I’m back in America. Flew back on June 20. Genova to Munich to Philadelphia to Charlotte to Charleston. Window seats all the way, so I got to watch the wing trailing edge flaps doing their thing during takeoff and landing. All that extra work tacking the Aerospace onto my Mechanical was definitely worth it.
I did actually end up getting paid, on June 6. Got the money wired to my American bank two days before I left, when a Euro was worth just north of $1.25. This was the day after the supposedly-pivotal Greek elections, in which the kinda-pro-bailout/austerity parties barely beat the newcomer screw-austerity-we-can-renegotiate-this-thing party. You can bet I watched that closely. Some were predicting Euro/USD parity at the time. Others were shocked at such speculations. Now the Euro has lost 2.95% of its value against the dollar in the last week. Germany, evidently Europe’s last hope for
salvation competitiveness on the world stage, is faltering economically. Who’s going to bail everybody out, now?
That said, I’m happy with my money here in America, where it belongs.
I got to see the code I worked on forever actually get put to use in the lab the week before I left. It seemed to do what I wanted, though it still needs some work.
I jumped right back into this whole America thing with home-made hamburgers the night after I got back. Delicious! The next day was Papa John’s Pizza, which was kind of depressing. It was basically tasteless, compared to anything I had in Italy. Luckily, in Morgantown, I live a block away from an honest-to-God Italian-immigrant-runs-the-kitchen pizza place, Pizza Al’s. My faith in pizza may yet be restored.
Speaking of food, I lost more than thirty pounds in Italy. I think I’m going to have to start exercising. I like looking good, but I also like hamburgers. Life just isn’t fair.
But anyway, I’m glad to be back in America.
We, as Americans, are the descendants of people who decided that Europe sucked so bad that it made sense to get on a boat for months and strike out anew in a completely foreign land, where, at the time, if you couldn’t feed yourself, you would probably starve to death. We are the descendants of people who fought, and won, a war of independence against the world’s preeminent superpower, because we didn’t like the way they were running things.
Citizens of few, if any, other nations can say the same.
Kind of on that topic, I never really told the guys I worked with about this blog, or at least not it’s address. I don’t really know why. I did tell some guys at NETL about it, and so, the main Italian I worked for (and still am working for) found out about it. He immediately freaked out upon learning, from the About page, of the namesake of my blog, a piece of the fire control group in the SA vz. 58. He left a very earnest message on my adviser’s voice-mail, asking if I was a revolutionary, or otherwise unhinged. Luckily, I had mentioned my affinity for firearms to said adviser, who also has such an affinity, and so he was able to defuse the situation. I just learned of this from him today.
As Americans, we take for granted freedoms much of the rest of the world can only dream of.
I celebrate one of those freedoms with Italian engineering, interestingly enough. It shall serve as both a little reminder of Italy, and why America is so awesome.
I’m having a heck of a time getting pictures off of my phone, so this post will be uninteresting. Furthermore, a big impetus for my knocking out a post right now is largely just so every month I will have been in Italy will have posts. Though something interesting did happen today, so let’s see how this goes.
I will be leaving Italy on June 20, in three weeks. My work is going well, but I will likely still be tying up loose ends after I get back to America. Luckily, what I create is measured in kilobytes, and they ship for free. I’m supposed to be teaching an Italian undergrad how my stuff works, so she can carry on my work after I’ve become enveloped in schoolwork once again at WVU. I’ve spent more time teaching her how MATLAB works, so we’ll see how that goes.
I still haven’t been paid, besides one €500 down payment, for my work. So I’ve been spending my dad’s money since probably late October. The paperwork issues that my employer has faced have evidently been massive. And speaking generally, I’d be kind of okay with this situation. Not many undergrads have multiple cogenerating machines to play with. And, as much as I would rather pay my own way, my dad doesn’t have a problem with helping me out. But I was supposed to get paid. And then there is the Euro Crisis. And what a crisis it is!
