Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Back on LIne

We were offline for a few days as we switched Internet services. We now have Alice 20 meg or so they call it. So far we are only getting 2 meg or a little more but that is way better than what we had with Tele2 which was supposed to be 4 meg but rarely exceeded 1.5. It's been raining here the last few days and aside from everything being super green we also have some snow on the high mountains we can see out our window. It's very beautiful.

My garden has been growing very well and we are over run with lettuce. We even have some tomatoes. But they will be awhile before they turn red. Just hope the bugs don't get them.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Polka

It was a nice weekend in Belluno. In town there were events supporting local industries and businesses. In the park there was a big tent in which they served polenta cooked the old way, in a copper pot over a wood fire. We had a nice lunch on Saturday there.

Today we went back the four of us on our bikes, Giovanni was a little nervous as he's still not that good on the two wheeler. In fact he fell a couple of times. We passed through the park for a while. In the big tent they were still serving the same good local food.

There was one of those two man bands, you know with the recorded accompaniment. A few couples danced to some polka music. They caught my eye, a couple somewhere in their eighties. He was thin and spry, with a lively look as he moved across the asphalt dance floor, she looked somewhat frail but very focused. They moved together in unison, their feet one inside the other, moving and turning in a dance they must have done more than a thousand times before. The music stopped and when it began again they were back, gliding through the room to the lively beat of the Polka in a way that could only be accomplished through years of ups and downs and the understanding that can only come through so many moments together.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Country Life

We went to the house in Pradipozzo for Luisa's dad's 70th birthday. The house is an old country home, 9 bedrooms. In the evening there were 4 families there spending the night. It was all pretty standard, birthday lunch, then dinner later. But what struck me was around 10:00 everyone just went off to their rooms. I had this feeling of being in a world of 100 years ago when large families worked the land and all lived together in those big homes one sees somewhat abandoned in these times. Each family had to find it's space.

Friday, May 11, 2007

What's your day like?

I have noticed that even though we don't get a ton of viewers you are coming from all over the World. So tell me what is your day like. Mine is like this:

We get up at 7am, I make a pot of American style coffee from coffee we grind. Then I check the email and read a little news on the internet. Luisa and the kids get up she does most of the morning work with the kids as I'm not a morning person. It takes me some time to start functioning. At around 7:45 I take Julia our daughter to school either walking or in the car if we are late. Sometimes we also manage to get Giovanni going to preschool then too, otherwise Luisa takes him around 9.

Then it's across the hall to our office where we work until lunch time on some days I take off around 11:45 to swim at the local pool. It's a great facility, all enclosed so it's good also in the winter. When I swim Luisa eats lunch by herself and I eat when I get back. On the other days we eat together.

In the afternoon it's back to the office around 4:00 it's time to pick up the kids. They have after school sports, swimming lessons, dance classes etc. So it's always a bit hectic until around 6:30. On various days since much of our work is in California I'm on the phone or sending email in the evening. This can go on until 10:00 when I usually put the VOIP phone on do not disturb.

We share the cooking, kitchen cleaning, putting kids in bed, etc. so that takes us through dinner and until 9:30 or so. Around that time Luisa sits down for the first time in a few hours and almost immediately falls asleep. I watch TV, ck email or read and then it's off to bed. That's it, pretty standard, and not so different from life anywhere.

Of course there are differences here in Italy but they mostly involve things outside the daily routine.

So lets hear from you, what did you do today?

Monday, May 7, 2007

The Garden

How about a picture of my garden. Thanks to global warming, I'm 3 weeks ahead of schedule with it.

And the recent rains turned everything around here super green. Here is a picture looking out one of our windows.

Saturday, May 5, 2007


This will probably end up being three parts so today I’ll talk about some general rules of the road and a few regulations.

Note, I’m just giving some personal thoughts on driving, so don’t depend on this as an actual list of the laws. I take no responsibility for these comments. Use them at your own risk.

First if you think you might drive while in Italy stop off at the Auto Club and get an international drivers license. It’s basically just a translation of your US license. It is required in Italy, you must also have your actual US license in your position.

If you get stopped which is actually pretty unlikely, and are ticketed you might have to pay a fine on the spot that is the law for anyone coming from a country such as the US that does not have an agreement for reciprocal licensing.

You can drive in Italy with your foreign license for 1 year before having to get an Italian license.

So now some general points, no matter what you might think about the craziness of Italian drivers you do have to follow the rules here. At least you do in the North where I’ve been driving. It’s not that much different than driving in the US. Don’t be afraid of driving, just pay attention and drive pretty much like you do at home.

