Friday, December 30, 2011

Making the Impossible Not Happen is Easier than You Think

New Year’s Resolutions: To Fail Big You Have to Dream Even Bigger!

How far into the New Year do you think it will be before you start forgetting about those optimistic resolutions: a month, a couple of days, or even less?  Most of us start crushing them into dust before the January 1st hangover begins to wane.  Countless resolutions are probably killed off and buried in a shallow grave before passing out after the party.  Let’s face it, most of us haven’t exactly been an inspiration in past years.  Maybe we need to reread The Little Engine that Could? Can I get the video on my iPod?  

If you continually fail in keeping your resolutions you shouldn’t worry; you’re a member of the world’s biggest club. Welcome! The smart play is not to make any in the first place.  Some people will say that you lack goals but they’re probably sipping on hair-of-the-dog Bloody Marys during the Rose Bowl game after swearing off booze for the year only hours earlier.  People continue making promises to themselves every year because, just like with bad Christmas gifts, it’s the thought that counts.

Instead of making a lot of small, stupid resolutions that you’ll forget faster than a fat chick’s phone number, you should make incredibly ambitious goals.  If you don’t lose the five pounds you were going to shed you’ll look like a total loser, but no one will fault you for not winning the Nobel Prize in physics this year. Better luck next time!  Not quitting smoking is just pathetic—not to mention life-threatening—but did anyone really think you would make the U.S. ski team? You were born in Florida, after all.

Resolutions are about 99% bullshit anyway so you may as well make yours 99% more interesting.  By making grand resolutions people will respect you—at least for a while, and that’s better than never. Last year I told people that my resolution was to finally swim the English Channel.  It’s cool when people come up to me at a party and ask, “So, I hear you’re going to swim the Channel. Bravo, dude.”  OK, that only happens when I pay one of my friends to say it when I’m talking to someone I’m trying to impress, but still. My answer is always, “I’ve tried a couple of times but the conditions weren’t right. My trainer is a little too cautious.”  No one will ever ask you, “So, I hear you’re trying to stop biting your nails this year.”

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Property prices in Valencia


Since 2007, the price of Valencia properties (euro/m2) has fallen by 27%, compared to 20% in Madrid, and 27% in Barcelona. In Valencia the prices have dropped the most in l'Olivereta, which is not a bad neighbourhood, relatively close to the the Ciudad de Artes y Ciencias. Ciutat Vella (El Carmen) has dropped 20% and Eixample, probably the best area to live 24%. What will 2012 bring? 


Since 2008, the rental prices for Valencia properties (euro/m2) have fallen by 27%, compared to only 10% in Madrid, and 15% in Barcelona. It is remarkable that in Valencia the rental prices have dropped according to the sales prices, while it is not the case in Barcelona and Madrid. At the moment it is very cheap to rent a decent flat in Valencia, even for short stays. Click here for the best offers.

source: Idealista

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cochinillo (Suckling Pig)

As the English name implies, cochinillo is a young pig that has been fed only milk, from its mother and artificially. The fatty outside is crisp and perfect for those who like pork rind, while its meat is tender and juicy. Segovia, Spain is famous for this dish but it is prepared all over the country.

This recipe by Julia Child will take you through the process, step by step.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Cyclists Not Welcome in Valencia

The hostile campaign against cyclists continues in Valencia with police now targeting bikers for drunk “driving.”  Once again you have to applaud the city government for trying to solve a problem that never existed. The truly sad thing about this is that many citizens—none of whom have ridden a bike in their adult lives—seem to be in agreement with the police as they single out people on bikes for infractions. Meanwhile, Valencia continues to allow car drivers to do pretty much whatever the hell they want. If you were to observe any traffic light in town you would see an almost infinite number of violations throughout the day.

One practice that I find particularly obnoxious is the completely accepted custom here in Valencia for drivers to begin to drive through the light before it has even changed to green. This is something that is as much a habit here as accelerating through yellow traffic lights. I have never seen the police ticket a driver for this potentially lethal practice yet cyclists are being handed 200€ fines for riding on sidewalks at pedestrian speeds.  So police turn a blind eye to opposing vehicles racing through an intersection but are putting their foot down concerning cyclists sharing the sidewalk with pedestrians.  

Valencia should take a look at cities in Europe that have adopted the bicycle as a legitimate means of transportation. All of those cities are better off than Valencia in so many obvious ways that it almost seems silly to list them.  The city could provide a lot of other, more useful city services if they didn’t have to keep building more roads and parking facilities but instead local leaders have decided to all but stamp out the nascent bicycle culture in Valencia.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Fiestas in Spain 2012

Spain erupts with fiestas and celebrations throughout the year. Here's a list of the most important events in Spain for 2011.