I’ve been watching the euro/USD exchange rate the whole time I have been over here. You can check it out in the right sidebar, if you want. That’s the price in dollars for one euro, which makes the guy who decided on their naming convention look retarded. Anyway, a euro has been worth anywhere between $1.40 and $1.30 the whole time I have been over here. Except for right now. In the last week or two, it seems to have dropped a good little bit.
Why do I care, you might ask? Well, I’m supposedly getting paid in euros, in an amount I won’t be able to spend in the span of three weeks, and I wouldn’t have been spending the whole sum over here, regardless. And every time the US dollar gains against the euro, I lose purchasing power in America. So, every week I still don’t get paid, I get to look at my pay essentially draining away. And there is so much stuff I want to buy!
It’s been far too long since my last post, and that one was barely a post at all. So here is something. My smaller camera broke a week ago, my D70s is not an every-day-carry camera, and I still haven’t been officially paid yet, so it’s looking like it will be all cellphone pics from here on out. I’m sorry.
Due to a bit of a debacle on my father’s part, I will be back in America earlier than I had planned, in late June. Just an FYI, you can’t change the return trip date of a round trip flight after you have already gone one way.
I had to deal with my bank yesterday in town. I found a branch of the Banco di San Giorgio closer to campus than the one I’ve dealt with before. I went there just to be told that my account is not with them, and I need to go to the other branch to deal with it. Okay. That makes perfect sense, right?
I took care of my business there, and went looking for a hair place. Before I found it, I found a dealer of airsoft guns and equipment. For those who don’t know, basically these are fake guns that shoot plastic pellets that kids and others use in games. They can look pretty real. Anyway, I normally wouldn’t patronize such an establishment, but I wanted a new hat. On my eternal quest to look like an a-hole and protect my head from too much sun or rain, I’ve been wearing a boonie hat now and then. I was kind of bitching at myself about how ridiculous my snow camo one looks and how I should find a solid-colored one if I’m going to wear it as often as I do. Cue airsoft joint.
Before I went to the hats, I screwed around with some of the airsoft guns. I dropped a mag on the floor, and picking it up, noticed a €250.00 price tag, on the mag. I sincerely hope that was for the whole rifle. There were plenty of boonie hats to be had, though as far as I could tell, only one of them fit my apparently-gigantic head. It isn’t a solid color, but it looks a lot less ridiculous than my older one.
I found the hair place and got my hair shampooed and cut for less than half what a cut would cost me at the mall and was done with a half hour left before a movie I wanted to see in the theater.
I promised a big post about my family’s trip through Italy, with lots of beautiful pictures. That will happen. Just not right now.
Here’s a post about why Italy sucks.
My final in Sustainable Energy I was on January 12. It wasn’t really what I expected. I spent the week prior to it acting like I would study for it. Which means I studied for a day and a lot of the night. Where I came into the exam thinking I would basically give an overview of what I learned in relation to fuel cells and distributed generation, I was actually asked a couple of pretty specific questions, each with several parts. During this final, which accounts for the entire class grade, I was asked about subjects that accounted for probably less than ten percent of all the different things we were taught. So, basically, if you don’t know everything equally, it’s easy to get lucky or unlucky, on this test. I got a 23/30.
I can retake it this Tuesday, but I really don’t think I care that much.
If you read the news, you may have heard about a huge cruise ship disaster off the coast of Tuscany. If you don’t know the details already, you probably don’t care, but that gigantic ship, the Costa Concordia, was actually on its way to the port in Savona, right next to the hotel that my family used there.
From a kind of engineer-y perspective, I have to comment on one thing that I read. The average cruise ship has doubled in size in the last decade, and that means a whole lot more passengers and crew. How do you get all these people safely off a ship during an emergency? Why, don’t have an emergency, of course!
Was today, at least for me.
Italian learning is a very strange and alien thing.
My Sustainable Energy I class lasted from mid-September to today. With no homework. Or tests. Or quizzes. Or anything whatsoever that I could be graded on.
