Saturday, March 31, 2007

Barcelona Photos

Yesterday I captured these photos near my house around the Poble Nou barrio of Barcelona.





Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Adaptation Effect

Have you ever noticed how we all become used to our regular circumstances, state, situation, whatever you want to call and and thus take it granted! Regardless of how extraordinary something is, it eventually becomes the ordinary. Even worse, the more used to a circumstance we become, the more our attention turns to what's wrong with it.

For example, when I got my new car I was enamored by it. I always wanted to drive it, I kept it perfectly clean, got the oil changed every 3,000 miles and always kept it crazy clean. It was such a special car that I was very thankful to own. That all didn't list very long. I got used to it. It became the norm. Because it's human nature, I can guarantee this occurs for almost everything you're surrounded by, both material and non-material. Your house, car, job, jewelry, body, and even your significant other.

A book that I'm currently reading notes, "It's a vicious cycle. At first we feel thrilled and blessed -- then we start to adapt, but remain somewhat pleased -- later, as we completely adapt, we take the situation for granted with little notice or thought -- and finally dissatisfaction creeps in, as our attention begins to focus more on the lacks and shortcomings the situation affords."

The book recommends counting our blessing on a regular basis. Well, right, but there must be something else...something more

So my friends...how do you counter this tendency? Do you have any recommendations or tips? I have my own ideas that I’ll share in another post.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Otro

Cava Rosado is amazing.

People that are clueless of nonverbal signs are doomed. Get a clue.

The ability to proficiently engage in small talk is important. More than you think.

Life is good.

I'm coming home July 31st. The ticket is bought, which is why my visa bill is over 1,000. Loving it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Madrid Orgullo

I could not leave Spain without going to Madrid's infamous Orgullo (Pride), so I just booked my final trip (I swear this time). I arrive on June 28th and return to Barcelona on July 3rd. I'll be there with a lot of friends so I'm looking forward to it.

I do not know where I'm staying, so if you live in Madrid and would be willing to host me or know of any inexpensive hotels/hostels, please email me at chrisrako@gmail.com. Thanks!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Spanish Mullets

When do you know when a fashion trend has become part of the culture? When it shows up on manikins all over the city!

I submit to you evidence 1 and 1a, exemplifying how the mullet has infiltraded the Spanish culture. The rest of Europe has let go, but the Spanish still rock it proudly.



Saturday, March 24, 2007

Friday, March 23, 2007

Speechless

A 20 year old man in my home state of Wisconsin is facing criminal prosecution after it was discovered that he had sex with a dead deer. Apparently he never had the father-son conversation about sex with animals. Shit like this makes me wonder how often this occurs in the barren, cold, northern areas of Wisconsin without anyone finding out.

View photos and get the full scoop here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Lost in America***

I recently read a shocking article by Douglas McGray in Foreign Policy magazine entitled “Lost in America” (free registration required). Through multiple examples, it is a demonstrates why people throughout the world consider Americans clueless and suggests some corrective actions. It's pretty clear that we have a lot of issues that need to be addressed.

The article begins by noting that, “Americans represent something of a paradox: surrounded by foreign languages, cultures, and goods, they remain hopelessly uninformed, and misinformed, about the world beyond U.S. borders.”

America the Ignorant
We've all seen and read similar statistics, so they should not be a surprise, yet the following facts should be extremely embarrassing to any American.

  • Although half of all college bound Americans say they hope to study abroad, only 1 percent actually follow through on those plans. And nearly half of those students travel to just four countries in Western Europe: Britain, France, Italy, and Spain. In 2004, Italy attracted more American students than all of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East combined.
  • 85 percent of 18- to 24-year-old Americans surveyed by the National Geographic Society could not locate Iraq on a map.
  • Sixty-nine percent failed to fine Britain, 29 percent could not find the Pacific Ocean, and nearly a third believed the U.S. population to be somewhere between 1 and 2 billion.
Corrective Action???
Earlier this year, President George W. Bush finally revived some of the ideas in Strength through Wisdom, with a new National Security Language Initiative. The modestly funded measure encourages foreign language study as early as kindergarten, and requests new money to train and certify foreign language teachers, particularly in so-called critical languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Hindi, and Russian. It also promises to subsidize foreign study for high school and college students, and bring native speakers from abroad to teach in U.S. classrooms. Yet, the president’s language initiative may promise $24 million to promote foreign-language instruction in K-12 schools, but that seems pretty paltry compared to the $206 million he requested to fund abstinence only sex education.

Conclusion
Some people may equate this post as me being an "America hater". In reality, living in Europe has simply allowed me to see the U.S though a fresh lens. It has confirmed that much of what I grew up accepting as fact was based on localized values, not universal truths.

*** Yes, I do realize that the
United States "does not own the whole hemisphere" known as 'the America's' as so many Europeans love to point out. Point taken, please don't email me over it.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Shamship

One of the things that I’ve been thinking about recently are interpersonal associations. I've come to the conclusion that people are connected through three types of associations.

