Monday, March 27, 2017

3/13/17- First day in Rome

Brief prelude- After a long over-night flight and we arrived Sunday night at Rome's Fiumicino airport.   Compared to the underwhelming and confusing experience at London's Heathrow during our layover we were very pleasantly surprised by the cleanliness and efficiency of Italy's flagship airport.  Who would have thought that the Brits would be outdone by the Italians.

The Victor Emmanuel II Monument
Our home-base for our Roman holiday would be the Hotel Forte. It is a smaller boutique hotel conveniently located just off of the Spanish Steps. What this place lacked for in space was more than made up in proximity to some of the best sites of in the city.

Day One Activities- We decided to jump right into the frying pan with a visit to the Vatican Museum and St. Peters Basilica.  We figured that if we could handle the crowds here everything else would be a relative walk in the park.

Among the morning Vatican highlights were:

  • Going through the lines security to get into the museum only to have my dad discover that he left his new iPhone in the cab on the way over.  Thankfully we had a great cab driver and got the issue resolved with minimal cost and impact to our schedule.  
  • Trying to push my dad in a wheel chair through the museum and quickly discovering that it does a pretty poor job accommodating those with special needs.  At one moment I was having difficulty getting my dad up a ramp which resulted in a brief bottleneck jamming up the traffic.  This gave me a wonderful opportunity to be on the receiving end of an insulting Italian hand gesture from one of the local security guards...his way of kindly imploring me to get my act together and stop gumming up the flow. You can refer to the 1:30 mark of the video below to see what I got.

  • Even though we are in the relative low season the crowds were insane.  To make matters worse the museum is set up to drive everyone to the Sistine Chapel which is a final destination.  The result is that you can't enjoy many of the wonderful sites along the way (Hall of Tapestries, Maps, or Raphael Rooms) because you are being constantly pushed by the flow of traffic.
  • Laoco├Ân has always been my favorite sculpture.  It not only captures one of my favorite stories from antiquity, the Trojan War, it also served as one of the principle inspirations to many of the great Renaissance artists like Michelangelo.  
  • The hall of busts, since it is somewhat detached from the major traffic, is a wonderful spot to enjoy the myriad treasures from antiquity that the Catholic Church had plundered over the years.  So much marble!
  • The Sistine Chapel, as expected was crowded and rushed.  So many people shortchange themselves of a wonderful experience because they rush to the chapel.  My dad tried to sneak some footage of the ceiling to no avail.  This is one of the few spots in Italy where they stringently enforce the no photo/video rule.
The Sistine captivated our morning and exhausted my feet.  We walked a few blocks north for a quick lunch of porchetta sandwiches at Angry Pig.  It gave us a quick moment to sit down, fill up, and recharge our batteries.  Soon enough we were back to Vatican City, this time to experience St. Peters Square.

Afternoon highlights included:
  • Bemusing, or rather amusing, myself at how easily my dad falls for the street vendors. Between the 1/4 mile walk from the museum to the square he got suckered into buying some cheap water colors, a laser pen, and some post cards.  He's such an easy 'mark'.
  • Seeing the long line filing into the St Peters Basilica and deciding that we should make an attempt at sneaking in through the exit.  My dad made it in but I was stopped.  I spent the next 30 minutes trying to distract and heckle the Vatican Guard.  
A busy day led to a memorable evening.  After a brief break we headed out on foot from the hotel in search of some typical Roman fare.  We settled on Dilla.  It had a welcoming staff and an atmosphere that is now being more commonly mimicked in the States.  We had some of the best bruschetta I've ever had.  Why favorite toppings were the artichokes, mushrooms, and ricotta.  I ordered the Cacio E Pepe and was somewhat underwhelmed.  It was exceptionally rich and the noodles were a little too al dente for my taste.  A brief walk to the Spanish Steps and our first day was a resounding success.

