31 May 2009

Language

Languages are funny things. Their main purpose is for people to communicate with each other, but there are all kinds of rules about the structure and spelling and such, which sometimes don't make much sense. Take English spelling, for example. The letter combination "gh" can be pronounced in different ways, like in "though" and "tough". There's a pretty well-known, and perfectly logical example showing how the word "ghoti" can be pronounced as "fish".
Languages evolve, so spelling standards change. I've been wondering... How would it be if you standardized English according to a kind of universal phonetic system, so that all the spellings for all the words were perfectly regular and intuitive? Here's an example. I shall write the rest of this post using such a phonetic system.

It mait seem streinch at ferst to riid text that is ritten laik this, but ai think yu mait get usd tu it after a wail. Inglish is such an irregulur langwich, the spelling of diffrunt werds siims almoust randum. Wudnt it bi sou much iisiur if spelling was purfektli lodjikul? It wud bi a pritti radikul breik from tradishuns, thou. It mait liid tu a lot ov konfjushun. Ivun well-noun things wud luk unfemiljur.

Hau match wud wud a wudchak chak if a wudchak wud chak wud?

Theur is alsou thu problum with ridgunul diffrunses in hau werds ar prunaunst. Yu wud hav to spell werds diffruntli depending on weur yu ar. Yu wud end ap with duzins of rittun langwiches ivun within thu seim kantri. That mait bi bad.

27 May 2009

Countdown

It's countdown time, and I'm counting down to a couple of different things right now.
I got the flight tickets home from Alicante; we're leaving this great place on June 5th. Time in Spain is coming to and end for now, and I must say I've had a great time! I'm still far from fluent in Spanish, but I understand it a whole lot better than when I came here, and I got some grammar books and stuff that should help me improve quite a lot even after I go home.

The second thing I'm counting down to is launching an effort to seriously become a self-sufficient musician. I've done a whole lot of research while I've been here, written a bunch of songs, and gotten a bunch of other useful things done. I've signed up with a couple of very handy online services and even made a website of my own, so I'm mostly set up and ready to go. There are just five things left to do when I get home:
  1. Find a good webhotel service and put my website up.
  2. Record the music I've written and put it on the website.
  3. Start marketing myself like mad, all the time, everywhere.
  4. Find gigs.
  5. Get noticed by all the big music sites, win a couple of grammys, and become incredibly popular, rich and famous.
Actually, there is a number 6 as well, and that is to lose weight after all the good food here in Spain, but since it doesn't really have all that much to do with becoming a musician, I didn't include it in the list. Also, I suspect number 5 might take some serious effort, if it happens at all, but I figure why not aim for the stars while I'm at it? If I miss, I might land on the tree tops, which would be fine with me too.

Launching an attempt at musicianship in this day and age is a pretty interesting endeavor. There is so much stuff you can do with the internet that you never could before, so it's not as much up to knowing all the right people and sucking up to record label managers anymore. I'm quite eager to see just how far I can get with just creative thinking and hard work. Now, only 9 more days and then I get to go at it full speed. Wish me luck!

23 May 2009

Bright orange

I bought myself a nice, bright orange suitcase to put stuff in.

We flew to Spain with Ryanair, and they have these silly rules for luggage. Each check-in suitcase can weigh a maximum of 15kg, as opposed to around 20-23kg with most other airlines. I didn't bring much stuff on the way here as one of the main purposes of the trip was to bring back some of our belongings to Sweden, and I wanted to be able to bring back as much as possible. My old suitcase was quite broken after having gotten lost between Canada and Sweden and getting quite banged up on the way somewhere, so I decided to not bring any suitcase at all and just buy a new one here instead. It's bright orange with lighter orange patterns, so it should be a great deal easier to recognize on the conveyor belts than my old one, which was plain black.

Spain is quite warm this time of year compared to Sweden. It's not really all that surprising, but I've noticed that it's very easy to get dehydrated here. Since it's on average quite a bit warmer, you sweat more than you think. It's easy to forget to drink more to make up for it.