Jan 1 New Year's Day Spain

Jan 6 Epiphany (Día de los Reyes - parades, closures) Spain

Early Feb La Candelaria (religious festival) Madrid

Feb 25 - March 12 Festival de Jerez (flamenco and other dancing) Jerez

Feb 28 Day of Andalucía (some closures) Andalucía

March 14-19 Fallas Valencia

April 17-24 Holy Week (Semana Santa - parades, closures) Spain

April 24-25 Easter Sunday and Monday (closures) Spain

April 30-May 8 April Fair (Feria de Abril - party tents in huge fairgrounds, traditional costumes, bullfights) Sevilla

May San Isidro (religious festival on May 15; also bullfights and zarzuelas all month long) Madrid

May 1 Labor Day (closures) Spain

May 2 Community Day (closures, music, dancing in Plaza Mayor) Madrid

May 22-29 Feria del Caballo (horse pageantry) Jerez

June La Patum (Moorish battles) Barcelona

June 23 Corpus Christi Spain

June 23-24 St. John the Baptist Day (Día de San Juan - bonfires, fireworks) Barcelona

Late June-early July International Festival of Music and Dance Granada

July 6-14 Running of the Bulls (Fiesta de San Fermín) Pamplona

Aug Gràcia Festival (neighborhood festival) Barcelona

Mid-Aug Verbena de la Paloma (folk festival) Madrid

Aug 15 Assumption of Mary Spain

Sept Autumn Festival (flamenco, bullfights) Jerez

Sept 24 La Mercé (parade with huge papier-mache figures) Barcelona

Oct 12 Spanish National Day (Día de la Hispanidad - commemorates Columbus' arrival in the New World, parades, some closures) Spain

Late Oct-Nov International Jazz Festival Madrid

Nov 1 All Saints' Day (closures) Spain

Nov 9 Virgen de la Almudena Madrid

Dec 6 Constitution Day (closures) Spain

Dec 8 Feast of the Immaculate Conception Spain

Dec 13 Feast of Santa Lucía Spain

Dec 25 Christmas Spain

Dec 31
 New Year's Eve Spain

Rick Steves / Rick Steves
/ Expatica

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The War on Christmas

Folks, we have terrible news. There is a war on Christmas. Instead of letting “them” take Christmas away from “us,” we decided to take action.

By trying to scientifically prove the existence of Christmas, we think we can coerce retailers into once again greeting shoppers with “Merry Christmas” instead of the politically correct “Happy Holidays.”

We felt that we could provide more conclusive evidence than the 50,000 letters addressed to Santa Claus that vindicated Saint Nick in Miracle on 34th Street. We began with a list of Christmas truisms and exposed them to the cruel scrutiny of scientific investigation.

Does the holiday season promote peace on earth and goodwill?

Sure, why the hell not, just as long as you aren’t standing between me and the sale items at Wal-Mart. I, myself, am not normally a violent man, but they had Hanes men’s briefs on sale, three for $7. The National Guard should have fired off warning shots to direct the crowd. I was just protecting what was mine.

Can reindeer fly?

The popular ballads telling of the exploits of Santa’s sleigh drivers are all the proof we need, but we wanted to establish this fact scientifically. We traveled to the Lapland region of Finland to find a herd of reindeer. We transported 15 of the sturdiest examples of the breed to our testing center at the Space Needle in Seattle.

Working closely with a team of aerodynamic engineers from Boeing Aircraft, we joyfully launched the reindeer, one by one, from the top of this Seattle icon. Results indicated that reindeer cannot fly. However, as a side note, reindeer meat is quite flavorful and tender, although the tenderness may have been the result of dropping the animals from 605 feet in the air.

Can Santa Claus slide down a chimney?

For our next experiment, we enlisted the help of 65-year-old Armando Escovedo. We lowered the retired Seattle fireman on top of a chimney and waited to see how long it would take him to make it into the living room.

Although paramedics pronounced Mr. Escovedo dead at the scene after spending nearly three hours extracting him from his sooty grave, we feel that our test subject may have had other health issues that contributed to his demise and, thus, to the failure of our experiment.

We are having some difficulty in finding another (willing) old, gray-haired and overweight volunteer for further investigation into this matter.

Can Santa’s elves make toys for every child on the planet?

Although they refused to allow us to call them elves, we employed a group of midgets to work under harsh arctic conditions. The result was a rather resounding, “Yes!” We proved, without a doubt, that by working a small group of “elves” 20 hours a day, seven days a week, our team was able to make a hell of a lot of toys.

Granted, the toys were kind of crappy, and thanks to an Amnesty International report, we may be facing a human rights violation tribunal in The Hague, but there can be no denying that it is possible to make a prodigious amount of toys using height-challenged workers.

The trick is to keep them, how shall we say, motivated. Techniques that we found to be successful were constant threats of physical violence, holding workers’ family members hostage and always supplying an open bar at company functions (you might think that little people don’t drink much but you would be very wrong).

Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Spending Guide

Each holiday season we are confronted by a daunting issue: how much money should we spend on gifts?  How do you know if you’re spending enough? A hint that you are spending too much is when you get slapped around by a fat guy in a bowling shirt sent over by the collection agency.  We have developed an effective and simple formula that will insure that you don’t come out looking like a cheapskate while stimulating this rather sluggish world economy.  There are many levels of guilt working against you during the Christmas holidays, all of them barking at you to spend a staggering amount of money, most of which you don’t have. Fiscal prudence may be a nice campaign slogan for the conservative crowd but on an individual level it goes against everything we hold true as human beings  We have worked in conjunction with two of the world’s leading economic research facilities to arrive at a simple, sensible, and economically viable blueprint for gift shopping.

We start with a universal starting point for all households. For this figure simply take your annual income and double it. I told you that it was simple—at least at first.  If you have a roommate, empty out his/her wallet/pocketbook every time they come home too-drunk-to-notice during the month of December. Get them something but don’t go overboard or you’ll defeat the purpose of stealing from them for a month straight.  If you don’t have a roommate to steal from you’ll have to find some other victimless crime to get more cash. I suppose this goes without saying but under no circumstances should your holiday shopping cut into your holiday drinking budget.

If you are in the doghouse in your relationship you’ll need to double that figure again.  If your girlfriend has ever asked you, “Do I look fat in this dress?” and it has taken you more than 0.87 seconds to reply “No, you look great,” add another $80 to the total.  Tack on another $75 if you forgot her birthday or your anniversary (And yes, it’s your anniversary, too, even though you don’t care). Women, please add $100 if you think about Brad Pitt every time you do the deed with the anti-Brad Pitt your friends call your other half.

If you have children add an extra $50 for every time you promised to take them to the water park but didn’t because you were too busy sitting around in a filthy t-shirt watching a fishing show.  Add an extra $100 if you decided you were too drunk to drive them at 09:00 on a Saturday morning (Don’t forget to get something for your AA sponsor this year!).  I realize that you don’t think it’s a big deal if you forget one of their names but it may be important to them.  Add $20 every time you referred to one of your offspring as “what’s-his-name” in their presence.  And remember that even if you’ve spent more time this year picking your kid up from the emergency room or the police station than proudly standing by while they receive some honor, you still need to buy a bunch of crap for them—gift buying has a lot more to do with stimulating the economy than personal merit.

You know what people say; you can’t put a price tag on human happiness.  Or do they say that you can’t get a refund on human happiness without a receipt? Or is it something about the price of happiness and how it’s more expensive these days? It’s probably made in China. Anyway, you need to suck it up, get more checks printed, get another credit card, and get out there and start spending.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Asociacion Belga Valencia actividades

Hola Amigos del ABV,

Antes de celebrar el año nuevo, nos gustaría informaros de las próximas actividades de la Asociación Belga de Valencia.... Por favor, apuntad todos estas fechas en vuestros nuevos calendarios!

Como cada año, descubriremos una ruta de senderimso por las montañas cercanas de Valencia. Saldremos a media mañana para poder disfrutar del día. 
Actividad gratuita. (más información en breve)

Este año, os proponemos irnos de fin de semana en una casa rural cerca de Valdelinares para aprovechar al mismo tiempo de las pistas de esquí. 
Precio para el fin de semana completo: 75 Euros para los miembros del ABV - 95 Euros para los no miembros. (más información en breve)

Volveremos en la Alquería de Alboraya donde hicimos una primera actividad el año pasado pero esta vez para organizar la primera Falla belga! (más información en breve)

Aprovechamos la ocasión para desearos a todos unas felices fiestas y nuestros mejores deseos para el año nuevo!

Un saludo,
La Junta del ABV

Happy Winter Solstice! It's All Downhill to Summer!

Valencia, Spain

Date--...........Sunrise / Sunset -Daylight
22 Dec 08:19 - 17:41- 9h 22m 48s
23 Dec 08:19 - 17:42- 9h 22m 51s + 03s
24 Dec 08:20 - 17:42- 9h 22m 58s + 06s
25 Dec 08:20 - 17:43- 9h 23m 09s + 10s
26 Dec 08:20 - 17:44- 9h 23m 23s + 14s
27 Dec 08:21 - 17:44- 9h 23m 42s + 18s

Hours of daylight for cities around the world today:

Miami………10h 31m 44s
New York….. 9h 15m 15 s
Seattle……….8h 25m 23s
London………7h 49m 43s
Paris…………8h 14m 50s
Moscow........7h 14s

The December solstice occurs when the sun reaches its most southerly declination of -23.5 degrees. In other words, it is when the North Pole is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun. Depending on the Gregorian calendar, the December solstice occurs annually on a day between December 20 and December 23. On this date, all places above a latitude of 66.5 degrees north are now in darkness, while locations below a latitude of 66.5 degrees south receive 24 hours of daylight.

