Friday, December 28, 2007

No Photos

A little post in the middle of the holidays. I went out shopping for the stuff that people in Italy want. I have a good list this time. On my way back I drove by the house I grew up in (it's about 30 minutes from my parents' current house). It was so spooky because when I drove by the curtains were open and the light was on in MY old room. It just didn't seem right that somebody else was in there. I wonder if there's still a ton of hooks in the ceiling for all model planes I hung up on fishing line? Or is the hopscotch still drawn on the basement floor? Either way the old neighborhood seemed so spread out. I went by the houses of my old friends on the way. Faces popped into my head but the names escaped me. You think about the past a lot being back home. Adding to this is watching my nephew grow up. What experiences will he have in 2008? For me this new year may be fun and interesting but to him it's going to change by leaps and bounds.

Back to the stuff for Italians. Marco my phone is dead so I can't message you but they only have your coat in brown. Are you sure you gave me the right model. They had one with a model number J162 that had a hood and look like what you wanted and even in the right color for 110 dollars. Leave a message if the J162 is the same.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

That Time of the Year

Merry Christmas!!!!!
It's Christmas and things have been a whirlwind of activity. The trip back actually went very well and even my luggage made it this year. The parents` house is full of activity like never before. Kyle is nice enough to get us all up early so we can spend more time together. I'm joking because it's fun to hang out with the little one. I'll post some photos of him in later. I wish you all the best during this happy time of the year.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Stereotypes and Lecce

I need to do an update while I can. Whoever says that southern Italians are lazy is just making a stupid stereotype. I thought this week would be really slow at work but that hasn’t been case. We’re still plugging away and getting as much done as possible. I think in the US I saw more of a ramp down of work when a long holiday approaches. Along with this point I would like to point out my friend Marco Russo. He’s commented on the blog several times. He has a full time job here with the Italian company and he has another job in a store. When he’s working 2nd shift here (2:00 PM to 10:00 PM) then he works in the store in the morning. On those days he’ll put in over 10 hours easy. Then just last night my neighbor had a problem with the Christmas lights I put up. They weren’t working so I went over to find the problem light, which I did because I'm handy like that. While I was there she was working on the computer and talking to her boss on the phone. It just seems like I know a lot of people that are hard working. Most of the people that have their own small business are working 6 days a week. When I first arrived I tried to go out with a waitress in one of the bars. It just didn’t work because she worked 6 nights a week from 7:30 in the evening until they closed, which on some nights it wasn’t until 3:00 AM. Anyway I guess I’m just trying to make a case against stereotypes. Enough preaching.
Tonight I’m going to Lecce for second time this week. I went Tuesday after work to get the special Olive oil from Olio Claudio. My family and friends have grown attached to their oil, but if I’m such a good customer then why I didn’t know they were closed on Tuesdays? UGHH. I never even imagined that Tuesday would be closing day. I drove down thinking the day they are closed must be Monday or Thursday. That’s much more normal but nooooo I was wrong. Then I called a friend who lives in Lecce to see what he was up to and he was still at work here in Brindisi, which again reflects the point I made above. At this point I’m really regretting this trip to Lecce. I thought maybe I’ll get some photos of big nativity scene in Lecce. Every year they make a big life-sized scene in the remains of a Roman theater in Piazza Sant’Oronzo. And also every year it’s a little different. When I arrived at the theater I found that I forgot to put my memory card back in the camera. AAHHH. I was going to get something out of this trip so I walked all the way back to the car (luckily I had a spare card in my computer bag for work) and then back to get these photos below.

The Whole Scene for 2007! There's orange and olive trees down there. Keep in mind usually it's as bare as parking lot down there. Everything you see has been added just for Christmas.

Close up of the Manger part. Notice that the baby Jesus isn't there yet.

This is what they had two years ago.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lemon Macros

I brought the lemon tree inside this weekend because it was sooo cold. It could have probably taken the temperature but I didn’t want to risk it. While it was inside I decided to try some macro shots. Look at all those flowers getting ready to bloom. Unfortunately my interest in the lemon tree means the cats have stepped up their interest in it and I’ve seen a few buds knocked off already. They can’t leave anything alone. I did get some fun shots of Nello yawning just like Kent did last time they were here.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

More Christmasy

I have a tree like I mentioned so how could things get more Christmasy. Well it would take a little help from Mother Nature and we got it. For the first time I saw snow in Brindisi.This photo below is from Friday night.

