Monday, March 31, 2008

My Lesson in Macroeconomics

Today's agenda included a trip to the Banca Popolare, the Italian bank on base, to get things set up for direct deposits and paying rent and utilities and such. Getting a Euro account set up initially is kind of a nuisance, but once everything is in order, it will be virtually maintenance-free. I say "virtually" because there is one important thing to consider, and that's the Euro rate. The stong Euro/weak dollar situation makes things somewhat bothersome. I have to keep an close eye on the rate and my account, because a fluctuation of just one cent can cause my rent to vary by fifteen dollars. I'm overpaying into my Euro account to avoid any hassles, and maybe, by the time I leave, I'll have a little extra saved up as sort of a bonus.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

OMG! Where's Noah?

Thankfully, I had a minimum of stand-by calls this week. And most of the ones I had I was able to solve over the phone or with a brief visit. What's most annoying is when someone, usually a dorm resident, treats me like some kind of indentured servant. Case in point: I had a call tonight from a girl saying her dorm room was "flooded!" (I should probably include a few extra exclamation points for emphasis.) But when I arrived, I found only a small puddle on her bathroom floor. She said she hadn't done anything to cause it, but I've never seen any kind of bathroom fixture spontaneously leak without some kind of tampering. I mean, if your toilet is leaking, then don't keep flushing it thinking that will make it stop. I turned off her supply line to keep it from flooding further. Then she developed attitude when I deemed her situation a non-emergency and told her she'd have to wait until tomorrow morning for us to get parts. She wasn't happy when I left, but something I learned long ago is that her happiness isn't my business. Taking care of emergencies is.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

When I Got The Music, I Gotta Place To Go

As I mentioned, the base here is pretty spread out, so a lot of time is spent driving to different jobs. Whist driving, I've found all the Italian radio stations that play American/British music, and there are quite a few of them. My favourite is one called "Radio Fantasy," which features a station identification jingle with a guy singing (in a very strained, Joe-Cocker-ish voice), "To the people, Radio Fan-TA-SEE!!!" The other one is "Superstar!" whose jingle isn't nearly as fun. Both play lots of Euro-pop, and I was really excited last week when they started playing the new Madonna song (which is pretty awesome...AND it features Justin Timberlake). The other station I frequent plays lots of Brit-Pop. I think it's actually a British station, but just broadcasts out of Italy. Especially since their station ID is repeated ad nauseam in a very thick British accent, "Virgin Radio." They all have obnoxious DJs, just like in America. I can't really understand what they're saying, but they sure like to laugh at their own jokes a lot. The other interesting thing is that they don't censor any of their music. The other night I was driving home and heard Dr. Dre saying "if bitches talk shit, I'll have to put the smack down." I guess most of the Italians probably don't know what he's talking about anyway.
Speaking of Madonna, you know she can do no wrong in my eyes; but she's seriously pushing the limits with her new album artwork. I mean, she's gonna be 50 this year, and I know she's in better shape than most women half her age. But I was thinking, you know, maybe she'd just like to kinda tone it down a bit.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mixed Signals

I'm currently in the community centre on base, bumming their free wi-fi. It's a nice facility, and the internet is surprisingly fast. The base here is split up into several areas around the town of Aviano, something I've never seen before. It's kinda cool, but it also makes regular errands somewhat inconvenient. Most facilities, including my shop, are around the flightline, but I have to drive off base to a different area to go to my squadron, and another area for the Chapel and hospital. The community centre is in area A-1, so it's kinda out of my way, but at least I can come here to check e-mail and update my profile on

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Brief Pause

I've packed up all my stuff, and getting ready to move out of billeting. As such, this might be my last post for a while. I still haven't decided on what I'm going to do for internet at my house; but luckily, there are plenty of places around with free wi-fi. So, if any kind of groundbreaking, earth-shattering news happens, I should still be able to let you know. Take care.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Just A-Swingin'