The sun is directly overhead on the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere during the December solstice. It also marks the longest day of the year in terms of daylight hours for those living south of the Tropic of Capricorn. Those living or travelling south from the Antarctic Circle towards the South Pole will see the midnight sun during this time of the year.

On the contrary, for an observer in the northern hemisphere, the December solstice marks the day of the year with the least hours of daylight for those living north of the Tropic of Cancer. Those living or traveling north of the Arctic Circle towards the North Pole will not be able to see the sun during this time of the year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Amsterdam Loves Bikes and so Should Valencia!

Amsterdam is a great city and a major reason for that is because it is a civil place for pedestrians. Most traffic in the historic district is effected either on foot, bicycle, or public transportation. Cars have been marginalized and tamed. Instead of fining people riding bikes the city of Valencia should be doing everything in its power to encourage more people to cycle. Fewer cars means less pollution, less traffic, and less problems with parking.

Monday, December 19, 2011

It's a Beautiful Day

This cute video is from the Office of Bikes of Murcia:

Hace un día maravilloso.
El sol brilla en lo alto.

La sombra de los árboles refresca el ambiente.
Los pájaros revolotean alegres, y su canto me pone contento.
¡Qué bueno es sentir la brisa fresca en el rostro!
Despierta mis sentidos y me hace vivir intensamente.

Una pedalada, y otra más.
Adiós, hasta luego, en el barrio todos nos conocemos.

Es la hora, el atasco de siempre y sus malos humos.
Malas vibraciones, y yo... paaaso de largo.

El perro del quiosco, cada mañana me acompaña un rato.
Aquí está, ¡hey bonito, vamos!
Los niños salen del cole, ¡qué suerte! Ahora, a jugar.

Hace un día maravilloso.
El sol brilla en lo alto.
Lo presiento, hoy va a ser un gran día.

The shade of the trees cools the air.
The birds fly around happily and their song makes me content.
It’s nice to feel the fresh breeze in my face.
It awakens my senses and makes me live to the fullest.
A pedal stroke and another.
Goodbye, see you, in the neighborhood we all know each other.
It’s time and the usual traffic jam and the noxious fumes
Bad vibes and me…I go by without stopping.
The dog from the kiosk, each morning accompanies me for a while.
Here he is, hey cutie, let’s go.
Kids leave school, what luck! Off to play.
It’s a marvelous day.
The sun is shining.
I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be a great day.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

My Invention Ideas

Acme Hangover Detector
Besides being a crappy writer, a half-assed cook, a mediocre athlete, and a fantastic figure skater I'm also something of an inventor. Granted, most of my ideas never get past the "scribbled on a cocktail napkin" phase but this is only because I put so many cocktails on the napkins that they disintegrate. Back to the drawing board for me!

Remote Control Retriever
We all know that people are too lazy and spoiled to actually walk over to the TV to change channels. The problem is that sometimes the remote is out of your reach and you have to walk a few steps to pick it up off the coffee table. The Remote Control Retrieve® instantly puts the remote into the palm of your hand so that you don’t have to spill the 70 oz. soda you have precariously balanced on your gut. I don’t have the details worked out yet but I’m thinking about having a chip surgically implanted in the body that allows you to change channels, record, and vote for American Idol without moving an inch.

Cigarette Butt Detector
This device will allow you to scan your can of beer at a big party to let you know if someone used it for an ashtray while you were gone taking a leak. I can’t count how many times I’ve taken a big gulp of Bud mixed with someone’s finished Marlboro.  One a side note, many people feel that cigarette ash improves the taste of most light beers.

Microwave Toast
For on-the-go people who don’t have time to make real toast. Simply microwave the frozen slices for 26 seconds on high.  Finally, someone has saved us from the drudgery of using a toaster.

Hangover Detector
This device monitors your blood-alcohol in real-time. When you have reached the point where you will feel the effects of tonight’s bash tomorrow (probably during your after-work happy hour), the device will set off a 120 decibel air raid siren next to your ear to remind you that you are entering dangerous territory. Of course there is a simple on/off switch for those who choose to ignore the warning or a “snooze alarm” for people who don’t mind a little hangover.