Wear you seat belt, it’s the law
Do not drink and drive if stopped you might get the car taken away and arrested.
Do not talk on the cell phone, unless using a hands free setup.
Do not eat a hamburger, French fries and drink a coke while driving, just kidding. But generally, don’t take your eyes off the road things seem to happen faster here.
You can not turn right on a red light.
Look for the white line at the stop light it is well before the actual light if you stop too far forward you might not be able to see the light change.
If you see a pedestrian standing in the crosswalk you must stop for him. Some people actually do stop.
A stop sign does mean stop but it seems to be more of a stronger yield sign, rolling stops seem to be ok.
Drivers are required by law to stop and aid injured people in accidents.
No matter what you may have heard there are speed limits, so pay attention to them.
Italian drivers get really pissed if you don’t signal before turning, it’s mainly because they are usually following too close.
Round abouts are fun and all over the country, the cars inside them have the right of way, when entering there seems to be a bunch of confusion about who has the right of way. It should be the person on the right, but I don’t think anyone understands that, just be careful and a little aggressive.
You are required to drive to the right of the road. It means stay in the right lane, but more about that next.
When driving on the Autostrada or main roads you must have your lights on even in day time. So just turn them on all the time.
Get a copy of the European road signs and study them.

Now some general hints that don’t have much to do with the rules.
The Autostrada is pretty much like a US freeway. They are generally in good condition. I always use them.
But, you must be a little more careful than in the US. You only pass on the left, so no weaving in and out.
If another car comes up behind you move over out of it’s way so they can pass. Try not to get too pissed off, as I do at times, when they ride your rear bumper flashing their lights even if there are twenty cars in front of you going slow.
Trucks are the major hazard on the Autostrada. They will pass each other moving into the lane you are in cutting you off. So watch them, if you see one approaching another in front of him be aware that he will probably want to pass rather than lose his momentum.
I’ve discovered that it seems safer to drive fairly fast and stay in the far left lane as much as possible as on a three lane road the trucks aren’t allowed in that lane. If you drive slow in the left lane you will be constantly having to move over so cars can pass you which is a big pain in the ass.

Finding your way around is a lot fun, the good thing is that there are plenty of signs, almost too many. The main idea is to know what major cities are in your general direction. The signs will always point you towards those cities. If you have a portable navigation gps why not get maps for Italy and bring it along. We got one and use it all the time.

Driving in the city, good news is Italians don’t generally get too worked up if you cross three lanes to make a left turn in front of them and other such things that might cause road rage in the US. Seems to me like everyone is just trying to get where they are going. They can be pushy, my hint is to never acknowledge the presence of the other drivers. Just drive like you know where you are going. Of course you still have to look out for them and follow common sense driving rules. It’s just that if you get too timid you’ll get left behind.

I think that’s it for this chapter.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Hunting Club

A friend of ours along with his family owns a hunting club about 40 minutes drive South of Milan. It's really a big farm with one of the old farm buildings that is build around a very large courtyard. The original entrance to the building was through a huge gate that could be closed to keep out intruders 200 years ago. Now the building has been divided diagonally through the courtyard. Half belonging to the brother that farms on the land and the other half to the one who raises ducks and peasants and uses the land for hunting. They raise something over 40,000 birds a year and release them for hunting or sell them to other hunting clubs.

Here are some pictures. It's not hunting season so the pictures are just of the overall area, the pens, baby ducks and so on. http://picasaweb.google.com/HMItaly/HuntClub

And here is the website of the club http://www.venatoriaerbogna.it/allevamento.htm

Of course it's all in Italian but if you click on the various titles at the top you can see some of their pictures and get a good idea of what it's like.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Flying Tour of the Dolomites

Last November I did a little picture taking tour flying from Belluno up to Cortina and back click here to see the pictures. http://picasaweb.google.com/HMItaly/FlyingTheDolomites

You may have seen them before in an email, but here on the picasaweb picture site you can see the full resolution pictures.

Sexism in Italy

Well I started something about nudity in Italian advertising and then when I got a couple of heated responses decided to delete it. But now it's back. Maybe controversy is good. Anyway Italian advertising and tv is full of big tited small waisted young women. One might think they are just a bunch of bimbos, some I suppose are, but are many of them smarter than the rest of us. They probably make more money than we do. Driving through Milan this last weekend we noticed a completely nude profile in an ad visible as we drove down a busy street. In the mall here in Belluno is a big poster of a large breasted women.

Funny thing is I recently read about an experiment where they basically proved that sex does not help sell anything. Men remembered the ad but could not remember what it was about. Women were more or less neutral. It's true, I don't know what that girl in the mall was selling, but she sure has a fine set of knockers.

The thing that gets in peoples head is that all this nudity in advertising and on tv portrays women as just sex objects without a thought on their minds. I think that is just prejudice, when you can't think a person is capable of an intelligent thought because of their, face, skin and body shape what else is it.

Bottom line, beautiful women aren't going away, I hope, and people mostly men will always enjoy looking at them. Our last Pope John Paul wrote something to the affect that God created the human body to be enjoyed. It's lust that gets us in trouble.