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Sunday, November 27, 2005

This blog has moved ! Our new address is www.buzzurro.net

J.Doe and I are moving and this blog is moving too !
We have a new blog that replaces this.
The new address is

www.buzzurro.net



Please change your bookmarks !
See you in our new blog.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

We are moving to the US

J.Doe ed io ci trasferiremo negli Stati Uniti entro poche settimane.

In un altro post, tratteremo piu' in dettaglio delle motivazioni che ci hanno spinto a questa decisione.

Per il momento, diciamo che ci stiamo trasferendo li' allo scopo di migliorare la nostra vita.

Invece di fare come tanti, che si lamentano, e basta, delle cose che non vanno nella loro vita quotidiana, noi cerchiamo di cambiarla in meglio.

Quindi, tra un po', i post del blog Buzzurro verranno sparati non dall'Italia, dove siamo attualmente, ma dagli Stati Uniti.

Ciao ciao

Now in English:

J.Doe and I are moving to the United States in a few weeks.

We will discuss more extensively the reasons of this choice.

Now I will just say that our move is aimed at improving our life.

We are not acting like many who just complain about things that don't work in their lives, without doing a thing, instead we try to improve ours.

So, in a short time, Buzzurro's blog posts will be published not from Italy, where we currently are, but from the U.S.

Ciao ciao

Friday, November 25, 2005

Another day, Another Strike in Italy

This really pisses me off. Sure, workers have a right to ask for more money, but did they ever hear of mediation ?

Piero Fassino complained that the government had "blocked the country's growth and made Italians' jobs precarious."

OK, now do you think going on strike every other month is going to help the Italian economy? Do you think losing one days wages is going to make all Italians richer? And, how do you think the jobs got precarious, you bozo Fassino? Perhaps by going on strike every month?

Every other month it seems there is another large strike affecting something important.
This time the strike is to complain about the proposed budget cuts for 2006.
Why they can't just write letters to all those politicians in parliament, I don't know.

These strikes are stagnating everything. The Italian Economy is either growing very little or not growing at all. If they keep on striking, the 'growth' will be negative...

Thursday, November 24, 2005

A Happy Thanksgiving...

...to my wife, to my in-laws, to all American people who I know in person, to all Americans who read this, and to all of you who celebrate the spirit of Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving !

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Pharmaceutical Monopoly in Italy

A week after I first arrived in Italy I developed a headache.
I walked to my local Supermarket to buy aspirin, but alas, I could not find them anywhere in the store.
When Buzzurro came home from work I told him that I looked all over for aspirin in the supermarket, and could not find them. He asked me if I had gone to a pharmacy.
"No," I answered. "Of course not. I went to the supermarket."
He replied that in Italy, ALL medicines, those requiring a prescription as well as those who don't, by Italian law can only be sold in a pharmacy.
The next day I went to a pharmacy and saw a box of aspirin on sale. There were 10 in a box and the price was 3 euros and 80 cent.
"What !" I thought to myself "3 euros and 80 cent. For 10 aspirin? Are they crazy here?" (but bought them anyway because I still did have a headache).
This was my first experience with the miseries brought upon the Italian nation by the monopoly of pharmacies, Federfarma.

Federfarma is opposed to the selling of over the counter OTC medications in any place other than a pharmacy.
Of course this keeps the prices of the non-prescription medicines such as aspirin extremely high.
They set the prices.
Competition is not a factor at all.
Their reasoning being that selling non-prescription medicines in a store other than a pharmacy is dangerous and will create grave risks for diseases caused by misuse or overmedication.

They want the public to buy all medicines in a pharmacy because the pharmacist explains the doses of medicine needed and how to correctly use them.
I for one have never had a pharmacist explain to me how to take an aspirin.
I buy them at their extremely high price, go home, and read the instruction booklet for the medicines which is included in the box of them.
I assume that other people in Italy can read and do this too.
Non-prescription medicine is the costliest in Italy than in all of Europe, the US and for all I know, the rest of the world.
I read somewhere that there is a small group of Italian consumers that they have a petition requesting the sale of non-prescription medications in stores other than pharmacies.
I don't know who they are, I've never seen a petition, but sign me up ! It's a worthy cause.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Jobs in Italy

According to ANSA news service, getting jobs in Italy requires contacts.
You just figured that out now ANSA reporters? You didn't get your jobs based on skill I see.

