reblog: Toni DeBella, Rick Steves, and The Food Police in Italy

Very funny (while informative) video produced by Toni DeBella, a blogger (Orvieto or Bust) who has relocated her life to Orvieto, Italy.

location of Orvieto, Italy

location of Orvieto, Italy

Rick Steves, a travel consultant, is based in my state and is well-known for helping Americans be smart and courteous European travelers.  I had a bunch o’ Rick’s info packed for my Italy trip that didn’t happen.

There are apparently four videos in The Food Police series, but I did start with the Rick Steves episode at the link (below).  It’s only 9 minutes long, well worth watching (loved Rome’s cobbled side streets).  The other episodes are shown at the link, too.  Only about 3-something minutes each.

Rick Steves in My Inbox


gun ownership, USA

Big Mister told me tonight that for the next two weeks the plant where he works will have 24-hour police presence.  Apparently, an employee is very angry with a manager.   The employee has a gun and knows how to use it quite well.

He has apparently lost touch with our more usual reality, too.  Brain injury gone bad.

Lockdown, Big Mister will be in lockdown with open gates.  Yes, there is more than one entrance.

One police car loaded with guns.

How will this end?

Writing from the Edge: The Goddess of Plenty

Writing from the Edge: The Goddess of Plenty.

I love this blog.  Just do.

Here is how Lorely, an evocative writer from the Wild West Coast of Ireland, captures this particular blog post:

I looked around my own small patch of earth, my generous share of the goddess of plenty’s gifts, with all its plants – flowers – beauty – healing and power.

It is all given to us, I thought, in infinite variety – to see, to hold, to use, to pleasure our senses, to heal our bodies, to quiet our minds, and – as is the way with the earth – everything links into everything else, but it is up to us how we use it, how we see those connections.

So – I pondered – let’s do it – let’s look at the bounty around us, admire it, celebrate it, share it and spread it around.

(She is celebrating her one-year blog anniversary by giving away something very special.)

For her, I add a photo of the twisted willow in my yard, Salix tortuosa.

the healing willow tree

This lady leads a rich life–she shares about gardens, dogs, Napoleon, cats, skinny dipping (!)….  wait–here’s a screen shot of her tags/categories!

Go on.  Off with you.  Go visit and stay awhile.

Press This: The People’s Bailout

HOW TO SHARPEN PENCILS, The People’s Bailout.

This is a Blurt and Run.   I don’t know anything about it.

Just in case it is legitimate.

Can helping people from within our screwed up financial system be legitimate?

If you’re curious, read the blog entry (link above).  Click on the links therein.  Form your own conclusion.

I’m pretty sure I’m sending $10.

How to Sharpen Pencils?  Uh, I dunno.  The humor may be way too dessicated for me at this moment.

tarred with the same brush

One of my failings, and perhaps assets, is to practice the art of the benefit of the doubt.  Great expression, that.

As my years have added up, the number of tries per person, entity, or weather phenomenon, has lessened to sit concrete-like at two.  Two tries and yerrrrrrr outtttt!   Or:  two tries and I really and truly believe you are what you show me you are.

I have given the US mortgage industry–wait don’t go!!–their two tries.  Each mortgage company I encounter henceforth will get no benefit of the doubt because they’ve all just been tarred by the same stinky brush.

Today our refinanced house loan closes.  Last Tuesday, I was very well-behaved at the signing, not even swearing when the title company whipped out forms the mortgage lender hadn’t ever shown us.  Same thing happened in the last signing, coming on 5 years ago.  This time I only grumbled and sighed histrionically.  OK, did growl, but I hope it was sotto voce (under my breath).

I got a call this morning, yet another morning where I announced to Big (and to the Universe) that I was not going to answer the phone.  We’ve been getting political calls and spam calls, and I am sick to death of answering the phone ringing in my own damn house to be greeted by a flippin’ recording.  I digress.

So, phone rang, answering machine did its thing (yes, we have one of those still), and when I heard our lender’s voice, I picked up immediately because I assumed she was calling to tell us the loan had closed as scheduled.

Instead of that news, she asked for a bank statement that we gave her 4-5-6 weeks ago, the bank statement upon which this whole refinance exercise is based.  What????!!!  I was confused.  OK, so I get confused very easily, very quickly.  But didn’t we give you that?!  What?  The loan won’t close without it?

