jlm-blog
~jlm

18-Aug-2012

Reflections on Barcelona

Filed under: biking, travel — jlm @ 15:38

I recently spent two weeks working in Barcelona, Spain. Here are some of my thoughts about the place.

Externally, the buildings exhibit some amazing architecture. It was a pleasure to spend free time simply wandering on my bike and gawking at the buildings. The architects of Barcelona certainly put a lot of effort into the aesthetics their works project out onto the street. Once inside, however, it seemed like basic considerations for the buildings’ users were not given. Most doors opened inward only, despite this being very dangerous if a building needs to be evacuated, say due to a fire. Very often there were stairs on the way to the elevator, often only two or three steps, making it gratuitously wheelchair inaccessible. This blatant disregard for personal safety and accessibility greatly lessened my admiration for the work the architects put into their buildings’ appearance once I recognized that it was a common theme throughout the city.

After a few days, I realized I was missing plants. Barcelona has very little green space. There are a ton of plazas, but they’re all done edge to edge in paving stones. The residential areas have no lawns or gardens, and there’s not even a strip of grass or trees between the sidewalk and road (instead, they park motorcycles there). I don’t understand why, but Barcelonans feel they have to pave every bit of bare dirt. In the less maintained areas plants would valiantly sprout through the gaps in the paving, but most places even these were trimmed away.

Language is interesting — the native tongue of Barcelona is Catalan, not Spanish. The Catalans call all Spanish castellano, though my Spanish was definitely not castellano but a weak mexicano. (In Spain, if you want some juice, that’s zumo not jugo!) A few people object to you not using Catalan with them — to them español mexicano in Catalonia is a no-no, as if weren’t the case that the only reason our southern neighbor uses any form of español at all is their countrymen of old imposed it upon them.

Except for the tourist areas, the entire city seems to shut down on Sunday. This was annoying, as I had mostly the weekends to explore, and for half the weekend everything is shuttered. Is Spain really that Christian and observant of the Fourth Commandment? I’m wondering if Spain can give their economy a much-needed boost by opening for all seven days.

Catalonian cuisine seemed to magnify some of the worst aspects of American cuisine: The portions are larger, more heavily salted, and have few vegetables. And they add some vices absent in American cuisine: there’s dessert at lunch, and the food is so very bland. I finally got fed up and had a chicken shawarma at a Turkish place just to have some spice, and even it was a pale shadow compared to any İstanbul street vendor. With these large, salty meals, in the summer heat, I was surprised at how small the drinks served are (typically less than 10 oz.) and no complimentary water. And the meals alone are pricey without the overcharging for tiny drinks. (Meals were expensive, but goods in shops seemed quite reasonably priced or even cheap. Faint comfort to a traveler, but better for residents.) Having enjoyed American interpretations of Spanish food, the cuisine was very disappointing.

Despite being there during record summer heat, I found biking around Barcelona to be very nice. (Just dress appropriately and stay hydrated!) The city is small enough that you can bike anywhere in it, and it’s mostly flat or gentle grades. There are many bike paths. Most streets are one-way, though you’re not allowed to turn on a red (oddly, this was adhered to, yet people would go straight on a red if there were no cross traffic). The intersections aren’t well signed, however, and this can pose a problem for navigation when you first go to an area. There are many interesting small alleys, and they don’t twist much, so dead reckoning works well. There’s very little space between parked cars and motoring ones, but this means there’s no danger from being doored, because everyone checks before opening their door, as otherwise they’ll lose it!

17-Mar-2012

Berkeley library fire

Filed under: biking, sfba — jlm @ 13:39

I just got home from biking to the Berkeley Central Library, to find the police and fire department there, the library closed off. The BFD was non-urgently sweeping water out the doors, while the evacuated library building had its fire alarm still going. So, it looks like there was a fire there, extinguished by the sprinklers. It didn’t look like there were any injuries, but I worry about the damage to the books, hopefully it won’t be significant.

4-Mar-2012

More links, less commentary

Filed under: biking, misc — jlm @ 20:12

I seem to be bereft of interesting prose to spout, so here’s a link dump instead.

File-sharing based Kopimi (as in, “copy me”) recognized as a religion in Sweden. Interview with the founder.

Witness some software management failure recorded in a bug log.

Growing up in postindustrial Wales.

How the Dutch got their bike paths — they fought hard for them.

African development’s killer app: Cell phones.

Enjoy, peeps.

20-Apr-2010

Day in the life post

Filed under: biking, so. cal — jlm @ 13:50

Not my usual day, so perhaps postworthy.

