Monday, December 04, 2006

The future is a lot closer than I thought

I have been quite disapointed since the year 2000, that I do not have a flying car, or a space ship, or a telaporter, or any of a number of other cool things that Science Fiction has promised me over the years. This gives me hope at last. God bless America.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Third Time's the Charm

It's NaNoWriMo time again. I still can not quite believe that this is the third time I've done this. It's Monday, and I'm at 10,046 words, which puts me slightly ahead of the goal for today, but not as far ahead as I would like to be. This year's effort has been christened with the working title of Peal Dust and so far it is going well. *knocks on wood* Here's the one sentence summery: When Sleeping Beauty doesn't get a fairytale ending, a group of gentlemen of fortuine -- who are utterly unsuited for the job -- are called in to save the day. So far it is going pretty well, I had thought that this first bit between the fairy tale prolouge and our hero's arival on the scean would be hard to write, but it has actually been easy going. I just don't know how to tell all of these villagers that they are red-shirts and that most of them will not live to see part two. -_-; I mean, if the teenagers, who go at night to see what is up with the creepy ghost thing on the other side of the vally is, won't die, who can you kill off?

Additional exploration of this subject will have to wait until tomorow, because I have a paper to write for Medeival Lit that is due in another 22 hours. It's hard to analyse poetry that you are absolutly indifferent to.

I'm writing something else so the last word of this post will not be a preposition, so there. :P

Saturday, October 28, 2006

I'm spoiling my system here...

Two years, and not one quiz do I post here, and now I go and ruin everything. Way to go me.

I am a d4

Take the quiz at

Monday, October 23, 2006

[This Space for Rent]

Well another week, and another recording for the UD radio. It's not up yet of corse. The school has to sort out something with its broadcasting liscence. -_- When things finally get up and running I'll tell people.

There's only eight days left until National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starts again, which would also mark the two year aniversery of this blog. I can't believe I've kept this going that long. I can't believe I'm a junior. I can't believe Italy won the World Cup. There's a lot of things I can't believe. I've got some pretty good ideas for this years NaNo, but I'm not comfortable with my lack of outlining for the second half. I know what has to happen, but only in the broadest sense, like I'm staring at a wall that I know needs to be painted, but I don't know what color to paint it, much less where I hid the brush. I think part of it is that I'm not as familiar with my supporting cast as I have been in previous years. The main character is Aihan once again, and the female lead is one I created for an RPG back in high school, so I have a good enough grasp of her character to be getting on with, its everyone else creating a problem for me.

The good news is that Dr. S., my new favorite proffessor, has agreed to take an excerpted/abridged/edited 10,000 word cutting of my novel as my term paper for Philosophy of Language. Best. Paper. Topic. Ever. Now I defeinatly have motivation to finish this year.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Look Ma! i'm on teh Internets!!!!!1

UD Radio is radio in name only: the last vestiges of a dying technology. Soon campus radio will be remembered only as a quaint tradition we used to practice back in the benighted days of the Eisenhower administration. Soon after that, its name will be changed to UD Podcasts, or whatever new technology will replace this.

Genesis and I recorded the first session of the Groundling Revolution today. Sometime tomorow it ought to go online, and you will all be able to listen to it at Make me happy listen to our pitiful efforts to work the computer. Our show is comprised of showtunes, and we started things off with songs about revolutions, or at least really big changes.

It took us two hours to record 45 minutes worth of programing. Hopefully someone will appriciate it.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Good News, Bad News

The good news is that the spider (or whatever it was, I didn't see it) that bit me yesterday does not seem to be of the killer veriety. I am not dead yet, and my arm is no longer all tingly like it was last night.

The bad news is that I do not seem to have developed any super powers. I'll give it another day or two, just in case.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Hal, Hal, Why Hast Thou Foresaken Me?

Who ever did the wireing in the Student Apartments made some crazy decisions.

We have for instance, not one but two over head lights in the living/dinning room, but the bed room is illuminated only by a single wall-sconce. That's right, the room we live and study in came equiped with a 60 Watt bulb cleverly hidden behind a frosted shade.

We also have a power outlet which is controled by the lightswitch. When the light is off, the outlit has no power. We discovered this the hard way when Genesis turned off the lights and her computer when *whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaam* and shut off with out so much as an 'are you sure about that?' prompt.

The think that is really driving us nuts however is the Internet. We are college students. We live, sleep, eat, and breath online. The school thought it would be funny to install one ethernet outlet for twopeople. We got a spliter from the school, which naturally failed to work. We dragged up the wireless router I used in the quad last year, complete with all the cords and drivers. It failed to work. We hauled out the wirless router Megan used in her appartment last year, and wrangled together all the associated pieces and parts. It failed to work. We called Andrew in, and he worked with it for two hours, and was not able to figure out why on God's green earth it wasn't working. Andrew has promised to return and try again. Stenoh and Pyro have both promised to take a crack at it. We're all strating to fear that this may require a sacrifice to the dark gods before this starts working properly, and have started to compile a list of freshmen no one would miss.

All we want is for both of us to be able to get on line at the same time. Is that to much to ask?


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Gadeamus Igitur

Well I’m safely back at school, and things are off to a roaring start. By that I mean things are going well, and my cooking has yet to start any fires, although the olive oil in the skillet likes to hiss. I got my schedule finalized today, and it’s looking like a fun semester.

I’m taking Medieval Literature with Dr. K, and we’re currently reading all sorts of lovely old Anglo-Saxon things including “King Edwin’s Council” and “Caedmon’s Vision”. Also, I have finally learned to spell Medieval on the first go, a truly wonderful thing since I’m concentrating in Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

Then I have German with Herr Dr. E. The topic of this semester is German Culture and History from 1900 to 1918. Last fall, you might recall, I had a course about the Weimar period, which means I’m moving backwards in time at a rate of about 20 years per semester. If this continues, by the time I graduate I’ll have gotten to 1840-1860 which includes the first rounds of revolution, and major literary players like the Brothers Grimm. It also means that in order to study the Goethezeit, I’d have to stay on the six year plan. -_-; Hopefully the trend will be broken. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the German Lit Trads will be offered again next year. Herr and Frau Dr. E both seem nice, and after two days his class is still interesting, and I already have a number of quotes worth remembering.

Principles of American Politics with Dr. Mi seems like a breeze after taking so many higher division courses, but watch me eat those words come mid-term time.

Phil of Language, with Dr. S. sounds really interesting now that I’ve had one class and read the syllabus. I really want to take Linguistics now, hopefully it will be offered again soon. If it’s not, I may petition to have it offered before I graduate.

My fifth class was going to be a politics class about Machiavelli, which would have filled another requirement for Med and Renn. I went to the first class on Wednesday (it’s an hour and a half, MW) and I was there five minutes before the posted start time. I would like to stress that I was not late. Unfortunately, Braniff has these long skinny rooms with the doors at the front, which means that when someone walks in, everyone stares at you. The room was already full of graduate students with beards, none of whom made any noise as I shuffled in to a seat near the front. (All the good spots in the back and by the windows where already gone.) One guy did arrive after me, with the clean shave and the giant coffee mug identifying him as someone who has returned to school for a second degree, but is still working in a field where the grad student beard would not be appropriate. Then Dr. de A arrives, introduces himself and the course and calls roll. I am the only new face to him, and he messes up my name even after I say it for him. Then, he launches into the lecture, begging with “I assume you all have read The Prince” and “You should have read the Dedication, Preface, and first Chapter of Discourses on Livy.” He then proceeds to lecture in a fast, monotone voce about this reading, comparing and contrasting it to similar sections in The Prince, and making what would probably have been very pithy comments if I had any prior knowledge whatsoever on the subject.

I went home and tried to do the reading, and it started to make more sense. I thought about the rest of Wednesday evening. I thought about it all day Thursday. I thought about it most of the day Friday. Then I went to my advisor and talked about changing my schedule. When I pointed out that even though I was taking it on the 4000 level, the course was also listed with at the 7000 level, he conceded that I was probably in over my head. We came up with a couple of options for me, one of which required changing my whole schedule around, and another that required a signature from an instructor to get into an already over-full class. In other words, take either Music of the Western World or History and Theory of Gregorian Chant. I decided to try for Gregorian Chant before the other one. I went to the Registrar for the add/drop form, filled it out, ran over to the music department, and was told by the administrative assistant that Father Ralph would be in by 4:30. I thanked her, came back at 4:30 and talked to Father Ralph. He agreed to let me in the class, even though it was already three people over the class limit. So, I start Gregorian Chant on Monday, and I’m determined to do well, so I don’t make the saintly, 80 year old Hungarian monk regret his decision.

Until later,

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Theater of the Absurd

In Weimar I spent the afternoon with a couple of guys from the Music Composition course named Glen and Nathan. We were in search of a concert of some sort to attend because Weimar is the center of German high culture and going to concerts is the sort of thing that one does when one visits Weimar. Our search reveals that anything really interesting will be happening next weekend, which doesn’t help us any, so our choices for that night ended up being 1.)a mass by Handel or 2.)an electronic music recital. We weighed our options carefully: Handel didn’t have any particular connection to Weimar, unlike Back or Lizit, both of whom lived there, and a ticket to this concert would cost 12 EUR. The electronic music concert however was free, and was someone’s final project at the Franz Lizt conservatory, and we all kind of liked electronic music, so we went to that.

Now when I think of electronic music, what I have in mind is some sort of techno derivative (alas, I am an uneducated louse who can not differentiate the myriad of techno genres). Since the poster and the information guy at the school both said that a violin would also be played at the concert, we went in with no real expectations for hearing art, but thinking that this would be some sort of techno + violin combination that had a potential to be really interesting.

These people were definitely in the possession of the latest noise making technology. Unfortunately, they got so wrapped up in making all kinds of cool sounds that they forgot to actually write any music. The most entertaining bit was in the last piece when the girl spent about twenty seconds playing a putty knife. Then she picked the poor, abused violin back up and it was back to screeching. As a whole the concert represented everything I hate about avant guarde art and violins. Luckily, we were able to get out the door without talking to anyone, because none of us at enough good will left to even complement the violinist’s dress.

We scooted from the conservatory to the town square, which is the public viewing place in Weimar for the World Cup. We got there about five minutes into the USA-Italy game and were able to snag seats on the fest benches. It was a pro-Italy/I’m-just-here-to-watch-football crowd, but there was a sizable American contingent (mostly FUBiS students) complete with flags and painted faces.

