This peculiar beast is a specialized maintenance train for maintaining the shape to the rail beds on railroad tracks with the traditional gravel foundation. When the foundations are eroded away, a train like this will drive along, opening slots at its base to let a shower of new little rocks out at a defined rate. How do you know when to dump how much rock in an even vaguely efficient manner? There's a whole little micro-speciality devoted to figuring that sort of thing out.
I thought this was brilliant, and I would like to see it in more place: a bathroom sink with no handles, but instead a foot pedal to turn on the water. No touching anything with dirty hands --- just the sole of your foot that's not the goal of cleaning in any case. I see the issues for disability, of course, and the way that sensor sinks make it obsolete as well, but I was still startled in retrospect to have never encountered this solution in a bathroom before.
I love finding pieces of American culture appropriated and reinterpreted through foreign eyes (and yes, I am aware that it is a mark of my cultural privilege that this is a matter of joy for me rather than pain). At the farmer's market in Cesena, I found this cheese vendor's stall gleefully violating copyright on old Tom & Jerry cartoons, selling cheese with the implied threat of vengeful violence. Judging by the "1962" on the side, this may have been there for decades, back even to when the cartoon was much more culturally relevant in the United States---but I have no idea to what degree these characters were or are known in Italy, and that is part of the interest for me.
Gazebo in the center of the Giardini Pubblici (Public Garden) in the middle of Cesena. I sat here in the late afternoon, enjoying a discussion of aggregate programming theory and possible papers to write with my colleague Giorgio. The park is a surprisingly quiet oasis for how small it is (just beyond those trees are a wall of houses), and by coincidence features in the simulation experiments of an upcoming paper.
I love the density and friendliness to human scale in many European cities. Cesena, where my colleagues Mirko and Danilo are based, is typical of this sort of mid-sized city: it is a thriving city of one hundred thousand people, yet we regularly walked from one side to another.
Just as in America, many apartment buildings in Italy have associated parking. Unlike American apartments, the parking in Italy is often in the form of little closets for each person's car. For some reason, a car scooching into a closet just big enough for it to fit is just the cutest thing to me.
I don't know what the light brown crop here is, with its mysterious irregular flattened patches, but its texture intrigues me. I saw quite a lot of this, and I'm guessing it's wheat, or a similar cereal crop. The thick green stripes to its right, I believe are likely grapes.
Passenger train rocketing its way through the Italian countryside. People in Northern Europe often like to make fun of the Italian train system as being inferior to their own, but it's still quite a fast, regular and effective way to get around, made more so by the fact that cities and towns are all so dense.
An example of the sharp city/country divide often seen in Italy and other long-settled European areas. The important thing to notice is the complete absence of anything like low-density suburbia (and particularly cul-de-sacs). You can see this absence in some of the very smallest farm-towns in the US as well, but once you get at least a couple thousand people in a community, there will nearly always be patches of low-density fringe.
The countryside of European nations tends to look quite different in its structure from the countryside of America. In particular, because it has been densely settled for so much longer, the fields are smaller and more irregular even than fields in the US East coast. There is also often a sharper city/country distinction, though not always, as evidenced by this bit of Italian countryside perfused with small pockets of settlement.
The famously cracked Liberty Bell has been reproduced in Lego in the international terminal of the Philadelphia airport. This side shows no evidence of a crack, however, so I'm guessing it must be hiding on the other side.
In another part of the same "random products" model train as the breakfast in my previous image, one may find this jaunty, strangely shaped plutonium rail car (and no, that's not what actual plutonium transport looks like either).