Note to self: Drink more water.

Tomorrow morning we're leaving for Alicante! Woohoo!

21 May 2009

A new look

If you've read my blog before, you'll notice that I've updated the layout. I figured it was time for something new. I kinda like this look. It's a bit more fresh and lively than the old one.

I'm still in Salamanca, Spain, and I'm having a hard time not gaining weight because of all the delicious food my fiancee's grandmother cooks for us all the time. She's quite the lady. I sometimes can't find the clothes I was wearing before, or a towel or something, and I turn around only to find the things I was looking for washed, ironed and folded on the bed. Whoa! And then some more food. "Would you like some tortilla? How about a steak? Here, I cooked some baked fish, filled eggs, steamed potatoes and made a big salad. I had three minutes to spare, so I thought why not. Are you hungry?" I'm feeling quite spoiled here. The food is awesome!

We're going to Alicante on Saturday to visit some more of my fiancee's relatives. I'm looking forward to it. I've heard a lot about palm trees, swimming pools, and great mediterranean paellas. Oh boy. I'm gonna have to go on a serious diet when I get back home...

16 May 2009

Things that really annoy me, part MDCCXVIII

It's time for another installation of complaining about things that piss me off. Today, I find Charity Organizations That Aren't Serious especially irritating. Let me explain why.

During my second day of walking around in Madrid, I come around a corner, and I'm instantly more or less knocked over by a young girl, probably around 16 years old. She jumps at me with a pen and a pad with a paper that says something about an organization for deaf and mute children. She waves the pen at me and keeps repeating "you write, you write" in English, but with a kind of accent that tells me she probably doesn't hear very well. Mostly out of reflex I take the pen and she starts blowing kisses at me. She wants a signature for some cause or another? Oh well, sure, why not. I write my name on the paper. She points at the paper and keeps blowing kisses at me. Now the address. Hm. I'm not very fond of giving my address to random people on the street, so I write a very general and unspecific address. Zip code? I skip that part. Then she points to the last column. Amount donated. Aaah, I see. I'm supposed to give her money next. It all makes more sense now. I feel like I've been walked straight into an ambush, but I reach for my wallet anyway. I guess I can give her a few euros just to avoid looking like a complete ass. I don't have any coins, so I give her the smallest thing I have. A 5 euro bill. She takes the bill, then shakes her head and points at the last column. "No, no". She points at the last column again. I don't get it. "Hmm-hmm". I look at her blankly. She says "Five no good. You must give twenty."

Excuse me? I'm suddenly quite a bit angry. I give money to a complete stranger for no reason at all, and she has the audacity to tell me it's not enough and that I'm somehow required to give her more. I tell her no. She reaches for my wallet. I move it out of her reach. "You give twenty." I say no again. "I give change." She must have seen the 50 euro bill in my wallet and keeps trying to take it out herself. Now I'm starting to get pissed. I say no a bit more firmly. She repeats "Five no good, you give twenty."

I'm not going to give her 20 euros. I have no job and no income of any kind, and I'm running low on money myself. I'm not going to just hand over 20 euro to someone on the street. "You give 20." I tell her as clearly as I can: "No, I will not." She turns around on the spot and walks away with my 5 euros.

What an unbelievable bitch. I don't care if she's deaf and mute, that's the most disrespectful behaviour I've ever seen from someone who claims to be collecting money for a charity. Is she a volunteer or a thief? If someone gives money to your charity, you don't fuckin' start complaining about it not being enough, and you especially don't try to take money out of that person's wallet on your own. If 5 euros is no good, then fuckin' give me the 5 euros back. I was seriously tempted to go after her and demand to have my 5 back and threaten to call the police if she refused, but I decided to ignore it and walked off in the other direction instead.

Unbelievable. This is not the kind of behaviour anyone working for a charity should engage in. If anyone runs into two people in white t-shirts with blue prints claiming to work for a charity organization for deaf and mute children in Madrid, I strongly recommend that you refuse to give them any money. The way they behave, I seriously doubt that they're actually working for any charity organization.

