Saturday, December 31, 2005

Best and Worst of 2005, Part II

A few more highlights and memorable moments from 2005...

* Amsterdam. Amster-"damn!". Spent a weekend there back in May hanging out with some online friends and man, what a crazy weekend. One of the best weekends of 2005. (MAY 10)

* Florence. I love this city and got to know it a lot better in 2005. Can't wait to go back. (OCT 19)

* One of the most memorable moments of the year almost saw me and my Italian friend Fausto drown in a near-tragic fly-fishing incident. (SEPT 12)

* Holidays haven't meant much since being overseas away from friends and family, but this year Thanksgiving was special because the wife prepared a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner. (NOV 25)

* The X Man turned 2 in 2005 (DEC 14 & 15). In fact, watching him grow has been a constant highlight. Nothing really prepares you for being a dad and seeing how much your child changes in such a short amount of time. I swear, sometimes I catch myself just staring in awe at him and how fast he is growing and learning and becoming a real little man. I can't wait to see what happens in 2006. The X Man had a highlight of his own in 2005 as he got to spend almost two full months meeting his mother's family and friends in both Hong Kong and the Philippines.

All in all, 2005 was quite a year for me. It was a year of changes and adjustments, as it was my first year as a civilian since 1998. But experiencing Europe as a civilian is 100 times better than as a member of the military. More freedom, more money, etc. Wonderful.

Saw a lot of movies in 2005 but the only one that stands out was the last installment of the Star Wars franchise, which I had been anticipating since I first saw Star Wars as a first grader in 1977. The funniest movie I saw all year was by far "Team America: World Police". I'm not much of a reader but I read a few books in 2005. The one I enjoyed most, believe it or not, was Jose Canseco's "Juiced". I can't say that there was any new music in 2005 that really made a huge mark on me with the exception of U2's "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb". But that was definitely my favorite CD of the year.

Sportswise, the highlight (other than the Pats' Superbowl win) was seeing Charlie Weis return the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to glory. The Celtics and Bruins have been a lowlight for about 15 years now and 2005 was no different. The Red Sox had a disappointing 2005 as well, culminating in their losing Johnny "Traitor" Damon to the New York Yank-me's. As I look forward to 2006, the sports highlight will undoubtedly be the World Cup, which takes place in Germany.

Being in Italy means that food and wine are always a highlight and 2005 was a perfect example of that for me. As I mentioned, I discovered the best food in all of Italy in Bologna. We also found a new favorite local restaurant (Al Mulino's) and I discovered a new favorite dish - the Scallopini al Curry from Ristorante da Fernando nearby our house. Best thing I've ever tasted in my life.

I made alot of new friends in 2005. Some the ones that come to mind are Mike and Grace, Bill and Cielo, Jori and Ton, Felix, Fausto and Zora, Jermane and Denise, and a few others. I also reconnected with a few old friends that I haven't seen or talked to in years but who I now consider among my closest friends (and you know who are...). I also said goodbye to some special people in 2005, the hardest being 1SG Michael Bordelon and SPC Tran, both of whom were killed in Iraq. Sadly, Mark and Jane went back to the States, which was a definite lowlight of 2005. They've only been gone a couple weeks and we miss them immensely.

So here's to 2005, another year in the books. And looking forward to a great 2006, which starts in about 6 hours....

Friday, December 30, 2005

Best and Worst of 2005, Part I

One of the things I've always loved about the week between Christmas and New Years is that all the year end lists come out. You know what I'm talking about - best songs of the year, most memorable moments of the year, top news stories of the year, etc. I devour just about every list I can find and usually end up buying a bunch of magazines with such lists.

And so I decided that I would make my own list this year for my friends and family back home and abroad. I've broken it up into two parts and if I wrote about it in the blog, I put the date of the blog entry next to it in parentheses in case anyone wants to read more about it (Just go to the "ARCHIVES" on the sidebar at left).

So without further ado, here are the highlights, lowlights, and memorable moments of Rik's 2005...

* Gotta start with the Patriots winning their third Superbowl in 4 years. Definite highlight, even though I had to get up at about midnight to watch the game and go to work as soon as it was over.

