March 31, 2007

GRE English Comprehension

I have Google news set to give me stories about a variety of things, from human remains to classical archaeology. One of the words it searches for is forensics. Today, I got this story that mentioned the word from ABC Sport in Australia. Try as I might, even after 2 complete read-throughs, I have absolutely no idea what this story is about. Read the story and test your English reading comprehension below!

Oliver claims first Golden Slipper with Forensics

Damien Oliver claimed the only major trophy missing from his collection by taking out the $3.5 million Group One Golden Slipper aboard Forensics at Rosehill this afternoon. Oliver, a winner of all the major Australian Group One races including the Melbourne Cup, Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate, gave Forensics ($13.70) a plum sit one back for much of the race and fought off a stern challenge from Zizou ($9.40) in the final stages. Meurice ($7.40) finished third to round out the placegetters in the world's richest race for two-year-olds. Trained by John Hawkes, Forensics, a daughter of stallion Flying Spur, himself a winner of the race, proved too strong as the 1,200-metre event turned into a match race between the top two finishers.

Oliver, who spent a year out of the sport with a back injury sustained in 2005, said he was elated to finally win the race that had eluded him for so long. "This really caps my comeback," he told Channel Nine after the race. "I just can't believe a year ago I was out injured, I'm just so happy to be back amongst it and winning the big ones. I'm tingling all over I can't believe it, it's the best feeling. I wish anyone could feel what I'm feeling now." The result capped a remarkable day for Oliver, who also took out the $2.25 million Group One The BMW on Blutigeroo with a tactically brilliant rails-hugging ride over 2,400 metres.

In the other Group One races, Miss Finland confirmed her status as the premier three-year-old in the country with a hard-fought victory in the Arrowfield Stud Stakes. In the George Ryder Stakes Haradasun, half-brother of 2004 Caulfield Cup winner Elvstroem, put a series of ordinary performances behind him with a commanding win for trainer Tony Vasil.

And now for a test of your reading comprehension:

1) What kind of race is this?
a. dogs
b. colts
c. toddlers
d. all of the above

2) If Forensics is $13.70 and Zizou is $9.40, how much do they total?
a. 50¢
b. $23.10
c. 200 lbs
d. none of the above

3) What is a synonym for "plum sit one back"?
a. billabong
b. corroboree
c. figjam
d. donger

4) Doesn't Miss Finland have anything better to do in her own country?
a. Miss Finland is a contestant, you moron. A beauty queen can't be 3 years old.
b. Sure she can. Remember Jon-Benet Ramsey?
c. Be that as it may, Miss Finland is still an animal.
d. Damn straight, she's a root rat. My donger's still sore from having a naughty with her.

1) d. Toddler-dog-horse racing, or Digeridoo, is an old Maori sport whose tradition is carried out to this day in Australia.
2) d. Although a. is an obvious choice, since $23.10 Australian when converted into real money is about 50 cents, the correct answer is d. Forensics and Zizou can both be sold to the Elmer's glue factory, netting a tidy sum of $500 each or $1,000 total.
3) d. Damien Oliver, riding Forensics, obviously sat sideways, leaving one "plum" sitting back on the horse. The closest Australian slang term is donger, a synonym for penis.
4) d. Duh.

How did you do? :)

March 30, 2007

Small-Nail Hard-Seed, or, Fun with Short Vowels

At lunch on Thursday, it was just me, Marco, and Pamela, who are both magazini (they work for the lab, making sure everything is catalogued, bringing me skeletons, making coffee, etc.). They're also both from Rome and have fairly thick Roman accents. After we finished our almost-daily pasta con tonno...

Pamela: Vuoi un spuntino?
Kristina: Che cosa? No conosco spuntino.
Pamela: Un spuntino. O dio. Come faccio dire... Noi mangiamo pane con nutella. Conosci pane?
Kristina: Sì.
Pamela: Pane in inglese è ...
Kristina: Bread.
Marco: Hehehe. Bread. Come Bread Pitt.
Kristina: Che cosa? No, no, no. Bread è pane. Brad è come Brad Pitt.
Marco: Eh? Brad, Brad. È la stessa parola!
Kristina: No, no, no. B-R-E-A-D. B-R-A-D. (Repeating slowly) Breeeeeeead... Braaaaaad.
Pamela: Breeed, Braaaahhhd.
Kristina: Sì, ok, va bene!
Marco: Bread Pitt!

