31 July 2010

Meadows of Sin, Las Vegas

The first time I visited Vegas, I was two months shy of my twenty-first birthday. Everyone lamented that fact, but actually I relished being able to walk around during the hot day and laugh at the stumbling gamblers. I only had a half-day layover, as I was on my way to visit a friend in Los Angeles. I knew I was just taking inventory, logging a feel for the Strip when I would inevitably return.

And finally this past February, five years later, I was able to celebrate Olive's little brother TJ's own twenty-first birthday. There were about twelve of us staying at various hotels along the Strip.

The Venetian, Las Vegas, Nevada
Click photo to enlarge.

Olive's parents had a complimentary suite at The Venetian. This is a photo from the north side pool area. I just happened to glance up as we made our way back to their room after watching the sunset. The symmetry and clean lines struck me as masterful. Las Vegas architecture has always fascinated me, constantly reinventing new hotels and casinos.  Not surprising for a four mile stretch that nineteen of the world's twenty five largest hotels by room count call home.

30 July 2010

Serenade Sunset, Caribbean Sea

I cannot recommend enough booking a cruise. Free food, good drinks, and an opportunity to meet a vast demographic of nationalities. A chance to visit as many or as few counties as one chooses; a floating all-inclusive resort.

My friend Olive and I planned a seven day cruise for our Spring Break this year. We chose Royal Caribbean International for our vendor, sailing aboard the MS Serenade of the Seas. We heard Royal Caribbean catered to a younger crowd, the ports of call were enticing, and from online photos the ship looked breathtaking. The flight from Seattle to San Juan, Puerto Rico and cruise cost us under $1000 each.

Here is a photo from the sixth day. By that time we were swollen with all the humidity moisture, since we are both from northern latitudes. Also, all the daiquiris and rum probably didn't ease our water retention.

Caribbean Sea, off the coast of Grenada
Click photo to enlarge.

Captain Michél was steering the vessel towards our ending point of San Juan, and we had one day at sea to recoup and reflect on the wonderful voyage.  The color coordination was unintentional, but I like to think Helios glanced down from his chariot and presented us with an explosion of radiance to remind us that ordinary days are truly spectacular.

29 July 2010

Galway Bay, Ireland

In a misguided effort to keep some semblance of a routine here, I will start posting everyday.  Even if it's just a photo and short story. 

I have thousands of photos: some out-of-focus, too dark, of less desirable objects (RE: the time I shot a photo of vomit in Las Vegas' New York, New York bathroom urinal because I was plastered and it was the most hilarious thing to me at that time, even though later on I was appauled), or when the night setting turns what looks awesome on the preview screen to horrible in review.

Yet, there are some photos that take my breath away.  Sometimes I can scarcely believe I've the privilege experiencing some of Earth's many wonders.

Without further ado:

Galway Bay, The Burren, County Clare, Ireland
Click picture to enlarge.

The Burren (Irish for 'great rock') is an interesting place on the western side of Ireland.  This wide swath of karst limestone is one of the largest in Europe.  There are fossilized sand dollars and abundant crisscrossing grikes.  Walking up to the immense ocean, I had the impression of traversing a lunar landscape.  This area rose to about 30 meters above Galway Bay.  It was humbling and awe-inspiring to stand near the edge of the precipice, exposed to the crashing waves spraying oceanic mist. 

So naturally, ignoring my mother's childhood extortion to never approach the brink of a cliff, I sat down on a narrow ledge.  My little sister was inspired to capture the moment of tranquility.  Also, this is one of my favorite photos of myself (go ahead, gag at the vanity).  I was amazed the sun blazed down with nary a cloud in sight.  Silly me, it poured buckets not two hours later.  Oh Ireland: land of psychotic weather.

27 July 2010

The Pursuit of Happyness

"Make the world better."
- Lucy Stone, American abolitionist and suffragist

This fills my day with joy. One comment that made one person laugh enough to comment back. I think that's why we are in this game of life. To make each other smile.