Half time rolls around and the commercials start rolling. I should say commercial. It was for beer. Scenes of suspiciously good looking farm hands harvesting something, probably hops, were cut with scenes of a remarkably good looking man, presumably the land owner/brewer ridding a horse through the fields. The last shot is a family gathered around a table toasting something with glasses full to the brim with beer. Either the sound was turned off, or it was just down very low, because I could not hear the thing. This played through twice, while a band set up on the stage in front of the big screen.

It turned out that the band was a South Korean group playing modern songs on traditional instruments. They were stopped in Weimar or a visit before going on to Leipzig to play for the South Korea/France game. They weren’t bad, I might even say that they were good, except that their drummer had no rhythm at all, and rhythm is pretty much the most desirable characteristic of any percussion player.

I couldn’t really see the band very well, because it was about dusk by that time and the powers that be decided not to turn any lights on for the stage. The band was back-lit though, because the screan behind them was still playing the beer commercial on a continuous loop. Off on my right I could see the small TV in the beer tent, where the usuall half-time replays and analysis were running. Behind me there was a larger than life statue of Schiller and Goethe looking on. This random South Korean band playing bizare pop music was playing its heart out and the whole time this beer commericial keeps playing over and over and over and over and over and over behind them. It passed the realm of advertising, went through propaganda, and then straight on into absurdity.

No one thought it was as funny as I did.

[If I cared, I'd find some sort of logical transition to put here, but since when have I cared?] Berlin, and the rest of the country too, is getting more and more Cup Crazy with every day. Take for example the victory dances of German coach Jurgen Klinsmann: in the first game against Costa Rica, he just did this little fist pumping number for each goal. Over the course of the past three weeks this has gotten more and more elaborate, to the point that last Friday, when Miroslav Klose scored the tying goal in the game against Argentina, Klinsmann ran the length of the bench, kicking up a wedge of turf in the process, and jumped into the arms of one of the substitutes, before turning around and hugging the assistant coach as well. I’m getting into this as well, I’ve learned most of the words to the chorus of “Weltmeister” and the “Finale in Berlin” song gets funnier every time I hear it.

In attending* different games I’ve noticed that the fans of the different countries all cheer differently. The Italian cheer book consists of one verb (forzza, which means GO!), thee nouns (Italia, Ragazzi, and Azzuri, Italy: guys, and the blues, respectively), and inarticulate screaming. The goal for them is to make as much noise as possible for as long as possible. The Mexicans have a few chants, most of which I can’t understand because my Spanish vocabulary is all about food, but their favorite is the one where they spell out Mexico. For the USA, when we remember that we have a soccer team (which isn’t often) we just chant “U! S! A! U! S! A!” for as long as we feel like doing so, this is the way we cheer for every sport except football and basketball.

When the name of your country is Deutschland however, spelling doesn’t make for a good chant. The do however have a very long book** of catchy chants. Unfortunately, it can be hard to understand what exactly they’re saying since as a rule no more than 30 people are ever using the same chant at the same time. So to help you blend in with the crowd of German Football Fanatics, I’ve put together a do it yourself list of phrases which can be assembled in almost any order to make an acceptable German cheer:

(world master = world cup champions, in German the World Cup is the Weltmeisterschaft, lit. world mastership)
*Schwarz-Rot-Gold (black, red, and gold, the national colors)
*Seig or Seiger (victory or victor)
*Tor (goal, which also means gate, many puns are bandied about at the Brandenberger Tor, where the fan mile begins, puns are a major part of most German jokes)
*So schön’ (so pretty/cute/beautiful)
*Any explicative starting with S
*The name of any player

Just mix those together with your favorite adjectives and conjunctions, and any conjugation of the verb sein (to be) and you have a cheer. If you really want to get fancy, sing it to the tune of “Michael Row the Boat Ashore”, “My Darling Clementine”, or “Stars and Stripes Forever”. Here are some examples:

The olé song*** (German version): Olé, olé, olé, olé, wir sind die Champions, olé! (Olé, olé, olé, olé, we are the champions, olé!)

For the big goal scorers: Lu! Lu! Lu! Lukas Podolski!
Miroslav Klose! *clap clap* *clap* *clap clap*
Michael Ballack! *clap clap* *clap* *clap clap*
For the goalie: LehrmanLehrmanLehrmanLehrman or
Hans Lehrman *clap clap* *clap* *clap clap*
The favorites: Deutschland, Deutschland, Deutschland, Deutschland!
Berlin! Berlin! Finale in Berlin!

If you’ve got that pretty well handled, then you might also try to lend your hand to taunting your defeated opponents. When a player on another team is sent off with a red card, yell Auf Weidersehen (good-bye) in your best taunting sing-song. When Germany wins, parade through the streets and sing: “Schade [Gegeners Name] alles ist vorbei! Alles ist vorbei! Alles ist vorbei!” ([Tough] shit [insert name of opponent] it’s all over! It’s all over! It’s all over!) or “Geht’s schön’ nach Hause!” (It’s nice at home!)

That’s just the basic guide. If you get out to the middle of the crowd and you can’t remember any of this, then you can’t go wrong with inarticulate screaming and wild clapping. Booing the referee and yelling “Blind!” (the word is the same in German) can’t hurt either. At the end of the game, don’t forget to sing the olé song and Queen’s “We are the champions”

-bis später, Yami

*OK, watching them on TV with thousands of other people
**Except it’s not actually published anywhere
***In the States, the only word to this song is Olé.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Prauge Report

Last weekend I went to Prauge, the last of the group trips. It was fun, and nice to see the places I visited back in March, now that they are actually doing business.

A couple guys brought a German/Czech phrase book, which was a source of amusement on the trip down there*. The first three questions the book teaches the reader to ask are (and I would like to stress that I am not making this up, I acually read the page with my very own eyes): 1.)Are you married? 2.)Do you have any children? 3.)Do you have a sister?

The cover of this book featured two guys, one playing a string bass and one playing somesort of woodwind instrument, who are evedintly supposed to be folk musicians. The think is, on Saturday, we saw these guys playing on the Charles Bridge. This is one of the main pieces of evidence for the "Charles Bridge = Trap for Lost Souls" theory. Obviously, these guys offended an evil sorcerous (or more likely an alchimist, this is Prauge after all) with their alleged Folk Music and were cursed to remain on the Bridge for all eternity unable to leave it: not to the west bank, not to the east bank, and definatly not to the next life. The second piece of supporting evidence for this theory comes from one of the two tour guides the group had. She led her crowd through the castle, down the hill, to the Charles Bridge... and disapeared. This poor wandering spirit is doomed to stay in Mala Strana, leading groups of English-speaking ammature photagraphers around, with an umbrella raised high. But she will never be able to cross the river to freedom, oh no, because the Charles Bridge has trapped her.

The other guide, the one I was assigned to, was entirely gold. She had a very dark (fake) tan, lighter around her eyes, where sunglasses have given her a sort of raccoon face. She had very pale, shiny makeup. Her hair was bleached blonde. All her close were shades of beige. Her finger nails had gold polish. I could not look directly at her when we were outside because she actually shone in the sun. On the other hand, it was really easy to find her in a crowd.

-Bis Spaeter,

*a trafic jam and a long wait at the boarder turned our 7 hour trip into a 10 hour trip. :(

Friday, June 16, 2006

Reporting Live from Weimar

I'm on the second of three weekend trips organized by the University, this one to beutiful, historic, tourism-driven Weimar. The bus driver for our little trip was quite the entreprenuer: when he wasn't driving us around he sold drinks -- water, fruit juice, and beer. The list of places where it is not sociable acciptable to drink in Germany is quite short. -_-; Places that would be alcohol free in America are not here, such as Burger King or a suburban bus at 8 o'clock in the morning on a work day. The security check at the Brandenberg Gate is concerned with keeping out nutcases with AK-47s and glass containters, not drinks.

Speaking of the Brandenberg Gate, the reason there is now a security check neat it is beacuse it is one end of the Fan Mile. As the name implies, one mile of 17 Juli Straße (from the gate to the Victory Column in Tiergarten) has been blocked off to automobile traffic, giant TV screens have been set up so ticketless pleblians (like me) can watch the games of the World Cup (in German the Welt Meisterschaft, or WM). Also, food is sold there for almost double the normal price. There are other public viewing areas, like the Addidas World of Fottball (a scale model of the Olympic Stadium), the Sonz Center in Potsdamer Platz, and the Kultur Brauerei, for example, but the main advantage of the Brandengerg Gate is tha admitance is free, and everz place else either charges zou 3 EUR admittance, or (in the case of a Knipe) insists that you buy a drink.

When I'm not watching footbal or in class... that doesnät leave much time for much except sleeping. Fortunatlz, my classes make frequent excursions into the city.

With the German class I spent a day exploring the neighborhood of Prinzlauerberg*, which is home to the Kultur Braueri and Berlinäs best Currywurst Stand. That afternoon (a week ago Wednesday) I also went on a river -boat tour of the citz on the Spree, so there was a nice view of the Reichstag, the new Parlimentarz Library, and the Tiergarten. Then, this past Wednesday, we went to the Gorki Theater (in Mitte, near the Museum Island), one of the 4 state threaters in Berlin. We had a short tour of the threater** and spent the rest of the day doing a workshop on Kafka's Amerika which was the play being performed that evening. I thought about going to see it but 1.) I donät like Kafka well enough to sit through a 2 hour play without an intermission and 2.) the Germany/Poland game was that eveing. I'm happy with my choice, it was a really exciting game. :)

With my literature class, weäve been making a small expidition every day that hasbeen more or less related to the topic. We read a short storz by Kleist and then went to his grave. We read a poem by a Jewish yuthor and then went to the Jewish Museeum. We read a poem by Rilke about a panther and when to the zoo in time to see the big cats get fed. Today we were reading works by the expresionists and the escursion was to the museum of expresssionist at. I was unfortunatlz unable to go beacue the morning class went long, and I had to run in order to meet the group foing to Weimar.

I also spent a day in Dresden, thanks to the University, where I took a walking tour of the city, went to the old masters gallary (I am now in lover with the work of Gerrard Dou), and saw the crown jewels of Saxony.

As ever, I promise to have pictures up really soon, but I canät upload any until I get back to Berlin.


P.S. forgive me if there are a lot of Z's where there should be Y's or # or ä instead of '. I'm using the computer at the hostel and the German Keyboard is set up oddly.

