Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Our Christmas Tree

Just thought you'd like to see our tree. Pretty, isn't it?

How Cute Is This?

Every year we give our dog presents too. He goes nuts opening each one by himself, though sometimes he needs help. Here my wife has gotten our doggy all excited about his new treats on a string gift!

Merry Christmas!

This time with the boys included! There's only room for four, so no dog this time. :-)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Phone Salesman Amazes Crowd

This is really astonishing and may bring a tear to your eyes ... it did to mine! Click the image.

Masks of Venice

This is a beautiful video showing the fun of Carnevale in Venice, Italy. The first part of the video shows partiers and dancers, foot jugglers and more. Following this is a segment that shows how the masks are made - surprising how much work they are, custom made for the clients' faces. Enjoy!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Making an Elf of Myself

Hey, I just made a total elf of myself, my wife and my dog!

Brilliant Marketing

I found this marketing campaign brilliant! It's funny and it proves its point beyond a doubt.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ho ho ho...oh oh!

We just came back from a friend's Christmas party. Among their table of gifts piled high, we couldn't help notice what was among them, unwrapped. See the bottom left of the photo! Ah, yes, these are our most fun friends! We love them to death!

If you can't see it real well, click the photo to enlarge it.

Where are we?

I took this shot today while we were in a special place. Can you guess where? Oh, sure you do...our local carwash. Do you like the music playing on the radio?

Click the play button on the video below.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Eighth Wonder of the World?

From the London Daily Mail by Hazel Courteney. I've verified this on other sources too.

Nestling in the foothills of the Alps in northern Italy, 30 miles from the ancient city of Turin, lies the valley of Valchiusella. Peppered with medieval villages, the hillside scenery is certainly picturesque.

But it is deep underground, buried into the ancient rock, that the region's greatest wonders are concealed.

Hall of the Earth: An amazing room built on the visions of its creator

Here, 100ft down and hidden from public view, lies an astonishing secret - one that has drawn comparisons with the fabled city of Atlantis and has been dubbed 'the Eighth Wonder of the World' by the Italian government.

For weaving their way underneath the hillside are nine ornate temples, on five levels, whose scale and opulence take the breath away.

Constructed like a three-dimensional book, narrating the history of humanity, they are linked by hundreds of meters of richly decorated tunnels and occupy almost 300,000 cubic feet - Big Ben is 15,000 cubic feet.

Light fantastic: The giant glass dome of the Hall of Mirrors

Few have been granted permission to see these marvels.

Indeed, the Italian government was not even aware of their existence until a few years ago.

But the 'Temples of Damanhur' are not the great legacy of some long-lost civilization, they are the work of a 57-year-old former insurance broker from northern Italy who, inspired by a childhood vision, began digging into the rock.

It all began in the early Sixties when Oberto Airaudi was aged ten. From an early age, he claims to have experienced visions of what he believed to be a past life, in which there were amazing temples.

Around these he dreamed there lived a highly evolved community who enjoyed an idyllic existence in which all the people worked for the common good.

More bizarrely still, Oberto appeared to have had a supernatural ability: the gift of "remote viewing" - the ability to travel in his mind's eye to describe in detail the contents of any building. [I am skeptical, but believe as you wish!]

"My goal was to recreate the temples from my visions," he says.

Oberto - who prefers to use the name 'Falco' - began by digging a trial hole under his parent's home to more fully understand the principals of excavation.

Play time: Children look happy in the amazing surroundings

Breathtaking: The miles of tunnels enable air to circulate

House of secrets: Below this house is the Damanhurian temple which is one of the largest temple complexes in the world

But it was only as he began a successful career as an insurance broker that he began to search for his perfect site.

In 1977, he selected a remote hillside where he felt the hard rock would sustain the structures he had in mind.

A house was built on the hillside and Falco moved in with several friends who shared his vision. Using hammers and picks, they began their dig to create the temples of Damanhur - named after the ancient subterranean Egyptian temple meaning City of Light - in August 1978.

As no planning permission had been granted, they decided to share their scheme only with like-minded people.

Volunteers, who flocked from around the world, worked in four-hour shifts for the next 16 years with no formal plans other than Falco's sketches and visions, funding their scheme by setting up small businesses to serve the local community.

By 1991, several of the nine chambers were almost complete with stunning murals, mosaics, statues, secret doors and stained glass windows. But time was running out on the secret.