Posted on finslippy.


"Now why did I do that?"
- Major-General Sir William Erskine, 2nd Baronet; British Army Officer

There have been intermittent internet connection here at The Palace. Seemingly at random times as well. We've graphed and charted the biscuits out of the service, yet there is no discernible pattern. Although it does happen at the most opportune moments:

Need to find a recipe for chimichangas? Just kidding!

Checking the weather forecast for the weekend? Might as well bust out a chicken weather vane and ear thermometer.

Want to update your blog? Use old fashioned paper and pencil instead.

I really do not understand how I could survive without electronic devices. Even though Justin Timberlake warns us to eschew technology and come over there and...you know. I believe the correct term is 'back up on this.'

Tangent aside, I am crippled without an internet connection and phone service. I was born into a family that thrives on daily exchanges. A few days pass and my mother sends out an Amber Alert. It was especially apparent when I took a holiday in Tokyo last year. I would only email once a day, and if I did not comply, I fully expected both the American and Spanish consulates to break down my hotel room door.

I have been enjoying time lately without service, though. This afternoon it was amazing outside, positively sweltering on the deck. Swilling beer and playing fetch with the puppies was a perfect way to pass a sabbatical from work.

High cirrus clouds.

Light, fluffy clouds!

The mistake of dipping inside to check news and Twitter the laptop proved fatal to the sunshine, though. When I returned to the deck 40 minutes later, this is the view that greeted me.

Smells like rain.


Ayo I'm tired of using technology. I need sunshine more than the rain right in front of me.

PS: Have you heard this version? Almost as great as the original and one of the best acoustic covers I've heard.

24 July 2010

Airplanes In The Night Sky, Like Shooting Stars

"Be sure to play 'Blessed Lord' tonight — play it real pretty."
- Martin Luther King Jr., American civil rights activist

I usually have some form of music playing. Whether it be Bach or Flo Rida, I have a pretty eclectic taste. Actually, a friend told me once after looking through my iTunes that it was 'schizophrenic.' To-may-to, to-mah-to. I just simply love music. It has the power to transport back to the time you first heard its notes or which loved one you would sing and dance along with in the auto.

Therefore, here are ten songs that will forever remind me of Summer Twenty Ten.

These songs may be Top 40, yet that's the saturation of pop music. It's EVERYWHERE: clubs, bars, television, FM radio, iTunes, the roommate's head.

Airplanes - B.o.B. feat Hayley Williams of Paramore

First off, it's just a gorgeous song. Hayley is at the peak of her talent, ethereal without being sugary. B.o.B.'s raps are heartfelt and truthful, not overdone or ridiculous that usually make me switch a rap song. The imagery of the song appealed enough to reach #2 on the Billboard Top 200. Everyone could use a wish right now.

Alejandro - Lady Gaga

A nod to the latinos? A successful strategy [Re: Fernando - ABBA and La Isla Bonita - Madonna]. Remember the Latin Invasion era of 1999-2003? Most of those singers are big moguls now. Also I'm a sucker for anything with a violin included (may explain my affinity for a band named Yellowcard). The blatant message of bidding farewell to past relationships is a step most everyone can relate to, one that is not undertaken easily. You can call my name, though.

All The Right Moves - Onerepublic

I had heard the original version of Apologize before Timbaland used his Midas touch and this band exploded onto the airwaves. Their sophomore effort is not in vain. With the cello overtures and a drum line that makes my grandmother stomp along with, this song is sweepingly beautiful. Plus with a killer Edwardian era video, Onerepublic has yet to make a wrong move. Seriously, if there is one music video to watch, please view this one. Freaking awesome.

Break Your Heart - Taio Cruz feat Ludacris

This British import will probably do just that. Squealing and clasping of hands happens to every female when I've seen this song played. I like a guy that lays it all out on the line. More people should be this honest, instead of embarking headlong into a disastrous relationship. Ludacris does not disappoint as well. The electric beat is banging, for sure.