*but if you really want to sound like a Berliner you'll say Prinz'berg or P'berg
**which didnät take all that long since it's really small, it only seats about 400, as it was origanly built for choral concerts

Thursday, June 08, 2006

I love IKEA

I’m settled in to my room in the Studentenheim here in Berlin. Berlin is made up of a lot of neighborhoods which have grown up and fused together over the years to form one massive city of 3.4 million people or so, but each neighborhood also clings fiercely to its own identity. I’m in the part of town called Stegliz. It’s a quiet residential neighborhood in the south-west part of the city about half-way to Potsdam. Dad tells me it’s in the old American Sector.

I have my own room, and I share a kitchen and 1.5 bathrooms with five other rooms. There is one more American, Ben, who is also in the Summer Course, and the others are full time University Students at FU*. There are two Germans (Raif and Suzi), one guy from Morocco** (Madhi)***, and one guy from Cyprus (name unknown, lets call him Mr. X until I get around to asking). I’m not sure where the Greek girl or the Japanese guy actually live, but they’re over here all the time as well.

The Unknown Heathen With the Ukulele* (lets call him Mr. UHWU) was at it again the deay before yesturday, when I first wrote this post. Apparently the rain did not discourage him in the least. As soon as the clouds passed on I heard that infernal *plink, plink, plink* floating in on air that had just been scrubbed free of cottonwood.** One of my suitemates decided to combat this racket by turning on the stereo in the kitchen, and managed to find a station playing jazz. As long as I concentrated on the saxophone it was pleasant, but as soon as I let my mind wander the twitch in my left eye came right back.

Tuesday was the first day of my literature class. The title of the course is “Boarders and Crossings: German Literature from Romanticism to the Present”. The class itself is quite small. Dr. Peggy is the leader of the Vanderbilt contingent here at FUBiS, she’s taught this class for several years in the past, seems quiet knowledgeable, and is very enthusiastic. Including me, there are four students in the class (the class on Understanding the EU sucked up most of the other students). The other three are Vivian, Jen, and Bridget (I’ll call her Bridg to avoid confusion with the one at UD, my roommate last year). Vivian was sick Tuesday – she ate a bad Doener*** somewhere and got some sort of stomach bug – Dr. Peggy called at lunch to see how she was doing and told her to stay home and get some sleep. We all want to know which stand she went to so we don’t go there ourselves.

Jen did something to her ankle and left at lunch to try to go to a doctor, didn’t return in the afternoon, and wasn’t answering her phone, so when it came time to go on our excursion into the city it was just me, Bridg, and Dr. Peggy. For class today, one of the texts was a short story called the Marquise of O— by von Kleist, an early German Romantic*, so this afternoon we took advantage of a break in the clouds to go out to the Wannsee** and see his grave and the place where he committed suicide.*** It was pretty (the lake, not the grave so much, although that wasn’t hideous, just hard to find) and Dr. Peggy and Bridg took pictures, which they promise to send to me. We’ll see how that goes.

After class my friend Joy (who is in my German class) and I made a run to the nearest of Berlin’s three IKEAs. The apartments came with a lot of things. I have a desk with a drawer that locks, a lamp, and a bed which is too low to the ground to slide Big Bertha under it*, a duvet with cover, a couple pillows, a fitted sheet the standard IKEA cabinet/closet, and 6 wall mounted shelves that I can adjust along their little tracks. I was also given a frying pan, a sauce pan with lid, one butter knife, one spoon, one fork, one tea spoon, one lunch plate, one saucer and one T-cup. That’s a good start to a room, but there are some things missing. Like a spatula for actually cooking things with, or a knife capable of cutting something that is not butter, or a cup that can hold more than two sips of liquid at a time. Also while the duvet is nice, its June, and the weatherman swears it will get warm soon. Right now we’re suffering from a freak cold snap that has left temperatures hovering around 50 degrees. Of course, the weatherman also said it would be sunny on Tuesday, which it was, when it wasn’t raining. If the promised summer conditions ever do materialize a down filled duvet will be far too hot, even with the seersucker cover. For these, and many more little things like that, Joy and I decided we did need to go to a store and buy some stuff. But we did not want to spend a lot of money (mostly because we don’t have much to spend, but also we didn’t want to have to worry about not being able to take it back to the States with us). A short moment of thought (“Where can I buy hangers really cheap?”) and a consultation with the Internet led us to the Templehof IKEA.

Making a list and bringing a friend are to important things when going to this place. If you have a list and stick to it, you can control your spending easily. If you have a friend, then you can split the cost of things that are only sold in packs of more than one. The IKEA steak knifes for instance only come in packs of six. Neither of us need six steak knifes. We each needed one, but for 2 EUR a piece we could split a pack and have three apiece. [If any other FU students see this and need a steak knife, come find me. I have two extras that I could sell you real cheap.] And for that price I won’t feel guilty about having spent the money when the time comes to jettison most of this stuff.** The extra-basic plain white plastic power strips come in packs of two. I don’t kneed two of the things. I don’t even need all eight of the outlets that are on one. I just need a way to plug the lamp that came with the room, the cell phone charger, and my computer in at the same time, and some moron decided that each room in the Studentenheim only needed one plug (so only two devices could be used simultaneously). However Joy and I split the pack, and for my share of 2.50 EUR I know have a surplus of five outlets.

I spent just under 50 EUR, and now my room and kitchen are both useable and I have no qualms what so ever about leaving all this crap here when the time comes. If I decide that I really like something, I can by another one just like in the IKEA in Frisco when I get home.

-bis spaeter

*die Freie Universitaet. I am not making this up. I might even have to shell out the 12.50 EUR for a T-shirt, if I can figure out when the University store is open.
**more specifically, from Casablanca, he says he hasn’t seen the movie, but everyone always asks about it
***if that’s not the correct spelling of it, it’s totally my fault, he even spelled it when he introduced himself

*or ukelele, says both spellings are correct
**an even bigger menace than football hooligans in this part of the city
***basically a gyro on a bun instead of a pita, this wonderful meal has been spread all over Europe by Turkish immigrants, and Berlin has the third largest Turkish population in the world. Constantinople is the first largest, which begs the question, what is the second largest Turkish city?
More importantly, could I buy a Doener there for less than 1.50 EUR?

*a literary movement which has nothing to do with being in love
**one of the many lakes in the area
***he lived in Berlin, in the winter, during the period in which the French occupied what is now Germany, he was deeply in debt and the English Romantics had already taken all the good places to live in Rome. He did have a pretty depressing life.

*according to the scale at the Milan airport she’s 7 kilos overweight, at a rate of 6 EUR for every kilo over. That’s better than Ryan Air. They charge 8 EUR. Bertha is going to loose some weight for the return trip, even if it means leaving my toothbrush here and wearing four shirts on the plane home.
**Bertha is full, and they won’t let you carry steak knifes on airplanes. They show them in the little picture of sharp objects that you're not allowed to have

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I hate the Ukelele

After an exausting Italian sojurn with Mom and Kathi in Rome and Florence, I have arrived safely in Berlin. I'll have more details to follow soon, but for now, a note on musical instruments.

At UD, the random instrument that you occassionaly hear around campus is the bagpipes.* We have one piper and he practices in the woods near the Art Village. Here, there is a guy who plays the Ukelele. For two hours. The same song. Over and over and over and over. The music sort of worms its way into your head and pitches a tent there, so even after the finaly stops it bounces around your head going "plink plink plink". If I didn't think it would have bothered my suitmates I would have played my own music loudly, but my headphones are broken and I had to settle for nice pretty soft music. It was an improvement, but only just.

Bis Spaeter,

*and loud Tejano music from concerts at Texas Stadium

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

London bridge is falling down, falling down...

Actually, I've completely failed to go to London Bridge. I did cross a bridge today, and it was in London, but it was Blackfriars Bridge. Why did I cross the bridge? To get to the otherside, because that's where the Globe is.
I saw Coriolanus, which I had never seen nor read before, but I now heartily recomend. (Seriously, go get out your copies of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare and read it, I'll wait. ... Done yet? OK, moving on.) I was a groundling, and payed £7* for the privalige, which is 1,400% inflation from the Bard's time. I may get over this eventually. One of the many things that I thought was well done about this performance was the use of the space. The pleblian characters were frequently down on the ground, mingling with the audiance while the patricians were striding about the stage, speachify-ing.

I'd say that there will be pictures... but there won't be. I snuck a couple of the inside of the theater before the performance began, but you're not allowed to record the performance**.

Tommorow I'm heading back to Rome, the land of really cheap food (and the peasents rejoice). I like London, but with the Dollar/Pound exchange rate what it is*** I can't afford to stay any longer. That and I told Mikey that I'd be back on campus Friday to get the rest of my stuff.

(Almost) on the road again,

*Aw, look: the cute little British keyboard has a key for both the Pound and Dollar signs.
**That's true of most plays come to think of it.
***a little over two dollars to the Pound

Monday, May 08, 2006

Those Crazy Mensa ladies

From the air, England looks a bit like Kansas or nebraska with smalle fields an more frequent towns. in the plane, I race over the ground like a Titan over a Persian carpet, covering seven leauges with every rapid stride. From this heigt, the countryside is unmoving, as i dance down towards it balacning on first one arm then the other in my spiral. I right myself, and then with nary a bump the plane touches down: first the back wheels and within the heartbeat the front. Teh runway grumbles as the vehical slows to a mortal's pace. My gum has lost its flavour and my ears are popping.


Aside from the plane being an hour late because of a weather related delay last night - it was a nice flight to London. As a final send off the Mensa packed us all breakfastes. Breakfasts. Breakfasti. What's the plural of breakfast? So, I was well provided for on the plane and did not have to buy any of the over-priced food from the flight attendants.

The sack lunch they always made us for fild trips consisted of:
*two sandwiches (types varried, no selection, take what you get or trade with a friend, there was usally quite a market trying to get rid of the cicken with lettuce and nothing else)
*a fruit (an orange or an apple depending on what was handy)
*a bag of chips (usually the Italian version of white chedder cheettos, only without the white chedder, or the cheetto-y packaged artificial food goodness)
*some sort of desert (usually these bizare fake-chocolate-covered, oranged-flavored, soggy sponge cake bars that noebody liked)
*a bottle of water
*a can of coke

Breakfast was always:
*sausage (fried in olive oil)
*bacon (really strips of procutto fried in olive oil, which sort of looks like bacon from a distance)
*eggs (allegedly scrambled, but judging by the complaints of the people foolish enough to eat them, not remotly like the American dish of the same name. Olive oil was involved in their production)
*has browns (which looked suspiciously like left-over scalloped potatoes fried in olive oil)
*random flavors of yougurt (not olive oil flavored, but they did make up for it with the coffee and cereal flavors, which you should not under any circumstances actually eat)
*the same four types of creal (coco pufs, rice puffs, frosted flakes with out the frosting which I gues would just be flakes, and granola)
*whatever pastries they felt like putting out (I never had the same filling in my cornetto two days in a row, they one thing they had in common was that they were all covered with enough powdered sugar to blind a persuing ninja team and allow ou to escape#)
*fruit (the same selection offered at all the other meals)
*mineral filled tap water (takes some getting used to, better with ice)
*any of three varriations on orange juice
*some truly awful coffee
*never enough milk to go around, partly due to our love of cereal and partly due to the badness of the coffee (no one was man enough to drink it straight)
If this sounds like a lot to go around, bear in mind that the portions were tiny: the sereal bowles had about the smae carrying capacity as the tea cup I got in Salzburg. The 'plates' which we were supposed to use wee actually sauscers for the tea cups (which the mensa had pressed into service as coffee mugs). If you were foolish enough to try to grab seconds on anything not liquid (except the milk, which was out anyway) or do something radical like take two pastries then you would get the look and emidiatly feel the need to amend your life and take religous orders.