Fake iPhone Case
Put your budget, piece-of-shit phone inside this case to make everyone think you are on the cutting edge of cell phone technology. Think of it as a wig for your phone.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Valencia in 3D

Just in case you needed another reason to think that Google is absolutely amazing. How did people live without it back in the old days (5 years ago). It's hard to imagine finding an address in the city without using Google maps and then looking at actual photos of the location.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bicifestacion en Valencia

The city should be thanking cyclists for riding bikes, not giving out tickets and taking away bikes that are chained to lamp posts and trees.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How to Survive and Prosper during a Summer/Semester/Year in Europe

Travel Light
I’m not talking about losing ten pounds before you leave, although this isn’t a bad idea considering how much more you will be eating and drinking while away. I mean travel with just a backpack, preferably one that fits in the overhead. Here is a simple rule of travel: carry only the amount of baggage that you can carry while outrunning a cop. I won’t say how I came up with this observation but let’s just say that it’s based on a true story. Your sense of adventure will be directly proportional to how light you are. Dragging two clunky suitcases may give you more clothing options but you’ll be too tired to go anywhere.

Keep it Simple
Call it quits with the boyfriend/girlfriend before leaving, that way you won’t have to explain anything when the pictures start making the rounds on Facebook of you lying face down in the gutter in the Amsterdam red light district or giving a lap dance to a Greek goat herder. They always say to keep your story simple and nothing is simpler than saying, “I’m single.”

Se Habla Español
You studied Spanish, French, German, or Italian for a semester or two, now it’s time to start using it. Foreign languages aren’t just a general education requirement, people actually speak them. You probably speak one of these languages better than most Europeans speak English. A simple Buenos Días or Bonjour when entering a bar or shop will go a long way in how people perceive you. Just remember that when you’re talking to someone about how much you like their little country don’t use the word “little.”

When in Rome Eat What the Romans Eat
The late-night, cheap food of choice for drunks almost everywhere in Europe is döner kebab or gyros or shawarma or whatever the hell name they use for a sandwich of pita and meat—either lamb or chicken. Döner kebab is actually Turkish for “It’s not cat, goddammit!”

Adhering to a vegetarian diet while in Europe is more of a hassle than traveling in an iron lung. Take your pick: spend the day in Paris searching for a vegan restaurant or actually see the place. Finding anything to eat in Spain that doesn’t contain pork is all but impossible; even the deserts have bacon bits. If you have religious proscriptions against certain foods I’m pretty sure that Yahweh, God, and Allah will forgive you for trying some jagerschnitzel, they probably won’t even mind if you go back for seconds.

Be Moderate with the Alcohol
Just kidding. For many American university students this is the first time they have been able go to a bar legally. The problem is that the service is so slow in many cafés that getting drunk is logistically impossible. You’ll sit down and wait 15 minutes for a waiter to take your order; 15 minutes after that he’ll deliver the drinks…maybe. It’s possible that the slow service will mean you’re more sober when you get back to the hotel than when you left (wasn’t that an episode of Star Trek?). I’ll shut up now because I’m sure that nobody reading this needs any help from me as far as drinking is concerned.

The New Americans
Believe it or not, people in Europe like Americans, so give them a reason to like you, too. They even respect the U.S. soccer team. Leave your University of Nobody Gives a Shit t-shirts at home and try to comport yourself like you would in a police line-up. And if you do something really bad just say you’re Canadian.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gazpacho Manchego

Gazpacho Manchego is nothing like the more famous gazpacho Andaluz which is the cold tomato soup. This Spanish classic is a very hearty stew with rabbit and chicken. It was originally a hunters' dish using hare and partridge so naturally those ingredients can be used. A better dish on a cold, wet day would be hard to find.

Here is my humble version:

Saturday, December 10, 2011

El Clasico: It's Not Life and Death but Close - 22.00 La Sexta

Real Madrid beat Barça last season to raise the Spanish Copa del Rey here in Valencia although the team has failed to repeat their victory over the Azulgrana in four subsequent Clásicos in both the Champions League and the Spanish Superpcopa.

During the seven previous La Liga, Copa del Rey, Champions League and Supercopa matches since Mourinho and Guardiola faced off, there have been 21 goals, 52 bookings and nine red cards. Barca have won three, Madrid one and there have been three draws. The balance of trophies in that fevered series has been three to Barça and one to Mourinho's club.

The losses have been a thorn in Mourinho's side not only because his team was beaten.  What has made matters worse is how much he wanted Pep Guardiola’s job and how much he wanted to show the Catalan club what it missed by not signing him to replace Frank Rijkaard in 2008.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Inmaculada Concepcion

"No man ever said on his deathbed, ‘I wish I had spent more time in the office.’"*

This may be true with the exception of people lucky enough to live in Spain who benefit from a vast and ever-growing avalanche of holidays, fiestas, ferias, and “bridges” as they are called here (long weekends).  This comes just two days after Constitution Day and only a couple weeks before the very long Christmas holidays. And then there is the holiday for Reyes Magos the first week I January.  It’s like we are running some sort of holiday marathon. See you at the finish line and have a happy Inmaculada Concepción.