* Probably the best thing that happened to me in 2005 was getting my Italian fishing license and being able to fly-fish the Brenta River, which I did pretty much every weekend from July through September. (JULY 18)

* Venice Pub Crawl '05, Parts I & II! (APRIL 18, 19 & 25)

* I finally discovered Bologna, best food (and gelato) in all of Italy. (MAY 2)

* A couple of good friends came to visit and I was able to show them around Italy - my friend Steve from back home (SEP 22) and Virginia's friend Christina from Hong Kong (SEP 20)

* Back to back weekends in Rome - I got to see the new Star Wars movie, got some new Popeners, almost got ass-raped by the Italian police and discovered a plethora of new pubs. (MAY 23 & JUNE 1)

* Caught the biggest fish of my life - a 17 inch rainbow trout - on the Brenta River. (AUG 8)

* Best TV shows I watched on DVD in 2005: "Curb Your Enthusiasm", "Freaks and Geeks" and "The Office" (British version).

* I got my 15 minutes of fame - my hometown newspaper, the Nashua Telegraph actually wrote a story about me. (FEB 28)

* 4th of July weekend was a definite highlight. Spent it in Cinque Terra hiking and enjoying the sun, food, and vino. (JULY 5)

* The wife and I celebrated three years of marital bliss with a trip to Milan (OCT 28)

* I discovered a new little wine bar in Venice that has become my favorite but I'm not telling you where it is. If you want to know then you must come visit and I'll take you there.

* Without a doubt, the sports lowlight of 2005 was seeing Notre Dame come this close to upsetting USC only to lose on the last play of the game. It still hurts. (OCT 17)

* The X Man took his first steps in 2005. He also learned how to swear. (OCT 12)

* Who could forget the "Battle on the Train"?! (APR 25)

* I finally made it to Geneva, Switzerland, which I'd always wanted to see. Also did Lausanne. What a crazy weekend it was too...Flanagan's Pub, flaming shots, and another near ass-raping at the border! (MAY 17)


Thursday, December 29, 2005

Global Warming, my Ass.

I've often said that I would never move back to New England for one reason - I HATE the cold weather, especially snow. I don't ski, so snow has no redeeming qualities as far as I'm concerned. One of the things I like most about where we live is that we usually have mild winters and very little to no snow. On average, it snows maybe once or twice a year, we get an inch or two, and it's gone in a few days.

However, so far it's already snowed three times this year and it's only December. This morning I got outside to find it snowing pretty hard and we already had about 3 inches. And it snows so little here that the locals do not know how to drive in it. Either they drive crazy and out of control - it's common to see cars overturned in ditches or plowed into trees when it snows bad - or they drive entirely too slow. There never seems to be any middle ground. This morning I got behind some lady who was going 15 miles an hour the whole way. Sure, you're saying better safe than sorry, I know. But next time you get in your car, try going 15 miles an hour for a couple miles to get an idea of exactly how slow that is.

The worst part is, I work on top of a small mountain so you can just imagine how much difficulty I had getting to the office this morning. I was fearing for my life a few times thinking I was going to slide right off the side and roll down the hillside. I made it but just barely. Some people actually had to leave their cars below and walk up in the snowstorm. Sucks to be them.

Anyway, screw winter and screw snow.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas Wrap up

Christmas was all about the X Man this year. His birthday a couple weeks ago was a good primer for him; by the time Christmas morning came, he knew full well what the strange-looking colorful packages under the tree were for. I decided to adopt my mother's tradition and let the X Man open one gift on Christmas Eve. He was thrilled to see a huge robot ("Oh...ROBOT! ROBOT!") that made sounds and actually walked - that is, until he actually saw it in action, which scared the heck out of him.

The next morning I was up at the crack of dawn as usual but had to wait a few hours for the wife and kid. Far cry from when Eric and I were kids and used to sleep next to the tree in our sleeping bags. But eventually I got tired of waiting and woke the X Man up. He made a beeline for the tree yelling "Toys! Toys!". With each new gift his excitement grew and eventually he was actually squealing with delight.

He got quite a haul; plenty of toys, a new soccer ball and orange cones (ok, that one was for me too...), and a new bank which kept hm busy for a long time. He's fascinated by putting money in his new bank.

The neighbors had invited us over for a special Christmas lunch so we headed upstairs. Eating upstairs is always a big affair and Christmas was no exception. Agnese made pasticcio (lasagna), pollo al forno (baked chicken), carciofi (artichokes), radicchio con panchetta (special radicchio from Treviso, best in Italy, with shaved pork),and polenta. And of course, Giampietro secured a special bottle of vino for the occasion - an aged Refola from Valpolicella. They also got the X Man another toy car ("AUTO!")

The meal was unbelievable but the X Man was so excited with all his new toys that he wouldn't eat a single bite. All he wanted to do was play.

So another Christmas is in the books. The encouraging thing is that although the X Man got a lot of toys, several of them were educational toys and those were the ones he liked the most. I also caught him kicking his new soccer ball around the living room last night. Very encouraging indeed...