Now, I'm sure the question nagging in the bak of all your minds is 'How did those maniacs in the Mensa combine breakfast with their sack lunches to make everyones last meal?##) Although I good second choice would be 'How did she get here from talking about airplanes?' The answer to the second question is 'Isn't stream of conciousness, however its spelled, fun?' The answer to the 1st question is:
*one sandwich (ham and cheese, no mayo, there never is, allthough the bread apeared to have had a close encounter with some olive oil)
*one muffin (no powdered sugar, am worried about attacks of ninja/gypses, as I have no way to defend myself)
*one apple
*one box of appricot juice
*one can of coke

Arn't the Mensa ladies cute? But what do you expect from a group that made us a desert so big that it could not fit through the door?###

Reporting live from London,

#You have to watch out for ninjas in Rome, they're quite a menace. Or maybe I mean gypsies are a menace and ninjas are spies from feudal Japan. I get confused on that sometimes. The point is, you don't want either one following you, and you can use the powdred sugar from your pastry to cover your escape.]
## or form Voltron
### not kidding, I have pictures of it, which I'll post when I get the chance, which may not be until I reach Berlin

Friday, May 05, 2006

All Quiet on the Due Santi Front

Well, the buses have departed with the hoards for the gorup flight. Me, I have finaly rescued my ticket home from the clutches of the business office, which has been holding onto it all semester. Unfortunatly, I won't be able to use it until the 15th of July and even then, I have to start in Berlin. Clearly, I have more adventuring to do.

More later. Right now, its nap time. Hopefully the cats will wake me up when its time to go to London.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Done and Done

Well finals are over, and primal screams of an ephemeral combination of joy, victory, frustration, and rage have left the throats of one and all. My roomates and I have taken great joy in throwing away every hand out we have been given all year one at a time. The room looks like it has been hit with a very selective white paper tornado. Packing has also begun in earnest as everyone has realized that the buses are leaving for the airport (alas, I won't be on it) at 4 o'clock in the morning, and we all seem to have accumulated a lot of stuff.

One last pull through my notes turned up two more worth while quotes.

The first is from Dottoressa Lytle, the director of Student Life, who's job is mainly to worry about us: “Watch when you’re crossing the street and be careful when you’re sitting on bridges.”

The second is from Dr. Stibora, about Jesus and Peter, he paraphrases the Gospel a bit: “I’m changing your first name. You’re no longer Simon, you’re new name is Rock.”


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Tradition, tradition

One of UDs most beloved tradtions has crossed the ocean with us, and slowly it begins to take root in Rome: the midnight pancake breakfast the night before finals. Our professors and the Student Life staff made and served pancakes for all of us. I hadn't realized just how much I had missed those little things until they served them. Granola and yogurt is all well and good, but it is nothing compared to pancakes. Also, it was the first meal I've had in this country that did not include olive oil. Although I suspect that if the Mensa ladies had cooked it, then olive oil would have found its way into the meal anyway.

And now for something completly different:
It’s finals week here in Rome, which means its time for the last round of funny professor quotes:

Dr. Flusche, Art and Arch:
On the church of San Clamente, the current building was built in c1100, which is not old at all for Rome, but older than America by about 600 years: “That’s pretty good for us, it’s like 900 years old – we don’t have much except grass that is that old.”

Dr. F is famous for not proofreading any of the handouts she gives us, in one case she had two different typos for the word ‘artworks’ on the first page of one packet: “Artiworks – that’s like what people do when they sew sequins on their clothes… Artoworks –that’s when you sew really big sequins on your clothes.”

On Pope Julian II: “He was not a particularly religious guy, which was sort of normal for Renaissance popes.”

Michelangelo wanted to be an artist, but his family disagreed: “Michelangelo’s father beats him, his uncle beats him, they didn’t seem to beat it out of him.”

Talking about the state of Michelangelo’s clothes, remember, she’s been overseas for a while: “There was no Fee-Breeze back then, or whatever that stuff is called.”

On God, as seen in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel: “These huge muscles of God, rippling beneath his pink outfit.”

On why Mary is sort of off to the side in the Last Judgment: “If you have to pray to the Virgin for intercession at the moment of the Last Judgment, its too late. There’s not much she can do for you at that point, so make your appointment early.”

On Michelangelo: “I wouldn’t say having fun, because I’m not sure that ever happened to him.”

On the restoration of the Sistine Chapel: “A huge debate broke out in the art history world, and that could get ugly.”

I really don’t remember how this one came up, other than it was in the class on Michelangelo: “Of course there were exceptions, this is Italy you can always get around the rules.”

On Caravaggio’s ‘Self-Portrait as a sick Bacchus’: “This isn’t Bacchus the joyful guy getting drunk, this is Bacchus the slightly hung-over.”

Dr. F also doesn’t always put the slides together correctly, more than one work has been shown to us upside down, or flipped over, or sideways, and she usually just takes it in stride: “This tendency… to paint paintings sideways *fixes slide* … gets him in trouble.”

On Caravaggio in general: “I like to call him the bad boy of the Baroque.”

On Cardinal Scipione Borghese: “He looks like the cardinal, if you’re going to choose one, that you want to have a martini with.”
“In addition, Cardinle Scipione Borghese had the worlds largest collection of pornography… Which was sort of a trendy hobby then, I suppose it could be now.” ‘
On a sculpture of the baby Jupiter playing with a satyr and a goat that Bernini made when he was eight or nine: “Yeah, kind of makes you feel like a looser.”

On Bernini’s Pluto and Persephone: “Borghese liked it so much when they get it, they give it away.”

On Bernini: “I call him the first rock star.”

On a slide of Michelangelo’s David which was in backwards: “You’ll remember that Michelangelo breaks from the earlier Florentine tradition, in that he does it backwards.”

Dr. Moran, Lit Trad III:
On the Frogs, which makes fun of the tragedians: “When Aristophanes writes this play, Euripides’ body is barely cold.”

On Hamlet: “I’m going to read Hamlet, because I want to.”

On campaign adds: “Have you noticed the adds all over Rome with the smiling Communists?”

Hamlet is 30, and yet he is still in school: “So maybe Hamlet’s one of those perpetual graduate students?”

Hamlet dresses in all black: “He’s the Johnny Cash of Elsinore.”

On King Lear: “The play wants to confuse you.”
“I’m not trying to turn you into nihilists. I promise, nothing, nothing, nothing. The Latin is nihil.” (Trust me, it was funny when he said, he just got more and more demented as he went on, and than became serious abruptly in the last sentence there.)

Someone made a comment relying on a very ordered view of the world: “You only said that because you go to UD and you have to spend lots of time reading Aristotle during your philosophy classes.”

There’s an Italian military instillation 20 minutes down the road sort of built around Ciampino airport (or maybe the airport’s built in the base, who knows) and every now and then their jets fly really low over campus, shaking the windows in the basement: “They didn’t drop a bomb. Those are my last words.”

A random siren alarm thing was going off outside: “I don’t think it’s an air-raid warning.”

Dr. Stibora, Theology

“Before we move on to Aquinas, I’d like to say a final word on the greatness of Texas. It will take more than one word.”

On Aquinas: “He thinks you don’t have to sit down and have a cappuccino with God in order to really know Him.”

Usually he stands in more or less one area to lecture, but one day he was really lively: “I’ve been pacing up and down all morning because I only woke up 30 minutes ago and I want to stay awake.” Further questioning revealed that he’d been up till 2:30 the night before prepping for class and had slept through his alarm clock.

Aquinas has five proofs of the existence of God, we spent most of a class on one of them: “Let’s keep going. We have 4 left and only 10 minutes.”

Nothing can make itself: “I would have to exist before myself in order to make myself.”

“So we take Bud as the absolute minimum standard for beer: that than which nothing worse can be?” (God = that than which nothing greater can be imagined, according to Boetheus and Aquinas, both of whom are conspicuously silent on the subject of beer.)

Sure it’s theoretically possible that the universe developed beings with rational thought by coincidence, but do you really believe it? In theory, its possible to shuffle a deck of cards and have it come out in order, but if you see someone do it, you suspect that a person stacked the deck, not that its chance. “So a deck of cards is all you need to prove that God exists.”

On portrayals of the Trinity in art, he drew on the board to illustrate his point: “You’ve always got god the Father up there with a beard, and the Holy Spirit is some sort of bird, and here’s the Son, it’s Lent so he’s frowning because he’s doing penance.”

A paper airplane was used as a demonstration and then thrown away, to our protests: “You guys got too quickly attached to that plane.”

On natural law; his attempts to encourage class participation ware stymied by our collective desire not to say anything remotely inappropriate. Ever. Especially not in class: “Come on guys, its been on your mind since you were 11. I can’t be the only one. The answer is SEX!”

On the papacy at the time of the Reformation: “There hasn’t been a pope who’s first name was Saint since 1294.” that guy abdicated after less than a year as well

On indulgences: “As soon as money gets attached to anything in the Church, we immediately have a train wreck.”

According to Luther: “Women are the sure road to perdition.”

It really doesn’t matter what this was in reference to, because it’s Dr. Stibora saying it: “Yipee!”

On Calvin: “…As his system ushered most of us, without our will directly into hell.”

On the purposes of the course evaluations: “And to help my chairman, who has no dealings with me at all across the ocean. Otherwise I just say that I’m great and it’s great.”

On how to fill out the course evaluation: “My name, because some of you apparently still haven’t learned it, is S-T-I-B-only one- O-R-A.”

