Our ice storm, Eugene Onegin, getting ready to ski Lech, and learning some German

by Rob Tiller

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On Friday much of the East Coast was walloped by a big snowstorm, but here in Raleigh, we got mostly sleet and freezing rain. It left a treacherous coating of ice on the roads. Sally ventured out once in the Subaru for groceries, but otherwise we hunkered down till Sunday, when it warmed up and most of the ice melted.

That afternoon we went to the N.C. Opera’s concert production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. It was really good! I was particularly struck by Joyce El-Khoury as Tatiana, a brilliant young singer, with amazing dynamic range, subtlety, and feeling. Eric Barry’s Linsky was also very fine. Indeed, all the principals were excellent, and the chorus and orchestra sounded good, too. Hats off to maestro Timothy Myers! I’m happy to say that Red Hat is sponsoring a broadcast/webcast of this performance on WCPE on May 5.
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Next Saturday we’re headed to Lech am Arlberg, Austria for a week. Skiing the beautiful and challenging Alps, in the birthplace of the exhilarating sport of alpine skiing, has been a long time dream, and we’re finally going to do it. I settled on Lech based on recommendations of friends and data indicating that it is one of the snowiest places in Europe. The snow reports haven’t been looking great, but in the last few days coverage seems to be improving. As of today, they claim 55 inches, with 93 of 97 lifts open, and 193 miles of pistes. And close by is St. Anton, with lots more. With mother nature, you never know, but I’m optimistic.

In happy anticipation, I’ve been learning some German with the Rosetta Stone program. I’ve gotten my basic greetings, numbers, colors, days of the week, basic types of housing, furnishings, appliances, food and drink, transportation methods, payment methods (e.g. Kreditkarte!), body states (e.g. ich habe Hunger!), and a other very practical words and phrases.
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It helps that there are a lot of cognate cousins with English, and the vocal sounds correspond closely. But there are also a lot of little, intense puzzles. Whoever thought of the devilish declension system? And irregular pluralization? Etc. But it is quietly absorbing, much like learning music. As with music, you work as your own programmer, becoming something a little different, expanding.

But I’m under no illusion that I’ll be a fluent German conversationalist by next week, or even next year. For possible language emergencies in Austria, I downloaded Google Translate onto my smartphone, and practiced with it a bit. It receives spoken messages in English and broadcasts them back in German (or other languages), and vice versa. In my tests, it was quite accurate. Amazing!