Monday, June 29, 2009

We're going to have to go back to the US...eventually.

The best thing about my job is that it allows me to live in Italy. As you probably know, I've been in Europe for over 11 years now, alternating between Germany and Italy. I love it here and can't even imagine living anywhere else. But alas, there is a rule for government employees called the 5 year rule - or, as I call it, "the idiotic 5 year rule". Basically what it means is that government civilian employees are only supposed to be overseas for a maximum of 5 years before we have to back to the US. Why this policy exists is anybody's guess but there's so many things wrong with it that I don't even know where to start. The only potential bright side of it is that we only have to be in the US for 1 year before we can come back overseas but even that is not very encouraging as it is very difficult to get hired overseas unless you know somebody. Currently our 5 years expires in April, 2011. Unless I get an extension (which is possible), we will have to start looking for jobs in the US. Even worse, I won't have much a choice of where I'll end up either. Fact is, there's a very good chance we'll end up somewhere we really have no desire to be such as Ft. Hood, Texas or Omaha, Nebraska. For now, I don't really want to think about it but if I had my way these would probably be my options/choices. In parentheses I'll put the degree of "realistic-ness" that we could end up there as well as the degree of my desire to go there. In no particular order they would probably be:

* Virginia (realistically: 80%, desire: 75%). My job is pretty transportion related and there are quite a few bases in eastern Virginia that have positions similar to mine. I probably wouldn't mind as I am an East Coast guy and I've heard good things about Virginia. I'm also somewhat of a history buff and there's plenty of it there.

* Ft Lewis, Washington (realistically: 60%, desire: 80%). Ft Lewis and the surrounding area features several advantages for me not the least of which would be world class fly fishing, a burgeoning wine industry, and some great hiking. One of my life's dreams is to fly fish Montana someday and being in Washington would probably help me achieve it.

* San Antonio, Texas (realistically: 80%, desire: 30%). I've had several people tell me that San Antone is a fantastic city and that I would love it there but I'm not sure I'd enjoy living in Texas. It's damned hot and they have rattlesnakes. Unfortunately, this seems to be the most popular place in the US as far as positions in my field.

* Ft Hood, Texas (realistically: 50%, desire: 20%). My reasons for not wanting to end up there are similar to San Antonio with the exception that I've never heard anybody say anything good about Ft. Hood. But it's a huge base with plenty of open positions so it's possible.

* Omaha, Nebraska (realistically: 40%, desire: 25%). I often see openings here so it's a possibility and I've actually heard a lot of positive things about Omaha being a great city's Nebraska for cripes sake. I'm not sure I could ever live in the heart of the Midwest. I'd prefer to be at least within driving distance of an ocean.

* Tampa or Miami, Florida (realistically: 60%, desire: 70%). Although I'm not a big beach person, there are much worse places to live than Florida. I often see open positions in both Tampa and Miami so it's definitely on the radar. Plus, my father and stepmother vacation in Florida every year so it'd be great to be able to see them regularly.

* Ft. Dedrick or Ft. Meade, MD (realistically: 30%, desire: 90%). I've often said that Maryland would be the ideal place for me. Maryland has some of the best seafood in the US, it is close enough to my hometown that the family could visit easily, there is some great fly fishing just over the border in Pennsylvania or West Virginia, it's right in the middle of everything so trips to places like New York City, Washington, DC, Philly, and others are possible and, perhaps best of all, Gino would be close by so we could hang out often. Of all the places I've considered, Maryland is the only I could envision staying at for a long time. Unfortunately there are hardly any positions there so it'd probably be extremely difficult to get there. It might be a pipe dream.

* Natick, MA (realistically: 20%, desire: 50%). This would be an interesting one. I would not normally even consider it but about a year ago a coworker of mine who does the exact same job as I do was offered a decent position there (he turned it down). On the minus side, it's cold and snowy which I deplore. On the plus side, it's right outside of Boston and it might kind of cool to live so close to the city. Since it's about an hour from where I was born and raised, it would be close to my family and friends so the kids could spend time with them often. I could also take the boys to Fenway Park every summer.

* Hawaii (realistically: 35%, desire: 70%). If you've followed my blog for a while then you probably know how we came within a whisker of moving to Hawaii back in 2006. There are usually a handful of openings there I would qualify for but I would give it a low possibility for two reasons: first, the positions I'd qualify for seldom come open as people don't want to leave Hawaii and second, when they do come open they receive more applications than they know what to do with. But the pluses are obvious, it's Hawaii for God's sake. In the right circumstances Hawaii is another place I would consider staying at for a long time.