Dr. Hadley, Phil of Man:
“I’m a professional academic, so when people say ‘that’s academic’ I get sad. Sometimes I cry.”

Our basketball team lost to the Italians: “It’s not American to participate and enjoy, it’s American to win. In fact, to crush them, they’re just Italians man, come on.”

Sewer systems are quite and amazing invention, and since we should count our blessings: “Count your sewer systems.”

On how your mind can play tricks on you: “Yesterday, I thought the soccer field was on fire. I had not been drinking.”

“I was just about to reveal something about my 3rd grade teacher that perhaps shouldn’t be said.” Now we’re all dying to know what it was.

“I am not… giving in… to the sleepiness.”

On how your mind plays tricks on you: when you stick a pen in a glass of water the refraction makes it look like the pen is bent, he was performing this demonstration, except he didn’t have a glass of water, he was just waving a pen around.: “It’s broken, it’s whole, it’s broken, it’s whole, try it at home.”

Something about the difference between humans and animals: “I’m not sure whales do this, just go with me on this.”
“The turtle whispers to you ‘be strong.’”
“It would be helpful if dolphins were more consistent.”

On Nietzsche’s life: “Nietzsche said ‘God is dead’ so God said ‘Nietzsche is crazy.’”

“I hate to make things all uncertain for you, but that’s philosophy.”

On the monumental use of history, using the past to inspire yourself to future greatness: “Have you ever aced a test? Surely you have, you may have to interpret that metaphorically.”

Nietzsche is big on strength of will and self-control: “Can you say no to something? Can you be strong in the sense of say taking down an antelope? I don’t think you could, but it would be fun to see you try.” *laughs manically, then abruptly serious, he turns to the side door* “OK, release the antelope.”

“I want to be an animal, leaping about, frolicking in the field.”

Quoting a line from Nietzsche, in his best animal-voice: “’Becaaause I ahhlwaays forgeeht whaat I waahnted to saahy.’ I’m assuming it’s a goat.
Then Cesar did the line in his Kermit the Frog voice: “Nietzsche didn’t have the Muppets to learn from.”

On food: “Pasta’s at the top of the menu because its so easy to catch.”

“Pray to the sheep god that the wolves don’t come tonight.”

We were dividing up into small groups to discuss some of Nietzsche’s aphorisms: “Martin, you lead the group about being misunderstood.”

One of Dr. Hadley’s pet peeves is people who don’t enumerate their points in there essays, which is most people except Nietzsche: “He has enumerated his points. Well done Fredrick.” *claps*

A question was raised about the front gate, which didn’t stop thieves form coming in over the back wall:
“What is the point of that gate?”
“To make it difficult for us to get in or out.”

On Nietzsche’s view of the relationship between man and the world: “The world’s a dead-beat dad.”

They were testing a new security system on the last day of class, which meant that the lecture was constantly being interrupted by buzzing noises from outside. “We’ve got a new security system. It’s working apparently. It’s running your lives.”

The end of the last lecture: “I’d ask to have a group hug, but I’m already known as the hippy on the faculty, so I won’t do that.”

Dr. Hatlie, West Civ I:

On the way the Romans learned from the people the conquered: “When they go to Gaul the Frenchmen don’t really have much to teach them, to tell you the truth.”

On how the Greece that Rome conquered was not Greece in its hay-day: “They didn’t get the A-team, they got the C-team.”

On the invention of political partied in the Roman Republic: “You and I are used to partied: you’ve got Republicans, Democrats, Communists, Green People, etc.”

On street crime in the Late Republic: “Everyone has a knife in their toga.”

On Caesar’s take-over of the government: “It’s an aggressive tactic, but it ends up failing rather miserably, as he ends up rather dead as a result.”

On the battle of Actium: “Mark Anthony is totally inebriated, he has been drinking heavily for decades.”

On Ovid’s Art of Love, and the end of class: “Most of it is the lead up, how to trap a woman and get her to love you, and that’s where we’ll end today.”

On Augustus: “We’re all equal, but he’s slightly more equal than everybody else.”

On the problems with Rome in the time of Constantine: “… and full of the proletariat of the sort of lower class people.”
On the fall of Rome: “The scourge of Europe, a gentleman by the name of Attila.”

St. Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine contains rules for Christians reading pagan texts: “Think of those early Christian martyrs: they’d be rolling in their catacombs by now.”

Local culture in the early middle ages, most people never went further than 9 miles from their house: “You woke up in the morning and thought, gee can I really do 10 miles today? Nooo.”

On Theodric, one of the Ostrogoth kings: “Theodric, although he routinely executes some of his highest ministers, is a very reasonable person.”

“When you have to cover 2000 years, the last 500 years sort of get squeezed.”

On how territory was divided up in the Middle Ages, basically you just declared yourself to be the ruler of your own land: “So, I own North Dakota.”

Vikings conquered most of Europe: “So, this is very, very bad news.”

On feudalism: “It’s like a pyramid scheme in a certain way.”

Important themes in the early middle ages, he skipped directly from the crusades to the emergence of vernacular languages: “It’s completely different from what I as just talking about.”

On why the High middle ages won’t be on the final: “I’m not going to hold you responsible for it; among other things it would require you to read about 50 more pages at a very inconvenient time.”

On the texts we read this year: “They’re oozing with Literary Sophistication.”
“Not to take away from virtue. Please keep being virtuous.”

On the format of our final: “You might be getting tired of Thesis. Body. Conclusion. I’m sure you’re not, its hard to get tired of them.”

bis spaeter,

Thursday, April 27, 2006

How do you stop this contraption?

The first half of the semester was all a ruse I tell you. The first couple months, we read, went to class, took notes, saw sunset glow and just generaly thought we had a handle on the course load here in Rome. I wondered what eveyone was talking about when they said that this was the tough semester. Then midterms came and where followed immediatly by the Greece Trip, with 10-Day close on its heels. There was a little time to recoup, and we were all off again for the North Italy Trip, and then Easter came. It's the end of the second week since we came back from Easter Break, and we're all worring about finals next week. In the mean time there were five page papers in Theology, Philosophy, Lit Trad, and History to contend with, 6 1-page journals to write for Lit Trad, and one 2 page Philosophy paper. Tommorow, I have another 5 pager due for Lit Trad, and on Saturday another short one for Philosophy. Once all that is finished, I can try to catch up on my reading and write the take-home (which doesn't mean much since our classroom is in the basement of the dorm) esay for Philosophy.

What I'm getting at here is that if I havn't been the best story teller lately, there's a good reason for it. Now would someone please tell the powers that be to return all the time they stole? It was January yesterday, I sware. To tide you over, here's one of my Journals for Lit Trad. Note the complete and utter lack of photographic evidence.

The Godfather rides my bus.* When one is packed on a vehicle as small and as crowded as one of the COTRAL buses, one can’t help but get a good look and smell at your neighbors, in most cases a far better observation than any right-minded person would ever desire. I usually watch the people around me without taking too much notice of them. I can’t differentiate between any of the newspaper wielding grandmothers, between any of the middle school rats, the high school punks, the luggage toters bound for Ciampino, or the creepy middle-aged bums. I might see the same people every time I get on the bus, or I might never see the same person twice; I have just never bothered to pay that much attention.

Every now and then, someone will stick out in my mind, for instance, the gay couple singing, yes singing, in the aisle and hassling the driver. There’s one particular gentleman that sticks out in my mind. He is in that late middle-aged stage where it is difficult to judge a man’s age – he could be as young as forty or as old as sixty-five – his hair is black and hits his shoulders. He is going grey in his beard, and at his temples. He always wears a baseball cap, a scarf, and about five more layers than anyone else on the bus, wears beat-up sneakers, and carries a black duffle bag.

The Illuminati is run by a housewife in Montana**, which is why I am not surprised to find the Godfather ridding the bus from the black hole on the other side of Albano***. On fact, he does not seem to do much except ride the bus back and forth from Rome. I see him, coming from or going to the city, about once a week.

There is always an empty seat next to him, even during rush hour. He uses this, in some sort of modern version of the ancient Roman system of cliente, to talk to people. The Godfather knows everyone. People will sit down next to him and talk for a while, they sit down looking concerned or worried, and when they leave (you always get up when you finish speaking to the Godfather, someone else might want to talk to him) they look relaxed. A month or two ago, when the gay couple was making a scene, the Godfather called one of them over too him. The Godfather talked for a while, with the young man explaining things every now and then. After they finished talking, the guys stopped causing a scene, and got off the bus two stops later.

I don’t speak enough Italian to know what he does to solve their problems, but he does something. That doesn’t matter much to the Godfather: he speaks English. He knows about our campus and its residents as thoroughly as he knows about anyone else. More than one UDer has had a conversation with him about how the semester is going, along with playing the usual game of twenty questions (‘what’s your major?’ ‘when will you graduate?’ ‘how do you like Italy?’).

Seeing such an important person riding public transportation might be odd somewhere else in the world, but this is Italy after all, and organization stops on the north side of the Austrian border. The Godfather is a nice guy, and whatever he does after he makes the sign of the cross after disembarking from the bus, one can’t help but hope that he will be coming back to dispense wisdom on the bus another day.


*he won't be riding it tomorow though, the bus and metr people will be on strike from 8:30 to 16:30
**This one does take some explination. When we were in London, there was a little mix-up with the hostel, we had to wait for a guy who had been staying in our room to leave and go to a different room (which required some searching before the hostel people found an employee who spoke Spanish well enough to convay that information to the guy) and then to change the sheets on the beds. While all this was going on, Nick and Mr. Boy and I sat in the lobby and watched 3 or 4 episodes of Jailbreak, which is a dumb show, but utterly addicting. We couldn't even collect enough energy to change the channel, or maybe that was because they had the heat going full blast and it was a tiny room. At any rate, on this show, there would be periodic segments in which we would see the Illuminati guys plotting, which neccessitated phone calls to the boss. It turns out that the boss is a house wife in Montana.
***it sucks up all the buses and never returns them, this is why when you’re waiting to go to Rome you always see three buses heading the other direction before yours shows up

Sunday, April 23, 2006


You Should Be a Film Writer

You don't just create compelling stories, you see them as clearly as a movie in your mind.
You have a knack for details and dialogue. You can really make a character come to life.
Chances are, you enjoy creating all types of stories. The joy is in the storytelling.
And nothing would please you more than millions of people seeing your story on the big screen!

You know, I don't connect seeing things clearly with writing for the screen. If you can't see a story clearly in your head, what are you doing writing fiction at all? Let's try this again, and go with my second answer choices.