It's honestly hopeless attempting to teach Italians the differences among English short vowels. It did amuse me to think about Bread Pit, though. Hm, perhaps that's a good name for my future restaurant.

Perhaps I can stay a little bit longer...

I called the random government agency that deals with the permessi di soggiorno today. They have a handy webpage, but it told me that my application was missing some documents and that it wasn't filled out correctly. This, of course, prompted a full-scale panic attack and many dreams about getting forcefully removed from the country, cappuccino in hand. I made my roommate talk to the woman on the phone because, even though she understood what I said in English, she refused to listen to any more questions in English. Sheez. Turns out, if I'm lacking some kind of documentation, I can just bring it to the questura when they tell me to come. At least, I think. Oh well. I won't get kicked out of the country until May 1 anyway, so we'll see if it comes to that.

Until then, I'm staying in my apartment. The landlord inexplicably moved me to the master bedroom ("It's better!). I didn't particularly want to move, since it meant leaving a desk and a bookshelf, but the king-size bed more than makes up for it. I finally had a decent night's sleep last night. The one weird thing about that room... the bed is directly in front of the armoire, which has floor-to-ceiling mirrors in the two middle doors. Those doors directly face the bed. I try not to imagine the kinky things the landpeople did when that was their bedroom.

March 28, 2007

I got crab!

As Easter nears, Italy is breaking out all its best chocolates. I don't particularly like chocolate, but the thing I love about Italy is how they package their chocolate. Today, for 2.50 euro, I bought a little chocolate egg that came with a tiny little plastic airplane inside. And if that weren't enough, it also came with a little plush keychain. I picked the crab because, even though it wasn't nearly as cute as the turtle or penguin, I can't remember ever seeing a stuffed crab before. Even if this one kind of looks like a hamburger.

This crab needs a name, though, so I am soliciting suggestions. And, no, any version of Crabby (Mr. Crabby, Ms. Crabby, etc.) is unacceptable, as is anything related to cancer.

March 25, 2007

Chef Boyar-K

I made a new recipe tonight! It's kind of a side dish, although if you pair it with salad and maybe a little chicken, I guess it could be a complete dinner. You'll have to do the conversions yourself. I'm bad with grams-to-ounces and degrees C-to-F.

Roasted Fennel and Cannellini Beans with Polenta

1 small can (200g) cannellini beans, washed and drained
1/2 bulb fennel, cut into slices
2 cipollini (or other smallish white onions)
5-7 slices polenta
olive oil

Wash and drain the beans. Place in medium-sized bowl. Wash and dry fennel, halve the bulb. Cut remaining half into slices and place in bowl. Quarter 2 small onions, place in bowl. Toss veggies and beans with 1 tbsp or so olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and rosemary. Arrange veggies and beans in an oven-safe casserole dish with slices of polenta.

Cook in a 200-degree C oven for 20-25 minutes.

Serves 2 as side dish, 1 as main course.

La vita italiana

Carl sent me this link to a flash movie about the differences between Italy and the rest of the EU. I showed it to my Italian roommate, who agreed with me that it is entirely true. The creator, Bruno Bozzetto, is a famous Italian comedian. Peruse his website for more cute flash movies.

March 24, 2007

Free Association Housekeeping

Every day, I take a bus from my apartment to the tram, which gets me to a piazza near my work. I prefer the trams to the buses because, even though they don't go any faster, they get their own track in the middle of the road and don't have to deal with traffic, which can be considerable in Rome. The trams also all go to the same place, Termini, so I can hop on any of the three. Yesterday I was on the 5 tram, and it stopped in the middle of the road. Three-quarters of the tram emptied out, but I was in the back of the tram and had no idea what was going on. I got off too, and it turns out there was a giant tram-ffic jam. Another 5 tram had broken down on the tracks, which meant that the 14, the 19, and the other 5 behind it couldn't go anywhere. Fortunately, I only had to walk one stop, but I felt bad for the people who were going to be late to work in the center of town. It would have been nice if the driver had, you know, gotten up and made an announcement and informed us about what was going on...