Stand still, you are being tarred.  Feathers up next.

(Here, I am swearing in my head, but not typing the words.  Some of ’em are hard to spell.)

A little amusement for you, and maybe me:  at least twice in the 1-inch-high stack o’ papers to sign (I am not exaggerating!), we had to sign to acknowledge that we, the consumers, would not commit loan fraud.

Hey you folks holding the money, just keep on blaming the consumer.  I want that form to be counter-signed by the mortgage lender.  Then it would make flippin’ sense to flippin’ include that flippin’ nonsense in that flippin’ 1-inch-high stack o’ papers for us to flippin’ sign.

That is all.

We now return to art and kittens.


lunch to celebrate

Big Mister and I went back to our familiar restaurant where we had our first date, Vien Dong, to celebrate all the money stuff we’ve concluded.  Refinanced the house and the car.  Dumped some redundant auto insurance.  That’s a lot of paper to wade through, understand, and sign.  And a lot of money to keep for ourselves.  We like that!

As is custom in a Vietnamese restaurant (I’m pretty sure), Big went to the register to get and pay the bill, where he visited with the owner he’s known forever and a day.  Big’s family goes here, too, so they talked a bit about family.

My brother planted a big garden this year and now he’s harvesting a lot of good stuff.

Yes, I know.   Your brother told me that he’s growing some [special crop] {wink, wink}.  He even showed me pictures.   {wink, wink, winkety-wink!}

In this state, it’s legal to grow special crops for personal use, for say, pain relief.    However, the federal folks consider growing special crops illegal, personal use notwithstanding.  Kind of awkward, huh?




A Note: personal responsibility v. full disclosure

A few minutes after posting this morning’s economic- and medical-machine diatribe, I was standing in the shower, hearing my own (writing) voice being outraged at the medical community.  I had the sudden concern that what I say is not complete:

It may sound like “Waa-wah-wah, they were mean to me.”

In the background is a person who takes personal responsibility in this world very seriously.  I try hard to be well-informed.  That is the outrage I express:  despite trying to come to the table well-prepared, I often discover that there was too much undisclosed, so I could not make an informed decision no matter my preparation.

In some situations, voluntary disclosure should be de rigeur:  we don’t know the questions to ask or even that there could be questions.  The other guys know because it is their business to know.  (How in hell would I know the after-effects of septic shock?!)

Reminds me of getting ready to sign the mortgage papers 4+ years ago–I worked HARD to understand what it was I would be signing, asked question after question until I understood.  Then the lender brought new papers to the signing.  Apparently, that’s business as usual.

Yep, I’m idealistic and have a well of hope about fair play that just won’t end.  Isn’t this how we make the world a better place?

It’s tiring being a grown-up.  No wonder I want to pull up the sidewalks on my corner of Life and shut out all the noise.

That is all.

“Ciao, Professore!” (movie); Io speriamo che me la cavo (the book)

“Ciao, Professore!” is a charming, laugh-out-loud movie, by Lina Wertmüller, released in 1993.  Next to the title in parentheses were these words:  Io speriamo che me la cavo.  Here’s the Netflix blurb:

In director Lina Wertmüller’s upbeat comedy, Marco Sperelli (Paolo Villaggio) — a priggish upper-class teacher from northern Italy — is mistakenly assigned to a tumbledown school in an impoverished village near Naples. But upon arriving, he finds most of his students hustling on the streets to earn money for their families — and before you can say “school of hard knocks,” Sperelli becomes the pupil as the kids tutor him about life’s realities.

I don’t speak Italian, so the English subtitles could be accurate that translated the very, very rude language of the 3rd graders.  Somehow it worked, those little children hollering some terrible language.  It probably worked because it was coming out of the mouths of little children.  Laughed and laughed till I couldn’t breathe!

The parenthetical title in Netflix was in little tiny letters and got me curious.  (Thank you Google.)  The movie is based on the book, released in 1990, Io speriamo che me la cavo (I did not know there was a book!).

Apparently, the book is a collection of the real essays written by children going to school in Arzano near Naples.  At that link there is a sample of the humor and is well worth reading.  I remember this passage well in the film and it was hilarious!  Still funny!  Now I want to read the essays…. !!  Better get studying!

The real reason I started this post was to quote a particular piece of wisdom in the movie.  But I digressed. (gasp!)  I’ll tell anyway:

Q:  Why is LIFE like chicken coop stairs?