* Atlanta, GA/Ft Bragg, NC (realistically: 70%, desire: 40%). Atlanta is the home of FORSCOM as well as ARCENT and those are two strong possibilities of where I could end up. However the base they are at is scheduled to be closed in the next few years and both are moving to Ft. Bragg, NC. I really have little desire to go either place. The only positive would be a good career stepping stone to get somewhere that I'd rather be.

* Scott, AFB, IL (realistically: 75%, desire: 60%). This is the home of Transportation Command so it would seem like a natural fit. in fact, several people I worked with in Germany have moved there in the past year. As I said, I'm not sure I would ever want to live in the Midwest but I've been there for work several times and it's not a bad area, right outside of St. Louis. And, as with the one above, it'd be another great place to make contacts in places I'd want to go to eventually.

* Colorado Springs, CO (realistically: 50%, desire: 50%). I'm kind of torn on this one. I love the mountains and would have some the best hiking and fly fishing in the country but on the other hand, they get a lot of snow and I absolutely abhor snow. that said, I've heard nothing but great things about this area.

Well, that's a short list anyway. Of course with my luck, I'll probably end up some place I never even considered. At least I've still got almost two years before I even need to start thinking about it...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Yet another Flashback...

Holding Mike and Hen's firstborn son, Andrew somewhere around 1996:

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Flashback Tuesday Wednesday! high school yearbook picture and accompanying info:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I remember... first trip to France. I remember stepping off the train in Strasbourg, gazing out over the huge piazza outside the station. I remember the walk along le Boulevard du President Wilson to the youth hostel, taking in the splendid architecture and seeing the French drivers whizzing by in their Peugeot's and Renault's. I remember crossing the small river into the old, historic center and stumbling onto an outdoor market selling everything from antiques to fresh fruits and vegetables. I remember strolling through the old town and feeling the warm French sunshine on my face. I remember going into the little French shop to get a some water and seeing all the newspapers with headlines screaming about the World Cup quarterfinal between the home team and the hated Italians. I remember walking around listening to all the conversations in French and thinking to myself "I finally made it". I remember walking down a small side street and finding a fountain with a huge head sticking halfway out of the water as if some stone giant was emerging from the depths. I remember approaching the massive Gothic cathedral and looking straight up at it, thinking I've never seen anything so big and majestic in my life. I remember the stone sculptures of saints and demons covering the side of the cathedral, the intricate detail of them. I remember climbing over 300 steps to reach the top and actually feeling a fear of heights for the first time in my life as I looked down at the city below. I remember the Place Kleber, seeing all the trendy shops and the business people dressed immaculately, hastily conducting their affairs. I remember watching the young people in their European fashions hanging out with their friends and thinking how different they are from their American counterparts. I remember the cosmopolitan feeling of it all. I remember walking through the warm evening air with the Scottish guy from the youth hostel on our way to L'Academie de Bieres for a few pints of Guinness. I remember eating my first tarte flambee. I remember going back to L'Academie de Bieres the next morning with a fistful of post cards and sipping a morning cappuccino as I wrote back to my friends and family back home. I remember finding the little bar next to the cathedral and watching the match between France and Italy. I remember how the bar got more crowded as the match went along and how, by the end of the match, the bar was full and people were stacked up five deep at the windows trying to get a glimpse. I remember how the entire city exploded like fireworks when France won the match on penalty kicks. I remember all the cars driving around the city blowing their horns with people hanging out the windows waving French flags. I remember spending the evening celebrating with all the locals and tourists alike, as if we had all known each other forever. I remember stumbling back to the youth hostel at two in the morning and getting propositioned by a bald black man in a small red car. I remember the sadness as I checked out of the hostel the next morning and walked back to the train station. I remember pulling into the station in Kitzingen and the feeling that I was somehow not the same person I was three days before.

I remember it all so vividly.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

LOL of the day

The reaction of the poor guy next to him is priceless...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Stay tuned...

Several new videos of the kids will be posted either later today or tomorrow, included a couple of Luca starting to walk...

