October 28, 2008

Paul here…. One of the intriguing benefits of being an ex-pat is that you have to figure out how to register as an absentee voter. I’ve never voted absentee before because I like the ritual of going to the polls. After figuring out which form to fill out and where to mail it, a couple of months ago we sent in our registration. Our ballots came in the mail two weeks ago, filled with the typical crazy voters’ initiatives and arcane County Charter amendments. Despite persistent rumors that no one counts absentee ballots unless the election is close, we’re excited to participate in this historic election.

Last week, in Atlanta on a trip for work, I mailed in our ballots.


Living in Europe for a while now, it is jarring to see how far America has fallen in the world’s esteem. It is sad to see the old guard better deliver upon the premise of the American project than America, that old refrain so memorably articulated by the last great president from Illinois, now smeared as “socialism” by Fox News: government of the people, by the people, for the people. So, it was exciting to see two hundred thousand non-Americans cheering America and waving our flag instead of burning it, rooting for us to once again become respectful citizens of the world rather than continuing to be dangerous scofflaws.

Tonight, while feeding my obsession with the state of the election, mixed in with some crazy You Tube surfing, I ran across this will.i.am video which lead me to this speech and then this one that I had heard before, which reminded me why I am (we are) voting for Barack Obama.

Unlike McCain who has made this election about personal bitterness, or Palin who preaches fundamentalist fascism, or the coldly calculating Clinton, this is a man who speaks with an inspiring clarity of moral vision unlike any other national leader since Martin Luther King. This is a man who understands what America is about. Or rather, what America is supposed to be about.

Listen to Obama’s words

We’re up against the belief that it’s all right for lobbyists to dominate our government….

We’re up against decades of bitter partisanship that cause politicians to demonize their opponents instead of coming together….

We’re up against the idea that it’s acceptable to say anything and do anything to win an election….

We’re also up against forces that are not the fault of any one campaign, but feed the habits that prevent us from being who we want to be as a nation. It’s the politics that uses religion as a wedge and patriotism as a bludgeon, a politics that tells us that we have to think, act and even vote within the confines of the categories that supposedly define us….

We are here tonight to say that that is not the America we believe in.

So understand this … The choice in this election is not between regions or religions or genders. It’s not about rich versus poor, young versus old. And it is not about black versus white.

This election is about the past versus the future.

It’s about whether we settle for the same divisions and distractions and drama that passes for politics today or whether we reach for a politics of common sense and innovation, a politics of shared sacrifice and shared prosperity.

So, if you are voting Obama this year, thank you for voting in the hope that America can be a better country–that we can together be a better people–than we have become through years of willful neglect and self-centeredness.

And if you’re not, well, we hope that you’ll participate in this future anyway.


Tuscany Album

October 18, 2008

Batch two of Italian goodness now available in our Tuscan Album.

After the bustle of Rome, we took a train to Siena and then drove the winding (and winding, and winding rodes) to our agriturisimo, Villa di Soto, in Tuscany. By law, and agriturisimo must get most of it’s income from farming–the bed and breakfast business has to just be a side gig. Villa di Soto harvests olives, grapes, figs, pears, and produces it’s own olive oil. While we were there our dear “Signora Nonna” (Mrs. Grandma) made us breakfast every morning in common dinning room — fresh Italian cakes baked with fig marmalade from her kitchen or pears from the courtyard, thick slices of marscapone cheese with honey, and cappacino from the little silver pot on the stove. (Or in our case warm milk with honey for the kids and tea in a proper pot for the grown ups.) Our little brick apartment with the wooden shutters overlooked the valley sunsets, which we could enjoy while eating warm pannini from the farm house with local wild boar salami, or make our own dinner in our little kitchen with supplies from the aglimentari. The medieval complex consisted of a collection of little building including a few homes, two small restaurants which we never saw open (too off season), and a tiny chapel with a bell tower which rang out the hours.

There was also a pool, which the girls were very excited about. When we went to find one of the owners to let us us, he laughed at us and mimmed that it was too cold. Still, he unlocked the gate and we got out the lounge chairs. When he came by a half hour later to lock up, he was surprised to find that Eden was still in the freezing cold water! I think he was impressed.

The Tuscan countryside is ridiculously gorgeous at this time of year. I felt like I was bathing in a pool of lush images. It was too late for the sunflowers. But the grapes were heavy on the vines and as I snapped my photos I could hear the harvesters singing in the fields. The soil was every varigated shade of siena, and the olive trees shimmered silver. These rolling hills or a rock by the sea — the two places I am happiest.


October 12, 2008

Hello Familla…here is the first batch of photos from our trip to Italy. Rome first, then Siena and Florence later. We promise to narrow it down from 500 to a nice manageable number. Ciao!