Friday, December 29, 2006

Christmas Tales - Part I

Oh the weather outside is frightful, But the fire is so delightful,
And since we've no place to go, Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

Actually, I can't remember a Christmas with such gentle temperatures and perfect sunny weather, but the song is nice anyway. Yes, it has been a good 10 days I haven't written, but Christmas is Christmas: relatives, dinners, lunches, recovery times from the previous two items of the list, friends, walks, some presents to buy and so on and so forth, you know how it goes. That, and I got my new laptop last tuesday and I spent hours since then trying to configure the system the I like it, failing miserably so far.

With the exception of my girlfriend being next to me (she's stranded, as every year, with her family in a remote danish island), I really had it all.

The creation of the Presepe (nativity scene), for instance, which posed some very interesting logistical and architectural problems being the first one built in the new house. Eventually, it turned to be probably the biggest and most impressive one we've ever made (mostly by my father, who had a bit abandoned the construction works in the past years, but who now has a lot of free time...).

Then it was the Christmas tree's turn, which took much less and saw the new edition of a discussion that has been going for the last ten years: should we change the "puntale" (the ornament you put at the top of the tree)? And as usual the discussion went on for a couple hours and was eventually closed by my mother with in the usual way: uttering the sentence "We can't, we got it the month after Guido's birth!". And so, while balls, crystals, ornaments come and go, silver threads are added and removed and the very tree (an artificial one) has been changed three or four time over the course of my life, there the puntale, worn and made opaque by the years, stays, unchangeable, one of the very symbol of Christmas for me (oh, and the weird individual next to the three is my younger brother).

To be noted that for making room to the Christmas decorations, half the house had to be reworked and that meant that, for instance, my own room's space has been severely cramped has the computer and its chair had to be moved out of the living room, the carpet on which they were staying had to be folded, the CD boxes which were in the corner now taken by the nativity scene had to find a new place, plants had to be moved, the boxes containing the Christmas decorations placed somewhere, tables cleaned for the afore mentioned decorations to be placed, books moved, silverware recovered from the obscure places the moving had stranded that, even paintings had to be taken off the walls to allow the background of the nativity scene to be placed. All in all hours and hours of work, made with the unavoidable Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" CD in the background (it used to be a tape once upon a time, I think that's the only CD my mother ever bought).

And then, finally, the 24th evening it was the Christmas dinner time, a meatless one yet none the lighter, as my mother delightes us with: salmon tarts, shrimps tarts, olive tarts, red and black "caviar" tarts, apetitizers of all kinds, smoked salmon, roasted fish, vegetables of various kind, dessert, dry fruits, normal fruits, all coming with white wines and eventually liquors.

The new element of this year was the presents. Following a philosophy that i shall not explain, there used to be a kind of unspoken ban over presents' exchange at Christmas. A ban I started to ignore the year I started working and that was eventually lifted, again without a word being said and with the silent understatement that presents had to be inexpensive, this year so that, for the first time in family history, there actually were boxes under the tree. And so it was that the first real day of Christmas passed.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Summing up

It has been almost a week since my last post, the longest hiatus, probably, since I started blogging. had too many things to do, I suppose, and for once it is not an excuse.

Wednesday I had the dinner with the company's CEO and the football team. It was as pleasant was expected given the situation, that being a dozen low and middle level employees facing their hyper narcissist CEO, her secretary, the head of the legal office, the head of the general service department and some ex cop currently a consultant for security. My strategical position, at the other end of the table, allowed me some freedom, but still... to make things worse, after a wave of decent appetizers, it was served a pizza that we discovered, too late, made with a flour made 50% of soy.

Thursday afternoon, after a run to get Susanne's Christmas presents, and early evening were all spent tidying up my room in preparation of Susanne's arrival later that evening.

