Thursday, March 22, 2012

Say the things no one else will ever dare.

This is the first full, five-day work week I've had in a while, which wouldn't be too bad except for the massive roof prioritisation deadline I have coming up. Also, the weather has been absolutely gorgeous this week, prompting me to stare out my window and daydream. Making it even more difficult to concentrate is my addiction to the new Tanlines album "Mixed Emotions." I can't believe I found my Summer of 2012 album, and it's not even April yet. Here's the very David Lynch-inspired video for their song "All Of Me." Enjoy!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

In the Black Pool

Eric by currtdawg
Eric, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

Eric and I just spent the past five days in Dublin. I had fond memories from last time I was there, and this time was just as fun.

St. Stephen's Green by currtdawg
St. Stephen's Green, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

This was Eric's first time in Dublin, so we basically did all the same stuff I did last time I was there, which was fine with me. I was happy to get reacquainted with the city, including the gorgeous St. Stephen's Green.

Guinness Storehouse by currtdawg
Guinness Storehouse, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

And the Guinness Storehouse.

At the Guinness Storehouse by currtdawg
At the Guinness Storehouse, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

Did you know Guinness has water in it? Insane!

Eric Pours a Guinness by currtdawg
Eric Pours a Guinness, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

And Eric poured his first Guinness, but he's more of a Jameson guy, so I got to drink it. He did a good job.

Craig Finn by currtdawg
Craig Finn, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

As you might know, I'm a big fan of The Hold Steady, and since they've been on hiatus since last year, vocalist Craig Finn has been touring behind a solo album ("Clear Heart Full Eyes"). Coincidentally, he was playing Dublin Thursday night, so I dragged Eric to the show. He plays great bar rock in the same vein as THS, but with more of a country twinge to it. He's very animated when he sings, so Eric and I stood there, swaying with the crowd. I really enjoyed the show, and was glad to hear Eric appreciated it, too.

Jameson Distillery by currtdawg
Jameson Distillery, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

On Friday, we went to the old Jameson Distillery, which is something I missed last time I was in town. We took a guided tour, which was really fascinating. Of course, the free samples didn't hurt, either.

Tony, Kristen, & Ally by currtdawg
Tony, Kristen, & Ally, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

On Friday evening, we were joined by Tony, Kristin, and Ally.

Kristen & Ally by currtdawg
Kristen & Ally, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

It was great to have even more people to drink with, not that there was a shortage or anything.

St. Patrick's Day by currtdawg
St. Patrick's Day, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

On St. Patrick's Day, Ally and Kristin went on a trip to Cork and Blarney (which Eric and I were supposed to attend, but kinda overslept), so he, Tony, and I watched the parade, then headed to a pub to watch the Ireland vs. England rugby match. The ladies caught up with us later that evening.

James Joyce & Me by currtdawg
James Joyce & Me, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

It never fails to amaze me how genuine and kind the Dubliners are. They always went out of their way to help us, and we never felt like we were getting swindled just because we were tourists. It's definitely one of my favourite cities in Europe.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Schnee Men

Nassfeld by currtdawg
Nassfeld, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

I thought President's Day weekend would be my last chance to go snowboarding this season, but since we put so many hours in last week, we all got Friday off. It was a great opportunity to get a small group together and head up to Nassfeld for the weekend.

Nassfeld by currtdawg
Nassfeld, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

Concepcion, Mike, Nate, and I headed up to The Cube Thursday after work. We woke up early Friday morning and headed straight for the slopes. It's been a rather short winter, and at the base of the mountain, the snow was manmade and slushy. However, at the top, it was near perfect.

Mike, Concepcion, & Nate by currtdawg
Mike, Concepcion, & Nate, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

There were some really nice bars in the area, too. And it always seemed like we could never order just beers. It was always "a beer and a shot!" It made for some rough mornings, but nothing that couldn't be relieved by strapping on our boards.

One night, the bar had dancing girls.

Alpini Guy & Me by currtdawg
Alpini Guy & Me, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

And I met this Italian guy who was former Alpini. Also, I find my Italian gets a little better after I have a few beers in me, for some reason.