It only lasted about 10 minutes but Maurizio at the pizzeria said he hadn't seen anything like this in at least 6 years so this appears to be our "once in a decade snow". I heard about this thing when I first moved here and now I've ived through it. I walked into the center of town with my camera ready. I was hoping the snow would start falling again. I sat down and took the first picture in this post. This Christmas tree in the center of town and I thought it woud be great to have a photo of it with snow in air but it didn't happen. It was frickin' cold and not many people were out (as you can see). I gave up and went home to get something warm to eat. We had on and off flurries all night so I went to bed dreaming of a white blanket of fresh snow greeting me in the morning. I didn't get a blanket of snow but I did see this Saturday morning at 9:30 AM

I was lucky to get this because if I would have slept to 11 or 11:30 the snow would have been completely gone. It never did "stick". I saw a few kids making snowballs from the snow on cars. It was hilarious because it seemed like good fun but most of cars were filthy so the snowballs were dirty brown and they quickly realized this wasn't a good mix with their nice jackets.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


I got a tree today and I'm so bubbling with Christmas spirit I had to post again today. It was a complete surprise because as I was coming in the building after work I saw my neighbor putting her tree up. I knocked on her door to applaud her holiday spirit and more importantly to make fun of her because she still doesn't have the required white lights on her balcony. I'm pretty sure from the looks of it that you are only allowed to have white lights in my building. To this joke I was greeted by two strings of white lights and spent the next half an hour zip tying them to her balcony. She was impressed (but not surprised) that I had a stash of zip tyes that were perfect for the occasion. We were talking as I worked and naturally I started to whine about how I didn't have a tree. She immediately offered her old little one. So now I have the display you see in the photo. The tree is only about 1.5 feet tall but it's the spirit that counts. Do you see the little clay manager scene under the tree? And I have Santa. I need to get some ornaments or I could use cat toys because I have feeling that's what anything I put on that tree will become!

Back to Normal...for now...

For those of you who don’t read other Italian blogs then you may be surprised to learn that all the truck drivers in Italy were on strike from Monday thru Wednesday. It was a madhouse, at least from what I saw on TV, because here in Brindisi very little actually happened. On TV I saw store shelves empty of fruits, vegetables, and other perishable goods but here in Brindisi I went shopping last night at Mino’s then the local veggie place and I didn’t notice a thing out of place. Maybe they were a little low on castagne nuts and Mino didn’t have any mozzarella di bufula (he did have regular mozzarella) but then he never has it on Wednesdays. He’s closed on Thursday so it doesn’t make sense to stock up, as he wouldn’t want it to sit around for a day. It’s nice being so close to the food and goods you buy because even without trucks we get by. It’s funny because Rosalba’s husband was leaving the veggie place as I came in. He was smiling ear to ear as he was going to deliver food to the big supermarket outside of town. I’m sure he screwed them on price AND quality because there isn’t a lot of love between the big supermarkets and the mom and pop grocery store.
One part of the strike that we were not immune to was the gas shortage. There were huge lines for people filling up their cars but that was just the panic buying that surrounds any sciopero (if you don’t know that means “strike” then you haven’t be reading an Italian blog for very long!). Tuesday night I was driving my boss to the airport and there were already these lines surrounding gas stations. I’m thinking I’m sure the gas stations have a few days of gas stocked up. Of course I was wrong because almost all were out of gas last night and today. But still this doesn’t affect me because I go for weeks on tank of gas. I walked to work today because there is hardly a cloud in the sky and on the way home I want to harass Lucia at the cafe because today is the saint’s day for Santa Lucia. If we had a Lucia at work then we would have cornetti but nooo. Maybe on the way home I’ll get a free coffee from her. That may be asking a bit too much.
Still this strike was pretty amazing as strikes go. I’m just lucky in that there isn’t much that I need and there wasn’t any place I needed to go. The trucks were trying to make life hell for as many people as they could. Not only did they not deliver goods but they also blocked the highways. So what was the deal? They were upset about high gas prices and abusive (illegal) trucks. There is nothing that can be done about high gas prices and I see the police pulling over trucks all the time checking their "paperwork". So I really don't know what they are crying about. The government promised to work on some new law that will limit out of country trucks from going more than 120 km into Italy and they will spend more money on roads. Big riggin deal. All this chaos for nothing really. A friend at work says that this strike was also politically inspired as the political right is trying to get the left out of power. If the country is “out of control” then the political right can call for a new government, which they have been doing ever since the day Prodi was sworn in. This political bickering is amazing. It's just getting going in the US and the election is just under a year away.

Monday, December 10, 2007


You wanna be where everyone knows your name… Actually Brindisi does mean Cheers in Italian, sort of... Anyway, the story will explain the title. But first I’m sorry about the photo above. It was the best I could do given the situation.
I looked out my window Saturday night and I saw this Ape in front of the building with a Christmas tree. I immediately thought that my sister would love this. I’m still working on bringing an Ape home for Christmas, sis. The first thing I think to do is grab my camera and race out the door because I don’t know how long it will be there. As I bound down the stairs and I hear voices in the stairwell that are getting louder as go down and sure enough I passed the Christmas tree delivery guy on the second floor. Crap, I can tell from the chitchat, as I sneak by, that he’s done and on his way down too. I’m walking out the building and thinking, “Now where can I rest the camera to get the photo” but a strange thing happens. I start getting wet! Crap it’s raining. I didn’t even notice that. I retreated back to the cover of the building. So it’s raining, the guy’s coming, and I really have no way or time to get the photo like I want. No time to think, I just decide to do the best I can and see what I can do with it on the computer.
By now the guy is coming out of the building so I thought I should ask before taking a photo. We went through the usual stuff about me being a foreigner etc, etc. Then he said, “I know you. You’re the American that came in to buy flowers once. I’m from the florist next to the pharmacy.” Now that’s like saying the gas station next to the McDonalds in the USA. It doesn’t give you ANY idea where he’s talking about. Then I remembered where he meant. Yeah, yeah, he’s not the guy that’s usually there but his assistant and there was one day when the owner or head guy wasn’t there and this guy was manning the store. He wasn’t allowed to sell anything so I had to wait until the other guy returned. That was months ago. How can Italians have such good memories about meeting me? Anyway he said, “Yes, yes get a photo to send back to America” So we ran out into the rain and I snapped a few photos as best I could. He said he really needed to get this last delivery done and I said don’t stay for me. And so he putted off into the rainy night with one last tree to deliver. So it stands that this little town can still amaze me.
It also reminds me. That’s the place where I bought my lemon tree. I’m happy to report that it didn’t die in August like I thought. In fact, it has a ton of blooms that are just getting ready to open. If half of these turn into lemons then I’ll be having homemade limoncello next year. Because we all know that when life gives you lemons, make limoncello. Stay tuned.

