n i g h t i n g a l e s h i r a z / blog
slightly stretched Babylonian dancers in Nabucco - l'Arena di Verona.

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for the bedside-table, for the handbag, for the bathroom.

and for a very rainy September's reading:

* Dave Eggers - Short Short Stories.
bite-sized hilarity, wrapped just lightly enough in weirdo-cream-whip.  this is one of the ten books (yes, you read right -- TEN books) i bought this month -- because Feltrinelli was open and warm and safe from the rain, because Penguin is celebrating seventy years of the affordable, quality-literature paperback, because they were slim and pretty and cost all of three euros, because i couldn't decide which ones to take and which ones to leave behind.  and because this is a problem i have and really i should be banned from entering bookstores to begin with.  anyway.  so far my favorite is the thing about the sheep with the rude awakening three-quarters of the way through.  but what's even better (like when they tell you there's actually a dessert *trolley* coming out), is that he's done a whole series of short-shorts for the Guardian.  mmm.  i like the Guardian.

* Bernard Lewis - A Brief History of the Middle East.
a quick sideways-but-sincere apology to Sari, for taking so long with this one.  at four hundred pages of no-nonsense non-fiction (what, no pictures? said Alice), i had a *teeny* bit of trouble turning the pages.  i am glad i read it (well, two-thirds of it anyway).  but i think i like his articles more; there's this one he did for Foreign Affairs -- that would make great chitchat for your next first date, for example.  or maybe not.

* Mark Williams - The Story of Spain.
at the bookstore by the cathedral in Seville last year, Ciro took pity on my broke-between-jobs self, and got this for me.  (my own personal extravagance for the entire three weeks in Andalucia consisted of a pair of very large and very orange dangly-earrings from the reception window of the hotel at Jerez -- so much for priorities.)  so, this is the book (as you might have guessed), that sits by the throne -- right next to my Italian edition of Dilbert.  and it's perfect for it:  i get roughly one civil war, monarchic overthrow or miscellaneous major historical event per morning, and i have my entire shower to think about it.  and trust me, this is way better than letting yourself think about work in the shower...

...and (since we're writing about reading), i have a new thing for my morning 'wake-up-gently-to-the-pain-of-day' routine (see here if you need clarification on that one).  i still give myself ten minutes of news-trawling with the morning coffee, but now (in a new, concerted effort to *not* end up reading every single Op-Ed or New Yorker article i can get my mouse on), i allow myself the decadent pleasure of (gasp!) a PRINT-OUT.  novel, i know.  (well actually just an article -- a novel would be too long).  anyway, i was saying.  a print-out.  of *any* article i want (just one mind you, and double-sided now).  all black-ink-on-A4, all-visceral, and all mine for the metro-ride home.

so anyway, today was the New York Observer talking about what Ahmadinejad said to his countrymen-in-America this past week, while in New York for the UN Summit.


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giordano Bruno, Roma]
[giovedý 22 settembre 2005 ore 21:18:28] []

under the category of Things That Don't Surprise Me...

...About The Incestuous World of Internet Business:

EBay to Buy Skype, Internet Phone Service, for $2.6 Billion
The deal ends months of speculation about who might scoop up Skype, which since 2002 has been offering downloadable software that allows users to talk to one another over the Internet through their personal computers.  The News Corporation, Google and Yahoo had been mentioned as potential suitors in recent months.

and there i was just the other day, thinking wouldn't it be great if i could buy SkypeOut credit via PayPal?

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, Roma]
[martedý 20 settembre 2005 ore 13:33:14] []

otherwise known as Naughty Bianca.

so, for those of you who A, don't live in Rome, or B, live in Rome but have been hiding out under a rock for the last six months, this past Saturday was the much-anticipated (and unfortunately, also rather heavily-precipitated) festival of La Notte Bianca in Rome.

in theory, this is a great idea.  for one night of the year, Rome is an open city.  the entire town throws open its collective doors -- public and private museums, art galleries, Roman archeological sites, cultural and community centers, and of course, every single McDonalds outlet in centro.  even stores in some areas stay open all night, and offer special White-Night discounts for those drunk enough to buy a pair of sunglasses at four in the morning.  almost everything is free (well, except for the sunglasses, of course), and absolutely everything is special.

as i said.  in theory, this is a great idea.

as i also hinted, it rained.


