Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Old Photos

This photo is of my book of old photos before the camera broke! Someday I hope to scan these photos in to the computer. The page I photographed here is titled “Typical black people of Brasil”. I like it because I can’t imagine many people were taking photos on the streets of Brazil in the 30s. But it drives me crazy because he doesn’t even say where in Brazil he is. Click on the photo to get a bigger version. I’m sorry I cut off the title on two of the photos. The one in the middle had a strange title. It said, “I am not so dark!”
Let me tell you a little about this book. It has a leather cover that’s heavily worn at the edges with thick black paper pages and cellophane pages in between to keep the photos from touching. As you can see it’s all hand written in German in white ink. The title page to whole album translates to “Happy Easter 1938! With love from Oskar. A small flight through California, Mexico, and Brazil –6. VII- 1935 – 6. III- 1938.” To me this photo album is an incredible story. Back then going from California to Brazil is not a little flight! I think he was joking. Flying itself was not normal in 1938! We’re talking long before the jet engine and commercial travel for the masses. Then you think about the politics of this time and whom we are traveling with. It’s reminded to you as there is one photo of a boat and hanging on the boat is a banner that says “Ein Folk, Ein Werk, Ein Reich”. Remember we are between WWI and WWII (WWII was just about to begin in Europe in 1939!).
So Oskar traveled around for 3 years and then in 1938 he sent this book of photos to his relatives in Germany and some how 68 years later I found it in antique market in Monopoli. Some of the photos are missing and some don’t seem to fit the title but I can’t complain. Every so often I like to get it out and look through the photos and think of the stories. In Mexico he took one photo of mummies in a museum and then several of a vulcano that make a panorama, so he took photos in museums, people and nature. I need a scanner so I can scan them in and not page through the book as I risk damaging it more. Curious enough I don’t believe there is a single picture of Oskar. There are two of “big” woman in an apron that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere in the book. Maybe this is his wife? Maybe she has nothing to do with this book?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Good News, Bad News

Ok Sister, I’ll make an update. There is good news and bad news. Bad news first, I guess. Mara found a new toy the other night. It was the wrist strap of my digital camera. The game ended when I saw her dragging it off my desk. Naturally I was just in time to see the camera fall with a thud on the tile floor. The camera is really broken. I haven’t taken it apart to see what I can do with it but I think this time is really the end. It’s part of the engineer code that anything broken must be taken apart. Hey, it’s already broken so taking it apart can’t hurt anything. The camera was old and was already on it’s last legs as I’ve dropped it a few times so this is not all the cat’s fault. But this means that this space may not have as many photos in the future. The decision for new camera is going to be long and hard. I still haven’t decided between a real SLR digital to get good photos or another pocket camera that’s easy to carry around.
Cosimo making a pizza!
The good news is the camera was sitting out because I had just got home with a pizza. I brought the camera to the pizzeria and made a short video of Cosimo making pizzas. Nobody is watching my videos on Youtube so I’ll try a different slant. I thought maybe people would enjoy seeing him do what he has been doing for years. I took several videos and decided that I would need a step-by-step approach: 1. working the dough, then 2. Dressing the pizza, and 3. Cooking in their wood-burning oven. My original idea was no commentary, as I just wanted it to catch the “usual” happenings in the pizzeria. If someone comes in and yells ciao then that’s part of the video. No staging or setting up scenes. I’m not a movie director so it would probably be crap if I tried to set it all up. Cosimo and Maurizio have both approved the video. So now you can experience the best pizzeria in Brindisi online. More to come, I hope.
While you're on Youtube look at the other videos. Some people have seen my video driving around Brindisi. Isn’t it exciting? I have KissKiss playing on the radio. I pass an Ape in the first 10 seconds! Keep in mind this video is going towards town and it ends as I approach Porta Lecce. I plan on doing another in the historic center of town if anyone wants to see it!!!
How’s that sis?!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Martedi Grasso

Last night the Big Ben had their Martedi Grasso party and it was just like New Orleans or San Paulo, well… not exactly.