Friday I took the day off (which means I had an hyper-short working week, considering that monday and tuesday I was home due illness), which was spent mostly at home studying (Susanne) and playing with the computer (me). I got a hold of Space Empires V, the latest installment of one of my favourite 4x strategy games and couldn't help myself. In the evening, I had the unfortunate idea of taking her to my football game, the last of the tournament. Now, last time I took a gf of mine to a game we did loose 12-1. This time we did fare better, ending with a 2-2 tie, but after having been on the lead 2-0 until 10 minutes from the end, which surely didn't make anyone happy (especially after the CEO, 2 days before, had stressed out HOW important was to win the last game...). Anyway, a dinner with the players followed and was nice in its own way, even if I should never do the mistake again of eating half a kilo of almost raw meat.

And saturday came. Susanne and me, for once, acted as the very typical ordinary (italian) couple and found ourselves wandering around the large mall which is close to my home, surrounded by hundreds of other couples browsing around for their Christmas shopping, a horde of teens (basically girls only) and a bunch of scattered families (but the numbers of family could had been higher with many of them disguised as couple, given that at the mall's run kindergarten there were at least 30 kids being entertained so that their parents could freely walk around the shops. Unlike the typical couple, tho, we ended up staying almost a hour in the (little) bookshop of the mall. In the evening, erithrean restaurant, walk downtown and especially at Piazza Navona's classic Christmas market and then we decided not to go to dance as we had planned originally, but headed home and ended up watching "The Terminal" at home, placidly laying next to each other on a couch.

Sunday we ended up raising awfully late (so much that we were greeted by a "good evening" rather than by a "good morning" by the family and Susanne skipped breakfast to wait directly for lunch). After that, we headed to a museum in via del Corso where we met with Liesbeth and checked an exposition about Piranesi (one of my favourite artists and probably one of the greatest printers ever) followed by a drink at a irish pub close by. And it was already time to head home, have dinner with family, exchanging wishes and then taking Susanne to the airport (with my scooter, an 11 minutes ride, kind of a record).

And that brings us here, monday, working day, swimming pool afterwards and then I got a sudden invitation for dinner by Liesbeth for some "flemish food"... I'm curious. And I can't believe it is already the 18th december. I started buying a few sparse presents, but the total lack of cold weather makes me hardly feel Christmas-like. We'll see...

Oh... and I finally ordered my new notebook!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Brief note

I'm alive, I'm alive. It's just that monday and tuesday I've been at home, recovering still (and not yet completely), which means I didn't have much to say. Today I'm back at work and later today I'll be going with most o t he football team at dinner with the firm's CEO. Yes, I know, it sounds ridicolous and indeed it is, but what can I do?

For the rest, not much worth of note: I'm proceeding my readings about Russian Revolution, got back to studying german on my own, waiting for this week-end hoping it will be more rewarding than the past one.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The last famous words

"I'll have a long week-end in Germany, hoping I shall not have to spend it confined in bed." which is, obviously, precisely what happened. No going out, no Christmas Markets, no secret day trip projected by Susanne (she even refused to tell me where and what after it was obvious I couldn't walk out the door, never mind staying out the whole day), no anything. Even now, I'm at home with the posthumous of whatever it was that got me, if a very ironical outcome of a flu shot or something else.

Yet, one must look for positive things even in the disasters and so: I can at least say that Susanne makes a great, even if at times dictatorial, nurse; that I lost 2 kilos in 3 days; that I finally really seriously started reading the Figes's book about the russian revolution I've been toying with for months now.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Too much with too little

For the series "doing too much with too little stored up energies", also known as massively overdoing, here is the perfect "what you should never do" day.

It starts with waking up, going to work, realizing that of the 6 things you should do you can actually do only 3 due others' people not having done their job, calling them, explaining the problem. So far, so good.

But then, DO NOT enter in crypto-ironic mode when they come up with the most hilarious excuses for not having done their job. DO NOT close the call with a "Well, sure, take your time, Christmas is close anyway" as, despite what you may think, those people could take your words at face value.