*by Senator Paul Tsongas as told by Anna Quindlen in her commencement speech at Villanova

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Chelsea vs Valencia CF at 20:45

So it has come down to the final game of the group stage in this year's Champions League and Valencia CF is up against the nemesis from 2007. Let's hope that Valencia repays Chelsea for that loss and moves o to the next stage. Valencia is coming off a great win against Espanyol on Saturday night.

Reason #4,213 Why I Do not Look Like One of those Hunks in the Magazines

My Sandwichera: A Love Story

Folks, all that I have to say is that if you don’t know what a sandwichera is already, continue reading at your peril. This is a small kitchen appliance (my goal is to collect them all!) that lets you toast a sandwich. Sure, lots of people have toasters but you have to toast the bread BEFORE you make the damn sandwich. That’s like nailing the board before you put it next to the thing you want to nail it to which is just crazy. Try living in that house or whatever the hell you were trying to build.  This is just like using a toaster if you are making a colossal sandwich. With a sandwichera you put the whole damn sandwich into the thing after you build it. Then you just sit back and wait for the sandwich items to fuse together. While you are waiting you can write a song about your sandwichera like I did.

Instead of worrying about my overall lack of hunkage I would rather spend my time trying to match various pork products with cheeses, mayonnaise, pesto, and bread.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Valencia Police Ticket 530 Cyclists in Three Days

It seems that the municipality of Valencia has begun to solve a thorny problem that never really existed in the first place: the fact that a few brave souls have decided to ride bikes in this city. Instead of thanking these people profusely for their effort to make the city cleaner, healthier,  and less of a traffic nightmare the city’s leaders have decided to punish cyclists by handing out over 530 heavy fines against bikers for such heinous acts as riding on the sidewalk and chaining their dormant bikes to trees or lamp posts. 

This recent police action here in Valencia is wrong on so many different levels that I hardly know where to start. Let me begin with this: Two Hundred Euros! Why not just shoot violators on sight? Are they out of their minds? 200€? How much is the fine for driving on the sidewalk? It’s probably less, assuming that it’s even against the law here to drive on the sidewalk. Police rarely ticket motorists here, for anything no matter how life-threatening it may be. 200€ seems such a horribly disproportionate fine for riding a bicycle on the sidewalk on in a public garden, some of which—like Viveros Gardens—have  paths wide enough for two lanes of traffic.  People have been cycling in this beautiful park for probably over 100 years yet now that activity is illegal and subject to a 200€ fine.

This reign of terror by local police seems like it has as its objective to stamp out cycling in Valencia once and for all. Cyclist are forbidden from locking their bikes to trees, lamp posts or any mobiliario urbano which means just about anything that isn’t specified for bike parking of which the city has graciously provided 4,000 around this city of over 800,000 inhabitants (as one civic leader pointed out in an interview).  Once again I ask what was the original problem they are hoping to solve by forbidding cyclists to chain their bikes to lamp posts? Does it somehow hinder their effectiveness? Do they shine less brightly with a bike locked to their bases?

Just think about the police man-hours spent writing 532 tickets. I would imagine that every one took at least 10 minutes from start to finish. Perhaps a lot more considering that most of the people being fined had no idea they were doing anything wrong and thus the police need to explain it to those sorry souls.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


fly back in time

Via cheap flights specialists -

Charity Auction to Buy Multi-Function Patient Monitor

Congenital Heart Defects UK is sponsoring an
Online Auction via Ebay
 in aid of
Wallace & Gromit's Grand Appeal (Charity Registration No. 1043603)
 to buy a Multi-Function Patient Monitor* for Bristol Children's Hospital.

The auction will end this Saturday (December 3). Buy some cool stuff and help out a great cause.

*A multi-function patient monitor is able to monitor heart and respiratory rate, blood pressure and oxygen saturation levels.

There is currently ONE multi-function patient monitor per FOUR patients; we aim to reduce to this with your help.

One multi-function patient monitor costs £5,000.00.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Moment of Absolute Brilliance from the 2010 World Cup Final

I will never get tired of watching this brilliant goal that won the World Cup in 2010 for Spain. Enjoy this video while you can because it will probably be take down soon because if copyright issues. The quality is as superb as the play on the pitch. A great moment in Spanish football and something I will ever forget. OK, it would be difficult for me to forget it because I lived in Spain during the Cup and watched every game. I also have this video on my desktop and I watch it almost every day.

Here is the same video on Vimeo:

Gol de Iniesta en final del Mundial 2010 from leftbanker on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ryanair Rules

Yes that is right! They do exist, Ryanair fans, and I am one of them. It is true that they have taken away all glamour of flying, and I also agree with people who compare Ryanair to Tequila (it brings out the worst in people), but the point is that Ryanair does a great job at rule number 1 in flying: bringing people from point A to point B cheap and fast.