My grade in this class is based wholly and entirely on my performance on the final exam. Which is oral. I will be asked two comprehensive questions, which I will need to answer as fully as I can.
There’s a reason why all the English-speaking Italians I deal with refer to classes as exams. I’m pretty sure that’s it.
On the upside, even if I had more than one class this semester, I would have little reason to completely psych myself out. Rather than cramming all those finals into one sleepless week, Italians give you options. I have four different test dates to choose from, from December 21 to February 21. Really, and the next semester doesn’t start until right after that last one. Assuming all classes are like that, you could basically give yourself a full week to study for each final individually, if the scheduling worked out.
In other news, my father, step-mother, and sister will be here in a bit over a week to spend two weeks with my spoiled self and Italy. We’ll be traveling to and through several cities from here to Rome. So lots more pictures. And a hotel with the same name as my own surname. More then.
And because I don’t like the prospect of more posts with nothing but words, here’s what I was listening to here as I published this:
I know all the people who read this are either older members of my own family or people who type awkward things into Google. This is to you, ‘angry “leave a comment” site:.com’-guy. It’s not head-bangy if any members of my family want to rethink that last scroll.
Final Thoughts: Does a class called Sustainable Energy I in a Master’s program called Energy and the Environment sound a little tree-hugger to you? It is. I chose this class because it covered fuel cells, which I’ve been tangentially dealing with for the last three summers of research-like work, and I kind of thought I would continue this pattern over here. All this experience with fuel cell stuff has pushed the feeling that it won’t be really market-worthy for a while, at least not for the power-generation applications people keep pushing it for.
In a pleasant turn of events, I’ve actually been working on cogeneration and distributed generation, which can be downright profitable. And my class covered it too. Yay.
My Italian experience has continued it’s slide into the depths of mundanity – along the lines of go to class, go to work, eat, go to sleep. That isn’t really much to blog about, sadly. However, it has been a freaking month since my last post. Hopefully, if I can find interesting things, I can get back into once-a-week blogging, or better. Interesting things have happened. Work has also been happening. But screw apologizing or rationalizing, this is my blog, and this is my new post, so enjoy it.
In the weeks since my bike was stolen, I have indeed walked a great deal. It’s forty-five minutes from the campus to the mall on foot, and I’ve now walked that at least half a dozen times. This also has put a serious cramp on trying to see the weekly attractions the city puts on in the middle of town on weekends. I walked to another street fair a week or two ago specifically because the signs I found advertising it mentioned America, in terms of American goods or American-style goods or some such. Of course, at the bottom of the sign, literally in ellipses, it said something like, ‘along with normal goods of local origin.’ I walked to this street fair and found nothing particularly American at all, so I didn’t venture further. If there were American clothes or cars or whatever, I didn’t find them, and my backpack was loaded down with groceries. Besides that, the entire 1st world wears American clothes anyhow. I’m sorry, that’s just how it is.
Unless your vision of American clothing is embodied by “Why you so trashy? – Northern Carolina University.” Seriously, my father caught that on a shirt on display at the mall, as well as a guy wearing a shirt that said “Shut the F*ck Up,” asterisk and all. Combine this crap with punks tagging everything in Engrish, and one is reminded that America dominates the world culturally, if not militarily. I can live with that.
The same researcher/translator who helped me out with my residence permit, along with numerous other things, helped me again tonight. It’s hard to refer to her without a name, but as a matter of internet etiquette, I won’t use her name without her knowing. She will be known here as M1951.
M1951 and I went to the train station tonight, to find what we could. We found the spot where I had locked it, right next to three taxis. M1951 talked to the taxi drivers, who knew everything. They had noticed my bike there for two days and thought it was odd that someone would leave such a nice bike at the train station for so long. On the second night, a short black kid was able to easily open the lock and pedal away with it. Of course, they noted the peculiarity of a short kid riding a big bike. (I’m every bit of 6’3″.)
