Day 11: A Rainy Morning in Barcelona

by Eli Hodapp

Friday night was the perfect start to the weekend. Samaneh and Jonathan invited me to have dinner with them again, which is always great. We were joined by a German friend of theirs, and they introduced him to me as being a “blacksmith.” Maybe it’s all the fantasy novels I’ve been reading lately, but this struck me as intensely interesting because how often do you meet someone who’s actually a blacksmith? I asked him a series of increasingly dumb questions, as my American idea of what you’d call a “blacksmith” and the much more correct European definition of blacksmithing clashed.

“So, do you make, like, horse shoes?” was probably the silliest of my line of questioning. Anyway, Blacksmiths here are responsible for making all of the various railings, bars, and other wrought iron things that frame most windows and terraces. I’d never even stopped to consider that all of this elaborate metalwork you see in the city was done by hand, but this only serves to make me appreciate Barcelona more. The fact that it’s possible for an actual blacksmith to stay in business here? Incredible.

I excused myself from dinner to finish some things up for TouchArcade. Lately there’s been a ton of drama brewing surrounding NimbleBit’s TinyTower. I think I was the first to break the story on Tuesday that Zynga was relentlessly ripping off their game with Dream Heights. My article got linked on Daring Fireball which set off a chain reaction of other sites picking up on it. The story even made it to Forbes and CBS News, which is a first for me. Of course, it didn’t take long for Kotaku to completely miss the point, but I suppose that’s to be expected. Gawker and all.

You’d think that this would be the end of the story, as Zynga sure as hell isn’t going to make a public comment about a game they’re copying. NimbleBit isn’t pursuing any sort of legal options, and I’m not even sure they can. Publicly trolling Zynga and stirring up all this controversy was probably the best they could do. So, whatever, like any flash in the pan story it all seemed to be over a couple days later. That is, until we found out that Glu was also on the verge of releasing their own TinyTower knock-off. I doubt this story will have the same snowballing effect, I’m not sure Glu as a company is even relevant anymore, at least compared to Zynga.

The best part about this whole thing from where I’ve been sitting is how many people completely miss the point on why this is a story we’re interested in on TouchArcade. Aside from the fact that NimbleBit has a ridiculous fan following on our forums, it’s really hilarious that there are all of these companies with thousands of employees and millions of dollars of backing trying to figure out how they can beat a team of three dudes- And the best tactic to come up with is directly stealing specific game mechanics that NimbleBit just arbitrarily pulled out of their collective asses. Digital distribution is such a fantastic equalizer, and I’m not at all exaggerating when I say that I love that a company like NimbleBit can shake things up so drastically in the otherwise totally toxic free to play market.

It’s also amusing to see how easily people out themselves as having never played either TinyTower or SimTower while having incredibly strong and outspoken opinions on the game. If you think that there are similarities between the two games outside of them both having something vaguely to do with a tower, congratulations, you’re an idiot- And the best part about the Internet is there’s no shortage of idiots. Also, it’d seem that your typical comment form is the perfect honeypot for harvesting these idiots.

So far the story hasn’t been picked up like the Zynga one, but we’ll see what happens over the weekend.

Following that, I wandered down to the nearby corner store to pick up some beer and wine for all the people that were coming over. The wine selection here is awesome. This store that’s maybe 20 feet outside of our doorstep has entire shelves full of incredible Spanish wine, for decent prices too. They’ve got so many variations of Rioja that I could try a different bottle every day I’m here and still won’t have tried them all by the time I leave. Unfortunate, this is.

Samaneh and Jonathan have a really cool group of friends, and thankfully, they all speak English. Since I’ve been here, I’ve definitely got better at picking up things in Spanish. My main problem now is that your typical Spanish speaker just talks so fast. So, in essence, I can more or less understand what non-native Spanish speakers are saying because they talk slow enough and put quite a bit of highly deliberate emphasis on syllable enunciation. The problem though, is these kind of people usually just speak English anyway.

I feel like I’ve made a good attempt at speaking Spanish to people while I’m out and about, but the problem seems to be as soon as you whip out “¡Hola!” people just assume they can spew their barrage of ultra-fast unintelligible Spanish at you. So, entirely too many conversations go a little like this:

“¡Hola!”
*Explosion of Spanish.*
*Confused look.*
“Despacio, por favor.”

 The response to asking people to talk slower seems to just be to switch gears to broken English, which works, but makes me feel like a tourist. Although, I suppose the entire purpose of language is to communicate and one of the magical things about it all is figuring out a medium that works to convey thoughts and ideas with other people. If that medium is a weird mixture of the Spanish words I know and the English words they know, I suppose that’s OK.

Today has been the first rainy day we’ve seen since I arrived in Europe. I didn’t really have any crazy plans for the day that I can’t do any other day, so it’s mostly just nice to experience what our barrio is like when it rains. Normally, the plaza from the above photo would be swarming with people hanging out, kids kicking a soccer ball around, and people playing ping pong. Everyone is just staying in today. I’ve got no idea what you do on a Spanish weekend indoors, but that’s on my list of things to find out.

Oh, and in the same vein of things I’ve been learning about Barcelona, everyone is talking about calçots. I’m really not sure this even exists in the USA, but they’re something similar to a leek that you cook over a charcoal grill then eat with romesco sauce. Calçot season has either already started, or is just about to start, as I’ve heard plans from numerous people to take day trips outside of the city to eat calçots which as far as I understand are cooked and served at the actual farm they’re grown at. What a concept!

Tonight I’m going out with a British friend of mine who has been kind enough to show me around some of the cooler areas of Barcelona. I’m not really sure what’s on the agenda in a specific sense, but we’re going to a tapas bar that’s allegedly so popular that they don’t even have room for tables and everyone just needs to stand. Then, we’re probably hitting up a few cool bars.

The benefit to doing this on a Saturday is that the subway runs all night long, compared to most nights where it shuts down at midnight. Thankfully, this hasn’t been much of a problem as taxis are everywhere at night, and are incredibly easy to spot since they’re the only cars on the street at that time. None of them take credit cards though, which is annoying since Chase charges me so much to withdraw money from an ATM here that I can feel my debit card wincing as I get it near the card slot. But, whatever, I make the most of that $5 ATM fee by withdrawing as much money as the machine will allow.

Take that, Chase!

OK, I suppose I still lose in the end because of the 3% exchange fee, but, eh.