Archive for March, 2011

Quote of the week

Week, month, arbitrary time period that basically just means I found something sufficiently amusing to write it down. This award goes to my father. We just had an exchange where I tried to send him a google maps link, except that pasting the link directly from the address bar is not the optimal way to use google maps and so ended up being wrong. I  did this not once but twice consecutively, the second time in an attempt to correct the first time. Finally I realised the error of my ways and linked to the location correctly. My father’s response:

Dad:  “Wow, your prowess around PCs is impressive. Have u considered a career in IT?”

Me: “very fucking funny :)”

Dad: “Always attack in a rare moment of weakness”

From this we learn 3 things. 1. My father is hilarious, 2. My moments of weakness are rare and 3. I should pay more attention to what I am doing if I do not wish to invite the endless mockery of my insane family.

Italy and the joy of other people’s weddings. Seriously, there is free food.

I can never live in Italy*. Which is a source of some regret for me, because I absolutely love Italy. I think it’s fascinating, and it both looks and feels ancient and beautiful. The weather is hot in the summer and cold in the winter, but without the severe humidity or blasting freeze of New York. Even in early February Italy was crisp and refreshing, with occasional bursts of warm sunlight.

I was in a small town called Orvieto (about an hour and a half outside Rome) for the wedding of a friend of mine, which was the entire reason for being in Italy in the first place. This friend is Irish as is her now-husband, but they had been to Italy on holiday, loved it, and decided to get married there. I thought this was a perfectly brilliant idea for the following reasons:

If I have to fly thousands of miles to attend a wedding, I am delighted when that wedding is actually somewhere interesting rather than the charming Irish countryside. I go to lots of weddings in the charming Irish countryside not to mention having lived there for quite some years, and having maintained a fairly low level of enthusiasm for either fields or sheep and a distinct dislike of cows (things that big should not be able to walk up behind you so silently), I see no need to go there unless pressed.

The plusses of a foreign wedding are obvious. For a start the food is better, quite frankly taking Ireland generally as a whole it would be fairly difficult for it to be worse. It is almost inevitably cheaper than the Irish alternative, and perhaps the best reason of all, only the people who actually give a shit will bother to fly there. All the hassle of politically correct guest selection is reduced dramatically. Our friends make it, your distant family members who are only attending to cash in on a free dinner and some wine are immediately out of the running.

Orvieto was perfect. I did the things I do in Italy, namely eat pasta, buy the same pair of fingerless leather driving gloves I keep bloody well losing and never find for sale anywhere else,  drink excellent wine that costs very little, and overall just enjoy the feeling of being back in Europe. I enjoy the certainty that everything I just walked past is at least a hundred years old, that the hot chocolate I order in this coffee shop will be a molten cup of thick chocolatey goodness instead of flavoured milk, and that no matter how terrible I look some man will at some point try to talk to me (I look about as Italian as a baked potato, so I am clearly a tourist and therefore according to all men in Italy officially easy. I think they assume I am American and that some “in my country, we write poetry for eyes like yours” is going to actually work).

It felt good to be in Europe, I’ve missed it. The occasional visits to Ireland and England were always amazing, but not quite the same. I have really missed being able to fly to another country in a couple of hours (Canada doesn’t count). Now that I’m finally back 3 months feels like a blip on the radar and I can’t imagine how I will have time to do all the things I want to do. Then again I am not dying, presumably I will be back after the crazy adventure of this summer.

Though right now, I like the thought that I really do not know.

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*there are two reasons for this. Firstly that I cannot imagine being able to find any sort of job there, I do not even speak enough Italian for the crappy kind. The other reason is that I would eat myself stupid on amazing pasta every day and soon be so fat I could not fit through doors or get up stairs without one of those chair lift things. Which I couldn’t use, because I wouldn’t fit into it.

Zurich

I’m going to do this in reverse order, mostly because I took enough notes in Australia to merit several posts and that will take more time to organize.

When I was in Sydney I was horrified by the price of everything. Then I went to Zurich and had my view of global economics readjusted with the mental equivalent of a large mallet. New rule for happiness: Never offer to buy anyone dinner in Switzerland unless you have already had the loan approved.

Switzerland is weird. To a certain extent everywhere that is not the place I grew up in and am entirely used to the particular customs of is weird, and yet I continue saying things like this. But Switzerland is unique in its eccentricities. It is renowned for neutrality, impartiality and its extraordinary independence. I was broadly aware that it is one of the few countries that could survive without importing food/fuel/pretty much anything really necessary for human survival. I was less aware how much effort the Swiss put into this. It’s a rich country, so I suppose it can afford to maintain crop growth and production at a loss solely for the purpose of ensuring a consistent internal supply should imports become unavailable.  Switzerland refuses to weaken itself for cheaper foodstuffs, and to be honest I find this kind of laudable. It is determinedly independent regardless of convenience, and I have to admire it. New rule for happiness: When the zombie apocalypse comes, be visiting Switzerland.

Public transport is incredibly efficient in Zurich. If the tram says it is coming at 17.23 then goddammit, that tram will surely arrive before the digital clock readout on every station reaches 17.24. The convenience offset to this amazing accuracy is that trams have right of way. Over cars, buses and most definitely humans. If you are hit by a tram in Switzerland it is your fault. You are liable for all damage to the tram and yourself as a result of the accident, and not only that but you are also liable for all associated costs. So for example the cost of re-routing other trams, clearing away your severed limbs, calling in the police to redirect traffic. It can run to literally millions, with the result that every Swiss resident is legally obliged to take out full personal liability insurance (EDIT: Lies! I misinterpreted a conversation. Personal liability insurance is not mandatory, merely very sensible and rather widespread). New rule for happiness: Do not get hit by a tram in Switzerland. Or anywhere, really. But especially Switzerland.

Zurich is clean, it is beautiful. It has mountains and a huge lake. It has sailboats on the lake that move at a rate of about .002 knots because it has no fucking wind. Which actually makes the city brisk and refreshing in February as opposed to vein-chillingly freezing. Taxes are low, wages are very high. The cost of living is also very high, but quality of life is frankly impressive. It is a city, in short, in which you could settle down, get married, and raise healthy Swiss children, who will at the age of 18 will be up for their mandatory military service to Switzerland’s standing army. Unfortunately I tend to find that when looking at cities, standard of living is inversely proportional to entertainment value. The streets of Zurich are spotless, the quality of food is excellent, but a drink in a club is US$20 and everything closes on Sundays.

Zurich is filled with attractive, fit-looking central Europeans and has some incredibly good cheese-based food, which I can only approve of. But it is essentially a bit too bloody boring. You get the vague feeling walking around that doing anything significantly weird on the street might land you in a nice brightly lit room where they kindly and patiently explain to you how vee do sings here. But thats probably just my basic paranoia kicking in. As an Irish person places with an infrastructure that actually functions make me suspect the Borg have infiltrated earth.