Nassfeld by currtdawg
Nassfeld, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

We all agreed it was a productive weekend, evidenced by how sore our legs are. We left this morning and headed back to Italy, sad that this would probably be our last time on the slopes this season.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Your power inside, it rocks me like a lullaby

When I lived in Utah, tons of great shows came through Salt Lake City (and still do), and since it was so close, I'd go see bands, even if I was a casual fan. And even though Venice could be considered a major city, not many artists choose to stop here. Several make the trek to Milano or Bologna, but since they're kinda far away, I'm not always able to see every band I'd like, especially if it's during the week. There are some, however, that are worth taking a day off work. One such case is Tune-Yards, the musical project of Merrill Garbus. Her album "w h o k i l l" was one of my favourites from last year, and when I saw she was going to be in Milano last night, I knew I had to go. I took today off and rode the train to Milano yesterday.
The venue was a place called Tunnel, a tiny bar beneath the train tracks near the central station. There were maybe 150 people in attendance. The opener was a very experimental band, whose name I didn't catch, which is fine because it wasn't music I'd prefer to listen to anytime soon.
Tune Yards by currtdawg
Tune Yards, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

When Merrill came out (with a small band consisting of a bassist and two saxophone players), I wasn't really sure what to expect. Her voice on the album is very strong and rather deep for a female. (I almost want to compare it to Phil Collins.) But she was very slight and feminine in person.
All of her shows are unique because she records drum and vocal loops on the spot, then plays them back while singing and playing her ukelele. It's very novel and fun, and as soon as the audience caught on to what was happening, it was inevitable that someone would let out a shout while she was recording, thereby making us part of the song.
The dark lyrics are masked by lively music, which kept us all dancing to the groove. One wouldn't think ukelele, bass, and saxophones would go together as well as they do, but it somehow creates a conglomerate of delicious songs that had me ginning all night.

If you'd like to see how she builds her songs live, check out this impressive performance:

Friday, March 02, 2012

Telling Squidward Where He Can Go

Spongebob by currtdawg
Spongebob, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

The other day, we had some pipes burst beneath one of the dorms. The area is only used for storage now, but apparently it used to be a children's play area. This was painted on the wall, and it struck us as rather funny. Yes, that blue thing next to SpongeBob is the letter N, but everyone's first impression was "F.U.!"

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Powder Keg

Kristen, Ryan, & Renee by currtdawg
Kristen, Ryan, & Renee, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

Saturday morning, we started an exercise, which means we're all working 12-hour days through at least tomorrow. So, nobody has had a day off since last Sunday. On top of that, we have a lot of people crammed into the water shop and there's quite a bit of frustration with the exercise scenarios. Obviously, people are getting a little on edge. This evening, Kristen was trying to get out of her chem gear, and somehow all the stress gave way to goofiness which included Renee trying to pull Kristen's boots off with Ryan gawking in astonishment. It was a welcome fit of laughter after a rough ten straight days of work. We're all so ready for some down time.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Eating My Words

Renee's Birthday by currtdawg
Renee's Birthday, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

Yesterday was Renee's birthday, so a big group of us went to dinner at Le Contrade, a French restaurant in Sacile. I'd never been there before, but I always enjoy trying new places.
We all sat around the table, drinking wine and talking. As I browsed the menu, I realised there was nothing vegetarian available. Now, I've been a vegetarian for nearly nine years, but I'm not militant about it.
So what did I do in this situation? I ordered some pasta with clams. Normally, I don't eat seafood, but my reasoning is that it was the least carnivorous item on the menu.
Food is about more than just sustenance. Breaking bread is a special event that draws people together and creates or strengthens bonds of friendship. Renee has had a rough time the past few months, and this was her night. I'm not gonna be the weirdo that sits there and stares at everyone while they eat. I'm going to join in.
I think holding onto one's convictions is important, but I also understand we all have to make compromises for the greater good. And last night, the greater good was enjoying the time together with my friends.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Comin' Round the Mountain

Wildkogel by currtdawg
Wildkogel, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

I spent this long President's Day weekend in Wildkogel, Austria, with Chris & Mary Miller, their friend Alicia (who flew down from England), and David.