Other notes/highlights:
  1. Italian tip of the day-  Always take advantage of the free breakfast provided by the hotel.  They typically provide a healthy option of pastries and juices as well as a few attempts to satisfy American appetites with things like bacon and eggs.
  2. Most offensive action of the day-  My dad asking for BBQ sauce to go with his porchetta sandwich.
  3. Food highlight- The aforementioned sandwich.  Italian meals and dishes are exceptionally simple and what allows them to get away with this simplicity is the quality of their ingredients. 
The old man and the bruschetta shangri-la
Making friends on the Spanish Steps
Amazed at the beauty and the prices at Kiton


Bruce and Ryan's Italian (mis)adventure

The next several posts will capture the highlights from a recent trip that my father and I took to the old country...Italy.  This will likely be my dad's last major trip in this lifetime and I wanted to use the trip to share my love for the country and capture some of his life history through a series of interviews.


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Ode to 118 degrees

I was aware of this when I agreed to move to this fair city in the desert.  This is the Sonoran desert after all, the same latitude and altitude as the Northern Sahara for those needing a point of reference.  Despite all of the super irrigated and lush lawns full of citrus trees this is still an area that averages extreme temperatures and and average annual rain fall under 9 inches.

This heat is different.  Strangely enough there is a difference between 103 and 109 and there is also a difference between 109 and 117.  At 105 or 109 you can still get away with working outside, shade still offers refuge.  At 117 the heat is thick, even in the shade.  You look outside and plants look fatigued, brown, and weak.  The bright sun only illuminates a weary and browning landscape.  The family of quail in our neighborhood seeks refuge deep within the jasmine that I keep moist.

So I will deal with this heat wave.  I will huddle indoors in a sluggish state of survival.  I will repeatedly remind myself of how nice it is in February.  And I will wonder why the heck we didn't arrange to be in San Diego.

We should have known better.  Ah.....Phoenix.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Introducing Bite Sized Phoenix

It's no secret that I'm a glutton for ....well, gluttony.  I take up any chance to get out and sample some new cuisine in the burgeoning and ever impressive Phoenix dining scene.  As much as I enjoy Yelp I wanted to put my own stamp on my fair city.

Enter Bite Sized Phoenix.  The idea is to provide a precise, twitter-like experience for those wanting to explore the culinary options of the greater Phoenix area.  I don't have any grand aspirations for the site other then an outlet to document my experiences in a medium that gives me a little more creative possibility.  It is still a work in progress but it is starting to take shape.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Excessive Sociality

Pardon me while I wipe the dust off my blog. In this age of 140 characters, likes, and instagram there seemingly isn't much room for expansive thought and paragraphs.  I'm not alone as a quick perusal of most blogs that I usually follow reveals that mine isn't the only one resembling an unkept corner on the web.


Do we no longer have the attention span or fortitude to actually see our thoughts through.  Perhaps.  The new portals of social media seem to be a kudzu strangling the life from the once verdant blog landscape.  Alas, the 'Dude' is one of those now on life support.

This is what it has to cope with.

  1. Twitter- It is so much easier to write in 140 characters instead of going through the effort to develop a thought.
  2. Facebook- Tough to compete with that ecosystem.  I remember joining that thing early on when it was nothing more then a playground of a few thousand college kids.  No, carried on the backs of a billion house wives, it is the 800 pound gorilla that has become the de facto clearing house for anything online.
  3. Linked In- Yes, even this business networking tool takes time away from the beloved blog.  The groups function provide relevant forums that typically hone in on special interests better then the looser network of the blogosphere.
  4. Vine- Pictures now?
  5. Instagram- Now that we are literally carrying a couple cameras with us at all times it only makes sense that we have a convenient way to post everything.
  6. Pinterest- Not much experience here either but a force to be reckoned with.
  7. Yelp- We can't even eat without feeling compelled to tell the world about it.

So we see that all of these and others have been slowly chipping away at whatever free time we have to devote to the grandfather of social media, the blog.  And just like our grandparents they will be relegated to only occasional visits  a sporadic fits of nostalgia.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

The Curious Case of the Growing Night Stand

The problem with is the sheer depth of offerings and the ease at which one can make a purchase. Combine that with a scatterbrained mind and you have a recipe for a tower of books on top of my night stand that is getting babelesque. 

Here is what I currently have in the active queue.