Italy has their fair share of national holidays, and today is one of them. It's basically just an extra day off to celebrate Easter. The base gave us a down day today, but I had to work anyway. Luckily, though, I wasn't at the shop all day. It was just doing rounds at 9 AM, 3 PM, and one more tonight at 9. The rounds consist of checking the wells, lift stations, and taking water samples, which only takes an hour or two. We have a rotating schedule at work, so last week, I worked the early shift (6 AM to 3 PM). This week, I'm working swings (1 PM to 9-ish). Swing shift includes stand-by, hence doing rounds today. I'll work the weekend, too, but I'll have next Monday and Tuesday off for compensation.
Since I don't have to go in until the afternoon tomorrow, I'm going to use my time in the morning to run some overdue errands, such as filing my temporary lodging allowance claim, getting my overseas housing allowance set up, and (finally) moving out of billeting into my house. I got a call Friday from the Traffic Management Office saying my unaccompanied baggage has arrived, so I need to set up a time for that to be delivered, as well. This shipment is just some clothes, dishes, and a few other basic necessities; but it will make living in my house much easier. It also includes my snowboard, which I have missed sorely and will be sleeping with. Naked.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Risen Spirits

Human Knot
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Today is Easter, and after Church this morning, I didn't really feel like playing calcetto with everyone. I came back to my room to do some laundry and pack up a few things since I'll be moving out of billeting and into my house tomorrow or Tuesday. Mostly, I just felt like being alone. To be honest, I'm still feeling a little down and missing friends back in the States. Shaun has been a huge help to me, and I sometimes feel like a burden, even though I know he doesn't think so.
After they finished playing calcetto, Shaun called and asked if I wanted to head over to Tracy's house with them for Easter dinner. Again, I felt like just staying in my room, but for some reason, I ended up going. And I'm glad I did.

Human Knot
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Before dinner, we chatted and did the human knot game, which I hadn't done since high school.

Easter Dinner
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
And dinner consisted of great home-cooked food, which I haven't had since I got here. Afterward, we played even more games like 21, Big Bootie, and King Elephant. It was consistent laughter for hours.
Thanks to Shaun for getting me to come. I definitely needed it.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Adventures in Not Snowboarding

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
It's Saturday morning here in Italy, and the original plan was to be on the slopes in Austria right now. We left at 8:00 last night to make the two-hour drive to Nassfeld, but the farther we got into the mountains, the worse the weather got. Here, we stopped in a tunnel to put chains on Shaun's car.

Nick, Tony, & Josh
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Once we got the chains on Shaun's car, it performed much better. Unfortunately, Jason didn't have any chains for his car. Much of the drive through the pass was spent either pushing Jason's car or sitting on his hood to aid in traction.

Jason's engine was burning up, as was Shaun's clutch. Around 1 AM, we figured it's probably not going to happen, and decided to turn around and head home. But I wasn't going to give up so easily. In what could have been a future Air Force safety briefing, I stapped on my board and rode down the mountain in the middle of the road. (It was rental gear, so why not?) There were a few times I had to hold on to Jason's car to get some momentum, but most of the time, I stayed ahead of them. It was all switchbacks, but the snow was deep enough that I didn't get hung up. There were a couple times I got so far ahead, I couldn't even see their headlights; and being out in the snow-covered mountains in the middle of the night with barely any light was kinda scary, but also very beautiful. Yeah, it was probably one of the stupidest things I've ever done.
This was 3 AM in a rest area where we stopped for some desperately needed cappuccino. True, we didn't get to our destination, and it's not looking like there will be another opportunity for me to head up this season; but at least I can say I boarded the Alps. Sort of.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Lot On My Plate

