Saturday, September 27, 2008

Side Effect of Italy

While at the villa in the Italian countryside, the group of 13 did a very good job of feeding ourselves. M, ever the good girl scout, suggested that a different group of people take the duties for one dinner during the week. She even wrote the schedule down and kept track of menu ideas so that trips so the Super Mercado could be minimized.

M and E came to Italy from northern Europe with a suitcase containing—I kid you not—six kilos of licorice and two wheels of cheese. Let's leave the discussion of the quantity of licorice for another day, shall we, and focus instead on the cheese and the person it has turned me into.

I know not what the cheeses were. This is partially due to the fact that every time I asked what the name of the second one was, a different person answered with either a completely different name or a pronunciation of a repeated name that sounded so different as to be a different word in my head. Thusly, I gave up trying to track this info and came home with pictures in my head instead of names. I like cheese in red wax and no wax. This particular info has not made it easy to find similar cheeses here in the States.

I exaggerate—but only a little. The first wheel was Edam and the second unknown. Regardless, downstairs in the chiller I now have a deli drawer full of foreign words or words of foreign origin now bastardized into edible English. There is a wedge of gouda, a wedge from Costmo, a wedge made in Seattle, and two other wedges not yet opened. I have become a cheese snob, as much as is possible here in the northwest.

Individually wrapped cheese slices are out. Huge blocks of bland cheddar are banished. "Gimmee something I can't pronounce" is my new mantra on the solid dairy front.

Friday, September 26, 2008

If you'd been listening in

Here is this morning's pre-coffee conversation.

Me: Now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever lived in a town where there were competing sex shops before. There's the one downtown, the lovely neon pink brick-and-mortar place—a well-respected member of the business community for years. And then there's that single-wide trailer just outside city limits that makes me hear the theme from Deliverance whenever I drive by. It's just a thriving business around here. (pause) Hmm, maybe I'm misusing the word "thriving". Maybe I want a different word.

The T: Like "throbbing"? I think throbbing is the word you want.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Italy 2008 Days 0-13

Here's the rundown of my recent vacation, gang. Rather than drag this recap out, I will describe only the most salient points.

  • Day 0 The Beginning: I was awake before the dawn and a total psychopath regarding getting to the airport on time. Perhaps this is what led to the following incident:
Agent: Oh, you're eligible for an upgrade to business class!
Me: (to The T) What do you think? It's a long flight?
The T: We don't have $1000.
Me: Yes, yes, we do.

And so we flew in business class. We sipped champagne while hoi polloi filed on. I ate grilled lamb at 35,000 feet. And while my nail clippers may have potentially been confiscated by the teen-aged zit-faced TSA agent, I was given real metal silverware with which to terrorize said lamb. The T watched as many movies and TV shows as she could before we laid our seats out fully flat and slept.

My first impression of Rome was made in the shuttle from the airport to the hotel. Rome has an energy not seen in American cities. It was vibrant and loud, bordering on chaotic. With respect to traffic specifically, the lines were a mere suggestion. As many cars as possible filled out the road from curb to curb and any open space was filled by a scooter. Yet as uncontrolled as it appeared, I saw no accidents or close-calls. This was amazing to watch—until I was a pedestrian, forced to be just as aggressive without the protection of a metal shell.

  • Day 1 Rome: Walking the city was amazing. You can't swing a dead cat without hitting some art. The Coliseum was cool, the ruins amazing, Trevi Fountain awe-inspiring, and I do not have words for the Pantheon.

  • Day 2 On to Arrezzo: Why is it you have to strip naked to get on a plane yet the only uniform I saw in the train station was on the sweeping crew? I understand there is a certain horror surrounding the image of a plane accident but a train disaster is no less deadly or evil, yet you can buy your ticket and find your seat and sit with your wares beside you, non-x-rayed nor handled by another. I began to think this difference in transportation mode security as a symptom of our country rather than a difference in planes and trains. The difference was striking and the population indifferent. Was my surprise at the lack of security obvious to the other people-watching travelers? Regardless, I love trains. The Italian countryside was beautiful and went by all too quickly.

  • Day 3–9 At the Villa: The city of Arrezzo is more my speed. Much smaller than Rome with just as much espresso and beer available for the asking. And for wa-a-a-a-y fewer euros. Rome is expensive. Similar to The Economist magazine's method for comparing currencies based on Big Mac worth, I will use beer. A small beer in a Roman cafe cost 8 euros. A similar size beer in Arrezzo cost 5 euros. When we got to the town of Talla, a beer twice the size cost less than 2 euros. Hence, the gang of 11 adults had no problem stocking up on beer and wine for the week we spent together.
M&E picked us up in Arrezzo and drove us to the villa where I stayed ensconced for the rest of the trip. The T went on a day trip to Florence (Bologna had been eliminated as a day trip destination because nobody knows what's in it) but I was content to walk to Talla every day and sip an espresso under the watchful and suspicious gaze of the elderly gang of men.

As I work through my photos and The T's videos, I'll post more details but we had an awesome time. The point to the trip was to celebrate M's birthday and to that end we were quite successful. I heard a goodly number of bawdy rugby songs, witnessed a prank of epic proportions, swam in a pool filled by a mountain spring and was sorry to see it all end.

It's good to be back. I can't wait for the next trip. Stay tuned for more details.

p.s. Frenchie: We now have a collection of euros which show the before and after of Norway's inclusion in the EU and the impact on the imprint of the flaccid penis. Thought of you the whole time.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Available over WiFi, you say?

Add "and tastes great" to the list of iPhone features.

Found at Macenstein via MacRumors

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

But how do you really feel?

So there I am yesterday, at my first day of school, all shiny and happy and ready to face the challenges of the new year. I will not actually identify those challenges each by name in this post—they are Legion and I would rather focus on here what was the focus of my yesterday.

The year began as is the tradition here at the CC on the Hill ... how have I not thought to call it CCHill before, folks, eh? (I now have David Bowie in my head singing "ch-ch-ch-chill" to the tune of "ch-ch-ch-changes") ... what was I talking about? Oh yes, I was heading off to the traditional morning coffee hour and welcome back by the Prez when I saw my new colleague's door open. Remembering all too well what it was like to be the fresh meat, I offered to walk over with him and introduce him around. We had a lovely chat during which I assured him, a southwest desert transplant, that the rain this corner of the continent is famous for would get here soon enough. And what's the rush, anyway?

After the Prez's greeting, the Veeps introduce the new hires in their respective areas. This is when the tone for my year was set, I believe. When the Veep got to my colleague, he introduced him by saying, "And you know Dr. Math is new because he is sitting next to Lee."

ba-dum-bum. Annnnnnnd we're off.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Sittin' on the Continent

Wow. Here I am in Germany after 10 hours in the air. I've got three
words for all you world travelers out there: upgrade, upgrade,
upgrade. Let's hear it for business class! That was the best
experience I've ever had flying. I'm going to go journal about it now
the old-fashioned way so I can give a more complete trip summary at
the end of the trip. Guten tag.

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, September 01, 2008

One more before I go

In our efforts to get files from the new vid-cam into some format we could edit in iMovie, we found the following. Kudos to the programmers.