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Through the Years

Since tomorrow is Christmas, I thought I'd take a minute to relive some of my more favorite memories from Christmases past...

I think most people's fondest holiday memories are from their childhood and I'm no exception. My fondest memories are from the Christmases we spent at my Memere & Pepere's house. My mom has a big family and grew up in a big house that was always fun for us when we were kids. But Christmas was the best.

Of course, being from a divorced family meant that we actually got TWO Christmases every year. When were younger, I think I always enjoyed the ones with mom's family, but those ended around 1985. I remember the year because it was a pretty memorable Christmas. Memere & Pepere had just moved into a new (much smaller) house and I guess it was decided that it would be the last one they hosted. So it was a big one. Their new house had a cool bar downstairs and my cousin Brent and I took it upon ourselves to play bartender for the night. We set up behind the bar with our mixed drink book and tip jar and had a ball. A couple things stick out about that night. The first is that I got to watch my first ever Patriots playoff game. In it, the Pats beat the Jets 26-14 en route to their first ever Superbowl (we won't go there). The other thing I remember about that night was my Aunt Joanne's new husband Bill. Bill was a Jehovah's Witness. Aunt Joanne had met him in the hospital where she worked, converted, and they got married. They didn't celebrate Christmas of course, but I guess they agreed to attend since it was the last Christmas everyone would be together and a good opportunity for everyone to meet Bill. As it turned out, Bill was our best customer that night. He was quite a drinker that Bill, at the bar every 15 minutes asking for another 7 and 7. And the funniest part was that I, being a typical 14 year old, was wearing an AC/DC t-shirt. On one of his many visits to the bar, he decided to take me to task for wearing such an evil piece of clothing.

"AC/DC huh? You know what AC/DC stands for? AFTER CHRIST, DEVIL COMES!"

I just laughed, explained that they actually got the name after seeing it on a vacuum cleaner, and poured him another 7 and 7.

Christmases with my dad's family were usually pretty entertaining as well. Right around '86 my dad had moved into a new condo and decided to host the family at his place. Christmases over his place each year were legendary for one reason - food. My dad is a tremendous cook, and we have a large French Canadian family, so there was plenty of food. In fact, each year most of my friends always found time to at least stop by to say Merry Christmas to my dad for the sole purpose of having a few plates of food. Steak tips, shrimp cocktail, manicotti, spare ribs, meat pie, the food was phenomenal. In fact, if Tracy or Eric read this, feel free to comment and remind me of the stuff I forgot...

Of course, the best and funniest Christmas ever was in 1984 at my Aunt Fran's house. It was the best because of the haul that I got that year - a stereo boom box, 3 albums that I wanted (Rush's "Moving Pictures" and "Signals" and Quiet Riot's "Metal Health"), a .22 caliber rifle, and a new fly rod. And the funniest because of my dad; he got drunk and became the life of the party, keeping everyone is stitches all night. He played Santa (the guy who hands out the presents) and one of the first gifts that he opened was a pair of ski goggles which he wore the rest of the night while handing out the gifts and cracking jokes. At one point, he came across a long rectangular box for my great aunt Alice. He grabbed it, held it against his crotch in a phallic manner and exclaimed "Hey Aunt Alice, I got a big one here for you!", which had everyone in the room laughing for about 10 minutes. To this day, my brother and sister and I laugh about it. And the funniest part was the next morning when my very hungover father called my Aunt and said "Fran, I think I accidentally took someone's ski goggles home..."

Friday, December 23, 2005

Why I Love Italy, Reason #317

You may think you've had bruschetta before but trust me, if you haven't had the real stuff in Italy, you haven't had Bruschetta. The one you see in the picture above is from our favorite little paninoteca in Bassano dal Grappa. It's covered with Asiago cheese and speck (speck doesn't exist in the US. It's sort of like a thinly sliced bacon). And in case you're wondering, yes, it tasted every bit as good as it looks.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Unforgivable Sin.

"There's no way I can go play for the Yankees, but I know they are going to come after me hard. It's definitely not the most important thing to go out there for the top dollar, which the Yankees are going to offer me. It's not what I need."
-Johnny Damon, May 2005.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Il Naso Rosso?

So last night Agnese brought the X Man back down and came in to say hello for a bit. I showed her the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer DVD and asked her if she knew it. She seemed puzzled and said no.

Rudolfo, Il Renna di Naso Rosso?

So I did my best to explain the story in Italian to her and she said no, she'd never heard of it.I was flabbergasted. Flummoxed even. Do they not know the story of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in Italy?

