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Saturday, December 31, 2011

El Cocido de la Abuela (la abuela soy yo)

I went to the supermarket last night to buy food without the faintest notion of what I was going to cook. They say that you shouldn’t shop for food when you are hungry. You definitely shouldn’t go near a supermarket when you have no idea of what you want to cook.  Because of the coming holiday I felt like I was in a rugby scrum as I wandered around the crowded aisles hoping to be overcome by inspiration.  I wouldn’t call it inspiration but the only thing that grabbed my attention was a half of a hen, or gallina in Spanish. The taste of the stock I recently made with gallina was still fresh in my memory so I thought that this basic ingredient was something that I could work into a full meal. From there all I could think of to make was cocido madrileño—not one of my favorite things if I have to tell the truth.

I like the broth made from cocido and I love any sort of legumes (cocido uses garbanzos).  The traditional way to make arroz al horno is to use the stock and garbanzos from cocido. I love arroz al horno so now I had something to work with. I really don’t feel like making a rice dish so it’s time to open up the improvisation gates and invent something new (or uncover some old gem).  I may need another trip to the market depending on where I go with this dish but I know that I will make the stock from the hen and the other meat (pork bones and pancetta). I will also make garbanzos but I will probably make them separately in my pressure cooker. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

War in Iraq December 2011: The Final Essay?

La obsesión de la mente totalitaria es su necesidad de que el mundo resulte claro y nítido. Cualquier sutileza, o contradicción, o complejidad lo asusta y confunde, y se le hace insoportable.
-Jacobo Timerman Preso sin Nombre, Celda sin Número

Timerman was talking about the military junta in Argentina in the 1970s but he just as easily could have been speaking for the American Right. As much as American conservatives go on and on about freedom and how much they love it, they are always the first to abandon freedoms if it means only a rumor of order in their world. American conservatives will also abandon any argument they have obviously lost—and those are many—because accepting responsibility for their failures violates their precious sense of order. After nine years Americans troops have left Iraq which represents one of the most horrific foreign policy disasters in American history and completely fabricated by the American Right. The end of America’s shameful occupation in Iraq is over but for conservatives this isn’t news.

Talking about Iraq after it has all been said and done serves no purpose in the Right’s rhetoric. The same is true in the science of global climate change. Years ago conservatives denied that climate change was happening. After more than a decade of relentless progress on the part of science the Right simply changed the goal posts and made their argument one of denying the all this is being caused by human activity on the planet. Admitting that they have been wrong on something is completely beyond their capability and violates the basic tenets of their God-given philosophy, something they point out frequently. To acknowledge that they are wrong is like denying the infallibility of their god, whoever that is.

I remember back in April in 2003 (the days of “Mission Accomplished”) when many conservative pundits demanded that opponents to the war in Iraq apologize for their mistake. Many of these pundits have since changed their stance on the war and act like they had it right all along. Admitting that their original position was completely wrong is completely out of the question.

Obama tries to paint a happy face on America's exit from disaster.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Jamón Diaries #1


I’ve been putting the things in life into two columns and the things with lots of cholesterol are always in the same column as things that make me not want to kill myself…unless you consider Spanish ham as a form or suicide.  Either I am highly self-destructive or I have to stop believing the “mainstream media” when they say that I shouldn’t eat my weight in cheese every week. Ignoring the experts is sort of the intellectual equivalent of a little kid who thinks he’s hiding while standing behind a curtain with his feet showing—like global warming deniers. At least my obstinacy has some rewards.  Anyone care for one of these dates wrapped in bacon?

When I'm 64 (or even sooner)

If I end up in a wheelchair like that old dude from Breaking Bad just remember that one ring of the bell means to bring me a beer and three rings means I want to go to a strip club (two rings means #2, of course). Thanks for being there for me.

P.S. When I ring twice I mean that in the past tense so chop, chop and don't be stingy with the Handi Wipes®.

P.P.S. Even if I could talk I would still have a bell on my wheelchair. And please remember, when I label this entry under "Humor" I am being very generous with that word.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sunny and Cold

I have a little Celsius/Fahrenheit cheat-sheet on the shelf above my desk that converts between the two in intervals of five degrees in Celsius* but I know without even looking that it is cold this morning. My house is fantastic during the warm months but when it’s cold, living here is a little like camping. My bedroom is completely interior but that doesn’t mean it’s anything approaching comfortable. I have been looking for just the right rug for my bedroom but we have arrived at that moment in the season when any old damn thing will do.  I use a little electric heater in the bathroom otherwise showering can be painful. The good news is that winter is a matter of about six weeks around here.  We are still getting up to 15 degrees and above during these shortest days of the year so I don’t have much to complain about.  

