Sunday, December 21, 2008

School's Out for Winter

[Image: Josef Litobarski, 2008, Attribution 3.0 Unported]

Holidays are holy days indeed.

We're off to Florence and Bologna next week for six days - but I'll take plenty of pictures and note down our adventures.

My first exam is on January 14th (Introduction to Macroeconomics). I'm going to have to revise like a machine - so the next couple of weeks will not be fun (apart from the Florence and Bologna stuff).

In other news: Uncle James is coming to visit! He'll be here on December 23rd.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Dinner

[Image: Josef Litobarski, 2008, Attribution 3.0 Unported]

Wow.

Last week was busy. I finished two presentations (passed them both) and had an Italian test (which I also passed!). I'm now an A1B Italian speaker.

I also finished a bothersome bit of paperwork which had been preventing me from fully enrolling in the University: a declaration of equal value for my English degree. It took two and a half months, but it finally came in the post on Friday. I am, at last, fully enrolled and can take my exams in January. Fantastico!

In other news: Elsje and I met up with our friends the other day for a Christmas dinner. Everybody cooked a dish - I made roast potatoes with rosemary and garlic... easy! (Actually - I mostly just chopped and peeled things - but I provided moral support for everybody).

We also all brought presents for a bit of secret-santa and played a mammoth game of Risico (Italian version of Risk).

Good fun!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Communist Revolution in Trento!

[Image: Josef Litobarski, 2008, Attribution 3.0 Unported]

Today, I was walking into town when I came across a labour union march. There were a few hundred people wearing red clothing and waving red flags (some emblazoned with the hammer & sickle). It was a rally of the Italian General Confederation of Labour. There was "partisan" music playing, and they seemed to be protesting against the government.

This isn't that unusual for Italy. There are some controversial educational reforms going on at the moment, and there have been a series of strikes in Trento by both students and faculty staff.

In other news:

1) The hard-drive on our mac has definitely gone. We're ordering a new one and I'm going to have a go at installing it myself.

2) I will get the results for my Italian test next week.

3) My group handed in the written plea for our mock EU trial (the trial will be next Monday). I'll let you know how it goes!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Mystery of the Bidet

[Image: Josef Litobarski, 2008, Attribution 3.0 Unported]

Every house in Italy seems to have a bidet in the bathroom. These things are completely new to me, as we don't have them at all in the UK. I always had a general idea what they were for and how they were used - but it was still a bit mysterious. Needless to say, the bidet in our apartment has gone unused since we got here. I wasn't sure, for example, how exactly to go about using it. To be honest, I also didn't really see the point.

So, the other day I asked a friend of ours if people actually use bidets or if they're just ornamental. And, of course, people use them. You can sit on them facing either forwards or backwards (depending on what you want to wash) and you just turn the water on and have a wash. It's also perfectly acceptable to wash your feet in them (which is the most Elsje and I have ever used a bidet for). Apparently, when one is bidet-height as a child, it's not unusual to even drink from the bidet. It still seems a bit unnecessary - it's like having more than one sink. But then, to the Italians it seems a bit unnecessary for people in the UK to have two separate taps for everything - both a hot tap and a cold tap - instead of just one tap which can be changed from hot to cold.

Last night, though, we finally found a use for the bidet. Elsje spilled olive oil on one of her favourite cardigans, so we soaked it in soapy warm water in the bidet. Perfect.

In other news: it's been snowing again. More snow than I've ever seen in my life. As predicted, snow is less exciting after the first time. Still pretty awesome, though.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Correct Way to Eat a Pizza

[Image: Josef Litobarski, 2008, Attribution 3.0 Unported]

One interesting thing I've discovered since moving to Italy is how to eat pizza Italian-style. They fold their slices of pizza in half before gobbling them up. This is alien to me, as I was taught how to eat pizza by watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in Australia, in which the eponymous ninja turtles (or "hero turtles" if you watched it in the UK) ate their pizzas "open" style - and with cheese flying everywhere.