Hall of Spheres: Creator Oberto Airaudi based his creation on wonderful visions

Bright window: The window decorations have a church-stained window theme

The first time the police came it was over alleged tax evasion and still the temples lay undiscovered. But a year later the police swooped on the community demanding: "Show us these temples or we will dynamite the entire hillside."

Falco and his colleagues duly complied and opened the secret door to reveal what lay beneath.

Three policemen and the public prosecutor hesitantly entered, but as they stooped down to enter the first temple - named the Hall of the Earth - their jaws dropped.

Inside was a circular chamber measuring 8m in diameter.

Hall of mirrors: The hall has a classical Greek feel

Egyptian wall paintings: Damanhurian art is greatly influenced by both Egyptian and Celtic styles

A central sculpted column, depicting a three dimensional man and woman, supported a ceiling of intricately painted glass.

The astonished group walked on to find sculpted columns covered with gold leaf, more than 8m high.

Stunned by what they had found, the authorities decided to seize the temples on behalf of the government.

"By the time they had seen all of the chambers, we were told to continue with the artwork, but to cease further building, as we had not been granted planning permission," says Esperide Ananas, who has written a new book called Damanhur, Temples Of Humankind.

Retrospective permission was eventually granted and today the 'Damanhurians' even have their own university, schools, organic supermarkets, vineyards, farms, bakeries and award-winning eco homes.

They do not worship a spiritual leader, though their temples have become the focus for group meditation.

'They are to remind people that we are all capable of much more than we realise and that hidden treasures can be found within every one of us once you know how to access them,' says Falco

Sensible Observations

1) When I die, I want to die like my grandfather--who died peacefully in his sleep. Not screaming like all the passengers in his car."
--Author Unknown

2) Advice for the day: If you have a lot of tension and you get a headache, do what it says on the aspirin bottle: "Take two aspirin" and "Keep away from children."
--Author Unknown

3) "Oh, you hate your job? Why didn't you say so? There's a support group for that. It's called EVERYBODY, and they meet at the bar."
--Drew Carey

4) "The problem with the designated driver program, it's not a desirable job, but if you ever get sucked into doing it, have fun with it. At the end of the night, drop them off at the wrong house."
--Jeff Foxworthy

5) "If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant's life, she will choose to save the infant's life without even considering if there is a man on base."
--Dave Barry

6) "Relationships are hard. It's like a full time job, and we should treat it like one. If your boyfriend or girlfriend wants to leave you, they should give you two weeks' notice.There should be severance pay, the day before they leave you, they should have to find you a temp."
--Bob Ettinger

7) "My Mom said she learned how to swim when someone took her out in the lake and threw her off the boat. I said, 'Mom, they weren't trying to teach you how to swim.'"
--Paula Poundstone

8) "A study in the Washington Post says that women have better verbal skills than men. I just want to say to the authors of that study: "Duh."
--Conan O'Brien

9) "Why does Sea World have a seafood restaurant? I'm halfway through my fish burger and I realize, Oh my God....I could be eating a slow learner."
--Lynda Montgomery

10) "I think that's how Chicago got started. Bunch of people in New York said, 'Gee, I'm enjoying the crime and the poverty, but it just isn't cold enough. Let's go west.'"
--Richard Jeni

11) "If life were fair, Elvis would be alive and all the impersonators would be dead."
--Johnny Carson

12) "Sometimes I think war is God's way of teaching us geography."
--Paul Rodriguez

13) "My parents didn't want to move to Florida, but they turned sixty and that's the law."
--Jerry Seinfeld

14) "Remember in elementary school you were told that in case of fire you have to line up quietly in a single file line from smallest to tallest. What is the logic in that? What, do tall people burn slower?"
--Warren Hutcherson

15) "Bigamy is having one wife/husband too many. Monogamy is the same."
--Oscar Wilde

16) "Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."
-- Mark Twain

17) "Our bombs are smarter than the average high school student. At least they can find Afghanistan."
--A. Whitney Brown

18) "You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you a look that says, 'My God, you're right! I never would've thought of that!'"
--Dave Barry

19) Do you know why they call it "PMS"? Because "Mad Cow Disease" was taken .
--Unknown, presumed deceased

20) "Everybody's got to believe in something. I believe I'll have another beer."
- W. C. Fields

Friday, December 14, 2007

No Parent Left Behind...

I promise you cannot read these and not laugh out loud. These are real notes written by parents in a school district in a state that will here be unnamed. Spellings have been left intact.