You Should Be a Science Fiction Writer

Your ideas are very strange, and people often wonder what planet you're from.
And while you may have some problems being "normal," you'll have no problems writing sci-fi.
Whether it's epic films, important novels, or vivid comics...
Your own little universe could leave an important mark on the world!

My own little universe, that's it exactly...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


I'm slowly plugging away with the writing here, but my 1500 -2000 word history paper comes first. On the other hand, I have pictures of Greece up in the photobucket. Click here, or use the link on the right. Also, there's a new link to my Elfwood site, its been around for a while I just don't talk about it. Odd that I'm more comefortable showing complete strangers my artwork than people I know.

If nothing else, maybe I can get caught up with posting my pictures before the semester ends. That shouldn't be to bad, because I can load them while I work on papers, right?

After I finish this paper for history, I can start considering another 4-5 page paper for Lit Trad, 4 more journals for the same, and a two page philosophy paper over Nietzche. Once that gets done, I have final exams. There are less than 30 days left in the semester for me. Where did the time go?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Well this is fun

The latest post is actually under the April Fools post (just scroll down a bit, you'll see it, it's long). I've been working on it and saving the thing as a draft without publishing it since March 31st, so that is the date it's been published under. There's probably a way around it, but I'm tired, so you guys can just scroll down if you really want to know what I've been up to.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

You know what?

I quit. I'm tired of writing this, I'll tell people stories and show pictures when I get back to the states, in the meantime, not another word out me.

See you all in July,

P.S. Check the date :P

Friday, March 31, 2006

10 Day Stories

What's been going on in Due Santi you ask? (And furthermore, where is your intrepid Rome corespondent and what has she been doing?)
Well, after our return from Greece, we had a week of class, in which time we had a five page paper due for Lit Trad. At the end of the week, the student body literally scattered to the four winds and we went on our 10-day break. We came back from 10-day, turned in two journals for Lit Trad (1 page each, they've both been incorperated into the body of this post) and a five page paper on Aquinas for Theology. At the end of a week and a half, we boarded the buses agian for the North Italy trip (2 nights in Florence, 1 night in Vinice, and 2 nights in Assisi). We got back from that on Monday afternoon, and I'm currently taking a break from writing a 4-5 page paper for Philosophy answering the question "What does it mean to be human?" It doesn't help that tomorow the Doppleganger and I are taking off for Salzburg, to return sometime on Monday.

So yeah, the last post was just an April Fool's joke (I'm told I got a good reaction out of Mom at least) I did mean to post this before leaving for North Italy, but that just wasn't in the cards.

For now, I'm going to post my 10-day stories since I've been working on this draft for a while now and I want to be able to show something for it. I probably won't finish writing about Greece (there's just no time left in the semester), but I promise I'll put the pictures up sometime next week, along with more pictures of 10-Day. Easter's got priority for the next story slot, and after that North Italy, plus anything else that comes up. I promise more and better stories when I get back to the States and have a little time to decompress.

Anyway, on with the show...

So my 10-Day travel companions were Anna (there's only one Anna present for the trip, so the Doppleganger gets her name back) and Andrew. 10-day technically began at the end of classes on Thursday, but our flight to Budapest didn't leave until 6:40 on Friday evening, so we stayed on campus one more night. All students had to be off campus by 10 am Friday, so at 9:59 the three of us, hit the road, massive bagage in hand, or more acurately, on back.

Since we had several hours to kill, we first went to Termini, and stood in line for 20 minutes so we could put our stuff in the baggage deposit before going on our merry way. A breakfast so late that it had morphed into lunch was aquired at a bar/cafeteria near the Spanish Steps, and was consumed on said tourist trap. We avoided eye contact with the people hawking cheap toys, and avoided being accosted by them. Then on to the American Express office to transmute travlers checks into gold cash, our original purpose for approaching the Steps in the first place.

Then we went back to Termini, collected our luggage, and took the bus to Chiampino. We sat around the departures area for a while, then as soon as it was posible to do so, got our boarding passes and checked our monstrus bags. We went through security, played hury up an wait for a while longer, then flew to Budapest.

We found the bus we needed to take into the city, but couldn't find a place to buy tickets, so we hopped on the back and hoped no one would check tickets. We won our little game of roulett with the Budapest Trasnportation Authority, and arrived at the southern end of one of their subway lines (it's such a cute litle system, there are only 3 lines) and began a search for tickets. naturally, the ticket office was closed, so rather than playing charades with a real human being, we got to play 20 questions with a machine. We were joined in our games by a pair of Canadian backpackers who were just as confuesd as we were. The machines did speak English, which helped a bit in what came next. naturally, the ticket machines didn't accept bills at all, and the exchange at the airport left us all 10 Florents short of enough change to buy a ticket. We appealed to the mercy of the lady behind the counter selling train tickets, who, while unable to just sell us metro tickets, did give us all change for our smallest bills, if reluctantly. so, we went back to the machine and descovered that it did not want to accept coins. There's a little blocker thing that only moves aside when its actually time to pay for tickets (to prevent people from sticking things other than money in hte slot) that decided it wasn't going to move aside. So all five of us -- the two Canadian guys, Anna, Andrew, and myself, all wearing big backpacks -- trooped back outside the station to the only other machine we've seen. The 1st Canadian is avle to secure a ticket, and then that machine stops working as well, joining the station wide consperacy against people who speak English as their native language. After poking the touch screen repeatedly, in both the English and Hungarian versions of the instructions, we concede defeat and go back inside, where the 1st machine decides that it's working now. Once we finally all have tickets, we go down to the platform to wait for the metro. There's only half a dozen or so other people who get on when we do, on account of the time and being at the end of the line. Sonce none of us can really read the subway map, our stops are located by counting the stations as we go through them. The Canadians get off two stops before we so, and we wish them well, thinkign that's the last we would see of them. We exit the metro and encounter the first of many ticket checks. We passed, and all said silent prayers that we had fooled with the machines instead of just walking on. Our hostel was easy enough to locate, although true to form, we didn't exit through the door the directions told us to use, even so, we were able to find the hostel with a minimum of fuss.

We checked in, left out stuff and went out to eat. Andrew began his quest for goulash, of which we found plenty throughout our trip, but none spicy enough to satisfy him. We returned to the hostel, plotted the next day's activities, and crashed.

Saturday, we got on the road an hour later than we'ed planned (we realized belatedly that we had forgoten to pack a morning person to wake us up) and crossed the Danube to the Buda side of town. We exited the metro at what the map advertized as a major stop and started looking for a tram to take us further south. Finding nothing identifiable as a tram schedaul or a ticket booth for trams, we asked the people behind the counter at the trainstation portion of the building. Through a combination of broken English, pointing at the map, and interpritive dance, we were led to understand that we wanted tram 18 and we could get tickets in the metro. So we wnet back down two flights of stairs to the metro ticket office, got the tickets we needed and went back abouve ground to the tram. We managed to get on the correct tran, heading in the correct direction, and even got off at the correct stop. We walked down one street, and then up another, which brought us to St. Imre. The original crop of monks who founded UD came fromBudapest, now the monestary itself i s way outside of town, so we couldn't go there, but this was within easy reach. Unfortunatly, in what became a theam fot the trop the church was closed for no apparent reason (top three theories: it was raining; it was Saturday; they knew we were coming and shut the doors to spite us). So we went back the way we had come, and decided that since we were on that end of town, we would go see the cave church. In the '20s, a group of monks (not Cistercians) went to Lourdes, then came back to Budapest and built a mock-up of it. Unfortunatly for us, it was closed for Reconstruction, to the point that it wasn't even worth taking pictures of the outside. We did however sanp up this statue of St. Stephen, and take advantage of the great view of the Elizabeth Bridge. We got back on the tram and took it up towards the castle. We got off thinking 'OK, it's lunch time, we're near the biggest tourist attraction in town, there must be food here.' We were mistaken, a search of the neighborhood reveled one vegitarian place, and two up-scale places. We gave in and went to the one the guidebook recomended. Then we went to the castle, sort of. See we were coming from the south, and there's all sorts of deciptive pathways leading up-hill towards the castle, but absolutly no sinage. It turns out that the only way to get into the castle and palace (and thus to the museums inside them) is to approach from the north, so we lost a goof hour or more going all the way around, but we got a couple of nice shots along the way. We finally made it in, and chose to go to the history museum first, which is located in and on the oldest part of the castle. The sinage was all in Hungarian, so unable to really apreciate anyting on the ground floor, we went down a level to see what remained of the castle Going down the stairs was sort of like walking into the Twilight Zone.

When we got our tickets, we were handed a map , which had the places of intrerest marked, but what the map failed to tell us, was that this "basement" consisted of more then one level, so as we went around the floor, we had to go up and down numerous stairways which had been placed over the centuries with no apparent rhyme or reason. Areas that this map (and the map of the whole museum, which was three stories plus the basement, was squeezed onto one side of an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper, with the quality that you would expect from something a 6th grader made all by himself) said were just hallways were full of pictures and wax models of things acompanied by (presumably) explanitory Hungarian text, and areas identified as important places to see (such as the promisingly named Gothic Hall) were just being used as storage for extra chairs. The Gothic hall contained two doors, one through which we entered, and another which was shut and had a really obvious alarm wired to it. We left the way we came, searching for a room on the map which was shaped like a star. We never found it, but we did find the other side of the locked door in the Gothic Hall. An increasingly small series of rooms with household artifacts (such as a large stove) on display ended in a room with a locked wooden door with a really obvious trap alarm on it, which unless we were wildly mistaken was the otherside of the locked door we'ed seen earlier. There was a display of helmets on the wall to our right as we entered, and to our left was a set of stairs leading up about half a floor. At the top of the stairs, where a door leading to the star-shaped room should have been was a large sheat of styrofoam bolted to the wall. It was at this point that the crazyness of the place finaly got to us, and Andrew and I fell to giggling so hard that we had to sit down on the steps.

After that, we found our way out of the Museum, vowed to return one day and slay the minotaur, and moved next door to the Art Museum. The Museum was going to close at six, which gave us a little less than two hours in there, but when we left our stuff at the (manditory) coat-check, we were told that the check closed 15 minutes before the museum did, so if we wanted our stuff back, we would have to be there by 5:45. We agreed to their terms, three months in Italy having innoculated us to anger at such arbitary changes. We wander through the 18th and 19th century art galleries, and are starting to feel pretty tired when we realize that there are still three more floors to this building that we haven't even though about yet. Constrained by time and our hurting feet, we decided to swing through one more arm of the museum, so we look at a display of late-medieval winged alters which was well worth the trouble. After spending the past several hours completly insensable to what we were being shown, it was nice to see something we could understand. This was actually a pretty nice museum, and the signs were all repeated in English, so we knew what we were looking at. Sort of. Maybe. It didn't help that we could read a sign saying that the six foot long by five foot tall oil on canvas we were looking at was "The Reinternment of Louis IV" when we didn't know why he was being dug up in the first place, or why the people doing the digging were all well armed members of the noble class. We returned to the lobby at 5:30 thinking that we would buy a few postcards of works we had enjoyed, just in time to see the gift shop being closed up, so we collected our stuff and went back outside, souvanier-less.

