Monday, August 27, 2007

A p-squared weekend

That means, a week-end of panic and preparations. Being the last week-end spent in Germany ahead of the semi-permanent move (that, at this point, it's likely to be the 14th morning, even if I still haven't got the ticket) and considering that when I will move to Germany I will be on my own for a few weeks, the days were spent in preparing a few things and fine tuning the daily routines.

So it was that we headed to the bicycle shop to have my ride, bought to be a summer week-ends tool, turned into an all purpose, all seasons piece of machinery (which means, new tyres, a retouch to the gears, new tail lamp and such things).

It was then time to hit the hypermarkets in order to make a copy of the mailbox key, buying hangers, a few things for the kitchen, mosquito nets (strongly wanted by Susanne and put in place by me on sunday) and a 5 kgs-heavy de-humidifier set, all to be brought home, by lack of a car, by sheer arms' strength and the occasional bus.

Then it was grocery shopping time where, alon with the usual few kilos of fruit, we stumbled in the little piece of furniture for the kitchen we had meant to buy a few weeks ago but that had ran out before we managed to put our hands upon. Should I mention that the kit weighted a good 10 kgs? And so there we go, assembling the little thing following images-only instructions put together by a true surrealist artist. Then, as I was cooking, she proceeded to re-arrange her wardrobe to leave room for my own stuff to come (and actually partially arrived there already over the last two visits... basically all my heaviest stuff is already over there, together with underwear, socks and a pair of shoes).

Finally, on sunday, it came the feared (by me) and sadistically enjoyed (by Susanne and, as demonstrated by her unstoppable laughter, my mother) "how to clean the house, the sanitaries, the laundry and deal with the (obviously differentiated) trash" moment. Once settled the matter with the various soaps and tools, agreed on schedules, duties' division, economic settlements, rent, bills and settled on further revising the sleeping quarter's situation (we both agreed that the power of love can not overcome the uncomfortableness of sleeping in a 90 cms wide bed for a 4 to 6 months long period), we got to the final, touching, moment: the writing of the new signs for the entry phone and the mailbox (with her name above mine, obviously). I must say, it was... not without some emotion on my part (but, I think, on her side as well) that we glanced upon the shining new tag.

That's for the preparations, but where's the panic, you'd ask. Well, it happened that on saturday I put my hands on one of my future textbooks, the one for the statistics and econometrics's unit. As I opened the book and saw it filled with the most intricate mathematical formulas I had ever faced I couldn't hold a groan as a panic that I hadn't felt since the Economics exam back in university, years and years ago (the only exam I failed twice and that, when I finally passed, I exorcised by burning the books crying "never again").

Such is my horror and fear that I resolved to the unthinkable, I turned to my scientifically minded (and mathematical analysis certified) brother who, after admitting that statistics was his second most despised subject after analysis, agreed to give me a refresh (a refresh!? more like a fresh start) over the slightly less than three weeks I still have to spend here. I'm at page 20 of 300 and my panic isn't but growing steadily, or, rather, proportionately to a dependant variable based on a given positive parameter applied to the independent constant of the mathematical hardship I'm facing. Grim times to come...

Friday, August 24, 2007

Goodbye to a friend

We haven't known each other for long, little more than a week perhaps, and yet in such a short time I got to know about his whole life, his adventures, his hopes, his frustrations and his world, so different, even if related to mine. Now he is gone, last of a series of friends who come, leave a mark and then disappear. His name was Arn, he was Swedish, coming from a little place called Arnas, and he's now dead. Well, dead for a good seven hundreds years really.

And for the ones who, again, think I've lost a couple of wednesdays, I will immediately put your worries at ease, he is a fictional character in a series of historical novels collectively called "The Crusade trilogy" telling the story of Arn Magnusson, a fictional character of middle age Sweden, brother and relative of various other historical characters like Eskil Magnusson or Birger Brosa.

Not everyone can understand how fictional characters can become dear to someone as real life person, sometimes more. I pity, truly, the ones who don't feel the sadness, and sometimes the pain, of reading the last line of the last book telling the tales of some character that over the time, be it long or short, became familiar and close to us. The ones who, on the other hand, can understand me know that we make a little and special brotherhood and probably all of us have a special affection to the Neverending Story of Michael Ende as all of us must have imagined at least once to just jump into a book and live the adventures along our fictional friends and, more importantly, that a story would, in fact, never end for real.

Personally, the first character I left with downright pain was Long John Silver of the Treasure Island. I was perhaps ten years old and it was a sad goodbye and yet full of hopes, actually, as he escaped a certain death at the gallows for unknown adventures. And it was a lucky goodbye too as, by chance, two decades later I found out a little, great, book called "Long John Silver" by Swedish author called Bjorn Larsson who gave me the chance of another meeting with my childhood controversial hero.

