Mar 23

Exploring the Pyrenees in Andorra

Good morning from Andorra. This is the view from our balcony. Not. Too. Shabby.

Today we set out for a bit of sightseeing. Not that there’s anything to marvel at around here.

It was a Hot Picture-Taking Date. I think you can see why.

Here’s a panorama. Click to embiggen.

And here’s the first of several videos of some of the day’s views.

We stopped my a place where several different hiking paths intersected. On one side of the road there was a little cut out for drivers to park and enjoy the views. On the other, a low wooden rail fence, beyond which there was a grass clearing.

A truck was parked there, the local version of a park ranger. No one was around, and you could stand there, feeling like a small king near the top of the world. Naturally there was a stone desk set for your photographs.

That’s 6,496 feet to you and me. Almost 1.25 miles above sea level. Sometimes, when you get to a certain elevation, it feels like you’re looking down on other mountains.

This was the first bit of downhill we’ve encountered in Andorra. The road hit the valley floor and immediately started going back up.

Some more video views.

And I now invite you to enjoy another amazing panorama. Click to embiggen.

Oh, look, here are the tourists, doing touristy things.

Such tourists.

Next we visited Mirador Roc del Quer.

On the sign out front someone named Raimon Diaz Marino has left visitors a message. Pardon my awkward translation.

Mother Earth is magical and sacred. She keeps memories of life and the universe. She witnesses wisdom on every mountain, in every drop of water and in every living being. She nourishes us and we are all her children.

And this place is the Roc del Quer, “The White Mountain.” In the heart of the Pyrenees and what Canillo looks upon.

You want to become an observer? We invite you to visit the route.

Observe and feel what surrounds you and keep this place in your heart.

Think about that as we walk out.

This is the view off the right side of the trail.

Here’s a panoramic version of that view. As with all of the panoramas, click to embiggen.

This is the view directly ahead of you.

Mountain peak heart hands. MOUNTAIN PEAK HEART HANDS!

We are somewhere between 6,379 and 6,276 feet above sea level here. (There were signs at both ends of the short trail, and this is taken in the middle.) The now seemingly low clouds are a good reminder.

“Wisdom on every mountain, in every drop of water and in every living being …”

And then we met this guy.

Who is that guy? That’s The Ponderer.

The Ponderer

by artist Miguel Ángel González, whose calm and meditative attitude invites visitors to do the same. Sitting on a beam, undaunted, it appears as if the height causes him no fear whatsoever. And in fact, it doesn’t: it fills him with strength and confidence.

We’re standing 40 feet off the side of the mountain, on a walkway, taking in these spectacular views, enjoying what The Ponderer is sharing with us, the valleys of Montaup and Valira d’Orient, the new spring ready to burst forth, the winter well into it’s early retreat.

The Pyrenees are about 85 million years old. Moving tectonic plates closed the sea. Refracted rocks fold, faults form. The stones go up, and the valleys too for a time, which is why you can find the seabed so high up. The most extensive glacial erosion in these parts, the signs say, was between 20,000-40,000 years ago. Then the planet’s weather shifted. Ice and snow melted away, and you see these rugged shapes, hints of the still relatively new mountains, though, as the signs note, erosion and evolution of the landscape continues.

“Everything is in constant motion and change.”

There, I just summed up 85 million years of geology, and seven signs about it written in Catalan, in 92 words.

Now, when you walk away from the Mirador Roc del Quer, back up the 400 meter trail, and then down the road a short way to the parking lot, and then drive on down into the valley below, you have a chance to look back, and up, to where you just were. See that horizontal bit jutting out of the mountain on the right?

We were just standing on that.

Here’s a video of some of the views from around that region …

We’ll stop there for now. That’s 18 images, three panoramas and four videos. That’s a high quality hot picture-taking date!

Mar 23

Sagrada Familia’s Passion Towers

Here’s one final post to share some of the sites from Sagrada Familia, specifically, we’re going up into the Passion Tower. But, first, the centerpiece of the great narthex. These are the central doors, of which there are seven. They were sculpted by the famed and controversial sculptor, Josep Maria Subirachs. Each door represents a sacrament — baptism, anointing of the sick, holy orders, confirmation, marriage and penance.

This is the central door, 15 feet by 16 feet, and it represents the Eucharist and features the Lord’s Prayer in Catalan. The doors also carry the phrase “Give us this day our daily bread” in 50 languages.

The door handles are the A and G, for Antoni Gaudí in “que cAiGuem en la temptació,” or “lead us not into temptation.