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, Roma]
[martedý 20 settembre 2005 ore 11:05:56] []

when buon giorno can kill.

it's hard for morning people to understand us non-morning people.  it's hard even for those people-in-the-middle (you know, the ones who aren't really morning people, but they're not quite non-morning people either).

my co-workers -- aka, my fellow consultants, personal-service-agreement subscribers (cough), "non-staff-human-resources" (cough-hack-wheeze) -- have trouble with this too.  every morning, i crawl to my desk (it looks like i am upright, but really, i am crawling), my capuccino-da-portare-via and my cornetto-francese clutched tightly in my psychotic little hands...  every morning (and it has been quite a few mornings here at FAO).  but most mornings, i *still* get disapproving looks from Andrew and Michael (who are invariably here before i am, and who are invariably waiting for me to go for coffee, *together*).


you have to understand, oh, You-Who-Are-Not-Severely-Morning-Challenged.  it's not just that we cannot speak to anyone until we've had that first coffee.  we can't speak to anyone util we've *digested* that first coffee, until it is In The Bloodstream.

fine, i hear you say.  but what's wrong with at least *going* to get that morning coffee together, you ask.  we don't expect you to talk, to smile, to be socially functional, we just think it would be nice for us all to get the first coffee of the day together.  is that so bad?

no, we answer.  it sounds lovely.  and really, we would love to be able to partake in such an idyllic picture.  but you must understand.  for us, just *being* in an environment that is remotely social is difficult at this time of day.  and by remotely social we mean *any* environment in which there exists, in close proximity to us, anyone who does not fall into the following categories:
1 - other Severely-Morning-Challenged people.
because they will never, ever try and talk (to you, around you, within earshot of you) at this time of the day.  they will never expect or anticipate any kind of phsyical acknowledgement of their existence on your part -- no eye contact, no nods, no returned smiles or waves, nothing.  they are Zombies-in-their-Bubbles, walking next to you, and that's okay.
2 - the other people on the subway.
because you don't have to maintain even the vaguest pretence of being awake in front of them, because you can glare hatefully, because if they try to talk to you or touch you by accident you can hiss and spit maniacally, and none of this will have repercussions on your personal or professional life.  usually, anyway.
3 - your immediate family.
because nothing can sever the bond between a brother-and-sister, or a mother-and-daughter, or whatever.  not even a bitemark on the arm.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, Roma]
[lunedý 19 settembre 2005 ore 14:34:01] []

consultant-soapbox:  3 things i would never want missing from a web-technology project.

- ia.  if this is done well enough, and early enough, you can (*maybe*) even get away without a functional spec.  in fact, i'd pick good ia over a functional spec doc any day (well -- *if* i had to choose.  ideally i wouldn't have to choose...).  any day.  it speaks to everyone, is clear about what will and won't be there (for the end/business users, for developers and for testers).  it poses not-yet-encountered-problematic questions to do with process or content-anomalies early on.  it helps you cover all the what-ifs you often miss when you write a tech-spec that lists features and functions as so many one-dimensional bullet points, without perspective or context, and without relationship to each other.

- regular, team-wide status meetings.  (most days, i'd pick these over a fancy project plan.  maybe not any day, but most days.)  how are we doing.  what did we do last week.  what are we doing this week, and well -- how are we doing.