We took a few picture of the Chain Bridge from our vantige up on the hill, and then continued north. We discovered that this part of town -- on the hill and near the castle, but not a part of it -- was where all the cheap resturaunts and touristy shops had gone to hide. We snaped (blury) pictures of the Mathaias Church, or more acurately, of its roof, in the fading light, and descovered that the church was closed, and had been since 4:30. We took a few pictures of Fisherman's Bastion, because it was pretty, than admitted that we would never get a good picture of any of it at night, and walked back to the metro. We took the subway back to the area of our hostel, had a nice dinner and then called it a night.

The next morning, we got ourselves up in time to go around the corner to the 10:30 mass at St. Stephen's Cathedral. We took seats in the very last pew on the epistle side about ten minutes before mass began, giving us plenty of time to examine our surroundings and to decide that we would just leave our coats on because a practical way to heat an open interior space of this size. The Cathedral is newer than most things in Rome (the guide book tells me that it was built from 1851 to 1905), but no less grand. Words are unfortunately failing me at this moment, and I’m afraid that the only way to really understand what the building is like would be to go there, looking at pictures is a distant second.

The choir there – some sort of fancy-shmancy ‘ooh we’re the cathedral’s choir, we’re better than you group’ – turned out to be well worth their pay. Halfway through the opening line of the processional hymn Anna and I turned to each other wide eyed and told one another that we would get a CD of their music if we could find one (we did, it’s amazing stuff). Now remember, that we don’t actually speak Hungarian, so following the order of the service, which we did not have memorized as it turns out, was a bit of an adventure. Some things were obvious: everyone is standing and just made the itchy sign of the cross, so this must be the Gospel; the priest in the funniest looking hat has been droning on for a while now and no body is stopping him, this must be the sermon; everyone is standing and reciting something long at once, so this must be the Nicene Creed; a bell just rung and everyone just charged forward, so this must be Communion, everyone who wants the sacrament, get in line. Other things the Choir helped on, because they were singing in Latin so we were able to recognize this is the Sanctus, this is the Angus Dei, etc and follow the service in that way. But there was one point, where there were two priests chanting back and forth at each other (sort of like they were playing dueling cantors), and part of the congregation stood while the rest knelt, that all three of us completely lost the order of service. By process of elimination we were later able to figure out that it must have been during the prayers of the people (although not being able to understand what was said, and the congregation not taking an active part in them sort of misses the point I feel) but at the time we were quite confused.

Actually, Latin did turn out to be quite useful for us, as our 10 day rapidly turned into a church-hopping tour of Eastern Europe, because the churches are nearly always open (except aparently, in Budapest) and everything else we saw was either being restored, or closed early, or both. Now Andrew knows a little Polish, but it’s conversational Polish, so his vocabulary is pretty well limited to food, the weather, and everyone’s health, and none of us know Hungarian or Czech, which is where the Latin came in handy. All the churches we went to were built well before Vatican II, so all the signs on the important things were in Latin (with hasty little paper signs in the local language hanging nearby), which enabled us to piece together what we were looking at. So in a twisted little backwards way, we arrived at the reason that the Roman church used Latin in the first place – so that everyone, no matter where they were from could understand what was going on in the Church.

After Mass, we went to the street which was advertised as being the main shopping area of Budapest. We cought lunch at the Spring Craft Festival, which was being held in the square just off the metro station, and spent the afternoon moseying down the street. Budapest, as it turns out, is home to more bookstores per square mile than any other city in the known world, and this street had more than one hawking wares printed in all languages known to man. Our wallets did not come through unscathed. We grabbed dinner at a gyros stand (which were all over Budapest, a relic of Hungry's Turkish occupation) and were stopped at an ATM, about to go down into the Metro, when who should we see but our Canadian friends. We stopped to chat for a while, and then continued on our seperate ways.

Our way took us to the State Opera House, where for the cost of $1.63 (or 400 Florents) we saw the opera Jenufa. Jenufa is a Czech opera, and the translation projected above the stage was naturally in Hungarian, so we really arn't sure what the plot was. Anna and I thought we had a pretty good grasp of it at intermission, but then the second act happened and it turned out that the guy we thought was Jenufa's father was really the love interest and her father was the guy we thought was the rival's father. We still don't know who the old lady was or what happened to the child at the end. I suspect that Google could tell me what it is I saw, but the curiosity isn't killing me. Besides, I didn't understand anything else I saw in Budapest, why should that be any different?

We cought a taxi to the airport for 3,000 Florents total, which comes out to about $10 US each, for a ride all the way across town, which was a deal. We ended up spending the night in the aiport for the following reason. Our flight to Warsaw left at 6:40 on Monday morning. We could have spent one more night in the hostel, but in the end it just wasn't worth it, since we needed to be at the airport no later than 5:40 to check-in, which meant that to allow ourselves enough time to get there using public transportation, we would have had to be going out the door by 4 am. In the end we decided that four, maybe five, hours of sleep was not worth paying for an extra night when we could get just as much sleep for free at the airport.

We set a watch, a one person stayed up with the luggage while the other two slept, and we were some of the first people in line when it came time to get our bording passes on Monday morning. We cought a quick nap on the hour-long flight to Warsaw, and that lasted us most of the day.

Richard and Yolna (I'm not even going to try the Polish spellings of their names), friends of Andrew's grandmother, met us at the airport and took us back to their house. We were scarcely in the front door before Yolna said “Maybe you are hungry?” I suspect that in the Slavic languages, the sentence construction ‘maybe you [fill in the blank]’ is used more or less the way English speakers use ‘would you like to [fill in the blank]’, because we encountered the same phenomenon in Prague as well. Knowing what they were trying to say wasn’t much help though, because when a petit Polish grandmother tells you ‘maybe you are hungry’ what she is really saying is ‘we have ways of making you eat, now are you going to do this the easy way or the hard way?’

We decided to do things the easy way and conceded that we were hungry, so we were ushered to the dining room and breakfast was placed before us. It consisted of three kinds of meat, one cheese, two kinds of bread, and a relish tray. We were pretty content, and then Richard opened the liqueur cabinet and offered us our choice of three kinds of vodka, two kinds of beer, gin, or whiskey: all this before ten in the morning. We declined, and after a little negotiation with Andrew’s broken Polish and the broken English of Marta (Richard and Yolna’s daughter in law) we were able to get orange juice instead.

Then we launched upon a whirl-wind tour of Old Town Warsaw, and it's churches. See, Marta appoligized to us, because all the museums in Warsaw are closed on Mondays, but, she suggested "maybe we could see a church". We assured her that we liked visiting churches, so we saw churches. Good Lord, we saw churches. Poland is 98% Roman Catholic, and they are especially fond of John Paul II, because he's a local boy. Warsaw has Catholic churches next door to Catholic churches. It has the church where people came to pray when JP II died last year. It has the Chruch where Richard and Yolna were married. And if that weren't enough, there is random religous art all over the sides of buildings.

To be fair, Warsaw also has a beutiful Old Town square, Medival fortifications, and the presidential palace, but mostly we looked at churches. We got back to the house in time for a late lunch. Once again, we were shepherded into the dining room where we were offered five meats, two cheeses, two breads, a relish tray, some things filled with ground meat which Marta called croquets which were meant to be eaten along with a red borsch soup, mash potatoes, dumplings, and two cakes. The bottles of alcohol had not been moved from where they had been placed on the table at breakfast, but we were also offered a choice of orange juice, cherry juice, and mineral water. Who would have thought that Poland would have really good cherry juice? I sure wouldn’t have, before this trip.

It was then about 4 o'clock and Richard loaded the three of us back into the car and drove for three hours to a little town about 20 kilometers from the Russian border in order to visit two of Andrew’s great aunts. We arrived at the first great aunt’s house at about seven, and we were promptly led to the dining room and told to eat. Now none of Andrew’s relatives knew much English, but the one word they all knew was ‘eat’ (which sounds like ‘it’ when the speaker has a Polish accent) so we ate: three types of meat, one type of bread, one type of cheese, and a choice of sweets for dessert. After a couple of hours in which Anna and I didn’t do much other than smile politely, because neither of us spoke Polish, we left and went to the second great aunt’s house. Great aunt number two lives two doors down from her sister, and when we walked in the door we were told ‘eat’ and shown the dining room, where we were fed three types of meat, one type of bread, one type of cheese, and a choice of sweets for desserts. By the time we left, even Richard was making jokes about how much we had been fed.

We got back to Warsaw at about 1, and were able to deflect Yolna's offers of more food by going straight to bed. We dragged ourselfs up early Tuesday morning for a quick bit to eat, and then the three of us Americans, Richard, and Marta all loaded back into the car and we headed south for Cracow and Czestochowa. We were still sitting in the drive way, working on making the turn out on the main road when Marta pulled out a plastic bag -- aparently from sub-space, since the car was a Toyota Camrey and we were filling all five seats -- full of sandwitches, handed it to Andrew, and told us all to eat.

In the two hours it took us to go from Warsaw to Czestochowa I ate four sandwitches. Czestochowa is the Polish Mecca, and the chief thing people go there to see is the Black Madonna, an icon supposidly written by St. Luke the Evangalist. (Google any three-word combination of the words 'Black', 'Madonna', 'Poland' and 'Czestochowa' and you'll turn up more information than you ever wanted to know.) So we saw the church, it's in a small chapel, made up off four gothic-vaults put together to form a little basilica, the back doors are always open, connecting it to another basilica of equal size which holds the overflow crowd from the first room, all of this in turn is only a side chapel for a much larger cathedral. The Madonna hangs above the alter in her shrine, and the walls of the room are compleatly covered in crutches left be pilgrams who have come to the site and been healed. If you look closely in the picture, you can see little silver medals which show parts of the body (mostly hearts, but also a fair numver of arms and legs), also tokens of thanksgiving from people who have been healed here. Next to the icon hangs the belt that JP II was wearing in 1981 when he survived the assassination attempt, you can see the blood-stains on it. Like all good religous sites, there is so much gold and silver in the room that it is impossible to take a decent picture, with or without the flash.