So now I'm curious (it's my nature). Do children in Italy have the same Christmas stories and characters as in the US? How about Frosty the Snowman - does he frolic through the village with a broomstick in his hand in the hearts and minds of children only in America, or do Italian children also say he could laugh and play, just the same as you and me?

I'm going to have to investigate this further. Until then, if there any Italians reading this, please feel free to weigh in...

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Yes Dear.

The wife often complains to me that I don't have any pictures of her on the blog so here you go honey...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Pictures of the X Man's Birthday Party

We had a small party for the X Man last night complete with a soccer player cake. We had the neighbors and the landlady over for cake, prosecco, and presents. The X Man is quite the attention whore and was about as happy and playful as I've ever seen him. Giampietro and Monica are very familiar with his usual antics, but Marissa and Paolo have never spent any amount of time with him and were just floored by how smart, funny, and cute he is.

Yep, he takes after me alright...

Click here to see the birthday party pictures


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The X Man is 2 Years Old

Hard to believe, but it was two years ago today that we welcomed Xavier Michelangelo Thibodeau - otherwise known as the X Man - into our lives. He has brought us plenty of joy and funny moments these past 2 years. I'm so enjoying watching him grow and seeing him explore his world and learn new things everyday. Seeing the world through the eyes of your child is one of the greatest gifts a parent can receive.

So Happy Birthday e tanti augurri X Man!



Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Oh Those Wonderful Christmas Specials

When I was a kid, one of the best things about the lead up to Christmas were the ubiquitous Christmas specials. Some of my favorites were "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer", "Rudolph's Shiny New Year" and "The Year Without a Santa Claus". The latter was great because of the two main antagonists:

Cold Miser and Heat Miser of course.

My favorite of all time however had to be "Santa Claus is Comin to Town":


Last night I watched it again after not seeing it for many years. I took the X Man and put him on the couch next to me and to my astonishment, he sat still and watched the entire thing with me. It was a special moment for me to have my little boy enjoying the same program that I grew up on.

Next up: "Emmit Otter's Jugband Christmas"...

Monday, December 12, 2005

I screwed up again...

You may have noticed that there are a few things missing from the sidebar. The other night I was trying to add a link to a friend site but I wasn't really paying attention to what I was doing and somehow, someway, I screwed up the blog template. I had to reinstall it from scratch, which means that all the extemporaneous stuff I added - links, tagboard, etc. - disappeared.

Once I get time I'll go back in and add everything back. Until then, sorry for the inconvenience.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Jake is the MAN!

So I asked the IT guy here, Jake, to look at my laptop. He went online and did some research on possible fixes, tried a few and lo and behold, I have a working computer again!!

All he did was pop out the RAM and pop it back in. We turned it on and it booted right up.

Jake is the man. I owe him dinner.


Well, one of my worst fears became reality last night - my laptop crashed. The wife was watching her online Filipino channel for an hour or so, then I asked her to turn it off so I could call my sister on Skype. When I called, I could hear the other end but they could not hear me so I figured I'd just reboot the computer. I hit restart, it turned off and never came back on. For some reason, when you hit the power button, the light comes on and you can hear it try to start up for about a second or two, then it shuts down.

I don't know if we got hit with some kind of virus or worm or something, but whatever it is, the computer will not power up. So we're screwed. I'm taking it the PX to try and get it repaired but based on my dealings with them I have little hope that I will be able to get this matter resolved in a timely, painless, and inexpensive manner.

So we're back to the dark ages of no internet. No sports scores, no news, no email, nothing. I forget what life was even like before we went online at home. Unfortunately I'm about to be reminded...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Two More Days...

This coming Friday is a day I have been looking forward to for a looooong time. As everyone outside the US knows, Friday is the day they will conduct the draw for World Cup 2006, which takes place in Germany next summer. The World Cup is of course the biggest sporting event in the world (yes America, bigger than the Superbowl). Every four years my life basically comes to a halt for a month as the pinnacle of International Football dominates all.

BTW, a couple friends of mine and I have been trying desperately to acquire tickets but it's next to impossible. If anyone knows where we might do so, PLEASE let me know. Short of having sex with farm animals or handing over my first born son, there isn't much I wouldn't do for tickets...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I Love Limewire

I got Limewire a couple months ago after getting my ADSL hookup in the house and everyday I find a new reason to love it. Limewire is a downloading program and is a dream come true for me. So often I hear a song that I love but I refuse to go buy the CD just for one song. Plus, if I bought a CD of every song that popped into my head that I wanted, I'd be in the poor house very quickly. But with Limewire, I paid about 20 bucks for a year of unlimited downloads. I liked it so much that I upgraded to the Pro version (faster) for an additional twenty bucks. I have become a certified downloading fool.

