Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas and Books (and The Spirit)

There's two presents this year that might make the Best Present Ever list. I've had some good runs of Christmas presents in the past; like the time Dad got me a first edition The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, or the boxes of Lovecraft another year, or the Stellarscope that Mom got me that I've still got the box and all the parts for. I mean, like, ten years later, how likely are you to have the actual thing, all it's bits, and keep them in the box? And you've used it hundreds of times?

Well, maybe there's three presents. Gina did crotchet me a sweet hat. I don't think I've ever gotten a real home made present before.

The other two are a Sony PRS-505 with a two gig card and the All About Me book my Mom won in a gift exchange. I mean, that is if she fills it out. If she fills it out it'll be the best present ever.

As for the Sony PRS... If you love books it's like a whole new level of awesome. The battery lasts forever, the screen is so excellent- Kevin and I went to Lenox Mall for his Mother's Christmas present and they've got a Sony Style store which had the PRS on display, and it's screen looked like it was a picture pasted on which made us a little disappointed since we wanted to see it in action... Until the screen changed and we realized the screen looks so good for pictures it might as well be a pasted on image- the screen looks great in every light at every angle. And half the time when I'm looking at it some part of me is screaming "THE FUTURE IS NOW!" and remembering the panel tv screens in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Granted, the Sony Connect software that comes with it looks like iTunes and acts like it's got all the functionality of a dismembered Barbie head. It just doesn't work. Thankfully there's Calibre which does work. But other than the Connect software it's about a million times more awesome than I dreamed it might be.

I can finally read the unabridged Count of Monte Cristo! Finding an unabridged copy is nigh impossible- I've got one but it was two years looking and it's in a collected edition with some other Dumas books and about the size of all the Harry Potters put together. And the $200 worth of classics Sony gives you includes all of Shakespeare's plays, The Modest Proposal, and a bunch of George MacDonalds I haven't seen since I was in elementary school plus a hundred something other books...

As for the Count... I'm about 700 pages in of 3100 and it's an incredible read. I have this little tiny bible print copy that I nearly finished before deciding if it'd been cut down so much (to about 700 pages) that I really wanted to read the whole thing. I got to the part this afternoon where M. Morrel is nearly ruined and his daughter has to go alone to get the silk bag and I nearly wound up crying for the misery of him and his family and how the Count did him a good turn. And the writing is so old fashioned and yet completely fresh- It's one of best books I've ever read.

The other one I keep looking at, picking up, reading a few pages, and putting back down and going back to the Count (while still casting eyes back at the book) is Crystal Soldier by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. It's the first space opera type thing I've read in a long time that I've really loved. And Jela is one of those characters who just sticks with you.

Which just goes to show digital books don't replace paper ones.

(I saw The Spirit this afternoon. It was the worst. movie. ever.)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

An odd little Christmas moment

There's this house on Bells Ferry, right before you turn onto my street, that decorates for anything at all. Easter, St. Patrick's Day, Christmas, Halloween- All of them get a full string of lights in the bushes decorating job. Only it's not just the bushes. It's the trees and the edge of the roof and light up hearts for Valentine's Day and there's a light up blow up alien they put on the roof for Halloween.

And I see it every time I come home, unless I'm coming home off 575 so it's pretty much every night. And every time I see their cheerful light up exuberance no matter how hard my day has been or what I've had to deal with it brings a smile to my face.

So I sent them a Christmas card.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cookies and a Cut

Ok, so I'm probably not going to delete my blog. I was just in a bad mood the other night, and I'm glad I have readers. I just sometimes worry that since I'm not base jumping or setting things on fire this isn't very interesting for everyone and you've all gone away.

I mean, I can't even get my YO and K2TOG to look like it's supposed to, so it's not like I can post pics of this shawl I'm trying to work on. And size 35 is a beast to cast on.

However, I have pics of food:

CHRISTMAS COOKIES!!1! Seriously tasty, too. I made enough to fill a bread bag and about three days later that bread bag is empty. I have no idea how that happened. *innocent face*

And... Drumroll please... Remember my friend Kayla from Italy? She's a photography major and we did a photoshot that involved a make over...


How to Air Fold a Shirt the Aeropostale way


Ok. Step One: Pick up the tshirt and face it towards you, holding onto the shoulders.

Step Two: Press the shirt against your front as if you're trying it on.

Step Three: Fold the sleeves, by holding onto the shoulders, back against the body of the shirt so the shirt is only as wide as the space between the sleeve hems. The shirt pressing against your shirt should keep it attached to you/upright while you do this, but you have to do it sort of quick. The shirt should be about six inches wide at this point.

Step Four: Using your chin to hold the collar/shoulders in place let go of the shoulders (this is the tricky part- I drop the shoulders a lot at this part) and reach down to the bottom hem and fold it up vertically about two inches.

Step Five: Using the new folded hem, lift the hem up to your chin and grab the collar/shoulders of the shirt.

It should now look like a square. Now you put it on the table with the rest of the shirts arranged by style and size and watch helplessly as someone picks it up and throws it in the middle of the table. ^_^

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Rick Warren: "For 5,000 years, marriage has been defined by every single culture and every single religion - this is not a Christian issue. Buddhist, Muslims, Jews - historically, marriage is a man and a woman."

Walking Marriages, China Japan and Rome, the Catholic Church, Midieval France...

