Saturday, November 29, 2008

Steak Florentine

We've had a deadline for work lately so I have to do some catching up. On November 10th we took the camper to Tuscany and stayed at an agriturismo for two nights. They let us park there even though they are not supposed to. Only guests in their rooms and bus loads of tourists are allowed to eat there. But we had stayed there on our honeymoon ten years ago so they made an exception. The first night we ate the big and long dinner all the food is produced on their farm. The second night we bought the famous steaks that they produce and they grilled them for us so we could eat them in the camper. The shock came we went to leave and had to pay for them, we had made an error in what we thought they would cost. But they were good.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Navigating in the Camper

When traveling in the camper we always seem to be a bit lost even with
the gps navigator so I made this little "table" so that I can use the
lap top and have a much bigger map to look at. I have a small gps
receiver that plugs into my laptop. Originally it's main purpose was
for flying. It works with a pda and a special program for flying, but
it also works just fine with Microsoft Auto Route.

This also serves as a work station, for email and even potentially real work. The kids have also found it usefull for playing games etc. out of the way of cooking and such.

A Campsite in Lucca

Il Serchio,

As an architect I just can’t resist writing about this. This last Monday night we stayed at Il Serchio a camper site in Lucca Italy. At first glance the concept of the place seems great and it looks new and clean. It’s dedicated to campers, has electrical and water hookups at each site, free wifi internet, showers, laundry and dumping station. The price is very reasonable at 18 euro per night and it’s pretty close to the old town center. We rode our bikes into town the first afternoon then the next morning took a nice bike ride along the river bank just up a little hill from the camp.

But it’s one of the best examples of poor design I’ve seen in a while. It’s probably one of those cases where the owner’s didn’t think the services of a good designer was worth the cost of hiring one. The parking spaces for the campers are too short being more the size for a car so the camper sticks out into the road/drive area, it’s a big wide gravel drive with tiny short green spaces for the campers. They put the baths at the farthest corner rather than centrally located, the internet connection is intermittent, goes off and on, and can really only be accessed if one parks closet to the entry. The showers seem like they were designed by someone who never took a shower in a camp of any kind. They are directly across from the toilets, there is no dressing area or place to put ones clothes, turn on the shower and water sprays out into the hall area as the heads are fixed and there is no door just a curtain half of which were torn. The water stays on for something like 30 seconds then has to be started again. It was dark when my son and I went to take a shower and the lights also on timers went off 3 times causing me to have to go into the sink area naked, wet and cold to turn them back on, of course this area was also exposed to the outside through large uncovered windows. Finally, they have a nice dump area for grey and black water. But it’s right in front of the entry to the men’s bath area. In fact the black dump tank (that’s the stuff from the toilet) is right on the walk to the bath so one has to walk across the area where people dump their toilets on the way to take a shower.

As I said above the concept is great, a simple campsite dedicated to the needs of campers/motor homes, with just the things they need and nothing more at a good price in a good location. It’s just too bad it couldn’t have been designed properly.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thank You Fellow Americans

Yesterday you restored my faith in my country. It's been really difficult watching what has happened to the US over the last 8 years especially for the 3 that I have been in Italy. I don't think most Americans even those who saved us yesterday really understand how much we have been looked down upon, how much we are feared, and how much we are disliked even hated by the rest of the world. Nor do they realize how important the world's opinion of the US is to the country and it's people. We really do live in a global society and economy and it is really important that we be a good member of that society, a good citizen. The Bush idea that you are either with us or against us just doesn't work in today's world.

I just hope that the damage done by the Bush years is not so overwhelming that it can not be overcome.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Our Next Project

Who did you vote for Daddy

At the age of 9 kids can some times surprise you at how thoughtful they can be. Julia asked us that question this morning and then she wanted to know why we chose one over the other. Part of our answer was that under Obama we hoped there will be fewer wars. So she asked what work those soldiers will do if there is no war.

Day of the Dead

We made the visit to the cemetery yesterday where Luisa's Grandparents are entombed and many of her other ancestors on her mom's side. It was interesting that the whole place was just full of flowers, very beautiful in fact. It seems to be such a nice way to remember those who have passed on.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Economics and the US Election

Maybe being far away from the US one gets a better view of the overall situation. The last eight years have been nothing less than a tragedy for the US. Now we are in the midst of the worst economic meltdown since the great depression. Do I blame Bush for all of this, yes I do, if for no other reason than he was so easily minipulated by a bunch of self serving wrong headed people. And also that he was just never qualified for the job, and that he seems to lack even a most basic sense of morality. He calls himself a christian, but what would Jesus have thought about the wasted lives of over 4,000 Americans, and up to a million deaths in Iraq.

Now it seems we have hope that a man intelligent and thoughtfull enough for the job may get elected. That man is of course Obama. If it goes the other way, then we can only hope that McCain lives long enough to finish his term, he probably won't be as bad as Bush, but I don't see him making any changes in the wrong directions we have gone these last eight years. But if for some reason Palin has to take over, well sorry if this insults a group of women who work hard, but that would be like having the local grocery clerk with an exaggerated ego take over the most important political job in the World.

I doubt Obama has a magic solution to our economic problems, but I'm guessing at this point that there will be such a dramatic shift in the opinon of the US by the rest of the World that things will turn around quickly. It's kind about consumer confidence on steroids. I am hopeful that the US can regain it's position in the World as a fare and just nation, not one that invades other countries causing death, dislocation, and distruction just because it wants to. And I am hopeful that the American people will break away from the control over them that has been excercised by those who use fear as their favorite tool.

Halloween 2

The party was to be over at 9:45 so that's when I arrived, but it was still going strong. It gave me a chance to see what they were doing. I was impressed. Of course at the beginning of the evening they had to learn about the reason for the day and the celebration of the saints. The part I saw was all fun. It was well organized and pretty much run by a group of teenagers who were on stage directing the fun. The kids were in two groups dancing and singing. It was kind of a contest to see which group had the most energy. I really got a good feeling watching them.

There is something about the simplicity and wholesomeness of the kids here at the church at least. It's hard to explain but I see it. These kids don't seem to have that since of alienation one sees so much in the US.

It's not to say that there aren't problems here. Belluno has a problem with young kids using alcohol and drugs. My goal with my kids will be to keep a close watch over them not giving them too much freedom but at the same time not restricting their growth, it's not easy. But I have experience, my three older daughters tuned out very well.