Which reminds me that I found a new radio station in Rome, 102.7. It plays the 4 hottest Italian songs (each at least once every 90 minutes), but in the meantime it plays English-language songs, mostly American, from the 60s through the 90s. I heard things like Manic Monday and Whitney Houston, but my favorite song that I heard yesterday was Informer. You know you remember this song. Infoooooormer, somethingsomethingsomething, a licky boom boom dooooown! And if you don't, here's the video. Behold the George Michael hair. Revel in what passed for fashion among white rappers of the 90s...

Which reminds that I heard a piece on the Electric Slide on NPR's podcast yesterday. The creator, Richard Silver, is apparently trying to sue for creative control over the dance. He claims that no one does the dance properly. It has 22 steps, not 18. No one ever repeats the forward-clap-touch-floor, backward-clap-touch-floor part. It's just heartbreaking when Silver tells a story about being at a wedding and being told that he's doing the Electric Slide wrong. Well, not heartbreaking so much as really lame...

Which reminds me that my mom bought new pajamas to come visit me in Rome, since I had explained that it was pretty chilly here. The landlord is stingy, and we can't turn the heat up. She found these cute pink striped polar-fleece pants and top at Belk, and she left them here with me so that I could stay warm. Last night, I decided to get up to get a drink of water. As I was pulling up my knees so as not to untuck the covers from the bed, I noticed some white sparks. Thinking I was imagining it, I put on my glasses. Nope, still white sparks. It's actually very easy to repeat this: I just rub my legs together under the blankets like a cricket and watch the sparks fly. I tried to get a video of the sparks, but my camera doesn't think that it can see in the dark. So if you want to watch my cool new Electric Thighs moves, you'll have to come visit me in Rome.

March 20, 2007


My colleagues at the lab have adopted a cat. Circe is black with green eyes and a little bit of white on her neck. They seem to want to get rid of her, since they keep begging me to bring her back with me to the US. You know, 'cause she and Lethe would get along sooooo well. She's really cute and friendly... when she's not in heat. Here's a picture of Circe on my lap and a picture of Circe being a good osteology lab cat.

March 16, 2007

Sono italiana... un po'.

Here I am attempting to blend in with the well-dressed, well-coiffed Italian women. At least, it's a start. I couldn't deal with long hair for another day and had to get Guido to chop it all off. It's a tad bit strange, it took an hour of waiting in a very hot, very loud hair salon to get any service, it cost a ridiculous 35 euro, and Guido Junior took like 30 minutes to blow dry it, but whatever. It's short, and that's what counts.

March 15, 2007


I was giving my mom a tour of the Forum Romanum today, and we walked by the altar to Caesar, supposedly where he was cremated and where Marc Antony stood to deliver his famous eulogy. I told her that people sometimes throw flowers behind the altar, in commemoration of Caesar. We peeked around the altar and saw this. I hadn't realized it was the Ides of March until that point.

March 14, 2007

Bicchieri di Ostia

My mom and I went to Ostia Antica today because we were far too lazy (and cheap) to take the train down to Pompeii. Turns out, Ostia is nearly as cool as Pompeii and is only a 20-minute train ride (that's free if you have a metro pass) and a 4 euro entry fee.

Pictures are posted here. But my favorite thing of the day was the set of glasses that my mom bought me from the gift shop. Only true classics nerds can appreciate them, but here you go. Behold the beauty of shot glasses with opus reticulatum, opus incertum, and opus lateritium.

My mom bought a t-shirt with the numbers on it in Latin, Greek, Etruscan, and standard Arabic. Also very cool.

