Achievement Unlocked: Opera In Italy

I am a firm believer in the idea that if you are living somewhere, you should sample as much of the local culture as possible. When I lived in Australia, I was a big Aussie-rules football fan (and would still be, except it’s really hard to see footie outside of Aus). Now that we are in Italy, I was determined to try opera.

Let me start by saying that while I love classical music, I have never been a fan of opera. Unlike André, I don’t have a thing for beautiful voices, and not being able to understand what is going on when I am looking at something has always annoyed me. So pretty much the only operas I would willingly submit myself to were French ones (that is, Carmen and the French operettas) and even then, I wouldn’t say that I made much of an effort to go see one (but I have been to a couple, once in Australia even).

But we are in Italy, the Land of Opera, and I felt it behooved me to at least go once to an opera house. And while I would love to go to La Scala just for the experience, it would mean doing a weekend in Milano, which neither of us seems very interested in doing (and I am pretty sure it will turn out to be impossible to get tickets for La Scala). Another good choice would be to go to the opera in Verona, where it is held in the Roman Amphitheater. In fact, they were having a Verdi season this summer and we kept telling ourselves, let’s go! But we just never got ourselves organized and the first thing we knew, the season was over.

opera_1638679cThen André proposed that we attend the operas in the local theater. In fact, he wanted to do the whole season, which, it turned out, was just four operas. I would have preferred just one, but I supposed I could do four, especially since they were all of them classics and none of this post-modern atonic stuff. Also, for opera, the price was amazingly reasonable. So I agreed. I can definitely do one opera every few months.

Slight bonus: two of the operas are in Trento and two in Bolzano. For a small fee, we could get bussed to and fro Bolzano for the opera. So we paid the extra 20 euros for that.

The operas are Il Barbiere di Siviglia, L’Elisir d’Amore, La Bohème, and Il Flauto Magico.

Well, yesterday was the barber of Seville. I must take pictures of the Teatro Sociale because it is special. It is a tiny theater but with five stories of galleries in addition to the parterre. We had two seats on the second floor, in a side box. Not the most comfortable of places as it was hard to see our side of the scene without sticking our head out of the box. Also, I don’t know if it was because of the …

Things You Can Do To Improve Your Home

Home improvement is an aspect of improving and developing your home into something more aesthetically-pleasing, customized for convenience, developed for ease of use, built to have increased storage space, or reworked for maintenance purposes.  It does not matter whatever things you do as long as it encompasses any little or simple modification work, all of it is an aspect of home improvement.

A home improvement project does not always have to involve major rework, construction, or renovation and it does not always have to be costly for it to become an effective home improvement work.  As long as you do things you know will be good for your home and will improve certain aspects of it, then it is a home improvement work that is all worth your trouble.

Usually, if you think of home improvement, the first thing that comes to mind is making the home look more pleasant and attractive.  If you value aesthetics or have plans in selling your property in the near future, then it is alright to put emphasis in making your home more presentable.  However, if you do not care for such things and that you simply want convenience, then you should look into stuff on how to make things more convenient for you.

If you want to create an elegant feel or atmosphere in your home, then you should look into some of these home improvement basics:

Drapes – although most households will not change their drapes on a regular basis, mix-matching draperies may actually yield out great results for you.  To create a modern feel, you can use drapes that have high contrast colors.  These will certainly put highlight in your living area.  Or, you can use drapes with pastel shades to create a calm and ambient type of atmosphere.

Carpets – if your living area and your dining area does not have any carpeting on the floor, try buying some appropriately-sized carpets from your local home depot and place the carpeting underneath the couch and center table, while you place the other carpet underneath the dining table.

Lampshades – buy at least two tall floor standing shades and place both strategically within your living room area.  The lampshades are not only movable to any area within the room that you would like to be lit, but the aesthetic beauty of these lampshades emits a certain elegant and sophisticated charm.…

Speaking The Lingo

At our latest Italian class, the teacher told the whole class how we had done some great progress in understanding. But then she turned towards me and André and basically said that we needed to practice talking.

She is right, of course. André’s Italian doesn’t seem to have changed much since the first day we started, with him just mixing English and a bit of Italian and calling it a day. As to me, I am too embarrassed by my lack of vocabulary to speak much.

Yesterday, we went to a “birthdays” party – it just so happens that several members of the HCI research group are born in April and May – and, fueled with a bit of wine, I made some rather pathetic attempts at speaking. It must be frustrating to the Italians to listen to me speak, as this is the process I use. First I think of what I want to say in French, since the sentence structure in French and in Italian is almost the same (which cannot be said for English and Italian). Then I painstakingly take each word, figure out what its italian equivalent is and try it out loud (with the Italians helpfully correcting me as I go). Eventually, I hit a word that I don’t know and just say it in English. After a couple of sentences like this, I finally collapse in a corner from sheer exhaustion.

