Pulpo Paul: The Psychic Cephalopod

July 06, 2010 By: erik Category: Skepticism, Soccer, Videos, Weird 731 views

thumbToday I walked into my local grocery store and said with a wink, “Hey, do you guys sell German flags? I want to hang one on my balcony.” (Hanging the Spanish flag on one’s balcony is a common way to show support for the Spanish World Cup team who will face off against Germany tomorrow in the semi-finals.) My grocer friend, Andrés, said, “Have you heard the story of Pulpo Paul (Paul the Octopus)?” I assumed he was about to tell me a didactic Aesop-esque fairy tale about why one shouldn’t be such a cheeky jerk, but he turns to the checkout computer and pulls up this internet video to show me…
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July 4th Party – Hamburgerfest 2010

July 05, 2010 By: erik Category: Food, Partying, Photos, USA 112 views

July Fourth HamburgerfestWe had another successful Hamburgerfest this year for July 4th, with friends Agustin, Ana, Ivan, Veronica, Manolo, Elena, José Luis, and Azucena attending. In 2009, we came up almost short on hamburger meat, so this year we decided to make sure that definitely didn’t happen. As a result, we have about eight hamburgers left over to freeze or eat this week. Nora was very well behaved with the guests once her initial “who are all these people in my living room??” confusion wore off. And they were very good about warming up to her slowly. Agustin fed her a pretty big portion of his dessert of flan, ice cream and whipped cream, which endeared him to her at least for the duration of the dessert course.
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Almost standing, Almost walking

June 30, 2010 By: erik Category: News, Offspring, Videos 116 views

Almost standingNora is standing nervously on the branch of Babyhood, contemplating taking the plunge into Toddlerdom. No longer content to sit and play with an object, she must be upright and moving at all times. Unfortunately, her sense of balance is more or less equivalent to that of a World Cup striker in the penalty area.

At the moment, she requires, and demands, a helping hand to hold her as she walks, but every day she is using that hand for balance less and less. Even worse than this stage when she can pull herself up, but doesn’t yet know how to fall (she arches her back so her cranium hits the floor first) is the stage we are entering in which she needs to teeter along solo, but you have to have your arms there to catch her if she falls. We are not yet ready to let her start falling all over the place yet, since she does it so badly.
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Oyster Mushrooms

June 28, 2010 By: erik Category: Experiments, Food, Photography, Photos, Timelapse, Videos 707 views

Oyster MushroomsAs soon as I learned that my friend and grocery store manager, Andrés, cultivates mushrooms, I knew immediately that we had to do a timelapse photography project with his next batch. The particular species he cultivates is Pleurotus ostreatus, the oyster mushroom. He buys preprepared bails of hay wrapped in plastic, to which nutrients, mushroom spores, and water have been added. Holes have been cut in the plastic on the top and sides of the bail. Before you can see any mushroom growth, the whole bail gets warm to the touch, as the nutrient consumption begins inside. When the little fungal sprigs started appearing in the holes, Andrés came to me, with a big grin on his face, and said, “Today’s the day!” So I returned that afternoon and set up the tripod, flash, and intervalometer pointing at the bails of hay in his grocery store’s warehouse right down the street from where I live. And then we waited…
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Why I love the World Cup

June 24, 2010 By: erik Category: Musings, Soccer 333 views

World Cup 2010 South AfricaI enjoy watching soccer. Aside from the occasional beautifully executed maneuver, however, soccer, like all sports, is boring as hell if you don’t care who wins. My biggest problem with soccer is mustering enough energy to care who wins. I did a better job this past year following the Spanish Liga, choosing allegiance with the local team, Racing Santander, even reading the sports newspaper, Marca, in a bar at least once a week. But the effort required to keep up with player trades, injuries, and rumors is more than a little exhausting…all in an attempt to generate some emotional attachment to teams or players.
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She's a sand eater

June 24, 2010 By: erik Category: Beach, Offspring 361 views

Sand ChildToday is San Juan, a pagan-made-christian solstice holiday involving bonfires and general merriment. Since Saint John the Baptist is the patron saint of Colindres, it’s a holiday for the town, including Marga’s work and Nora’s daycare. The weather today is absolutely superb, 24°C with a cool breeze, so we decided to head to the beach and watch Nora play for the first time (almost) in the sand. And there’s no sand better than that of the beach in Laredo.
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June 21, 2010 By: erik Category: Offspring, Photos, Photoshop 91 views

Nora left on Thursday afternoon to spend the weekend with her grandparents. She’s still a little too young to appreciate Father’s Day, and she already celebrated Spanish Father’s Day with me this year, so her absence on Sunday didn’t hurt too much. She’s coming home this evening to watch the Spain – Honduras World Cup match with her old man.

Nora Shoeless Frame Break
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First Annual Colindres Beer Festival

June 20, 2010 By: erik Category: Colindres, Partying, Photos, Spain 166 views

Oktoberfest Backdrop (crop)For a week now I’ve been seeing signs around town advertising the “I Festival de Cerveza de Colindres“, but none of the signs said exactly what or where it was, just the dates, June 17 – 20 and the bars that were sponsoring the event. I sort of assumed that it was going to be some discount on beers in those bars or something, but yesterday we ran into a friend that informed us that it was a big festival with bands in a tent near the town hall. Unfortunately, it has been cold and rainy all week, but today, on the last day of the festival, we went to check it out. This is what we found…
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Cueva El Soplao – Soplao Cave

June 19, 2010 By: erik Category: Photos, Science, Spain, Travel, Videos 1,123 views

El SoplaoToday, my wife and I we took full advantage of our childless weekend to do a little local tourism. One of the “must see” attractions of Cantabria, the northern region of Spain where we live, is the Cueva El Soplao, an ancient cave discovered by miners in the late nineteenth century and only opened to the public in 2005, containing some of the finest known specimens of stalactites and stalagmites in the world.

The stalactites form at a rate of about one centimeter every 150 years. Some of them are two or three meters long. That’s 45,000 years old. It’s rather mind boggling to look at a stalagmite standing as tall as I am and think that, in the time that it takes to have all the happiness, sadness, pain, pleasure, and joy of one entire human life, this structure gains a couple millimeters. And then, once you’ve contemplated the single tree, you take a step back and see the whole forest of thousands upon thousands of stalactites and stalagmites… You can’t help but have a transcendent moment and appreciate the transience of your own existence. Read the rest of this entry →

Abuelo's 90th Birthday Bash

June 17, 2010 By: erik Category: Family, Partying, Photos 287 views

Abuelo with SparklerOn June 12, 2010, shortly before the United States faced off against England in their first World Cup match of the second decade of the third millennium, we had a party to celebrate the ninetieth birthday of my third grandfather. It was a lovely meal with good friends and family followed by a balloon-popping event, some gifts, and cake. A good time was had by all, even if Nora did manage to receive more gifts than the birthday boy.
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