Scripting News for 6/4/2007

Dinners in Genova and Milano 

Paolo Valdemarin, my friend from Trieste and the Frontier community, is hosting a couple of Italian dinners in my honor on Tuesday night (in Genova) and Wednesday night (in Milano), along with Marco Formento, a jovial Genovan who I met at Reboot last week. These are my last days in Europe before returning to America. Of course my jetlag is no longer a problem. Just in time for it to be a problem when I get back home (to my lovely American style bed).

If you can join us in either Genova or Milano, please coordinate with Paolo.

Buon appetito!

Buon Giorno! 

Amazing how I go to sleep on Monday, and wake up (according to this blog) on Monday!

Nine hours time difference, makes it 10:30PM in California.

Which gives me a chance to say that I know I’ve quit smoking because the five year anniversary is coming up in less than a week, and I didn’t remember it until I read about it on another blog. πŸ™‚

We have small differences 

We do beds much better than Europeans.

They do bathrooms better. In America, public bathrooms have stalls, so your music is available for all to appreciate. And their music is there for you. In Europe each person gets a little room of their own to do their business. Much more user friendly, for everyone.

Except for showers. They make tiny showers. Our showers are human size. Their showers are tiny child-size showers.

I haven’t figured out what to do with bidets, but they’re everywhere in Italy. I imagine they think we’re uncivilized because we don’t have them.

Italians do public displays of affection better than Americans. Scandanavians seem hard to touch.

In general they do food much better than we do. Fast food in Europe is a nice sandwich with fresh ingredients, hand-made. In America it comes wrapped in plastic, filled with preservatives and artificial flavor. A quick meal at a tourist restaurant is filled with flavor and color. The equivalent place in America would not serve edible food.

They eat cheese for breakfast. We eat cheese too, but only melted, on omelettes.

I’m sure I’ll think of other things.

English phrases everywhere 

Most Italians don’t speak English, not many Americans speak Italian, and most of us are okay. Get into a cab, wave hands, smile, use your fingers for numbers, make big hand gestures, smile some more. You can get by.

But everywhere you look, on billboards, ads on bus stops, store signs, radio programming, there are little snippets of English everywhere. When I see this, I say the words out loud to the cabbie, with a smile, and say English! And I get back a puzzled look. I’m not sure they see that it is English.

Remember that next time someone says you have to use a symbol in a program UI, instead of words or an acronym, because people around the world won’t understand little phrases in English. It doesn’t seem to be true.

Christians 1, Ancient Romans 0 

I didn’t get a chance to write up my evening tour which included the river and Vatican City because of the wifi outage. No problem because the story is very simple. Rome is a place of great beauty, and much of the beauty is Christian beauty, all of the living beauty is Christian. One thing came through loud and clear. The Christians won. The city of the Romans, who were winning for a long time, lies in ruins. The city of the Christians, is alive in opulence. They had plastic chairs in St Peter’s Square, where people had gathered for mass earlier in the day. They had plastic umbrellas for sale where the Roman baths used to stand, where Roman senators deliberated.

Program note, a discontinuity 

I’m writing this on Monday afternoon from Pisa, but the notes are from my brief two-day visit to Rome.

The wifi at the Hotel Plaza, provided by Telecom Italia, flaked out mid-day Sunday, so I couldn’t upload pictures from Rome, or any of the notes I took. They appear in today’s Scripting News, but they were recorded yesterday.

The wifi in Pisa appears to be great. πŸ™‚

All roads lead to… 

Where I am right now. πŸ™‚

This morning (Sunday) it was pouring rain, I was feeling better after a second consecutive night of non-jetlagged sleep in a comfortable bed (I’m in a four-star hotel, very nice), but still fighting a nasty head cold that was creeping down into the chest. I slept in, had breakfast, dressed warm (it’s unseasonably cool here), put on my rain coat, left the laptop in the room, and headed out for Vatican City, thinking I’d see the insides of some fantastic churches, where it was nice and dry, and try to seen ancient Rome tomorrow.

Well, I made a wrong turn somewhere, and ended up at the home of Caesars and gladiatores, and because it was a drenching rain, it wasn’t so crowded, you could actually get around.

Flickr photo set: Italy June 2007.

The scale of the center of ancient Rome is both surprisingly large and suprisingly small.

It’s small when you think that for centuries, this was the capital of the western world. It’s the size of a small college campus. Smaller than UW-Madison, or Harvard, about the size (or so it felt to me) of Tulane University when I went there in the 70s.

The largeness was best expressed by the feeling standing where an emperor could have stood, looking at something that man had created. At that point in time, it wasn’t the only such achievement, but it was a 2.0, compared to the earlier capitals. Yes, they stole ideas from the Greeks and the Egyptians, but the scale of their accomplishment, their power, was unparalleled.

That was the ancient experience. Walking back from the ruins of ancient Rome, you visit functioning architecture of stunning beauty and modernity but also ancient by the standards of civilization where I come from. But the beauty. Oh man. Of all the sites I saw today, the one that impressed me the most was Trevi Fountain. But that’s with the caveat that I saw only a small fraction of what Rome has to offer.

I came back to dry off, upload pictures, and take a rest (nursing a cold) before going back out again. The sun won’t set until 8 or 9PM and it’s ony 3PM, so I should be able to get in a bit more touring before turning in for the night.

This is very good medicine, it seems to me.

Oh one more thing, to Sylvia, the hills of Rome are smaller than the hills of Berkeley. Piece of cake for this hiker. πŸ™‚

6 responses to this post.

  1. One thing came through loud and clear. The Christians won. The city of the Romans, who were winning for a long time, lies in ruins. The city of the Christians, is alive in opulence.

    You can thank Constantine for that. They even made him a saint for it!


  2. Thanks for your post on differences … brought back fond memories of my time living in Europe. A “quick meal” was always fresh rolls and cheese from the local bakery … with a food quality that in the U.S. would have cost a fortune, but there (in Vienna at the time) was just a small pittance. Wine, cheese, chocolate, bread … fine foods were customary and expected, and as a result, were affordable to the everyman. Ah, I do so miss that!

    Europe also gets another thing right, small shops and boutiques … unfortunately the U.S. only seems to have perfected the mega-mart and mega-mall.

    Thanks for the quick trip down memory lane. πŸ™‚


  3. Happy to hear you’re having a great time in Europe!

    Ciao!!! πŸ™‚


  4. Re small differences.

    How many police did you see and what were they doing?

    How much clearly lawless, minor, behaviour did you see? Like people on scooters with no helmets on.

    What was customs like when you flew in and when you’ve moved between countries?

    As for the Bidet, you’ll work it out! (grin).


  5. Another touchstone for small differences is attitudes to alcohol. In Northern Europe and N America it’s hidden away. In Southern Europe it’s just part of life.


  6. Posted by Diego on June 10, 2007 at 4:21 am

    What?!? My comment was deleted? Such amateurish behaviour! πŸ˜‰


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