1. My son is under a doctor's care and should not take PE today. Please execute him.

2. Please exkuce lisa for being absent she was sick and i had her shot.

3. Dear school: please ecsc's john being absent on jan. 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 and also 33.

4. Please excuse gloria from jim today. She is administrating.

5. Please excuse roland from p.e. for a few days. Yesterday he fell out of a tree and misplaced his hip.

6. John has been absent because he had two teeth taken out of his face.

7. Carlos was absent yesterday because he was playing football. He was hurt in the growing part.

8. Megan could not come to school today because she has been bothered by very close veins.

9. Chris will not be in school cus he has an acre in his side.

10. Please excuse ray friday from school. He has very loose vowels.

11. Please excuse Lesli from being absent yesterday. She had diahre dyrea direathe the shits.

12. Please excuse tommy for being absent yesterday. He had diarrhea, and his boots leak.

Irving was absent yesterday because he missed his bust.

14. Please excuse jimmy for being. It was his father's fault.

15. I kept Billie home because she had to go Christmas shopping because i don't know what size she wear.

16. Please excuse jennifer for missing school yesterday. We forgot to get the sunday paper off the porch, and when we found it monday. We thought it was sunday.

17. Sally won't be in school a week from friday. We have to attend her funeral.

18. My daughter was absent yesterday because she was tired. She spent a weekend with the marines.

19. Please excuse Jason for being absent yesterday. He had a cold and could not breed well.

20. Please excuse mary for being absent yesterday. She was in bed with gramps.

21. Gloria was absent yesterday as she was having a gangover.

22. Please excuse brenda. She has been sick and under the doctor.

23. Maryann was absent december 11-16, because she had a fever, sorethroat, headache and upset stomach. Her sister was also sick, fever an sore throat, her brother had a low grade fever and ached all over. I wasn't the best either, sore throat and fever. There must be something going around, her father even got hot l ast night.

Now we know why parents are screaming for better education for our kids!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

My photos site has moved!

I had to search for a better way to keep my photos site updated. Each time it took a bit of work, opening Dreamweaver, organizing, etc. I decided on flickr.com. I find it very easy to use and keep my photos updated. Take a look at my new photos site!

Click here to see the new site!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Isn't man a fool?

Joe's (not me) response to my snowfall blog below got me to thinking about a couple of things I learned as a kid:

1. Never judge a day by the weather.
2. A poem:

Isn't man a fool?
When it's hot, he wants it cool.
When it's cold, he wants it hot.
Always wanting what is not.
Never happy with what he's got.

Only in Italy...

While I was in Italy, The Washington Post printed this little ditty. I caught it when I got back and laughed my butt off. Only if you've been to Italy as a tourist will you know what this means!

Spotted . . . on Sunday by our colleague Tom Ricks, taking the shortest way home from Iraq -- stopping in Rome. In the city's Trastevere neighborhood, Ricks saw a restaurant with a sign posted in English on a tripod by its front door:


Only in Italy would those two things be considered moral equivalents.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

First Snowfall of the Year!

Yep, today was the first snowfall we've had here at home this year. Pretty, isn't it? Of course, it doesn't do much for traffic but as long as we don't have to drive too far, it sure is nice to look at!

Monday, December 3, 2007

My Sister's Nativity Scene

Not to be outdone by my aunt's presepio, my sister sent me a photo of hers today. Hers looks more traditional but it has a twist: each of the figurines represent a different nationality. It's an international set of characters. I asked her where the Martian one was and she promised to add it soon!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Italian Nativity Scenes

In Italy, the presepio, or Nativity Scene, is an integral part of Christmas in the home. This is my aunt's presepio in the round. Click on the photo to see more detail and all of the characters and objects. Nice, huh?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Now I've Seen It All!

While staying at the Fairmont hotel in San Jose, I browsed the room service menu and found this page. Yes, dogs are allowed in the rooms of this very nice hotel. Yes, you can have expensive snacks and meals delivered to them. Why not get the Chef's Daily Special, a Nutritive Meal for your Loved One, for only $12.00 or some Banana Biscotti for only $10.00?


Winter in San Jose...Oh, the Snow!

Who knew that it snowed in San Jose, California? I took this photo recently while speaking at a conference there. Well, photos can be deceiving. What is so clearly a thin layer of snow is nothing more than a white tarp placed on the ground. What? You weren't fooled? You knew it all along? Shucks, and I thought it looked so real!