My job forces me to travel a lot, and I estimate that I have taken about 200 ryanair flights over the last 10 years.  And I agree with the stats: 88% of all Ryanairflights land on time. It does not necessarily mean that they leave on time (the exaggerate flight times), and we only have Ryanair’s word on their punctuality (they are not a member or IATA), but all that does not bother me, I only care about rule number 1 in flying: getting fast and cheap from point A to point B.

Valencia airport, Thursday 17th of November: Ryanairflight 1919 between Valencia and Brussels Charleroi. We are queuing to board the plane and the stewardesses escort us to the stairs of the plane. At the very last moment, just before entering the plane the captain stops the boarding process because of a problem with the interior lightning of the plane, and after 15 minutes he decides that the plane was not in conditions to fly. What happened then was surreal… With any other airline this would have been the end of the trip, but not with Ryanair. The crew simply brought us to a different plane, we boarded, took off, and arrived in Brussels Charleroi with only 10 minutes delay!!

It was the most bizarre travel experience! And it raised a few questions such as “why was nobody using the other plane?”, “did the pilot have the keys?”, “they did not forget to load the luggages (and fuel) did they?”, etc. but it displayed again the no-nonsense approach of Ryanair. And… all the passengers were extremely satisfied. Ryanair scored twice that night: first they showed that a plane which is not 100% perfect does not fly, (even if the problem is only the interior lightning), and secondly they came up with an instant solution, ensuring even an almost on time landing.

Well done Ryanair! And the best moment of the evening occurred when we were walking from one plane to the other: We could hear a public announcement for the Iberia flight to Madrid: “Due to technical reasons the flight is delayed, more information in 50 minutes”. Eat this Iberia, and Spanair, and Brussels Airlines, and Air France, and all you other almost bankrupt airline monsters.

That is right folks, I love ryanair! And yes I know that I am challenging Murphy's law right now and that my next ryanair flight will probably crash into the Mediterranean. 
But just follow the basic guidelines for taking a Ryanair flight (see below), and I am sure that you will slowly change your mind about O’Leary and his unique Irish crew as well.



Guidelines for taking a Ryanair flight.

1.       If you have the choice book the earliest flight of the day. The earlier the flight the more probable an on time departure.
2.       Avoid luggage, and I mean, doing an extreme effort to avoid bringing more than 10kg to the airport, the maximum allowed as cabin luggage. Travelling without luggage is not only cheaper but it saves you the frustration of queuing at check-in. You print out the boarding pass at home, show up 45m before the flight and walk straight on the plane.
3.       If you do bring luggage to the airport, come early. Ryanair personnel open the check in counters pretty late so by that time a large queue of angry passengers will be there.
4.       Buy priority boarding. For only 5 euro you feel like a business class passenger and you save yourself the humiliating endless queue for the “other row” passengers.
5.       Switch off your brain. People tend to act nervous and strange when they have to fly, especially when they have to queue for a long time at check-in and boarding. And iPod does miracles in terms of not getting annoyed by other passengers.

El programa que se mofa de la gente de Benidorm gana un Emmy

'Benidorm Bastards', que el ayuntamiento quiso denunciar, se lleva el premio de mejor comedia

La adaptación televisiva de la popular trilogía literaria Millennium del sueco Stieg Larsson, se alzó ayer en Nueva York con un premio Emmy internacional en una de las categorías más codiciadas, la de mejor miniserie o película para televisión.

Los ganadores de la noche televisiva más internacional, presentada por Jason Prestley, fueron a parar a Chile, Bélgica, Canadá, Portugal, Suecia y Reino Unido.

Curiosamente, el premio a mejor comedia fue para el programa belga de cámara oculta Benidorm Bastards, que motivó en 2010 las quejas del ayuntamiento de este municipio valenciano.

El programa, tal como publicó Levante-EMV, emplea la cámara oculta para «dejar en evidencia» a habitantes y visitantes del turístico municipio, a los que somete a situaciones ridículas sin aviso. Sus víctimas más habituales son las personas mayores.

El consistorio expresó su protesta y amenazó con acciones legales, en especial, por el título del espacio, al considerar que tiene una proyección negativa de la ciudad por incluir el término «bastardos».

Por otra parte, España se fue de vacío de los premios, en los que por primera vez aparecía como candidata con el programa de humor El hormiguero, que presenta el valenciano Pablo Motos.

El productor del espacio, Jorge Salvador, señaló ayer que «sólo el hecho de estar en Nueva York es un sueño hecho realidad». The world's strictest parents de Twenty Television le arrebató el título de mejor programa sin guión a El hormiguero.
Como en anteriores ocasiones, las producciones de Reino Unido fueron las verdaderas triunfadoras de los premios.


