Friday, January 22, 2010

La Casera arrives

El Corte Ingles always sends us promotional random crap along with our internet shopping.

We buy most of our groceries online at Corte Ingles. A couple hours (or the next day) after you make the order, you get a call from the lady who is filling up your shopping cart telling you all the things they don't have. We had a lot of problems in the beginning with them forgetting boxes, breaking stuff, but lately it's been pretty smooth.

This time they sent us a promotional bottle of La Casera (La Unica!). I hadn't realized how famous this stuff is in Spain (#4 most known brand, to the point that people use it to refer to any kind of lemonade, kind of like Xerox or Kleenex). People here mix it in the wine to make tinto de verano, but personally I prefer a clara (beer + casera or fanta limon) when it's hot.

The bottle came with a free appetizer bowl (gotta love these weird promotions).

La Casera has been owned by Cadbury since 2001 (soon to be owned by Kraft if the $18 billion acquisition happens).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Internet shopping in Spain has improved

I ordered a humidifier yesterday online. This morning (about 12 hours later) the doorbell rings, and there it is!

Count me impressed.

Sushi at the zoo

We go to the the zoo every other weekend. The animals are a bit sad looking (especially the elephant and the rhino), but the kids love the playground, the goats in the petting zoo and driving around in the electric cars.

On the way back to the car, we made an unexpected sushi discovery. Ikibana is a Brazilian-style sushi (Brazil has the largest Japanese community outside Japan) restaurant, with a super friendly staff. The prices are very reasonable (12 euro menu on weekdays, more on the weekend, but not crazy). The fish was very high quality and the flavoring was amazing.

Watch out for those tall chairs and tables. My kids kept fooling around and falling on the floor.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

An independent Catalonia and the fiscal deficit

Something you hear a lot in Catalonia is that the central government in Madrid takes more in taxes than it invests back into Catalonia.

There is some research to back this up, the most recent being a 2005 BBVA study that estimated this to be approximately €1094 per capita.

"Aha!" says the hard working, financially responsible Catalan, eyes lighting up with Euro signs. "If only we were independent, we could use this money for something better than supporting lazy Andalucians. Eh?"

Not so fast. What this independent minded person doesn't realize is that redistribution also happens at the European Union level. Richer countries contribute more than poorer countries and see less money back. The theory is that this money will stem the tide of Polish plumbers taking away jobs in richer countries.

Now suppose that the Republic of Catalonia wanted to be part of the EU. Catalonia would be relatively well off (buh bye Andalucia and Extremadura!), with a GDP per capita about the same as the UK or Austria. (note for Pedants: the EU budget process uses GNI, which is similar to GDP but would be slightly higher in Catalonia due to the large Catalan banks that lend money across Spain)

How much more per capita does the UK and Austria pay into the EU budget than it receives back? Drum roll please... €937 and €1024 respectively.

So nothing has changed, except that Catalonia would be supporting lazy Greeks instead of lazy Andalucians.

Las balanzas fiscales de las comunidades autónomas con la Administración Pública Central, 1991-2005

Replace those water filters

The water in 2008 contained 166 micograms of trihalomethanes vs the permitted 150.

The director of the Catalan environmental protection agency said that there was minimal risk, but didn't explain why his agency lowered the permitted limit in 2009 to 100 micrograms.

Sorea had no comment.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

El Papiol vs Sant Cugat

The two municipalities are fighting over ownership of the 10th century chapel Ermita de Salut.

The boundary between the municipalities goes through the middle of the building, and El Papiol (in typical Catalan fashion) is marshalling arguments going back to the middle ages to justify full ownership.

Those greedy Papiolencs.

It's a beautiful hike (or run if you are feeling healthy) up to the chapel.

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How to talk to your grandmother

I realized I need more cute kid stories.

Our 6 year old to my mother-in-law:
"How strange! Your face is full of wrinkles but I don't see a single white hair on your head!"

Monday, January 18, 2010

That Spanish Bishop

When I read this:
The bishop of San Sebastian, José Ignacio Munilla, has hit the headlines today for remarking that bad though the earthquake is, it's not as serious as the spiritual situation of the Spanish people!
I realized that the Bishop in question must have been reading this:
As you all know, like the Haitians - the Landover Baptists have been suffering great pains! [...] the suffering is like a pin-prick compared to what we have suffered for countless years! That suffering is called, Persecution! And I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy!

Yes, it is satire. From Americans. I know.

State of real estate in Sant Cugat

Commercial real estate is really hurting. For some reason, Sant Cugat built large numbers of office towers, which are now completely empty (as in you can see right through them). And they are still building more.

The new Mira-sol “market” is starting to look somewhat post-apocalyptic, with the entire commercial ground floor unoccupied. In typical Spanish fashion, graffiti, garbage and broken windows aren’t really helping make it very attractive.

Residential hasn’t drop by price by that much, although it’s generally not selling very quickly. We have a house next door that’s been on sale since we moved here over two years ago. The new developments are selling with all kinds of gimmicks (100% mortgages, rent with option to buy, etc). On a monthly payment basis, the low interest rates make the overpriced places still quite affordable.

At one place the bank will buy it back from you in 5 years (assuming the bank is still around).

Rents have dropped much faster. We recently got our landlord to drop our rent by about 15% (we could have probably gotten more, but we’re pretty bad negotiators).

Sadly enough, our international neighbors have moved back to their home countries for economic reasons. One guy’s job over the last year was to close most of his company’s factories, turn the lights off, and move back to his country.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Avatar and China

Small consolation to the people about to get their homes bulldozed here in Spain. At least they don't live in China:

BEIJING: The bull-dozers await at the gates. An evil corporation sends its guards, using every possible threat to move the residents from their land. But all resistance is futile. The people watch in horror, as their homes get torn down to rubble and they are forced to relocate.


This also happens to be the plotline of James Cameron’s epic blockbuster film ‘Avatar,’ which opened in China last week and has seemingly taken the country by storm.


The resonance was so deep that some film critics here dismissed the plot-line as “too common.” “Some Chinese movie critics think that while the movie is not bad, parts of the plot were too mundane,” the popular and controversial writer Han Han said. “I completely disagree, because brute-force eviction is unimaginable for audiences in other countries because they think that it can only happen on alien planets. Or in China.”


The only difference between Mr. Cameron’s film and land conflicts in China, cinema-goers said, was the plot’s denouement.

“The humans actually failed to successfully evict and demolish [the aliens]?,” one blogger wrote. “Truly embarrassing. Why didn’t they send China’s chengguan [security guards] there?”