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!