California Gurls - Katy Perry feat Snoop Dogg

Grammatical spelling aside, usually any song with The Dogg is on the fast track to a memorable experience. Having spent a few summers and semesters in California, I can attest that California girls WILL melt your Popsicle. Also, most are bat guano crazy the further south one ventures. Perry's summer smash about the Golden Coast is catchy and nostalgic for anyone who has visited the wild and wacky epicentre of our nation's pop culture. Suggestive lyrics AND a music video based on the board game Candy Land? Epic!

Cooler Than Me [Gilgamesh Remix] - Mike Posner

Already a hot commodity on the college tour circuit, a friend in Washington state played the Cooler Than Me EP. Accusatory lyrics and a deceptively happy upbeat mesh perfectly. It's true because most of us have seen it: a girl wearing oversized sunglasses to hide her face because she thinks herself above the masses. Currently, this single is number one on the Billboard 100 Dance Chart. Not bad for a 22 year old whose repertoire includes Evil Woman and Drug Dealer Girl.

In My Head - Jason Derülo

Who hasn't had fantasies about another? As a followup to Whatchu Say [which samples Imogen Heap (!)], a slightly creepy imagination of a girl in a club has a heavier rock feel to it. His dance movies in the music video are fantastic, I foresee a part in Step Up: 4 the Masses. And yes, everyone IS looking for love, Jason. Or a free drink. Maybe a Klondike bar.

Not Afraid - Eminem

So his last album was a flop, just like Rihanna. (Perhaps that is why they teamed up for a duet?) Every recording artist is allowed that one album. The lead single of the aptly named album sets up Slim Shady for a massive comeback. His lyrics are always real, he's himself and not afraid to show it. Taking pain and turning it into music is an old formula, yet he portrays it in a fresh way that takes me back to when I first heard Eminem in my high school years. He preaches about reaching out to walk the path together and standing up for what one believes in, lessons from which everyone can benefit.

Umbrella Beach [Long Lost Sun Remix] - Owl City

Adam Young may only be known to the wider masses for his Fireflies fame. Out of all his discography, there is only one I dislike. So, anytime I can obtain new music from Owl City is a grand day. When Young offered a free remix of Umbrella Beach for a Tweet mention, it was a no-brainer. The original is orchestral and ocean wave backed clap-the-hands along effort, including the seminal lyrics "I'll spread out my wings and fly." This remix is above and beyond. The transformation is an aural orgasm. Instead of muddling the original like so many remake failures, it succeeds in transferring a great song into the next hard-hitting level. Adding Breann Düran's heavenly overlays was genius. This version gives me goosebumps everytime.

Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) - Shakira feat Freshlyunderground

The official 2010 FIFA World Cup anthem. The lyrics not only sum up a match perfectly, but also translate to real life. I had every bar and club I visit play this hit, used 'Waka Waka' as a greeting, and set it as my ringtone. With South African guitars and a modern take on an old Cameroon soldiers' chant, Shaki again produces an infectious earworm. It really doesn't matter what language this woman sings in, she's the business. The music video is pretty cool as well, with all the football players and dancers. And for a month this year, we were all Africa.

What are your favorite songs this summer?

15 July 2010

Where iPhones come to die

"...it's better to burn out then to fade away."
- Kurt Cobain, American singer-songwriter

Dear Apple iProducts,

Thank you so much for releasing a beta version of OS 4.0. I abstained from downloading this operating system at first. Yet every time I activated iTunes, there was that message:

iTunes has detected a new update is available!

The first few times, I just ignored the text. My iPhone was working splendidly, why would I want to foul up the order? I remembered when I upgraded to OS 3.1.3, it took the better part of my workday. It could be put off for a bit.

Would you please let iTunes download OS 4.0?

Then, my roommate showed me his update, with the background image instead of a blank black screen and the ability to organize my apps into folders. Amazing! I wanted that. Plus, I noticed sometimes my apps froze and quit. Perhaps 4.0 fixed these bugs? Also, I had already downloaded all the updates for my 80+ applications, so upgrading to a new OS should be a breeze, right?