This isn't my lemon tree but I hope it will be like this some day.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Gianna e i Rinoplastici

Last night "Gianna e i Rinoplastici" (Gianna and the Nosejobs) rocked the Big Ben. This is the Rino Geatano Tribute band I told you about last month. The photo above is the lead singer getting into it. The guy in the back, you only see his head, is key to the band as he also plays the accordion for some of the songs. Last night he put his keyboard on some crazy steel drums setting for the song "Ahi Maria" to give it a more "Latino flavor".

Below is the bass and drums part of the band. The drummer is Marielena's brother so she always lets up know when they are playing. She probably has some good photos over on her Flickr page.

What's a band without fans? Nothing! And this band is lucky to have the best fans in Brindisi.

This last picture is left over from November and NaBloPoMo. I was trying some wines back then and therefore it was a bad month for wine glasses in my apartment. One was broken in the usual way, while washing it! This second one however broke spectacularly. I saw Nello and Mara playing while I was eating and I decided I would try to scare them when they weren't looking. I started to get up when I barely touched the glass and it glently fell over. It didn't break then so it casually rolled towards the opposite edge of the table. I lunged over the table to try to stop it and got their just in time to catch nothing but air. The glass fell on to the cold hard tile floor. Needless to say the cats were sufficiently scared at the end of this commotion and the following string of curse words. I hope Santa wasn't listening.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Some Christmas and news

I need some Christmas stuff in the blog!! How about a photo or two. This is photo of my house back in the US when I would decorate it. I haven't put up the lights on my balcony here in Brindisi yet. I assume this weekend everyone in my building will and then I will too.

Below is my parents tree from a year or two ago. See with the new portable hard drive I have all my photos ALL the time.

This week has been pretty routine except for a few things. Monday morning I almost fell out of my chair at work laughing. My mom sent out an email about Christmas and at the end she reminded use to forward anything we wanted from Santa to her. My sister replyed back.

Dear Santa,
Tell your reindeer to quit eatin’ my garden or I’m going to shoot the sonsabitches

Maybe you have to know my sister to understand how funny that is. Anyway it really made my Monday morning. Also on Monday Greenpeace was at work again and painted climate killer and stop coal on some of the ships that were off loading coal at the Cerano plant they attacked this weekend. I don’t think this made into the news except around here.
Tuesday was the start of the windy days. It’s been howling windy for three days now. In fact on Tuesday we had a “Tromba d’aria” or tornado. I could look out the window at work and see a perfectly formed funnel cloud. There was no warnings or panic like there would be in the Midwest. Davide and I have discussed this before. They just don’t have the power here that they have in Tornado Alley in the US. We're on a peninsula surrounded by sea that tends to equalize out the temperature. So Tuesday had just enough wind and a difference in temperature to make a tornado but not enough to fuel it to destructive levels. As far as I know no one around here has an experience with a real destructive level tornado.
Tuesday also started our current string of days with cornetti. Somebody has brought in cornetti, Pasticciotto, and graffie (doughnuts) everyday since Tuesday. In fact Tuesday we had two people bring in these treats. It seems that this is the time of year when the Italian company announces promotions and raises. If you move up a level at work or get a raise then it’s assumed you’ll bring something for everyone. I guess I’m starting to put on those Christmas pounds.
Tomorrow is the day we in Brindisi eat puccia. Let’s hope there isn’t a repeat of my incident last year.

Monday, December 03, 2007

I'm back after doing it!