So anyway, this past weekend we decided to put up our makeshift Christmas tree so I opened Limewire and began downloading a bunch of Christmas music. It was so great. For the past couple years I've lamented the fact that I cannot find a decent Christmas CD but now that's not a problem. I just searched for every song I wanted and once I found the right version I downloaded it. I mean I found everything - even songs that I loved but have been unable to find on any CD. The wife even went a little crazy downloading some Filipino Christmas songs.

God bless us everyone. And God bless Limewire.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

LTC Kurilla

In case you haven't heard, Bruce Willis is planning on making a film about the war in Iraq. The unit he intends on depicting is the 1st Batallion, 24th Infantry - otherwise known as "Deuce Four". The role that Mr. Willis plans on playing is none other than LTC Erik Kurilla, the Batallion Commander.

I actually have some ties to LTC Kurilla. A few years ago as a Sergeant in the Soutern European Task Force, I worked for him as his JOPES NCO. I remember him as a larger than life figure, someone who was obviously being groomed for greatness. He wasn't liked by everybody (and you know who you are!), but believe me, he is the kind of man we want leading our soldiers in battle, as evidenced by his actions in Iraq. About a year after he left, he called back down to Italy and asked if I would be interested in working for him again as the US Army Europe Commander's communications chief but I told him I was happy in Italy. I always wonder how different things would have turned out if I'd taken him up on his offer.

Anyway, I'll definitely see the film as soon as it comes out. To read more about the movie and LTC Kurilla, check out these links:

News Release About the Film

Micheal Yon "Deuce Four" blog (Scroll down to see LTC Kurilla)

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The X Man is crunk.

We're driving home from doing the grocery shoping today and I put L'il Jon in the CD player and cranked it up. The X Man started going crazy in his booster seat like he was club or something. Kid's got some moves.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Thanksgivng Wrap up

Well, the wife's first Thankgsgiving dinner was a rousing success. The turkey was juicy and delicious, the stuffing was exquisite, and the pumpkin cheesecake was like buttah. Our upstairs neighbors have now experienced a real American Thankgiving dinner. Here is the dinner in pictures (click on photo to enlarge)...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Turkey Adobo?

So the wife has decided that she wants to make Thanksgiving dinner for the first time. She has the whole thing planned out and is very excited about it. Only problem is, it's pretty much just us and the X Man. We're planning on inviting the neighbors but if they decline then there'll be a lot of leftovers.

So far, I think the menu includes turkey, stuffing, squash, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. She's looking for other stuff to make so if anyone has any suggestions, post them here...

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Wanna talk to me free? Get Skype dammit!

While I was in Germany a couple weeks ago, a colleague turned me onto this thing called Skype. Skype is a free VOIP program. For the technologically disinclined, VOIP means "Voice Over IP", which basically means you can talk over the internet using your computer.

So here's how it works - you can download the program free from the website (, then you can call any other Skype users in the world absolutely FREE.

The best part is that you can also call people's phone numbers as well for a ridiculously low cost of about 2 cents per minute. If all you're doing is calling other people on Skype, then you never have to pay a cent.

To give you an idea, I charged my account with an initial 10 euros (about $12). In the past two weeks, I've called back to the States numerous times and the wife has called Hong Kong a couple times as well. We usually talk anywhere from 10 minutes to 45 minutes each time. Right now I still have over 4 euros on my account. And the sound quality is amazingly good.

Obviously the drawback is that you have to have a computer and internet connection to use it, but if you have those then you should get Skype. And if you DO get Skype, be sure to email me so I can give you my username and then we'll be able to talk anytime, for as long as we want...wait for it...ABSOLUTELY FREE.

(Of course, if you're one of the many people who stumbled across this blog by doing a Google image search for dirty words...please don't bother emailing me, I don't want to talk to you...)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Pizza Pizza

Pizza is of course an Italian institution. The pizza here in Italy is nothing like it is in the US though. When you get a pizza here, you get a small/medium size pie all for yourself as opposed to the US where you get a large pie that everyone has to share - assuming that everyone can agree on the toppings. We eat quite a bit of pizza here as you can imagine. There are a couple pizzerias in town and they're all good. My personal preference is pizza with olives and sometimes mushroom. The wife prefers something with a lot of vegetables and one or two kinds of meat:

BTW, the best pizza in Italy - and probably in the world - is in Naples. That's where pizza was invented, and a good authentic Neapolitan pizza is an art form.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Happy Veterans Day

Today is Veteran's Day, the day where we pay our respects to all the past and present veterans of the US armed forces. I have the upmost respect for anyone who has raised their hand and wore the uniform. Without them, we would not enjoy the freedoms we do today.

