Sunday, February 28, 2010

Auditory multitasking.

JG put up a reading challenge that she is going to do.  It is called the 50 book challenge. Stunningly you have to read 50 books in a year.  Should be do-able!  I'm in.

One thing I have been discovering about having the podcasts is the odd things that it does to your head.  I find that I am not able to listen to it and hear another conversation.  It is the relentless nature of the podcast. Naturally, it refuses to respond to any distractions I may be enduring and doggedly continues onward.  It also has, like the devil in those medieval paintings, the advantage of perching on my shoulder and whispering in my ear.

That's one aspect.

Another is that it affects your hearing.  I never go around with both earphones in as I want to be able to hear ambient sound around me, but something odd happens when I do this, and there is essentially a form of auditory multitasking I am calling on my brain to perform which it is startlingly ill-equiped to deal with.

Thinking about it we almost never have auditory imput that is both exclusive and different for each ear.  Our brains are not meant to handle this.  I get an odd feeling in my head when it happens.  More so that when two people are talking to me simultaneously.  Closer to the sensation I get when two people are talking to me, one in English and one it Catalan.  You can pretty much see the processors overheating when that happens.  This is even odder.

Another oddity is the near complete loss of the ability to locate sounds in space.  We were at Cosmo Caixa this weekend and there were some auditory experiments using stereo headphones. One of them was the sound of someone shaking a box of matches and you could trace where they were all around you, over and behind you, even down low on the floor behind your chair.  Quite amazing.

With one headphone in?  Gone.  This, I believe is not exclusive to the speech nature of the imput but would occur equally if I were listening to music.

Finally was a weird and quirky bit of distortion I got the other morning.  I was walking along quite early with the dog when I was utterly certain that I heard a very young baby cry out.  You know that cry that babies have in the first few weeks/two months?  That one.  I was in a little park and I had a really good look around, and not surprisingly did not come across an abandoned baby.  (Thank goodness)  Then I heard it again.  I still could not locate it in space at all.  This was a baby calling out.  I looked over at a sign that was attached to a metal barrier with electrical ties and which was blowing in the wind as the likely culprit so I watched it while waiting for the sound again.  Heard it again, and even looking at the sign, I was not sure where the sound came from.

After this I stopped the podcast and removed the headset.  Then I waited again.  I briefly debated going home, there was clearly no abandoned baby there, but the fact that it sounded like such a young child drove me to remain till I was 100% sure what the sound was.  Once the headphones were off I easily identified it as the sign moving, but was quite surprised to discover that it did not sound much like a baby crying at all when I had both earphones off.

This distortion to the sound was what I found most interesting.  I think I should have been some kind of neurologist, because I would love to know what was going on in my head at that point.  What weird quirk was distorting the noise to the point that I could not only not distinguish its location, but I was also quite unclear about the nature of the sound.

It will be interesting to see if I become a more skilled auditory listener under the onslaught of experience or if I just mess with my head.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cosmo Caixa

After getting Eldest's hair stylishly cut last night, we went into Cosmo Caixa today.  I adore the place.  We all do.  Youngest even mentioned that it makes her sad to leave.  It is an amazing place.  Right now they have a (very small) display on about Darwin, including some objects that he collected with his own hands, which is pretty cool when you think about it.

Below is the pattern from the shell/carapce/? of an ancient giant armadillo.  You have to like the flower patterns, no?

They also have a -simulated of course- rainforest, complete with underwater viewing.  This fish is every bit as enormous as it seems in the photo.

This little fellow came fluttering and peeping over to us, I believe that he was enamoured with the man's bright yellow-green runners....

Hmmm, the capybara photo doesn't seem to have made it.  Looked a bit like Chuck on a bad hair day.  From the right angle.  He's got just a few pounds on him.

The little guy below was in the same cage with him though...I like his light blue chest offset by the lovely green beak, no?

Believe it or not, those big brownish looking old dust rags are flowers!

Sea horse.  What can I say, they had a tank of sea horses. I was good and I am only posting three photos.

Hard to have too many photos of sea horses, especially when they are holding tails.

See 'em hiding there?

They had a live nautilus!!!!!  How cool is that?  Sadly we didn't see it swim which would have been super cool, but it was just amazing to see one at all.

Fish.  I love them, must go back to the days in the Bahamas with all the snorkelling.

Wouldn't it be amazing if we were all see-through?  No X-rays anyway.

We had a lovely time.


Friday, February 26, 2010


Live blogging the women's hockey final. CTV, bless them, is live streaming it.  I have to download a windows product into my Mac to do it though. Not too happy about that.

Now I just can't get in!!!!!

12:39am I can get the score board on the top.  This will not make for a great game.

12:44 All I can do is read the stats.  We've had two shots on goal and they have a hooking penalty.

12:45, now they have a shot on goal.  This is not a fun way to watch hockey.

12:47, we've got three shots on goal and I am going over to an American station to see if I can watch.

12:50. The Americans are only going to live stream the men's game.  Rage!!!!

