Archive for February, 2006

Alba de Tormes

Monday, February 27th, 2006
Well as it turns out my trip to Toledo was cancelled. It was snowing all Saturday and Sunday. It was the second time since being here that Salamanca has gotten more than its yearly dose of snow. I'm afraid that I brought it with me. Here are the Cathedrals in the snow. The picture doesn't do it justice. The city is absolutely gorgeous in the snow.
It's also gorgeous at night. I need to find a stand so I can take better pictures. I manage to blur them all with the longer exposure times.
Here you see the northern lights of Spain...or I was breathing and taking pictures at the same time...oops. Below is the Calle Compañia.
Anyway, I should get to go to Toledo next Sunday. Tomorrow I'm traveling with a friend (Alexia from Greece) to visit Segovia. Yay Roman Aqueduct!

Today I visited Alba de Tormes with a few friends. It's a small town not far from Salamanca (20 km). It was the final resting place of Santa Teresa de Jesus. The priest there told us a lot about the history, and they have a small museum. This museum includes on display Santa Teresa's left arm and heart (yes really) on display in some very ornate glass and gold cases. Kinda scary. The rest of her is in an ornate sepulcre. He said that the last nun to inspect her body and place it in it's current spot wrote in the documentation of how the body was entirely intact and preserved. Here's the view from the city. It's situated on a hill. The countryside is pretty.

Fake tilt shift photography with Photoshop

Monday, February 27th, 2006
Here are the products of messing around in Photoshop CS2 that I did with real photos of famous locations to make these scenes appear to be fake models. The point is to imitate tilt-shift photography. If you're not familiar with tilt-shift, click here. Check out real tilt-shift photos here and here, and try out the tutorial that I used here.

^{Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany}^

^{Machu Picchu, Peru}^

^{USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii}^

Spanish Cuisine

Saturday, February 25th, 2006
Well yesterday I got 3 pieces of mail. This was insane as I've not received mail up to this point. It was very happy. Thanks all!

So yesterday I had dinner with my Adsis people. Had some type of meat that was very rich. It was good. As I was half way through I asked what it was, and it turns out I was eating tongue. It's probably a good thing I didn't know that first. Also tried the Calimocho. It's the most popular drink here (not Sangria). It's just a cheap red wine mixed with Coke. Doesn't sound good. It's not terrible, but I still wouldn't suggest it.

Tomorrow I travel to Toledo with a student group of extranjeros from the University. I'm excited. Will put up pictures when I get back.

Boston MBTA Anagram Remix

Thursday, February 23rd, 2006
Here's my Boston MBTA map with wonderful anagram goodness! Light homework night, so I decided to warp the names of T stations in the Boston metro area. Hopefully this will on par with those metro maps listed on Boing Boing. Here's Cory Doctorow's post on the London Underground map that started it all. Enjoy!

Warning to the unfortunate who lack a sense of humor and those with sensitive eyes. You will find some anagrams offensive and tasteless (in your opinion). Be forewarned. kthxbye!

edit: [Thanks to Ben for some of the anagram ideas. | Now on Bostonist and Boing Boing!]

Peanut Butter

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
So I finally found Peanut Butter. I had to take a bus outside of Salamanca and walk 20 minutes to this L. Eclerc. It's the Walmart of Spain apparently and big even by American standards.
Even so they have available only one little jar of peanut butter. Not even a full size jar, and absolutely no selection (Captain Mani imported from the US), although it has many different brands of chocolate spread. (Ingredients you ask? sugar...and then pig fat...mmmm...good)

Also, convinced my Erasmus friends to go Bowling. I found an alley here, and was surprised. It has 6 lanes, and the balls, silly screen animations, and everything is definitely imported from the US. It was a good time. Jochen had bowled a little before, but the other two hadn't. It was hilarious. Trying to explain to them that the balls are marked based on pounds which are roughly half a kilogram was nearly impossible....silly history students. :)

Hello, world…

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006

Welcome to smileyhandface. This will be a repository for ramblings and interesting things I find.

Today’s link: Unphotographable
Too often one sees something worth recording – some image, some snapshot of humanity, something too wonderful to describe – but there’s no camera on hand to capture that moment. This guy captures potential photographs with his words, rather than presenting a visual image.

[via webzen]

Two New Wordpress Plugins

Tuesday, February 21st, 2006

So, I just released two new Wordpress plugins. Both were originally designed as extensions for alwaysBETA and cleaned up for public release. You can read my initial post about them on alwaysBETA. They are:

  • SparkStats - This plugin generates small sparkline graphs representing the posting and commenting activity on your Wordpress blog over a certain number of days. Nice, pretty statistics to spice up your blog and provide some sense of what’s been going on. I’m working on generalizing it to also display by week or month for blogs with less activity.

  • Extended Tags - This is a very simple tagging plugin. It is intended to be used alongside a more fully-featured tagging plugin to provide more specific metadata for your posts that you don’t necessarily want polluting your taglist. (i.e. tags like “web” belong in your cloud while “foobar 2000 bugs” might go in the extended tags.) These tags can then be hidden with styles so that they are just picked up by aggregators like Technorati.

That’s about all. I’m gradually building up tools and ideas to incorporate into an eventual publically-released Wordpress theme. It’ll be cool, I promise.