It's been a particularly stressful week, and I'm ready for it to be over. I'm finally able to move into my house, but I haven't yet because I'm not too keen on sleeping on a hardwood floor. I tried to buy a mattress, but they don't have any in stock, and the wait is two to four months. If I don't move in tomorrow, I definitely will on Monday. My biggest worry here is whether or not my housing allowance will start appearing in my account by the first of the month.
I'm enjoying work, but it's definitely a challenge. I've been working the early shift this week, but still staying late. Italian utilities are manufactured and installed very different from anything I've ever seen before, and there's lots to learn. Finding parts is next to impossible. I've had a few jobs this week which were really frustrating, and I left feeling so upset I just wanted to come home and lay in bed.
I've heard tons of conflicting reports about internet service in my area. Most people say DSL isn't available, and I'd rather not pay tons of money to get a phone line if all I'm going to be using it for is dial-up internet. I talked to a lady yesterday about getting a card for my computer which allows me to surf via cell phone towers. It's faster than dial-up, slower than DSL, and cheaper than either. The kicker is that my time online is limited. Decisions, decisions.
My truck should be in sometime next week, but the company that shipped it is waiting on their payment. The military is supposed to pay it, but they obviously haven't yet. I went to finance today to find out what was up and the guy who worked there was clueless. I might end up having to pay for it myself, and then (hopefully) get reimbursed by the Air Force. We'll see how that goes.
Shaun has asked me to be a chaperone for his service project next month. It's late notice, but he's pretty desperate for some male counsellors. Basically, we'd be hanging out in the Czech Republic for a week on a mission-trip-ish outting, and making sure the high schoolers don't get into trouble. It sounds fun, and I'm allowed permissive TDY (meaning I won't get charged leave), but I'm not so sure I want to ask for time off work after just getting here.
And right now, there's is practically no gas in the car I'm driving. Gas is insanely expensive in Italy (about nine bucks a gallon), but as NATO forces, we're allowed gas coupons allowing us to fill up for much less. But to get the coupons, I need a vehicle registered in my name, which I don't have yet. So, I've been bumming gas coupons, and I'm starting to feel bad about it. I'm thinking about going out and just paying $30 for a quarter tank to last me the next few days.
So, yeah, I just needed to vent a little bit there. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Please, Mr. Postman

Just like in Japan, the base here assigns everyone a PO box. So, whenever I receive a package, I find a little yellow slip of paper in my box. And, oh, how I love the little yellow slip of paper. Finding the yellow paper in my box is almost as exciting as opening a present on Christmas morning. When I walk through the post office with my yellow paper, the eyes of the paperless glare enviously at me. As I stand in line to pick up whatever was too large to fit in my box, visions of internet shopping from the week before fill my head. "Will it be the shoes from, or possibly the pomade I had to special order? I bet it's the DVD from" It's a horrible addiction. It's not necessarily getting the package. Those damn yellow slips of paper have me mesmerised!
(By the way, if, for any reason, you'd like my mailing address, feel free to e-mail me.)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Still Seeing Spots

The whole rash thing has had me a little bummed the past couple weeks. We've had a few warm, sunny days, but I'm confined to long sleeve shirts and jackets because, seriously, you have no idea how ugly every inch of my skin below my neck looks. I was pretty confident it was a reaction to the linens in billeting, and was going to wait it out until I moved into my house. Well, I'm beginning to wonder if I'm ever going to move into my house; plus, the rash has started to get a little itchy. So this morning, I made an appointment to see the doc.
After a few questions, an examination, more questions, some typing on his computer, and then some questions, Dr. (Maj) Zollinger diagnosed me with guttate psoriasis. He said it's probably the result of the brief strep infection I had right before I left Utah. (So much for the linen theory.) What's worse is that, even though it will disappear, it might come back without notice and never really go away completely (kinda like Cher), but that's not for certain. He also used the words "...the worst rash I've ever seen." Thanks, Doc. I also took notice that right after he shook my hand, he went straight for the hand sanitiser.
I was prescribed two drugs. One is for the itching. The second one is supposed to take care of the actual rash, and it's some kind of steroid. I joked that maybe I should try to go hit some home runs, and he just looked at me and blinked. He said it's not that kind of steroid, but if I start taking these pills and my nuts shrink, I'm gonna be a little upset.