- testing.  sorry.  i see no reason to have to even explain this one.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, Roma]
[mercoledý 14 settembre 2005 ore 15:57:45] []

a day's difference.

today, i got up relatively early.  for a sunday, anyway.

i sat down at my laptop, with my cup of sunday tea, and finally did that System Restore i'd been meaning to do all week, ever since i discovered that, in my zealous cleanup-the-pc frenzy of last month, i'd uninstalled my DVD encoder (and i sure as heck wasn't going to pay fourteen-ninety-nine to download a new one).

after two unsuccessful System Restore attempts (i must have done this longer ago than i thought), i got the one that has the decoder.  as well as Kodak EasyShare, MultiMedia Something-or-Other and a host of other crap i then had to re-uninstall.  i persevered, and by noon was done and onto email.

i gave myself a quick haircut (thankfully now, a less-dangerous process than it used to be).  for lunch, i ate leftover spaghetti-aglio-olio-peperoncino (can you tell i'm in that dip between FAO payments?), and scooped the last sundried tomato from the pickled depths of the jar.

i forced myself to go out, to take pictures with my so-far-shamefully-unused camera, and maybe to go sit somewhere and write.  i spent four hours roaming around Rome ("roaming around Rome?" -- hm), not able to do anything.  i finally ended up at Feltrinelli's, and proceeded to buy books i couldn't afford, and didn't even really feel that excited about, once i'd walked out with them.

i thought about calling someone, to meet up for a drink, a gelato, a talk.  i thought of calling Ciro to see how his Slow Food Sommelier Challenge had gone.

i didn't feel like it.

it's getting better.  i don't spend every sixth minute of the day thinking about it any more (and i guess that's to be construed as "better").  it is not a constant backdrop to my consciousness, not a repeating lens i knowingly or unknowingly apply to every newspaper headline i pass by, every internal and external conversation i encounter.

but it's still a day apart.  alone.

i come home finally and do the last of the laundry.  climb into bed.  think (as i put on a long-sleeved sleep-tee for the first time since March), another summer is over.

i lie in bed and think about the day, and whether what i did with it was...  appropriate?  adequate?  right?  i don't know.

every year it comes.
but i never know what i am supposed to do with this day.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giordano Bruno, Roma]
[domenica 11 settembre 2005 ore 22:29:56] []

measuring anger.

today's top 5 Most E-Mailed Articles at The New York Times:

1. Frank Rich: Falluja Floods the Superdome
The president's declaration that "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees" has instantly achieved the notoriety of Condoleezza Rice's "I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center."

2. Maureen Dowd: United States of Shame
...W. finally landed in Hell yesterday and chuckled about his wild boozing days in "the great city" of N'Awlins."

3. David Brooks: The Bursting Point
The first rule of the social fabric - that in times of crisis you protect the vulnerable - was trampled.  Leaving the poor in New Orleans was the moral equivalent of leaving the injured on the battlefield.

4. Op-Ed Contributor: Do You Know What It Means to Lose New Orleans?
...to my country I want to say this: During this crisis you failed us.

5. Paul Krugman: A Can't-Do Government
So America, once famous for its can-do attitude, now has a can't-do government that makes excuses instead of doing its job.

what an unfortunate pair of terms this has been.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, Roma]
[lunedý 05 settembre 2005 ore 10:27:08] []


because sometimes, instead of wincing to find the right words yourself, you can find someone else who's found them already.

and in the process, you find 180-odd other someone elses, who responded.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giordano Bruno, Roma]
[domenica 04 settembre 2005 ore 11:40:53] []


Jing is here (a very-agreeable-reminder of how late we were out last night in Trastevere, and of the glasses of grappa and limoncello, and of William-the-waiter-from-Virginia at Cave Canem, and of other-drunken Romaphiles on the 280 to Piazza Mancini);  she is making me butter chicken.

i stop for a moment to reread what i just typed -- and realize that a Chinese girl from Australia is making Indian curry with improvised Japanese sticky rice for a Pakistani girl from New York City -- in Rome.  nice.

so.  it's been a good week:
- a co-worker and i got to do work that was interesting and challenging, and over which we actually had some semblance of control (it is almost pathetic how excited i have been about that).
- i found another blog-worth-reading (and behind it, it seems, another very-interesting person-worth-knowing).
- and i got to read writing as good as this.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giordano Bruno, Roma]
[sabato 03 settembre 2005 ore 12:47:18] []