And when the Italians speak to me in their native tongue, I mostly go, “ripitare più lentamento per favore”.

You have no idea how frustrating it can be to try to learn a new language and see how easy it seems to be for everyone else. Sigh.…

Has It Been A Year Already?

One year ago, we were arriving in Rome to eventually make our way to Trento and a new chapter in our lives. So how have things shaped up in that time?

The Job

I love my new job. It is wonderful to work with a team that is big enough to resolve programming issues without me having to try my hand at crappy coding. I love my colleagues and sincerely enjoy their company. The project itself is very interesting, as we build apps that are meant to be useful to the local communities.

Beyond the project itself, I love being in a university setting again. I had forgotten how much I enjoy the intellectual stimulation that comes from frequenting smart young people. Plus, the University of Trento has an excellent reputation and so attracts lots of good students.

My only regret is that this is only a two-year contract and we’re already at the halfway mark. How did that happen?

The City

If you enjoy living in smaller cities, as I do, then you will understand why I love Trento. It is small enough to be easily visited in a day (unless you include all the suburbs) and while it does not offer the same level of tourist-y sites that a city like Verona does, that just means that we have much fewer tourists invading our city. Except at Christmas time, when people come here for the Christmas Market, and then it’s hardly walkable in the historical city center. Sigh. How do the other cities in Italy manage?

In spite of its small size, though, Trento has plenty of interesting activities going on all year long, whether cultural, social, or just plain marketwise. This summer, for example, there were free rock concerts every Tuesday. This autumn, we will be attending four different operas (two of which will be held in Bolzano). I particularly love the little markets that they set up every once in a while. There, you will find stalls for all sorts of local products, such as foods from all over Italy.

In addition, Trento is situated in the pre-Alps, which means that we are surrounded by mountains and our vistas are of even bigger mountains. For someone who grew up in the flat plain of Montreal, the local scenery is exotic and gorgeous. I just cannot get enough of looking at mountains.

Trento is situated in the North-Eastern part of Italy, so day trips up to now have all been around this area. While it is not as well situated for these kinds of trips as Verona – which is a major train station, housing trains going east-west and north-south – it is still fairly easy to get to some interesting towns and cities in the region. Up to now, we have visited the following places:

  • Firenze (Florence)
  • Venezia (Venice)
  • Verona
  • Bolzano (aka Bozen in German, as it is in the German-speaking area of Italy)
  • Rovereto
  • Malé
  • Riva del Garda
  • Malcesine
  • Monte Bondone
  • Monte Terlago

Of course, …

The Many Advantages Of Custom Homes

If you want to have a home built that is designed to meet some of your needs and requirements, it is actually a custom home that is built by custom home builders that you seek.  Custom homes are designed accordingly, based on the needs of the client or the design landscape as to where the home will be constructed.  There are actually many advantages to having a custom home built when compared to buying homes that are already built.

banner_pic1One important benefit of a custom home is that you can request your builder what the structural layout of the home will look like.   Getting the number of bedrooms you like is all part of the benefit of a custom home construction.  Getting to choose the location as to where your home will be constructed can also be considered as another benefit, especially if you are able to have your home constructed on a very desirable space in your town or locality.

It is important to keep in mind that if you’re buying a prebuilt home, you are not sure of the standards of materials used in the construction of the prebuilt structure.  If you were to buy such a home, you will be left wondering on just how long the structure will last before it shows any signs of deterioration or necessitate maintenance and rework.  This is avoided when you have your home built by custom home builders.  While it may be relatively more costly than cookie-cutter homes found in suburbs, the confidence it gives you on the overall structural soundness of the structure may be all worth it.

Through the process of building the structure from the ground up, your custom home builder is able to identify any potential issues that may appear later in the build process.  Since you can never really tell how good the foundation of the structure is unless you see it for yourself while the home is being built, if you were to buy a prebuilt home, you will never know just what is underneath the main floor of the home structure.  It may be sand, gravel, earth, or sediments that had been laid there to accommodate the concreting of the home’s floor.

The dreaded part of not knowing what material is underneath the flooring of your property is the buildup of cavity or hollow areas that can result in the caving in of the concrete floor.  Of course, what’s worse is if the material is not compact enough that it may result in liquefaction once certain conditions are met.  To have a better and worry free home, make it a point to have your home build from the ground up by custom home builders.…