Venezia Calling

When I got here, my boss handed me a used phone and told me where to go to buy minutes for it. Most people around here use a pay-as-you-go option for cell phones. It's good for people who aren't going to be here very long, as it avoids contracts and having extra bills when you leave. But I'm going to be here for three years, and a lot of those pay-as-you-go phones incur hidden charges. So I decided to go for a contract.
I went to the Vodafone store Saturday and luckily, the girl who worked there spoke perfect English. I opted for the Samsung SGH-U700V. I had to pay a little extra, but it's a pretty sleek phone, and I'm happy with it so far. We'll see if it lasts me three years.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Post Lag

I started this blog on nearly five years ago, and I've always thought it's been a pretty good site. However, there are a few things I wish they'd fix. One, in particular, happens whenever I change time zones. I update my profile so whenever I post, the date and time is automatically stamped. But whenever I change my profile, it changes all the dates and times of all my previous posts, too. For example, there are posts I wrote in Japan that talk about something happening Saturday morning, but it's listed as Friday night. I could go back and manually alter a thousand or so posts, but who has time to do that? I'd rather just put out an explanation in case you're sifting back through the archives and I'm complaining about having to wake up early even though the post is written at 2 PM. Now you'll know why.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Back Talk

I meant to do this before I left Utah, but I was way too busy. And I doubt texting to overseas numbers is very cheap, so this will probably be the last time I do this for a while. It's been a few months since my last list; so now, totally unedited, is...

Top Text Messages - Vol IV

1) Think im going to join the peace corps. Screw around with the natives, drink fermented goat milk...thats the way to go.
2) If you were me and i were you, then what would you be doing right now?
3) Its eight thirty in the morning. Im at a bar in a monkey costume.
4) Debbie gibson is playing at thrift towne. Wish u were here. ;)
5) I was thinking of u bc i'm wearing ur shirt - btw i'm not pooping - oh wait yes i am
6) My friend works at the gap in provo... And Lindsay Lohan came in...
7) When i drink alone, i prefer to be by myself.
8) Borat is funny... And better drunk. Not that i would know that.
9) Hemorrhoids keeping you up?
10) Ween is just about to rock out Bitch asses off!
11) Weeehooo! Thats a damn fine cup of coffee.
12) I'm officially un-unemployed now. YAY for me!
13) I drank 12 beers. Then i woke up this morning with a sticker on my penis that i cant take off.
14) Women. Boy howdy, they are a rowdy bunch.
15) Oh, btw i'm going 2 get a tattoo of mt rushmore but with the golden girls faces on it
16) College girls are the most fiendish instruments of torture ever devised to bedevil the days of man.
17) I'm in the bathroom at the Minneapolis airport trying not to have a wide stance!
18) I think I just saw the world's oldest living Lutheran at the Mall of America!
19) I got in my first bar fight. Seriously butch.
20) I suck at interviews. Im just going to let barnes and noble tattoo advertisements all over my body.
21) Herds a five letter word. Rhymes with my fav candy nerds. It means many of a group of land dwellers. Yummy!
22) At a hotel in missouri with a six pack and a pizza. Thats how i roll.
23) I have malls
24) Guiness is just as good in the morning.
25) So i went to try's for a beer last night... Yada Yada Yada i'm in las vegas
26) I just told John that if i didn't get a McDonalds m c rib that i was going to throw up!
27) Meow, meow, meow. I like pork gravy.
28) When u move 2 italy will u buy a 17th century haunted house ... Charis said she'd b ur house keeper
29) All vacations from now on will be taken in warm climates, where physical activity is frowned upon.
30) I heart nudity

Friday, March 14, 2008

Deutch Bop

For some reason, I get German MTV in my room. About 75% of the videos they play (yes, they actually play videos!) are American or British artists. But the other 25% are German bands. Here are a few I've particularly liked:
"Schwule Madchen" by Fettes Brot - This one is actually from 2001, but I love the chaotic beat and the shouted chorus.

