Saturday, February 23, 2008

Hahaha! Internet access at last

OK, some of you might have known what has been going on here but here's the press release/blog update. Our 1-year internet contract with the provider ended, and was not automatically renewed, nor did we know it needed to be renewed so our internet access went down. This affected the American phone line as well, so for those of you who have been trying to call us, now you know why you haven't been able to get through. In any case, because it went down we now have to sign back up as new customers which necessitates an activation period, etc etc etc. To summarize, we have been without internet access for 5 days already. This proved to be quite an inconvenience, and after hearing that the outage is supposed to last another 5 days we took action. The idea was to siphon off a connection from our neighbor's house. Our neighbor Egon's internet functions just fine but his wireless signal is not strong enough to reach our house.

First step was to establish "command central" (hehehe) where Dad networked all the computers to function on Egon's network.

Next we got a cable and ran it from his router to his balcony so that it could broadcast a signal to our house. Here's a picture of Egon running the cable.

Next step was attaching the router to the window grating over the balcony with a bungee cord. If you look inside the red circle you'll see it.

Would it work? Yes it did! So we now have at least internet access back. The American phone doesn't work because that's another operation but if you want to reach us via email we're back up and running, at least temporarily until our normal service is restored. The only bonus is that for new customers there is a special of 2 months free service so we won't be paying for the next two months since technically we're "new" customers.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A few pictures of sunset

One evening we found ourselves on the Pincio Hill overlooking Rome. The Pincio lies north of the Quirinal Palace and used to be the location where several rich Roman families had villas. The villas are still there, many of them well preserved, and the grounds have been opened as a public park. I managed to snap a few pictures of sunset over Rome as we passed through the park.

Here's a picture showing the flag of the Order of St. John flying at half-mast because the Grandmaster had just recently died. This was relevant to us because of our recent stay in Malta.


And now night. Looking down into Piazza del' Popolo.

Some lesser-known churches of Rome

On Saturday and Sunday we took the opportunity of beautiful weather to visit some of the lesser-known churches of Rome.

Our first stop was the church of the Four Crowned Martyrs. The main highlight of this simple church was the frescoed apse.

It also happens to have a chapel which was featured in a scene in the movie The Scarlet and the Black. If you've ever seen the movie, this is the chapel that Monsignor O'Flaherty prayed in several times, including when the two Nazi agents attempted to assasinate him.

Next stop was the Basilica of St. Nicholas in Chains. This church was built over the ruins of three old Roman temples. Here's a shot of the interior.

The columns were scavenged from pagan temples and around the city. Some of them bore graffiti marks as you can see.

We took a tour of the three pagan temples underneath the church. This is the temple of Hope, built in the hope of winning the First Punic War. The other two temples were the temples of Jove and Juno, dating back to 260 BC.

Next we stopped in the church of St. Augustine, which Augustin was very pleased to find. This is the tomb of St. Augustin's mother, St. Monica.

Another noteworthy side chapel. It was in front of this crucifix that St. Philip Neri was inspired to devote his life to God.

A hidden treasure - a painting by Caravaggio showing the shepherds adoring the infant Jesus.

Our last stop was the church of Sant' Ivo, built in 1660 and designed by Borromini. It is an interesting edifice because of its dome, which spirals upward.

A shot of the ceiling and dome.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Newest mosaic

This is a picture of the latest mosaic I just completed. It's an Agnus Dei, about 10 inches square. I used a different technique for the gold this time called opus vermiculatum. Literally it means "worm-like work". It is thus called because the tesserae are set in rows following the outline of the image, curving like a worm does. This lends a pleasing natural "flow" to the work as a whole and enhances the central image. So if you notice, the gold tesserae follow the outline of the lamb, flag, and book, all the way to the edge of the piece, instead of being laid in horizontal or vertical rows.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Palio in Rociglione

On Saturday we went with Marco and Zio and Giancarlo to Giancarlo's town of Rociglione. In Rociglione they have a "palio" which is a horse race with traditions dating back to the Middle Ages. It is very similar to Siena's famous Palio. We arrived in time to get decent viewing places. The horses are run without riders over the cobblestones of the historic city center. Here you can see mattresses put up against the shop windows in case the horses slip (which they do).

The marching band leads the parade as the horses are brought to the post.

Every "scuderia", (roughly equivalent to neighborhood) of the city enters two horses. There are a total of three races run, each with about 5 or 6 horses. This was my favorite one.

Another really pretty one.

And they're off! A picture of the first race.

The second race. It was of the horses decided to take the day off and just loped around the track.

Leaving Rociglione by night, we headed out to eat.

Giancarlo led us to a great restaurant where we enjoyed a smashing meal.