Well there’s some news from this weekend. I was excited to see that Greenpeace “attacked” our local power station. Attacked is strong word (used by one newspaper) but what they did do is hang huge banners on the plant. The biggest (20m by 25m) said “1st Climate Killer In Italy”. This is to signify that the coal-fired power plant at Cerano was the biggest polluter of CO2 for 2006 in Italy. They also say that the 2nd place plant is in Taranto. Finally we beat Taranto! First of all, it’s a little scary that about a dozen Greenpeace activists could break into the plant and hang banners all over the place. I mean it's not easy to sneak in carrying huge banners. We all know the security at tourist sites is tight but not at the big power plant! It was done this weekend because the UN is meeting in Bali to talk about climate change. Greenpeace wanted to remind people the problem is right here in Europe, not just someone else’s fault. I also will go on record that I had nothing to do with this protest but I applaud their efforts. I hope Enel does something to improve this plant. In related news Enel is talking about merging with EDF an energy giant in France. The funny thing about this is that France is big in nuclear power and Italy is against nuclear power BUT Italy buys power from nuclear plants in France. This new merger would probably only increase the amount of nuclear energy in Italy.
I bought something electronic this weekend that I’ve been dreaming about. A Wii, or maybe an Xbox360? No, for me it was an external hard drive. I was giddy driving home with it (yes I’m that much of geek). This little baby is USB powered so it’s incredibly portable and it’s 160 GB! Now these days that’s not a lot but it’s more than all the other hard drives I own, together. My ancient laptop has a 30 GB hard drive. My iPod was the best of the time but only 40 GB and my work laptop is 60 GB. So I can save more stuff on this little new thing then all my old things together. I love it because now I’ll have all my music and photos with me when I travel back to the USA. If my sister wants a Francesco Renga song that I have then, BAM, we copy it over to their computer. If my Keith and Pam like one of the photos I took of Kyle then, BAM, we copy it to their computer. You get the point. I don’t need to carry my computer because everyone I know and everywhere I go, somebody has one. The really strange thing is that I tried to buy one of these hard drives in the US when I was there in October but nobody had them. I went to Best Buy, Circuit City and etc… they all “carried” them but didn’t have any in stock. I went to an electronics store here on a whim and they had several sizes and three different brands! I ended up getting a Packard Bell model because the physical size of the device was smaller than the Toshiba. I can’t help but wonder why in the world I couldn’t get this in the USA but I could here. It’s not just this as there are Wii shortages in the UK but plenty here. Are the businesses that bad and getting stock to right places or is there something else going on?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Day 30 Amen...

So here we are at the end of NaBloPoMo. It wasn’t easy but we made it. I can’t help but think that this was an grand experiment like that movie Brewster’s Millions where Richard Pryor has to spend 30 Million dollars in 30 days and have nothing to show for it. This last week was tough. There were things I wanted to write about but I didn’t FEEL like writing anything. I’m pretty sure I’ll take this weekend off and I’ll post on Monday if and only if something interesting happens.
Yesterday there was a little excitement in these parts. My landlord called me! I think this was the second time in 4 years he’s ever called me, and this time I was at work. He said there was a lot of smoke coming from my water heater (it’s out on the balcony so you can see it from street). I rush home from work because he absolutely will not go in my (well, his actually) apartment with me not there. I hope he would if the apartment was on fire or at least he would let the firemen in (remember my front door can stop a Rhino. It would take the firemen forever to chop it down). I get home and there’s no smoke coming from the water heater. We play with the hot water and get it to come on. Sure enough it produces some smoke but I’m not alarmed at all. It was drizzling rain so there is 100% humidity in air and this just looks like some steam or condensation being produced. I had visions of black plumes of smoke rising from my balcony. It's nothing like that. Anyway the water heater guy was just at my place cleaning it a week or two ago so the landlord calls him convinced he didn’t do his job. They argue over the phone awhile and the landlord wins the argument because the bottom line is that I will have a rude awakening tomorrow morning. The water heater guy is coming again to check it out.

And so ends NaBloPoMo. Not much has changed though...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

My Country

I’ve decided that I want my own country. Why not? Everybody else does too! This train of thought started yesterday when I happened to catch a little BBC. They were talking about Belgium. Did you know that Belgium hasn’t had a government for 6 months? Why? Because the French speaking Flemish want their own country. Now I’ve heard of everything. Belgium wants to split up. Thank god I’m not a kid studying Geography these days. I thought European Geography was bad when Russia split up into a dozen countries (quick what's the capital of Latvia?). Is there anywhere in the world were people don’t want their own country? In Europe these days it REALLY doesn’t make any sense. So they would make their own flag and national anthem and then they would turn around and join the EU. Well, it would give the Italians more teams to crush in the European Championships (provided Northern Italy isn’t one of the new countries, Padania).
Asia and the Middle East are obviously full of countries that have small areas that want to split off, sometimes not so small areas like Tibet! North and South America seem pretty stable, if you don’t count Texas. Then again Canada has some Frenchies that would probably start their own country if given half a chance. Australia has been quiet for a while but I bet Tasmania is planning something we just don’t know about it yet. Actually Tasmania is probably where I’ll establish my new country. You have a little protection already because you’re surrounded with shark-infested waters and chock-a-block full of dangerous animals. See I already speak their language. I’d have to call my country something like Frigidland to keep nosey people out (look how well that has worked for Iceland). I would train the Tasmanian Devils to attack strangers and I’m done with security (although their name would be Frigidland Devils, that’s still pretty scary). I would be a good King. That’s right. Screw this democracy stuff!
This photo is Nello climbing up to the top shelf. This is his sanctuary away from Mara. Sometimes little sister can be annoying. Maybe up on the top shelf is Nelloland?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wines all around me...

