Holiday 2016 Reader Recap, Part 2

(Part 1 is further down the page)

8.  I have recently started genealogical research on the McNabb family line.  What I have learned so far is that U.S. Federal Census field representatives and County Clerks who record marriage, birth and death records, pride themselves in tweaking names, ages, and locations just enough to make the identified individuals seem like your relatives, but not without placing a nagging doubt that you're being conned.  

9.  We are headed to The Netherlands tomorrow for a couple of weeks.  Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, with a two day diversion to the Isle of Man in the middle of it.  

10.   Next February we are looking to celebrate our 70th and 50th Birthdays, and our 20th Anniversary.  If we can hold our bodies together by then.   Stephen's Dad turns 80 next Summer, so the celebrations may continue for most of the year.

11.  Next August we are attending the Macnab Clan reunion in Killin, Scotland, and we're participating in Edinburgh's Military Tattoo as a part of it.  

12.  Stewart's son Chris still lives in Spokane, daughter Caroline still lives in Melbourne.  Stephen's parents are still in Lexington, his sister Lori and her extended family in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.  

Holiday 2016 Reader Recap, Part 1

Greetings all.  A quick recap of the last 18 months: 

1.  Stewart and I moved to Europe in the summer of 2015 after I was offered a serendipitously cool job.  We are currently living in Ponteranica, Italy, in the foothills of the Italian Alps.  If you have a map, find Milan and then look to the north-northeast.  

2.  I'm flying a private client to and from his yacht and here and yonder around the Mediterranean.  If you're familiar with The Game of Thrones, "the client has no name."  Even if I told you, it wouldn't help:  he's a non-celebrity amongst us common-folk.  

3.  Stewart is still retired.  You'll find him most days either on Facebook, at a Toastmasters meeting, or at the grocery store in the Italian meats section. 

4.  Life in Europe is quite different from the U.S., in many ways.  They're not big on ice cubes here, for example.  Plus you run into some amazing 500+ year old piece of history about as often as you'd run into a Starbucks back the States.  

5.  We try and travel as much as we can.  Northern Italy is often the destination, although we've been to Ireland, the UK, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland over the past year (and to France quite a bit for me, for work.)

6.  We still have our home in San Diego, where we will return some day.  Our Italian landlords are our American tenants.  

7.   We are moving to Dublin next summer.  On a related note, Stewart is now an Irish Citizen.

Quote For The Day

One of the saddest lessons in history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It is simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.
— Carl Sagan

Poste Italaine

Having had the misfortune of interacting with more than my fair share of them, I generally take a dim view of government bureaucracies.  By extension I also find myself reflexively suspicious of those who work in them, although I try not to pre-judge, pre-judger that I am.  

I have also noticed the beauracracies of other countries never fail to disappoint in this regard.  I thought the California DMV set an exceptionally low bar for customer service, but they never made me cry the way French Immigration can.  I thought the TSA took the cake for being able to simultaneously humiliate and infuriate their customers, but then I was introduced to the Cannes Airport Bureau of Badges.  

Here in Italy we have been able to minimize our interaction with most Italian bureaucracies, which may fuel our slightly prejudiced view that Italians are wonderful, engaging people, across the board.   But there has been one glaring exception:  the Italian Post Office.  

It is a terrible institution.  It performs many in-person services that in a normal western country no longer exist, due to the internet.  They are inexplicably incompetent, and/or inexplicably ill-prepared for their jobs, which fuels an anger in Italians you often don't see.  Last night, the guy ahead of me in the queue became unglued, unleashing a stream of vitriol at the clerks.  Up until that point they had been too busy to serve any of us, but they stopped pecking away at their keyboards long enough to scowl right back at the customer, and then went back to whatever it was they were doing.  

In order to pay the bill for my leading-edge cell phone, whose service is provided by a leading edge wireless company, I have to go to the Post Office with my paper bill.  The clerk spends a minute or two seriously contemplating it, enters what appears to be a hundred or so separate data elements into her computer, and then runs the bill through a reader that was built some time in the late 1980's.   To cap it all off, I am then charged for the privilege of appearing before her and extinguishing my cell phone debt.  

And you still have to lick many of their stamps.   How is that still a thing? 

Outside the Post Office, there are hordes of wonderful Italians.  Inside the post office, an alternative universe lays waiting to grind all the happiness out of your day. It is Italy's curious doppelganger.