Last night I tried to head out to Hollywood, but my car wouldn’t start. Didn’t even do the “rrr-rrr” thing, and I verified I hadn’t left the lights on. So much for hitting the nightlife, spent the evening online instead. This morning was my annual physical, including a cholesterol test, so I was fasting that evening/this morning. I didn’t sleep well, woke up at 5 o’clock, had trouble getting back to bed and my alarm woke me. (Usually I have no problem sleeping and I wake on my own before the alarm.) The physical went fine, weight stable, no alarm bells, the doctor gave me cream for my athlete’s foot and probiotics for my GI. Get home, call Gabriel Towing, they refer me to Hillcrest Towing, who say they’ll be there in 15 minutes, and 15 minutes later they’re there. Amazing, I’m impressed, I’ve never had a tow come promptly before. Go to Subway for a lunch to break my fast (any “healthiness” of their sandwiches likely lost by me opting for the drink & cookies, ’cause I’m hungry). Bike around southern Pasadena, a light rain starts, I get twisted around by the twisty streets around Oak Grove and Oak Knoll. It’s a lot harder to navigate under low cloud cover, can’t see shadows or the mountains. Go home, wet, and the dealer says the non-hybrid-system engine battery bricked, looks like I’m out around $200 for repairs and towing.

13-Mar-2010

Urban peafowl sighting

Filed under: animals, biking, so. cal — jlm @ 13:11

I was just biking along Hill, by the PCC lots, and there braving traffic was a peacock and peahen. Bright blue necks, long (furled) train on the cock, quite the surprising sight, traffic stopped for the spectacle of them crossing the street.

16-Nov-2009

Update on the Arroyo

Filed under: biking, so. cal — jlm @ 11:26

I rode the Arroyo path again today. This time the stream was lower, and a lot clearer, but not yet back to its normal level of transparency. The “stream of sludge” was pretty worrying for a while.

31-Oct-2005

Sea of gold

Filed under: biking, so. cal — jlm @ 17:00

It was a nice warm day today (unlike all of last week), so I rode down to the beach this afternoon as a break from work. Now, I’d heard the phrase “sea of gold” applied to the ocean before, but this was the first time I’d seen it. The angle of the sun made the vast expanse of the sea look like how you might imagine molten gold*. It was beautiful. It was also painful to look at because it was so bright. In ten minutes only the distant ocean looked golden, and in fifteen the entire effect was gone.

 


* Actual molten gold looks glowy red-orange, like pretty much any other molten metal, because the black-body radiation exceeds the reflected light.

10-Oct-2005

Why to wear shoes, II

Filed under: biking, humor — jlm @ 07:17

[photo of my shoes]

6-Sep-2005

Running on empty

Filed under: biking, so. cal — jlm @ 12:08

Biking from Union Station to Pasadena at 1:30 at night when you’ve already biked 30 miles that day is like an hour of some kind of Greek hell. Not painful, but dark, and cold, and lonely, and tiring, block after block after block gradually uphill, with no sign of progress.

The MTA ticket machines are pretty cheeky letting you buy a ticket after the last train has left due to the holiday schedule, with no signs up saying the last train will leave at 11:50.

Encountering a Winchell’s on the final leg up Fair Oaks was welcome, though I could have used it earlier.

Jacob’s route from getting from Union Station to Pasadena when you’re bone tired and don’t want any big hills:

  • Union Station is on Alameda. Take this north a couple blocks to where Main St. veers off to the right.
  • Take Main through the industrial area into Lincoln Park. This goes through a pass in the Lincoln Park hills, so you avoid climbs like you’d get taking say Broadway.
  • Main turns into Valley at Mission St. Turn left (north) here.
  • When Mission meets up with Huntington, get on Huntington and ride it through El Sereno into South Pasadena.

If these directions make any sense to you, you already know how to get from South Pas to whatever part of Pasadena you live in. For me, this was taking Fair Oaks in. These directions are poor at encountering all-night victuals depots, so could use some refinement here. (Maybe Broadway to get some food, then cut down to Main St. for the pass?)

My legs and butt still hurt.

More upbeat post coming soon…

23-Jul-2005

President Thai’s back

Filed under: biking, so. cal — jlm @ 13:48

Panang!

The famous President Thai restraunt is back in operation.
Still have cheap lunch specials. Dining area is about 2½ times its old size, and lots of parking. No bicycle parking, still. (In the kitchen: Employee: “Do you think we should get a bike rack?”
Manager: “We have time, it’s too hot to bike in the summer.”
Employee: “Well, someone has locked their bike to the gate.”
Waiter enters, to refill his water pitcher, “That guy on table 17 has drunk 8 glasses of water!”
Manager: “Probably just some westerner who ordered ‘spicy’.”
Cook: “Curry for table 17 up!”)

 
If you don’t know where it is, take San Pasqual west. After you cross Rosemead, you’ll crash into a building because San Pasqual ends at Rosemead. That building is President Thai.

Powered by WordPress