March 12, 2007

Gordon Sumner Anderson

Yesterday, my mom, Sara (my new Italian roommate), and I went to the landlord's house in Ariccia for lunch. His wife made us a giant lunch, complete with 3 bottles of wine (one for each course) and coffee. After lunch, we were watching the landlord's Live Aid 1985 DVDs, because Sara wanted to see Freddy Mercury and Queen. Before they came on, Dire Straits were playing with Sting singing "I want my MTV." This conversation ensued:

Sara: Mi piace Sting.
Me: Anch'io, molto.
Sara: But I like him better now because he is older.
Me: I know what you mean.
Sara: When he was younger, he looked funny. And he tried to be an actor.
Me: Yeah, he was in Dune and other small roles.
Sara: Yes, and MacGyver.
Me: No, Sting wasn't on MacGyver.
Sara: Yes, he was. Sting is MacGyver.
Me [laughing]: No, MacGyver is a different actor.
Sara: It was Sting. Everyone in Italy knows that Sting is MacGyver.
Me [laughing hysterically]: I'm telling you, they're not the same person. Non mi credi?
Sara: No, I will look it up on the internet.
Me: Mm-hm. E Roberto Benigni e Silvio Berlusconi... la stessa persona, si?
Sara [laughing]: No, ma Sting e MacGyver, si!

Anyway. Poor Sting. Getting confused with Richard Dean Anderson by the entire Italian population.

March 10, 2007

Tanti Auguri

Happy birthday to me!

Yesterday, my mom arrived in Rome. Her flight got in half an hour early, so I had to haul ass at 5:30am to get to Fiumicino. Her first impression of Rome is not a great one: after an overnight flight, then three forms of public transportation (train, metro, bus), she wasn't so keen on my big, lovely, international city. I went to work for a few hours, and when I got back we embarked on an exciting adventure: checking out the local grocery store. My mom is great. I can entertain her by taking her to the grocery store.

My plan was to spend today in Pompeii - after all, what better way to ring in my 30th? - but it's Saturday, and the place will be packed. Instead, we're going to take the metro to Termini, then saunter down the via Cavour, twirl around the Fori Imperiali and maybe the Colosseum, and hit up the via del Corso. As my mom says, "We're planning to shop and eat our way through Rome today."

I'll post some pictures later tonight or tomorrow of my mom's first day in Rome!

March 7, 2007

Things I Have Learned So Far...

Even when I am not running into a wall of language difficulties, I have found that Europeans have some strange mannerisms and customs...

1. Frenchmen actually say “enchante” when they meet you. They don’t necessarily kiss your hand and leer at you when they do, however. The French also use the following words in regular conversation without sounding like pretentious asses: rapprochement, mise-en-scène, coup de grâce, sonndage, vis-à-vis.

2. Don’t leave a pen in the pocket of your jacket when you use the bathroom. It will fall out, and you will be required to fish it out of the bowl. (Sorry, OMII – I dropped your lovely purple and teal pen into a vat of urine.)

3. If an Italian tells you that someone speaks English, they probably don’t. Likewise, if someone says they don’t speak good English, they probably do.

4. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire is even more boring and drawn-out in Italian than in English. I watched a woman sweat over the answer to a 70,000 euro question concerning soccer goals for a full 20 minutes.

5. Trying to look like a local doesn’t actually get you harassed less. It just confuses the bums who hit you up for change or cigarettes, forcing them to call you what can only be assumed to be bad names, and it confuses lost Italians who ask you for directions, causing them to assume you’re mentally challenged and can only say yes.

6. Drinking out of a Nalgene bottle gets you stared at as if you were the new god of a cargo cult.

7. High fashion among high school boys is cuffing your jeans. (I’ve heard it called pegging your jeans before, but that just sounds too scandalous to me.) I don’t know what the Italian term is, but the fashion statement involves safety-pinning the jeans nice and tight around the ankles, the way we used to do in the late 80s.

March 6, 2007

Mangia, mangia, mangia

Italians love to talk about food, particularly while they're eating it. Here are my top five favorite things to eat from the month of February. Watch this space at the beginning of next month for my new faves.

5. Pasta with chickpeas and pesto. Cook up some pipete or other small pasta. Dump in a can of washed and drained chickpeas and a couple tablespoons of pesto. Top with cheese, nuts, etc.

4. Crepes filled with asparagus and smoked provalone. I had this dish at a restaurant, and it was lovely. Smoked provalone is one of my all-time favorite cheeses.