Our trusty bartender (Isiah) came in his family colors!! Funny I’ve never seen him eat fish and chips.

Then we had a Cardinal (Francesco) and a cowboy (unknown!). I thought about it later and a cowboy is very “foreign” in these parts. Were there any famous Italian cowboys in the Old West?

Lucca as Giulio Cesare! Now that’s Italian!

But the winner is caveman (Alessandro). Who very late in the night showed us what they wore under their bearskins way back then!!! Wait that’s Minnie (Lucia) actually showing us if I review the photo.
Only half the people there were dressed up, which is strange because I don’t remember seeing ANYONE dressed up in the past except little kids. I’ve never been one to get dressed up but I did put on my orange cow hat that I bought at last year’s Carnevale.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


This photo is from the Carnevale parade in Putignano, but last year. I didn’t go this year as I heard the floats weren't that good this year. Last year the floats were great because gas prices were high and the election was right around the corner so all the floats were poking fun at these two things. In the first picture the Italian public is the donkey and it’s being squeezed by high gas prices. The big blue thing is diesel.

In the second we see Silvio Berlusconi and Prodi being cooked up together. I'm not sure of the significance of the jester character doing the cooking. Help me out Marco!

I was amazed at the complexity of the floats. You wouldn’t believe how the donkey and everything moved. I should have taken a video.
Speaking of videos. I’ve been trying to get a few videos up on my Youtube site but the line keeps dropping before I can get them done. I did manage to get one very short video of the cats up. So check out salentojeff on Youtube.

Monday, February 19, 2007


So this is when I usually update ya’ll on the weekend. Friday night was pretty good so let’s start there. After working out I had dinner with friends from the gym, Umberto (coach), Stefano, Francesco, and Francesco. We went to the “Escosazio” which is translated as “Leave satisfied” and it IS correctly named. I love this restaurant but I can only stomach it once in a while. Here’s why…
The restaurant consists of a butcher’s meat counter, a grill, and about 7 tables that can seat 28 comfortably (usually there’s about 35 people). It’s so simple, you go up to the meat counter and pick out the meat you want then they grill it up and bring it out. There aren’t a lot of BIG cuts of meat like in the States. Their specialty is “bolpette”, “gnummeriddu”, and sausage. I think bolpette is a variation of polpetta (meatball) because I would describe them as one chunk of meat wrapped in another and they are usually about the size of big meatball. Imagine things like a chunk of beef wrapped in thin slice of pork (the pork was cut so thin and cooked crispy so it seemed like bacon, oooohh, bacon). To me “gnummeriddu” is the worst, it’s chunks of liver wrapped in goats’ intestines. I hate liver and intestines, well…. That reminds me of the other specialty they have, sausage. We picked out 3 different types of sausage then about 3 types of bolpette and some gnummeriddu (I did have one, because my dad always says that liver is good for you, now eat it!) I looked at the size of the pile of meat and the size of our collective stomachs and I thought this is going to be a good struggle. Can we eat all that?
I forgot one thing as we sat down they brought out the appetizer. They only have one appetizer (that I know of) and that’s French fries and fried meatballs. There’s no menu so I can’t say exactly what they have. To drink with the meal they have red wine, coke, and water, that’s it. Umberto was the only one that dared to drink coke instead of wine. In the end the meat won by just a little bit. One maybe two bolpette and a little of the spicy sausage just wouldn’t fit as we finally lowered our utensils and raised the white flag. After the meat you can have a salad but we passed on that. Instead all we needed was a good amaro or limoncello to finish off the meal just right. All this came to just under 15 euros a person so this is a great deal. I waddled over to Goblins for music but others all work on Saturday so they went home. Saturday morning I was still full so for lunch I just had some minestrone soup to kind of balance it all out.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Save the World!