15 May 2009

¡Madrid!

My dear fiancée had a job interview in London yesterday and was flying there from Madrid, so I thought "what an excellent opportunity to see Madrid". So we found ourselves a nice hotel close to the airport and went there one day early to do some looking around.

Madrid is a pretty big place with about 3,2 million people living in the city. There are subways and buses everywhere, so getting around is quite easy and not very expensive. I'm a fan of getting around on foot whenever I'm visiting a new place, though. You get to see much more of the place that way. After a nice meal we went to the Reina Sofia modern art museum and spent a good chunk of the first day there. It's an enormous museum with plenty of very interesting works of art. If you're planning on going there for the first time, I recommend reserving a whole day just for this. The place is huge, and if you really want to see everything (I mean really see everything), you're going to need a whole day. There are four floors in total, of which two are reserved for the permanent exhibitions and the other two for changing shows. It's a modern art museum, focusing on art from 1900 and onwards, and especially Spanish artists. There are quite a lot of paintings by Picasso and Dalí, Juan Gris, Joan Miró, Man Ray and many others. The building is more or less square and has a nice garden in the middle with some interesting sculptures. I liked Joan Miró's "lunar bird" which stands just outside the entrance to the garden.

If you know Picasso mostly from his paintings of very strangely shaped people or his cubist works, there is a very interesting painting to see here from his blue period. It's a portrait of a lady, painted mostly in shades of blue like all his blue period pieces, but otherwise a lot more realistic than his later paintings. There are many paintings by Salvador Dalí here as well. He's probably best known for his quite surreal paintings, melting clocks, elephants with extremely long and thin legs, etc. but at the museum you can also see some of his paintings from before he got into all that. There is among other things a beautiful portrait that looks like it could have been painted by a renaissance artist rather than the surreal Dalí.
The most famous piece of art at the museum is Picasso's Guernica, and it sure is a great piece of art in more than one way, not least in regards to its size. The painting, which depicts the Spanish civil war bombing of the Basque town of Guernica in 1937, is an enormous grayscale painting.

After the museum, we headed to the Tryp Diana hotel, where we had a reservation for a room. It's a pretty decent hotel very close to the airport, and quite cheap for a four star hotel. My bed was a bit weird, though. It was quite hard, and incredibly loud for some reason. Every time I moved, the bed made a loud creaking sound, kind of like an old door in desperate need of some oil for the hinges. Gin had the job interview the following day, so she left for the airport at around 5 in the morning. I stayed in Madrid to look around some more and the plan was to meet up at the airport the same night when she came back. I checked out of the hotel at around 10.30 and headed for the city center. I spent the day walking around, looking at impressive buildings and other cool stuff. There is a huge park in the middle of town, called "Parque de El Retiro". There are huge trees and some ponds and stuff, and a pretty cool building called the "palacio de cristal". It's a big glass building with a small pond and a water fall in front. The pond has fish in it, as well as various kinds of birds and small turtles. There was some kind of art installation going on inside the glass palace, with a couple of speakers playing something that sounded like tropical forest bird chirping and a human-sized stuffed panda hanging from the ceiling. A bit odd.

There are bars and small restaurants everywhere in Madrid. One quite typical food is "bocadillos de calamares", which is a smallish baguette-type bread with deep-fried octopus rings in it. Very tasty! Bars in general in Spain very often offer tapas with your drinks. It can be anything from a small piece of bread with ham on it to small sandwiches with various stuff on them, to pieces of tortilla or other types of food like squid or sausage. They're usually pretty cheap, around 1-2 euros, though some bars offer them for free. Another good word to know is "caña" (pronounced "cahn-ya"). This is a small glass of beer, usually for about 1-1,50 euro.

There are plenty of things to see in Madrid; the royal palace, the big cathedral of Almudena, tons of museums and fountains. After walking around for about 10 hours my feet were killing me, but fortunately it was about time to go to the airport. Getting to the airport is easy. The subway takes you straight to the terminals, so no problems there. Gin's flight was right on time, so we met up and headed home.