One of the greatest honors in my life was when I was able to participate in a Memorial Day ceremony at the American Cemetary outside of Florence, Italy. American and Italian vets and civilians alike turned out to pay their respects. It was a great honor to be able to play a part in that:

As many of you know, I finished my time in the military last year. If you'd like to see some pictures of me when I was still in the Army, Click Here

If you live in the US, remember to thank a vet for their service.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


Yep, the cold & flu season has caught me. I'm currently in the third day of a cold and it's getting progressively worse.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The X Man might be a genius.

The X Man: Is this the face of a genius?

This past weekend I took the X Man upstairs to the neighbors to have my coffee and banter for a bit. While there, Giampietro takes out a piece of paper on which he had drawn several pictures of various objects such as a car, a train, an airplane, a boat, a chicken, a cat, etc. He pointed to each one and the X Man identified it. Some in English, some in Italian, but he got every single one correct. Now, this in itself is probably not that unusual. However, at one point he pointed to the car and said "auto", then grabbed his toy car, put it next to the picture of the car and said "auto, due" ("due" being "two" in Italian). I was absolutely floored. He's not even two years old yet and he can count. I looked at the neighbors and they were smiling - apparently, this was not the first time. Giampietro informed me that sometimes when they're going up the stairs, he counts out loud with each step all the way up to 8 (in Italian).

I had already planned a future as a pro soccer player for him, but maybe I need to rethink this...

Sunday, November 06, 2005

I am the World's biggest dumbass. Bar none.

I got to Germany last Sunday, got off the plane, got down to the rental car counter and promptly realized that I forget my drivers license in Italy. So no rental car. I had to take the train to Heidleberg, then take a cab to the base that I was staying at. Then, because I had no car, I was forced to beg rides each day from one of my colleagues. And perhaps the worst part, I was forced to spend all my time in my hotel room and wasn't able to go downtown and eat at my favorite Thai and Indian restaurants.

Things were looking up towards the end of the week when one of my colleagues, Frank, informed me that he would take me to the airport on Saturday. I've known Frank for years and he and his wife are planning a trip to Italy next week and so they wanted to pick my brain to get as much Italy info as they could. He picked me up at the hotel and we had brunch at their house before leaving for the airport around 2 to catch my 4:30 flight. We pull up to the terminal and to my absolute horror it dawned on me that I had forgotten my jacket at Frank's house. In my jacket were my credit cards, military ID, airport parking ticket, car key, and worst of all, my breath mints.

I went into the terminal to see about changing to a later flight which I was able to do - for an additional two-hundred-FREAKING-euros.

So it is official. I am the biggest dumbass in the world. I'm starting to worry about myself.

What the hell is wrong with me?!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

Tomorrow morning I'm headed to Germany for the week for work. I'll be back on Saturday. I will have my laptop with me but I'm not sure how much I'll be able to update the blog...

Friday, October 28, 2005

Milan Pictures Posted

The wife and I went to Milano a couple days ago on our anniversary. Click the link below to see pics...

Milano Photos

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Isn't anyone going to wish us a happy anniversary?!

October 26, 2002


Monday, October 24, 2005

I Hate Everybody

The past week or so has been pretty tough for me. I've really learned how much people really do suck. I've always operated under the thinking that I usually try to see the good in people until they give me a reason not to. However, a couple people have taught me lately that that's no way to go through life. Nay, trusting people is apparently not smart, even when they supposed to be your friends.

So from now on, I hate everyone until they give me a reason not to.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The X Man is a genius.

As I've mentioned in past posts, I'm often floored by how fast the X Man picks things up. Almost everyday he surprises me with something new that makes me say "When the heck did you learn that?!". Not to mention that he spends quite a bit of time upstairs and the neighbors are constantly telling me how impressed they are with his intelligence.

So last night before bed, the wife had the X Man on her lap and was showing him alphabet flashcards. On each card was a letter and a picture of something that began with that letter. I was watching out of the corner of my eye and was astounded to see that he knew almost every single one. Even the words he couldn't pronounce (Like 'Xylophone' for X), he still got pretty close on. In fact, some of the words he even recited in Italian as well as English.