Tuesday, February 21st, 2006
Well, as I'd learned a few weeks ago, many of the college workers on a form of a strike. This usually means that I can't use the computer labs or library 2 days a week. This week it's 3 days. I also learned that the professors without tenure are also on strike, so no class for me today or thursday. So in summation, no internet, no library, no teachers, no class. That's all.

On the up side, found a new intenet cafe that's much much closer, a little cheaper, let's me use my laptop, and doesn't have smoking. Except that I'm still paying, it's almost a Godsend.

So that this is not an entirely wasted post, I will leave you with this slightly amusing tidbit. I happened to be bored a few days ago. After looking at my reflection in our sugar bowl, I wondered if I could distort a picture similarly in photoshop. Well, not exactly....

Here's me:and here's Tal...I mean me...distorted...

Santa Marta

Sunday, February 19th, 2006
Friday was amazing. Absolutely fantastic. I have been truly blessed. Friday throughout all of Salamanca is a huge fundraiser for Manos Unidas (Hands United). Ingredients and labor are donated to make thousands and thousands of bocadillos (sandwiches) which are then sold. The money goes to provide potable water to people in Burundi . A friend from Adsis invited me to come join them for bocadillos in the afternoon. This is in Santa Marta , a small town (pueblicito) just outside of Salamanca . It was good to be in the community and actually talking to people. Just seeing children at play was very rejuvenating. I got a picture of them playing with a paracaídas (literally stop-falls or in English, a parachute). Later in the afternoon, we took the leftover sandwiches to some nearby gitanos (gypsies). They live in shanties built of seemingly whatever they could find to use, plywood, aluminum, cardboard, you name it. The ones I met were very friendly. They invited us in and asked us to have coffee or to eat with them, even when we were coming to bring them sandwiches. They pleaded also with the priest to bring them clothes and some blankets for the cold. We talked with one about finding a job also. Of course it was poverty on a level more rarely seen in the US , but what struck me most about the people were their eyes. They have the most amazing, variegated eyes. Once we left there, we found our way back to the Adsis house where 10 people, including 2 priests, live in community. Most of them I’d met earlier at the Centro Serranos where I’ve started volunteering. Still, I was touched by their way of welcoming me. Talking to them really has helped my Spanish, and I’m understanding conversation much better. I probably spoke more Spanish that day than in the past 3 weeks combined.

As I found out, there’s more to Salamanca ’s tradition of selling sandwiches for Burundi . For the adolescents it’s tradition to buy the sandwiches, along with a liter (of beer, wine or whatever) and go to park. The park is huge, and they go in mass. The age here for buying alcohol is 16, and it makes for a scene very different from that found in the US . A few of us went just to see the scene. We did a decent amount of walking, and unfortunately it happened to be the windiest day yet.

After this we went to another house, this one actually in Salamanca . It’s the same community of people, just one more house. Here I met also a student from Italy who is finishing up his semester here. He, like I, came here to study and just ended up becoming part of the group. I really enjoyed talking with him, and he lives not far away. We were invited, or rather, forced into having dinner with all of them. Listening and talking with them over dinner, was definitely the most enjoyable time I’ve spent thus far in Spain . It was also good to be with ‘real’ people. At school there are students, and at church there are elderly people. Here there was a spectrum and children. Sometimes I miss seeing children. They also asked me a lot of questions about my home and the US . It felt good to talk about my home, and sharing it with someone made me not miss it so much. I’ll have to try to catch up on some reading tomorrow, but it was undeniably a day well spent.


Thursday, February 16th, 2006
Things here in Salamanca continue to go. Wow so many words to learn. It’s crazy…getting better, but still crazy. It’s been about 3 weeks. I should have it down by now right? Ah well. I visited the cemetery which is crazy huge. (Today’s blog brought to you by the word ‘crazy’) The only other time I’ve seen so many graves was at Arlington National, but this was impressive in a different way, as they are all above the ground. There’s a wall around the cemetery, and even the walls serve as graves. Strangely, all of the tombstones are relatively recent. The oldest ones I could find are from the 1940’s. My Trinitarian friend, Yamir, suggested that the city isn’t actually that old. Yes, downtown and the cathedral and such have been there forever. However, my side of town and the giant cemetery; not so much. He said that their home/complex was built 30 years ago, and at that time they had no neighbors whatsoever. Now it’s apartment buildings as far as the eye can see.

Anyway, here's the entrance to the cemetary.
Well I’ve started volunteering. Thus far I don’t do a whole lot, but once a week I’m helping a Moroccan girl with her English. She came here a few years ago not knowing Spanish, and hence, couldn’t take part in the Spanish education system. Now she’s working on completing equivalency tests, so she can continue to study if not at a university, then at least at a trade school or the like. Needless to say, this helps me equally much with my Spanish, so it hardly counts as volunteering.

Mostly I’ve just been going to class, and exploring the city. My house is a 15 minute walk from the school, and I make that trip 2-3 times a day. I probably average 7-8 miles a day. Some are less when I need to take care of classes and work, and some are much, much more. I think my body is getting used to it. My calves are in a constant state of rock hardness, and the skin on my feet is thick like none other. Lovely, I know. Guess that’s all for now. Hopefully my life will be filled with exciting things to write about in the near future.