Holidays With Crys: We Actually Made It

We’re in Romania! I don’t believe it. We just drove about 2100km, and I drove about 1400 of those on 3 hours sleep. I’ve never driven so much in my entire life, and I’m not exactly looking forward to the return journey. I have to say, driving on the highway is not nearly as tiring as it seemed to me at first, but the windy mountain roads filled with potholes that was the 800km in Romania? I almost went crazy. And I smoked a pack and a  half of cigarettes, but who’s counting.

But let’s not think about that right now. We’re here! Alive! In a tiny little country town on the border with Moldavia. The roads may be crap but the countryside is charming as anything, and we’ll be spending a good 10 days in the country life.

Updates will proceed

Cultural Differences: The Sea Calls Me

Yesterday, I left Italy and came back to Germany. Tomorrow, I should be leaving for Romania with my boyfriend, to complete the second half of my I Can’t Believe It’s So Long Holiday. While I do somewhat look forward to another two weeks of vacation with my boyfriend, I can’t pretend leaving Italy was not particularly hard for me this time.

It took me moving to Germany to realize how much I had taken living near the sea for granted. Here, hundreds of kilometers away from any salty water at all, I felt a sort of claustrophobia I had never anticipated. Due to my extremely heavy workload I had not been back to the sea for two years, and if I hadn’t gone this time, it would have become three. I had started dreaming about it regularly, swimming in the sea and crying with happiness. A particular turn of events lead me to not take my first swim until my third day in Italy, and it was as close as this athiest could get to having a religious experience. The sand under my feet, the current flowing past me, the salt on my lips that later makes any water taste as sweet as syrup, these things made my heart soar and I realized just how badly I missed all of it.

This is one of those cultural difference moments in which some of you wont get what I mean. Some, like those who grew up far from the sea, will probably find this hyperbolic, or plain elitist and chock full of #FirstWorldProblems. Others, like those who did live near the sea for their whole lives, will marvel at how I managed to go a full two years without going completely insane.

The fact is, if I had to choose between big city, country, mountains or seaside as to where to live out the rest of my days, I would choose sea without batting an eye. There are a lot of downsides to living by the sea: the salt water and wind corrodes everything meaning four times as much maintenance on everything you own, it wreaks havoc on your skin and hair, the winters are cold, lonely and mouldy, and if you’re not careful the sand becomes ubiquitous and your bed feels like you’re trying to sleep on a cheese grater. But none of that bothers me in the slightest, if it means I never have to be parted from the sea. That last swim I took before leaving, where the sea was just right, just fresh enough and deep enough, I will keep that memory to sustain me for months.

What about you? If you had to choose just one, where would you live?

Another Devastating Earthquake Hits

The news on the 6.0 earthquake that hit central Italy and completely levelled the town of Amatrice keeps rolling in. By the last count, 159 people are dead, many of them children. This earthquake comes 7 years after the earthquake in the very nearby l’Aquila, which was approximately the same magnitude, also killing hundreds of people and levelling thousands of buildings. The images emerging from the quake are both heartbreaking to see and terribly familiar.

This time around, I was lucky to be in a part of Italy which was far enough away to be unaffected, though I have been in a few earthquakes before. Many others were definitely not so lucky.

The quake is too recent for there to be much in terms of a concrete way to help the victims from afar. Those near the epicenter are volunteering of course, but for now the rest of us are just helplessly watching the news.

In a bizzare coincidence, another earthquake, this time 6.8, hit Myanmar just a few hours after the quake in Italy. While there seem to have been fewer lives lost, many ancient temples have been damaged or destroyed as well.

What a day.

Holidays With Crys: Perchè Perchè?

Perchè perchè?                                                            Why why?

La domenica mi lasci sempre sola                          On Sundays you always leave me alone

Per andare a vedere la partita della Roma?        To go and see the Roma match

Perchè, Perchè!                                                            Because, Because!

Tifo Roma tifo Roma alè alè!                                   I root for Roma I root for Roma!


Tonight, my father is treating me to something I haven’t had the pleasure of doing in a very, very long time. I’m off to watch a Roma match at the Stadio Olimpico. Things have changed a lot since I last went, The diehard fans are protesting the new restrictions and limitations which makes it almost impossible to buy tickets, and they’ve put up ridiculous plasitc dividers in the Curva Sud so that the fans look like penned cattle. We didn’t get tickets for the Curva Sud though, as if the hardcore fans decide to boycott this game too we’re not going to be scabs and walk into the Curva by ourselves, but we’ve got tickets for the sides.

