davidgiltinan.com still appears to be up and running.

I have changed the link on the front page of this blog to point to the working address, and am working on getting gaelstat.com reinitiated. But, for now, your best bet would seem to be

www.davidgiltinan.com

which at least has the virtue of being easy to remember.

Friday, November 6, 2009

My cup runneth over

Gentle readers:

Long-time followers of this blog will recall the slightly juvenile delight I took in the Spanish television series "El Internado (Laguna Negra)", the first season of which coincided with my first visit to Madrid, in the summer of 2007. Alas, circumstances dictated that I had to return home right after the cliffhanger ending of the first season, without ever finding out the full gory details of the mystery in the woods, not to mention the explanation for the assorted disembodied eyeballs that peppered the plot.

Imagine my joy, therefore, at reading in yesterday's "Ciberpais" that the series continues apace, having already reached its fifth season, and that all episodes to date are available on the website of Antena3.

Guess what I will be doing this weekend, in between studying that pesky subjunctive. There is the added pleasure of knowing that downloading and watching the various episodes from Season 2 and beyond has the virtue of being demonstrably good for my Thpanish comprehension. Not to mention the eye-candy provided by badboy Ivan and dreamboat Marcus.

Keep your eyeballs peeled for further updates. Right here at MOTP central.

Two-headed bunnies! Yeah!

César Lucas

Before I succumb entirely to the effects of exhaustion and Albariño, I should mention the fine photo exhibition that we went to see earlier tonight, as part of the culture class on Spanish photography. It was a collection of photos by photographer César Lucas, taken over his 50-year professional career. I enjoyed it thoroughly. The photo below, known as "El niño del puño en alto" (the boy with his fist raised), appeared in El País on June 23rd 1976, at the beginning of Spain's transition to democracy following the death of Franco, and is probably one of the best-known photos by Lucas.







A subsequent article (in 2006?) on the newspaper's website gives further information about the boy in the photograph and places the photo in context as an icon of the transition period. (Material in italics below is copied from the paper's website, at the following link):

http://www.elpais.com/especiales/2006/mirada/fotogaleria_7_1.html

El niño que levantaba el puño en una fotografía de César Lucas publicada en la última página de EL PAÍS el 23 de junio de 1976, al inicio de la transición, se llama Daniel Rivas Azcueta, tiene 34 años, es piloto y vive en Las Rozas (Madrid). Se siente muy orgulloso de ser "un icono" de aquel periodo de la historia de España. La foto fue tomada en la calle Preciados de Madrid, donde hoy está la FNAC. Sus padres, que le llevaron a la manifestación en la que fue fotografiado, eran militantes del Partido Comunista, miembros muy activos de Comisiones Obreras y de la Junta Democrática.
Hoy, Daniel dice que merece la pena manifestarse, por ejemplo, contra la guerra "o cualquier cosa que despierte el espíritu dormido de la gente", y, de hecho, a la manifestación que hubo contra la invasión de Irak él y su mujer llevaron a su hija Daniela, que tiene ahora cerca de cuatro años, los mismos que él tenía cuando se produjo la manifestación en la que le captó César Lucas.
La madre de Daniel, Sonia Azcueta, recordaba ayer que el niño "no sólo levantaba el puñito [como se ve en la foto], sino que nos animaba a todos los que estábamos alrededor".
Esa misma instantánea, símbolo de una época, ilustró la portada del tomo 7 de la colección La mirada del tiempo que EL PAÍS comenzó a publicar el pasado domingo.
Daniel Rivas tiene esa fotografía a la entrada de su casa, donde vive con su mujer, Marta Rodríguez Aznar, azafata; se la consiguió hace unos años su madre. Daniel es piloto de Air Nostrum; Marta trabaja en Iberia. Hace 15 días tuvieron otra niña, Martina.
Los padres de Daniel, Santiago Rivas y Sonia Azcueta, eran activistas políticos. Su casa, en La Guindalera, era "un hervidero sindical y político", y a Daniel esas idas y venidas le divertían y le estimulaban desde muy niño. Así que no pudo sorprenderse cuando sus padres le llevaron "a aquella manifestación a la que se iba para exigir mejor calidad de la enseñanza y a protestar contra la carestía de la vida". Él ya se sabía todas las consignas, las decía y levantaba el puño con la soltura que veía a su alrededor. Se puso a hombros de un amigo de la familia —Agustín Cerdán, que ahora trabaja en Vueling; su padre trabajaba en Aviaco, su madre sigue siendo secretaria en el hospital de La Princesa— y "disfruté de la fiesta, porque para mí aquello era una fiesta. Nadie me dijo 'levanta el puño', ni tenían que decírmelo. Yo levantaba el puño, y punto".
Como cuenta Juan Luis Cebrián, el primer director de EL PAÍS, en el prólogo que hace al citado tomo de La mirada del tiempo, esa fotografía armó un gran revuelo, y por su publicación protestó un ministro ("¿Es que EL PAÍS va a apostar por una España comunista?"). "Era un niño tan rubio, tan mono, tan angelical, tan simpático y bien trajeado, que su imagen resultaba demoledora", escribe Cebrián en el prólogo.
César Lucas, que era jefe de Fotografía de EL PAÍS entonces, recordaba ayer que los que pensaron, como aquel ministro, que la instantánea había sido preparada "pudieron haber tenido un argumento más, y también se hubieran equivocado. Unos días después de haberse publicado la fotografía", cuenta César, "me vino a ver un empleado del periódico, Edmundo Azcueta, que me espetó: ¡Vaya foto le has hecho a mi sobrino!".
"Por fortuna", dice el fotógrafo, "no sólo desconocía que Azcueta era tío del niño del puñito, sino que tenía un testigo de que la foto la hice sin preparación alguna, desconociendo absolutamente a quién estaba fotografiando. Ese testigo es el periodista Miguel Ángel Gozalo. Él me vio obtenerla, desde un ángulo inverosímil, sin poder mirar por el visor. Al llegar al periódico y revelarla me quedé encandilado".
Ahora lo dice: "Fotografié a un icono de la transición. Era un niño rubio, bien vestido, bien peinado, ¡era una España diferente, y estaba yendo a manifestarse!".