12:52  CBC has a chat!  I'm supposed to be happy chatting about the game!?!?!?!

12:54  I hate the IOC.  Look what MSNBC had on their site:

Due to Olympic broadcasting regulations, NBC is only allowed to show Olympic competition video on the internet to users in the United States and U.S. Territories (including Puerto Rico). Users outside of those locations will still have access to an extensive set of non-event video content on including the video listed below.

12:55!!! WE SCOOOOORRRRRRED!!!!!!!!

This is so sad.  So pathetic just looking at the scoreboard.

12:57.  I am not sure I can stay up till 3 am watching a score board though.  Just a little too pathetic.

1:03 I'm going to bed.


on too little sleep, 

We WOOOONNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Soup soup soup soup and bannock.

I baked bannock today on the stove top with lots and lots of oil. One could almost say that I deep fried bannock today on the stove top.  I had intended to include a picture of it, but we ate it too fast.

Mmichele had a photo up of a bannock that see had seen cooked, and it is BIG.  That was part of the inspiration.  I used to make bannock quite a lot, especially on the boat.  Every single member of my family adores it.  Me too.

I also made it because we've been eating a lot of cabbage and beans.  Cabbage and beans can have a rather drastic impact on one's digestive system.  I am accustomed to eating a fair amount of both items, but the man has (to our delight) been making this killer-good soup.  Cabbage and beans and potatoes.  I almost feel Polish.

It is very very very tasty.  Because we don't have a fridge, things have to be eaten up or they go off.  The man has been making really big pots of soup.  I have been eating soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a couple of days.  This has been making my life a wee bit awkward.  Ya see, I teach.  The classes are small and not terribly well ventilated.  Yesterday I had six hours of back-to-back classes.   The only bathroom is permanently occupied between classes, has a very thin wooden door and an open transom window above it.  There is not a lot of auditory privacy from the masses of students lined up in the narrow hallway outside the loo.

All this means that I have no way to relieve my distress.  Shall we say.

I opted out of soup this morning at breakfast.  Much better.  When faced with the soup again at lunch today I made bannock.  The man was faintly offended.  I was forced to explain my issue with his utterly delicious soup.  Then I ate my bannock.

Here's hoping for a peaceful evening.

And soup for dinner.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Oh, by the way....

Today had a grand surprise in it.

I was at work, tooling away doing my thing.  Indeed I was working away at the computer when one of the women I work with mentioned that she was getting married today.

'Yeah yeah yeah' I said.

'No, really!  I'm getting married today!'  She's in her early 50's divorced with two adult kids and a long time partner.

I turn around, 'your kidding me!'

'No!  I'm getting married today!'

NO WAY!!!!!!!!

Yes way.  It was very cool.  She wasn't infact getting married, the Catalans have an intermediate stage which I suppose is like a formalised common-law status, but you do have to go down to the town hall and sign a paper and register.  She's trying to be all cool about this, but they did decide to wait till her husband's birthday, and she did mention it to me.  And looked kind of pleased.

So I mention it to another woman and word spreads.  Later, about half an hour before we go for lunch, I hear great shrieking and laughing.  This happens often enough that it is not worth going to investigate, sort of a normal state of the place.  My bud comes back and mentions that one of the women wanted to go to the town hall and throw rice at them as the come out.  Sadly we were banned.

She wouldn't even let us go to the hall, even if we promised not to bring rice.

Fine, fine, fine.

She packed up and left a few minutes early, we all wished her well from where we were working and off she went.  I gave her long enough to get around the corner - maybe 45 seconds - and tore down to the other office where everyone else was working.  Said we had to go and at least shake their hands as they came out.  Delighted hope on all faces.  I said we had too.  We stormed out of there so fast the papers were spinning off the tables in the turbulence.  One woman, in three inch heels took off running through town in search of flowers, and got some!  Another woman and I went off towards the town hall, walking slowly so that they would be inside when we got there.  As we crested the hill we saw her sitting on the church steps in the sun waiting.  We tried to run for it, but she'd spotted us.  When we got there she was still talking to her partner on the cell phone and made some funny derogatory comments about us, called us 'bledes' which are chards.  Used for silly women.

He showed up a bit later, as did the woman with the flowers, and youngest who happened to be going by.

We were banned from going in to the town hall by the happy couple.  We asked if we could stand outside the glass doors while they signed.  OK.

I kept sticking my mobile in through the doors to take photos and it makes a REALLY loud clicking noise, so they kept turning around and catching me.  Finally the people who work there waved us in.  (Small town, I know half of them anyway) and invited me around to take their picture from the front.  Then urged me to go further in.  Finally one of the guys there got out a camera and took all of our pictures.

Then we went to lunch.

It was delightful and hilarious and good fun.

The fellow at the town hall had already sent the photos by the time we got back from lunch.  When I got to work the 'bride' saw me coming and ran down the hall laughing to drag me in and see them.  Then another person spent part of the evening photoshopping them a bit.

What a delight.