Recently a survey was done showing that 'raccomandazioni' (connections) are still thriving.

The poll of 100,000 private firms by the Union of Italian Chambers of Commerce (Unioncamere) found that almost 43% were in the habit of hiring people they knew.
Only 43 percent ? Just looking around, I think the true number would be 99.9 percent.

Why I am Against the Death Penalty (Most of the Time)

Ruben Cantu was 17 in 1984 when he was charged with capital murder in the fatal shooting of a man during an attempted robbery in San Antonio. The victim was shot nine times with a rifle before the gunman unloaded more rounds into the only eyewitness.
The eyewitness, Juan Moreno, told the Chronicle that it wasn't Cantu who shot him. Moreno said he identified Cantu as the killer during his 1985 trial because he felt pressured and was afraid of authorities.
Cantu was executed at age 26. He had long professed his innocence.

If a person is put in jail for a long time, and years later if new evidence appears to prove him innocent the state can simply open the jail doors, perhaps pay the person some compensation money for being locked up for a part of his/her and let them go.

If a person is executed however, and years later if new evidence appears they are dead. There is nothing to be done to bring him/her back to life.

There are certain times when I do think the death penalty is just. If there is overwhelming DNA evidence, or if the crime is caught on camera, or maybe a credible confession...

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Benefits of Tipping

A few weeks ago I tried to explain to somebody why I prefer to pay a tip in a restaurant because it leads to better service.
The server wants as big a tip as possible so will often go out of his/her way to give good service.
They responded of course that the system in Italy of paying all the waiters and waitresses more so the clients do not have to leave a tip is better.
Since in all restaurants you have to pay a cover charge (usually 1 to 2 Euros) and a 10 percent service charge it amounts to paying the same money for eating a meal at a restaurant anyway, I didn't argue wholeheartedly. Maybe I should have.

Yesterday Buzzurro and I went to a restaurant/pizzeria. I should have known something was wrong, by the lack of other customers in this restaurant, but, well, we eat dinner early in Italy (7:45pm) so it's not uncommon to find only 1 or 2 other patrons in restaurants.
We went to a large restaurant with beautiful artwork on the walls and 2 floors. 3 waitresses were gossiping amongst themselves in the corner on the first floor..
" The customers will surely come later." I thought to myself.
The waitress sat us at a table on the second floor. Then she went back to talk to her friends.
We decided what we wanted to eat right away, and signalled that we wanted to order. All to no avail. Nobody came up to take our order, so Buzzurro went down the stairs to where the waitress were all congregating and talking to each other and said:
"We are ready to order now."
Our waitress gave him a dirty look as if to say "Don't interupt my conversation !" But went to our table anyway and took our order.
10 minutes later she brought us our food. She slammed it on the table and stormed away.

Excuse me for ruining your day, lady, by making you work, but YOU are getting paid and WE are paying.

When we were done with our meal the same thing happened to us. Nobody was in sight and we wanted our bill so we could pay and leave.
Finally Buzzurro went down the stairs and saw our waitress talking to the other waitresses, who hadn't moved from the spot either. He asked for our bill.
Our waitress replied without interest "Yeah, OK" But 15 minutes later when she still didn't arrive at our table we just got up and went to the cash register, where there was somebody.
We repeated our order. Paid. And Left. The whole time of course our waitress was still in the corner with the others talking.
Now I understand why there were hardly any customers in the restaurant. The food was OK, but the service stinks. Who wants to pay for that ?
Under a tipping system our waitress would have received a very small tip, and she would have wisened up fast and changed her behavior if only to get bigger tips.
Under the non-tipping system that they have here she was paid the same whether she was nice or not.
There was no incentive to be nice or friendly at all and as you know from reading the many posts on this blog, being nice and friendly is not a natural trait of North/Central Italy.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Al Qaeda Does What to Civilians ?

