Monthly Archives: June 2012

National Federation of…Affordable Care Cat?

While I was anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decision on the Affordable Care Act, I knew that no matter the outcome, this would be an opinion to geek out on just like law school days.

Back then it was more about whether water-boarding is torture (yes) and if John Yoo should be disbarred for ethical absence (what do you think my opinion is?).

Now, I have fewer friends nearby to join the discussion, but I still chat with them via email, skype and facebook, plus my curiosity grew when Chief Justice John Roberts not only penned the opinion (as I expected) but also led the affirming opinion (/”;9’dbapaps – I didn’t see that one coming).

Thus, here I am on Friday afternoon soaking up Sicilian sunshine and digging into the opinion.

20120629-175136.jpg It’s my terrace, and I’ll sunbathe nude if I want to!

Unfortunately, the case title is long, cumbersome, and completely boring. National Federation of Independent Business et al. v. Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, et al.

Uh, yeaaaaaa, I don’t want to say that a whole bunch of times. I also dislike the commonly used “Obamacare” because it is a misnomer, it is political, and it gives too much credit to one person.

Misnomer because Obama is not actually providing any care and pretty much thousands of people worked for decades to come to a place where this legislation was even plausible.

Political is obvious, I dislike that because despite the acerbic reality of society, this type of move shouldn’t be political at all, it is not only good public policy healthwise, it will also push for innovation and fresh ideas in healthcare industries erected and sustained by crusty wealthy people. The world changes and so should business models and profits. A stagnant nation is a declining nation. Plus, a lot of people say “Obamacare” with a distinct sneer on their face and that just ain’t pretty.

Too much credit to one person – I touched on this in the misnomer section, but it runs deeper than that. Even with all the background legwork by others, some would say, some are already saying and some will say that it was only because of Barack Obama’s unique leadership that the bill was passed. I do not deny the extraordinary role he played, but he is still just one man and we are a nation of the people. I applaud him, I credit his incredible contribution, but I stop short of deifying his name into legislation his way.

After this reflection, I was still without a good shorthand name for the opinion.

Then, I got an email from my law school buddy Mel. She shared this with me:

Catty puns about the affirmation of the Affordable Care Act? That is a trifecta of pleasure!!!

I will think of it as the ACA opinion, or Affordable Care Act opinion out of reverence for its importance; but in my mind, I will be thinking of that “cat a tax” every time.

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Italia, Italy, Soccer, Futbal, Calcio, you said it!

For those of you just tuning in (like me), the European Cup Championships are taking place in…uh…Europe right now.

Italy is one step away from the finals and they are playing Germany RIGHT NOW!

I am finishing up my work, Dave has the game on…along with ALL of our neighbors and most of the country. Several of the men in my office discuss soccer the way I discuss the Supreme Court of the United States (which just pulled off a beautiful decision in the 12th hour, last second, final inning, other sports metaphors…).

Italy pulled ahead with a header goal!

We shall see what the outcome is…Viva Italia!


Update: Italy scored again before the end of the first half! Italy 2, Germany 0 Woot!!!

Final Update: Italy wins! 2-1. Final championship game on Sunday July 1st, Italy v. Spain


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Sicilian Traffic

Due to our galavanting last night, we left our house a little later than usual. Because of this, we expected a little bit of traffic. However, we were not expecting this kind of traffic.


The traditional Sicilian horsecart.

A great start to the day!

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La Tana del Lupo

Last night we enjoyed a delicious dinner with a smart and witty group of friends.


La Tana del Lupo (“The Den of the Wolf”) is a tipico Sicilian restaurant in Pedara, with an outstanding antipasti spread, playful pastas, serious chile action where you most want it, and an Argentinian steak grilled to perfection and served on a heated tile to keep the steak warm while you eat.

The antipasti spread included involtini di melanzane (wrapped eggplant), a wide variety of fried cheese (!!!), sautéed zucchini with pomodoro e basilico, couscous, a sort of sautéed cabbage with wine-soaked raisins and pine nuts, and more. The house olive oil is perfectly earthy with a beautiful color and rich flavor, yet a clean finish.

Wine is served by the bottle, rather than a carafe of house wine that is offered in many Sicilian restaurants. We asked our server to select a nice red to accompany our meal and he knocked it out of the park. “Euno” by Casale Santa Ida completed our table perfectly.

“La Tana del Lupo”
di Giuseppe Borzi
Corso Ara di Giove 138

After dinner, Sara (of Ironman cheering earlier this month) and I ha an impromptu photobooth session.