I was also interested in skating under the palms. Unfortunately, it was to start just after I was to leave San Jose. And, oh yeah, I'm not a great skater!

The Puppy Who Would Be A Spy

I took these pictures at Dulles Airport after coming off a flight that I shared with this puppy and his owner. The puppy was very close to me and I never knew it. I don't think it was drugged and yet it stayed in a bag under this lady's seat without making a peep. It could be trained to spy on ne'er-do-wells without them knowing it. When she pulled him out of his bag, I was so surprised, that I barked!

Courtroom Jesters

These are from a book called Disorder in the American Courts, and are things people actually said in court, word for word, taken down and now published by court reporters that had the torment of staying calm while these exchanges were actually taking place.

ATTORNEY: What was the first thing your husband said to you that morning?
WITNESS: He said, "Where am I, Cathy?"
ATTORNEY: And why did that upset you?
WITNESS: My name is Susan!

ATTORNEY: What gear were you in at the moment of the impact?
WITNESS: Gucci sweats and Reeboks. ____________________________________________

ATTORNEY: Are you sexually active?
WITNESS: No, I just lie there.

ATTORNEY: This myasthenia gravis, does it affect your memory at all?
ATTORNEY: And in what ways does it affect your memory?
WITNESS: I forget.
ATTORNEY: You forget? Can you give us an example of something you forgot?

ATTORNEY: Do you know if your daughter has ever been involved in voodoo?
WITNESS: We both do.
WITNESS: Yes, voodoo.

ATTORNEY: Now doctor, isn't it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn't know about it until the next morning?
WITNESS: Did you actually pass the bar exam? ____________________________________

ATTORNEY: The youngest son, the twenty-year-old, how old is he?
WITNESS: Uh, he's twenty.

ATTORNEY: Were you present when your picture was taken?
WITNESS: Are you kidding me?

ATTORNEY: So the date of conception (of the baby) was August 8th?
ATTORNEY: And what were you doing at that time?
WITNESS: Uh.... I was having sex!

ATTORNEY: She had three children, right?
ATTORNEY: How many were boys?
ATTORNEY: Were there any girls?
WITNESS: Are you kidding me? Your Honor, I think I need a different attorney. Can I get a new attorney?

ATTORNEY: How was your first marriage terminated?
WITNESS: By death.
ATTORNEY: And by whose death was it terminated?
WITNESS: Now whose death do you suppose terminated it?

ATTORNEY: Can you describe the individual?
WITNESS: He was about medium height and had a beard.
ATTORNEY: Was this a male or a female?

ATTORNEY: Is your appearance here this morning pursuant to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney?
WITNESS: No, this is how I dress when I go to work.

ATTORNEY: Doctor, how many of your autopsies have you performed on dead people?
WITNESS: All my autopsies are performed on dead people. Would you like to rephrase that?

ATTORNEY: ALL your responses MUST be oral, OK? What school did you go to?

ATTORNEY: Do you recall the time that you examined the body?
WITNESS: The autopsy started around 8:30 p.m.
ATTORNEY: And Mr. Denton was dead at the time?
WITNESS: No, he was sitting on the table wondering why I was doing an autopsy on him! ____________________________________________

ATTORNEY: Are you qualified to give a urine sample?
WITNESS: Huh....are you qualified to ask that question? ______________________________________

And the best for last:

ATTORNEY: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for blood pressure?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for breathing?
ATTORNEY: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
ATTORNEY: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
WITNESS: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
ATTORNEY: I see, but could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
WITNESS: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Beauty of the Mountains of Italy

My sister and I outside her house. Pretty area, isn't it? The water pressure may be a little low and central heating is not common, but boy oh boy what a view!

Sarzano Castle

As castles go, this is not one of the largest, but it is the closest to my sister's house in Sarzano, Italy.

Guess to whom it belongs? No other than British actor Christopher Lee. His full name is Christopher Frank Carandini Lee and it's the Carandini line that ties him to the area. His mother was Marchesina Estelle Marie Carandini di Sarzano.

You may know him from his role as Saruman the White in the Lord of the Rings or Count Dooku in the Star Wars movies but he's actually been in 289 movies (and counting!). He was Dracula in all the early movies. Lee was named 2005's 'most marketable star in the world' in a USA Today newspaper poll, after three of the films he appeared in grossed $640m.

