Jun 12

World Cup Commentary

Posted by Simon

Football (soccer) is a great metaphor for life.

Showing off my England Shirt but cheering for the USA

We just watched the USA play England to a draw in the first round of the World Cup.  I forget how enjoyable it is to watch a good game.   Of all sports football (soccer) is the best metaphor for life. think about it.  Just like in life, in football (soccer):

  • There are very few breaks in the action.
  • You have to play offense and defense.
  • Most of what you try doesn’t work.
  • A lot of what goes on is important but boring.
  • Bad things happen but play goes on.

To win in football (soccer):

• Teamwork is necessary, but so are heroic individual acts.
• Luck counts.
• Lots of the time you know the score, but not how much time there is to play.
• Conditioning is incredibly important.
• It has some silly rules like “off sides” and “hands.”

Just like in life.

Jun 11

Animals in Italy

Posted by Simon

Some people when they travel see lots of cultural stuff.

Like churches and other historic sights.

When we travel we see animals. Here are a few from Italy:

Animals in Italy

This angry Gull was protecting her chick:

Animals in Italy

Don’t worry she was still there the next day

Animals in Italy

There were lots of healthy looking outdoor cats

Animals in Italy

And a few feral ones.

Animals in Italy

The dogs were mostly handsome and very well behaved.

Click here to see more on Flickr

Jun 10

Comparative Cats

Posted by Simon

Theo and Robert’s Cat:


In the UK

Rebecca’s Cat:


In California.

Coincidence or Cousins?

Jun 5

I agree with what President Obama said in his Louisiana speech on Friday June 4th: “It’s brutally unfair. It’s wrong.”  The President was showing his concern about the disruption to the lives of fishermen and others who depend on the Gulf for a living.  And I agree “Its brutally unfair.”  Where we disagree is about what to do about how unfair it is.  History shows that the government won’t be able to make it fair and for lots of people will make it more unfair.

Don’t believe me.  Take a look at the aftermath of Katrina.  The Federal Government has redirected nearly 250 billion dollars from taxpayers to the Gulf States to try to “make it fair.”  And what has happened nobody is happy, people are still living in trailers and are more dependent than ever on the welfare system.  And an even bigger problem is the moral hazard created by the aid.  Why should Louisiana or Wakefield Parrish or you or I bother to buy insurance, build some reserves and have personal evacuation plans in place if we can count on the federal government to bail us out each time.

250 billion dollars is about $250,000 for each person in the affected area.  We have to ask has it been well spent?  Or would it have been better to leave most of the money in the pockets of the taxpayers?

Now we are about to go down the same path again.  I’d like to propose that we have a new national disaster response plan.  It will say that we will all pitch in through the existing government agencies to help in time of a disaster.  But within sixty or ninety days aid will stop.  Let the state and local governments, the businesses and individuals finance and implement the long term recovery.  If they can’t organize it people will move away and and the next disaster will have less human impact.

Why should a bus driver in El Monte, California pay to clean up a beach in Destin, Florida so that an accountant and his family from Washington, DC can have a nice vacation? “It’s brutally unfair. It’s wrong.”

Jun 5

Trompe L’Oeil

Posted by Simon

Trompe L'Oeil

The building across from our hotel in Santa Margherita

The decorations on this building are not real.  They are painted on using a technique that make them look real.  The technique goes by the French name “Trompe L’Oiel” which means roughly to fool the eye.  It is pronounced: “trum ploy”.

Trompe L'Oeil

A close-up illustrates the point

How and why it became fashionable to use it along the north west coast of Italy could be the subject of a doctoral thesis.  What we discovered was that it is done by homeowners and landlords to increase the eye appeal of their building.  There are no tax or direct economic subsidies to the owners.  It is roughly the same as people in Pasadena spending a lot of money to do really nice landscaping in their front yards.  It works by something like peer pressure for adults.