Anyway - in other news, I finally had my Italian test today. I get the results next Thursday, but I don't think I did too badly.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Demon Bum-Tongues of Fleet Street

[Image: Josef Litobarski, 2008, Attribution 3.0 Unported]

Elsje has a new crazy scheme. Her new plan is homemade biltong - which is an Afrikaans meaty snack. Apparently, Afrikaaners go mad for Biltong (Elsje teethed on it as a baby) - but as a recovering vegetarian, it's all a bit new to me.

The Afrikaans word "biltong" comes from the Dutch bil ("rump") and tong ("tongue"). So a rough English translation would be "bum-tongue."

Bum-tongue is a bit like beef jerky - only it's made with vinegar and different spices (such as coriander). It currently lives in a creepy little wooden box next to our sofa, from which an eerie red glow eminates day and night. Opening the door of said little box reveals a row of bum-tongues, lit from below by an electric light to dry them out.

So, last night we were sat watching a move with our little bum-tongues drying in the corner. Unfortunately, the movie we chose was Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd - so whilst Johnny Depp was busy murdering people and cooking them into meat pies, we had to sit next to a box full of bum-tongues.

Not sure if I'll actually try one... I'll let you know.

Coffee & Cigarettes

[Image: Josef Litobarski, 2008, Attribution 3.0 Unported]

I feel dirty.

I'm working on a groupwork presentation for my EU Law class, and my group is helping to defend the tobacco industry from EU directives. We have to go through the Treaty on European Union and look for legal loopholes which will support our case.

We're arguing that:

1) Harmonization of health protection is not a competancy of the European Union and, because banning cigarette advertising is a health issue, the EU institutions (Commission and Council) have no legal basis to propose legislature.

2) If, however, there is a legal basis - it is not the free circulation of goods and services, but some other legal basis (over which the EU will not have competency)

3) If, however, there is a legal basis and it is the free circulation of goods and services, then the total ban on cigarette advertising was not the most effective way to ensure the free circulation of goods and services.

Our written plea (a 3500 word outline of our argument) is due on Friday.

On top of that, on Tuesday I have my Italian test coming up. Then, on Wednesday morning I'm giving a solo presentation on the European Court of Justice and human rights.

It's going to be a busy week...

But last night we had some fun! Elle and I went to a friend's house for dinner. It's become something of a tradition amongst our group of friends to pass around an enormous cooking pot each week, and whoever has the pot will cook dinner for the group. This leads to enormous feasts each weekend - and usually an episode of How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM) - which is not so much a TV show as a religion amongst our friends. This weekend, however, a certain person (who shall remain nameless... let's just call him Mr. V.) did not provide the goods - so we will have to do without HIMYM until next week. ;-)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Elsje & I Fight the Zombies!

[Image: Josef Litobarski, 2008, Attribution 3.0 Unported]

Uuuuuuurrgggghhh.... braaaaiiinnssss!!

Don't worry, reader, I haven't become a zombie. I'm just really tired and cranky because I went bowling until 3am last night. It was an interesting night - and Elsje helped me fight the zombies!

At the beginning of the night, we went out with the Trento couchsurfing group for drinks at a bar. French Arthur, the most excellent couchsurfing representative in Trento, offered to start a French club with me - which will be fantastic! We're going to smoke cigars and talk about le Republic with teary eyes. And curse that swine Napoleon with every ounce of our being as his soldiers drag us to Madame Guillotine. And he's going to lend me some French comedies on DVD - so they should be pretty easy to understand.

We also met up with a Spanish couchsurfer who is writing his PhD thesis on mushrooms. He might take us out mushroom picking next spring - which would be great! The last time we went mushroom picking we were too scared to eat anything except hedgehog mushrooms.

Anyway - we chatted for a couple of hours, but the conversation kept turning inexorably toward the subject of food and feeding. It soon became apparant that we were all starving, so off we trotted to a pizzeria for a hot, doughy, cheesy pizza made by a guy from Napoli. MMmmmmmm.... brraaaaiiinnns!

