Monthly Archives: October 2011

Cancel your post-brunch plans, girlfriend, and make it a crafternoon!

Eeeeee I am Dott.ssa Jenkins how cute 🙂 🙂 🙂

My special evening seminar was probably too short in the end but it had lots of pictures and I received an equal number of complaints that it was too dumbed down and too advanced, so I optimistically infer that it hit the mark. I had assembled it working in Salvo’s corner office, where his new promotion effectively only means he has more windows open to the 1.5 sirens per minute within earshot of the Cítadella. This would in general be very distracting but I was fortified with arancini and a thorough exploration in the morning of the books at Feltrinelli’s, so it was ok. For dinner we had pounds and pounds of fiorentino (costata chianina / beef from a white cow) and went to the most spectacular cheese-cured meats-olive shop I can even conceive of….there will be numerous yet morally justifiable agricultural import violations through SFO in the near future…

A day of constructive debate (haha) about multilayer replacements for single-phase magnetoelectrics in a flux gate magnetometer ended with handbag shopping and bitter lemon chinotto in Taormina and I can’t think of a better or more expensive average workday.

Crouch, touch, pause….engage! [Siracusa and Zafarona]

We worked very hard on the rainy days and had to go recover in beautiful coastal Siracusa with the emerging sun. Neighboring Greek and Roman amphitheaters outside of town unintentionally highlight the contrast between the modes of civilization: the Greek one is for dramatic arts, the Roman one for dramatic deaths. Our excursion group was Adi the high-strung theorist, Teresa the nano-girl, Bob the funding guy who lives in Japan and speaks Basque (!), and me. Adi drove the rental car with a heart-stopping disregard for the dimensions of planters, oncoming traffic, tunnel walls, guardrails, and pedestrians, so much so that the Mercedes interactive dashboard began blinking an icon shaped like a steaming coffee cup next to the “Check Engine” light. I haven’t laughed so hard in weeks as when we looked up the meaning of the icon on the Blackberry and discovered that it meant that the driving has recently been erratic and it suggests that you get out and have a break and a cup of coffee.

One afternoon (don’t know which; the days blur here) we went to the October street festival in Zafarona, a famous honey town. I was very disappointed to taste miele balsamico, which sounds wonderful, like thick aged balsamic vinegar that has become sweet over 15 years but is actually eucalyptus-cough syrup honey for congestion, icko. One the main stage in the duomo square there was a marching band playing Finiculí-Finiculá (Ed. note: not even Sicilian! It’s Neapolitan! Agh!) and an Austrian choir doing a conga line therewith so I was so disgusted I left with righteous mocking.

put iron filings in circle; make ferrous wheel.

It was pouring in Catania when I landed but I am smart enough to bring an umbrella to Sicily in the autumn, and I know how to take the bus most of the way to the UNA Palace. I met the ONR/Army guys in the hotel bar and after some courtesy offers of thousands of dollars in funding we went to “Sicilia in Bocca” for great mussels and cassata (ricotta cake with marzipan)….but the reason I am posting so early is because the restaurant is most of the way up Etna and right after dinner we heard a rumbling…..and spent the next four hours chasing down a better view of a pretty great eruption, full on, with mass ejection and a fast flowing lava field. More later 🙂

a delectable kaleidoscope of candy bars

Trieste is a lovely city, understandably more Salzburg than Milan because it was the port of the Austro-Hungarian empire for going on 700 years, but I was once again reminded that I have never been to Italy–everywhere I go, people remind me of their exceptionalism. Catania is full of Sicilians and therefore doesn’t count; Venice was an empire of doges before succumbing to the economic unity pacts; Trieste was held by the Yugoslavians before the Istrian negotiations. It has been suggested that I try Florence and see if I can have been to Italy then.

Flawless perfection of flights and layovers SFO-LHR-MUC-TRS: empty seat next to me on the overnight so I slept, Slovenian linguist as a seatmate on the last leg. Bus from the airport along the Adriatic and a short walk in the chilling Bora to my thoroughly adequate hotel….then I woke up late and smashed my face and head on the floor getting out of bed in a tangle. Boo. Then my seminar and potential-collaborator meetings went fine, I toured the free-electron laser facility and the magnetism beamlines and tried to have smart ideas about germanium.

In the evening I went shopping and got lost so I asked directions, but my carefully considered “Scusi, dove a la canal?” threw me a curveball when the off-duty bus driver asked which one…shit, there’s more than one? So I arbitrarily listed the opera house I remembered being nearby, which seemed to lift the ambiguity and he replied helpfully with “blah, blah, sinestra doppio, blah blah” and I reached my fish restaurant just fine. Nice tartare and white wine, but did you know that a Filetto San Pietro means fish encrusted with potato chips and baked?

Saturday morning my host gave me a ride to the airport and we were in time to stop by the castle belonging to one of the lesser Hapsburgs (actually Savoy, I think, but the lineage might be questionable) whom Napoleon III sent off to be emperor of Mexico. Beautiful gardens and fully intact furniture, neither of which I photographed. Just down the coast is another working castle where the “tun und taxos” family lived, entrepreneurial Renaissance men of Duino who started a trans-European parcel service and an eponymous local tourism business from which we derive the word “taxi”.