Ok I thought I should do a little explanation of the wines of the Salento. I was going to say Puglia but then I did a little research and I realized I don’t know many of the wines from the Bari and Foggia area. Keep in mind I’m not an expert and I just drink a lot. Wait, that didn’t come out right. Anyway this is just a quick guide. Puglia is know for it’s wines that "for drinking" (i.e. more in quantity than quality) and there 25 DOC varieties and 6 IGT. Puglia alone produces twice as much wine as all of Australia so you have to drink a lot to get a handle on the different wines. The photo shows some of the bottles of wine that I like.

First the grapes and there’s THE BIG 3, Primitivo, Negroamaro, and Malvasia Nera, in Salento (for red wines).

The king of Puglian wine is the Primitivo, but not just any Primitivo. The Primitivo di Manduria is considered the best. So you have to have Manduria, a town between Taranto and Lecce near the Ionian coast, on the label if want to impress your friends with your knowledge of Salento wines. The Primitivo grape must be pretty tough because it can take the heat of Salento in the summer. I think most of the Primitivos are aged only about 12 months maybe a little more and you drink them within 4 or 6 years. I have to admit that I wasn’t a big fan of Primitivos at first but the taste has grown on me. The wine has bite, as I call it, because it’s usually 14% or 14.5% alcohol.

The next grape is Negroamaro (I’m not talking about the Italian rock band!) I think I read that it’s actually the most abundant grape in Puglia so some people would say it’s the most important grape variety around here. There are a many wines that use the Negroamaro grape as you’ll see. I like a good wine that’s 100% Negroamaro as it has what I call a good fruity flavor to it.

In third place among the 3 is the Malvasia Nera grape. Just this week was the first time I’ve ever had a wine that was 100% Malvasia Nera grapes. And Mino warned me that it was sweet and it is the sweetest of the Puglia red wines. It doesn’t seem like a very popular wine because usually Malvasia Nera grapes are blended into Primitivo and Negroamaro grapes to make other wines. There are also two varieties of Malvasia Nera one “di Brindisi” and other “di Lecce”. When you start blending, as you’ll see below the types of wines seem endless.

One of my personal favorites of this blending is Salice Salentino. Salice Salentino is a town between Brindisi and Lecce and it’s also the name for a wine that is a blend of 85% Negroamaro and 15% Malvasia Nera. I think I like Malvasia Nera best in a small amount like it is in this wine. So I’ve decided that 100% Malvasia Nera is a little too sweet for me but 15% is a good hint of sweetness.

Then comes Squinzano, another town between Brindisi and Lecce, that has a wine that’s 70% Negroamaro and 30% Malvasia Nera so you get the picture. I prefer the Salice Salentino to this wine in most cases. I guess this confirms that I’ve discovered my level of sweetness I like in my wine about 15% Malvasia Nera but 30% is ok.

And it goes on and on and on like this usually with Malvasia Nera as the smaller percentage. The next wine I plan to try is Platone by Al Bano Carrisi. It’s 50% Negroamaro and 50% Primitivo. I don’t think I’ve ever had a wine that was 50/50. Well I probably have but I just didn’t realize it at the time. Wow this is getting too long quickly. I didn’t even talk about using oak barrels or steel tanks or bottles to age the wine. I guess I should encourage you to experiment and find out what you like. Start with a Negroamaro or Primitivo and then try some of the blends. Enjoy

How about a little on white wines…

White wines are little easier. In the Salento they are generally cultivated in the hills of Locorotondo and Martina Franca. Their wines are made with the grape varieties Verdeca, Bianco d’Alessano, along with Fiano and Bombino Bianco. There are some other varieties of white wines in the Salento including Trebbiano, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, and Pinot Bianco. I think the Chardonnay and Sauvignon are catching on, as they are more recognizable to people outside Puglia. If they want to export wines they need the right names. There is a Salento Bianco IGT that’s 100% Chardonnay and another that’s 70% Sauvignon and 30% Chardonnay. I like the Verdeca from Locorotondo myself.

This image below I took from the site but the link to their source of it didn't work. It was from some government website. This link will take to an ungly but informative version of this image.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Near Heart Attack!

Ok I was about to have a heart attack when I saw the headline today “Poste Italiane diventa un operatore telefonica” (Poste Italiane to become a telephone operator) with a picture of Poste Italiane Mobile next to the headline. I thought they were going to offer a telephone network like Vodafone or something. I was thinking they would have ridiculous fees to receive calls, they would listen in on all your calls (after all they like to open your packages), and to would cost an arm and a leg to call someone. It turns out what they mean is that PI is coming up with a way to pay bills with your mobile phone. A truly good idea but it’s too bad that I fear the people in charge of it. I love the idea that I’m at trying to do some insane Italian paperwork (TV tax, hot water heater registration, apartment rental contract registration, etc….) and they say that I have to pay a bollettino to do it. Then I whip out my cell phone and punch in a few numbers and say, “Ha, it’s paid now give me my dam _____ (insert Italian thing here)”. Of course the big thing is going to be the security of this sending money by cell phone. I don’t know that people will trust it. I don’t, yet. We’ll see.
This morning walking to work I passed the cleanup of an accident. From the looks of it a scooter hit a car pretty hard. I would guess the kid is ok but I bet he has a broken leg. The car had the yield triangles in his direction so I assume he was at fault but I could be wrong. I’m still amazed that cars and scooters don’t hit more. I really think the kids spend so much time on their scooters that they are “good” drivers. Now don’t get me wrong I don’t mean good as in responsible. I mean good as in avoiding getting hit or hitting something. That’s why I don’t have a scooter. I would drive it responsibly and probably get knocked off it every day. The cars would assume I’m going slip in and out and when I didn’t they would be surprised and hit me. The kids drive like idiots but that’s all they know and it makes them tough to hit. I always signal when I’m turning right into my garage but I know one of these days a kid on scooter is going to be sliding past cars on the right and hit me. It’s been close a few times already but then again they always seen avoid the accident. That’s another thing I like about winter. Less kids on scooters.
Also back to the news. I see that Germany believes they can decrease their electricity usage by 40% by 2020 and England is working on lowering the amount used in households by 60% (but they say 80% is possible) by 2050. Meanwhile in the US we give the Green Car of the Year award to V8 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid that gets 22 mpg. Am I the only one that doesn't understand this?
This photo below I made it darker on purpose as I like the outline of the trees on the horizon for some reason.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Rome pictures, Ok!