Well the band last night was blues. They did a lot of Stevie Ray Vaughn songs and few Jimi Hendrix. The music was good but the guy couldn’t sing. They did have the sense to turn the microphone way down so you really couldn’t hear him. For some reason I just couldn’t get into it and didn’t stay as late as I had planned.
Today, all across Italy, everyone is being asked to help save energy and the environment. This is the anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol being entered into by the more responsible countries of the world. The company has asked everyone to make a more concentrated effort to save electricity. This simplest thing they asked was that we turn off all the office lights while we are at lunch. Simple enough. We had a meeting to discuss what else could be done. Claudio brought up how he and I have been collecting plastic bottles to be recycled. Italians love their bottled water and I do too but I hate plastic bottles being thrown away. The only thing worse is when they are washed up all over the beach. It all started here with a bag I had for my own bottles. Then Claudio would add his bottles, then he started his own “collection point”. At this point random people come by and deposit their bottles in my bag or Claudio’s but only when it’s convenient to them. Maybe now the company will start collecting all the plastic bottles throughout the company. I dream of them collecting all those bottles in the cafeteria! Every single person takes a 0.5L bottle of water every day and almost every one of them is thrown away. AGGHHH…
My other idea is to recycle all the little plastic cups that we drink coffee in. The garbage cans by the coffee machines are filled with almost nothing but little plastic cups that can be recycled. It’s a ridiculous waste. I remember my jaw dropped when I first arrived and I saw all this plastic just being thrown away. The South where I am is still so much behind the rest of Europe when it comes to recycling. I’ve seen a lot of improvements in the time I’ve been here but there’s a long way to go. I have started a new routine where I unplug everything on “standby” when I go to bed. Then when I get home tonight I’ll plug them back in as needed. I figure midnight to 17:00 that’s 17 hours a day. Sure standby doesn’t use much electricity but I really don’t need that stuff on. So the refrigerator and clock radio are the only things plugged in 24/7. Today at 18:00 lights across Italy will be turned off or dimmed as part of this effort.
On the weather front, I may get lucky. I walked to work (naturally, today!) and a big bad rainstorm has moved in. I brought an umbrella because I saw rain in the forecast but this storm is lightening, thunder, and wind that’s no match for my little Totes umbrella. I’m sticking around a little late waiting for someone to give me a ride home but it looks like the storm may pass over any minute and I could still walk home. Buona Domenica if I don’t post over the weekend, which I haven’t lately.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


I wanted a romantic sunset photo to go with my Valentine’s Day wrap-up. I don’t think I’ve ever posted this one before. The day was pretty good overall but was romance in the air, maybe?
Valentino started the day off right because he brought in cornetti and pasticciotto for everyone at work to celebrate “his” saint. We had gone OVER a week with nobody bringing in cornetti. I think I was the last one to do this and that was after the Super Bowl. You know the Colts won that!!
After work I came home to find a red envelope in my mailbox. I did receive a card! As it turns out it was from the most important woman in anyone’s life, mom. Grazie mamma!!! My mom must know the Italian mail system by now because the card arrived smack dab on Valentine’s Day! Then off I went to the gym like every other Wednesday. I was in a good mood as most of us there shared sob stories on how we didn’t have anything planned. I didn’t expect many people to be there but it was pretty much the usual crowd.
On the way home I stopped to get a pizza, considering the day, I went for a “baciami subito”, which means “kiss me now”. The reason is clear because this pizza has two toppings, onions and garlic. It’s divine and maybe the reason I was alone last night. I think even the cats stayed away. The onions and garlic are sliced very thin so that the short time the pizza is cooking is just enough for them to lose their bite but retain a lot of flavor. Oh, the smell alone is soooo good. When I entered “Il Antico Sapore” I noticed immediately that this was no ordinary night for the restaurant business. The pizza place was buzzing with activity and I was there at 20:30! Maurizio said he had the whole place booked solid with reservations so as I waited for my pizza he turned away group after group of hungry couples. I would not be surprised if every restaurant in town was booked solid. Then as I went to leave Antonio was rushing out the door like I’ve never seen and he had a massive amount of pizzas to deliver. I don’t think the holiday is a card-giving day like in the US but flowers, candy, and eating out are definitely part of the celebration, probably more so than the US.
At home I had my iPod going through the radio for music. Have any of you had your iPod possessed lately? I have it on shuffle songs (brani casuali! It’s in Italian) and some really good random songs have been coming up. Everything from Rage Against the Machine to classic Tom Petty to Vasco Rossi was coming up. I remember Susan Tedeschi’s version of “Security” was one of the songs that came up last night. You have to love the line, “Your love’s alright baby, but I can’t spend it at the grocery store. I need some security.”
After the gym and a good pizza my energy runs out pretty quick, which is just as well because tonight there is live music at Big Ben. Today I feel I can stay out late. I hope they have blues tonight. I haven’t heard a good blues band for a while.