Friendships > Relationships > Shamships

Friendships are almost effortless. My best friendships work like a strong, perfectly oiled machine, needing very little maintenance and can continue to run even if you forget an oil change occasionally.

Relationships are more likely to breakdown if you don’t perform the necessary regular maintenance. They have mutual benefits for both parties which is why they are worth “investing” your time and energy to sustain.

Then you have the shamship. Disguised as a friendship or relationship, a shamship is any personal association lacking meaningful substance. Everyone has had one of these relationships at some point in their life. Unlike a real friendship or relationship where both people benefit, the shamship almost always benefits one person a lot more than the other and are normally based on superficial things such as power, wealth or sex appeal.

Thankfully, these relationships are very easy to identify: they take a lot more energy to sustain than to continue, which is why they often fade (thankfully). Get rid of them.

The shamship...you heard it from Rako first.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Time...

...is going by way too fast. My constant desire to to make every minute count often leaves me feeling like I could always be doing more, regardless of how much I'm doing or how fast I'm going.

I've recently been thinking about about how much (little?) time I have left in Europe and it makes me a bit sad. Other than seeing friends and family, the thought of going back to the U.S is not an exciting one. I've had so many defining experiences which left me with a lot of amazing memories. In many regards, soon all I'll have left is memories. Right now I can say I live in Barcelona. Soon, I'll have memories of living in Barcelona and traveling Europe.

I need to allow myself to relax and always enjoy the "right now" vs. worrying about what is next. I will focus on enjoying the time I have left as I know that new, better memories are waiting to be created.


Monday, March 12, 2007

What a weekend

This weekend was one for the record books. I saw Tiga live at Razzmatazz on Saturday, among a lot of other craziness that I won't discuss in detail.

I started my Spanish classes today. I walked out of the class feeling a lot more stupid than when I walked it. I have a lot to learn...

Now it's time to catch up on the sleep I didn't get this weekend.




Friday, March 09, 2007

Spanish Lessons

So far I've learned Spanish through a combination of everyday interactions, TV, friends, MP3s and the internet. Considering I knew basically nothing when I started, I'm doing alright. I can ask questions, express myself and in general, people can understand me, although my conjugations and grammar needs improvement. I want to get to the next level which means formal classes are necessary.

That's why I am so happy that this morning I was accepted in a reduced cost Spanish course with International House, one of the leading language schools in Europe. The course cost is normally 200 euro per week, but I was able to secure a special spot for only 35 euros because of some information I found while digging on their website.

It's an intensive course so it will be 2 hours per day, Monday through Thursday for 3 weeks. I'm excited....wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Fun times ahead

I booked a Marrakesh trip and added Budapest in addition to London. It's going to be an extremely fun summer. My current plan is to arrive back in the U.S in late July or sometime in August before my, gasp, 25th birthday on the 20th. Damn, I'm getting OLD!

Visitors
Mother visiting: April 21st-30th
Anyone else???

Travel

London: April 12th-16th
Marrakesh May 26th - 30th
Budapest: June 6th-11th

Concerts
Bloc Party at Razzmatazz in Barcelona: May 15th
Scissor Sisters in Barcelona: April 25th

Other Craziness
San Juan Beach Party: June 23rd

Monday, March 05, 2007

Weekend Recap

The weather has been unseasonably warm and sunny. Living just a five minute walk from the beach will ensure my status as a beach bum...I already have the tan to prove it.

I have a lot of free time. Sometimes, I use it to sneak into abandoned warehouses to capture photos of some of the best graffiti artists in Barcelona. Below are just a few example of the stunning work hidden within the warehouse.










Friday, March 02, 2007

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Behavioral Finance

I've always found behavioral finance, especially the psychology of utility to be extremely interesting. In economics, utility is, "a measure of the relative happiness or satisfaction gained by consuming different bundles of goods and services".

What would you do if you were given $25,000 today? Would you spend it? If yes, how would you spend it? The answer reveals a lot about what you value in life and how you feel about money.

You can read more about behavioral finance here.

Emotional Time Warps

Why is it that there are moments throughout our life that come and go with little or no significance while others become eternal memories that can be easily recalled with remarkable precision?

I was recently thinking through my most powerful memories and wondered what made them so special. They vary greatly, but one thing common throughout all of them is emotion. Extremely strong emotion.

Most of my significant memories were formed using mental connections during moments of powerful emotion. These moments always have a linking agent that can instantly produce the exact emotion felt in the original moment. The linking agents become triggers. Like most people, my most common triggers are music and scent. For example:

  • Dave Matthews Band takes me to La Crosse, WI (due to my brother), Alpine Valley and many great high school memories.
  • Several songs take me back to the discos of London’s Vauxhall district. I can remember the exact disco, my location in the club, who I was with, what I was doing and I physically FEEL the same feelings when the connections were formed.
Time warps do exist. Go ahead, close your eyes and allow yourself to be whisked away.