Sunday, March 20, 2011

Japan's Emergency Makes Us in Italy Ask Questions

The devastation in Japan has rocked the world. That population has suffered a tremendous earthquake, a horrible tsunami and now faces nuclear radiation problems, already knowing its effects all too well after my country's final military blow to the nation at the end of World War II.

So much has already been said about the subject in the last week. Many Americans on the West Coast have thought about their own preparedness, since they are also part of the Pacific Ring of Fire activity, including severe periodic earthquakes. If you haven't made your own emergency kit, which all the Japanese seem to have, and live in that area, consult this Blogher post with a professional list, advice and comments.

We in Italy find ourselves in an earthquake zone as well. Aquila had its terremoto just under 2 years ago at 5.8 on the Richter scale. See my post. The city still hasn't even started to rebuild the downtown historic area. Many questionable building practices in the area were questioned in light of how easily some of the structures fell during the quake, especially a university student housing complex which killed many youth.

Japan's recent experience was, some say, 30,000 times stronger than Aquila's. Hardly anything in Japan fell during the actual earthquake because the culture has been so careful about its construction regulations. But there were horrible effects anyway, coming from the "angry" water and damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Here in Italy, the government recently decided to push for a plan to build nuclear reactors to help alleviate the country's energy needs. After the nuclear disaster in 1986 in Chernobyl, Italy had passed a referendum to not build any nuclear power plants. Two years ago the tune changed. Nuclear energy has been an appetizing solution in addition to renewable energy. Plans were in place to start building soon.

Now even those in favor of the nuclear solution in Italy just started to serious reanalyze the need for that dangerous energy option. Italy could have a similar problem to any future nuclear reactors that are built. An earthquake could cause the reactors to malfunction and leak radiation. This is in addtion to other problems like human error and the eternal problem of where to deposit nuclear waste.

FYI the province of Padua is one of the strongest areas in the research and development of alternative energy. We have many businesses that have sprung up recently, especially for the photovoltaic option: ex) Helios Technology S.p.a., Solon S.p.a., and XGroup S.p.a. Exactly a year ago, the city of Padua announced that it would install the panels for free on your house after an analysis of the architectural and urbanistic situation. The city teamed up with banks and the companies mentioned above to start installing not only for private people, but also on public schools and other public buildings. The city has at least 20 schools with solar panels, at this point.

Recently the government froze incentives on renewable energy sources like photovoltaic, real options that would cut the demand for nuclear plants. Some suggest this is exactly the reason why the funds were cut. Nuclear had to be the clear and single need. The Paduan companies are suffering the consequences with a drop in business. They have been worried about their future as well as the progress of renewable energy in Italy.

But Madre Natura (Mother Nature) has spoken. Japan's example makes the choices very clear for us in Italy. Nuclear is too risky.

Let's keep the money flowing into renewables.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Combination Holiday

So today marks 150 years since Italy's unification. On the Irish (and American) calendar, this date is known as Saint Patrick's Day. Since I belong to both cultures in one sort of way or another, here's my visual dedication to the split/unificazione.

I am 35% Irish, and have adopted Italy as my "land" to live in.

I wonder if I can find green beer in the city center this evening? Green for not only Ireland, but also Italy? Probably not, since the spritz does the colors well: red for Aperol or Campari and green for its famous olive.

Do you know the meaning of the colors in the Italian flag?

GREEN for the fields of the plains
WHITE for the snow of the mountains
RED for the blood which was shed to make the country


Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Lion Comes Out of Her Den

Last year's lion waited a year to spring out of her hibernation for Venice's Carnevale. I just got back from the most spectacular sunny and warm Sunday carnival, perhaps in history! The weather was absolutely beautiful in the lagoon this year during a late carnevale that boasted VERY spring temps today. Hooray! (It's not always fun to tread Venice's streets in the freezing Febuary cold, during the usual holiday's dates.)

I got out the costume that I never got to wear last year because I got a bad cold the only weekend I could make it to the event. See post. So the lion "queen" finally made her debut and was especially appreciated by the kiddies (under 10 years old). The best part was roaring in their little faces and getting both excited eyes and a tinge of fear.

Every year I go to Venice, I find fewer people wearing costumes, and even fewer that are wearing costumes that they have not rented, but have made with their own hands and imaginations. It's sad to see this evolution of the "business" of carnevale and a general laziness by the public. Everyone is more interested in taking pictures or getting their face painted or wearing a funny wig, rather than truly transforming themselves in some total way: the real reason for the season.

Another horrifying addition to this year's event was witnessing a fenced-off area in Piazza San Marco near the stage, where a fee ranging from Euro 5-100 was being charged to enter certain areas. The city has thousands of ways that it takes our money, from expensive hotels to myriads of mask stands to exorbitant parking and boat transport fees. Now tickets in the main square, too! Just plain pathetic.

On the up side, one of the costume highlights from this edition of Carnevale features groups of 20-somethings from the area that band together and dress up with a group theme in mind. This year I saw or heard about Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs, a CSI crime scene set-up including victim, assassin, scientific police team and fake TV journalist on the scene, and 6 friendly clowns.

Here are some pictures of a few interesting costumes I found today in the piazza and captured on my camera, while fumbling with a lion mask on my face.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Blog Toddler's Anniversary

It's An American in Padua's
2 year anniversary.
2 years of words.
2 years of posts.
2 years of thoughts.

I hope you have enjoyed the ride. Let me know what has been worthwhile for you on my blog.