Realistic Dream

This is what I think is a more realistic dream for me. This villa near Brindisi is only 65000 euro. Villa in San Vito.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


I’ve found my dream house/business. I would love to buy this property and turn it into a bed and breakfast. The problem is it costs 1.4 million dollars. What if nobody came? That would really suck! I would have a hard time paying that mortgage For those of you who have not been here, Santa Maria di Leuca is a town on the very tip of the heel of Italy. The coastline is very rugged down there. Check out the views of the last few photos. This would be a great place to get away from it all.

Under the Theater

This is the picture of the underside of the theater that I promised. All the lights are not on so you can’t see much and there is an elevated walkway inside the fence that gets in the way of taking a photo. I have the camera right up against the fence, but that's te best I can do until I get in there again. If you look to the right in the ceiling there is a big rectangle and that’s so you can see the ruins from the waiting area of the theater.
Tomorrow is San Valentino and I have no plans, except to go to the gym as usual. Yes, of course I’ve met some really nice Italian women, some just this year, but even if they aren’t with a guy, I later find out that’s only because their boyfriend lives up North. Or they live up North and they are just down here for holiday. There just aren’t many single women my age here. And by single I mean single. They may technically be single because they aren’t married but they’ve been going out with same guy for 5 years or so and it’s a given that they are engaged and they will get married, sometime. Marco when are you going to get married, in 2008?
On the news front, the former mayor of Brindisi is in jail again and it’s for corruption and bribery charges again! This time it’s a little more personal. I’ve been a part of the protests (see the Littlest protestor) against the Rigassificatore that they have started building here in Brindisi. Now the mayor, one of his friends, and 3 British Gas Employees have been arrested because, how do you say it nicely, there was a lack of planning required to build this new plant in Brindisi. So will this finally be the death of the plant. We’ll see. I thought it was strange to see the current mayor, the president of the region, and everyone else against this plant at the protests and yet still it was being built. I guess the old mayor signed up for some dubious contracts that are hard to break.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Lunch time

I stole this receipe from another blog Bleeding Espresso and made it today. I'm including a photo as maybe Annika will think this dish looks a little better now. The cannelini beans I used were dried and I soaked them overnight and cooked them forever and they still seem a little under cooked but they tasted good. Also I used a little of the "hot pepper oil" that Andrea gave me instead of a hot pepper.
Update: I talked to the family today but I need to give them a little update. Nello seems fine now so I didn't take him to the vet. What ever was upsetting his stomach seems to have passed.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Star Trek World

I knew it!! The world is getting a little closer to Star Trek EVERY DAY!! Nobody can look at a flip phone and say it doesn’t look like a communicator for the original Star Trek Series. Then you have blue tooth devices that look incredibly similar to the communicator pin that they wear in the newer shows. I could go on and on but I want to talk about this!!