On July 21st 2004 he was given the honorary citizenship of the Italian city of Casina (Province of Reggio Emilia) where Sarzano, the castle of his ancestors is situated. He gave his speech of thanks in Italian. Pretty cool, huh?

The first two photos I took while in Italy this week. The second one shows my little friend Arthur, son of my friends Garry and Irene. Irene named him, believe it or not, after King Arthur, and doesn't he look regal in front of his castle?

The last two were taken by my sister when Christpher Lee was given his honorary citizenship in 2004.

Casina, Italy

Click the photo to enlarge it!!

This is the town of Casina in Italy, where my sister lives. I took this photo from the top of one of the hills, looking down on the town. No words or photographs can express the feeling of actually being there, but I hope this comes a little close.

The Beauty of Fog in Italy

You may want to click these photos to enlarge them. The fog nestled in the valleys near my sister with the mountains peaking look like islands on the ocean. They look surreal and beautiful to me.

Teaching English in Italy

My sister teaches English to various groups in Italy, including this group of advanced students at a company called Elletric80. A nicer group of folks you could not hope to meet! It was a lot of fun to help sis out on a couple of classes. I got to converse with these fine folks and got to know them better.

Nice-looking folks, don't you think?

The Mini-family Reunion

Here I am in Casina, Italy, with my sister and mother in the front row and my sister's husband on the far right. In the middle are my Uncle Attilio and two of his three kids, Edoardo and Arianna. I hadn't seen my uncle since 1999 and the kids sure have grown since then! In fact, they are now adults, just as mine have become adults during that time. It was wonderful to see them after all this time!

Caffe Macchiato with Class

Italians do everything with class, including coffee. This is not a cappuccino - it's a caffe macchiato. You may have ordered one at Starbucks without knowing that macchiato means "stained" in Italian - it's basically coffee stained with milk. Ah, but that wasn't enough for this young lady who made the coffee for me. She had to add a smiley face to help me smile on a cold winter day. Thank you, nice artist lady!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Monkey People in Milano

A series of beautiful photographs in Milano, Italy, along Via Dante, the Champs-Élysées of Milano, is marred by crazy tourists who can't help imitating what they see. Monkey see, monkey do?

Only kidding, of course. I put my friend Irene up to this! She's a good sport and looks nothing like the monkey in the photo. Well, maybe just a little.

La Galleria in Milano, Italy - Juxtaposition!

La Galleria is one of the earliest "malls". It's in an X shape and is enclosed except at the four entrances which are open, as you can see here.

The stores inside vary from the luxurious to the silly but nowhere is this more evident than smack in the middle, where four stores face toward the middle.

Here I present to you one of the silliest extremes to face each other. In one corner, Prada, the epitome of fashion and luxury. When you enter, there are more clerks than customers. The clerks dote on you hand and foot, flattering you and pointing you to those items that, once worn, will make people ooh and aah at you.

Directly facing Prada is the other extreme, McDonald's, the haven of hamburger-chomping and French Fry-nibbling American tourists and curious Italians, where there are many more customers than clerks, where the food and drinks will, once consumed, cause you to look less flattering, and will make people go oh-oh when they see your expanded gut.

Ah, the juxtaposition is simply...astounding!

My sister's artwork outside city hall

This is a carving that my sister made, commissioned by the city of Casina, Italy, to place at the entrance to the city hall. She is quite the artisan and quite the artist. Here she is next to her handiwork too.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Great Duomo of Milano

The central figure in Milano is the cathedral. Cathedrals in Italian are called catedrale or duomo, so this is known as the Duomo of Milano. It was built in the Middle Ages over a 300-year period. It's magnificent, awe-inspirting, jaw-dropping.

OK, now to some fun stuff.

Inside the cathedral there were, of course, confessionals, where people go to confess their sins to the priest. The priest sits in the middle area, which you see in the second photo. I guess priests get hungry too, considering what the tin of cookies I see half hidden in there!

On the main door of the cathedral are many ornate figures, including the ones you see here. One of them has a very shiny leg. That's because for centuries people have seen that leg as lucky if you rub it. Irene is demonstrating how to rub the lucky leg.

In the next photo you can see that I decided that touching the leg wasn't enough luck for me. I had to kiss it. I didn't quite kiss it, though, because I was thinking about the millions of people that touched that leg before me. Who knows where those peoples' hands have been??

Inside the cathedral, I also saw an announcement that Jesus is now on the web. However, they didn't provide his blog site address, so I'll have to update that later when I figure it out.