Sunday, November 13, 2016


The train went through the fields full of cows or sheep, and then coastal towns of France. It stopped in small cities, buildings train cars covered with puffy balloon graffiti lifted wholly from 70s NYC.  A young Spanish guy smoked in the bathroom every 20 minutes, filling the car with smoke from his clothes.  The conductor vaguely tried to do something about this but could not catch him. His tickets were in order.  His seatmate had fled to another car long ago.

As the smoke became overwhelming, the land became hillier, then there were mountains.  We reached Barcelona, eyes burning, as the sun set.

We tried to find our way through the train station and caught a taxi to the place we were supposed to stay, supposedly to meet the owner. The young taxi driver had a loud Catalan conversation with a pal that involved a lot of swearing he thought we could not understand. 

Catalan sounds shooshy and not quite familiar, the way Brazilian Portuguese does, but it's enough of a mishmash of Old French and Spanish that I can pretty much follow it. (Though not produce it properly.)

This was the story of our trip: understanding but not being able to say anything complex. And often coming out with French in Spain, and vice versa.  I had a good conversation in Spanish with one guy, as he worked in a cafe, about languages, geography, and politics.  I managed to get along in French in a few transactions. but otherwise might have been two years old language-wise...

We managed to find the place we were staying on Sepúlveda, right off the Rocafort metro station in Barcelona. It was a good base for walking to Las Ramblas, a main road through the old town. We walked all over everywhere despite pouring rain of the kind we get here in MN. For three days. Barcelonans kept assuring us it was very unusual. Other than wet shoes and less outdoor photos, it was not a big deal.

More later...

Gaudi, Gaudi, Gaudi.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Really the very last of the season

Based on the frost on the roof this morning.  Winter is here, let me tell you.

Birthday greetings in the warmer climes.  I sent you something but it may take a few more days...

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Call me Philistine

I had access to all the Spanish and French books one could want (though no room in my bag). What did I bring home? Yup.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Fi'ty States


I set foot in my fiftieth state several weeks ago. That goes with one territory and my hometown, the 51st state in all but political clout and self-rule...

Alaska was amazing. Ironically, but logically, it made me want to spend more time hiking in Canada. Since I finally got a passport, and it's not that far away.

We took a cruise on a smaller ship to take the GF's mother on a big birthday trip, as her choice. It was as strange as I thought it would be, but an interesting look at the whole phenomenon and a way to see some places I otherwise would not have just hiking or traveling cheap.

We ended up in Seward and took a bus to Denali National Park, where we spent two days, then took a touristy train with glass bubble top to Anchorage to fly.home. More on the trip later.

I spent the trip and since reading about the natural history and native peoples of Alaska and the Arctic, topics I know very little about. The Nathan Active cop mystery series by Stan Jones was the lightest fare, but has lots of animal lore and descriptions of travel, survival, flying, hunting and tracking in a remote area.

Our Ice is Vanishing: Sikvut Nunguliqtuq: A History of Inuit, Newcomers, and Climate Change is obviously heavier, but is interesting because it goes in depth into many topics but skips around eclectically.

I have John McPhee's Coming Into The Country on my list but have not gotten to it yet.  I may have read it before, as I read a slew of his books in the 90s, but I think not. He's interesting but it's dated. Though I'm very curious about the roots of Palinism and the whole dependency-hatred relationship to gummint AK shares with other petroleum-based and harsh climate states, after being there seeing and talking to a range of locals.

Chasing Alaska: A Portrait Of The Last Frontier by C.B. Bernard was what I mostly read whle in Alaska. It was somewhat rambling but also had a lot of random interesting history. He moved to Alaska in 1999 and later found out his grandfather had lived there on a boat and kept a diary.

The pitch sounded cheesy but the style is subdued and the stories of harsh winters, boat wrecks, and the native survival strategies and patterns of life made my visit, cruise and all, feel more informed and embedded (even if it wasn't.)


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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Hard Light

I'm a big fan of Elizabeth Hand's Cass Neary novels, and the third installment did not disappoint.  Hard Light continues the themes of dark photography, wreckage, and both ancient and modern science, art, music and magick in the setting of Cornwall this time.  These books are bloody and grim, but they have hope and verve.

I also liked Wylding Hall, but not as much because it was in a more YA vs. hardbitten noir voice. It also spooked me, with one image that has lingered, though.

Otherwise, I'm working, through the usual bureaucratic pseudobizmgt obstructionism, and looking into starting a coffee shop in my neighborhood's coffee desert. I got off my duff and ran 3x last week. Pulled by dogs, but nonetheless.

The film fest, MSPIFF, was good, but I'll write about it later. I tweeted quite a bit but have not had any deep thoughts yet.

Best of Fest for me: Estonian historical drama The Fencer. Great followup to a year of reading Sofi Oksanen.

Runner-up: French Canadian rural political satire My Internship In Canada. I only saw that for Kreyol and French, but it turned out to be fast-paved, shrewd, moving, and funny.

Disappointing: No Finnish movie. Many movies focused only on men, despite coed situations and settings. It's 2016.

Also, the Germans did not provide a "civilizing influence" to the Ojibwe, as the local Prohibition doco claimed, according to a friend. We have other words for that now, and the closing night doco, The Seventh Fire, also local, made that clear.

Anyway, more later.

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Sunday, April 3, 2016

Mung bean pancakes

Spicy pancakes with pickled jalapenos, cilantro, and garlic for breakfast. That's how we roll, at least this early April crazy weather morning.

I cheated with a mix whose expiry date was "time to go," but they're easy if you plan ahead and soak the beans the night before...

Recipe:  Pesarattu 

I am reading a Finnish mystery, Leena Lehtolainen's Detective Maria Kallio series book one, My First Murder. Translator Owen F. Witesman.

It's better than the reviews on Goodreads so far, but then, I like the Scandi sense of humor and have some sense of where things are on the Finland map. Keeping track of the many characters with similar two syllable names was a little work at first, but then they started to take.

The description of drunken, incompetent middle management at Kallio's office was just like a friend's job and made her laugh too.  The dudeism in office politics Kallio mocks in her internal monologues is similarly well-recognizable across country boundaries...

I can't wait to get to the later books translated by Lola Rogers.  However, Book One, despite my initial hesitance about the Amazon Crossing logo on the cover, reads nicely and is pretty entertaining.

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Friday, March 25, 2016

Winter fades

I was trying to get a picture of rhe new hipster condos next to the old, iconic apartment building where Somali refugees live. But the train moved.

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