David in Wildkogel by currtdawg
David in Wildkogel, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

Wildkogel is a little further away than Nassfeld, and I'd never been there before. Chris and Mary did all the planning for this trip, so when they invited me to come along, I was thrilled. We all stayed in an apartment and brought our own food, which meant that half of my sustenance for the weekend consisted of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Mary & Alicia by currtdawg
Mary & Alicia, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

The ladies (and David) stuck to sledding all weekend, while Chris and I strapped on our boards. The region had just gotten several inches of fresh snow, which made for great conditions. The best parts were when we went off the groomed trails, through the trees, carving through the powder. And whenever we caught an edge, it was like falling into a cloud.

Chris, Me, & David by currtdawg
Chris, Me, & David, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

In fact, on Sunday, I got so far off the groomed run, I ended up going down the opposite side of the mountain. (Chris was smart enough not to get so far off course.) I was riding through some gorgeous powder, when the trees got thicker and thicker, and that's when I started wondering if I was gonna be the guy they had to rescue with a helicopter. My only choice was to keep going and hope I eventually got to the bottom of . . . something. Finally, the trees began to thin out, and I found myself boarding over barbed wire fences and around abandoned cabins. (Still, the whole time, the snow was amazing.) I eventually made it to a road, took my board off, walked to the town at the bottom of the mountain, and took the bus back to the main lift. I'm sure there was a lesson to be learned there, but I doubt I learned it.

Drinking at Wildkogel by currtdawg
Drinking at Wildkogel, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

And then there was the drinking. We were no strangers to any of the bars scattered around the mountain. It seemed there was one every few hundred metres, regardless of which run we were on. I did some of my drunkest snowboarding ever, and somehow didn't break my neck. (Yet another lesson I probably didn't learn.)

David by currtdawg
David, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

It was great to meet Alicia, who had the best quote of the weekend with, "Did you see those bitches throwing snowballs?" Also, I got the chance to talk a lot with Chris, who, before this weekend, was merely an acquaintance, but is now someone I will share many beers with in the future.
It was yet another great weekend of boarding, which, unfortunately, will probably be my last trip this season. Either way, I'm glad it ended on such a high note.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Birthday Bravado

Mike, Me, Nate, & Steven by currtdawg
Mike, Me, Nate, & Steven, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

Yesterday was Steven's birthday, so we went to a nearby German restaurant to celebrate. Steven's time in the Air Force is coming to an end, which is kinda sad because I've known him since he got to Italy nearly four years ago. He's easily the most unpredictable drunk I know, but in a good way. Last night was pretty mellow, by most standards, but I'm sure when it's time for his going-away party, we'll pull out all the stops.

Friday, February 10, 2012

With the wind in my hair, we are free.

I was woken at 1 AM this morning with a phone call telling me that due to snow (!), we'd have late reporting today. But because of my damned internal clock, I still woke up at 5:30, so I figured I might as well go to the gym. I had a great run this morning--the kind of run where I felt I could run forever. The only thing stopping me was the 30-minute time limit on the treadmill.
I came home and made a tomato-feta omelette, sat on my couch, and watched an episode of Louie. It was the best morning I've had in a long time.
Also, this song is in my head:

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the Swedes know their way around a good pop hook.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Let's Get Loud

A few months ago, Radiohead announced some tour dates, including four in Italy in July. I was somehow able to nab tickets to the show in Firenze AND the show in Codroipo, which is basically right up the street. My concert attendance has become quite sporadic since my days in Utah, mostly because the bands I'd pay to see don't travel here very often. Still, when someone I love comes around, I'm willing to make the effort to go see them, even if it means travelling across the country (or to another nearby country).
So, you can imagine my delight when Madonna announced her world tour this morning, including two dates in Italy in June. Say what you will about her Super Bowl appearance on Sunday (which I thought was decent, but not great), but that woman can put on a live show like nobody's business. I scored a ticket to both shows (Milano and Firenze), and now I'm just waiting for the new record next month, which I will probably listen to ad nauseum until the day of the show. Don't judge me.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Bright Lights, Big City

Milano Duomo by currtdawg
Milano Duomo, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

This weekend, I went to Milano with Eric and a bunch of his friends to celebrate his birthday. I've been to Milano several times, and always enjoy myself. It's very different from other cities in Italy, modern and industrial. Still, it has its charms, one of which is bundling up in the cold and walking the streets like I belong there.