I'm sure there's about ten million more things I could site, but seriously.

song chart memes

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


it's been hard to blog since i got the new job. there's not much to say about the right way to hang up jeans or how to air fold shirts. and it's just repetitive enough, with just enough interruptions, to keep you from really getting to muscle memory and losing yourself in something else. haven't gotten much done with Rome in a few weeks. i got hung up on "what wine would the romans have served with this meal" and haven't been able to go back and face that part of the story until tonight.

most of the shifts i'm trying to compose this epic blog entry in my head about why people need to throw all the sweaters they're not buying into the center of the table even as they see us folding for hours on end, but then i recall kitten's post on being a good restaurant customer and decide not to write anything since it won't be as hard hitting or to the point.

right now i'm trying to decide if i'm going to cancel my blog or not. honestly, it's my third or fourth (or maybe fifth?) that i've ever run and they've all eventually gone away. i think the longest (besides this, i'm not checking the date right now) ran for about two years, and as far as i recall no one i knew read that and it never got a single comment. with a private journal you can say more things, be more honest, and cover all the events in your life. with a blog there's a certain "is this even interesting to anyone else?" factor and when i posted about did anyone want souveniers and got no reply i had a pretty good answer to that question. i'm not asking for everyone to reply to this, or start commenting on everything, i'm just in a mood where this seems a bit silly. if this isn't interesting then there's no point in it.

spring semester please hurry up.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Almost Perfect

Almost Perfect was incredible. Had a very disjointed and awesome writing style, great story, great moments for all the characters (poor, poor Ianto) (Jack tries to save the world his favorite way) (Gwen and Rhys in the line of duty).

and then there was gossip...

came into work this morning at four am. no, you're reading that right. we got a complete change of clothes for the floor and had to swap things out... far easier to do when there aren't customers looking for the things you're putting away, or asking for stuff, or throwing all the sweaters into the middle of the table while looking for *one* size.

everyone is like 'hi. it's early. good to see you. how'd you sleep?'

i reply 'alright. woke up with nikki curled up next to me.'

at which point my manager, theresa, jerks around so hard and fast there might as well have been a car accident involving her desk and in the most scandalized, gossip hungry tone of voice she demands 'WHO'S NIKKI?'

Monday, December 1, 2008

Recap Stats

Currently I'm at 200,036 words, and 409 pages. Which means for November I wrote about 52k and just under a hundred pages. Which is pretty compact for me; I usually hit the 50k mark once I've written more than a hundred pages. There's been a lot of good parts, a lot of parts where the characters have felt awkward or been lazy and I had to force the words onto the pages. But on the whole I'm really proud of it.

And still not done. This November also marks the novel's third birthday. Which makes it the longest I've ever worked on something, and the longest document I've ever written on a computer (I've got something longer handwritten, isn't that scary?). But now that I've looked at it and about how long all the sections are, if the section length holds out I think there's about another 90k.

I don't have Hyena Moon in front of me (my first Nano project) but I'm thinking it was shorter than the wordcount I have left. I think, once this is over, that I'll go back to working on the sequel to that. Or one of the 500 million new ideas that came to me over the last month, begging to be written.

Also, this year's winner's certificate has a Viking longship on it. Because writing is hardcore like that.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Another Milestone

I've got over 200k right now. Yay!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

What Bentochan has been doing the last three days

1. Not working on her novel much.
2. Working like a slave in a salt mine on Black Friday.
3. Learning that she cannot do a YO or a k2tog by herself.
4. Making chocolate cloud cake.
5. Drinking coffee out of the Vampire Knight EGL teacup Allison gave her. (LOVE IT!!)
6. Climbing shelves farther than corporate would like.
7. Aching.
8. Cutting her hair.
9. Looking at the girl on the Aeropostale winter ad and feeling like a house.
10. Getting up before god intended.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

When Backing Up Goes Wrong

Not in the Jean-in-a-car sense, but in the USB-and-novel sense.

Last night I went to Aryeh and Gina's house to play Rock Band, and after a bit it was time for Aryeh to watch Heroes and Chuck, so I asked if I could use their desktop to work on my novel for a bit, since I'm still behind. It went pretty well.

Two hours later and their copy of OpenOffice is giving me an off the wall word count (all the programs give different wordcounts, isn't that funny?) so I just save the novel to my flash drive, play some more Rock Band and head home.

Check the wordcount, did pretty good, save the file again, get some kind of save message about "am i sure i want to save over a larger file?" because Word and OpenOffice documents are vastly different in size, with Word being smaller, and I click yes. Do it again to my other back up, and I'm off to bed.

Get up this morning and those pages I wrote last night are gone. I check the wordcount and I'm down by 2k or so. Woe and misery prevail for about twenty minutes until I figure out what went wrong/check all my back up copies/give up all purpose to live. Apparently the computer went with the larger file rather than the more recent version in the save, which is pretty infuriating, especially since I wrote over both of my backups. And I didn't email it to myself from their house because their internet was being a bit pokey and my novel is over a megabyte.

I should have waited that out, or brought my laptop to work off of. That's the lesson here. Or instead of using two backups I should have used three, but that leads to the slippery slope of when is enough flash drives and backups enough.

In the middle of contemplating if I could drown in my cup of coffee I called Kevin to demand a pep talk. Which he was happy enough to give even though he was at work. I love Kevin. GREATEST BEST FRIEND EVER! It was a pretty good pep talk too. Made me laugh. And feel a lot better about having a set back, even if I'm nervously eying where I'm supposed to be on my word count calendar. Still behind. And after the saving fiasco even behinder.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


The file for my novel is now over a megabyte. I feel so awesome about that. YES!!!!!!!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Desk Drawer Into the Past Part 2

The actual art is by various friends of mine in High School. Hannah Lees (check the credits on the last Hulk movie), John Fuller (where are you?), Me (the drawings barely recognizable as art) (the picture of the foxes (OMG YES I CAN DO NICE ART!!)) (the watercolors).

The Desk Drawer Into the Past Part 1

Hopefully I'm not going to embarrass myself too badly here. I'm apparently getting new furniture and I have to clean out my desk, which I haven't really used in years. It's sort of in a bad position- to pull down the table bit you'd got to shift a bed post. So... I haven't been in it much for years, and wasn't one for using a desk much when I was a child, at least for letter writing, that sort of stuff. But, it has six drawers above the table, and six below that are actually drawer sized... I loved those drawers. So many little nooks and crannies for things...