So glad they don't hate us for it too.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Help and amazement

At the risk of alienating every last one of you, today is utterly beautiful here.  I am sitting outside on the balcony typing in the sun.  The sea is blue and shining and ruffled by the wind.

Strangely it seems to be making the locals a little hostile.  I commented on the beauty of the day to everyone at work and got responses along the lines of, "I hate winter".  Well, me too, but this ain't winter honeys.  I wonder if they had been outside yet that day.

Then, when I was walking home revelling in the sunshine and gentle breeze carrying my scarf and without a jacket, a woman walked past me going the other way.  She was well bundled up.  She snapped at me, in a quite aggressive tone of voice, "Well.  For Some of us it's a cold day, and for some of us it's warm."  She had that huffy tone of voice one associates with obnoxious old ladies.

Not sure what it is that's setting them all off.  I'm happy as a pig in mud, or a Canadian in the warmth!

On another note I need some help.  One of my adult students - a woman - is suffering from depression but wants to read in English.  This, I think is a good thing, but it leads to some difficult title selection.  She needs an upbeat book, with a lot of dialogue (it is much easier to understand) and without too much difficult vocabulary.  She also wants a book where things happen, where there is some action, not purely an interpersonal tension and resolution of tension.

Ideas anyone?


NB, eldest just came home and seems also to have been poisoned with bitterness and ennui by this spectacular weather.

Ungrateful and weird.  No?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Popcorn phones

Gonna have to try this, the trick is getting enough phones together.


Sunday, February 21, 2010



Am I the only one who feels this way?  I love catalogues, I always have. Even though I grew up in the city we used to get the Sears catalogue, goodness I enjoyed going through that.  Then there is the Ikea catalogue, an LLBean catalogue came through the door, goodness knows how that happened.

Marine catalogues, what a joy, especially the more esoteric ones.  We have a catalogue on the boat from a company that makes fasteners, you know, carriage bolts, machine screws, silicon bronze, brass, 16/10 stainless steel....I am a font of infrequently discovered atypical in a woman information.  It was a great catalogue.  Marine plumbing, you name it, I love it.

I am so glad that I don't get catalogues from art supply companies, and book catalogues, never seen one.  I even like going through the catalogues for teacher's books and those are pretty darned dry if you ask me.

There is something about it, for me anyway, the sense of potential, what could be, yet still a sense of mystery because you cannot actually handle the items, so you don't notice their flaws, there is that delightful feeling that everything in the book is wonderful.

Of course one must be realistic once it comes time to order, yet....there is that time when it all seems so grand.

On line, somehow it isn't quite the same, something about having the book in your had lends to the magic of it all...

Another time I'll tell you about the Fuller brush man who used to come to our house.  He had the neatest box full of tidily tucked away treasures.

Another time.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Why were they doing that and where did they get that thing.

The other day I was going into BCN in the morning.  A normal kind of trip, early, rush hour.  Not something I have to do often thankfully, but normal.

As we were getting onto one of the main roads, we stopped.  So did everyone behind us (a good thing) and everyone ahead of us was stopped for some distance.

There was a cop car up ahead stopping the entire line of traffic.

A little weird.

Finally he let us all go on and join the mass of congestion further up.  Everyone started craning their necks trying to figure out what the heck was going on.  As we approached the bottle neck, we discovered that it was entirely intentional.  There was a whole series of cop cars parked across the road reducing traffic to a very slow crawl.

The cops were the Guardia Civil.  Serious cops, honestly, scary cops.

They had machine guns, and they were eyeing the passengers in every car.  One might be forgiven for wondering who they were looking for.  EVERYONE was on their cell phone talking to someone, asking them to turn on the news and find out what was going on.

This was all kind of creepy, and then we went past the last car which was parked perpendicular to the regular flow of traffic.  Behind that car was a big big cop.  In his had he held a chain, and the chain was laid out behind him on the ground, about 20 feet of it or so.  This was not like any chain I have ever seen.  Shiny fresh bright silver and studded with those spiked balls you see in medieval warfare, maces or more specifically morningstars they're called, or like giant coltrops which were used to stud the road and stop horses.  Like this, but smaller.

(Image from the wiki page)

Clearly, attempting to speed through the check point would not be a good idea.  Everyone gasped at the site of that.  Never seen anything like it in my life.

Still wondering what it was all about.  Doubt I'll find out though.  Sort of like the drug take-down I ended up stuck amongst (sort of) last summer.

You never do get the whole story.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Water water water......

I am starting to think that we are going to have to start building an arc or something over here.  The most stupendous amount of rain the last couple of nights.  Today's canvas a day project faced unusual difficulties as the lights kept going out on us and so it is alternately painted by candlelight, overhead flourescent and headlamp.  I am kind of fond of the headlamp, brings me back to the days on the boat.


The internet also keeps going out on us.  Makes me realise how much more isolated I would feel without it.

A woman I know was woken up last night at 2am by four rather lovely looking firemen knocking on her door.  Apparently her downspouts had broken and a kindly neighbour had phoned the fire department to tell her that her ground floor was flooding terribly.  Many of the houses here have fully enclosed back patios that have walls and buildings up either sides.  If the downspout breaks that is draining the roof, your back patio rapidly begins to think that it is a swimming pool.  Add that to the cat flap that she has....