For more on this portion of the Sagrada Familia, I commend to you this PDF. But, now we’re going up into the Passion Tower,
built in the 1950s, years after Gaudí’s death. His plaster models had been restored and closely followed, with the tower’s shape at the base being slightly elliptical, opposed to the perfect circles of the Nativity.

Small windows.

Big views.

There are four towers in the facade, but only two are open to the public, the Philip Tower and the Thomas Tower. As a guest, the highest point you can reach is around 295 feet.

The towers go a bit farther up.

I believe this statue, between the towers, is intended to be a representation of Jesus. A Gaudí expert, sculptor, or an art history major will be along in a moment to correct me.

I mentioned two of the four status. The Bartholomew and James the Less towers aren’t open. It seems a family of falcons has taken to nesting there, so the tourists are kept away from the chicks. Guess they don’t mind the bells.

When you hear bells from far off, you might notice them. Perhaps you’ll think idly about them as you walk. Maybe you’ll stop and pay close attention. But when you’re right beside them you just wonder how far away they can be heard.

Gaudí planned for 12 bell towers, because everything here is steeped in symbolism. Some more noisy than others.

Visiting the towers is actually a diversion from the master architect’s plans. He figured them all to be only bell towers, which helps explains the narrow stairs. Apparently bell ringers in Spain are all petite and diminutive people.

If you’re interested in learning more about the towers, I’ll suggest Seven reasons why going up on Sagrada Familia towers is worth it. I suspect the views are worth it to some. And they were fine. It is just that I was too taken by the naves to have a solid impression of the towers. This is fine, but, with our time limited, I wanted to go back inside.

I’m sure one day we’ll be back. When we are powerful and can arrange for a private, hosted tour, we will definitely be back.

But, for now, we’re headed to Andorra!

Mar 23

Should we continue trying to travel in March?

Or traveling at all?

Here is where we are. Spring Break is next week. We’re taking a few extra days for a conference and that meant a trip to the airport and that’s where the fun begins.

We flew, today, from Indianapolis to New York. We did that after giving up on a bike ride, which was the right idea, for a change. That allowed us more time, so we were well ahead of schedule and relaxed going to the very large building with the planes attached at odd angles.

Our flight from Indy to JFK was just fine. Arrived on time. The plane pulled into the same terminal we’d use for our connecting flight, an overnight trip to Spain. Here we are, waiting to board the plane to Barcelona.

We got on the plane, let’s assume it is that one, and everything was just fine.

And then someone kicked out the extension cord that connects the plane to the airport’s power. The plane goes dark! But we’re on the ground, so not a problem. Because there’s ground beneath us. I think about all of that ocean we have to fly over — power and gliders and altitude and ocean — but the crew did not seem concerned. The power is restored, either internally, or via that extension cord. Boarding took forever, and so we pushed back about an hour late.

We got out on the taxiway to learn we had to go back to the terminal for a maintenance issue.

And that ate up the entirety of our second-connection window.

But it allowed me to watch two movies, first, Minari.

Lee Isaac Chung wrote and directed the movie. He was just about to give up on Hollywood, taking a teaching job, when he decided to try one more script. Odd, but lovely, Willa Cather became his inspiration.

She drew upon memories of life in the Great Plains and wrote a series of intensely personal works that are among the most moving novels in American literature. She said, “Life began for me, when I ceased to admire and began to remember.”

I wondered if the voice was leading me to these words, so that I would begin to trust in my own. As an exercise, I devoted an afternoon to writing my memories of childhood. I remembered our family’s arrival at a single-wide trailer on an Ozark meadow and my mother’s shock at learning that this would be our new home. I recalled the smell of freshly plowed soil and the way the color of it pleased my father. I remembered the creek where I threw rocks at snakes while my grandmother planted a Korean vegetable that grew without effort.

With each memory, I saw my life anew, as though the clouds had shifted over a field I had seen every day. After writing 80 memories, I sketched a narrative arc with themes about family, failure and rebirth. That’s how I got the idea to write “Minari”; it began for me, when I ceased to admire and began to remember.

I also watched Clerks III, which, I assume, Kevin Smith wrote and directed because he wanted to cash in one more time. Truth be told, I knew this was in the works. I was skeptical. I didn’t realize it had already been produced and released. But here it was, on the plane, full of its own brand of contemporary nostalgia.

The first movie was 23 years ago, so there’s nothing contemporary about this nostalgia. But it bristles a bit that we’ve now become a nostalgia generation. But, befitting our role in this timeline, our self reverence is saved for reference to other media. Star Wars is all over the Clerks trilogy, so much so, there are two meta references right there in the trailer.

Give the third movie this: it is better than the second one, and has, perhaps, the best heart of the series.