"Zusammen Verschwinden" by Karpatenhund - There's something about the singer that's very alluring, and the tune is very catchy.

"Nachtbaden" by Madsen - Great garage rock.

I don't know what any of them are saying (Ryan, where are you when I need you?), but it's sure fun to listen to. I don't know why I get German MTV, but maybe once I get into my house, I'll get the Italian version instead.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Having My Say

Yesterday, I sent off my Federal Absentee Ballot Application. Kentucky's primary isn't until May 20th, but that really doesn't affect me since I'm registered as a Republican. (Sorry. I was young and didn't know any better.) I've made inquiries into changing my affiliation to "independent," but it's harder than you'd think. Regardless, I'll still be voting in the general election in November.
I've heard tons of reasons why people don't vote.
--It doesn't really make a difference.
--My state will always be Democrat (or Republican) and mine isn't going to counteract everyone else's.
--I don't like any of the candidates.
--I don't want to throw away my vote on a third party candidate.
--It's too much trouble to register.
And to all these reasons, I cry "bullshit!" I get excited about voting. I really feel like I'm taking an active part in democracy, and though I rarely vote the way the majority of my fellow Kentuckians do, at least I raised my voice. My parents have always been active participants in elections, so it's almost like I'm carrying on a tradition of sorts. And if I don't vote, I don't really have any cause for complaining if whichever elected official doesn't meet my expectations.
Presidential elections only happen every four years, so don't let it pass by. I mean, if they close the bars for it, it must be pretty important, right?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Preventing Popsicle Toes

All my floors upstairs are wood, and all my floors downstairs are tile. I'm cold-natured and not a big fan of putting my bare feet on uncarpeted surfaces when I wake up in the morning. Thanks to a link from Dooce, I've spent the past two hours designing carpets on Flor. After lots of trial and error, I came up with a perfect design with a great colour scheme and just the right ratio of solids, patterns, and textures. Unfortunately, it would run me over nine hundred dollars, and that's just for the living room. I guess my mission this weekend will be to look for some Italian rugs downtown.

Mi Casa

My House
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Here's my house! I just got back from there because I was getting my appliances delivered. But despite the fact I now have a washer, dryer, stove, and refrigerator, it looks like I won't be able to move in today as I had hoped. My electricity is on, but I'm still waiting on gas. And spending the night in a house with no heat when the temperatures drop into the 30s doesn't sound too fun. Looks like a few more nights in billeting for me.

My House
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Here's another view from the side. See that balcony? It looks out toward the mountains. I would have taken a picture of the view, but it's raining today, and you can barely see anything.
Once I get my furniture and stuff, I'll take some interior pictures. This afternoon, I'm going to go shopping for some basics like rugs, a welcome mat, and a lawn mower. Yes, I'm going to take care of the landscaping, too, which kinda has me excited.

My View
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
UPDATE: So, I took some stuff to my house this afternoon, and the clouds were dissipating, so I decided to take a picture from my balcony. The mountains here are so diverse that you can't see the highest peak. But if you look really close, you can see the bell tower for Budoia's Church in the middle of town. I can't wait to walk down to the market and meet my neighbours.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Pimp My Ride

Shaun had told me he had a car for me to use until my truck arrived, but due to some paperwork issues, it kinda fell through. Luckily, my boss has an extra car sitting in his driveway. I picked it up today, and now I'm riding around in a Mercedes-Benz. Again, grazie mille (a thousand thanks) to MSgt Lewis, without whom this transition would be impossible.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Quattro Formaggi

Last night, a big group of us went to a pizzeria called Vecchio's. Before I got here, I'd always heard how pizza in Italy is so different than pizza in the States. I've had pizza from a few different places here in Aviano, and it's not THAT different...but it is better. Most pizza here has a thin crust, but at Vecchio's, they specialize in a thicker crust. I had the four cheese pizza, and I couldn't tell you what those four cheeses were; but the one on top was a white cheese that tasted like cream cheese. I doesn't sound very appetizing, but it was squisito (delicious).
There were eleven at our table, including Jenn McGuire (nee Price), who was stationed with Shaun and I in Misawa. She's now married to a super-nice guy named Matt, and is about to give birth any day now. It was great to see her again, and I had a wonderful time talking with everyone and meeting new people.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Busy Signal