When she left for a meeting this morning that she simply could not skip, she left her house literally ankle deep in water on the ground floor.  Ankle deep.  No one home but the cat and it is raining more tonight.

Good grief.

Maybe I should go over and check out the house, no?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Words and pictures

I have been looking at art lately.

In galleries of course quite a bit for the last three years.  Love my life.  But I have also been looking at art on-line.  Art that sells well on-line.  There seems to be something of a trend though.  A tendency to include writing on the art.  Not the enticing and sometimes baffling single words or short phrases, often with obscure relations to the painting;  more of a kitschy kind.  Things you might read on a hallmark card or in a self-improvement book.

A sort of 7 paintings for highly successful people kind of gallery.

I have to admit, I simply cannot get my head around it.

I know some of it comes out of a graphic design model which naturally blends both image and text.  I know also that some people are buying the text and the image is a nice effect.  Sort of the same reason self-help books and scented candles sell so well.

Somehow though,

It usually leaves me dry.  Cold.  Unmoved. Well, actually, not unmoved.  Disappointed and not a little insulted.

I am trying to think of instances where I have seen words in paintings or sculptures where they have truly added to the piece.  I have to confess I am not coming up with many.  There are the medieval illuminated manuscripts, though they are a different and specific beast.  Video works often include dialogue....I have seen a LOT of art in the last few years.  I have a particular interest in more modern art, indeed to some extent the further out there the better, and despite the fact that as I ponder this I am coming up with more examples of work that has some words in it.  For the majority of the work there remains something so very obvious about writing phrases in, seems that it defeats the purpose of the painting.

Like taking all the words out of a book and summing it up in a short phrase.

The Bluest Eye,  concepts of beauty damage everyone they touch.
Nikolski, home is where we make it.
Gideon, trust. (The verb, not the noun)

But that's not really the point is it.  You can buy those 365 day tear-away calendars with a wise saying on every page, but that isn't the same as reading a book, or looking at a great painting.  One feeds you a McFish burger and the other teaches you to tickle a trout's tummy till you can flip it out of the stream into your lap.  The painting, or book, what I would argue is art, leaves room for your own mind and work and thought.  Something to ruminate over and taste and re-taste in the days and years to come.  

I feel the same way about text in paintings.  The imagery slips away in a bath of punctuated unctuousness.  How stupid do you think I am?  Can you not give me a chance to ponder and consider and relate to my own life and experiences before you ram your trite orders down my unwilling throat?

I sound a little huffy there don't I.

I have seen incidences of text in painting and sculpture that I would consider art, that I would consider great.  However, not of these are painted on platitudes patronisingly aimed at the ignorant masses living unexamined lives.

Rant done.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sleepy photo post

I was given this lovely orchid plant today by my boss who was given a surfeit of them.  Lucky old me!

And the Mona Lisa, see how she's coming?  I can almost fool myself into thinking I might finish it some day.

She has shockingly big hands.  Who'd have noticed.

Loving all the books I have to read, even if I am chomping at the bit to read them ALL.

Have a lovely evening folks,

See you tomorrow,


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What happened???????

Today in class one of my students started trying to tell me about the Olympics.  They helpfully informed me that the games are going on in Vancouver which, astonishingly, is in Canada.  They also pointed out that that is where I come from.

Don't miss a trick these kids.

Then they tried to tell me about the Canadian hockey team.  They may have won something, or maybe they will win something, and I am not sure if we were discussing the women's or the men's team.  Something also happened to a Canadian skier which, judging by the sheer volume of waving arms and flailing bodies, looked like it must've hurt.  In case I wasn't clear on that point, they kept turning their feet backwards at the ankle and making 'crack' noises.

Thus prompting this post:

Olympic whine, day 2.

I have been dwelling on my lack of access to on-line Olympic coverage somewhat remorsefully; nay, relentlessly; nay, like someone with a broken tooth whose tongue just cannot stay well enough away despite the occasional rockets of pain it causes.


I do not understand why they cannot live-stream the Olympic coverage from the television stations.  Advertisers get more viewers for the same buck, more people suffer through their ads, more in fact that the folks that video the olympics and can fast forward through the same freaking stupid ad they have seen 45 times every day for the last 12 days.

I just don't get it.

Personally, and bitterly, I think the IOC are a bunch of dinosaurs who have trouble sending e-mail and have no idea of what the heck is going on out in cyber-space. No. Idea.

That is the definitive word of a woman reduced to getting her Olympic coverage from eight-year-old low-level English students.

It is a sad, sad thing.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Palau and no Olympics

We went off the the Palau de la Música Catalana today for a tour, and it is stunning.  Simply stunning.  It is a Unesco World Heritage site and well deservedly.  It was originally built as the home of a choir, and there is still a choir in residence.

They didn't skimp.

What a concert hall.  Now we are simply going to have to start going more often!  Something else to put on my to do list!