Look at this new beauty; they call it the “Cellular Book”, which has my plans for an iPhone on hold. This is what I really want… almost. The current version is only black and white and good and can only do still pictures. It’s being sold as kind of virtual book/phone/web browser. Of course a color version that can show videos is in the works. The secret is a flexible screen that rolls up. This has always been my pet peeve with the devices we have, the screen size. I thought the iPhone was the best because they make almost the whole phone the screen, so the pictures and video are as big as possible. This goes one step beyond. The screen is now bigger than the phone you put in your pocket. I can’t remember what they called it, but in Star Trek they had a device just like this. It was like two ends of a scroll that they pulled apart with to reveal a screen. And like the Star Trek version this screen is a touch screen, so there are no buttons on the case. TIM (Telecom Italia Mobiliare) is going to release this phone here in Italy first this summer and polymervision will introduce in other countries but I have to wait a little longer for the color version, but it’s nice to know we are getting closer. Soon I’ll have a widescreen video player/phone/mp3 player/navigator/web browser all the size of about 2-marker pens in you pocket. Yes I love new technology, when it works.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


There is a strike of every possible type here in Italy and right now all the gas stations in the entire country are on strike (yes there’s even no self service!) from Wednesday night to Friday morning. Could you imagine this in the US? They are upset because the government is now allowing “hypermarkets” to sell gas. I don’t understand this hostility. Gas stations are all owned by the oil companies, aren’t they? Even if they say otherwise there are only a few oil companies that sell all the gas to all the stations, it doesn't matter if they are in a supermarket or not. So I look to my country of birth where this change has already happened long agao and then I try to explain to myself why the oil companies may fear it. The result in the US is that Kroger started selling gas cheaper than BP. Now Kroger is just buying gas from someone else and BP owns the whole supply chain, so it doesn’t seem possible that Kroger can sell it for less. I believe Kroger sells the gas at a slight loss (or a little less profit) to get people in the parking lot and then they shop at the store after filling up. I wonder if the supermarket then starts selling large amounts of an oil company’s gas and then the oil company can be pressured into giving up a little of their profit to stay in good graces with the supermarket. Of course, Kroger can’t afford to loose money so then they go off and charge a little more for a lot of little things. This seems like no real benefit for the customer, but I’m no economist. Although I did take Economics 101 about 15 years ago! Well, all my Italian coworkers are talking endlessly about the pension reforms that were also passed along with the new gas station policy. I could care less about that so I’m looking at this part of the reform that may or may not affect me.

The strike itself doesn’t affect me as even when I do drive to work I can easily go 2 weeks without filling up. It’s only if I take a weekend drive that I even think about getting gas. Yesterday I walked to work just because the weather is nice. Today I couldn’t because I have to run Mara to vet right after work (she’ll get “the operation”). Tomorrow I’ll walk to work again.
What will the next strike be? Sorry about how dark the photo is but that's the only station nearby and it's still get dark early.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

True Story, Fake Names (to protect the innocent?)

First food. The photo is of a Carnevale delight called "chiacchiere" which also means gossip in Italian. I just wanted a photo for this blog and I really like this fried dough sugar coated delight.
I meant to blog this story a while ago. It’s a funny story about my coworkers and to protect their identities I will use fake names. Also keep in mind I’m getting the story from Marco’s side. So here it goes:
Marco (not his real name!) is always making copies of CDs and DVDs as it’s sort of a passion for him. They haven’t made something he can’t copy, so he claims. Gianni (not his real name!) is VERY CHEAP (I can’t remember the last time he bought a coffee for anyone) so getting bootleg copies is a way of life for him. So Gianni goes over to his girlfriend’s house to have a nice romantic movie night with his new bootleg DVD made by Marco. Everything was set up so nice with candlelight, food, and the parent’s out of the house. They put in the DVD and settle into the couch. About 12 minutes into the movie the picture locks up. Gianni calls Marco to tell him how angry he is about the stupid DVD not working and asking for advice on what to do at the same time. Marco promises to check his copy and see if there is anything that can be done and call him back. So Gianni fiddles around with the DVD player at his girlfriend’s house while Marco checks how the “original” works at his house. About 15 minutes later Marco receives a call from Gianni and Gianni is even more upset this time.
“What’s the problem?” asks Marco innocently.
“This is all your fault!” Yells back Gianni and commences to go on and on.
It seems that while Gianni was working away at the DVD player at his girlfriend’s house his other girlfriend in Rome calls. Now evidently Gianni would normally have his cell phone on vibrate while at his girlfriend’s house to prevent this type of “interruption”. This time he forgot to change the setting with the distraction of the DVD malfunction and the promise of Marco’s return call. So there he is on the phone with one girl while the other is within earshot. Evidently he couldn’t talk his way out of it and was busted by both girls. Marco fails to see how this is his fault. I too, don’t know how Marco is at fault here but sometimes logic doesn’t make sense. Then Marco pressed further to find what happened to the DVD. Gianni comes back that none of the DVDs would work (even originals) so it seems there is something wrong with the DVD player.
What is the moral of the story?????