Sara is on the verge of returning to the US. This is the way it is in a military life: you find a witty, fun, cat-lady friend who just ups and leaves one day. As the Canadian French say, “c’est la vie!”


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Garlic: Aglio

Ciao tutti,

It’s time for your hump-day Italian food and language lesson.

Today’s topic is garlic!

First we’ll cover the language and then focus on the food. In Italian, garlic is called “aglio.” This is one of those tricky Italian pronunciations. Say “awl” “lee” “oh” – (not ah-glee-o). The “gli” sound is always the same, so if you see this combo in other words, just remember the shove the back of your tongue toward the back of your mouth, then semi-swallow as you say “lllleeeee” as best you can. Try it now.

Seriously, did you try it?

Did anybody HEAR you?!! Ha ha. Hope you had a little fun with that one.

Now, onto the food stuff.

In addition to being a key ingredient to many of my favorite meals, garlic is also an ancient plant known for its healing powers. Raw, roasted, sauteed or baked, garlic brings the flavor and the favor (of health, wasn’t that obvious?).

Stocking up this week, I was pleased to find local garlic at our neighborhood Standa (grocery store). Here in Sicily, the Standa still observes riposo (starting roughly at 1pm/2pm and ending around 4/5pm), it is closed on Sundays, it has a regular full-time staff in the deli, and the produce attendant fetches, weighs and prices all of the produce for you.

When I indicated I want a bunch of garlic, the produce attendant pointed back and forth between the meshed-wrapped, mega-white, factory-farmed, every-bulb-the-same-size-and-shape garlic and the knobby, tinged with dirt, dried-stems-tied-together garlic. I immediately chose the latter.

As an aside, while I use as much Italian as I can, we both tend to fall back on pointing at critical junctures in the selection process. It is what it is; the simplest forms of communication are usually the most effective.

The produce attendant hesitated after I had selected the earthy garlic; he first pointed out the higher price to me. The mega-white garlic was about 1.90 Euro/kg and the earthy garlic was 4.35 Euro/kg. I nodded my understanding and emphatically pointed at the earthy garlic. Even with my assent he went on to tell me about the superior flavor of the earthy garlic, I nodded enthusiastically through his explanation. I knew I was getting my Euro’s worth by buying the more authentic stuff.

At home this week, we have been rewarded with a rich pungent garlic aroma and flavor when we’ve used the new garlic. Living in Sicily, I could also stop at a roadside stand and be similarly rewarded. This bunch should last us a few months.

If you are garlic-hesitant or have never dabbled in garlic, I highly recommend you start in small doses and work your way up. Not only will your tolerance raise to enjoy garlic more and more this way, it will also give your digestive system appropriate time to adjust to the way garlic interacts with your body.

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Filed under 5-100, Adjusting, Food. Cibo.

Congratulations T & D!

Our friends T & D celebrated their wedding while we were back in the states. In fact, their ceremony and reception were the anchor for our trip to the U.S. It was a beautifully planned and executed ceremony with a mid-size guest list (about 100). The guests were all close friends and family, which numbered many due to the witty, generous and compassionate people T and D are.

The location was a Carnegie Building, which they decorated with designs made from recycled materials and crafted by D’s sister. Each table was adorned with the usual red wine, white wine, tablecloth, etc; T & D included a bottle of cava at each table and a homemade pie. That’s right people, thirteen different varieties of pie were served.

Guests were encouraged to circulate and mingle while tasting the wide variety of pies. Strawberry rhubarb drew in our crowd of friends, and the mixed berry vegan pie was among my favorites; though I don’t typically get into creme pies, the chocolate creme pie was also divine.

It was a treat to create new memories with T & D, to meet their friends and family, and to touch base with friends we share in common.

In the end, however, the content of the ceremony touched me the most. The thoughtfulness that went into each word uttered was apparent as most speakers verged on tears at some point in his or her presentation. T & D gave solemn, caring, and intentional vows, perfectly accented with touches of humor. Love was in the air!

With T & D’s encouragement, we joined other guests in reclaiming bits of the decorations to take home with us. I put them up this week and look forward to enjoying the reminder of the love and friendship I experienced at the wedding.

*Windchime is mine.

Congratulations T & D! May your marriage be long, rewarding and loving!


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Going up the down escalator

Delightful diagonals

Sicily’s shopping centers feature ramped escalators, as seen below. They are still sorta trippy to me.


After a lovely weekend with warm summer heat, social outing with friends, and plenty of relaxation, my mind was slightly befuddled by the logistic demands I made on it at work today.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I had a case of the Mondays, but it was damn close.


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Cheeseheads Rock!