As you get out of work, DO NOT run getting a flu shot right after work and, if you do, DO NOT go running on a football field with 6 degrees of temperature and 90% humidity just 2 hours later. If you decide for such unwise course of action, at least DO NOT ignore your body's warning sign pretending the severe pain in your articulations, headache, swollen eyes, short breath are simply going to pass with a warm shower. DO NOT dismiss the wise words your bones and muscles are trying to tell you, that you should just get in bed and rest, just because you have a dinner out and calling off a dinner 30 minutes before meeting time is like the most uncorteous thing to do. If you persist in going out, DO NOT order a full pizza when your stomach threatens to turn itself inside out and, if you are crazy enough to do that, DO NOT have wine going along with it.

When finally your body decides to start a revolution to oust a dictatorial brain that obviously isn't serving the good of the (cellular) masses, DO NOT try to start a counter-revolution just to prove your brain can control everything even when everything is way beyond control... if white russians couldn't win in 1917 despite the help of american, french and english armies, most likely you will not emerge victorious as well.

After you deliver home your (friendly) date, DO NOT drive home as everything was fine, risking to have a close encounter of the deadly kind with a car and with a sidewalk and, once home, DO NOT lay down too quickly or your articulations will remind you with waves of blinding pain that they want to adjust again to the horizontal position.

When you wake up in the middle of the night, DO NOT get out of bed right away without thinking what happened 3 hours before, you might discover that you undressed without giving it a thought and the belt is exactly where your foot decides to land, that your slippers aren't were they are supposed to be while the corner of your closet is exactly where it should be, unfortunately.

As the morning comes, DO NOT simply dismiss the fact you are having warm shivers despite the heaters are off blaming a strange case of disfunctional thermo-dinamic law, because you will not have anything to turn to 5 minutes later, when the shivers will be suddenly of the cold kind. DO NOT give up the idea of calling sick for the first time ever when you do not have at least 38 degrees of fever just because you hope those people mentioned above did their job, because you will find that they didn't. DO NOT pretend you are put-puting towards the office because it's a nice day and you want to enjoy the atmosphere, while in fact it is because your arms are having a hard time absorbing the usual bumps of the road.

If you do not do all those things, you might avoid feeling as wasted as I currently feel, my friend. And despite all of that, I will be on a plane tonight again, but for the last time this year, as tomorrow is a holyday here and I'll have along week-end in Germany, hoping I shall not have to spend it confined in bed.

PS: at least we won the football game, yesterday.

PPS: for the first time ever, as i went spell-checking this entry, teh message came out saying it couldn't find any mistake. Too good to be true, I think the spell checker is broken.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Sentimental Travellers and tired, tired, tired

The week-end was the nicest in a while. For once, not a single incident of note, not a screw up, just relax and a new experience. And quite a new one.

The funny thing is, after a month that I go up to Mainz every week-end, I'm starting to recognize a small group of people who, like me, seem to be doing the trip every week-end or two... we should form a club and call ourselves the Sentimental Travellers. So it happened that I spent the flight to Mainz chatting with a Laura, whose boyfriend lives somewhere near Mainz as well and who I'm sure I must have seen at least a couple of times already (and she said the same), while on the way back I spent my time chatting with a Luca and a Michele, with whom I had talked on the way back to Rome last week as well, who have their significant others in Frankfurt and Koblenz. With all of them, the parting line was an "Ok, see you at the next flight!".

To be said, we are indeed a strange category of people, very different in everything except in one thing: only hand baggage and online check in to sit in front of the plane and be the first to run out of it and towards the bus.

As for the week-end, as I got out of the terminal (5 minutes after landing) I managed to get on a bus which drove so fast and in such a thick fog that I arrived 15 minutes ahead of planned time without having had any chance to realize we were being early. That meant that I ended up waiting at the bus stop for 15 minutes before Susanne arrived right at the time I had told her I would had been there.