Oh.  I am also totally bummed about the Olympics.  I love the Olympics and every year we can we watch every minute of it we can manage.  This year however we don't have a TV and you cannot stream it on line.  Spanish coverage of the Olympics is bound to be a little spotty and focussed on downhill to the exclusion of most everything else.

The poopy IOC has blocked all on line streaming unless you are lucky enough to live in a country that has purchased the rights.

Spain hasn't.

I am seriously bummed.  Big fat boo hoo.

Amazon is also making me crazy again!  Now I have to phone them long distance to try and place my order.  ARGH!

Frustration all around on that count.

Then again, life is good.  The Palau is beautiful and if the worst I have to complain about is not watching the Olympics and having trouble ordering books....

ya know where that goes.

Cheers folks.  It's been a great long weekend.

Hope you had a good one too.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Cap de Creus

Everyone, but everyone has told us that we have to go out to Cap de Creus.

They were utterly right.

It was very nearly a perfect day for it, sunny, windy, cold and clear.  The water is beautiful the rocks are amazing.  It is the tail ends of the Pyrenees disappearing into the Med.  Dalí spent a lot of time out there.  Something commendable in a freakish man.

First we stopped in Cadaqués.  My Mom was hungry and my kids were car sick.  Besides that, it's beautiful.  In a weird moment of 'casualitat' or coincidence, we ran into people we know in the smokey little nothing bar where we ate.

Doorway, may look a mite familiar.  Used it in the painting of the day.  I love doorways.

I have to admit I also like narrow walkways.  The light seems to be bright in a weird way.  The photos often seem weirdly washed out.  I hope it wasn't the camera.

Cap de Creus, looking not nearly as windy as the day was.  The sea looks nice and blue doesn't it.  Goodness gracious, but I loved this place.

It also had the most amazing geological formations.  This is a quartz intrusion, quite large.  In many ways it reminded us of the Bahamas, though rather colder.  Harsh rocky windblown land with little or no soil or vegetation.

More rocks, I love the shapes of them all....

Hell's cove. On a really good day with the waves blowing in here it would be quite something.

Mountain chains. There was an old monastery up there which has since been converted to a restaurant.  Good to know for the future.  Nice view.  There was an old guy, well, not really all that old, but a weathered guy building walls.  I felt a little intrusive taking his photo, so I didn't.  Sorry.

More views.  I love mountains and the sea together.  Ahhh.

We stopped off in Port Lligat where Dalí had a house that is now a museum.  We arrived at 5:06.  As we walked over I figured that the place would either be just opening or just closing.  Just closing.  Masses of chilly Frenchmen waiting around outside.  And this fish sculpture.  Have to go back.  Do a Dalí tour so to speak.  Though I am not really all that sure that I like his work.

Lovely day.

Cap de Creus was the best bit I have to admit.  There were a million walking trails.  Wonder if I could go spend a month out there sometime.

That would be wonderful.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cava and physics.

Cava tasting!

News flash.

Swirl your wine and champagne counter-clockwise to get the good aromas, and clockwise for the bad aromas.

I didn't know physics played into perceptive judgement calls.

Does this imply that the perception of good and bad aromas (and other elements) has a shearly physical relationship?  Can there be a formula for good and bad?

I wasn't even drinking and this seems freaky.

What is freakier?

It works the other way in the Southern hemisphere.

That opens up a whole new kettle of fish doesn't it!

Friday, February 12, 2010


Kids in the village want a skateboarding park.  I think that's a brilliant idea, and I also think that it should be done.  They take up very little space, and are great for the kids to have a place to tool around.

The nearest one is in the next town.  The big disadvantage of this is that when they break their wrist/ankle/nose, they aren't quite so far away from family members who can help them, also they don't have to skate all the way to the next town and skate back (sometimes in the dark).

One of the kids is getting signatures together, he's one of my students.  I said I'd sign it too, and indeed I'm going to say to him that I'd be willing to help him out with getting a proposal put together to take to the city council.  Sort of direct them towards a more-likely-to-succeed plan....

Hope they get it done.  I may go off and do some research on skate park designs right about now.

Know what makes for a really cool half tube?  Me neither.  Gonna have to find out though....

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Something I continue to find odd is the sheer number of students I have met in all walks of life who want to do almost anything they can to avoid thinking.

That sounds weird, particularly in an educational setting, but the fostering of original thought and investigation seems to be trying.  Maybe it is the fields I am in, but the curiosity and desire to rumble things around and work them through are sometimes somewhat lacking.

Just the facts ma'am. Just the facts.

That's what so many of them want, they simply want the chip inserted.  Slide it in here please and I'll be on my way.

I find this so very odd.

I can understand why some of them feel this way.  I have students, in Canada as well as here, who are being sent to my courses by their workplace.  They do not necessarily want to learn the material, but are required to do so.

They tend to be quite diligent, but definitely want to take the easiest route.

That rarely involved thinking.  Memorisation, sure.  Creative process.  They perceive not.