Outside, there is, amongst other things, a large ultra-modern viewing stand set up for the purposes of holding papal masses. When JP II came here last, he filled the square in front of the church, and on into the street beyond.

From here on out you get the cliff notes version:
After Czestochowa we went to Cracow. The next day Anna, Andrew and I trained down to Prauge, during which ride we had adventures in a station apperantly connected to the Twilight Zone, and also with the Czech Boarder Patrol (why does it take nine guys to check the passports in each compartment?). Prauge was also nice, Anna and Andrew were there two nights, the next morning they hopped a plane back to Rome. The purpose of this little trip was so that he might propose to her at the Trevi Fountin (I've got pictures of the ring, although a quick servay of my photos does not reveal any of them together, odd).
Nick and Treco joined me in Prauge the afternoon A&A left, and we spent one more evening in the city, coming to terms with our camera's inability to take good night pictures and buying swag. The next morning, we hopped the 9:15 train to Nurnberg, because we had rail passes, so why not? We discovered that German is nearly incomprehinsable to Americans when the speaker has a strong Czech acent (although the conducter had no difficulty understanding Nick and I). Upon arrival in Nurnberg, we procured tickets back to Rome, stashed our luggage in a station locker (cheap and secure), then spent the afternoon buming around the Alt Stadt. If you know the right stand to go to, you can find a Drei in Weckle (three of the local sausages in a bun) for a Euro. Turn right at the Human Rights Monument (it you're coming from the Bahnhoff) and follow your nose, and the crowd.
A train that evening brought us to Muenchen, where we waited for about half an hour in the train station before boarding a night train leading back to Rome.
On Sunday, we ate in Termini when we arrived, bumed arround the station until it was time to go back to campus (they wouldn't let anyone in before noon), and then went home. We wern't the first ones in the gate, but it was a near thing.

That's my 10 day story, more pictures to come soon, I promise.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Greece, Part I

I had a five page paper due for Lit Trad this week, so alas I wasn't able to finish writting about the Greece trip, or upload any of the photos that go with it. :( Anyways, here's the first third or so of the trip, I'll be back with the rest of it, pictures, and 10-day stories a week from Sunday at the absolute earliest.

UD is nothing without its traditions, and one of the events that always takes place right before the Greece trip is the G(r)eek Olympics. The class was randomly divided into eight teams of eleven, we donned our best bed-sheet togas, marched out on the soccer field, and the games began. I was on team six, and we failed to win the name and chant making contest, the broom-stick relay, the 3-legged race, the egg toss, the tug of war, or the gum chewing contest. Then Greener* shoved a plate full of whipped cream into Shane’s face and we earned one point for amusing the gods, so we didn’t come in last. After the Olympics we all trooped down into the Capp Bar for the traditional toga party. Technus – the God of Computers – and Caesar both graced us with their presence and shirts with rebellious slogans writ large upon them might have been worn. A good time was had by all.

One of the other events that takes place before the Greece trip is CLEANING. No one can go on the trip unless: 1.) the bathrooms are all clean and 2.) the bedrooms are at the very least not filthy. My Suite won the prize for the cleanest bathroom. ^_^v

Thursday began bright and early, with breakfast starting an hour later than normal and going 15 minutes longer. In a clear sign of God’s approval of our trip, the rain-bearing clouds which had been hovering over Rome for the past several weeks finally cleared up. The buses were loaded with a minimum of chaos and we left only a quarter of an hour late. There were 88 of us Students, all of the professors except Dr. F, and most of the Student Life staff on the trip with us, so we took up two buses. I was on bus number one, Jupiter Optibus Maxibus.** From Rome, we headed south and east across the Italic Penensula where the port of Bari was waiting for us. We stopped three times: twice to use the bathroom and once, at a cold windy auto grill which was pearched on the side of a mountain, to eat the sack lunches that the Mensa ladies had packed for us.

If Italy is shaped like a boot, then imagine where the heel of the foot would be, and that is about where Bari is located. We got off of the bus there, followed Dr. Ht. through a maze of medieval backstreets and arrived in a large Piazza which was empty except for us and a larger than life statue of St. Nicholas. Dr. M spoke a piece about the history of the area (the Normans conquered most of Greece and Southern uitaly at about the same time that they invaded England) then Dr. Ht spoke about the life of St. Nick, and why, as Bobby put it, the statue shows him holding 3 flaming peaches.*** You’ve heard of St. Nicholas. His feast day is the 6th of December, he performed a numver of miracles including calming a storm at sea, rescuing the children from the brine, and giving the three gold balls. His relics emit a fragrent smell, and exude a water-like substance that has miraculous helaing properties.

For a short time we got to go explore the Basilica San Nicola – a pretty little thing with nothing on some of the other churches I’ve seen in Rome and Greece – including a delve into the crypt to see the relics of the Saint. I bought a postcard, since there was some sort of vigil going on and it felt wrong to be taking pictures while that happening. The church has a small room full of bottles of the oil from the relics, apperantly they get about a liter of water every year.

We gathered in the Piazza again and Fr. Andrew led a prayer. Monsignor F is our normal campus chaplain, but he has a day job working at the Vatican, so he couldn’t come with us. Instead, we had the loan of Fr. Andrew a surfer from San Diego turned Benedictine Monk as our chaplain for the trip. Then we hopped back on the bus and drove around the block to the port, where we played hurry up and wait while our tickets for the ferry were fetched. We boarded the boat at last and settled in for a night on the Mediterranean Sea. It was right at dusk when we finnaly got on the ferry, so there wasn’t really anything to see until the next morning, although I know I was far from the only one who went out on deck to stare at a whole lot of nothing. We were three to a cabin, where smoking was not permited, in marked contrast to the intire rest of the ship. I spent the bulk of the morning alternately out on deck and staring out the windows.

We arrived in Patras, on the Peloponesian Penensula at about 12 local time (Greece is an hour ahead of Italy) hopped back on the bus and continued on our merry way, with much turning to each other and saying in shell-shocked voices “We’re in Greece.” We drove over the bridge spanning the Gulf of Corinth, which was built**** for the Olympics in 2004 using EU money and might be the longest suspension bridge in the world, but Dr. Ht wasn’t exactly sure. He also said “You really shouldn’t miss it, and since you’re on the bus, you don’t have a choice.” We continued along the cost for an hour and then stopped for lunch in a beach side restaurant. I had some good squid. ^_^

Then it was back on the bus for a few more hours to the town of ITea where we stayed for the night. The school provided dinner for us in the hotel, and the food was OK. I wandered around town with the Doppelganger, Mr. Boy, Nick, Bridget, and Shannon, saw the coast, played on a nifty jungle gym and a chess board large enough for us to pretend to be the pieces. Unfortunatly, other people took the pictures, so I’ll have to wait a while before I can get my hands on them. That evening, Mr. Boy, as part of his campaign to get into the local culture, tried Ouzo.***** The Doppleganger has a priceless photo of his expression that I mean to get from her soon. Nick also has a video that I’m planning on grabbing – it’s dark, but you can see Mr. Boy shudder and hear the rest of us laughing at him.

Itea is a quaint little town, and today it has the same attraction that it did in ancient times: it’s a good stopping point on the way to Delphi. So Saturday morning the group checked out of the hotel, we loaded into the buses and started driving. I tell you now, you have not known fear until you have gone around hairpin mountain turns in a bus, on a road with no guardrails and a two thousand foot drop on one side*.

The first stop in Delphi was at the lowest point in the site: the Temple of Athena. Dr. Ht talked for a little bit about where the ancients would go on their way to visit the oracle (they’d begin at this temple for one) and the history of the shrine. We had ten or fifteen minutes to explore the site, and then we moved on. We climbed up the hill, or should a say, part of Mt. Parnassus. The paths are well maintained and well marked, but as I have said before, Dr. Ht walks at about warp factor 6, and if you want to keep up with him** you’ll get quite a workout. Next we went to the Castalian Fountain, which is where pilgrims would wash themselves before continuing into the site. It’s fenced off – one of the few things we encountered in the whole trip that was – and Dr. Ht. talked a little more before moving on. Also located near the shrine was a small statue of Our Lady of the Soda, or some such.

Next we entered Delphi proper, hiked through the site and up to the Temple of Apollo. Dr. Hd spoke a little about how the oracle changed the life of Socrates, and of other Greek notables who consulted her. I got to see where the crack in the earth that the oracle supposedly sat above supposedly was: the area is earthquake prone so archaeologists debate where in the temple Pythia would actually have sat. After that, we were given an hour before we had to be back down the hill to see the museum, so most of the group, my self included, continued uphill to the stadium at Delphi. The Delphic games were part of a cycle of sporting events along with the Pan-Athaneic games, the Olympic games, and others that were a major part of ‘the world of Sport’*** for the ancient Greeks. I concluded that the stadium’s location was actually part of an ancient crowd control mechanism: you have to be in pretty good shape just to get to the stadium. It is a long way up.

We were given about 45 minutes in the little museum in Delphi, which was really all we needed because it’s a tiny little museum. If you have ever heard of anything in the museum it is probably either the omphalios, which the ancients believed marked the center of the world (or maybe it was the center of the world, as with most myths, the details are fuzzy around the edges) or the charioteer. The story with the statue is that when the French were beginning the first excivations here in the mid-19th century, there was a small town on the site. They took the obvious solution of relocating the whole town to a spot a few miles down the road, but naturally there was one little old lady who did not want to move. Repeated attempts to plead with the lady were rejected and it looked like the French were just going to have to dig around her house when she came to them an offered to move. Apperantly she had a dream the night before, which she took to be a sign, of a young boy, trapped below water asking her to free him. She sold the house and moved to the new town with everyone else, and this statue was found buried underneath the house.

-Till later, wish me luck on 10-day. I'm going to Budapest, Warsaw, and Prague.

*Or at least I think that’s who did it, I was on the other side of the crowd taking pictures when it happened.

** The other bus created a name for themselves that was some sort of sad attempt to rhyme the words ‘ouzo’ and ‘bus’.

***They’re three balls of gold, which are on fire for some reason. You won’t be able to look at a picture of him again with out thinking about peaches.

****The bridge, not the gulf.

*****It’s a Greek liquor made from Aniseed. In other words, it taste like black liquorish with alchol added. If you are ever offered this stuff, pass.

*Although there is a great view of the sea in the distance as you ponder your impending falling-bus related death.

**and you do want to keep up with him

***if I may be so bold as to steal the BBC’s phrase there