19 Jan 2013

Android

"Resistance is futile" said the evil Borg, before proceeding to assimilate their victims by implanting them with all sorts of cybernetic gadgets, which they would henceforth depend on. As a devout Star Trek fan, I have resisted the collective pressure for many years.

But no more. As of this weekend, I am firmly tethered to an Android device. And just as a Borg assimilation would, it has already started changing my life.

If for the better is hard to say. But it certainly brings a great range of new possibilities. The nifty phone connects to Wifi, talks to satellites to find out where it is, synchronizes with everything I have stored on my computer and even controls my stereo system. It locates the nearest Bixi station, let's me video-chat with Europe and checks me in for flights. It would even count the calories in my shopping basket - but I don't.

Do I really need a device to tell me that I am standing at the corner of my street, you may ask. Is it really necessary for me to be able to turn on the radio at home while I'm on the bus to get there? And have I really missed seeing a picture of the person calling me when the phone rings?

No. I never did. But it is mighty cool. And so I am now going down that path that I have mocked others for treading so many times in the past: I am fabricating my justification for owning a gadget. It saves me firing up my laptop for every little message. It's great when travelling. It combines the functions of the traditional phone with my beloved Palm Pilot (RIP). And most importantly, it spares me the sorry looks from my entire social sphere.

So there you have it. I have surrendered. And now, if you'd excuse me. I need to recharge. 

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6 Jan 2013

Laguna

The Mayans had it all wrong. The world did not go under, even if the lengthy interval since the last entry in this blog may have led you to think otherwise. The absence of epic floods must have come as particular relief to the residents of my latest destination, for Venetians have enough of water all around them as it is.

For centuries, this unique city has lived through highs and lows, and has withstood tidal waves of traders, invaders, and tourists. Every year, over four million of them roll in, and are channeled through Venice's maze of waterways, alleys, promenades and bridges. We arrived for a couple of days just after the new year had begun, in what is supposedly the very low season. Looking at the hordes present nonetheless, one dreads contemplating what peak season may look like.

Fortunately, unlike water, tourists do not strive for an equilibrium. Adventurous as we were, we headed for the paths less trodden, and soon found ourselves away from the main drag in charming little side streets, peeking into opulent courtyards and watching nonne hang their laundry on lines across the canals. Every so often, we would pass a brightly painted chapel, church, cathedral, basilica or trattoria – places of worship each one of them. And whenever we felt the need for a little pick-me up, we indulged in this most Italian treat of all: The €1 caffè at the corner bar (Note to North American readers: This consists of approx. 3 oz. of super strong, freshly brewed, steaming hot espresso, without foam, cocoa powder, soy milk, caramel syrup or any other aberrations of the sort.) The effect is instant, and comes with a complimentary side of people watching.

Which here, unlike at the Las Vegas imitation, is a joy all by itself. Perhaps following the same advice to visit during the winter months, a refreshing number of domestic Italian visitors populated the city. And they brought with them the impeccable fashion, and casual cool attitude, that is so typical of this magnificent people. From teenagers with their bomber jackets and gelled hair, to signore in fur and heels, to elderly gentlemen with their bright yellow cashmere sweaters and corduroy pants, they all oozed style from behind their oversized sunglasses. If you were born north of the alps (or, god forbid, west of the Atlantic), you will find the spectacle by the lagoon both mesmerizing and frustrating, for you will simply not stand a chance. All this humiliation is made only a bit more palatable by the fact that Italians are, well, Italians: Wink at a passing signorina, and she will acknowledge your adoration with a smile – before hopping on the next vaporetto.

As the sun sets and the rising mist shrouds the city in mystical twilight, it is reassuring to see how Venice has withstood water and visitors for another day. Over a glass of white wine on the lagoon, I take confidence in the year ahead. It may not be a gondola ride, but at the end of the storm, there is always calm. Grazie, serenissima!

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