Things which I haven't seen in years, and are amazing/confusing me as I find them. It's fascinating especially in the anthropology/historian sense, since these are things I thought were important enough to save once upon a time. In event of a Pompeii-like incident here's a desk someone might find a thousand years in the future and puzzle over.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Things and Stuff

The last few days have been more busy and annoying than anything else. Filling out job applications has to be one of the most tedious activities ever. But hey, money.

I've got a big knitting project I really want to get started on, but I need one more yarn for it, and I don't think I'm going to give in and splurge on that until I've got money coming in.

Because of all the paperwork I've been playing with I haven't sat down and written much on my novel this week, which is really... agrivating... some days. The first few days of the event it was hack hack hack and thousands of words seemed to appear like magic and now I'm lucky if I get to sit down and open the document. There was supposed to be a write in today at the Sandy Plains Daily Grind but I don't see anyone else here (why are there so many teenagers? don't they have school? and the men in suits- go to work!) and it's been sort of hit or miss on me actually getting anything done. I'm closing on being half way to the word count, though. I just wish the novel was more done.

The new Twilight commercials look awesome. Just like the Quantum of Solace ones. I swear I saw one for Transporter 3 but it was all flashy stuff and noise- I figure as long as something blows up that movie will be alright. In Italy they were showing previews for something called Babylon AD with Vin Diesel, but I'm not seeing anything about it here.

Lego has some new Pirate sets out. They look incredibly, fantastically like the ones my friend Michael used to have when we were in elementary school. No big single wall pieces like I've seen in some of their more recent sets (like Harry Potter- especially the Hogwarts set) which make them so flimsy and pointless to build. And apparently we're going back to the good old days of an animal in every set. So far I've seen fish, a kraken (*cough cough* octopus *cough*), a monkey, OMG A MERMAID, a shark... See them all here.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Day 9

There's nothing quite as awesome as writing a novel with your new favorite coffee mug brim full of hot chocolate and marshmallows.

Saturday, November 8, 2008



I have dogs I can cuddle now. And my own bed.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Another Way to Die

1. Just heard the new James Bond theme.

2. The muscles above my knee are like, mini-cramping or something and pulling on the tendons all the wrong ways. Feels like its gnawing on me.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Day Two

Last night I crashed so hard. I was so tired after my marathon typing session... It was a bit silly how tired that can make you some days, since you spend the entire day sitting in a chair and then you get up and you just feel like every bit of energy went into what you were writing and there's nothing left to keep you concious.

I slept, I woke up late, wandered into the kitchen where there's almost nothing left to eat since I stopped buying groceries last week so I'm not wasting anything. All I've got left at this point is the last of some spaghetti sauce and some noodles so I had that for breakfast, and some cookies for lunch, before heading out to look for real food and finding all the shops are closed for Sunday.

That's going to be one thing I won't miss when I come home.

At least there's going to be a big, healthy, three course dinner in about two hours.

I haven't been able to get into the Nano site today- the servers are taking a beating- so I haven't updated my word count yet but I'm a bit slower today. There's still time later to make up for it though... The faster I plow through the novel the closer I get to that event horizon of not exactly knowing what comes next.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Day One

And I'm at 5,194 words already! Yay!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Reveling in Stupidity

We're in Renaissance Italy Class and had to totally drop the topic of the Reformation of the Church because talking about the Catholic Church 'that way' offended one of my classmates.

Apparently this is one of those days where people can wave their stupidity flags at the same level as Holocaust deniers because the Church obviously can't do anything wrong and the Reformation is something really confusing and obviously evil even if it resulted in the church we have today. Maybe we should just go back to Popes having kids out of wedlock with hot Nuns and selling Indulgences for things like murder and incest. Maybe the Inquisition never happened, and it's all just a slur campaign by Atheists and Pastafarians and people who worship the Invisible Pink Unicorn. Maybe dinosaurs really are just a prank being pulled on us by the devil, and those of us who go to things like the Natural History Museum in London and watch the Jurassic Park movies are just hopeless sinners with no hope of redemption. Maybe Martin Luther was just a jerk who defaced a church door.

What I'm baffled by, besides her horror of history and her smallness of mind (i mean, really, she doesn't have to accept any of this if she doesn't like it- she doesn't have to interrupt my (and my classmates) lesson to tell the teacher to change the topic) is why she didn't just go sit in the hall.


I asked about a week ago if anyone had any requests for souvenirs for themselves. I guess no one wants anything?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A sight for sore eyes

I was walking to school this morning and as I came onto the main part of Via Graciano there was this guy up ahead of me on the hill. Tall, lanky, blue jeans, brown fitted hoodie, bright orange shirt that I could see the collar of, shock of white-blond hair...

I bet some of you I work with are chuckling now.

I just about started yelling at the guy, happy to see someone from home. Sadly it was not Coy Dunn, but I realized that before I could run up or shout his name.

Still, it was kinda funny.

Yesterday we went on a field trip with our art teacher to Siena. It was a sort of unplanned thing, but there were a couple of good pics I got out of it.

The decorations on this church reminded me of powdered sugar icing. One of the things I really liked on it is there's this one angel, sort of the middle of the right hand side. Of all the marble statues on the facade this one had bronze wings. They really stood out against the white marble. I wish I'd had a telephoto lens or something to get a better shot of just the angel.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Sorry I haven't posted much. Things have been... Well.

Since our trip to Venice there's been a lot of drama in our house which I don't really want to bore you guys with. But it's been very tiring, and I think we're all very, very quickly reaching the limits of our patience with each other.

I've been writing a lot which also affords me the ability to hide in my room with my headphones on. The novel is coming along really well and my roomie has very kindly offered to paint from it- she wants to do portraits of the characters, I think. This year Nanowrimo has a sponsor who's offering to print a paperback of everyone who finishes work so it might make a good cover. At the very least I can hang them on the walls and they can glare at me until I get the thing done. (I'm closing on 300 pages! EEEEEEEEEEEE!!)