For the rest, on saturday the new experience was spending 3 hours at the meeting of the Young Socialists of Mainz on saturday, hearing people talking politics in germane with everything closed by everybody singing "the International"... not just the first stanza, the whole thing! Me! Listening to a song that in Italy (not in the rest of the world tho) is hopelessly and exclusively linked to the communist party, rather than to the reformist socialism. Anyway, it was an interesting experience, which funnily reminded me of my ELSA days for how the meeting and the votes were handled.

After that, a visit to Mainz's main Weihnachtsmarkt, meaning the Christmas Market, where I couldn't help buying food, candies, chocolate (mostly for Susanne, and ten to find out she decided to give up candies for a while... women...) but abstained from the Gl├╝hwein, the hot spicy wine they drink in Germany. I must say, it looked nicer and bigger than the one I had been in Freiburg two years ago, but the one in Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin was by far more lively and interesting (even if not more crowded). Home soon (was -3 degrees) for a good movie (I brought the DVD of "Scent of a Woman" from home) and sunday came too soon and the flight back home with it. A relaxing week-end, as I said, which left me pleasantly tired by sunday night.

And monday came and I woke up even more tired, as funnily enough a queen size bed when alone can be much more uncomfortable than a single bed shared with someone and sleep didn't come easy. And today was one of those day that makes Garfield utters the famous "I hate mondays".

For three years I've been severely under-utilized at work and now that supposedly I'm about to leave that office, I'm suddenly submerged with things and assigned tasks and duties. And, finally, I started with a specific programme at the pool. There are several for the people like me who go there on their own without relying on instructors, in escalating level of difficulty. 8 easy, 8 medium, 6 hard. After 3 months of constant, almost daily, swimming, I started with the 7th level of the medium programmes... and didn't even find it so terrible. If I wasn't so exhausted that it took me 2 hours to write this simple entry and Susanne's net wasn't still dead, I'd be cheerful and even vaguely proud.

Sometimes...

... all of us fall to the temptation of those stupid net tests.


Your EQ is 133

50 or less: Thanks for answering honestly. Now get yourself a shrink, quick!
51-70: When it comes to understanding human emotions, you'd have better luck understanding Chinese.
71-90: You've got more emotional intelligence than the average frat boy. Barely.
91-110: You're average. It's easy to predict how you'll react to things. But anyone could have guessed that.
111-130: You usually have it going on emotionally, but roadblocks tend to land you on your butt.
131-150: You are remarkable when it comes to relating with others. Only the biggest losers get under your skin.
150+: Two possibilities - you've either out "Dr. Phil-ed" Dr. Phil... or you're a dirty liar.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The second half of the week and to Mainz once again

1) Wednesday evening my football team won 8-2. given they had lost last friday while I was on my way to Germany, we are presently ranked third. I played one of the most awful game since I can remember and if you consider that we played half the game in 7 (we had one red card), you can realize the difference in the field: if one team wins with a difference of 6 with a goalkeeper in a very bad day and with one man less, it means that there basically was only one team playing.

2) Thursday I finished "Key to Rebecca" and with that all the books I had recently bought in my last library run. I once again need something to read.

3) Voices and whispers keeps going around about my transfer: some say I'll be out of here in a week, some in a month, some never. In the meanwhile, most of the people of my present office behave as if I wasn't here already, showing the tact of a rhinoceros charging head down in a crystals' shop.

4) Susanne's net is dead. I happened to spot Bea online and have a nice and long (well, for our standards) conversation with her and it's all her fault if now I've activated a DA account. I had actually made one last august, but now I've even posted something there (old stuff tho, I should start again going around at week-ends with my camera). Liesbeth is in Budapest. Someone else keeps ringing me. I've thoughts of retiring in a monastery.

5) Amazingly, I keep having the strangest dreams and remembering at least bits of it. Wonder if that has some medical implications.

6) Now I know what to do as Christmas present to S. I know how to do it theoretically. I think I have the materials. Now, time and actual skill, that will be the problem...

I can't wait to be in Mainz... and I surely hope I shall not find myself alone at the bus station once again. Did I mention about my thoughts of monastic hermitage?