Al Qaeda had a suicide bomber drive a car into a Iraqi muslim funeral today, killing 25 people.

Yesterday, Mr. Al Zarwaki said that Al Quada "did not target Muslim civilians."
Who did he think was going to attend this funeral anyway ? Coalition forces ? Israelis ? Jooos ?
Obviously Muslims were there. What a liar. A Hypocrite.

Read about it here.

I am against suicide bombings against any people, Muslim, Jew, Christian, American or Spanish, military or civilian, but especially civilian.
Zarqawi is full of lies. He is saying one thing and doing another. I can see it, and it looks like several people are finally opening their eyes and seeing the truth too.

There was a rally in Jordan with approximately 200,000 participants, several calling Al Zarqawi a "coward" and saying that he should "burn in hell."

Several radical Islamic websites that normally celebrate al-Qaeda's terrorist attacks are now replete with criticism of the indiscriminate slaughter of innocent Muslims.

This is a small, but welcome step. Perhaps if everyone, even the fanatic and non-fanatic supporters of Al Qaeda see that he is hypocritical, maybe, just maybe Al-Qaeda will lose it's welcome in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

Another article of interest about the same topic as above.

Cats get Justice

A woman was sentenced by a court to spend the night in a park without food or shelter because she abandoned kittens to the same fate. Well, not exactly the same, she is allowed to have water. She also has to go to jail for 60 days and pay a fine after all abandoning animals is a crime.

She abandoned 33 cats in 2 parks near Lake Metropark, in northeastern Ohio, and subsequently a few of them died, or are sick.

The sentencing judge wanted her "to suffer the same consequences as those kittens."

Some people might think this is a severe punishment. I don't. As much as cats are independent animals and act like they don't need humans to survive, they do. Especially when they are in the kitten stage of life.

I wish more judges handed out unusual sentences like this, especially those in Italy, where the abandonment of domestic animals is quite common, especially in the summer holiday months.

Read more about it here.

Thank you Drudge Report.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Who stole my USB key ?

This USB key, if stolen, is able to send an email to the legit owner saying: hey, I'm here, here's the IP address of the PC I'm connected to, take me back home ! Cool.

Not only...

It can be remotely controlled, so that it clears out all data it contains. Not bad.

And, who stole my laptop ?

[Via Geeksquare]

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A story

When the founder of Hasidic Judaism, the great Rabbi Israel Shem Tov, saw misfortune threatening the Jews, it was his custom to go into a certain part of the forest to meditate. There he would light a fire, say a special prayer, and the miracle would be accomplished and the misfortune averted.

Later, when his disciple, the celebrated Maggid of Mezritch, had occasion, for the same reason, to intercede with heaven, he would go to the same place in the forest and say: “Master of the Universe, listen ! I do not know how to light the fire, but I am still able to say the prayer,” and again the miracle would be accomplished.

Still later, Rabbi Moshe-leib of Sasov, in order to save his people once more, would go into the forest and say, “I do not know how to light the fire. I do not know the prayer, but I know the place, and this must be sufficient.” It was sufficient, and the miracle was accomplished.

Then it fell to Rabbi Israel of Rizhin to overcome misfortune. Sitting in his armchair, his head in his hands, he spoke to God: “I am unable to light the fire, and I do not know the prayer, and I cannot even find the place in the forest. All I can do is to tell the story, and this must be sufficient.” And it was sufficient.

And you know why ? Because God loves stories.

News from Paris: Polygamy a Possible Factor for the Riots

I know that the MSM has been bending over backwards when discussing the riots in France to not use the M word (Muslim), but this is ridiculous.

The problem is not polygamy it is a lack of feeling French.