I've taught my roomie how to knit, too. She's making a scarf that alternates sections of knits and purls to keep it from rolling and it's made of this fluffy cotton candy looking yarn. The colorway sort of makes a zig-zaggy thing across it. It's cute and a good first project.

Hrm. What else...

Allison has taken over Nanowrimo ML duties for me since I'm here. She's already come up with what sounds like a really awesome Kick-Off party and a great first event where people are meeting up that first Saturday of November to write like madmen for most of the day. I'm really proud of her. Apparently she's working on a novel version of that webcomic of her's that I linked to months ago. I hope she finishes so I can read the thing. I mean, it has mermaids in it, right? At least the webcomic did, so it's got to be good, right? That'd be cool if they were rebel freedom fighter mermaids or something... But I think I've got a guess as to the storyline and that's not it.

Speaking of mermaids... There were all these steps in Venice that went down into the water that I know were there to let you get in and out of boats during high tide and low tide but gave me the fantastic impression that all the Venetians were secretly merpeople or selkies.

Other than that I didn't get a lot of good pictures of Venice. The lighting was a nightmare. Everything was either too close or too far away or you're standing in an alley with four stories of buildings on either side trying to get a picture of a church facade at two in the afternoon but you might as well be shooting in dusk.

I just got an email from Mom telling me that she was walking the dogs this weekend and fell off a curb and hit her head. I'm freaking out about it even though it's three days later. First of all head injuries are just horrible. Secondly I watch too much House and Bones and someone is always getting some kind of blood thing in their head or being hit with a stapler and my inner hypochondriac is going at full force right now.

How did we get this injured and this sick in the space of two and a half months?

Now for some questions... (hopefully there'll be replies)

What does everyone think of Fringe? My Own Worst Enemy? True Blood? Who's watching what?

Kayla and I just adore Walter. The chick is pretty cool too especially with how well she just sort of accepts the fringe science stuff, and I like that Peter is basically Scully up until this last episode. (He's a clone right? He is, isn't he? Didn't Walter say something about that when the chick asked about his medical history) (You can tell who my favorites are being that I can remember their names)

My Own Worst Enemy was just incredible. From the commercials I thought it was going to be more like (SPOILERS) he actually was the soccer dad and the spy was the programed personality, not the other way around. But I thought that really worked. I really like both of them, though I'm not sure about the boss lady who plays chess alone and exactly who he works for. I especially liked the last scene where (oh, god, which one is which? I know the names are Henry and Edward) (hee, from Jeckyll and Hyde) the spy was watching the soccer dad on the video, and from the spy's side it's all just his facial expressions and attitude as he smokes.

True Blood is...amusing. I don't know if I want to call it good. Anna Paquin looks funny to me, there's just something about her face... There's parts of it I really adore, like LaFayette's attitude, and they've picked some good looking actors and actresses for the show, and there's parts that really just... Make me not want to watch. I know in film class we learned about 'male gaze' where things are filmed with the intent of pleasing some generic adult white male somewhere but I swear to god if I have to see one more pair of tits in that show... I mean, seriously. The first episode was off-putting just for that. And could they please find Anna Paquin something that covers more? Half the time it's like-

Anyway, you see what my problem is with True Blood.

Aaaaaaand, since we're getting to the last weeks of my being here, please let me know if there's something specific you want as a souvenir. Postcard of something, coins, tie, whatever.

Oh, right. I put a little ticker thing on the side of the page for Nano- it's supposed to change images from a stack of paper to coffee to pens and whatnot during the day. I haven't seen it do that, but can someone let me know if it does? I'm not expecting it to right now, since the nano servers are down this morning...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Lesser Deity

Once upon a time there used to be this really great quote on the Nanowrimo site along the lines of "Sometimes writing is like raining holy fire and sometimes it's like giving birth to a horse.". I never copied it down and haven't seen it since, but it's always struck me as true with my work. Sometimes it's weeks between me working, sometimes it's days, and sometimes it's a struggle to write three sentences while other times I can do more than five thousand words in a sitting. For a while here in Italy I decided since I wasn't working and had more time I'd write at least five hundred words a day, which is less than a third of the daily output for Nanowrimo, but then we'd go on a three day weekend where I couldn't bring my laptop and that'd throw off my count. The last few days I'd been feeling extra guilty for not working on my novel like it's a serious job, and sat down at my desk with the determination to get *somewhere* with it at least. Where I ended up getting my this morning was three thousand words farther and the introduction of a character we've been waiting all novel to meet. And with the introduction of the character I almost felt like dancing around my room this morning- their banter and affection was everything I'd wanted it to be and that I'd been scared it wouldn't be, since this was the first time I'd written these two in the same place, talking face to face.

By the time I had to head to class I felt like a lesser deity of the written word. I love writing.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

London Calling

Ok, London was just plain awesome. After five weeks of learning Italian, using my phrasebook (the spine has broken, btw), struggling to remember how you pronounce "Chianciano"... Being in an english speaking country was incredibly relaxing. Even if I kept wanting to say things I'd heard on BBC and knowing I wouldn't pronounce them right and I also sound like an American to them and they're not going to be fooled...

Now, before I really start off this story I want to give an update on my knee. It's better. It doesn't hurt anymore, hasn't for weeks, it's still stiff but I can almost get a 90 degree angle when I'm sitting in a chair. I can walk without a crutch, but that's not a great idea over uneven ground. So, going to London, walking around all day wasn't a problem at all, I just wasn't that fast getting around.

So, I made my plans to go to London about two weeks before I went, in the sense of booking my flight and hostel. And my hostel was absolutly amazing. I couldn't get any good pictures of it, unfortunately, but you know those large blocks of London that were built with one level below ground with the wrought iron fence around them, where the below ground level makes an alley around the house? We'd call the brownstones if they were in Boston? That's the kind of place I was staying in. White-washed five story Victorian, that if you went out the front door to the right you were 30 feet from being in Hyde Park, and if you went two blocks to the left you were at the Natural History Museum. Queensgate Road. It looked so Regency romance novel I felt like I needed some gloves and a calling card.