My little guy is a bilingual genius. We're gonna be rich.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

I'm Wired

I'm finally wired at the house, went online last night for the first time. Never will I be without a sports score again...

BTW, our new phone line is also working. If anyone needs our new phone number, email me and if I deem you worthy, I'll give it to you.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Florence Pics Posted

We took a trip to Florence a few weeks ago and I finally got the pictures posted. Click the link below for the Florence page, and near the bottom you'll see the link for "More Florence Photos":


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

You are all a bunch of perverts.

I'm always interested to see how people are finding my blog. Statcounter will list what they call "referring links", which basically tells me if someone came to my site from another link.

A couple weeks ago, I noticed a growing trend. I've suddenly started receiving over a dozen hits a day from people who did a google image search for one of two things:

"dancing girls"

As some of you may recall, I went to Amsterdam this past spring to hang out with some friends. When I did my Amsterdam recap , I posted a picture of some girls dancing on a bar as well as a picture of one of the aforementioned shops.

Now normally I'd be happy for any traffic that my humble little blog receives. But I'm not sure how I feel about getting hundreds of visits each week from people looking for pictures of dancing girls and such. It kind of creeps me out.

Monday, October 17, 2005

A new decanter and a big disappointment.

So Saturday night was one of the biggest college football games of the century. My beloved Notre Dame took on the hated USC Trojans. Nobody gave ND a chance to win but I had faith. We wetn shopping during the day and I bought myself a new decanter. Before the game I put it to good use by decanting a bottle of 1998 Bordeaux Superieur and letting it breath for about two hours:

The game came on at 9:30pm here so I wasa bit juiced up by the time it started:

USC scored first and things were looking bleak:

However, the Irish pulled even, then took the lead. They were outplaying the defending champion and undefeated Trojans well into the 4th quarter. An upset looked imminent. I could not control my emotions and even started feeling a bit cocky because I had told everyone from the beginning of the year that Notre Dame was going to do it:

Then disaster struck. Notre Dame had USC pinned deep in their own territory on 4th-and-freaking-nine. All they had to do was stop them and the upset of the century would have been a reality. But instead, Matt Leinart completes a 61 yard pass - on 4th and 9! - and USC scored the winning touchdown with a mere 3 seconds left in the game. I have not felt so disappointed since the ball went through Buckner's legs in '86. I was devastated:

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The X Man is Kalbo

So I get home from work last night to find out that Virginia cut off all the X Man's hair. But I have to admit, it looks very cute:

(Click on image to view full size)


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Kids really do learn fast.

There are fewer things in this world that I hate more than mosquitoes. I have an almost supernatural hatred of them. Being woken up in the middle of the night by a mosquito buzzing in my ear is surely one of Dante's levels of Hell. I am constantly getting on the wife about leaving the bedroom door closed because that's about the only way to keep them out of the room. But she leaves many other doors open during the day so there always mosquitoes in out house.

Whenever I see a mosquito in the house, I will hunt it down with reckless abandon. I cannot rest easy until I know that it is dead and thus will not be biting me in the future. So zealous am I in my hatred of these pesky insects and such is my immense joy at killing one in the house, that after doing so, I usually exclaim "Take that bitch! Yah!".

"Mosquito" was actually one of the first words that the X Man learned how to say, although he pronounces it "gee-to". He always looks so cute when he says "Gee-to!" and slaps himself on the arm. So imagine my surprise the other day when he clapped his hands together and yelled "Gee-to! Bish!".

Guess I have to watch what I say around the house from now on...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Back in Business

OK, things are getting back to normal now. I'm still not sure what was causing my technical issues, but they seem to have worked themselves out whatever they were.

Here's an update - after more than 5 years in my place, I've finally decided to get a phone. I've always avoided Telecom Italia like the plague because so many people have problems with them (unreliable service, hidden fees, etc). But I recently discovered that my little town now has ADSL availability and I've been wanting to go online at the house so I decided to take the plunge. My phone line should be activated any day now and then I should be online within a week or so hopefully. I've invested in a new Toshiba Satellite laptop and a wireless router so I don't have to deal with cables and such. The X Man would mess with the cables for sure. Wireless is the way to go - imagine not even having to crawl out of bed to check the sports scores; genius!

So anyway, the guy was supposed to go to the house yesterday to hook up the phone but - big surprise! - never showed up. Hopefully I'll be online there soon which will make it easier to update the blog.


Friday, October 07, 2005

Good News

It looks like my technical issues may have only been temporary. The blog should hopefully be back online with updates next week so stay tuned.