So I ran a test drive. I figured my iPod Touch was a good hardware piece because it was almost like an iPhone, without calling and SMS abilities.

20 minutes later, I happily put a background image on my iPod. Awesome! So slick, this new operating system!

Granted, there are only six applications on the Touch, yet much more music and even full length videos. Should be no harm for my iPhone, correct?

I started the update around 0800h on 14 July. I figured I could go the morning without playing Angry Birds and texting if needed. Why didn't I download my recent pictures?? For heaven's sake, the iPod only took twenty minutes!

I should have known something was wrong when it took 16 hours to backup the device. At 16 hours and 20 minutes, iTunes informed me that it was prepping for a restore. Why? I didn't ask for a restore. I just want a new OPERATING SYSTEM!

Then came the errors. Oh goodness, iTunes can't read my iPhone because of Error #-&*($(#&(#$? Why the bunch of numbers, Apple? An eight digit number that spelled 'DEATH.' Okay, fine, I'll just restart my iPhone. No big deal.

It wasn't a big deal until it was three in the morning. I caught up on Season 5.2 of Nip/Tuck. I read all of Some Birds Are Like That. All the while clicking 'Okay' to errors. No, it's not okay Apple! I didn't agree to this headache, nor sign up for it. An endless loop of affirming I was 'okay' with the errors and restarting my iPhone. My computer informed me it needed to shut down to install some new updates. Even my laptop knew it was time to call it a day. Or rather, a night.

However, my now brick iPhone did not. I disconnected it, yet it was like Frankenstein's monster. It had a life of its own! Shutting down to load itself again, error detected and shut down. Lather, rinse, repeat. I finally held down the home and screen button until the device blacked out, effectively throwing it on the funeral pyre.

I learned how to function without a phone. Using the iPod, I was able to download a Twitter application, along with Angry Birds and Wikipedia. I perfected the art of over-medium eggs. I researched the new Halo: Reach release (14 September 2010). I found out the Mario franchise was still the top-selling game. I even found out that I, Robot game was a commercial failure. My other roommate then informed us that he would not be downloading the new operating system. I made a Baroque quip. It may or may not have come from years of Disney's Beauty and the Beast being my little sister's favorite movie. Oh Cogsworth, still a source of entertainment after nineteen years.

Finally, 2117h 15 July, I deleted the backup file. Forum threads stated that the errors are generated in the backup file, it being from OS 3.1.3 and could be a source of dissension. This was not a decision I took lightly, I had over 1000 pictures, every text from the past thirteen months, and numerous contacts.

iTunes froze. I waited. 2122h, iTunes recognized my iPhone. The music and videos were gone. FINE, I could live with that. Everything synced on my iPhone was on my laptop. The iPhone screen was still had that annoying apple with a missing bite and a 30 percent loaded bar. Then, it shut down and the iPhone disappeared from the iTunes sidebar.

Awesome. Perhaps another endless loop? iTunes informed that it could not sync the iPhone as it could not establish a connection. It's connected, I promised. Please. Just load.

Eternal cycle of loading up to 30 percent, then shutting down to do it perform a restart all over again.

So, thank you Apple. I thought you had proved me wrong with the iPod and then the iPhone, but if releasing an error filled operating system is your modus operandi, I don't know how long I will continue to use your products. The sunset is a little dimmer without my iPhone.

Sincerely, a perturbed consumer.

PS: At 2212h, I finally put my phone into recovery mode. Downloaded OS 4.0 all over again. iTunes informed me I could restore my iPhone and everything after download. At that exact moment, the sun broke free of the cloud cover and splashed the living room with golden light.

PSS: The restore is from 22 February. About 'sixteen' minutes of rehabilitation. I could live with that. What I cannot live with, is the wasted hours of grief and heartbreak. The sun also ended its brief reprieve from behind the cloud prison. Veiled metaphor?

PSSS: No dice. Everything is gone.