The lady at the front desk got up every morning to make Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, the scent of which would rise up from the basement kitchen/sitting room all the way to our rooms, waking us long before our alarms went off. It was so soft and hot on the inside you just got a slice and burrowed around inside of it, scalding your fingers and covering them in smears of chocolate.

My friends who live in London recommended I get something called an off peak pass for the tube, which is basically a 24 hour pass that's not meant to be used for commuting to work. It was about 4 pounds, and worked practically everywhere in London including on the buses. It was a really good deal, since on the second day I was playing with one of the automatic ticket machines and decided to see how much it was just for a single fare to Camden Town from my hostel, and it came to about 5 pounds 50 pence. For a single ride!

So, Friday I went to Madame Tussaud's which had everyone except John Barrowman (what?! nooooooo!)- it did have Patrick Stewart, though, and Johnny Depp, and Amy Winehouse. Probably the picture I took with Amy Winehouse is the funniest of all the ones I took, since she's got her hand up flailing around with her mic and it looks like she's socking me in the face. Then I went to Forbidden Planet, which is just insanely huge. There's two floors and the basement level is all books...

Then I went to The Who Shop, which is wayyyyy out in the boonies of London and past where my tube pass is supposed to work, which actually led to one of the funnier bits of my trip. I didn't realize it was outside my travel zone since I was new to reading the tube map (which is a work of art) until I was in the station and the gate wouldn't let me out when I scanned my tube pass. I figured the gate was just broken, but when the second wouldn't let me out I figured out what was wrong and went to find a station master to apologize to and see what I was supposed to do- pay the fare probably, since it was an accident. Well, over at the information desk I couldn't get any of the employees to pay attention to me, even after I rang the bell and waved, so I turned around to see if anyone was lose in the station who could help me. And they've got these bigger gates for wheelchairs and whatnot, and this teacher is holding the gate open for his elementary school class to get through and he seems to think I can't get through the regular gates because of my crutch, so he lets me out. I figure I'll just explain it when I get back, since the shop is going to close, and go do some Doctor Who shopping. And I saw the Empty Child mask! Well, after I'd been shopping in the Who Shop for a bit I decide to head back to my part of town and go back to the tube stop, which is pretty empty this time of day, and there's about twenty gates so I'm pretty surprised as I'm trying to get the attention of one of the employees that some guy who's in a huge hurry gets in the gate behind me, slides his oyster card (it's what all the locals have), and shoves me through the gate. And the station master sees this (but not me trying to get his attention ten seconds before) and comes over to yell at the guy for shoving me. The station master apologizes to me and tells me to go get on the tube, and he makes the guy go back out and go through the gates again, berating him all the time about being in a hurry... I figured it was just a sign from the universe and went back to my part of town, at which point I'd only had three or so hours of sleep so I wound up falling asleep in the hostel early that night.

The next morning I went to the Camden Town Markets which is north of London and is like a big flea market, vintage clothing, punk, hello kitty... Well, anything can be bought there, I'm sure. And you haggle, and it's all pretty cheap anyway. It's where I spent most of my money in London, buying a sort of highwayman looking coat, some interesting jewelry, scarves...

After that I had to rush back over by my hostel to go to the Natural History Museum to see the dinosaurs and meetup with some internet friends of mine I know through Nanowrimo, and we wound up seeing pretty much everything in the museum except the earthquake room since we both got too hungry and I didn't think it was a good idea with my knee. We wound up going to a Tesco for crumpets and chocolate then heading across London to a really fantastic pub for the best meat pie I've ever had. After that I rode the London Eye, which is a great view of London, just fantastic with all the little lights twinkling.

Anyway, I was so busy last week with two tests and a group presentation that the majority of this post sat in draft mode on blogger all week and over the weekend, and I didn't realize until Dad was berating me Sunday night that I might have made everyone think I was killed in London or something. I wasn't!

And I wanted to say a special thank you to Charles for his incredibly detailed emails about London. It was like having Charles venturing around London with me, pointing stuff out, which was really fantastic.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


This was our bus driver on the way to Chiusi. Chiusi is about... an hour away from Montepulciano but it's the nearest train station. The buses and trains are all run by the government, and they run really well. On time, they're clean, they're comfortable. It's not like riding in a charter coach, but they're nice and they're cheap. I'm still getting the hang of reading a bus schedule. The thing that made me laugh is most of the drivers wear sort of casual clothes, a button up work shirt with the bus logo on it, stuff like that. But that morning we managed to get The Transporter!

This is the view of Vesuvius from our hotel in Vico Equinse. Equinse is sort of a small town between Napoli and Sorrento. I liked it mostly for the view and the fact the train station was about 20 feet from the hotel. My knee is a lot better but I spent five hours hoofing it around in Pompeii on Saturday and I was really, really happy for the short walk when I got home. Of course, once you got into the room you had to deal with the murderous angel paintings and the PINK walls. I won't post the pictures I took of the room for public safety- they might harm your eyes.

This is Vesuvius from inside Pompeii. I couldn't help but think at this angle it looked smug.

This is Kayla. She's one of my downstairs roommates. She's probably the most awesome person on the trip. Since I busted my knee she's been taking care of me, offering her shoulder to lean on, walking slowly with me when we go through a historical site since some of the teachers pretty much run through them. Her mom is a nurse, so she already knew some of the physical therapy things I have to do for my knee, so she's been helping me with them. She also cooks for us when we're too lazy or tired to. And her cooking skills makes me look like one of those "I could burn boiling water" types.