There is also something about becoming a student that engenders a passive relationship to the material.  This I believe strongly is trained into us by the schooling system that fundamentally views children as empty vessels into which we are obliged to pour a certain body of knowledge, attitude and experience rather than viewing them as active driving forces of the learning process.

This bites us in the butt later as well.  Instead of engendering life long learners, we are engendering life long passive viewers.  A self-definition that is inherently receptive and without engagement. Something to be thought about.

I acknowledge that everyone has their own way of learning, but I think every manner of effective learning should involve a certain amount of active thoughtful engagement.  No?  Yet shy away from it they all do.  I was listening to a Yale University class and the prof was urging the students, these may I remind you are Yale students, that exams are a time when they get the opportunity to truly grasp, possess, master and manipulate the material.  To think about it in new and creative ways.  To search for connections and relationships that they otherwise might not have forced themselves to have gained sufficient knowledge to allow to happen.  Not a sticking noise of delight in the background, but I do fundamentally agree with her sentiments and long have.  A well written exam, if you have studied for it, gives an opportunity to manipulate and focus the material that does not happen at other times.  Fun in fact.

Delightfully, my kids seem to agree (in general).  Eldest was checking out a book about paintings at breakfast, and loving it.  Youngest's teachers have also commented that she is not satisfied with simply completing the exercise, but rather wants to master and understand it, even in topics she dislikes.

Makes me utterly happy.

On another note.  Eldest, who as I am sure you have discerned is a teenager, came home and stated loudly and clearly that she is officially embarrassed to be a teenager.

So sad ;-)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

books and fruitcake! I am Mr Putter, only younger and female. Oh, and I have a dog. folks are here, life is good.

......they brought fruitcake.  Life is extremely good.

......I am really quite pleased with today's canvas a day submission, especially after yesterdays rather dreary effort.

.....I think I should have gone for a stitch in my finger.  Or two.  Ouch.

.....went down to the next town and got a package of books.  SWEET!

    Two Kingsolivers, Nikolski from Canada reads, McPoems, and a couple of others...titles to come.

.....I have so very many great books to read, how can life be bad?

.....I ate fruitcake at 12:09 am.  Life is great. folks are here, maybe they'll help with the Mona Lisa puzzle that is killing me, it may take me longer than it took him, and he took YEARS at it.

.....I love books.  Time to go read.

.....I love that I can read a book in another language too.  Sweet sweet sweet.

.....if you have never met Mr Putter, you simply must.

.....I just found out that she has written more!!!  I am so going to have to buy them.  So what if they are for 6 year olds.  They are simply perfect.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Location, location, location....for your grandkids.

Fascinating aspect about living in a village.

You see, a lot of people here are still living in the self-same houses that their grandparents lived in, and their grandparents before them.  This leads to a rather different attitude to real estate.

The idea to renovating with an eye to resale value is simply bizarre.  Indeed we have been, lightly, ridiculed for the idea of considering this.  Upon mentioning the possibility that we might someday sell the house people have done double-takes;  they have looked at us with stunned expressions and mentioned that our kids and grandkids would most certainly like to live there.   They have looked at us and said that doing one construction idea over another would be a good idea for when our kids are living there with their kids.  They have let fly spontaneous loud and scornful snorts and guffaws. They have looked hurt.   We have, largely stopped mentioning this possibility.

We have discovered something of a cultural gap.

I have personally moved over 25 times, I think, and lived in 4 different countries, albeit for short periods in some of them.  The longest I have ever lived in one place, I believe, is around 10 years.

Cultural gap indeed.

Monday, February 8, 2010

I was supposed to do WHAT???

You know that work/family/self dance?

Yeah, that one, where you try and keep all the plates up in the air at the same time?

It's a bit of a btich, no?

I have promised myself that I will read more, that I will paint a canvas a day, that I will write/blog/reflect every day and that I will walk the dog in the mountains more often.


Pulling some of it off.  Then comes that feeling that the plates are starting to get a little out of control, and some of them seem to be appearing out of thin air because you forgot they were know those ones?

I find it easier in Canada.  I am working very hard with very long hours on a single focussed work place.  My childcare issues are usually straighforward, in that no one is doing projects that need supplies to be purchased (by me) and there are no birthdays etc. Personal life is somewhat paired down.

Here, not so much.

Chaos.  I teach more than 10 different classes, each of which has their own needs, requirements, markings and updates to stay on top of.  Two kids, each of with a never ending stream of odd requirements.  Having to by electrical wire, teach division with decimals (which are commas here just to make it more confusing) confirm visits, print documents etc etc etc......then there is basketball, the architects, the house, the garden....Then there is the man, and his work schedule and now his running schedule too.....gads.  My work in Canada and marking, booking tickets for trips and scheduling that - akin to a royal visit for all the different timetables involved.

The plates are coming at me like balls out of a hyperspeed batting cage machine.

I can manage that, IF I don't try and do any of those other things, like paint and write and read and go to the mountains.

Balance.  Such a challenge.

Survival techniques?