13 July 2010

Take Me Somewhere Nice

"It's very beautiful over there."
- Thomas Edison, American inventor

I've waited 25 years for this day. Ever since I could fathom what a World Cup title meant to my hometown, nay my nation; it was a great achievement that never graced the national team.

Until 11 July 2010.

The final match against Holland was without beauty. There were too many yellow cards played by referee Howard Webb. [Note: I understand how difficult it is to referee a match, especially with the pressure of The Final.] My Amsterdam friends were Tweeting about being 'dirty Dutch.' Many, many easy shots were botched. Not one penalty score. I spent the whole game curled up on the couch, barely sipping water, stomach in knots.

Íker Casillas did wonderful keeping. Holland never scored. Halftime rolled in, the roommates and I had a brief reprieve with a chance to stretch our legs and bemoan the zero score. The second half passed with close calls, leaving us on the edge of our seats. Then, first overtime ended. Time dwindled in the second overtime. I feared this Cup would end up like the last one, with Italy v France's penalty shootout.

Then in the 116th minute of the match, Jesús Navas' strategy of invading enemy territory to gain possession of the ball finally paid off. Cesc Fàbregas passed to Andrés Iniesta, who used a half-volley shot to propel the national team to history.

Immediately, Iniesta tore off his jersey to reveal his tribute to Daniel Jarque, his deceased childhood friend and captain of RCD Espanyol. "Dani Jarque: siempre con nosotros" in true España spirit.

I prayed for the remaining three minutes to pass quickly. When the final whistle was sounded, I had to wipe my slightly damp eyes.

Casillas showing the trophy to TRH The Infantas Leonor y Sofía.

Landed at Madrid-Barajas Airport.

Finally, the trophy is located in my homeland.

Pictures courtesy of FIFA.

11 July 2010


"So here it is!"
- Cleopatra VII Philopator, last Egyptian pharaoh

This is what it all crumbles down to: all the hoping, wishing and praying since 11 June. South Africa has held our rapt attention for a month. Vuvuzelas across the globe sounded with each goal. Expletives yelled with each errant ball. One fútbol sovereignty united with a single thought: the Champion of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Both teams have doggedly eliminated 30 other Cup hopefuls. This is what four years of training, practices, sacrifices, and matches whittles down to: one match determines the ultimate honor in The Beautiful Game.

Each team has shared their triumphs and downfalls past years and it all depends on how well they can bend a ball and block strikers at 2030 SAST.

Neither team has captured a title. España is the top ranked team by FIFA. Holland is undefeated every World Cup match they played. So good of Germany to secure third place, assuring that Europe is the top continent this time around. There has been little talk in the domicile except for the merits of penalty shootouts and when to call off extra time. Or blind referees, but near-sighted men with a perchance for striped polo shirts and a fondness for whistles and different colored cards have to find their niche somewhere.

I am sorry to say that we ran out of chimichangas, but have found new love in chicken stir-fry with brown rice. Which is a bit more difficult then pressing a few buttons and drowning food with peanut sauce, but if one prepares a batch with five times the normal servings there is a new invention the kids are using these days called Tupperware which keeps the food in individual containers that are easy to pop into the microwave and press a few buttons. Then dousing with peanut sauce.

At this point I have entered a Zen-like tranquillity. An epic match is only two and a half hours ahead. I like to think that Villa, Xavi, Valdés and Sneijder are accompanying my descent into the Calm Before The Storm.

After it is ironed, I will be donning this shirt in honor of the champions:

Of course this hombre has a backup plan, courtesy of my foray into the wonderful capital of the opposition:

I have charged my iPhone to make sure it does not fail me during the game, checked on how many Tupperware containers are left, sliced some Amish Friendship Bread, polished the rosaries, Tweeted, refilled the cooler, and set five alarms in case I pass out from excitement and/or exhaustion. Yes, I do understand there exists a fine line between fan and fanatical. On a scale of one to Tom Cruise-on-Oprah, well, I hope the couches are not made of particle wood support.

