3 years agoApril 4, 2010
Omar's Writer's Block
- Omar: bonkers, so I can't seem to think of a way to end this letter to my mentor
- Omar: all i've got right now is
- Omar: "I hope to hear from you soon."
- Me: hmm, try "Hope to see you soon.....!!"
- Omar: oh that's great
- Omar: thanks man
- me: haha sarcasm
- Omar: no no I actually just used it lol
- me: omg wut
- Omar: i blanked out
- me: but that makes no sense
- Omar: it does
- Omar: because in a month
- Omar: i will see her
- me: but who puts ellipses
- me: before exclamation points...??
- Omar: oh you did that on purpose lol
3 years agoJuly 16, 2009
The Mystery of Macky
(on July 6th, I find this on my facebook wall)
Shotaro Makisumi: shum, you’re cute! i can’t quite figure out why i think that, though.
(Bewildered by this comment, I shrug it off and leave it untouched…until today, when I realized that my e-penis can be tremendously enhanced with the help of Liv Tyler and morphthing.com)
Andrew Shum: it’s because a quarter of me is actually liv tyler!
Shotaro Makisumi: wait wait, i’ve heard something about this. what’s the exact relationship?
Andrew Shum: yes, my grandma is liv tyler
Shotaro Makisumi: what the FUCK
(Side-conversation with TK)
Tiffany: you look like a jpop star
Tiffany: liv tyler + you + another you
Andrew: although that says little about my potential to make it big in japan
Andrew: however, the world champion rubiks cube solver
Andrew: thinks I am cute
Tiffany: jump on that shit
Andrew: he’s a guy, I might land on something pointy
Tiffany: rachel: someone has to land on something pointy
3 years agoJuly 15, 2009
Another conversation with my Italian research advisor
(All accents preserved for your reading pleasure.)
Me: So yeah, I could get you Windows on your Mac.
LB: Wawht? You cahn? When?!
Me: Right now.
LB: Agh, sheet! (quickly hands me his laptop)
Me: You’ll need a copy of Windows though…
LB: I cood get eet ride nao (starts to google for torrents)
Me: Oh, actually. I have a copy of Windows Vista…oh wait, but it’s like 4 gigabytes.
LB: I heva U-Ez-B driveh
Eirini: (giving LB the strangest look) …you are sure eez goeeng to feet?
LB: Oh cahm on! Who do you deenk I ehm? (pulls out an 8-gig USB drive) I heva lots of geega!
Eirini: Oh…(hesitantly laughing). You are ehh…impresseev (smiles)
LB: (thinks for a bit, turns to me and immediately grabs my shoulder) DAHS WOT SHE SEDEH! :D
3 years agoJuly 14, 2009
Close Encounters: Part 2
Something that I’m always circumlocutory about admitting is that my sense of direction is comparable to that of a carrier pigeon’s, if carrier pigeons were known for their lack of a sense of direction. On the morning of my departure for Italy, I found myself alone and marooned in a small silver line station somewhere out in Boston, looking for the bus to Logan airport…two hours before my flight.
Carrying close to 30 kilos of luggage, I walked the entire length of the station before finding a very foxy Latina woman sitting behind a trash can, looking quite seductive and ready to help me out. I asked if she knew where the platform for the Logan bus was. She looked at me for a bit and said slowly and steadily, “Excuse me, but I do not speak English,” carefully enunciating each syllable as if she had rehearsed it many times before — so much so that one would not mistake it to have been spoken with anything less than an American accent. She even remembered to smile afterward.
I recount this story because of the countless times I’ve felt so isolated here as a result of the language barrier that separates me from the common populace of Italy. Although I remembered to read up on most of the Italian grammar before coming here, I do not know many Italian words and am learning them painfully. An encounter with an Italian native showed me just how much of a problem this has become.
I came home early from work this Tuesday, which brought me the pleasure of running into our cleaning lady as she was beginning her afternoon shift. After we exchanged Ciao’s, I went straight into my bedroom to get briefly naked. As I was beginning to undress, the lady came into my room and started mumbling something in Italian. I heard the word pulisco, which I quickly recognized from Chapter 1 of Barron’s Complete Italian Grammar Review as the Italian word for “I am cleaning”. I sat down in my chair, nodded, and said in English, “Okay. I will stay here,” waving my arms around my work area. She then started pointing to random spots on the floor and speaking more Italian to me at a speed quicker than I was capable of processing.