I have worked with a daily agenda, which is fine up to a point, but if something doesn't get done in a day I have to rewrite it for a subsequent day.  If I forget to do that, the chore disappears from the Universe until it bites me on the you know what.

I also have a calender hung in the kitchen where everyone can see it, but not too many people look and I am the only one who writes.

I also need to have a master that things do not disappear.  It is so depressing when I see it all totted up together though....

Solutions?  Techniques?  Ideas?

That don't involved losing some of my own time?

Yours sincerely,

Juggling in Spain.


1.  Went into a meeting at work that I sooooo did. not. want. to. attend, and it was great.  I sat to one side and whipped  through a mass of work.  Now, while I am still up to my nostrils in chaos, I am slightly more in control anyway.

2.  Note to self.  On a day when feeling overwhelmed and with too little time, possibly, just possibly, it is not a good day to tackle a portrait for the canvas a day.  THAT didn't work out too well.  The right eye? Just got too wet.  Nothing I could do.  Out Of Control.  I may go back in tomorrow with some acrylics if I have a chance and try to rescue it.  Or not.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Idiocy, part 2 or is that 20. or 200.

Went into BCN today.

Forgot the camera.  WHAT an idiot I am.  We went to the Ceramic, Textile and Decorative Arts Museum. (they are all in the same building) and then walked through town.


A ka-billion wonderful opportunities for photos and they are all on the stupid little dinky camera phone.

I will SO have to go back.

The phone camera took these images...they are passable, but bad.....

Imprints on an ENORMOUS jug....came almost to my shoulder and it would that three people to get their arms around it.

How many fish do you see?

He's a he in person.....

Lovely tile work everywhere.....

This was actually from a museum in Calella, but fits the theme. Honestly, the stuff is everywhere.

This however is a different topic.  Remember a while ago I talked about Chuck having to squish through the bars of a fence after he ran onto a farm property to avoid the shepherd's dogs?

Here below, he is sitting right infront of the gate he squashed through.  Those bars are some close together, no?

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Yesterday was not the easiest of days.  The problem was not external, it was me.  It was one of those days, where you cannot, however hard you try, feel the beauty around you.  You can be consciously aware of it, remind yourself of it, but nada.

I remember when we were on the boat, living pretty much a perfect life in paradise, and there would be days like this.  Crap happens, and crappy days happen irrespective of what is going on around you.  The thing about living expat, that one must guard against, is laying it at the door of where you are.  This god awful country and these horrificly stupid people, etc etc etc......Of course some things are difficult.  You simply don't know the system and you have to ask every stupid question you can imagine, and there will still be something you couldn't imagine having to ask about and it will come up behind you and bite you in the ass.

That is frustrating.

You get better at asking the stupid questions, and figuring out which stupid questions to ask.  But still.

Yesterday I failed to ask a stupid question.  One I had not imagined possible.  The Catalan course I was signing up for.......well, it isn't actually a course.  Despite that is it's name, 'Curs de distancia' it is not.  You pony up your money for the chance to take an exam.  You have to buy the book separately, there is NO online component. Not even a stupid chat session. NOTHING.  No teacher, no assignments, no explanations,  you and a book.  Every two weeks you can send in a writing assignment and get it marked!!!!! WOOT!!!!!!  You even have to buy the answers for the exercises in the book separately.

I looked through the book.  Having taken a number of language courses at this point, and having given them for years, I am reasonably fluent at figuring out what makes a good book and what doesn't.  This is not a great book.  Not even a good book.  The explanations are not brilliantly clear and there is nothing but exercises.

You and I all know that between blogs, messenger, twitter, flickr/picasa and youtube very high quality courses can be produced very nearly for free.

I should have figured something was wrong when I had to sign up for a distance course in person.

Ho hum.

Yesterday was not the easiest of days, but I have to send a big fat shout out to Nomad who read the first line of yesterday's post, never got any farther and simply picked up the phone.  LOVE the girl!

Sun's shining today.




Spent most of the afternoon slogging away in the new garden.  MOST enjoyable!  Worked hard and there are improvements......except I seem to be too strong.  The brand new shovel I bought this morning?  Busted the handle this afternoon.  Didn't think I had it in me, did ya!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Coral reefs and crochet

Black cranky nasty grumpy day......'nuff said.

MOVing right along, this talk  will let all of you crocheters out there realise that you were actually doing intensively advanced mathematics.

Nothing I don't love about TED talks, and this presentation is amazing.  16 min well spent.  You'll learn something about everything.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

big google brother

Here's hoping that blogger doesn't afflict me with the weird and endless formatting problems I got yesterday!

Did a Catalan test today to see what level I have.  She so very kindly put me at the 'Cataloparlant' level.  That is Catalan speakers!!!!!!  Well, that was a nice little gift!  I am at the very lowest level of Cataloparlant, but I'll take that to be sure!  I'm now going to be signed up for an on-line Catalan class!!!!  Yahoo!!!!  Finally I will start to improve again!

I have to start on Spanish now.

I did want to ask if this has happened to anyone else.