Until then, here's a picture of me and nice glass of Brunello di Montalcino to hold you over:

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Hiatus, Part II

I'm afraid the blog is going t obe on hiatus again until I can get all my technical issues straightened out. Until then, keep your ear to the ground and keep rrrreaching for the stars...

Monday, September 26, 2005

I Hate Technology.

For some strange reason, I am not currently able to upload files to my website, so I can't post pictures of the weeeknd trips to Verona and Florence. As soon as I can get the problem straightened out, I'll post the link here...

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Venice Highlights

So the other night, we went to Venice to meet up with my friend Steve Lester from back home. He was in Europe to attend Oktoberfest with some friends from work and they made a 2 day detour south of the Alps to see Venice. The wife took her friend Christina, who is also visiting, to Venice in the morning via the train and I met everyone there after work. I hadn't seen Steve in a couple years, so it was really good to see him again.

Steve and I at the Piazza San Marco (click photo to see full size)

I showed everyone around Venice for a little while, then Virginia and Christina left to go do some shopping while I took the guys to the Devil's Forest Pub for a couple pints. After that, I brought them to my new favorite little wine bar to sample a few wines before dinner. For dinner, we followed the recommendation of a good friend named Theresa who lives in Venice and tried the Alle Madonna, near the Rialto Bridge. The food was really good, the waiters were friendly and full of personality, and best of all, the prices were actually cheap for Venice. Everybody was able to sample a variety of good Italian food, from meat and pasta to seafood and vegetables. I established an excellent rapport with the waiter with my broken Italian and must have done a good job because he actually gave us a few dishes on the house. We even splurged for a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino, which I had the waiter decant and let breathe for about 45 minutes. It was the smoothest and tastiest wine I've ever had. After dinner, Steve surprises me by saying the guys got a little gift as a thank you for showing them around - then pulls out a bottle of 1997 Brunello di Montalcino. My eyes actually got misty at the sight of such a prized wine. Here's a picture from dinner (click on photo to see full size):

From L-R: Mike, Patrick, Dan, Scott, Steve, Me

During dinner, Steve kept asking the wife if I could stay and hang out with them in Venice the rest of the night. Eventually the asking turned to begging and we decided that the wife and Christina would take the train home and I would be free to show the guys some of Venice's nightlife. We started at the Fiddler's Elbow where we ran into some girls that the guys had met that morning in the laundromat. There were two Canadians, Natalie and Michelle and two Swedish girls, Andrea and Lovissa. We just sat and chatted with them over pints of Kilkenny Cream Ale for a couple hours, at one point even breaking into some Canadian/Irish folk songs, then the pub was closing so we went to my old reliable - The Bacaro Jazz. They know me in there by now and everyone smiled when I walked through the door. It was awesome. They also informed me that Mary was in the hospital sick (hope you're feeling better Mary!), so we weren't able to visit with her but we did have some cold Hoegaarden straight off the tap and some late night snacks (I had the linguine with pesto). Finally they informed us that they were closing so we got up to leave, but they would not let me leave without giving us all a free round or two of shots. I was even surprised to hear one of the waiters calling me by my name - I felt like Norm on "Cheers".
Anyway, we walked back to the hotel through the totally empty Venice streets, enjoyed one last beer in the lobby (from a vending machine no less), then headed for bed. I hadn't planned on staying overnight so I had no other clothes or anything. Just got up, threw on the clothes I wore there, slapped some deodorant, and headed to work on a couple hours sleep.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm getting too old for this.


Wednesday, September 21, 2005


So we went to Venice last night to visit one of my best friends from home who was there visiting with 5 of his colleagues. One thing led to another and yada yada yada, I'm wearing the same clothes to work that I wore yesterday.

Details to follow...

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Weekend Highlights

As you know, the wife's friend Christina from Hong Kong is visiting us for a week or so. I have the resposibility of making sure she sees as much of Italy as possible during her stay, so Saturday we took her to Bassano del Grappa (click on photo to view full size):

And then to Marostica, which is a medieval town that still has the original walls surrounding it:

On Sunday, we had planned to do Venice but it rained all day so in a genius move, I decided to make the 3 hour drive up to Innsbruck, Austria. Christina absolutely loved it. In fact, I think she enjoyed the drive through the Alps as much as seeing the city.

The highlight of Innsbruck was finding a little schnapps shop that was offering free schnapps tasting. They must have had about 50 different kinds of schnapps:

All in all, a pretty good weekend. The wife is taking Christina to Venice today. I'll be joining them after work as one of my best friends from back home is also coming to Venice today with some friends. You know me, I never get tired of Venice...