28 July 2022
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Italy Too

The Coast of Ireland

Another pennichella, and Ireland was beneath our wings. Some bleary-eyed calculations ensued, and I realized something must be wrong. It was dark outside! Had the plane been quietly hijacked? Was the pilot simply confused? Had the sun gone out? No! It seems we were flying in an airplane with a darkness control instead of a window shade. I reached out to the control and turned the sun back on. Another couple of hours and we were on the ground at Malpensa airport in Milan.

Committing Premeditated Tourism

This was not just a trip, it was a tour. If you know me personally, you may recall that my interest in wine and alcoholic spirits is strictly intellectual. At most, I will sip an unfamiliar beverage. Between a distaste for carbonation and alcohol, I'm pretty much limited to tap water (with ice) and the occasional fruit drink such as lemonade. I mention this because we had embarked on a "Wine Tour of the Piedmont Region," arranged in part by the owner/chef at a local Sedona restaurant named Gerardo and Gerardo's, respectively. In addition to my wife and me and friends and others from Arizona, a couple of mystery Michiganders were in the group. Having cleared customs, we assembled in the airport next to a woman holding a sign that was clearly intended for our group. Her name was (and presumably remains) Carol Bazzani. She was (and presumably remains) a splendid tour guide, who had an encyclopedic knowledge of things Italy, current and historical, nearby and elsewhere,. She not only answered many of my goofy questions but taught us the word penichella, which, other than a handful of common words (e.g., ciao, grazie), is the only Italian I speak**.

She led us to a curb outside the building. Bus came by and we got on.

Lake Maggiore and the Grand Hotel Dino

You can't have a heading like that without a picture of the lake taken from the hotel.

You can learn a lot about being a tourist when you go places. We spent a few days at the Dino Hotel. I found out I was a tourist when I went to the front desk to inquire about getting some euros, which are the local currency. (I had tried to get euros in Chicago during a layover on the way but all the currency changers were closed, away from their stalls, or replaced by signs pointing to other missing vendors.) The front desk pointed me in the general direction of outside, where resided what they called an ATM*. I was suddenly alone in a foreign country! I discovered quickly, before I made a fool of myself (other than right here just now), that ATMs in Italy serve euros! Euros are very pretty, and you can use them to purchase water in stores rather than in hotel bars, at which bottled water costs about ten times as much. So, with the help of Google Maps I found a store that sold water, negotiated with the man behind the counter by handing him euros, emitted my first genuine grazie other than while practicing, and returned to the Dino hotel, a now-blooded tourist who outsmarted the system.

Lake Maggiore is long and skinny and has islands. It extends into Switzerland, but our tour took us to only two Italian islands, Isola dei Pescatori which had tourist shops and restaurants with lots of fish, and Isola Bella, which had a palace with remarkable arts and flowers, and some really neat peacocks!

Above, the fabulous peacock or peahen(s) mentioned above. I don't know much about this sort of nature, and I'm not sure if that's one or two different ones. Even so: fabulous! Below left, just one room of many, many, rooms in the Borromeo palace filled with arts both flat and 3D. Bottom right is a restaurant on Isola dei Pescatore. Of course they have gelato. The humans in the photos are tourists on the hoof.

Truth In Blog Dating

The date on this blog is unusually fraudulent. Our 777 didn't hover over the coast of Ireland for over a month, but my hands on the keyboard sadly did. Although it is my intention to sparingly capture more of Italy, including reviled "vacation photos," I have to interrupt the Italy sequence "tomorrow" to make some random comments about things I saw, read, noted, contemplated, and don't have the common sense to have ignored between "now" and Italy Two.

If the FBI questions me about when, truly, this was written, I would have to refuse to discuss it because it seems that lying to a federal official is a criminal offense. Martha Stewart would know, as do I***.


* I would redesign ATMs, most of which offer a selection of transaction languages, to put the language-selection screen first, before you must insert your suddenly precious credit card, not knowing whether the word Google Translate claims is "insert" is really the local dialect for "shred."
** Not entirely true. I just realized that Isola, the Italian word for Island (and which also figures prominently in John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar) has slithered into my vocabulary.
*** I was brought up believing that the FBI was Good and it was the duty of citizens to cooperate with its agents. I still believe the Good part, in general, but I wonder how many people now question the wisdom of answering their questions.

Richard Factor



The Crystal Image



Unlike yesterday's Otari shirt, this 1970s Ampex Silver Jubilee shirt has a deep personal connection. (And, apparently, it may be worth $95.)

We got our start manufacturing a "tape search unit" for Ampex, and turned it into a (so far) 52-year adventure in electronics manufacturing,

Thank you, Ampex!


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