The exhibition was located at the cultural centre of the Palacio Conde Duque (the name of which translates, slightly redundantly, to the "Palace of the Count Duke"), which is this phenomenal building just around the corner from the don Quijote school. Should anyone reading this be in Madrid, I highly recommend the exhibition, which is free to the general public, and open until 9:00 pm, Tuesday through Saturday (closed on Mondays, restricted hours on Sundays).

Hecho polvo

Survived another, fairly brutal (but always fun!), week of classes. Including today's simulation of the full exam, which I passed by a respectable margin. But the consequence is that I am so exhausted that I am slumped, almost catatonic, on the sofa, blogging from a most un-ergonomic posture. I had notions of going to see the Julie & Julia movie with Meryl Streep in it at 10:30, but what between my general state of decrepitude and the fact that I've been liberally sampling the fine bottle of Albariño that's in the fridge for the past hour, this possibility is starting to seem ever more remote. But let me just say that the combination of Albariño with goat's cheese and cream crackers is as good as it gets.

The picturesque Spanish phrase to describe my current state is "hecho polvo", literally "made of dust" (what the French refer to as "crevé", I believe). This should not be confused with the similar-sounding expression, "echar un polvo", which means "to engage in a one-night stand". A simple usage example should make the distinction clear:

"Juan estaba hecho polvo por la mañana, porque echó un polvo la noche anterior"
(Juan was dead beat in the morning, because of his one-night stand the night before)

That concludes our lesson for this evening. (Heads fridge-ward, to top up glass of wine...)
Hasta mañana!

How the panda came to be



I love this image! It is taken from the link below (for some reason, I was unable to include the picture directly from the link, and had to save it to my hard drive first).

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_WIme2IZPEnY/SrGqsWHGcFI/AAAAAAAAAz8/moRP7xzFkxU/s1600-h/bears.jpg

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hay madroños!

madroños

Today, after this evening's excellent culture class (on Spanish photography), I stopped off at the supermarket in the basement of the Corte Ingles. Where I succumbed to the temptation of buying some juicy madroños, pictured above. After all, one feels a responsibility to one's readers to convey just what it is that the bear in that "oso y madroño" statue is so worked up about.

The madroño experience was a bit like the partridge experience earlier in the week. Now that I've done it, there is no urgent reason to repeat it. For the record, they have a taste and consistency that is quite reminiscent of the kiwi fruit. But kiwi fruit are more delicious.

But now we know what the fruit of the arbutus tree tastes like. Nothing like strawberries, so there appears to be no good reason for the common mixup between both plants. Anyway, everyone knows that strawberries don't grow on trees.

It's raining spam!!


I don't know what it is about this particular IP address, but the quantity of spam that I receive just about quadruples - currently it runs at about 60 messages a day. For the first week, the spam filter could barely cope - it's been better this week. But it's disconcerting just how much garbage is piling up in my spam folder - we won't even go in to the types of message titles, though I am happy to say that the springtime emphasis on carnal relationships between busty sluts and barnyard animals seems to have abated.


Thanks God for small mercies.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Traduttore, traditore

Scum and pinions

Gulas of the North

more than creepy

El museo de brujería


The plain people of Ireland: Here, this is old news - all these photos were taken in 2007!
MOTP: And what if they were? What rule says they can't be included? They are, after all, oldies but goodies.
The plain people of Ireland: Fair enough, so. But don't you have any fresh photos to show us?
MOTP: After the exam, I promise. There will be a plethora of photographic gems, each one lovelier than the next.