Confused, I began to hurriedly pick random things off of my floor, to which she reacted with hostility, throwing her arms up and shouting something along the lines of, “My mother! My mother! I hate my job!”
I naturally yelled back in English, “What do you want me to do?!”
She gave me a stern look, pointed right at my chest and said in a deep voice, “Seet downa!” My fight-or-flight senses obliged her command and I immediately planted my ass on the bed, my mouth gaping and my arms still firmly wrapped around my backpack, shoes, and the many jeans that had been lying on the floor.
The lady had another fit of frustration before she started talking to me again. She kept repeating this one sentence whose words I couldn’t make out at all. But a solution came to me — I told her, “scrive! scrive, per favore!” While she searched for her notepad, I tried logging onto Google Translate, the purported best language translator in the world. To my terrible misfortune, the Wi-fi connection sucked in my bedroom, and what sucked even more was trying to explain to her that I had to go to the kitchen to get a stronger signal. I didn’t do a very good job, seeing as she chased after me, screaming at the top of her lungs, as I ran into the kitchen. At this point, I think she was about to cry. The website wasn’t loading, so I took the notepad from her hands and read the sentence that she had scribbled:
Pulisco la tua camera, poi rimani in camera e io pulisco il resto delle stanze, cucina e bagni
I attempted to translate it to myself, “I am cleaning your bedroom, …something in the bedroom and I clean the rest of the rooms, the kitchen and the bathrooms.”
“What is poi?” I asked. Judging by her difficulty to explain the word with hand motions, I figured it was something abstract. I continued, “What is rimani?”
She patted the seat in front of me. “Rimani! Rimani!”
I gave her a blank stare. Then it hit me. Rimani. Rimanere. Remain. FML. I chuckled hesitantly to lighten the situation and said, “Oooh…I was totally going to do that…” Of course she didn’t understand me, but I walked back to my room and pointed at my chair, saying “Ah, Rimano! Rimano!”
“NO,” she stated firmly. “ri-man-GO.”
At this point, I realized that I had been being a total idiot. And that the verb rimanere is irregular. I apologized profusely to her, stumbling on the pronunciation of spiacente (which is “sorry” in Italian, but, unbeknownst to me at the time, has the same connotation as something like “apology” in English. Italians just say mi dispiace instead).
As she cleaned my room, we spoke a bit in broken Italian. She asked for my name, my age, my permanent city of residence, my occupation, and whether I was cinese or giapponese. She told me her name was Manuella, a 48-year old mother living in Trento. I told her that I’d like to learn Italian someday, to which she responded (here translated to English), “Ah. It’s very difficult. Also, you are Chinese.” Heh, stereotype number 3.
During this short conversation, I couldn’t help but think back to my encounter with the Latina woman. Only a short time ago, I was on the other side of the language barrier, enjoying all the luxuries and securities of being the native speaker, and now I had been recast into the same position as the woman in the Boston bus station. I recalled her vacuous smile, how I must have appeared just like she — helpless and uncertain yet so eager to please.
As Manuella was leaving, I decided to bid her farewell in a more elaborate way than the common Ciao. The phrase, “See you next time,” seemed appropriate at the time. So I said with moderate excitement, “Vendró prossimo tempo, Manuella!”
She gave me an odd look, sighed, and said, “Mamma mia…”
I had meant to use the verb vedere, which means “to see”, but I had confused it with the verb vendere, which means “to sell”. So my intended message had been distorted a bit. What a Hamming distance of 1 can do… I proceeded to lock myself in my bedroom and listen to Kanye West speak haughty, but nonetheless American, English to me. Bliss.
3 years agoJune 27, 2009
3 years agoJune 24, 2009
Close Encounters: Part 1
During the few months leading up to my internship in Italy, I attended cultural training sessions organized by the MIT-Italy coordinator. The training was long and rigorous, and the few things I got out of it that prepared me for the cultural shock I was about to encounter were Italian stereotypes and absurd amounts of pellegrino.
The people who told me about these stereotypes were Italian and, for the most part, right on several accounts:
“For a similar reason Americans watch The Sopranos, Italians think it is cool for a guy to speak Italian with an American accent. So please, don’t worry.” Hmm, when I try to speak Italian to natives, I often sense that I’m receiving grins of satisfaction or at least warm approval. So far so good.
