Monday, January 31, 2011

Leigh

One of my best friends in the world, and one of the kindest human beings I have ever had the pleasure to know has made a video with his new webcam. I think to truly enjoy it you need to understand that Leigh is a living sound machine ala Bobby Mcferron, the best actor in Vermont, can bench press a mountain, knock out The Hulk with one punch, and a singer who is frequently asked onstage by other groups when he is in the crowd.

This is him being silly.

http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DJfgp4fjZh20&h=1cdd3

Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lanzarote Part 1

Having spent three months in Vermont for the wedding and returning to Madrid in September, it felt odd to plan a trip home in early December for the holidays. Didn’t we just get back to Madrid? Plus, getting the paperwork to get the little dog back into the states , the stress on him having to travel again, and the massive expense of flying made us decide to stay in Madrid this holiday season. Sort of.


Wendy is a certified diver and I have wanted to become one so we could dive together. So, we're going on Holiday shortly after Christmas.

We found a nice veterinary service that also has kennels and will pick Thor up so we don’t have to crate him up and put him in a taxi. Having gained five pounds in his short time with us, we tell him he’s going to fat camp. There won’t be any leftovers for you.


In the days leading up to our trip I take the PADI online course so I won’t have any classwork when I get to Lanzarote, I’ll just have to do the diving with an instructor. We have a stressless flight and take a cab to our apartment that we are renting. On the way there we see a volcanic landscape that is awe inspiring. As we unload, there is a herd of kids outside sitting on the walls to the entrance and giggling and chasing each other. Our door is ten feet away from them. Great.


This should be nice and quiet.

As happens to us a lot for some reason, we have been given an “upgrade” to the wrong room; A room with an extra bedroom and a smaller living room. Wendy calls up the managing company and a guy shows us the room we had originally booked. Much better view, further away from the noisy kids, bigger living room/kitchen.


A dog is barking wildly.

Wendy and I settle in, unpack, then decide to explore our area a bit. On the way out we can hear the wildly barking dog that has been abandoned in the apartment next to the first one we were assigned. One side kids – other side – crazy dog. So glad we didn’t stay in that room.

Lanzarote is very interesting. Only 125 kilometers off the coast of Africa but 1000 kilometers from Spain but it is a Spanish territory. It is one of a group of islands known as the Canaries. From 1730 to 1736 (for 2,053 days), the island was hit by a series of volcanic eruptions, creating 32 new volcanoes in a stretch of 18 km. This was a time when the island was well populated and the people lived in fear almost every day for six years. Eleven villages were covered in lava and a quarter of the island ended up being covered in lava. Today, it makes for a fascinating landscape. When you’re not looking at lava or driving through small towns, you’re looking at the crashing surf of the Atlantic.


Today it is a favorite vacation spot for Spaniards, the English and the Germans. We make our way down to the coast in three minutes and find a nice bar right on the water and get a beer and people watch. Bar Playa will become a favorite of ours. At high tide the waves crash against the rocks and even over the sides of the concrete dock/wharf that the restaurant is built on sometimes soaking your feet or a bag you have left on the ground. This is also the place where most scuba divers enter the water with steps built into the concrete with metal railings leading down into the ocean. It’s also the place where the fisherman come, boats pick up divers or take them para-sailing or shuttle them out to the jet skis you can rent. All of this takes place in space about ten meters long. The bar is five meters away from all this activity with an outdoor terrace. .

As the days go on, it strikes me as odd, especially as a diver, to have all these activities going on in one place. I keep thinking when I surface I’m going to be hit by a propeller, snagged by a fishhook or a kid is going to be doing a cannonball into the water and land on me.

Let the newest adventure begin.


Embracing the waves that I love so much.



After embracing the waves. :-)



The view from Bar Playa on a windy day.




Bar Playa terrace. Click the pictures for a larger view then click your back button.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Social Network

The Social Network is incredibly insightful. I use Facebook every day and found the history behind it to be something well away from what I expected. I had read profiles on Mark Zuckerberg in Time and thought I had a general overall knowledge of him. This movie shows me how wrong I was.

Wendy and I started the movie thinking it was a documentary and were surprised to find that it was not, but a well done movie based on a true story.
Like others, I was sucked into Facebook by a friend. He had posted pictures of his new girlfriend and the only way I could see them was to sign onto the site. Having seen MySpace pages of friends, and hating them, I knew it wasn’t something I was going to get into. And yet, I did. See, as one “Time” article pointed out- Facebook is for old people.
Using Facebook I was able to reconnect with old classmates both from high school and college that I had failed to keep contact with. I would sometimes think “I wonder whatever happened to…” or, I would see someone in town that I knew from decades ago, say hello, chat a little bit, promise to stay in touch and know we wouldn’t but still wonder “How did they get where they are today? Do they like their job? What’s their political interest? Does she religiously watch The Real Housewives of Podunk, Illinois like I do?”
While I’m sure Facebook is fun for people in high school or college, it can’t hold a candle to the experience that Facebook gives us old folks. Who are you going to reconnect with when you’re in high school? Your best friends you see every day?
“Your status update: Going to the game tonight, anyone else?”
Pretty sure you can find that out by asking them during school…
While we both really enjoyed the movie, it could have also been called “Bill Gates Version II.” The storyline is almost identical. Socially awkward but brilliant geek “invents” something that makes him a billionaire. I use quotes around invents because it’s the exact same thing Bill Gates did, with the same type of personality. He took something that already existed (MySpace, Friendster) and improved on it immensely. He made it simpler to set up, to use and added important features other sites lacked. (Which is what Bill gates did with Dos, the mouse, and Windows.)
Brilliant!
The story revolves around the initial idea for Facebook, the lawsuit from three fellow Harvard students that gave him the idea for Facebook to begin with, and Mark Zuckerberg’s baffling betrayal of one of his best friends. It also includes the standard Geek + Money = Easy Girls + Drugs + Minor Trouble With Police. Also identical to the Bill Gates story. Or say, anyone who comes into a lot of money suddenly.
I would recommend this movie to anyone, and, especially to anyone who uses Facebook. You’ll still use Facebook, but you’ll feel a little ickier doing it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Black Swan