Celsius – Fahrenheit
35 …. 95
30 … 86
25 … 77
20 … 68
15 … 59
10 … 50
5  … 41

Thursday, December 22, 2011

New Toy for the Kitchen


Caption contest for my new pot:

1) My stockpot can kick your stockpot's ass.
2) What is John overcompensating for?
3) Spanish lesson for today: Mi olla es muy grande.

Happy Winter Solstice!



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.

Wednesday, December 21, 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.

Friday, December 16, 2011

La Cosa Más Divertida de la Semana (bueno, mi vida es muy aburrida)


Estuve en el centro cuando pasó un camión con alta voces con anuncios de uno de los tres circos que hay en Valencia en este momento. “¡Damas y caballeros de Valencia, no se equivoquen del circo!” Como si hubiera una gran diferencia entre ellos o si eligieras uno en vez de otro algo malo podría pasar a tu familia.

Es muy fácil comprobar cuál es el mejor circo: el que tiene más monos.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tasteless Bodily Functions #237


I have been stricken with a head cold the past three days and subsequently have become a world renowned expert on snot. In fact, I am now one of the world’s leading producers of this substance, I have become of the snot equivalent of Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves. I blew a snot rocket while riding my bike today in heavy traffic and two cars behind me had to turn on their windshield wipers—being sick isn’t all bad after all. Shooting a snot rocket when cycling seems to add power and added purging power to this disgusting act. I blew so hard that I almost lost control of my bike. I only hope that no one I know saw me out there today (reading about it isn't quite as gross).

Bicifestación en Valencia


The city should be getting down on their knees and thanking cyclists instead of giving out tickets for stupid shit like riding on the sidewalk and chaining bikes to trees.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Yet Another Spanish Holiday


"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). The idea of a girl getting knocked-up without having sex is a crazy story but evidently Mary’s parents bought it. From a life-long atheist to all of you, happy Inmaculada Concepción.

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

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Valencia Police Ticket 530 Cyclists in Three Days

Los ciclistas no somos el problema; somos la solución. Me pregunto si la policía ha multado a 530 conductores en todo el año. Según las nuevas leyes muy anti-ciclistas, las bicis no pueden andar en los parques de Valencia como Viveros que tiene calles anchísimas. Hemos dado unos pasos para atrás en cuanto la modernidad.

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 motorist here, for anything. 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.

I would also wager that not a single person responsible for the new anti-bicycle laws has ever ridden a bike in their adult life.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Iniesta Goal from 2010 Wolrd Cup (high quality video)


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.

Monday, November 28, 2011

¿Arroz en la noche? (Rice for dinner?)


I think that I have worked very assiduously to integrate myself into Spanish life. I study the language like a conscientious undergrad. Spanish cooking comes naturally to me and I probably eat less American food than the average Spaniard. Football to me is fútbol and not the game with pads and helmets.  Despite all of my efforts to fit in, I just can’t get used to the Spanish dinner hours and their rather rigid notion of what one eats and doesn’t eat at a certain hour of the day. The biggest problem I have is the local prohibition of eating rice for dinner.

¿Arroz en la noche? “Rice for dinner?” I remember the first time someone asked me about this after telling them that I was making a risotto for dinner. For Valencianos eating rice for dinner rates right up there with rat poison. Rice is a midday meal for them, period.  If you went to a restaurant and ordered paella for dinner I think they would first laugh at you and then escort you brusquely from the premises while warning you never to return.

The Spanish eat their big meals in the afternoon.  They feel that eating a big meal in the evening is basically just asking for trouble; trouble in the form of weight gain, disturbed sleep, gout, rickets, and possibly erectile dysfunction.  You name it and eating big in the evening causes it.  From everything that I have read about nutrition there is absolutely basis for this belief because the body is basically on a 24 hour schedule and what matter is the total caloric intake during the day and not when they are consumed.  I understand that it is the tradition to eat a big afternoon meal basically everywhere in the Mediterranean basin. I respect tradition but this doesn’t mean that the tradition is based on science.

Even after all this time here in Spain I would much prefer to eat a being meal in the evening. And it’s not like Spanish people don’t eat big meals late in the evening. It’s rare to see anyone in a restaurant before 10:00 pm and it’s not like people only eat carrots and celery when they go out at night. Someone who admonishes you for eating rice at night will think nothing of eating a prodigious amount of bread with a salad for dinner. Potato dishes are quite popular for dinner as well as other recipes steeped in carbohydrates.

If I am going to eat a big meal I like to have a bit of wine with it. Having even a single glass of wine at lunch just wipes me out for the rest of the day. I can drink wine at lunch on Sundays when I have nothing to do the rest of the day put the rest of the week this just isn’t the case.  I will often eat rice for dinner (only if there are no Spanish people around to witness this heinous crime). I sleep like a baby after these meals.  You can read all about it in my upcoming book, Eat Rice at Night and Live to Tell about It!.