With that, M1951 and I went to the Questura – the main provincial police station – and filed a report.
Somebody or another I work with may have a used bike I could buy for hopefully cheap. Getting something that looks like crap and runs well would be ideal, so I can actually use it without fear of it being stolen. Additionally, the combination of looking like crap and running well would be the exact opposite of what my last bike did. It couldn’t handle a couple of spills. I hope that parasite likes what he got.
If I get another bike, used or new, while I am here, I am going to use the thickest gauge, biggest, meanest combination lock you ever saw.
Now for a brief musical interlude.
I spent this last weekend in the suburbs of the city of Reggio Emilia, spending time with my boss’s in-laws and seeing the sights. I admit, it felt a little weird taking up an invite such as that, but maybe that is just the culture here. It seems to beat America’s culture in this regard. In any case, everyone was pleasant, and the cooking was incredible. One of the gatherings occurred at a family grape farm.
As you can see, the area around Reggio Emilia is flat, in stark contrast to Savona. The whole area is agricultural. The street-fair I encountered here had a large wing of people show-casing the latest and greatest in farm equipment. Of course, the rest of the street-fair was much like any that I had seen in Savona. I had some excellent honey-roasted almonds and saw a display of classic scooters.
Later that day, I found further proof that Italian punks are poseurs after American culture.
I moved in to university housing yesterday. I won’t have views like this anymore:
In its place, I get this:
I haven’t actually figured the windows out, yet. There are some huge, angled, shutter-like things outside of them, so I can’t really look outside. I’ll figure those things out sooner or later. There really isn’t too much to look at, though.
My room is definitely a dorm room. After I get through a locked door, there are two bedrooms, each with two beds; a kitchen/living room; and a bathroom. Before I moved in, there was only one occupant, a Ghanaian who is studying to be a nurse. It’s obvious he’s been in the room for a while. I took the other bedroom and moved all my stuff in yesterday, with the help of a few coworkers.
Also accomplished yesterday:
I think I’ve found a great way to both cut down on the dis-jointedness of these posts and the amount of time it takes to make them. One-subject posts, created the instant I get an idea. And, go.
My first self-made meal while in Italy. It’s pretty fantastic. It may look like a simple sandwich, but hidden between those unassuming slices of wheat bread are things unbeknownst to me before my intercontinental trek. Bresaola, for instance, is a blend of meat that I don’t really know what to make of, besides it being red and delicious. Salame Milano, one of many varieties of salami, each of which seems to be named after a different Italian city, is not as strongly-flavored as what I am used to, which I appreciate in a salame. Two different kinds of ham reside between those bread slices as well, prosciutto cotto, which seems like your garden variety ham, and prosciutto di Parma, which does not. It is a variety of prosciutto crudo – raw ham — and I’ve had enough of it to take a liking to it as well. And yes, Italians really eat raw ham. Supposedly, it’s cut off the pig, and aged for up to two years. In fact, I think the larger variety of sandwich meats I have found here result form varying forms of long-term curing of meats. Italians: wine and meats, both more art than science.
With meat so good, there’s got to be a catch, right? Well, there is. The packages they come in are not re-sealable, which caught me a bit off guard. Hopefully, I’ll be able to pick up some re-sealable bags tomorrow.
In the meantime, if there is one thing I don’t like about this Seminary, it’s the fact that the wifi has been on the fritz for the last three weeks (not like it had enough reach to get to my room anyway). So, people have been taking turns using the LAN in the office. Which is a great excuse for my normal routine of making all these posts at stupid-late times of night. I’m sitting in here with two other guys right now, trying to finish that which began in Word. I’m going to have to pick up an Ethernet cord tomorrow, so that nobody has to give up their connection for me to get one. I guess I should be thankful for this reminder of how much most everybody depends on the internet these days
Oh hey, first relatively heavy rain I’ve experienced here since before my father went back to the States. Hooray.