I don't move into my house until Tuesday, and for the past several days, I've been working getting all the necessities (i.e. electricity, gas, etc.) set up so I can move in on time. Yesterday, I went to the phone company to set up my phone line and DSL service. Now, you should probably know that my house is in Budoia, which is a little mountain community and one of the smaller communes in the province. So, it shouldn't have been a surprise when the lady told me that DSL isn't available and I have to resort to (gulp!) dial-up. After they revived me (twice), I took a deep breath and realized this is just part of living in a foreign country. I'll somehow survive, and probably learn to rely on things besides YouTube when I'm bored.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Bring the Pain

Here's a little something I learned earlier this week: if you too busy to hit the gym for a couple months because you're, say, moving to a different country, don't expect to run your ass off two days in a row and not feel it. Yeah, those 800 mg Motrin horse pills in my cabinet came in really handy Tuesday morning.

Mixed Bizness

So much has been going on this week (which explains why posting has been scarce). A few things that have taken up so much of my time are...
Church. Shaun is a contractor here working for the Chapel. He helps run a program called Club Beyond, which is a ministry aimed at bringing in high school students who wouldn't normally set foot inside the Chapel. He's got several volunteers working for him, but he's always in need of more. I went to a volunteer's meeting Monday night, and it definitely sounds like something I'd be interested in. However, I'm not sure how many evenings I'll have free because of...
Work. I was kinda spoiled my last year in Utah. I knew I'd never have to stay past 4 PM and only worked weekends when I wanted. The shop here is a little undermanned, so when an emergency arises (i.e. every toilet in the club overflowing), I might have to stay until everything is resolved (like when I stayed until 8 PM Tuesday for a certain reason that might have just been mentioned). Luckily, everyone in my shop is super cool, which makes time there go much quicker. MSgt Lewis, the shop chief, never complains, is constantly making sacrifices for our shop, and has been more than generous in giving me time to set up my...
House. You wouldn't believe the time and money that go into finding a place in Italy. There's no such thing as a quick trip to the housing office, which is where I've spent countless hours over the past two weeks. On top of that, there are tons of forms to fill out, finances to figure, contracts, meetings, and deadlines. I just have to keep reminding myself that it might be stressful and overwhelming now, but once everything is taken care of, I'll be able to settle down and relax in my sweet house.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Guitar Licks and Power Kicks

Shaun & Nick
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Shaun came back from France Friday night, and Saturday, he had a little get-together. It was just some people hanging out, eating pizza, and playing Rock Band, but it was a blast.

Rock Band
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
So, I'm not much of a gamer, but I enjoy the occasional game of Guitar Hero. Rock Band is basically the same game, but with drums and vocals. Shaun is the first one in this crowd to get Rock Band, and it's become somewhat of an addiction. The whole night was super-fun, and highlighted by Peanut's snickerdoodles and Ryan's vocal stylings.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Sunday, after Church, a big group of us met to play calcetto, which is just like soccer, but played on a tennis court.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
It was the first good physical activity I've had in a long time, and it was amazingly fun. We played several games, and changed the teams up each time.
I'm really fortunate to have known Shaun before I got here, and even more fortunate that he has such a great circle of friends. This assignment keeps getting better all the time.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Adapt and Overcome

After living in Japan for over four years, when I got to Utah, I remember being overwhelmed at the selection of everyday items that hadn't been so readily available overseas. Now, after three years in the States, I'm feeling the crunch of not having my favourite pomade or organic granola just down the street. But I have no problem modifying my habits. My point is this: even the 29 cent burritos taste good if you smother them in enough cheese, salsa, and sour cream.