Milano Centrale by currtdawg
Milano Centrale, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

The birthday celebration consisted mainly of shopping (Milano is the fashion capitol of the world), eating, and drinking. It wasn't anything super flashy or crazy, but it was definitely fun. The next morning, I woke up to take the early train back home. As I was walking from my hotel to the train station, the city was quiet and motionless, and a light snow was gently falling. It was so beautiful, and I wanted to stop and have a seat on a bench, just to appreciate the stillness.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Snow Delay

It's been six weeks since the last school term ended. The new term started this week, and I originally signed up for a hybrid course (some face-to-face class time combined with online work) in business management and organisation. However, I was looking over the syllabus and some of the face-to-face time, including the final exam, will be held when I'm out of town. I went to the office yesterday and asked what my options are, and they told me I could switch over to the fully online version, which fits my schedule a lot better. The only downside is that it doesn't start for another two weeks, giving me more time to be lazy.
In other news, it's been ridiculously cold this winter. I'm trying not to turn up the heat in my house, so I wear sweats in the evening, and I've put an extra extra blanket on my bed. The worst part is that it's also been very dry, so the nearby slopes haven't gotten much snow. My skin is dry, and my knuckles are cracked. If it's going to be like this, I sure hope the groundhog doesn't see his shadow tomorrow.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Un Altri Sei Mese

A couple weeks ago, I pushed some paperwork through to extend my time here in Italy. Again. My date to leave had been February 2013, putting me here for five years, which is the limit for single people. But for some reason, I decided to give it a shot anyway. I only asked for six months, instead of a full year, hoping I would slip through the cracks. After my Commander approved it last week, I turned it in to personnel, and today, I got an e-mail notification that it was approved. Now, my departure date will be sometime in August 2013. I'm pretty stoked to stay here even longer, but not sure if I'll try my luck on extending again. I guess we'll see.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Written while thanking God for 800mg Motrin

Last night started out innocently enough. I went to Sacile for a glass of wine in the piazza at Cafe Commercio. Mandy and David joined me, and then we all had dinner at Cellini's. The wine began flowing faster and faster. Mandy left after dinner, but Kristen and Renee showed up with a whole entourage as David and I walked to Bar Bicicletta. Things got a little fuzzy after that, but I do remember these things:
1) Offering Kristen a dollar to hit on the cowboy in Bar Bicicletta.
2) Giving Renee, our DD, wrong directions as we drove to Movida, causing us to do a loop around central Sacile.
3) Dancing. A lot.
4) Walking squarely into a big window. Hard.
5) Meeting some really cool people.
This is about the only evidence I have from last night, but it's definitely worthy:
Me, David, and Renee by currtdawg
Me, David, and Renee, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

Despite all that, I woke up feeling really good this morning. Still, it will be a while before I have another Saturday night like this one.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Becoming Less Round

My last PT test was in April, and since I scored well, I don't have to test again until April of this year. The only bad thing about that arrangement is how much I've let myself get out of shape. My running regiment has become sporadic, at best, and even though I'm my diet isn't bad, I tend to overindulge from time to time. I'm 15 pounds heavier than in April and a full 25 pound heavier than when I left the desert in June 2010. My goal is to score well enough on this year's PT test so I won't have to test for another year, as opposed to six months. We've been working on getting some gym equipment in our work area, which will hopefully prod me to be a little more active, because the chances of me giving up cheesecake are slim to none.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Wide Open Spaces

Nassfeld by currtdawg
Nassfeld, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

Rodriguez, Boswell, Berg, Steven, and I spent the long weekend in Nassfeld, Austria. We left Friday after work and made the two-hour drive to our hotel, which was right on the slopes. When we went down to breakfast on Saturday morning, there was a little newsletter on our table giving information on the weather, meal times, and other goings-on in the hotel for the day. It was very poorly translated from German and included the line, "Joke: If two scrambled eggs meet, one says: 'Anyhow I am so messy...!'"

Nassfeld by currtdawg
Nassfeld, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

On the slopes, there were a lot of people around, and it seemed busy; but there was so much area to ride, we never felt crowded. The runs were wide, and I don't think we took the same one twice all weekend.