So I guess I need to get on with the trip to Rome. Looking back I didn’t take many photos although it seemed like I was at the time. I take a lot of “classic” photos. This one below is the classic Castel Sant’Angelo with the reflection in the Tevere (with the "Angel Bridge" as some call it) . A must have for every traveler to Rome.

I mentioned that I had to go up to the top of the San Pietro and I did. It was more of a walk than Manni and his wife were expecting. I think it was the best weather I’ve ever had up there. Light winds and the temperature was fine for just a sweater. In the winter it’s cold and windy but you can see forever so it’s good for photos but you don’t want to linger. In the summer it feels cool but there is a haze and you can’t see far. Before descending into San Pietro I stopped at the gift shop and bought something for Nonna (it turned out to be the only gift I bought on the trip). Inside San Pietro it felt crowded. There were tons of seats set up because the next day the Pope was ordaining some new bishops. So it was getting late and I had the feeling that they were going to start ushering people out so they could complete the preparations. Below is the typical shot of San Pietro from the top of San Pietro!

One of the surprises to me was that the interior of the Pantheon is no longer under restoration. I wasn’t even going to stop in there because I thought it would be a mess but instead it was fantastic. The walls and ceiling look beautiful. I never get tired of admiring things like the Pantheon. Why, oh, why can’t we build things like this these days? I overheard someone say that there is a piece of plastic covering the top now but I couldn’t tell. It might be a good idea after all the work they did and if I can’t tell then I’m for it.

A night stop at the Fontana di Trevi and then time to turn in after a drink at “The Nag’s Head” near Piazza Venezia.

Saturday I was going to shop but instead I headed to the Trastevere area of Rome. At Home in Rome’s backyard but she wasn’t at home in Rome, if that makes any sense… I was looking for Piazza de Mercanti and I found it but not the Taverna de Mercanti she mentioned. The piazza is a strange shape and very quiet.

This is an unconventional shot of myself on top of the San Pietro. After that Manni said he’d take a picture of me if I wanted. I broke down and let him. I look like crap in the photo so I ain’t puttin’ it up! I love running my own blog.

Another unconventional photo. This photo was slightly out of focus so I decided to play with the chalk and charcoal effect.

The whole trip was rather uneventful. Nothing extraordinary. I didn't run into anyone famous or get robbed or etc. It did rain the minute I sat down to lunch on Saturday. When the rain stopped I finished my coffee and hit the road again. There is something about Rome that makes me walk and walk and walk. Why don't I take the buses or Metro or taxi more? Boh...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Where to start?

From the beginning of course. I would love to start showing you photos from Rome but let's start with the beginning. These photos are of the Puglia countryside. They were all taken on the train between Brindisi and Bari. The train was moving pretty fast and it was overcast so I couldn't get the focus and color I wanted. Also I was trying to find the cleanest window to shoot through. At Bari the train filled up and I had to sit in my assigned seat! Now I see why they want to have the Eurostar stop in Bari.

This one you can see how windy it was. I love how silver the underside of olive leaves are. You know it's windy when you see silver.

There's not just olive trees and vineyards in Puglia. There's also figs. See we have fall. The fig trees lose their leaves.

This one I like because the farmer is using he's land to the fullest. Most places leave the ground bare under the trees so they can rake up the olives.

Ok I did get one from Campania. You can tell because there are hills in this photo!!

Next time Rome...

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Ok this should be my last quickie blog from Rome. Tomorrow pictures and all the good stuff. I'm proud of myself as we haven't been ripped off by a Taxi. Twice I was sure that he was preparing to give us the Grand Tour but both times I was wrong. We went from Piazza Venezia to Duke's and it was only 10 euro. I couldn't argue with that.
Today I hope to do some shopping but I'm not a "shopper". It's just not in my blood. We'll see how long I last.
Well, wish you were here and the Pope says ciao.....