France is trying hard to be secular society, but according to me, J.Doe, to deny that most of the present, or all of the early rioters are Muslim is to do a grave disservice to finding the root of the problem and possibly correcting it. Throwing more money at the affected areas won't do it. Letting 14 year old children out of school so they can learn trades won't help either.

Thanksgiving Lists

I have been tagged by Gia-gina to list 10 shallow things I am thankful for and 10 things I am genuinely thankful for. I admit that I had to look at Google first to see exactly what a meme was. Technical and blogspeak terms evade me. Starting with "On" Button.
Here are my lists.

10 Shallow Things I am Thankful for:

1. Most of my houseplants have survived the years of living with me and my notoriously black thumb.
2. I can take many pictures with my digital camera and not have to spend thousands of Euros on film and developing fees. I can just delete whatever comes out bad (80%).
3. My brother made it across the finish line in a runner's marathon (because if he didn't I'd hear about 'Why I didn't' for months).
4. One of my neighbors went to work today so I was able to sit in my livingroom and surf the internet without hearing him argue with his roommate.
5. It rained yesterday and I actually had an umbrella with me.
6. I made it through Italian Driving School without killing anyone/being killed (even though I had been driving for 17 years in the US before I moved here). The roads are scary places.
7. There is a sale next week at the market near my house on rucola (arugula). I am addicted to that stuff. I never ate it in the US before, but it is really good. (and healthy too!)
8. Wine is cheap in Italy (not that I'm an alcoholic or anything, but I appreciate wine).
9. Tiramisu'. Need I say more? (well I will. I always hated Tiramisu' in the US, but here in Italy it is delicious).
10. I love how Buzzurro says my name, even when he's mad at me.

10 Things I am Genuinely Thankful for.

1. They finally turned the building heat on so I don't have to nearly freeze every morning and night.
2. The Italian Countryside is breathtaking beautiful and when my husband and I take drives around to see it I am at peace.
3. I get to relax and vent my frustrations out on our blog (so thank you to all you readers who at the same time are my therapists J ).
4. We have 2 computers in our house so Buzzurro and I don't have to share.
5. My brother and his wife had a baby girl, my first niece. She is the cutest thing too!
6. I met my soulmate in Italy, my dear husband, Buzzurro, who I love with all my heart.
7. My parents taught me to be independent.
8. My health is very good compared to many others.
9. I am a good cook because I like to eat well.
10. The conversations Buzzurro and I have in any place, at any time.

I would like to pass this Meme to Indigo Bubbles, Mad Minerva and Nickie Goomba. The meme is to make your own shallow things I am thankful for and genuine things I am thankful for list and post it on your blog.

My first Thanksgiving in Italy

Thanksgiving is not an Italian Holiday.

Yet nevertheless, as an American woman it was a holiday that I have warm memories of, and I wanted to keep that feeling alive.
My husband had obviously never celebrated it before, so I wanted to make this year's thanksgiving extra special.
The year was 2002.

Not only was it my first Thanksgiving in Italy, but it was my first Thanksgiving as a married woman.
Even though there are only 2 of us in my household -me and my husband- I was determined to get all of the foods required for a real, proper Thanksgiving meal to show him a little what it's about...

My planning started a few days before. I went into a store that sells English and American products and looked for cranberries. I didn't find any.
The store did however sell canned cranberry sauce. I looked at the price tag... 6 Euro.
Too expensive for a can of cranberry sauce !
I decided at that point to forget it. Who needs cranberry sauce anyway ?

I then went to the supermarket to buy things they called sweet potatoes, and zucca, which I thought was pumpkin, but after I bought a chunk and got home, discovered that it was more like a butternut squash.

I also saw that the store sold turkey legs, so I figured that somewhere there must be a whole turkey in hiding but, no.
For that you have to go to a butcher shop.

I then went to a butcher and told the guy behind the counter that I wanted a turkey.
He pointed to some dead chickens complete with feet and heads hanging from the ceiling.

I repeated my question, thinking that maybe he didn't understand me when I said TURKEY.
I was expecting one of those big breasted animals that I'm used to seeing. The butcher again pointed to those chicken-looking things hanging from the ceiling.