Ok, now for the big surprise! This weekend, starting Thursday afternoon, is our free weekend where we can go do whatever we want. I'm going to... London! Before everyone starts panicking about money, Europe still has about five million air plane companies which means really competitive pricing- even better than the heyday of $39 dollar flights in America. As long as you're flying within the EU flights are pretty cheap, and if you fly at weird times the flights are even cheaper... And sometimes free. I'm not making that up. My flight to London is free. My flight back is the one I'm paying for, and if I could have got a different time it could have probably been free too, but I had to plan for the train and bus schedules here in Italy. So, as soon as classes are over tomorrow I'm hoofing it down to the bus station, which will take me to the train station, which will take me to Rome Termini (the main train station in Rome) where I'll catch a bus to the airport, and then... London!

Thursday, September 25, 2008


This weekend we're heading out on a three-day to Pompeii. Lots of pictures when I get back.

Knee is doing a lot better. No pain, no meds- it's still a bit swollen but it'll hold my weight. No brace either. I can manage with one crutch for a while too.

I'm working on some special plans for next weekend- that's our four day weekend where we don't have to be anywhere from Thursday afternoon til Monday morning. It's going to be awesome, I can tell you that much.

Care Package: Can someone please, please send me a box of Velveeta Shells and Cheese?

Monday, September 22, 2008

What not to do in Florence...

I dislocated my knee walking through a 15th century house. I haven't had a full dislocation in about six or seven years, so besides the pain it was really, really annoying, since I couldn't walk around Florence anymore or go to Milan over the weekend like my roommates and I planned.

Spent Friday night watching Torchwood with one of my Professors, Saturday reading, and Sunday watching the second season of Doctor Who. Nothing more strenuous than walking to the kitchen. As of now, Monday morning, my knee is still swollen a bit, but it'll mostly hold my weight without pain. The muscles ache, and until all the swelling goes down I can't have my full range of movement, and despite the fact that I know what I'm doing with ice and ace bandages I'm being strongarmed to the emergency room this afternoon (with one of my other classmates who's appendix might need to come out, so at least they're not just taking me in). It's not bad.

Thankfully, before I dislocated it, we had a lunch break from class in Florence for about an hour and I was able to get the pictures of Perseus and Medusa I hadn't gotten before and Professor Shealy told me where there was a.... get this.... English Only Used Book Store. In Florence! They only take in english books, all the people that work there are Brits, and the books are all cheap. Considering a new paperback here can go for 18€ I'm surprised there aren't more used book stores.

Anyway, don't dislocate your knee. It's not fun. Especially don't do it while in Florence- you'll wind up sitting in the McDonald's next to the train station for hours. You won't get to go to Milan either. But you can watch Doctor Who all freaking day.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rome Part 2

This is one of the first marbles in the Capitoline Museum. It was really well preserved, great details in what they were wearing. There were several others, a few soldiers... Every little piece of the armor was as fresh looking as if it had been carved yesterday.

This has to be the best fountain ever. EVER.

The Dying Gaul. You can't see all of it in my picture, but it's near a window and hard to get a good angle on without back lighting it. It's a really, really sad scene- he's dying from a wound in his side and was apparently carved after conquering the Gauls. What really got to me about it was seeing how graceful the statue was- how much it broke your heart to see- I felt like they had so much respect for their enemies.

This is probably the worst looking picture I've taken all trip- but one of the ones I like the most. Saturday night after we'd seen Saint Theresa in Ecstasy, The Capitoline, the ruins of the Forum, the Colosseum- Kayla and I (she's one of my seven roommates) wanted to go see the Opera in Rome. Turns out there was one near our hotel, sort of down the block, past the Basilica that used to be Diocletian's Baths; it was in an old church (which we hadn't expected) with a mosaic apse (the curved, arched bit over the altar) done by.... A Pre-Raphaelite. We're sitting there a few minutes before the Opera started staring at it, just boggling, wondering how old it is. At intermission we got up to wonder around and found some fliers on the church... It's a bit hard to see, since it was so dark, but at the top (the orange bit) is a vision of heaven, hovering over Christ on a chair made of angels, with five open windows beside him, each with one of the four arch angels standing in front of it... The empty one on Christ's right is where Lucifer was supposed to be, which is supposed to be a message to all the church goers about how even the mighty can fall... Below that is a row of angels separating the heavens from the waters (it looked like this game we used to play in elementary school with parachutes)... And below that is five groups of people meant to represent the five parts of the church... Apparently there were some famous faces hidden in the crowd of people, since the artist was using contemporary famous models as was popular. There's supposed to be J. P. Morgan and Abe Lincoln. In a few weeks when we go back to Rome I'm going to try and get better pics.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Last night I got through that scene that I've been building up to in my novel for about a year. I've been trying to do about 500 words a night, at least, since I've been here. The first night it was like pulling teeth, next night I missed it due to homework, night after that 1k came easy. Last night 3,005 was easy enough and it got me through the hard scene. Yay!

I'm now at... 266 pages, 131,079 words.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Rome Part 1

Rome was absolutely amazing. We went almost too fast, but we saw so many famous things it's impossible to fault the speed.

Friday we took the train early in the morning from Chusi to Rome, which is going to be one of the things I miss the most about coming home. Taking trains is awesome! Especially when it's cheap, easy to use, safe, and well planned. On the way home it rained, which I hate to drive in, and riding in the train while it rained was very restful- just the sound of it.

So, we get there, get to our little hotel, and head right off to the Vatican and St. Peter's. It was insane, some of the things I saw.

That was probably part of a public fountain. Possibly it was a bathtub- same shape. It was in the Vatican.

Back in the old days people used to cross the Mare Nostrum on sea monsters. Really. This was also in the Vatican.

This was one of the "here there be monsters" bits in the Hall of Maps at the Vatican.

This was my delicious Friday night dinner, the "American" pizza with hot dogs and french fries.

This is Marcus Aurelius at the Capitoline Museum. The Last good Emperor.

I think that's it for now. We had a long train ride today, lots of travel, and the weather changed. One of the Professors said that it would probably rain over the weekend, and once it did the heat would break. He wasn't kidding- it went from blast furnace to I NEED A SWEATER in the course of an hour or two.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Market Day!