Friday, November 23, 2007


Well it looks like I'll keep the month of blogging goin but I don't have much time. I had Thanksgiving dinner at a place called Duke's. The people at the hotel said it was "American" so we gave it a try. It was not at all what we expected. Manni said it best, "I was expecting some place like Hooters." Instead it was a very nice restaurant with great food. Pretty expensive but then we did have desert and some good wine. It wasn't like any Thanksgiving back home but fun nonetheless.

Today we had THE big work meeting, which went better than expected. Then we were off to San Pietro. We arrived just in time to go up to the top of the cupola. Then on the walk back we stopped at the Pantheon. Can I just say that I'm thrilled that they are finished with the interior renovations. It looks amazing and to think I almost wasn't going to stop in because I ASSUMED it was still a work in progress. Never assume, right?
The weather may turn to crap tomorrow so the next post may be from home with photos.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Turkey Day

Well have a Happy Thanksgiving. I'm off to Rome but I'll leave with this Mohawk quote. I figure they always taught us in school that this whole holiday only happened thanks to the Indians....

To be a human is an honor, and we offer thanksgiving for all the gifts of life.
Mother Earth, we thank you for giving us everything we need.
Thank you deep blue waters around Mother Earth, for you are the force that takes thirst away from all living things.
We give thanks to green, green grasses that feel so good against our bare feet, for the cool beauty you bring to Mother Earth's floor.
Thank you, good foods from Mother Earth, our life sustainers, for making us happy when we are hungry.
Fruits and berries, we thanks you for your color and sweetness.
We are thankful to good medicine herbs, for healing us when we are sick.
Thank you, all the animals of the world, for keeping our precious forests clean.
All the trees of the world, we are thankful for the shade and warmth you give us. Thank you all the birds in the world, for signing your beautiful songs for all to enjoy.
We give thanks to you gentle Four Winds, for bringing clean air for us to breathe from the four directions.
Thank you, Grandfather Thunder Beings, for bringing rains to help all living things grow.
Elder Brother Sun, we send thanks for shining your light and warming Mother Earth.
Thank you Grandmother Moon, for growing full every month to light the darkness for children and sparkling waters.
We give you thanks, twinkling stars, for making the night sky so beautiful and sprinkling morning dew drops on the plants.
Spirit Protectors of our past and present we thank you for showing us ways to live in peace and harmony with one another.
And most of all, thank you Great Spirit, for giving us all these wonderful gifts, so we will be happy and healthy every day and every night.

Translation by Chief Jake Swamp

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

More good stuff...

So tomorrow I’m heading up to Rome. I’m excited because I haven’t been there for a while and the weather is supposed to be great. I “sort of” have plans for Thanksgiving. I’m meeting up with a coworker and his wife in Rome since we’ll be at the same hotel for the same meeting Friday morning. I say sort of because neither of us is sure when we will be at the hotel and where we can go to eat. I hope it works out.

I’m also excited because I should be taking the train during the day so I’ll try to get some photos along the way. My biggest worry is NaBloPoMo! What if I don’t have time to find an Internet café and make a post Friday or Saturday? I could blow it all right here! At worst I’ll just pop into a café and say, “All is well, wish you were here and the Pope says ciao” and there won’t be any photos. Then I should be back in Brindisi Sunday so I can fill you in. I could drag out the photos from Rome and make the last few days of NaBloPoMo easy.

I also hope to do some Christmas shopping up there. After all IT IS that time of year! There is much more of a selection in the shops in Rome but I need to make sure I don’t get ripped off! And that’s frickin’ easy these days with the dollar trading even lower against Euro. I think a lot of my Christmas shopping will have to wait until I’m back in the US, right before Christmas. So maybe I should say I’ll be window shopping this weekend and trying to get some ideas. Man, do I need some ideas, as my friends and family have to be tired of getting olive oil and cheap wine as presents. I have to come up with something else. Last year was great though because I packed a 5 liter metal drum of my favorite olive oil in my big suitcase. It made it back to the US with no leaks (but it did have a big dent in it like they tried to bust it). Then I bought some glass bottles at World Market (made in Italy too) and proceeded to divide up the oil between several people. I could try that again. I won’t try bringing in a salami from Norcia again as that was taken away by the mean Customs guy in Newark. He probably enjoyed it. Bastardo.

Brindisi also has a new place to eat. It’s not really a restaurant. It’s something I never thought I would see in this town. The name is “Hara” and they call it a “Finger Food/Sushi Bar”. That’s right kids we have ourselves a Sushi bar in Brindisi. I haven’t been in it yet. I asked my neighbor if she wanted to go (because she’s the only one I know that would try something like this) and she said yes but then hedged when came to deciding what night. I think she had second thoughts. Maybe we’ll go after one of us has heard something good about it. It shouldn’t take long for word to spread. It’s a small town.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Ok, I’ve been whining a lot again. Time to get back to good stuff. There are some things I like about winter and Italy. One is the new wines (that’s a given) but along with the vino novello there’s roast chestnuts. Here they go together like peanut butter and jelly (which by the way, don’t go together here in Italy!!) Now we’ve all heard in that Christmas tune “chestnuts roasting on a open fire” but I’m pretty sure that I’ve never had them until I arrived in Italy. Now everyday (from October until sometime in January) I pass the contraption you see in the photo. The veggie place has this super excellent chestnut-roasting machine made by Rosalba’s husband. It has a drum (with little fins) that rotates like a washing machine only slower and over flames that cook every castagna to perfection. I’ve never even tried to roast my own chestnuts and why should I with this thing just a few hundred feet from my front door? So many times I’m coming back from shopping or the gym and I catch that smoky sweet smell. It’s all over and I have to get at least 2 euros worth to snack on. Then at home I proceed to throw one of the shells on the floor to the delight of the cats. They bat it around until it either gets under something where they can’t reach it or I’m walking around and not paying attention and suddenly I hear a loud CRUNCH under my foot. Once they actually managed to push the shell under the throw rug in the hall. I almost fell on my ass at the surprise of stepping on a rug that crunched.