3. Coconut gelato. I really don't like ice cream, but there's something about coconut flavor that's truly divine. Why don't they make coconut ice cream in the US?

2. Green salad with cannellini beans and tuna. For a quick and light dinner, toss some lettuce with beans and drained tuna. Add tomatoes and walnuts if so inclined and top with oil and vinegar. Pair with polenta or bread for a filling meal.

1. Deep-fried risotto balls. These are so unbelieveably terrible for you - it's a tangerine-sized ball of risotto stuck together with a little tomato sauce and a delicious center of mozzerella... deep-fried until the batter is crispy and the cheese is melty.

March 5, 2007

Erika's Visit!

Erika came to visit me in Rome this weekend, travelling with Hallie (whom I know from Azoria '03) and Jake (whom I know from Duke). Some of the highlights included:
  • Saturday - Mime versus Hare Krishna Showdown! After meeting at the Pantheon, we decided to sit and drink some coffee in the Campo dei Fiori. As we sat down, a mime laid down his little black mat and started interpreting.... well, something. We watched for a few minutes, and suddenly a giant ruckus arose, and we looked down the piazza only to see a giant band of Hare Krishnas marching, singing, and banging on things. The mime got pissed, made a big time-out sign to the High Hare, and they got into an argument (which the mime seemed to lose). After a few minutes, a female HK came over and gave the mime a peace offering - from where we sat, it looked like a carved radish. He begrudgingly accepted it and returned to climbing out of his imaginary box.
  • Sunday - Baroquetacular! After some spectacular miscommunication and cell phone failure, Erika and I hopped a big, hot, stinky, packed bus to Tivoli to see Hadrian's villa. Armed with no guidebooks, we figured we could find it. Although we did make it to Tivoli, Hadrian's villa is about 6-7km below the mountain-top town, and we were far too lazy to attempt to find a bus. Instead, we ate a lovely lunch in a garden restaurant and toured the Villa d'Este, built in the 16th century. It's like the Biltmore of Rome: hideously baroque with rather nice gardens. We returned to Rome for a chill dinner alla mia casa. Oh, and I got asked for directions a lot. Including the following exchange waiting for the metro:
    • Italian woman: Does this train go to Termini?
    • Me: Yes
    • Italian woman: Are you sure? To Termini?
    • Me: Yes
    • Italian woman: This train? The one to Laurentina? It goes to Termini?
    • Me: Yes
    • Italian woman: [Something fast and unintelligible in Italian.]
    • Me: I don't speak Italian well sorry.
    • Italian woman: I want to know if this train goes to Termini. Do you even understand me?
    • Me: Yes, I understand you. This train goes to Termini.
    • Italian woman: [Not convinced] Thanks.
    • Me [what I wanted to say]: You're the one who's lost, bitch. Don't question my language comprehension.
  • Monday - Mangiamo! Today involved... a lot of sugar. Coffee and gelato at Giolitti, the famous Roman gelato shop, and then more coffee at San Eustachio, a Roman institution (although it looks like a hole in the wall). I also browsed Zara trying to decide which dress I want for my birthday present.
All in all, a fabulously fun weekend!

March 1, 2007


I have posted a few pictures (although I don't think the videos work yet - I'll try to embed them here when they do) of the last month in Rome. You can judge for yourself by the paucity of the pictures what a lack of fun it has been. But things are looking up, so tune in for more pictures when Erika, Hallie, and Jake visit this weekend and when my mom visits for my birthday!

The wheels on the bus...

I just got internet access in my apartment around 6:30pm. So expect more blog posts from me. But right now, I will leave you with a puzzle...

When I get off the metro, there's a bus stop for the 309 bus, which I hop on to take back to my apartment. But there are often two 309 buses waiting at the stop. Now, even though cars can pass buses when they're stopped at a bus stop, buses can't pass other buses. Given that condition, what is the optimal passenger load for each bus? That is, in order to move things along in a timely, orderly fashion, how should the passengers arrange themselves on the two buses?

That's what consumed my thoughts for 5 minutes this evening.

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