Buonjourno! It's Thursday, which is Market day. Not market like the markets on all the streets that sell various things, but Market like a Fair.

That's right, we get a weekly fair.

Nonagressive driving, a weekly fair, cheap mozzarella? That's right, Italy is looking pretty darn awesome, isn't it?

Our weekly fair is outside the city gates, down in the back parking lot of the Bus Station. It's maybe, maybe a ten minute walk down a really steep hill, and then it's all the knock-off homemade Prada you can carry, as well as homegrown veggies and fruits, sliced meats from butcher shops in RVs, high fashion clothes, shoes, kitchen stuff, jewelry, leather jackets, towels... If you can't get it in Montepulciano, or Montepulciano Scalo (the new town outside the walls) (everything in the walls dates from at least the 1500s) it's going to be for sale at the weekly market. It's a bit like a flea market except everything arrives on fold out robotic vans.

I'm going to take some pictures of it when I run down during my lunch break from classes so in the event you're reading this at 6AM (go back to bed!) when I come back in an hour and update this with pictures and comments about this week's fair.

Edit: After a misadventure on the buses, I'm sad to admit I couldn't get any pics of the fair. I got some vile looks the second I took out my camera. However, today they were selling everything from fresh cheese to veggies to italian leather pumps to chainsaws. I bought a sweater, a really light one; v-neck, dark gray and green stripes, long, 3/4 sleeves.

In Chusi (Que-see), which is where the bus misadventure went off to, also the main train station near here, I saw a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in the window. In Italian. It reminded me that I hadn't seen any bookstores yet. I didn't really expect there to be too many, so I was hoping on this weekend's trip to Rome I'd find one at least.

On the way home I managed to get a pic of Conad; the local Dollar General/Kroger/Walmart which is about the size of a Walgreens at home. It's where you go when you want something that's a little too name brand to be at the streetside markets.

We've got to be at the bus station before 7AM tomorrow. I'm going to bed. Expect a big report on Rome come Sunday night, or Monday- I won't have my computer with me until then.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Stranger Days

There's some things I'm going to miss when I come home.

50 cent balls of fresh mozzarella cheese. Cappuccinos for a euro. Pici. Oh man, I'm going to miss Pici- it's this local noodle, really thick, really long, like spaghetti- every noodle is made by hand. You can get it fresh at any market here. Hell, the markets. These little street-side markets on every block where some nice old lady will pick out all your apples and pears for you, since she doesn't trust you to do a good enough job. No one drives aggressively which is why they can all drive between the lanes and zoom around on Vespas without anything tragic happening.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

From bad Traveler to Worse...

Ok, the reason I haven't posted is I've been sick. Like, sick unto dying, the kind of sick where I'd actually call out of work... Which I don't think ever happened while I was at Dr. No's, but I've got to be at the point where I can't stand without getting the shakes before I'll do that.

I got sick late Thursday night (Friday we were going to Florence, of course) and spent most of the night huddled in the bathroom. Come morning the others in my apartment are packing up to head out and I'm wondering if I should call the Professors and tell them not to expect me. I finally decided to tough it out when one of my roomies got on me that I'd already paid for it. That was sort of a mistake, because I only felt worse all day and don't recall much of the Ufuzzi Museum. Probably the coolest thing I saw that really got to me despite being sick was the bronze Perseus and Medusa.

Sorry- more later! Have to run off to dinner!

Ok, back from dinner! That picture above is from Saturday night- after Florence, we had the choice of either coming home for the weekend and chilling in Montepulciano or going out to Hostels and adventuring around. Since I wasn't doing so well I chose to stay home. And Kayla was staying home too, so we decided to have a dinner party at our flat with all the other kids who stayed home too.

Because we set up the party the Professors asked Kayla and I if we wanted to go look at some of the local towns on Sunday, for lunch, which is where that nice picture at the top came from. We drove around for a bit, some nice countryside and pictures. We wound up eating in Monticchiello (Monte-Kaylo) at this really lovely open air restaurant and touring the town, as well as looking at a local church, which is where the following picture came from.

It's apparently a story about three men taking a bath in barrels while being yelled at by a flying Pope. :3

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Mailing Address

In case you need to mail me something (which would be awesome!) I can be reached at...

Whitney Donald
Il Sasso
Via di Gracciano nel Corso, 2
I-53045 Montepulciano (SI)

And I've been playing with fire! Be scared! On our stove you actually have to turn on the gas, then hold the stove nob on, then light a match...

Monday, September 1, 2008

The First Day Of Classes

Yesterday was the big day with the Barrel Race in Montepulciano. Like I was saying before about all the contrada (the different neighborhoods with the flags), there are about eight of them. And to work out any neighborhood tensions they have a ritual battle (I assume that's where this came from, but it certainly seems to work for that effect since they're all so contrada-proud yet don't get in fights about it- also, tourists) where teams of two men from each contrada roll one of the 150lb wine barrels through the city streets. There was a huge parade before, with costumes from the renaissance.

None of the reinactors looked like they'd gotten married for love, either. ^_^ But I supposed that's mostly historically accurate.

This is the winning team of the barrel race. They're not from my contrada so I couldn't cheer too much.

The doors in this town deserve to have stories written about them. Lots of stories. There's ones that look like dungeon doors, ones that look like city gates, ones with knockers, ones with the knob in the middle.

This is the atrium in one of the houses next to mine. Since the house has probably been divided up in flats like my house is, I couldn't go in, but I could take pictures from the open door. Imagine having this in your front hall!

This is Punchinello. He tells us what time it is by ringing that bell. He actually moves! Apparently this Bishop (I think) get exiled from Rome to here and was homesick for Punchinello, so he sent someone to buy one and had the tower lowered so he could see it better. The tower is about forty feet tall now, but used to be about 60 or so.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

OMG Italy (or, I almost packed up and went home last night)

It's Ok. I got here. ^_^

After what felt like at least 24 hours in airplanes we arrived at the airport in Rome- granted, I spent a good portion of that time asleep, but on the first plane the guy next to me couldn't keep his elbows and knees in *his* seat, so it wasn't totally asleep like I wanted. But still, some sleep. There's a bunch of people that didn't get any and they're all buy dying on our first real day in the town.