Before leaving for the U.S. a few weeks ago, my colleague Teresa asked me to bring her something from Wisconsin. Not to be outdone, my colleague Tomas piped up, “I want a cheesehead!”

I told him that he already had a cheesehead in the office, ME!

I’m proud of my Wisconsin heritage and have a deep love for the state that raised me. However, given my Midwestern sensibility and my Wisconsin love for equality among peers (just ignore Scott Walker on this one), as well as the Wisconsin compulsion to please people, I ended up bringing back something for the whole office to share…

A Cheesehead party hat!

Tomas modeling the Cheesehead party hat

To explain why a cheesehead party hat was the perfect office gift from Wisconsin, let me tell you a couple of fun FLC Sigonella Supply Management office facts. Our office has a few oddities, such as a full size disco ball in our common area, and a cupboard full of party hats.

We like to have fun there, hence the amazing pot lucks! I have seen the party hats worn, and a pot luck visitor once arrived in a full size sombrero.

Today I revealed the cheesehead party hat and Tomas modeled it with his usual classy style.

Tomas with Armando and Domenico

My other colleagues were in awe of the hat. Domenico likened it to a brain on cocaine, hollowed out like Swiss cheese…

“uh, what?”

Yea, that’s what I said, too.

Then, I said, “No, Domenico. Cheeseheads are awesome. They have nothing to do with cocaine.”

Yay, Wisconsin!


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Gli Fichi! Figs!

Today, my colleague Armando brought early figs from his home garden. I visited his home earlier this spring for a Sicilian BBQ and I can vouch for his garden. Gardens, I should say. He has several terraces of cultivation behind his Mt. Etna sloped villa.

The flavor of these figs merely hinted at the sweetness they will produce in a few weeks. Armando counseled that these figs are perfect for making marmalade!


Gli fichi means “the figs” in Italian. Say “gli” with that tongue caught in the back of your throat, not like the “Glee” television program.


Filed under 5-100, Food. Cibo.

Vagina Vagina

While back in Wisconsin, I spent some time hearing delightful stories about little kids discovering their sex organs: one version went like this…”What’s this daddy?” “Uh…ummm…ask Mommy about that…” another version ended with “That’s your vagina.” “Bagina?” (asked incredulously, followed by peals of laughter and multiple mutterings of “bagina”).

Then, there was the awkward laughter that comes from those who are uncomfortable with these stories about discovering sex organs. Proof positive that while we all have sex organs, and we all have to talk about them at some point in our lives, we’re not all exactly comfortable with the specific language.

Despite this reality, I was still shocked to discover the “Vaginagate” scandal.

From the little bits I read about Vaginagate, I discerned that somewhere in Michigan lawmakers wanted to talk about reproductive rights that are at stake in the Michigan legislature. In doing so, the word vagina came up a few times. Then a couple of lawmakers added a touch of humor and the word “vagina” – and some other lawmakers got upset and declared “vagina” a dirty word.


The scientific word to describe a sex organ is now vulgar and offensive?

This is the word that we teach children in school and in homes. This word is now the enemy of some lawmakers? And those lawmakers not only had enough gall to choose this attack against the word and the opposing lawmakers, but they had enough power and persuasion to get agreement to punish the “vagina”-speakers (brings up a whole different image, doesn’t it?).

It boggles my mind. It sounds much more like middle school student council than a state legislature (clearly I’ve never worked in state legislature, you are correct). Regardless of the adolescent antics we associate with politics on most levels, I am completely flabbergasted that people actually voted to punish their colleagues for using the word “vagina.”

I began to wonder whether this would ever happen in Italy. I have no clues as to what cultural response Italians would have to the word vagina, it hasn’t come up with my Sicilian colleagues (after all, I work in Supply Management, and we do not supply vaginas or vagina accessories). Yet, a local ceramic producer valued The Gyne Cologist enough to include an image of one among decorative plaques like this:

This plaque was among a dozen or so profession caricatures available from this ceramic artist; doctor (general practice presumably), lawyer, veterinarian, and mechanic were also among the mix (notably, all were male representations).

In case you were curious, the Italian word for vagina is vagina. Yep, same exact spelling. Spoken a little differently, “vah” “gee” “nah” would be in the ball park of the Italian pronunciation (instead of “vah” “jie” “nah”).

Which brings me to my point. The Michigan lawmakers should have just sung “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off” instead of punishing their respected colleagues.

Of course, the lyrics would need a slight modification…

I say “vagina”
and you say “vagina”

Let’s call the whole thing off!


Filed under 5-100, Awesomeness