Tomorrow, the rest of the journey. Or part of it. Or the beginning of a new side-journey.

Anything is possible.

Except for our booking travel in March, ever again, after these last two years.

Mar 23

There’s so much here to see and enjoy

I forgot to brag on this sunset from yesterday. My bad, sun. You know that big ball of fusion has been hurt by that oversight all day. And the skyline, poor emotional skyline. I’ll never be able to make it up to the skyline. And my thoughts are also with the remnants of those clouds, wherever they are a day later.

It was one of those sunsets of a fleeting sort. As I left the building I though, Take a picture, forget to post it, and give the clouds and all that some human emotions in a poorly framed joke. But by the time I got to my car, just a block away, and up to the top of the parking deck, that’s what I was left with. But, sun, you made a lovely one yesterday.

Probably today’s, too, though I didn’t have the chance to see it.

After darkness fell we walked over to the IU Auditorium to see the traveling show of Chicago. The old man sitting in front of us, and the younger man sitting behind us each obviously had no knowledge of the play. Their surprise at Ms. Sunshine was delightful.

And the performers were good. But almost everyone on stage looks so young all of a sudden. Indeed, quite a few of the people in this photo are making their national touring debut.

The audio guy had some trouble, but of the sort you’ll forget in a few days. Billy Flynn and Mama Morton and Amos and Roxie and all the rest pressed through and gave us a nice version of the musical. I think this is my third time seeing it.

I wonder which song will be stuck in my head for weeks this time.

Remember those flowers that I noted, last Wednesday, as a trick of winter?

Almost all of them have unwrapped themselves now. It’s quite a site, even at night.

Forty-five days until the bike races and the official arrival of spring, but it is starting to feel as though we’re closer than that.

It is time, once again, for the Tuesday feature that allows me to close some tabs on my browser. Some things are took good to X out of and see them disappear forever. Much better for me to memorialize them here, on the off-chance that one day they’ll come to mind, and I’ll do a good keyword search, find a particular thing, and hope the original link is still active.

It isn’t a long shot, but if the first real step is my coming up with the text from memory it might take two or three ties to find the right page.

But I digress.

I’m a sucker for all of these job interview type pieces you see on CNBC and Forbes and the like. The titles are outstanding click bait — case studies, almost — but every now and then you’ll find something good in the body of the piece.

I’ve helped hundreds of people land 6-figure salaries. These 5 job interview phrases got them hired ‘on the spot’:

Nailing a job interview isn’t just about listing skills and experience directly from your resume. You want to paint a picture of your accomplishments through concrete, detailed examples.

To do that successfully, you must know how to communicate effectively. As a career coach who has helped hundreds of people land six-figure jobs, I’ve found that there are certain words that will get the interviewer to pay attention.

Here are five job interview phrases that will make companies want to hire you on the spot.

An Amazon applicant who Jeff Bezos hired ‘on the spot’ shares 5 ways to ‘instantly impress’ during the job interview:

I started my 12-year career at Google in 2006, where I held positions as chief of staff and executive business partner. Before that, I worked at Amazon as an executive business partner to Jeff Bezos.

After spending so much time with some of the world’s most successful and influential leaders, I learned what to look for in new candidates. In fact, Bezos hired me on the spot after my first interview with him in 2002.

Based on the hundreds of interviews I’ve conducted throughout my decades-long career, here are my top tips on how to instantly impress a hiring manager during the job interview.

See what I mean about those titles? SEO bait and plenty of optimistic gold. They’re quite well done. Speaking of …

Why did I even open this one? To see what her side hustle was, of course. How one woman turned a part-time side hustle in her spare room into a gifting company making over $3 million a year:

Put up your hand if you’ve ever stared out your office window, daydreaming about launching one of your imaginative inventions, being your own boss, and getting very rich in the process.

If your hand is firmly raised, then listen up: The fantasy—which you’d be forgiven for thinking is restricted to those in Silicon Valley or movies—is not entirely unrealistic.

London-based Steph Douglas did exactly that when in 2014 she left her job as a branding marketer for EDF Energy to devote herself full-time to …

It’s an online gift company. You can order custom-made care packages and the like.

Finally, I see variations of this idea every spring now, and it is something I’ll try one day when I don’t have neighbors. You can turn your backyard into a biodiversity hot spot:

People have long stoked an urban-versus-rural rivalry, with vastly different cultures and surroundings. But a burgeoning movement—with accompanying field of science—is eroding this divide, bringing more of the country into the city. It’s called rurbanization, and it promises to provide more locally grown food, beautify the built environment, and even reduce temperatures during heat waves.