On closer inspection I did see the crown that you find on turkey heads on these creatures, but after seeing their yellow feet I just couldn't move myself to buy one.

I know that turkeys have feet, but I'm too used to buying my food pre-packaged with the head and feet removed.
I decided NOT to buy turkey. Who needs turkey on thanksgiving ?

"It will be a just have to be a vegetarian Thanksgiving" I thought to myself.

As justification I reasoned that my husband and I are not really fans of turkey anyway.

Back to those items that I thought were sweet potatoes they weren't. They were hard as rocks and white inside.
There were 4 in each package.
When I saw a worm crawl out of one I threw them all away.
We had regular potatoes in the house for mashed potatoes anyway.

I was planning on serving both kinds of potatoes, but, well, who needs sweet potatoes when there are already mashed potatoes being served ?

The 'pumpkin' I bought was just too hard to mash up to make a pumpkin pie.
And the canned mix they sell in the stores cost 6.50 Euro.
Too much to spend on a can of pumpkin mix !
Oh well. Who needs dessert anyway. Just extra calories.

The greenbeans I made looked a little funny without the fried onions that I usually use for a topping, but oh well you can't have everything.

Buzzurro came home early from work that day for a lovely thanksgiving dinner of mashed potatoes and greenbeans and of course lasagna.
It was not really special as I wanted, more like a normal meal.
Next year we'll just order pizzas.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Hot Chocolate

Another day has gone by in which I have not been paid for work I did in September/early October.
It is very frustrating, and sometimes I feel like screaming.
I think today that instead of writing a negative blog entry about Italy, I'll just chill for a while. Relax. Drink a glass of Chianti.... or better yet, I think I'll go to the bar and have a hot chocolate.

When I first came to Italy and I went to a coffee shop I saw on the menu they had several types of hot chocolate. One was 65 percent cocoa, another was 70 percent cocoa and the third was 72 percent cocoa.
"How strange ?" I thought. As I ordered the 65 percent cocoa because it was the cheapest.

What the barista handed me was nothing I had ever seen before. He handed me a coffee cup with what looked like thick, gooey mud in it. I tasted it anyway. It was out-of-this-world good ! It tasted like liquified fine chocolate ! It was heavenly ! The hot chocolate in Italy is the best.
It tastes nothing like the stuff called Hot chocolate in the US that sometimes has little marshmallows floating in it, sometimes not ! It even has the color of chocolate instead of the watered down brown that is found in the US types.
Even the powdered mixes you buy in the store and add to milk at home are so much better than the hot chocolate of the US.

Tourists may come to Italy for the beaches, for the art, for the outdoor scenic views, but only those coming in the Winter/late Fall/early Spring will be able to taste the best hot chocolate there is !


Update: After writing this post I did go to a bar and ordered a hot chocolate. I must say it was the worst I ever tasted in my life. Figures !

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Italy Blues

When I first arrived in Italy I saw the grand old buildings, the museums filled with great works of art and the wonderful scenery with amazing views of natural beauty.
Italy was a quaint village, all the way down to its cobblestone streets.
I ate the best food and drank the best wine and coffee. I saw friendly people that said goodbye when you left their store.

3 and a half long years later, I am singing a different tune.
Those grand old buildings that I once admired are now rundown, uncared for buildings that are in need of new paint, or repairs or just something, and the cute cobblestone streets I now see are overrun with large quantities of trash.
Instead of seeing all the great works of art I see the graffitti on the walls.
Now that I understand Italian better I understand that the people are not friendy, but the rudest I've ever seen.
When they say goodbye to you in the store it is a custom.
Italy is big on customs.
For genuine niceness it is just not the place to be. I no longer see a quaint village in Italy but a society that is hopelessly stuck in the 1800s when it actually offered the word something.

What changed ?
Not Italy. Things never change here. Must have been me.