  1. The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle- This came with such a high recommendation from Jason Hansen that I was willing to over look the Oprah accolades.  I'm still just a few chapters in but I feel like he does a good job of bringing Eastern thought to a western audience.  We live in such tumultuous and distracting times that we rarely reach the inner peace that Eckhart talks about.
  2. The Revolution, Ron Paul- The more I take into account my political thinking the more the Libertarian platform resonates.  This book was loaned to me by my Camelback hiking buddy, Chris West.  I will always value liberty and individuality and I am often perplexed by people who think that Government needs to be the answer to so many things.
  3. Around the Roman Table, Patrick Faas- I love Roman history and I love the culinary arts.  This is the perfect marriage.  While I will never be a huge fan of Garum I do enjoy reading about the role that food played throughout Roman history.  There are even some recipes in there for those bold enough to recreate a Roman dinner.
  4. Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon- I had an earlier version of this book when I was a kid and in love with the archeology of the Toltecs, Olmecs, and Maya.  While I don't ever feel that there will be enough archeology to ever convince the skeptic of the veracity of the Book of Mormon I do enjoy reading about history of the region and the similarities between the Book and recorded history and archeological evidence.
  5. On Grattitude, Todd Jensen- This is from a cherished cousin.  Todd interviews celebrities for a living and over the course of several years he has captured their expressions of gratitude.  They range from truly heartfelt to somewhat odd.
  6. Mexifornia, Victor Davis Hanson- I am often perplexed out how complicated we have made what should be a rather straightforward issue, immigration.  Hanson creates an interesting narrative based on his experience growing up and living in Central California.  He has some interesting points and observations but I wish he would have provided more science and statistics to back up his assertions.
  7. Road to Serfdom, FA Hayek- The bible for those who believe in political freedom and hate centrally planned economies.  His book sprang out of his observations from Europe leading up to and just after World War II.  I have just started this book but, based on the wide ranging opinions for good and bad, it should be an interesting read.


Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Two halves of the country...what if I don't belong to either?

So we sit back and watch as pundits simplify the process into neat segments of the voting population.The loser gives the same old speech about overcoming a hard fought battle and unifying the country to move forward.  The victor follows and gives essentially the same tired speech.  It's all rhetoric because we all know how divided this country is and how little this dysfunctional government can accomplish.

I'm jaded.  I lean Republican but I am very disappointed with how they posture and ignore and miscalculate issues like immigration, defense, income inequality, and science.  I typically don't lean towards Democratic issues because I don't believe that the Government can and should to to interfere in most economic, social, and welfare issues.  Despite that I did inspired by the message shared by Obama in 08', enough so that I even wrote about it here.

Here we are four years later and those once great speeches about Hope and Change now ring hollow.  Under his leadership the only things that have really grown are fingerpointing, debt, and division.  Sure the economy, mainly reflected in the stock market, is doing better then 08' but how could it not?  Also, there is nothing that tells me we have long term prospects for growth. The man who was supposed to transcend the political malaise has become just another mudslinger except with super cool Hollywood sycophants.

But the blame isn't solely with the people wearing the blue ties.  The obstructionist, stop it at all costs Republican party blew their chance to make a case to a weary people.  Many folks, due to the circumstances, were ready to listen to a feasible alternative.  All you gave us was a message hijacked by the Evangelicals and Tea Party wing of the party.  You have done a horrible job articulating a conservative and federalist alternative to big government.  You have isolated huge groups of the population with views that are out of date (i.e. Immigration, Climate Change)  Your rigid stance on Moral issues such as Gay Marriage puts the next generation of voters further out of reach.  In short you've created a huge loser by refusing to even compromise on some issues to get work done.

I know that I am not alone in being jaded with both parties.  Both are corrupted, bloated, and beguiled by powerful special interests.  Both parties speak empty words to disguise their corruption. I yearn for a third way. The closest alternative for me is the Libertarian party.  If we can get enough people to push for a third alternative maybe we can send some kind of shock to Washington.  The decay back there is so rancid that it will only take something radical to be the real Change that has alluded Mr. Obama.

I love America but I absolutely hate the direction that she has been taken.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Family (Sept 2012)