And, with that, I am now down to 28 open tabs in my phone’s browser.

I don’t remember how I got the next CD to appear in the Re-Listening project. I don’t even have the liner notes. But I never had those in this case, and I’m sure that’s part of the story, which I’ve forgotten entirely. I assume someone gave it to me, probably a radio station. “Fear” was released in 1991, but the last CD we played was from the first half of the 1997, and this one got added to my collection sometime soon thereafter.

Anyway, this is the first Toad the Wet Sprocket CD I owned, and the only one until the last year or two. “Walk on the Ocean” and “All I Want” seemed to be everywhere on everything. Both made it into the top 20. And, seriously, until looking through Toad’s entire discography just now, I thought they’d been put on multiple records for some reason. They released those and three other songs from “Fear” as singles. Eventually, in 1994, this record went platinum, having peaked at #49 on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums.

Of the deep cuts, I always enjoy the “Nightingale Song.”

Sonically, this is an acoustically perfect alt rock song.

The very next track ups the ante.

And, remembering that this was recorded in 1991, they were bringing back the organ before bringing back the organ was cool.

Or, if you want some of the modern live experience, we saw Toad twice in 2022. Somehow I’d always managed to miss their live shows, to my chagrin. They’re now adding dates for this summer, but none yet so close that we’ll be able to see them. At least not yet.

I’d go back to see a bit more of that “confident, laid back urgency,” that the band has been able to mine for decades now. If this was the summer of 1997 for me, this was my first apartment, and I was desperately trying to personify my own version of confident, laid back urgency — failing miserably at that, no doubt. It was that, going to class and filling time while everyone else was out of town. This record, and the next one we’ll hear from on the Re-Listening project, became big, big parts of filling that time.

He said in early March, not at all thinking about the summer ahead.

Mar 23

The final trick of winter is upon us

At last, I noticed the last of the series of winter’s tricks. I’m a few weeks late in the observation, but we’ve now worked through the full sequence. The sun returns. Then you have a random day or two of unseasonably warm weather. We’ve done that too. And now, these guys.

That’s about as low angle as I can get in coat and tie. But when these emerge, from this particular spot, in a bed between the parking lot, the street, and our campus building, that’s the signature trick of winter here. You want it to be spring; just look at these petals …

… but winter isn’t done with us yet. You don’t know when, or why, but winter will be back. This stems from a 2017 observation. Oh, I was fooled that first winter. The next year, I had that in mind. You want to believe the outliers break your way, but outliers don’t always break your way.

One’s a dot, two’s a line and three is the dawning of understanding a pattern. By the time 2019 rolled around I recognized this for what it was. The winter and first flowers of 2019 didn’t fool me. I was, by then, wise to Mother Nature’s tricks.

Thing is, this has been a remarkably mild winter. It got up to 75 today! It makes you want to believe. But winter isn’t done with us yet.

We are 51 days from spring.

Not many people liked this album, apparently, and most of them were wrong. That’s the takeaway from today’s installment of the Re-Listening project. We’re listening to Seven Mary Three’s third studio album, and that puts us in the early summer of 1997.

My roommate and a friend and I saw them in a small venue the year before. It was very much a post-grunge type show. (Moe opened for them. Their bassist did the stage-dive-crowd-surf thing. His giant clodhopping boots were a danger to society.) And the band was continuing down this route, even as “RockCrown” was flirting with the idea of becoming a concept album. It went to number 75 on the Billboard 200. Two singles hit the top 40 on the Modern Rock and Mainstream Rock charts. But critics kinda panned them and the one-hit wonder jokes started right away.

I liked the record.

This one was just uploaded three weeks ago. It’s a 2008 performance. And the original song isn’t acoustic, but maybe it should have been.

The problem, I think, is that most of the songs on this album aren’t designed for airplay. That doesn’t make a project bad, or even unsuccessful. Maybe everyone had misplaced that concept for a time. But if something sticks in your head for whatever reason, it sticks in your head.

There are a few lyrics from this song that still come to mind unassisted — sitting quietly, working in the yard, walking down a sidewalk, they just float to the surface — all these many years later.

These guys are from Virginia, and using a guitar like this is allowed on that side of the mountains, I guess.

This was always a car CD for me. Windows up or down. Better when moving around at a fashionable speed. And I don’t know if it evokes the desired response, but this song always makes smile.

So it is good to hear all of this in the car. And the next CD has started, to my delight, which means we’ll be Re-Listening here again soon. We’ll be going all the way back to something released in 1991, though I picked it up six years late. I enjoy it every time I listen to it, though. I may listen to it twice. But that’s a topic for another day.