Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Copa del Rey 2014 Barça-Real Madrid


Tonight @21:30 Final Copa del Rey in Valencia:
 FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid 

11,000 Madrid fans arrive by the AVE high-speed rail, 4,000 from Barcelona on the Euromed line and tens of thousands more in cars.
Every policeman within 50 kilometers on duty; every bar in Valencia fighting off the crowds.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Sunday in Hell

This is recent film of the race and not A Sunday in Hell.

I may have taken this film a little too much to heart as I destroyed my rear wheel the other day on a tough ride over some bad roads. Of course, this never would have happened if I had bought a 29er (29 inch wheel mountain bike) to replace my old steed. The bigger wheels distribute the weight of the ride better...or maybe the weight of the rider was too much for the old wheel? I'm trimmer now and anxiously waiting to rack up some serious kilometers during my Easter break.

Friday, April 04, 2014

What Most Americans Don’t Know about Europe

I watched an older episode of Vice (HBO) about some political demonstrations in Spain and Greece and had I not known better I would have been led to believe that these two countries were on the verge of total anarchy. In one segment of the pseudo-documentary a group of Spanish anarchists were—as the filmmakers stated—about to “shut the country down.” First of all, the protests they were referring to lasted perhaps three days here in Spain and concerned a very small segment of the population and affected a very small part of the country. Secondly, these teenage anarchists probably wouldn’t have acted as destructively as they did had they not had an American film crew following them around. Even so, their attempt to “shut the country down” consisted of nothing more than graffiti and petty vandalism. And finally, things are not that bad in Europe. In fact, for most people life is damn good.

Sure, Spain now suffers from a very high rate of unemployment at something like 23%, levels we saw in America during the Great Depression. Things are tough for a lot of people here but there are a number of important factors to consider. These unemployment numbers reflect a huge age differential as young people are not working at rates as high as 44%. This sucks for the youth of the country but you also have to keep in mind that they mostly live at home. This means that they have a place to live, food, and some amount of money. What you don’t see in Spain are legions of homeless and desperate people sleeping in doorways, like you do in most big American cities today so imagine if we had Spain’s unemployment numbers.

Along with this there is a huge black market economy in Spain as people do everything and anything they can to make money and a lot of it isn’t reported in government statistics. I would estimate the black economy in Greece is ten times what it is here in Spain as Greeks are famous for avoiding government oversight and thus taxes.

I’m in no way saying that these countries don’t have a lot of problems but the situation here is hardly the chaos that many conservatives in America would like you to believe. An Ikea is soon to open up near Valencia and there were a reported 8,000 applicants vying for a little over 200 jobs so, yes, unemployment is a huge problem and especially so in the Valencia Community. This problem has not caused any major problems in political stability—at least not yet. It even looks like things are improving in the jobs sector. It is also important to point out that Spain and the rest of European Union haven’t tried to completely dismantle their security nets for the less fortunate as we have done in the USA. It is also important to stress that this global economic crisis wasn’t brought on by socialism; it was unbridled capitalism (if that’s how you would describe our banking sector).

American conservatives love to point to Europe as an example of how socialism has failed. What conservatives rarely note is that the European economic crisis was brought on a collapse of the baking sector as countries adopted American banking and mortgage policies that led to the American financial meltdown of 2008. Spain had almost no problem with its internal debt before 2008, ditto this with Greece. This is another of the inconvenient truths that American conservatives avoid at all costs.

In fact, American conservatives used the financial crisis brought on by Wall Street to attack social welfare programs in the USA, as if they had anything at all to do with the precipitous fall in real estate values in the US and Europe. But what do you expect from a group that is all too accustomed to smashing anything to bits in order to make it fit their completely ridiculous narrative?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

El Ascensor and the Importance of not Being Petty

A lot of people would be positively thrilled to have one of these marvels in their building. I lived without a lift for two years in a third floor apartment. No big deal but I had to be extra-careful going up and down the stairs with my bike so that I didn’t scuff up the walls. I live on the fourth floor in my new building and it has a lift although I rarely use it. I’m trying to get into the best shape possible and a few stairs every day can't hurt towards that end.

I never take it down, or almost never. I almost never take it up. If there is someone else waiting or someone just behind me when I enter the lobby I always just hump up the stairs and leave it for my neighbors. The lift doesn’t have memory so it just goes up or down and won’t stop at multiple floors to collect people so if it’s going down from the ninth floor and you live on the eighth you have to wait until it goes all the way to the bottom and then comes back up to collect you. Even when I really want to use the elevator I almost never do because I can’t stand waiting. When I take my bike out of the apartment (2-7 days a week) I usually wait for the lift although sometimes I don’t. The stairwell in this building is nice and wide so carrying a bike is fairly easy and quite often I just can’t be bothered with the wait.

I was taking out my trash and recyclables yesterday so I called for the lift and when I entered there was a note inside. It asked that the residents of the fourth floor (little old me as the unit across the hall is vacant) please make sure the door to the lift is closed because twice now it was stuck on the 4th floor and there are elderly people in the building who need to use it. By “twice” I’m sure they meant “once” because posting a nasty-gram in the elevator for only one transgression would just be petty, wouldn’t it? I had some friends come by and it was probably they who left the door to the lift ajar and thus instigated the shitstorm in my building.

I’d be willing to wager a lot of money that the fourth floor uses the lift considerably less—like 99% less—than any other floor in the building, including the lazy slobs on the first who use it constantly (I know because I pass them when I am on the stairs as they are waiting for it to collect their sedentary asses). Now I’m the asshole who left the door open instead of the cool guy who always takes the stairs and leaves the elevator for his neighbors. It almost makes me want to stop my health kick and hog up the lift like everyone else.

But that would be petty. Petty is a great word and doesn’t truly translate into Spanish. I like to explain this word to people, some of whom speak great English but don’t know this gem in our vocabulary. I’ve actually had to write my own definition because I have found dictionaries to be inadequate and imprecise. Petty: mean or ungenerous in small or trifling things and a person who worries about not-shit* stuff and who therefore usually places little or no importance on things worth contemplation. I try never to be petty. The older I get the less tolerance I have for pettiness and I ban it from my life like a bad habit (and it is a bad habit for some). I can’t even imagine how many times the lift would have to be stuck on a neighbor’s floor before I would be compelled to put up a note.

*of little or no importance