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

It's funny memory Wednesday

When I was in junior high me and my friends were typical perverted juvenile pranksters. One of our better pranks involved a girl in our class named Josee. Josee was going out with a guy in another class named Denis and, as many kids do in junior high, was fond of writing "Josee loves Denis" on all of her books, her desk and anywhere else she could. I'd never seen anyone spell Denis with only one "n" before and it was unfortunate for both he and Josee that he did because everywhere my friends and I came across a piece of "Josee loves Denis" graffiti - her books, her desk, wherever - we added a little line to the bottom of the "D" so that "Josee loves Denis" instantly became "Josee loves Penis". It was one of our finest moments.

Strangely enough Josee was not amused...

Monday, June 08, 2009


Let me preface this post by saying that I am completely terrified of snakes. The place where I work is on a mountain and there are some kind of big black snakes around here; a few weeks ago I saw one slither away as I was going up to my car. I've asked around and apparently the big black snakes around here, big and scary as they are, are not venomous and are pacifists - that is, they flee at the slightest hint of danger.

So yesterday I was finally able to hit the Brenta River for a day of fly-fishing. The river has been too high for the past several weeks due to runoff and rains so I was thrilled to be back up there in the mountains. I chose one of my favorite spots in the town of Valstagna (Photos of my Valstagna spot here). I parked the car and surveyed the river. It was still a bit high but definitely fishable. A few years ago I fought my way through the brush and fished a bit upriver and had a great day so I considered doing so again. Only problem is that the trees and brush are very thick and hard to get through. Not only that but the wife tried it a few years back and disturbed a bees nest. I walked to the edge of the brush where it grew up against a cement building to see if there was an opening or a path to go through. I got as far as I could and stopped to see if I could find a way through. I had stopped for only a few seconds when I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. I looked down and...


A huge snake was on the ground about a foot and a half away from my leg and he was not running (or slithering) away...that bitch was COILING. My God, I've never moved so fast in my life. The way he was slowly coiling, I'm guessing he was getting ready to strike and I was wearing shorts! Another 5 or 10 seconds and who knows what would have happened. I've been doing quite a bit of research on snakes in this part of Italy since I saw the snake at work and believe it or not there are quite a few vipers here. They are actually some kind of asp viper according to my online searching and they are very venomous. After I got my waders and wading boots on I grabbed my camera and started back in the direction of the snake hoping to get a picture so people could see the ugly thing but I got about 10 feet away and chickened out. However the color and pattern are ingrained in my mind and I was able to find a picture of one that someone had taken elsewhere in Italy. Here what it looked like:

I thanked my lucky stars that I spotted it when I did or I could have ended up in a world of hurt.

Anyway, still traumatized, I recovered enough to hit the river and ended up having a great day of fly-fishing. Towards the end of the day I nailed a nice 12 inch brown which made the day complete. The river is almost at optimum conditions now so I can't wait to get back this weekend. I will, however, be ever mindful of the damned snakes from now on...

Friday, June 05, 2009

I'm falling apart.

June was supposed to be my month. For most of the month of May I would have family visiting, first my mother for a week then my father and his wife for 10 days and since I was on leave much of the time I knew that I would probably be eating and drinking more than normal. Thus I had planned on making June the month where I started getting back on the diet and exercise horse and not only working off the month of May but also dropping an extra 5 or 10 pounds which would get me close to my Army weight. June approached and I had visions of hitting the gym, throwing the kettlebells around in the yard, doing my cardio three times a week and following a diet of healthy salads, chicken, fish and seafood. The past couple weeks I was feeling more motivated than ever and I could not wait to get started.

And then, in keeping with my bad luck streak since coming back to Italy, reality struck.

First the shoulder problem that has plagued me for the past 4 months is still lingering and is preventing me from using my kettlebells or doing pretty much any upper body workouts including push-ups, which used to be my staple. Not only that but a week or two ago I hurt my back lifting a TV by myself. I thought it was just a tweak and would go away but it's gotten progressively worse and is preventing me from doing any cardio beyond walking. So basically my exercise so far this month has been limited to walking and even that is a little uncomfortable with my sore back. The only good news is that my diet is going great so far as I've eaten healthy all week - even at work - and have only had a single glass of wine in the past week. It's very frustrating for me because for some strange reason I've been chomping at the bit lately to start doing some balls-to-the-wall workouts but I am physically unable to. I've been to the doc on base three times for my shoulder and he has no clue what is wrong so the next step is to get an MRI which should hopefully reveal the problem. If my back doesn't get better soon I may be forced to go see the doctor about that as well.

God it sucks getting old...

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Monday, June 01, 2009

I never thought I'd say it but...

I have actually reached the point where I wish I'd never left Heidelberg. Things better change quick or I might start looking for another job...