Trompe L'Oeil

note the shadows of the real shutters above

In many cases the original building was roughly hewn stone from the late middle ages.  They were stuccoed later as fashion changed and economics allowed.  Beginning in the mid nineteenth century with the arrival of the railroads and tourists the fashion of decorating a building with trompe l’oiel started. Probably so the buildings wouldn’t look like they were in poor fishing villages.

Trompe L'Oeil

I like the fact that a community of people works through non government, non coercive means to achieve a common good.  Sometimes it has gotten a little out of hand.

Trompe L'Oeil

Even the cat is painted

I wonder if a painter skilled at this type of painting could build a business in the Los Angeles area?

More Trompe L’Oeil Pictures

More Italy trip Posts

Jun 4

Italian Maxim June 4, 2010

Posted by Simon

France exists so that you can drive to Italy.

James May, Top Gear. English Author

Cinque Terre

Bonus: Two Italian Proverbs

Chi la sera i pasti li ha fatti, sta agli altri lavare i piatti.”

  • Translation: “If one cooks the meal then the others wash up.”

“Nelle botti piccine ci sta il vino buono”

  • Translation: In the small barrels you find the good wine.
  • Idiomatic Translation: Good things (or people) come in small packages.

More Italy Trip posts and pictures

Jun 2

Cinque Terre

Posted by Simon

During the second week of our trip to Italy we walked with Country Walkers in the Cinque Terre.    The food and the accommodations were excellent but they paled beside the companions, the guide and the spectacular hiking.  We stayed in Santa Margherita , Levanto and Portovenere and hiked every day.

Cinque Terre


Our Country Walkers guide was Alessandro Gullo (call me Alex).  He knows everything and will patiently explain it to you.

Cinque Terre

Alex and Nurit

This trip was Nurit’s “big birthday” gift from last year, much delayed by our family troubles but well worth the wait.  I’ll go on vacation with Nurit anytime.  She chooses the best places.

The only other couple on the tour were Marty and Bruce A.  They were, from my perspective, very simpatico.  They had excellent stories, similar likes and dislikes and they tolerated my occasional outbursts and bad jokes.  Of course Nurit does that all the time so I should give her some credit.

Cinque Terre

An intrepid hiker

Some of the main trails in the Cinque Terre were closed because of the heavy rains.  So Alex took us in taxi’s to the top of the hills and we walked on beautiful paths down to the even more beautiful villages.  The weather while we were there was spectacular.

Cinque Terre

One of the Terre

As usual there are more pictures on Flickr

For more Links to our Italy trip click here

Jun 1

Chianti and Tuscany

Posted by Simon

One of the high points of the first week of our trip was a  visit to the Piccolomini Library in the Duomo.

Piccolomini Library

It was painted in the 1300’s about the time that they were discovering perspective and has been incredibly well restored.  It is worth standing in line to see.

The Campo is very beautiful in any weather and you don’t need to stand in line.  I sat here one afternoon and wrote postcards.


After four days we moved to a really nice hotel in Radda and had two of the very best meals we had on the trip.  Hotel Relais Vignale and Ristorante Al Chiasso Dei Portici.  We also toured two wineries, drank lots of Chianti and found the largest flower pot we have ever seen.

Biggest Pot

Click here to see more photos on Flickr

And don’t just be a voyeur.  Write me a comment about your trip to Italy or something.

Jun 1

Italy Week

Posted by Simon

This week I’m going to focus on a run of posts about our trip to Italy in May.  I made a couple of posts from Italy using Nurit’s computer.

Cinque Terre

ancient terraces

It has taken me a week to collect and organize the bulk of the photos and ideas from the trip.  This is what you can look forward to:

  • Photos and stories from out tour in Chianti and Tuscany
  • Photos and stories from our Cinque Terre walk
  • An Italian maxim
  • A couple of great guide stories
  • Trompe L’Oeil, the story and the pronunciation guide
  • The bins of Italy Calendar
  • Great animal photos from Italy
  • The best of (photos and stories)

All of the above subjects are subject to change so don’t get to rigid about what happens.


The Campo in Siena

All of the Italy 2010 posts so far