Over the years a few characters (and consequently, books) took their place next to the one legged charismatic pirate: most of the Lord of the Rings' characters (and, even now, I think that Tolkien was so wise to tell of the death of most of them in the book's appendices, despite the chocking feeling I felt reading of the voluntary death of Aragorn and of the desperate and lonely fading away of Arwen), Iliad's Hector and, to some lesser extent, Achilles, Aeneas, Wilfred of Ivanhoe and Robin of Locksley, Tom Builder and Jack Shareburg from The Pillars of the Earth, Atreyu and Falkor (while I never really loved Bastian Balthazar Bux probably out of sheer envy), Merlin and Uther as depicted by Jack Whyte, William Adams and Dirk Struan, Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin (of whom I still have to read a handful of tales) and so on a few more, moving between different ages and universes, until, for now, Arn Magnusson the templar and marshal.

So, a fond goodbye Arn, if there is a heaven for fictional charachter, I know you are there in good company.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Vacations... vacations?

Due the fact that the majority of my off-days from work will be used this year to cover the first two weeks of the upcoming master, I was left with a handful of days to rest this year. Truly, I had thought of having just two of them, before recalling, too late to plan something, that another three had been left as a reserve.

Anyway, one way or the other, the plan for the summer had already been laid a couple of months ago and so it was that Susanne came down to Rome last monday evening in order to stay the whole Ferragosto (the 15th of august is so called, coming from the "feriae augustae", the day of celebration for the emperor Augustus) week and on tuesday, on an overburdened scooter, right after the end of my working day, we travelled the 104 kms between my house and the seaside cottage. It wasn't a particularly comfortable travel, truly, with her backpack between my legs and every possible space filled with the stuff that would had been used in the next 7 days and, probably, between the scooter itself, two people and the luggage my shoulders had to sustain more than 250 kgs when it came to turning, but the weather was fine and company was the best possible, and the about two hours it took were somewhat quick to pass.

In the evening, I introduced Susanne to one of the traditions we have, the night bonfires that we have the 14th august at night. It was a pretty under-tone one as it wasn't possible to organize it properly from Rome, but anyway, there we were with the company of a handle of friends, joined later by some acquaintances and a bunch of totally unknown people. Alcohol abounded, even if we barely touched it, the fire was going (and I was pretty proud of it, being that I was the responsible for that) and laying down in the sand next to if was nice enough. However, between the chill of the night that prevented the typical midnight bath, the lack of interest in games that, honestly, are made more as an excuse for couple to form than anything else, and perhaps my years, more numerous than expected to enjoy such nights, we were the first ones to leave as the soon extinguished.

The next days were relaxing, even if full of events. Besides the oddity of having a girlfriend that, regardless of the hour we had gone to bed, woke up every single morning before 8 to take a one hour long run (that I joined once to carry the consequences even now...), most of the time was spent at the beach, in afternoon siestas and, for me, reading. The closes village's festival, a visit to Sabaudia - an interesting little town nearby -, meetings with old friends and fireworks were all part of the week, together with food, more food and even more food (I took 2 damn kilos in a little more than 10 days, which will take months to get rid of, if ever...).

On friday, I went to pay homage to my only surviving grandparent, my mom's mom, who's living with her youngest daughter in her husband's estate. It had been a while since my last visit and it was very pleasant, even because we spent hours in the swimming pool where the water was above 30 degrees.

Sunday came way too soon and with it the time to repack everything and take the trip back, once again on an overloaded scooter, and the week was closed with a dinner to our usual restaurant and a walk (quite painful for me, honestly, due the consequences of the jogging) around Trastevere and the Tiberine island. Monday morning, after little or none sleep, we headed to the airport and then, on my own again, back to work, with the thought at this coming friday, when I'll fly to Germany for the last time before my definitive move for the Master's first semester.

And so went my vacations, besides the three days off that right now I have no clue about how to use... any suggestions?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Seaside and more seaside

While work was expected to be even more on the madness level last week after our department got assigned to be directly under CEO's supervision, unexpectedly the days went by with little or nothing to do. Apparently, the CEO himself was pleased enough with the heads he had had the past friday and decided to slow down and eventually to go on vacation yesterday. So it happened that last week was a slow one, dedicated mostly to friends and eventually I got to the seaside for the week-end, which turned out to be quite relaxing.

On friday, I was taken by my parents to a charity dinner held in the village closest to our house. It was pleasant and I felt incredibly young considering that, set aside a couple of dozen of kids under 10 years old, I was definitely the youngest person around. Food was agreeable, served on long tables where one had to sit randomly, so to encourage meeting new people, as it actually happened. Fact is, I was so tired (probably an adrenaline drop after the past weeks) that at 10, as people moved to dance and the (folk and slow) music was filling the air, I fell asleep on my chair to be awakened some time later by my parents on their way home.