Monday, February 05, 2007

It's over, the Fat Lady has sung!

Wow, it was easier to stay up until 4:00 AM than I thought. The game was exciting but with too many turnovers! You're asking for a heart attack when you think every play may end up in a turnover!! A special thanks to Marv Albert and Boomer for their commentary on the game. I really felt like I was there. I'll probably going to be speaking in English at work tomorrow. I feel like I'm back in the US listening to this much English and Football.

Colts 29 Bears 17

THE INDIANAPOLIS COLTS are Super Bowl Champions!!!

Good Night and good job Payton.....

3 Quarters of the way

Colts 22 Bears 17

A strange score but Colts still look (I mean sound) good. A little more of a lead would be nice. Come on offensive! A little more!


See Payton took my advice and is playing better, but these turnovers are going to give me a heart attack! Boomer is killing me with his commentary.

Colts 16 Bears 14

Go Colts!!!

Piano, Piano

That would be my advice after the end of the first quarter!!! What are the commercials like?


Listening to the Super Bowl on the internet and the worst start possible!! UGHHHH!!!! GO COLTS!!!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Paying the Bills

Being who I am, means I like numbers so on this post I’m putting lots of numbers. Wahooo! With the end of 2006 I look back on the bills I paid. I’ve been plotting the my utilities for 3 years now. I’m trying to see where I spend my money and how things are going….UP! The big bills are gas and electricity so that’s what I’ll bore you with here.

GasNow the most interesting jump was from 2004 to 2005 when my gas bill doubled in the year-end total! I attribute this to the fact that I spent most of January and December in the States that year. Also I probably felt the weather was nice and didn’t use the heat much at all when I was here. Now my skin is thin and I seem to turn on the heat when it’s really not needed for a hearty Midwesterner. Now from 2005 to 2006 (both relatively normal years) my gas bill went up 12% for the year. Most of the year is identical except for the July thru September bill. This is strange as gas would only be used for hot water and cooking in that season. I don’t think there was anything different in my habits or visitors then. Maybe there was a spike in gas prices; I wish I had kept the receipts that show how much I used. Then in the winter of 2006 my bill went down 8% from the winter of 2005, which we all know is due to the warm weather we had up until a week or two ago.

Electricity is not so interesting but steadily going up. It went up 14% from 2004 to 2005 and 18% from 2005 to 2006. I can’t really see why it would go up except I bought that new big TV in June 2006 for the World Cup and I think I see a jump in the bill related to that, but then December of 2006 was actually lower than December 2005 so maybe the TV isn’t the cause. I could also blame Lori and Kent, because they were here in June and July during the spike in the bill, but after they left the bill didn’t drop until December. I like how much my electric bill goes down in February and March every year, no matter what. I don’t think the weather changes that much and then why does it go up in April and May? Those are the months I’m probably outside the most, no air conditioning, the days are getting longer so I need lights less, but still the bill goes up. That seems to go against a seasonal difference.

You might notice that the amounts don’t change every month that’s because the electric bill comes every two months and the gas every three. I averaged out the cost total cost over the number of months (so a 129 euro bill for 3 months of gas is 43 euro for each month). So in the end there are too many factors to try to make decent conclusions, I have visitors that come and go, times I’m not here, seasonal differences, pricing changes, and large billing periods. I’m going to try to cut back and reduce costs. After all I’m not the only one paying for this, so is our mother Earth. Also I wonder how my bills compare to others....