A:  Because it’s short and shitty.

dark roasted blend

Big Mister loves this blog and I have just remembered to look at it.  (Never mind.)    Here is how the authors represent the blog:

dark roasted blend:  ‘highly visual “Weird & Wonderful” online magazine to complement your daily coffee ritual.’

‘The “Dark Roasted Blend” online magazine is dedicated to the ongoing quest for wisdom and beauty, for all things cool and wonderful in our world, featuring the best in art, travel and fascinating technology.

‘The “Thrilling Wonder Publication” bi-line stands for the sense of wonder that has been largely neglected in our cynical times. To that end, our “Thrilling Wonder” family of sites try to promote “the intense, wonderful and never-boring” side of things.’

If Neil Gaiman likes this, then I’d better pay attention!

I had a little trouble figuring out how to subscribe by email, so in case anyone else needs a boost….  Here’s an annotated screen shot of the subscription page:

Tuesday Sharesday: Prada Menswear Fall 2012

You MUST see this Prada fashion show!  I think the clothes are beautiful and that Big Mister should have some!

Prada Menswear Fall 2012 Ad Campaign

Poster Child Returns

I have had an infection in my  jaw for ages–perhaps since I had a root canal in the tooth above the infection site in 2009.   The short story is that for the last two months, I’ve been working with the endodontist to take care of the problem.  (Well, also comin’ down, or is that up, from near-dead in hospital, but I digress.  [Thank you Eddie Izzard!])

They are aware of the sepsis and C. diff that tried to kill me and that me taking antibiotics is a tough call.

Today though, I told them that, no, I didn’t want heavy-duty painkillers they offered, that I was ready to try an antibiotic, that it was time to get this infection under control.  That I’m in more danger of another episode of septic shock from the continuing infection than from suffering through another bout of C. diff if I take anitBs.

Through the dental assistant, the doctor asked ME to let HIM know what antibiotic I could take.  What?!

I called the nurse line at the hospital where I stayed–they have my chart and lots o’ information.  She sounded odd when I told her my story about the doc asking me for the research.  She then expressed her frustration:  that dentists do this all the time.  They won’t take responsibility even though they are doctors–f’r’instance they call and ask what meds a pregnant lady can take.  That they know this information but do not want to make the decision.   Sorry she said that she didn’t really have any info, but what she told me matched what I was feeling and it was enough.  I also thanked her fervently for her honesty.

I’m still thinking slowly enough that it took me about 10  minutes to get angry, furious, appalled.  Called the endodontist back and told ’em it was unconscionable that the doctor wanted the patient to do the research.  That I could tell that Dr. Endo was afraid I’d sue him.  Still very angry.

Again through the assistant, the answer was:  could he talk to my GP?  Of course (coward!)!  What is so hard about automatically consulting with a colleague?  Why don’t you talk to each other?   I do not understand.

He does NOT want to be responsible for the C.diff, but he’s OK with the risk of sepsis because he’s already stated that there is no way the infection in my jaw would spread, that it definitely would stay localized.  Wow.

I feel so betrayed.  Again.  How can I trust the medical world?  How many more insults do I have to take while I attempt to get my health under control?

Why can I not be a part of the decision-making?!  I’m so angry I could spit nails.

Why is it OK for the medical types to censor the information they give me?  What the hell?!  This feels strongly paternalistic, which is horrible, but mostly it feels like a pat on the head and go away now.

I have regained lost ground in my emotional state and cognitive powers, but I am far from back to normal.   This morning, one of my Peeps said that I should expect care and concern from the medics, that it was not too much to ask, that it was a very normal expectation.

Bean over at catself wrote a poignant post and so deeply did it resonate that I couldn’t even respond well, could only tell her I was a part of her community.

Now it’s time for me to say:  I need my community.  I need help holding onto this tremendous insult that happened almost 5 months ago to my being and to my little family.   The isolation has reached a peak.  Bean told me about a website that hosts sites for people who are involved in illness, CaringBridge, and that maybe I might think about setting up my own site.  I did.

Like Bean, I notice the deep unfriendliness of the world.   But here, oh dear, this has been an amazing place to spend time.  I started my blog a year ago this month because I simply had to write, but never dreamed I’d become a part of an international community!   Also, like Bean, I feel deep gratitude for all of you who have hung on as I have taken this ride, who have made me laugh, or sent a hug.