Roma – Porto, qualifying game for the Champions League. I’m a little too excited about this.

If any of you out there are football fans following the Champions League, feel free to use this comments section as an open thread of discussion again.

In the meantime, I’m going to get myself an unofficial Roma scarf, hold it high over my head and sing the Roma anthem with everyone else.

This is what that looks like


And if we win, we will thank them, and sing Grazie Roma



The lyrics are beautiful, about love and unity and passion. If any of you are interested in them, I’ll post the translations below the fold. I know some of you like to read Italian, so you might like to see if you got them right, though I warn you they are in Roman dialect!


Have A Little Physics Then

When I came across a link that used the word “anti-bubble” in it, I had to check it out. What’s an anti-bubble? Is it like anti-matter?

Actually you can see anti-bubbles, and make them at home all by yourself! Here’s a video


But if you’re not in the mood to watch it all and just want the physics explanation, I’m going to have to rely heavily o the one that science alert provided. It is no secret that I am a complete moron when it comes to physics!


While regular bubbles are formed from a sphere of gas surrounded by thin film of liquid, a droplet of liquid surrounded by a thin film of gas forms an antibubble, and these things have got some pretty fascinating properties.

They can ricochet off other objects just like tiny billiard balls; they refract light differently from regular bubbles, which gives them a bright, glossy appearance; and unlike soap bubbles that can last several minutes, antibubbles can only hold their shape for a few seconds.

If you’re interested, you should follow the link for a more in depth explanation of the physics of anti-bubbles.

Or, like me, you’re going to the kitchen for some milk, soap and food coloring instead.


I’m Going To Need Further Testing…

The good folks over at IFLScience recently posted an article about super-recognizers, i.e. people who have an uncanny ability to recognize faces. I told you about aphantasia before, and this is a sort of opposite of that. The way that one super-recognizer put it:

One of the people in the study told the researchers that she tried to hide her ability and “pretend that I don’t remember [people] … because it seems like I stalk them, or that they mean more to me than they do.”

According to those researching the subject, super-recognizers are very rare. I personally don’t think I am a super-recognizer, as I never felt anything like what the abovementioned person described. I do have excellent “mind’s eye” recall, but when it comes to faces, I am far more likely to recognize them but never be able to place them. Someone will look familiar, but it can be hard for me to remember who they actually are, let alone remember their names. When it comes to actors I’ve seen once before, I can spend hours with my eyes closed trying to remember their expressions in a certain scene, from there try to extrapolate what the scene was, and from there try to extrapolate what the movie was, before I remember where I had last seen them.

Still, there’s a test. I have to take the test.

I got 11/14. Considering that anything above 10 is considered potential super-recognizer material, and considering that I wasn’t really paying that much attention during the test, as I was sort of also watching an episode of Supernatural at the time, I’m beginning to doubt how serious this test actually is. I signed up to do the longer 45 minute test in future, as I don’t have time right now, which should in principle be a better indicator of super-recognizer status. While I wait on participating in a study on lucid dreaming, I might as well participate in this one, right?

In the meantime, anyone else interested in taking the shorter test I linked to above? What’s the consensus, too easy to get over 10/14? Or are super-recognizers more common than the researchers previously thought?

I Want One

In Berlin, this bag has made an appearance.


Just a simple shopper, nothing fancy. But, apparently, the text translates to: “This text has no other purpose than to terrify those who are afraid of the Arabic language.”


I kind of love it. I might ask one of my Arabic-speaking friends to write that phrase out for me so that I can print it on something.

What Is Carsickness?

Thank you IFLScience for this little gem of a fact. Well, less of a fact and more of an evolutionary hypothesis, but I have to say, it does make sense.

In terms of our evolution, we were never built for car travel. For thousands and thousands of years, our thalamus – the hub of how we process sensory information – became tuned to deal with the sensory input from walking and running. In these processes, our body feels in sync with our wider sense of speed, with our vision and other senses providing a sensory match.

But in a car or train, it’s a different story. Physically, we are sitting still, our muscles aren’t moving, and the air around us feels motionless, yet we have other sensory input that tells us there is a lot of movement going on.