These are the Alps. I woke up on the Frankfurt to Rome flight long enough to take some great pics.

So, we get to Rome, and someone lost a bag, so we had to wait at the airport for a while, hoping it'd show up, but it didn't so we set off... in our Mercedes Benz tour bus. I'm not kidding. The carpet inside had the logo all over it. By then I guess it was... Noonish? We had a delay in Atlanta, then one at Rome, so we set out late. They've got some really great roadsigns here! There's one that looks like a coffee cup, and another that looks like a fork and a knife, and one that looks like a six legged fire breathing dog.

For real. Six legged fire breathing dog signs.

They're for a gas station company, but I didn't know that at first.

This is Montepulciano, from outside the main gate.

About an hour or two of countryside, which sometimes looked like those stacked up box houses in Rio, and sometimes looked like big fields with tree-lined drives, and we got to the bus station where we'd walk to Montepulciano from. Thankfuly some nice locals and the lady from our school here came to pick us up with some trucks! I tried to pack light, but once you see the streets here a straw hat looks like something too heavy to carry around.

This is the view in my room if you kneel on the desk and jam your head out the roof window. Great view or greatest view? ^_^

Our flat (I share it with about eight other girls) is the first of the flats we're using in the town, so it's a short hike from the main gate. It's got a massive, MASSIVE wood door on it, something out of a castle. And then you go up four flights of stairs. Then into the flat itself, and my rooms are on the floor above that, so it's five for me... With my suitcase. But the flat is huge! There's eight of us, but you'd never know it, and we've got a nice kitchen off one way that seems like it's a whole different building.

So, we're in, we're getting settled, we've got about an hour and a half to dinner and we've got maps. I've already put away my stuff so I figure I'll go out and take pictures. There's a lot of houses here built out of other houses, or with bricked up doors and windows, so I walked to the restaurant and took pictures all the while. And then it's time for dinner, so I kinda hang around outside for a bit but no one shows up, so I figure they're all running behind so I start walking back down towards our flat, but there's no one from class anywhere. They're not even in the flat, when I hike back up the stairs! I kinda started to panic then because it was past dinner time, and I hadn't really eaten except for some little sausage links I got at our way station on the bus to Montepulciano, and it's getting dark, and I don't know where anyone is now. It started to feel like the Outer Limits. I hiked back to the restaurant, peeked in, no one. Hiked to the top of the town where the big square is, still no one. Back around the town to the restaurant, and it's getting darker and there's still no one from the trip. So I walked back to the flat and was heckled by an old man, and sat down to a cold dinner of the rest of my sausages, part of a bottle of water, and a little of a Kinder bar I bought while we were in Germany.

I felt really, really miserable and that coming on the trip had been a mistake. I couldn't find anyone from the trip, I missed dinner, I couldn't even speak enough Italian to find them or ask where they were. Or tell what the guy had yelled at me, and I figured I was probably in trouble with the teachers.

Eventually, after I'd gone to bed, my roommates came home to ask where I'd been. Apparently I went to the right restaurant, but they were eating in a downstairs area that you had to go into the restuarant, then down some stairs to find, which was why I hadn't seen them.

The Plaza Grande.

The next morning, this morning, we had to meet at the top of the town in the largest plaza for a tour with our teachers. Turns out the art professor, Joe Remmilard (probably didn't spell that right...) was looking for me for a bit, so that made me feel better. All my roommates and I rushed up the streets (and I mean UP) to see if we had time for a coffee at Cafe Poliziano. Two of us stopped at this little fruit vendor to buy breakfast (apple = 53 euro cents, and after no real dinner was possibly the most delicious thing I'd ever eaten). Once we made it into Cafe Poliziano I chickened out on ordering anything. I feel incredibly horrible that I don't know nearly enough Italian to get by, and even though any is generally enough to get the good will of the locals, I couldn't even figure out how to put the sentence together. I stared at everyone else's coffee and sort of basked in the smell of it.

Then we hiked back up to the Plaza Grande, which is a serious hike up. Imagine the slope of stairs, and you won't be wrong much. A bunch of my classmates were sitting on the church stairs there and a lot of them asked after me, which made me feel a lot better than last night. Around this time I remembered I'd brought my pedometer and clipped it on- it's closing on five miles right now, and it's not quite dinner time. Cliff, you would love this place for the walking alone! We went all around the city seeing where the laundry mat is (none of the men's apartments have a washer- we're not certain what that implies- either they don't wash clothes, or can't hehehe) and the bankomats (ATMs) (one has a black widdow living on it) and the grocer's.

One of the things you notice about the town when you're hiking it like this is all these colored flags they have on the buildings- they've got shields on them, lots of heraldry stuff. They're all the different contrada (not sure if I spelled that right, but that's how it sounds- they're the different neighborhoods)- we're here just in time to see the ritual Barrel Rolling contest which is a way that the neighborhoods all fight. You have to start at the bottom of the town and two men roll a barrel up the street, racing men from all the other neighborhoods, and a lot of people wear renaisance clothes. Our flat is in one of the green and black, tiger striped, with a gold shield with a lion on it streets. I bought one of the flags since they're so awesome looking. It came on a stick so I can wave it to cheer on my neighborhood tomorrow morning during the barrel race.

There's another area of town, by the restaurant that has a blue and silver flag with a she-dog and her pups on it- this is also where one of the steepest hills is- little wonder they've nicknamed the street up the hill "bitch road".

Hrm. I have to head to dinner now- I'll come back to the Cafe where I'm posting this and do some more later. Oh, and if you have Skype, I'm on there as redcurllaptop.