“You’ll find out that there’s a lot of room for flirtation in Italy. It is not unusual for a woman to walk down the street and have a bunch of guys whistle at her. It is a compliment! …When my friend and I first came here to Boston, we were very sad…because we thought no one was noticing us.” I haven’t seen any such whistling yet, but definitely winking. Old Italian guys winking at young Italian girls, old Italian women winking at young Italian guys. Italy is a country of love.
“Italians are very expressive…they express whatever is on their minds. So if you ever hear an Italian say something that sounds politically incorrect or maybe even insensitive, don’t worry. They don’t mean to offend.” I’m beginning to notice this as I interact more with them, although it might be an inevitable consequence of translating certain expressions from one language to another. Anyway, a good story is appropriate.
Of the free things I’ve received in my lifetime, my all-time favorite is a very comfortable black t-shirt courtesy of D.E. Shaw & Co. Its front-side displays an unfading graphic of spiraling zeroes and ones, which I had perceived as an exhibition of pure visual art until a year ago when Ashu discovered the message cleverly encoded in the graphic.
So this shirt of mine drew some attention at work the other day. As I was eating my lunch in the mensa (what we call “cafeteria” in America), I noticed that my coworker Maurizio was staring at my shirt with a bit of confusion. As soon as he pointed at the graphic, I explained to him with much uncontrolled excitement, “Oh! It’s really cool, actually. So if you take each of these blocks of zeroes and ones, and convert it from binary to ascii, all the blocks put together spell out ‘D.E. Shaw & Co.’ …it’s a hedge fund company in America. :o)”
Maurizio took one look at me and said, rolling his “r” quite deliberately, “Hehm. un nerrrrrd, eh?” Before I realized he was using an English word, he started translating to his three friends what I had just explained to him. A bit more lunchroom chuckling ensued; in between their ho ho ho’s and ha ha ha’s, I kept hearing that word being pronounced ever so Italian: nerrrrrd.
But no. Otherwise, Italians are quite an attractive bunch of people. I was in Verona (home of Romeo & Juliet and 6-euro Big Macs (more on food later)) this Sunday and at one of the pizzerias, I saw an Italian waitress with the body of Rosie O’Donnell, but the face of Heidi Klum. I’m not even exaggerating. She looked a bit like this. Of course, I tried speaking to her in Italian, but only briefly. Told her what kind of pizza I like and my favorite wine under 4 euros. She smiled at me and said thank you. Me? I did the same.
3 years agoJune 23, 2009
3 years agoJune 23, 2009
Skype conversation with my Italian research adviser
- Skype seems to be a fairly popular communication medium among professionals and generally among Europeans. I spoke with my adviser here at Fondazione Bruno Kessler for the first time via Skype IM. The following is the transcript.
- LB: Hi andrew
- how are you?
- Andrew Shum: Hi, I am doing well
- LB: fine
- tomorrow mornign i'll be in fbk
- so hopefully we can meet
- Andrew Shum: great, I will be in the office that you showed eirini
- LB: perfect
- i know...
- the office is terrible...
- Andrew Shum: hehe, it is fine for computer work
- would I possibly be doing electronics work at all?
- LB: you mena, with a solder....
- Andrew Shum: yes
- LB: mmmm
- it's like fight club
- first rule - you do not talk about soldering!
- Andrew Shum: third rule - If someone says "stop" or goes limp, the soldering is over
- LB: we shouldn't
- Andrew Shum: okay
- LB: you studied
- Andrew Shum: yes
- LB: let's see.....
- what's the name of the gipsy in snatch?
- Andrew Shum: oh god, haven't seen that one
- LB: you see?
- you have to keep improving
- nice movie, anyway
- Andrew Shum: haha, Brad Pitt fan, I see
- LB: not at all
- just for cultural purpose
- Andrew Shum: gotcha
- LB: so
- see you tomorrow morning
- I'm curios about your acomodation
- Andrew Shum: what about it?
- LB: is ti ok?
- Andrew Shum: it's perfect
- i'm really enjoying the foot washing sink
- i've never seen such a thing
- LB: ahahahah
- actually it's a bath for babies
- Andrew Shum: oh.