Spoiler warning – I am going to talk about what happens throughout the whole film.

Wendy has wanted to see Black Swan for a while and we finally saw it last night. I know it got good reviews but what I knew of the plot (almost nothing) didn’t intrigue me. About thirty minutes in, I was captured. The only thing that bothered me was the only expressions on Natalie Portman’s face were “vulnerable” and “frightened.” Surely there has to be more to it than that. We took a break to put the little dog out and it all came together for me. “Oh, she’s the white swan.” Duh.

I looked forward to seeing her gain some control, become independent from her mom, explore her sensual side, gain some confidence, freedom and master the role of the black swan. I eagerly awaited the rest of the movie.

None of that happens.

Instead, things happen to her, not by her. She does defy her mother but any other experiences she have come from a drug induced haze by her friend (Mila Kunis) slipping something into her drink. From here the movie takes a turn for the weird. It reminded me of American Psycho where we are shown scenes that are supposedly happening to the protagonist, but none of it is real.

Black Swan goes there.

She brings her friend back to the apartment and they have a lesbian scene.

She gets up late in the morning and her friend is gone. When she sees her, Mila tells her she never came home with her and says “Did you have a lesbian fantasy about me? I hope I was good.”

It becomes one crazy scene after another that turns out not to be reality. She fights with Mila in her dressing room and kills her with a piece of mirror. She hides the body in a closet. Between acts she comes back to her dressing room and blood is pooling outside the closet door so she covers it with a blanket. Someone knocks on her door, she opens it to find Mila there saying she did a fantastic job.

She lifts up the blanket and there is no blood.

What could have been an interesting movie about the awakening of a sheltered and driven girl turns into an acid trip.

You never know what’s real or fake and after about the fifth scene of this, you no longer care.

The only thing that was good about the movie was Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis. Natalie Portman is always great but seeing “That 70’s Show” little Mila Kunis as this wild sexy vamp was just amazing. She did a fantastic job and made me a fan.

The movie however, is not recommended

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Doomslayer!

I believe in dispelling myths that people willfully believe because they like to be terrified or think the worst of the world.

There are two going around now, claiming that some additives in Chicken McNuggets can kill you if you consume too many of them in a week. This has already been debunked and shows the additives referenced would require you to eat 1000 McNuggets in one sitting to get the horrible effects claimed in the article. By then, the amount of salt in the McNuggets would have already killed you.

The second myth going around is that McDonald's hamburgers don't rot and one teacher has been showing her students and doing demonstrations proving it with a 14 year old burger.

Using the scientific method, this article debunks/explains those claims:

http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2010/11/the-burger-lab-revisiting-the-myth-of-the-12-year-old-burger-testing-results.html

Thursday, January 13, 2011

And we're back!

Sorry for the lack of updates. Wendy and I took a little vacation.

We are back safe and sound and continue to marvel at our good luck in traveling. There was an air traffic controllers strike here right around the holidays that was resolved before we left, had good weather for flying, no layovers. We flew budget airlines “Ryanair” and we know they do not have assigned seats but do have “priority boarding” for four additional Euros. So when they announce the flight, 200 people line up, Wendy and I walk to the front of the line and get on first. Anyone can do it, but either people don’t know about it or don’t care. Standing in line for an hour is not our idea of a good time.

We had a great vacation. I am now a certified scuba diver and am allowed to dive anywhere in the world up to 18 meters (although if a dive is 22-24 the dive master usually fudges the numbers a little.) I had a wonderful instructor and I did four dives in the ocean with her to learn skills like what happens if you lose your regulator (air supply that goes into your mouth), how to take off and put on your mask underwater and clear it with oxygen, controlling your buoyancy using your vest so you’re not sinking or rising at different depths, etc. Very intense. Wendy and I then did three more dives with her just for sightseeing underwater. We saw some great stuff including an Angel Shark and a huge Ray as well as huge schools of fish, cuttlefish, an octopus, sea anemone, etc.

We went to Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands that had massive eruptions in the 17th and 18th century so lots of great scenery and places to visit as well as great weather the whole time.

I believe my next series of posts will be a detailed description of the trip spanning many days. Maybe even with pictures.