“There’s a sensory mismatch there,” Dr Burnett explains. “And in evolutionary terms, the only thing that can cause a sensory mismatch like that is a neurotoxin or poison. So the brain thinks, essentially, it’s been being poisoned. When it’s been poisoned, the first thing it does is get rid of the poison, aka throwing up.”

This little snippit was taken from a much longer interview on NPR about the “Idiot brain”, i.e. the various apparently illogical ways the brain stores information. If that’s the sort of thing that would interest you, you can listen to it and/or read the transcript here. You can also buy Burnett’s new book, for that matter.

Give That Guy Another Medal

More role-model worthy news coming out of the Olympics, this time in male tennis.


According to the Evening Standard, when BBC reporter John Inverdale praised Murray for being the first “person” to win two Olympic medals in tennis, Murray interjected with a gentle reminder that women are people too. 

“You’re the first person ever to win two Olympic tennis gold medals,” Inverdale said. “That’s an extraordinary feat, isn’t it?”

“I think Venus and Serena [Williams] have won about four each,” he said.

Oh dear. Aaawkwaard. The reporter found a way to save a little face, given that Murray is in fact the only person to win two consecutive gold medals in tennis. Of course, that’s not what the reporter meant. Women’s athletics has always been largely ignored, and I love seeing male athletes calling that out.

Holidays With Crys: We Have One More Year

My whole life, I have been going to the beach in Fregene, a small seaside town outside of Rome. In the 40s, this area was nothing but swamp. In the 60s it was abandonded beach, and the Italian government allowed for a sort of stewardship of Italy’s beaches to take place. People who were willing to pay a very healthy yearly fee to the government were allowed to claim a section of beach, take care of it, clean it, and sell food or rent sunbeds to people who wished to visit it. That is how Italy’s beach clubs were born and, as they got more popular, people started building restaurants, bars, pools, houses, and even hotels on or near the beach. Those restaurants got passed down the generations, or sold to others, and some have become vertiable institutions of the seaside towns. There was no Fregene before Mastino, or Glauco, or Cigno, and Cigno in particular is sought out by people living all around Rome for having some truly excellent fish. I spent my childhood summers there, I worked and met my current boyfriend there, and Fregene itself would not be what it is without those historical beach clubs and restaurants.

But soon, those beach clubs will be no more. Despite the fact that those owners have continued to pay the yearly government fee, and if they don’t their property can and will be seized, the EU has decreed that passing down those restaurants across the generations is illegal. The Italian government tried to extend their stay by four years, at least to allow people who just bought a beach club to make back their investment, but the EU courts have declared that to be illegal too. It has now been decided that all of them, both the old institutions and the newly purchased clubs, will have to tear down everything that has been built, houses and restaurants alike at their own cost, and return the beaches as they found them 50 years ago. Then, the beaches will go up for auction. Anyone with the money and an idea will be able to petition the government with their plans and take stewardship of their piece of beach for a certain number of years, and then tear everything down again, vacate it again, and allow for someone else with a better idea to take their place.

So, who the Hell will have the money to go through all of this? Certainly not the current owners of the beach clubs, especially after they have to pay to tear down their own restaurants. One group is the mafia, who have in recent years invaded the legitimate restaurant business market in Italy (more on that later). The second (and this is the EU’s real intention) is the foreigners, the Germans and the French and the Dutch, who according to the EU should all be allowed in on that Italian beaches action. As my father said thank god for Brexit, as this current situation would have caused the anti-EU muttering going on now to turn into a request for some serious action, if it wasn’t for the clear Brexit consequences fresh in everyone’s minds.

My point is: are the seaside restaurants in Italy something you always wanted to try? Have you always wanted to experience the traditional Italian beach clubs? You have one year left. 2017 is the last year which is guaranteed to those restaurant owners. After that, any year could be the one that they force them to tear it all down, pack up and go… well, not home, but somewhere else. I also find them forcing everyone to tear everything down as a giant waste of time and resources, but no one cares about my opinion.

So, if the Italian seaside dinner and beach lounging was on your bucket list, make it a priority in 2017, cause you might not get a second chance. As for me, I’ll keep coming back here so long as it remains Fregene, but I’ll start looking into other seaside destinations for the future. I’m thinking Greece, perhaps.