Yesterday I got junk mail from Google.  It was mailed from France, but written in Spanish (OH NO!  The freaky formatting is coming back!).  It offered me 75 Euros prepaid if I bought google word ads for my site!

Now, first of all, this is not exactly the site with the most traffic in the Barcelona I cannot imagine how I got the nudge.....but what really freaks me out is that it was sent to my name and my home address.

OK, I know that google is as close to omnipotent as it gets these days, but still.....a little obviously big brother-ish, don't you think?

Anyone else out there getting spied on?


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What is the what

JG and CS over at the Hotchpot Cafe have a reading challenge up.  They love these.  This one sounds like fun.  It is a birth year challenge.  The books you read should all have been published in the year you were born.  

I was initially dismayed, but things are looking up.  One of my comments to them was this after moaning and whinging about what a crappy year my birth year seems to have been.  Then I came up with these two: 
The Fixer by Bernard Malamud won both the National book award and the pulitzer.....a list may be forming...., something by this guy Miguel Angel Asturias...still, gonna think about this a bit. Such an unpromising year.
Then they so very kindly came in with some help:
CS said:  
Don't despair, Oreneta. Here are a few others:
The Confessions of Nat Turner (Styron)
The Chosen (Potok)
A Garden of Earthly Delights (Oates)
One Hundred Years of Solitude (Marquez), which was first published in Spanish in 1967.
Hope that helps.

Then JG said:
I looked for some for you, too, Oreneta. How about:
Tom Stoppard's "Rosencranz and Guildenstern Are Dead" (it's a play, but it comes in book form)
V.S. Naipaul's The Mimic Men
Wilder's The Eighth Day
I did a little research on these and they sound possible.

Another commenter came up with the site, The books of the Century, from which I chopped out this section:

Fiction Bestsellers
1. Elia Kazan, The Arrangement
2. William Styron (tie), The Confessions of Nat Turner
2. Chaim Potok (tie), The Chosen
4. Leon Uris, Topaz
5. Catherine Marshall, Christy
6. Thornton Wilder, The Eighth Day
7. Ira Levin, Rosemary’s Baby
8. Irving Wallace, The Plot
9. Mary Stewart, The Gabriel Hounds
10. Henry Sutton, The Exhibitionist
Critically Acclaimed and Historically Significant
Harold Cruse, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual
John Kenneth Galbraith, The New Industrial State
Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology
Jacques Derrida, Writing and Difference
William Styron, The Confessions of Nat Turner
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
Peter B. Medawar, The Art of the Soluble
Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle

Nonfiction Bestsellers

1. William Manchester, Death of a President
2. Johnny Carson, Misery Is a Blind Date
3. Eric Berne, Games People Play
4. Rod McKuen, Stanyan Street & Other Sorrows
5. Father James Kavanaugh, A Modern Priest Looks at His Outdated Church
6. Sam Levenson, Everything but Money
7. Stephen Birmingham, Our Crowd
8. Jess Stearn (tie), Edgar Cayce—The Sleeping Prophet
8. Better Homes and Gardens Favorite Ways with Chicken (tie)
8. Phyllis Diller (tie), Phyllis Diller’s Marriage Manual


Book-of-the-Month Club Selections

Jan de Hartog, The Captain
Cornelia Otis Skinner, Madame Sarah
Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory
John Gunther, Inside South America
Thornton Wilder, The Eight Day
William Manchester, The Death of a President
W. S. Kuniczak, The Thousand Hour Day
Harold Nicholson, The War Years, 1939–1945
Dennis Bloodworth, The Chinese Looking Glass
Gwyn Griffen, An Operational Necessity
Sarah Gainham, Night Falls on the City
Will and Ariel Durant, Rus and Revolution
William Styron, The Confessions of Nat Turner
Svetlana Alliluyeva, Twenty Letters to a Friend
George Kennan, Memoirs, 1925–1950

Here's where you come in. I'm hoping that you may have some background on some of these books.  Nabokov, I will confess to a prejudice against him, though maybe that is a good reason to try it.  Phyllis Diller's Marriage Manual is just to ridiculous, I may have to read that......I think I would like to try and read both the Marquez book and the Nobel prize writer's book in the original Spanish.  Now there is a truly psychotic goal, but one must dream big.  Naipul, again, haven't read enough of his.....

Any words on that?  Who the heck was Nat Turner anyway.  Feel like I should know....he makes it on three times.

On another note, Dave Eggar's What is the What came in the mail today.  I have never walked home so slowly from the post office, and it is only with the greatest difficulty that I have done anything else today.  Eggars is an amazing guy.  If you haven't seen his Ted Talks lecture, you should....wish it weren't so late, I'd like to see it again.  He is writing the auto-biography of another man.  A Sudanese man who managed to escape the horrors of what has happened there.  It is an utterly compelling bit of stunningly beautiful writing.  Cannot recommend it highly enough, and I am only at page 36.

All of the author's proceeds from the book belong to the man who tells the story, Valentino Achak Deng and are to benefit the Sudanese, both in Sudan and elsewhere.

Amazing in every single little way.