I may have mentioned it before but another thing I love is having the shudders open. The sun is our friend again. I would like to have the shudders open year round but I learned from the locals that in the summer that’s just not a good idea. Your apartment gets hot quickly and it won’t cool down. This time of year I get to welcome the sun in to try to warm the place up.

Another thing I love is how green the countryside is this time of year. For a couple months there in the summer it’s so dry and brown but now it’s nice and wet and green and it will be like that until May or June. It’s like Ireland. Ok maybe not that green but it’s all backwards to what I’m used to. In the Midwest by now all the trees are bare it’s looking bleak and winter like. You’re hoping for a snow to make the cold weather worthwhile. Here there are a few trees that loose their leaves so there are some trees that are bare like it’s winter but everything else is too green for me to accept that it’s winter. I mentioned how a large part of the park Torre Gauceto burned in August with the hot, dry summer we had but if you go out there now you can’t tell. Sure it doesn’t have the taller trees and some bushes it had but I think it will recover quicker than people are predicting. I also think the Gargano area will recover quickly too. I would like to drive up there to see. I bet the natural areas are recovering faster than the man made houses and businesses that burned. Mother nature is good like that.

This photo below is of an interesting sunset we had Sunday night. It was really low in the sky so it was almost hidden by the other buildings around me. The clouds were thick and just had this one hole that allowed sun through for about 5 or 10 minutes. Then right in the middle was this one palm tree that sticks up above the buildings. I’m taking this photo from the 4th floor (5th to you Americans) and that tree is about the same level as my apartment.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Fast Food Italian Style

That was supposed to be the title yesterday! Let's just forget yesterday. Today's photo I call "cooking minestrone", pretty original. Hey I'm an Engineer. I'm better with acronyms!!
Well yesterday I guess I was trying to do too much with my poor computer. It just was running very slow and locking up all the time. A coworker game me 2 CDs of music and I was desperately trying to copy them so I could give them back today. Problem is these were homemade CDs and old. Some parts were just not readable. In the end I copied most of the songs. I saw that I did get one song that I’ve been dying to find (and don’t say iTunes as it’s not a song worth paying for). It’s “Gianna” by Rino Gaetano. There is a tribute band to Rino Gaetano here in Brindisi and when they play “Gianna” the place turns into that scene from Animal House when they play “Louie, Louie”. It’s hilarious so I now I have the original and I have to say the live local version is more fun. I need to learn the words but that won't happen listening to the song, so here they are:

Gianna Gianna Gianna sosteneva, tesi e illusioni
Gianna Gianna Gianna prometteva, pareti e fiumi
Gianna Gianna aveva un coccodrillo, ed un dottore
Gianna non perdeva neanche un minuto, per fare l'amore

Ma la notte la festa è finita, evviva la vita
La gente si sveste e comincia un mondo
un mondo diverso, ma fatto di sesso
e chi vivrà vedrà...

Gianna Gianna Gianna non cercava il suo pigmalione
Gianna difendeva il suo salario, dall'inflazione
Gianna Gianna Gianna non credeva a canzoni o UFO
Gianna aveva un fiuto eccezionale, per il tartufo

Ma la notte la festa è finita, evviva la vita
La gente si sveste e comincia un mondo
un mondo diverso, ma fatto di sesso
e chi vivrà vedrà...

Ma dove vai, vieni qua, ma che fai?
Dove vai, con chi ce l'hai? Vieni qua, ma che fai?
Dove vai, con chi ce l'hai? Di chi sei, ma che vuoi?
Dove vai, con chi ce l'hai? Butta la', vieni qua,
chi la prende e a chi la da!Dove sei, dove stai?
Fatti sempre i fatti tuoi!Di chi sei, ma che vuoi?
Il dottore non c'e' mai!Non c'e' mai! Non c'e' mai!
Tu non prendi se non dai! Vieni qua, ma che fai?
Dove vai, con chi ce l'hai? Butta la', vieni qua,
chi la prende e a chi la da!Dove sei, dove stai?
Fatti sempre i fatti tuoi!Di chi sei, ma che vuoi?
Il dottore non c'e' mai!Non c'e' mai! Non c'e' mai!
Tu non prendi se non dai! Vieni qua, ma che fai?

I played around last night doing the effect Kent told me about. I used a long exposure and them zoomed in with the shudder open (something the books all say never to do). I managed a few fun shots looking out my window.
This is multiple cars!
My favorite!