Nassfeld by currtdawg
Nassfeld, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

There wasn't much going on in the town where our hotel was, but since all our meals were included and there was a bar in the hotel, we didn't really need to venture out at night. On Sunday morning, we were a little disappointed our daily newsletter didn't have another joke. But the weather report was downright poetic:
"On Sunday the last snowy showers fade away, it breaks up and the sun comes in completely Carinthia. The wind decreases, indeed, it remains unmoved." Priceless.

Nassfeld by currtdawg
Nassfeld, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

On Sunday, the slopes were nearly empty. We never waited at the lifts, took our turns wider, and acted as if we owned the damned place. And the weather was perfect. One of the great things about being at such high altitudes is how unbelievably blue the sky is.

We kinda took it easy on Saturday, getting into the swing of things and not wanting to take too many chances on the first day of a two-day trip. On Sunday, we decided to hit the park a couple times and looked for jumps on the edges of the groomed runs. These aren't our best jumps, particularly Berg's landing, but they're the ones I got on video:

We spent our evenings in the hotel bar, drinking more and more each night. Our tab for Sunday night was nearly 300 Euros, but it was totally worth it.

The main reason we wanted to take this trip is because Berg will be leaving Italy this week, and we wanted to send him off in style. Before we checked out this morning, we scanned our lift passes and found we rode over 61 kilometres with a total vertical distance of 8968 meters. I'd say that is about as stylin' as you can get.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Apparently, Lesson NOT Learned

We're heading to Austria after work this afternoon to snowboard all weekend, so last night, I was packing some things in my truck. Unfortunately, I forgot to lock it after I was done, and this morning, when I got in to go to work, I realised someone had stolen my gas coupons. Again. And again, they didn't even touch my iPod, GPS, or anything else in my truck.
Last time this happened, I felt hurt and violated. This time, I'm just angry. Probably because I had a rather large stack of gas coupons, half of which I just bought yesterday. I'm a little tempted to set some kind of trap just so I can catch the little bastard(s) that did this. I'm not a violent man, but somebody needs a face punch.

Sunday, January 08, 2012


Me by currtdawg
Me, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

Last spring, I bought a new board when I was up in Germany. Soon after came new boots, bindings, and even a new jacket. Unfortunately, everything was shut down by the time I got back to Italy, so I haven't been able to try out any of my new gear. Until yesterday.
Steven, Berg, and I headed up to Piancavallo for the day. It's been a very dry winter so far, and we were a little nervous the conditions wouldn't be very good. They weren't exactly ideal (a few closed runs and random icy patches), but overall, we couldn't complain. I was just excited to get on the slopes again and try out my new board, which handled wonderfully. It's a little longer than my old board, giving me a little more speed, and the curve and bounce are just about perfect. All in all, I was thrilled, and I'm already looking forward to next weekend.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

City of Lights

Eiffel Tower by currtdawg
Eiffel Tower, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

I'd been debating for the past couple months whether to do anything special for New Year's. I considered just laying around some more, but figured I'd regret it if I did. I had some friends from Germany going to Paris, and at last minute, decided to join them. I'm so glad I did.

Arc de Triomphe by currtdawg
Arc de Triomphe, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

This was my first time in Paris, and I'd mentally prepared myself for a dirty city that was difficult to navigate and full of rude natives. But you know what? It was the total opposite.

Eiffel Tower by currtdawg
Eiffel Tower, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

We had a crew of about twenty people, which hindered our ability to see everything everyone wanted to see. It didn't really bother me, though. I was just thrilled to be walking around such an amazing place. Plus, going back is so easy. I can't believe I'd never been before.
Particularly magnificent was the Eiffel Tower. It's something I've seen so often in pictures, but laying eyes on it for the first time was absolutely breathtaking. We spent New Year's Eve there, but I could have stayed forever, just staring at it. No wonder it's become such a symbol of France.

Paris by currtdawg
Paris, a photo by currtdawg on Flickr.

I didn't make it to the Louvre, Notre Dame, the catacombs, or countless other staples of the Parisian tourist, but again, I'm not worried. I will make it back there soon.
Also, due to popular demand, I made another video. You can check it out here. Hope you enjoy it. Merci!