Know Your Architect: #2 Santiago Calatrava

Santiago Calatrava is Valencia's and one of the world's most famous architects. He was born in 1951 in Benimàmet, an old municipality now integrated as an urban part of Valencia. He studied for his undergraduate architecture degree at the Polytechnic University of Valencia. Valencia is positively littered with his work and around the world his structures are probably the most easily-recognizable of any modern designer.

This video gives a good overview of his work around the world. Amazing and inspirational are a couple of adjectives that come quickly to mind.

If I had to pick my favorite among his vast body of architectural work I must lean towards his rail stations. Throughout history railway stations have been the doorway to municipalities and thus have sought to inspire a sense of awe in passengers. They are like a very powerful announcement to visitors that they are entering a grand and important city. Santiago Calatrava's stations practically knock the air out of your lungs.

A train arriving at Calatrava TGV station in Liege, Belgium.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Chinese Community in Spain

There’s a corner café near my house staffed by an older Chinese couple who work every day, all day, from about seven in the morning until ten or eleven at night. I have lived in this neighborhood for four years and they have never had a vacation unless their vacation coincided with one of my many holidays. I doubt this is the case because I have never been by this place when they weren’t working. The woman—who appears to be somewhere between 40 and 60—is about half bat-shit crazy from spending so much time locked up in her concentration camp disguised as a corner café with a pleasant terrace. This couple isn’t any sort of an exception as the absolute minimum work week for Chinese people here is six days a week. My question is this: who is forcing these people to literally work themselves to death (the woman doesn’t look good at all)?

There is no way that any person would work this much of their own volition. I just don’t fucking believe that. What I believe is that the Chinese hierarchy here in Valencia is making these people work. It is impossible not to notice the enormous wave of Chinese immigrants here in Spain, even in some of the smallest villages. They generally work in little variety stores that sell products manufactured in China. In the last couple of years, at least here in Valencia, the Chinese community has been buying up bars and restaurants at an alarming pace which certainly isn’t news to anyone who lives here. The Chinese community seems to be completely apart from the rest of Spanish society. Labor, health, security, and other laws don’t seem to affect them in the least.

I have said this before and I stand firmly behind this statement: the Chinese in Spain are not immigrants at all; they are economic colonists sent here by the Chinese government to sell Chinese manufactured goods and to earn hard currency for the Chinese mainland.  Think about it. If you are Chinese you can’t go to your local government and say, “You know, I think that I’d like to leave this shithole of a country and go live in Spain. Is that OK with you guys?” I doubt if an average slob can even get a passport in Spain let alone emigrate on his own accord. Therefore these “immigrants” are sent to Spain and that begs the question “Why?” I think that I answered that question in the first sentence of this paragraph.

Most of the Spanish people that I have talked to have very ambivalent feelings about the Chinese. On the one hand the Chinese cause no trouble and keep to themselves. And of course they work hard, not the most admirable trait as far as the holiday-loving Spanish are concerned. On the other hand the Chinese do not participate in any way in the quotidian life of this country other than performing their assigned tasks within their own community. Last year I was with a group of friends downtown for a fireworks display during Fallas, Valencia’s biggest and most important festival (in a country where it is impossible to exaggerate the importance of festivals). There were perhaps 120,000 people crowded into the main square. I challenged my friends to point out a single Chinese person in the crowd. Not one. Every other immigrant group was represented that day, South Americans of every stripe, black Africans, and even a few Pakistanis, but no Chinese. I have never seen a Chinese family at the beach. It’s rare to even see a Chinese person sitting in a café.

In my years here in Spain I have read only one or two articles about the Chinese community in the newspapers—and I read at least two Spanish papers every day(OK, I admit that perhaps I spent too much time in cafés).  No one seems to know anything about them or how their community functions.  I should point out that anything I put forth in this essay is purely speculation and strictly anecdotal.  From what people have told me there are very few Chinese students enrolled in the local universities and the few that you do see may very well be adopted children of Spanish families (about 100% of whom are girls—another story for another essay).  I would wager that the Chinese government does not want the children of “immigrants” to attend Spanish universities to pursue careers in this country. Their job is to continue working for the Chinese mainland, selling Chinese merchandise and earning money which is mostly sent back home.

The brilliant Canadian economist and polymath, John Ralston Saul has stated that China doesn’t believe in globalization. They aren’t interested in free trade; they only care about selling their products around the world. Spain’s Chinese population certainly backs this point.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Rayo Vallecano vs Valencia CF 18:00

 Madrid club Rayo Vallecano finished in second position last season in the second division and returned to La Liga after an eight-year absence. After 13 games the team has 16 points placing it firmly in the middle of the brutal competition of Spanish football. Valencia is coming off a 7-0 victory over Genk in Champions League play and the club is looking to hold on to their third position in La Liga. This definitely won't be a walk in the park for Valencia CF.

VIDEO: how does Globexs work?