27 June 2008

vamos al final!

last night the spanish football team qualified for the finals of the 2008 eurocup, to be played sunday against germany. they beat russia in a 3-0 blowout to advance.

i'm not much of a soccer fan, but i do like big quick tournaments. this one lasts under a month from start to finish. i also like international competitions. in europe this happens all the time, but we americans like our sports confined to our stateside teams, occasionally letting canada play along. usually it's only during the olympic games that we get a chance to feel national pride for our athletes.

nothing beats being in a country whose team has just won a big match -- the excitement pours out from the houses and bars into the street: a palpable buzz that builds to a frenzy. flags are waved, crowds veer on becoming mobs, pure joy momentarily approaches complete chaos. last night horns were blaring and people were laughing and shouting in the street well into the night. and this was just the semifinal.

two years ago while watching the world cup, i remember watching the tv and hearing the rattle of the spanish announcers, seeing players running across the field, understanding very little. last night i noticed that just as words have emerged from the chatter and i can now follow the commentary, the movements on the field are also distilled, clearer. i see offense and defense, the strategy of certain plays, the advantages of certain players. i am becoming more fluent in this sport.

the moment your team qualifies for a final is a bittersweet one; you feel the unbridled release of accomplishment, yet you can't help but nervously anticipate the next game. i don't know enough about soccer to predict anything, but i'm told that germany is a tough team. i'm going to just be optimistic and believe those who tell me that just making it to the finals is good enough. we'll see on sunday.

24 June 2008

the lightness of tech failure

my laptop has been on the brink for almost a year now. it functions for about ten minutes at a time, then needs a ten minute rest. forget streaming anything, photoshop, playing music or running more than one program at once. my patience has been tested to its utmost limits by this little machine -- i frequently dream of throwing it off my terrace. i think when i finally get a new one, i will reward myself by doing just that. it will feel so good.

today my external drive decided to join the rebellion. clicking and beeping, it gives me the finger while holding all my photos and music hostage. all my music? well, just what i have managed to collect since i last lost all my music in october. did i mention my digital camera is broken? my room, a frequent death zone for houseplants is now fatal for electronic devices as well. be warned cell phone. you're not that far away electric toothbrush. toaster, i would keep my distance.

somehow i am less devastated by the prospect of losing all this personal data...bits and bytes...than feels warranted. maybe the upside of having your photos and music stored digitally and so easily vanished is that they are not really irreplaceable in the way that a photo album or record collection is. i can get that music back. friends must have the photos stored elsewhere.

i like to travel light, to live light as well. i try to keep my possessions few; i like the idea of packing them all into a couple of suitcases and being mobile with all my belongings. i am constantly giving things away, paring down, never holding onto ticket stubs or trinkets for sentimental value, eliminating clutter. so maybe i need to live my digital life the same way: reduce my exposure. when i recover all my photos somehow, i need to just choose the best ones and store them online somewhere. something similar should happen with my music, although i'm not sure how that will work.

i need to travel lightly. i'll look at this now-useless beeping clicking box on my desk and remember to change my ways.

11 June 2008

obama mundial

today thomas friedman writes in the new york times about egyptians' positive reaction to the election of obama as presidential candidate. this type of thing is a double-edged sword, making me smile and making me nervous at the same time. yes, friedman claims that egyptians "know...that if America — despite being attacked by muslim militants on 9/11 — were to elect as its president some guy with the middle name “hussein,” it would mark a sea change in america-muslim world relations." great. a sea change. let's hope.

but i can't help but worry that obama is viewed similarly within our own borders: as some guy with the middle name "hussein." i hate to distrust my fellow americans, but i know there are those who see acceptance of, even excitement about, obama in the middle east as a red flag.

i can say that from my corner of the world there is similar enthusiasm about obama. a student of mine said the other day "america is a great country. sometimes they make us hate them, but sometimes they do something that is inspiring to the rest of the world." a black person could never get elected in spain, or in most of europe for that matter. they will look at us and see that it is possible.

friedman voiced a similar sentiment: "But every once in a while, America does something so radical, so out of the ordinary...that it revives America’s revolutionary 'brand' overseas in a way that no diplomat could have designed or planned."people are impressed with us, that we elected a black man; and if we can successfully eject bush's party from the white house they'll be even more impressed.

i'm ready to be the type of america that impresses rather than disgusts people with our choices. although this american "brand" isn't something i believe in too strongly, it obviously carries weight in the world -- they are all following our election, after all. i would say that people, at least in spain, feel less hatred than disappointment in america. i would love nothing more than to begin to turn that around.

06 June 2008

i better have a good book....

this is how i will get from madrid to new york

july 4 - madrid to pamplona via car, bus or train: 4 hours
july 4-7 - run with bulls in pamplona
july 7 - train from pamplona to hendaya: 2.5 hours
layover in hendaya: 1 hour
night train from hendaya to paris: 9 hours
july 8 - paris austerlitz to charles de gaulle airport via metro and train: 2 hours. please, no strikes!
paris to frankfurt: 1 hour
layover in frankfurt: 1.5 hours
flight to new york: 9 hours

total trip from pamplona to new york: 27 hours, 4 connections, wish me luck!!