Next post will either be a 'Sí hicimos' or a huge frown face emoticon.

And so I leave you with this jpg I lovely and painstakingly constructed with Paint:

04 July 2010

Wolverine's on the phone for you...

"Oh, yes; it is the glorious Fourth of July. It is a great day. It is a good day. God bless it. God bless you all.
...Thomas Jefferson!"

- John Adams, 2nd President of the United States

He wants his hair back.

Somewhere in Australia, Hugh Jackman's lawyers are drafting a suit. I HAD THE LOOK FIRST!

Happy Independence Day, America. Here's to 234 more years.

Be safe, have fun, exercise your rights. I know I did. Videos of exploding wheelbarrows and cardboard boxes to follow.

03 July 2010

The Beautiful Game

"Whatever the result may be, I shall carry to my grave the consciousness that at least I meant well for my country."
- James Buchanan, 15th President of the United States

Growing up in Barcelona, it was only natural that I was obsessed with fútbol. For a while, it was all I could think about. School projects, clothing, trainers, posters. All were related somehow to the game. I couldn't wait until the bell would ring so I could run outside, free to hear the fresh grass crunch under my cleats and stain my kit green.

Every four years, a little event called the FIFA World Cup occurs. Some Americans may be surprised to know that it is the MOST watched sporting event in the world. 715 million people viewed the final match in Germany 2006. In comparison, the 2010 Vancouver Closing Ceremony had 190 million viewers and 106.5 million people saw Super Bowl XLIV. I do like any sporting event, but fútbol has to be the most thrilling. The cut-with-a-knife tension is worse than any American football game. Besides the random events like wardrobe malfunctions or gloves-off hockey fights, I believe there is a reason it's called the world's game.

I then don't have to tell you how many TVs I watch it on (two) or how many iPhone apps I have downloaded (four) or how many times I have eaten chimichangas in place of a meal (36) or how many times I have used four letter words (%#*@). Each match comes with jubilation and heartbreak. I chew on my fingers when there are penalty shots.

"BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM!" has become a favorite saying around here. [Really, it's only a joke, but good movie.]

I don't answer my phone. I frantically check Twitter every commercial, but am too nervous to post anything. LESS I MISS SOMETHING. Even though we can pause the TV.

Uh, my computer just made a really weird screeching noise. Maybe it's upset that I keep ESPN.com running like it's going out of style?

One team that surprised me not to make it to the Knockout stage was Italia. Huh? The current defending champions, four-time winners of the World Cup, my father's homeland, etc., knocked out by Slovakia? One of the roommates summed it up, "Is Slovakia even a country? I bet you Italy's coach resigns."

Tis true, sorry Lippi. You did well for the team, thank you. Just not this year.

So, for the round of 16, I was disappointed with all the wins save Holland and of course La Roja (España). Team Oranje has been performing quite well recently, expect for 2002. I moaned with every American as Ghana edged the team out of competition. Brazil made it through with Kaka. England out, but the Germans have been competing well. Remind me to tell you the story of when I sat next to a German woman on a flight to Seattle.

I was ecstatic today when two heavyweights were beaten by underdogs. Everyone that I watched the matches with were in shock. Brazil, five-time Cup champions, performed an own goal. WOW. And then a tense penalty shootout with light blue players from Uruguay stomping Ghana and Africa's dreams at a World Cup win on their home territory.

The matches today were unbelievable. I contracted an upset stomach and overstretched my hamstrings. Yelled and used the Vuvuzela application and spilled water and shotgunned Coors Light and highfived and hugged. Simply spending the time cheering and moaning and laughing seemed the right way to celebrate a gracious day off work. I can't wait to do it again tomorrow.

For the first match, I wouldn't mind either way. Argentina does have the top joint-scorer in the Cup, Gonzalo Higuaín. (Also doesn't hurt that he plays for Real Madrid.) Germany has lost a match, but they did upset England.

As for the second game, I think I know where my loyalty lies.

Yo sé, Víctor Valdés. Sí se puede.