What has happened to me to turn this Italy admirerer into an Italy non-admirer ?
Could it have anything to do with needing to fill out 300 different forms for a service, only to find out that what's good for one area of government is not good for the others ?
(Example: What's good for the police at customs is not good for the Italian Motor Vehicles Department)
Yes, the bureacratic inefficiency here is a nightmare.

Is it that I can't seem to find a job due to legalized age discrimination ?
Jobs here post a maximum age, usually in the low 20s. I am in my mid 30s. Therefore, I am an unemployable old hag.
Could it be that when I miraculously do find a job with either a bad contract or an illegal "black" job I either get paid very late and after days of bitchy phone calls, or maybe not at all ?

Perhaps if I were able to attain some liveable standard of economic stability I would not feel this way. I am frustrated beyond belief.

I definitely have the Italy blues.

Look what Lieutenant Dan (Of Forrest Gump fame) is doing now in Iraq ?

Gary Sinise (best known for his role as Lieutenant Dan in the film Forrest Gump) is a cofounder of the organization Operation Iraqi Children.
On a visit to Iraq in 2003, Mr. Sinise was saddened to see that Iraqi children often go to schools that lack in everything from pencils, and books, to working toilets and floors.
Under Saddam Hussein the school system was not updated.

"How are the kids supposed to lear anything in school without basic supplies, such as pencils and books ?"

Sinise continues to stay in touch with the troops in Iraq. From them he hears the good news that he says is overlooked in press coverage from Iraq.

"I get another side of the story that we don't hear through the media," he said. "And it's more positive things happening than you would think based on the perception that we have on a daily basis."

The news reports, he said, are "always about a bomb or a suicide bomber or somebody getting killed. Of course that's dramatic and all of that but, on a day-to-day basis, there is a lot of improvement; there's a lot of hope, a lot of kids that are going to school that never got to do that before."

What difference might a school book make? For Sinise, all the difference in the world.

"If we can help these little kids," he said, "and they can see that there is freedom to learn - to just go to school and have a pencil and learn - something might happen in the way they grow up, and take charge of their own country."

Here is their website: http://operationiraqichildren.org/.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

But I do speak Italian !

When I first arrived in Italy I had a very limited Italian Language vocabulary. This did not stop me from looking for a job, however.
I figured that since Internet Cafes are mostly frequented by tourists, many of which speak some English ranging from fluent to a few words, I could work there.

At the first internet cafe I found, I asked if they were hiring. The girl at the desk didn't answer me, but asked me for my CV (resume).
I handed it to her, she looked at it and then asked me, "Do you speak Italian fluently ?"
"No" I replied. "I am currently taking Italian language classes though."
And she replied "We are in Italy. You have to speak Italian fluently." And of course I did not get that job. I did not get any job that day. Not a big surprise there. She was right after all.

Today, 3 years later I went to a local market.
I saw a table with some beautiful jewelry. I saw the seller, and in Italian I said, "Good morning. Are those earrings real silver ?" and he answered me, not in Italian which I know, but English, an English that was unintelligible even to me, a native English speaker.

I'm not sure what he said, but it sounded like. "Make make mine blue. Twelve euro."

I really didn't understand the answer (except for the price) so I repeated the question in Italian.
"Are those earrings real silver ?" "Make make mine blue. Twelve Euro!" he insisted, as he gestured at me to try them on.

I am sure that he heard in my voice when I first spoke to him in Italian an English accent. Everybody does.. He was probably only trying to be nice to me.
Maybe he learned English somewhere and just wanted to practice it. Who knows his motives for trying to speak in English to a person that addressed him in Italian, but it was 10 AM on a busy morning.
I had things to do, and so did he. I was not in the mood to play a guessing game.

I finally said, in Italian "I don't understand. Please speak Italian" and he did !

It happens to me so many times when I go to the touristy areas in Italy that I ask for something in Italian, and I get a response in English. It's not worth fighting anymore.
I usually just go with the flow. If people can understand me, and I can understand them, life works.
After all, language is just for communication, and if you can communicate, it doesn't even matter if they are the same.
But sometimes it pays to be a little rude and insist on speaking Italian.