Saturday was unfortunately a cloudy day, which ruled out the beach, and was spent mostly on the renewal works of the house (my father has almost finished re-painting the whole thing) and gardening, not to mention reading, which allowed me to indulge in one of my favourite activities: picking a book and finishing it within 36 hours (in this case, "The Road to Jerusalem" by Jan Guillou).

It was only in sunday that I finally hit the beach and, surprisingly, my brother joined us as well for a hit and run visit that was concluded with the two of us boarding the train back to Rome in the early evening. All in all, I probably spent more time sleeping than anything else, and for a good reason: yesterday evening Susanne arrived to stay for the week and we are moving back to the seaside later today. 5 days of beach, swimming, beach-volley and any sport that can be practiced at the seaside is to be expected...

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

News, news and more news

As it is happening more and more often lately, news keep coming and sometimes I don't seem to be able to keep up with them. Surely I'm not able to keep up with my blogging, at least. The strange thing is that everything should be slowing down for the summer and while apparently it is so all around me (for instance, there's almost no one on the street when I get to the office, which is currently half empty itself), still, things seem to happen faster than I can fully grasp.

So, news:

a) while my talk with the HR manager at work had more than suggested that I would had never got the leave of absence that I needed for the Master (the sentence "I expect the resignation letter to be presented within the contract terms, if you decide so" didn't leave much maneuvering space), a subsequent intervention by the labor unions, supported by my own boss (not really by my own manager, which came as a bitter surprise) turned the tide. Effective from the 1st of October and for 16 months, I'm on an authorized (unpaid) leave, to resume work as of 1st February 2009.

b) still at work, the absurd pace that had characterized the last week of July had just got worse in august (and it's only too ironic that I'm making myself a name around here barely weeks before moving away). That was also coupled with a revolution of the firm's organization announced last Friday in which 6 out of 8 of the top manager lost their place. Among the casualties, my own manager, the one who had facilitate my moving to my new department and with whom I used to play football once in a while. Despite his lack of intervention on my behalf in the leave of absence's deal (which, thinking of it, might had been caused by his already fragile position), that was still a sad thing. The 50 or so second-line managers are now expecting to see what it's in store for them.

c) finally, I managed to get to the seaside, for a weekend. The result was another decent burn on my back, the second this year (I'm either getting too careless or too old, I used to spend hours in the sun without consequences once upon a time), when I suddenly fell asleep under the son at noon, waking up about one hour later. Besides that, I met some friends I hadn't seen in years, given that the past summers my visits at the sea have been sporadic, at best.

d) I found out that in my planning of the summer and allotment of my off-days I had totally forgot 3 days I had in store. Now, since I do have to use it within the 15th of September or lose them without compensation, I have to decide what to do. Obviously, I'd like to spend them with Susanne, but she might be busy with a stage and I will know only at the very last moment, so the second best option would be to gather Alessandro, Sergio and Francesco and do as we once used to, travelling around. Problem is, Francesco will be in Argentina until the end of September so he has to be ruled out and Alessandro will be back from US only at the beginning of the month and will probably be unable to take more days away from his law firm. Besides, where to? I'd love to go to the Baltic, Tallinn, Stockholm or Helsinki being the places coming first to mind, but.. who knows?

e) there's a new born in the family, the first of the new generation. My mom's junior sister's daughter (my cousin, my mom's niece) finally (she's 38) gave birth to a baby girl called Elisa, an event that was met with all the joy that can be expected and by my mother not even so hidden jealousy. We tried to explain her that, yes, it's her younger sister who became a grand mom, but she even had the brilliant idea of becoming mom at 18, rather than waiting, as my mom did, to be 30 to give birth to her first son, but apparently the argument isn't too effective with her. Considering my own position at the moment, she will have to place her hopes on my brother. Anyway, I just hope Elisa will not be baptized when I'll already be abroad, I'd hate to miss the ceremony, even considering that her grandparents are my godparents.

f) finally, I managed to read a book again, which might sound strange, but was indeed becoming painful. So it happens that in a matter of days I devoured the whole Chronicles of Narnia cycle (which was definitely in a different style than I expected, but immensely enjoyable anyway) and then I started my summer reading with a Stephen King book, the Regulators, which was kind of disappointing and barely decent. Now, I had sent the books on top of my "to read" list to the seaside with my parents as I was expected to be there as well the last week-end, a plan that crumbled under the forced staying at my office till very late on Friday so: what to read now?

And that's about it for now... back to work!