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History museums and el clasico

semi-overcast 25 °C

Hello again! Hope all is well with you, let's dive in again in my adventures of the past week!

Last Friday night I decided to check out the much-heralded magic fountains that come alive every Friday and Saturday nights in the front of the Palau Nacional. Again, I misunderestimated (not to get political, but thanks for that stellar addition to the English language Pres. Bush) the amount of tourists I would find. Apparently as winter gets closer (no sign of that yet either) the crowds will thin. We'll see. I finally managed to climb up on the foundation of one of the pillars above the fountain to get some nice shots of the music-coordinated fountain show. For all of my griping, it was actually a very cool thing which I would recommend to visitors (free too!). They culminated the show with a huge eruption of water at the end of the song 'Viva Barcelona'. Cool.



Saturday was spent dreaming up all the cool adventures I can have over the next few weeks. We actually have a three day weekend again this weekend, and I was slow on planning for it so I will not be able to do any heavy-duty traveling. Which is a shame, since that is what three day weekends are for in Europe. Anyway, I will do some day trips outside of Barcelona and play some volleyball undoubtedly and it will be magnificent.

In Barcelona, the first Sunday of every month features free admission to many of the big sights in the city. I decided to take advantage and made my way over to the Barcelona History Museum to get all learned up. The cool part of this museum is that it actually sits on top of an archaeological ruin from the ancient Roman city Barcino (named this right around the end of the reign of Caesar Augustus~ 15 AD). While the upper floor is small and only has some small artifacts (described only in Spanish and Catalan: surprising since the rest of the museum had descriptions in English too), the downstairs portion was a real treat. In over 4000 square feet of space, the museum has erected walkways to traverse remains of an ancient laundromat, fish market and wine processing plant. In good detail, the signs indicated what exactly was happening in these areas during their heyday. Side note: I gained much respect for archaeologists who really really know what they're doing, or are really good at fooling the general public into believing incredibly detailed stories about how exactly wine was made, which parts of the fish were stored where, and how laundry was fabricated and cared for. For example, I was informed exactly which of the dozen vessels arrayed around the room held the honey and salt for seasoning the wine. More likely the former explanation, I realize, but respect either way. Definitely a really impressive museum. (As always, check out www.flickr.com/photos/douglasclift for more photos!)


Then, Sunday evening I got to enjoy one of the most important evenings of the year in Barcelona: El Clasico. Minimally, FC Barcelona plays Real Madrid twice a year in their respective La Liga campaigns, and it is one of the fiercest rivalries in sports. So tense is it that during the last Euro championship, journalists were wondering how the Spanish team would cooperate internally with so many players on the team representing opposite sides int he league. The Euro championship had a happy ending for Spain, but Sunday it was back to business in la Liga. Furthermore, as a result of recent political events in Spain (austerity measures being imposed nationwide from the central government, the huge groundswell of pro-succession feelings in Catalonia) the game had huge political overtones. I am never a proponent of mixing sport and politics, but from an outsider's point of view it is fascinating. And interestingly, having talked to several Catalonians, the majority of FC Barcelona originates from Catalonia. So maybe there is something there. The organizers only made the innuendos more obvious by assigning every person a colored placard when they walked into the stadium. As the Spanish national anthem played, people held up their placards, which gave the image of a Catalonian flag draped around the entire stadium.

Anyway, life stops in Barca to watch the game, and I went to a bar across the city to watch with a friend from the US who is studying here. The bar itself, called 'La Ovella Negra' (The Black Sheep) in the Poble Nou district, is built for events like this, and appears like a typical bierhaus in Germany: Huge tables span the width of the floor, and the rock ceilings are high and arching. All in all, I would say that about 300 people were crammed into the bar to take in the spectacle on a huge projector screen over the center of it all. I did not see a single Real Madrid Jersey.


Luckily, even for all of the political overtones, the night was won by some terrific football. The match pitted (arguably) the two best players in the world against each other: Lionel Messi (FC Barca) vs. Christiano Ronaldo (Madrid). Both have been playing superb football of late and both contributed 2 goals for their side in a 2-2 draw. Aside from Barcelona winning, I could not have had a better night. These guys are ridiculously good. And people here recognize that, which is cool- after Messi's second goal, everyone in the bar chanted his name while making bowing motions. And rightfully so: this guy is a king, and (again, arguably) the best footballer who ever lived.


Whew. What a weekend. For those keeping track at home, I am still working, and it continues to improve while I learn the ropes around the lab. These people use a ridiculously diverse array of instruments and it takes me a while to feel competent enough to use all of them without help. Here is a photo of one of my first experimental setups. I took it to save for future reports, but I can share it with you too. In the glass bottle is the precursor solution with titanium, calcium, phosphate and sodium. It has a magnetic stir-bar to keep the mixture homogeneous and is on ice since the addition of phosphate is quite exothermic (ie, explosive). The balloon on the right contains argon, which is fed into the balloon to keep the atmosphere in there inert, which is important to minimize atmospheric moisture from affecting the solution. After everything is mixed, I add a carefully measured amount of water to hydrolyze the titanium, and let it stir for several days to let it turn into a gel. Once gelled, I cook it and voila! Glass ceramic!


That's all I have for you this week! As always, hope everyone is well back home, and I miss you all!

Hasta Luego!

Posted by dclift 12:16 Archived in Spain

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