If you have the inclination, leave a note, a joke, a picture, a poem, or cocktail recipe there:  CaringBridge.

And, bonus:  there, if you look carefully, you may discover why I call that wonderful guy o’ mine Big Mister!

Lobbying: where the money is

You know the heavy and certain feeling that life is busy enough without having to police what other people are doing?  That we just have to let some things go because there simply is not enough energy to earn a living and take care of the homefront?

One of the things that haunts the very back of my brain is lobbying.  It really bugs me.  Somebody is earning a hefty living to pass along benefits, shall we say, to someone else who is earning a hefty living in order to ensure the original Somebody’s positions prevail as policy.

All lobbyists are not of one ilk:  the community-minded humane Somebodies lobby, too.  But what I can’t grasp is that I care enough to vote locally and nationally as an informed citizen, but there are other folks who are able to circumvent my votes because they are busy influencing the lawmakers with shiny new toys.

Ah, we say, there’s just too much living to do to be able to keep track of the background of all the complexities of our culture, especially the economic complexities, so it’s good that Somebody is keeping track of that horrific catalog of details that affects my community and  my life.

Yes, but if we don’t know the details, we don’t know the intricacies, then why on earth are we handing our proxy to Somebody?   This reminds me of the Big Mister’s tale of his Union work reps who wanted the members to vote on a contract that they had never seen.

Wait!  Mom told me to read everything before I sign it.  Everything.  Not everyone does that, but Somebody does!  I hold up lines and progress as I stand and read the little tiny letters that spell out my obligations and theirs.  I’ve been known to cross out offensive lines of text.

But this is fighting City Hall at its worst and most despairing:  I have not actually handed my proxy to Somebody, but Somebody is using my proxy, my voice, my vote.

Lobbying is a ginormous moneymaker for a select group of Somebodies.  It is, fundamentally, a wrong addition to governing of the people, by the people, etc.

Lobbyists can be from outta town–the Royal Bank of Scotland, in the news today because of the nearly 1 million Pound bonus given to the chief exec, has spent millions lobbying US lawmakers.

US Lobbying Disclosure Act Database

I did a brief search this morning on the US Lobbying Disclosure Act Database, just to see a tiny slice o’ the pie, a snapshot of who’s doing what to whom, a glimpse at the Somebodies.  They are legion.  This is wrong.  My search terms were:

Client country = USA, $$ reported greater than $50,000, and the single issue of banking.

Results: 7,872 distinct reports of lobbying payments of greater than $50,000 each for the issue of banking.  Lordy, look at some of those names.   And look at those amounts!  The report screen size is mercifully small; I don’t think I could handle a huge chunk of that information all at once.  As it is, all I could do was scroll around, sort by year, then feel ill, and start writing.



From the Office of the Clerk, US House of Representatives Lobbying Disclosure Act Guidance, (on that page, click on the left menu to go to the definitions):

That’s distressing, that last line.  Am I missing something or is that encouraging obfuscation?


Here’s a definition of lobby from the online Merriam-Webster:

Yikes!  Do you get the picture of the milling around outside the legislators’ chamber,  Somebody waiting to pounce before or after a legislator is in that chamber of lawmaking?

Way at the bottom of that definition page is Origin of Lobby.  Ah, I see now.  Lobby derives its roots from the Latin meaning gallery.  As in peanut gallery.  Never a term of endearment.

Good morning, anyway!  Just be aware, and do the best you can.  Lobby your own selves for the dismantling of the lobbying system.  Now go get another cup of coffee and wonder about breakfast as the cat trips you on the way into the kitchen.  Regular, understandable life.

Thanks for clearing that up. I feel better now.

craigslist and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)

we’ve talked about this before.  here is the craigslist take on the Stop Online Piracy Act.  please don’t let our world be controlled like this.  George Orwell’s 1984 doesn’t need to happen.

craigslist | about > SOPA.

The internet is an amazing creation–think of the people you’ve met and the places you’ve seen because of the electrons that are connected in some sort of web.

third-party commentary on 2011 and the coming of 2012*

* in as much as this moment in time is just a moment created by we folk desperate for shape to our lives now that we forget to look at the cycles of sun, moon, and stars.

well, this one was just funny!

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