We said goodbye to the couchsurfers and Elsje and I headed to one of our favourite little cafés (still open at 9:30pm) for a hot chocolate and a cream-topped-choco-coffee. Mmmmmm.... braaaaaaaaaaaiinnnss!!!!!

It was about 10pm, and we got a phone call from our friend Gio - saying he had room in his car to take us bowling at an all-night bowlerium. We accepted the challenge, but, unfortunately, were not really up to the high bowling standard set by our friends. I won't lie: we're not great bowlers...

But we're apparently well-qualified for zombie removal! There was a House of the Dead III arcade-machine at the bowlerium, with pretend pump-action shotguns. Elsje jumped right in and was quickly blasting hellspawn left, right and centre! She managed to survive the horrors of the zombie-infested carpark for longer than I did, and very kindly gave her gun to me to shoot a few more zombies after I died. In the end, though, I finally died in the IT department - overwhelmed by zombie pirates.

Mmmmm...... braaaaains!

UPDATE: Elsje has pointed out to me that she didn't actually survive longer than me - she just put more money into the machine than me. So the rich will always survive a zombie apocalypse longer than the poor.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A "Day of Disaster"

[Image: Josef Litobarski, 2008, Attribution 3.0 Unported]

Here's a joke for you:

Q: Why is the University of Trento's language centre like the European Parliament?

A: Because the ceiling has collapsed in both.

Okay, so that's not really much of a joke - but it's true. The European Parliament was relocated to Brussels this year after the roof of the chamber caved in. My Italian test was cancelled today because water damage from the recent snow caused the roof to collapse above the coffee machine.

As it is impossible to do anything in Italy without coffee, there was no choice but to close down the whole building for a couple of days. Not that I'm complaining - it means I have more time to cram Italian irregular verb conjugations into my skull.

But to compound things, and to reinforce my image of today as a "day of disaster", I came home to find that our macbook G4 won't load. It gets stuck on the grey apple loading screen (the "grey screen of death"). It's like karma - I get a few more days to revise for my Italian exam, but I must pay for it with the loss of my macbook.

I tried restarting in safe mode (by holding down the shift key during the restart) but to no avail. I also restarted in "verbose mode" (apologies for all the quotation marks in today's post) by holding the apple key and "v."

Verbose mode told me that I have a "disk0s3: I/O error" - which is apparently something to do with the hard-drive.

Best possible scenario: I can sort it out with Disk Warrior.

Most likely scenario: I have to format the hard-drive and reinstall Mac OS X.

Worst possible scenario: The hard-drive and/or computer needs replacing.

If this IS karma - then I'm not sure the extra time for my test is worth the loss of a macbook. I guess I must have done something wrong in a past life.

Who am I kidding? I've done more than enough things wrong in THIS life! :-)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Dove noi Vivo (Where we Live)

[Image: Josef Litobarski, 2008, Attribution 3.0 Unported]

Elsje and I live in an apartment just around the corner from Castello del Buonconsiglio (the Castle of Good Advice). Apparently (according to our tour of Trento) the castle was built on a hill that was originally named "Malconsiglio" (bad advice) - because it was the place they used to hang criminals (who had obviously followed some bad advice or they wouldn't have been hung). When the Bishop-Prince of Trento built his castle there he changed the name.

And I would have too.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

First Post

[Image: Josef Litobarski, 2008, Attribution 3.0 Unported]

So, I've decided to start a blog. I'll begin with something fairly benign and unthreatening - the weather in my corner of Europe.

It's been snowing in Trento, on and off, for the last few days. But by now the snow has become old, brown and slushy. Still, every now and then you'll come across a pristine white patch, untouched and ripe for the jumping.

Actually, the allure of snow begins to wear off pretty quickly. Once you've had a snowball fight or two and made a snowzilla, you're left with slushy brown snow at the side of the road and icy footpaths which disturb contemplation as you wander along them because of the constant threat of falling and dying.