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Showing posts from May, 2011

Italy: Not better, not worse, simply different

We're locked and loaded to make our exit tomorrow morning.  One magical month in Italy is concluded.  Our going away dinner is this evening and I hope to make a few remarks.  As always, it's a wonderful time to reflect on what was, and what is to be.

My season of life in the business world is headed into its twilight years. I still hold a pretty strong sense regarding "the art of the deal" and have good discernment on when and how to act and react.  But that said, it's become more about the students I teach and interact with. It's their time in life to rise and grow and build successful careers.

Italy has raised my perceptions, reminded me once again that our world operates in many diverse ways.  From the power outlets to the toilets to the way traffic flows, there are many flavors.  And in the end they all get the job done.  My "norm" may not fit in well at times, but that's my issue.

So I'll salute these students, my faculty cohorts, and t…

Vatican Necropolis

I went on a an exceptional tour today.  My first venture was to St. Peter's Basilica, next to the Vatican. Hopped on the metro at 6 am, was through security and at the gates of St. Peter's just in time for the 7 am opening.

We had this immense structure almost to ourselves.  Quiet and majestic.  The structure was built in the 1500's and can hold 60,000 standing worshipers.  That's a ton.

But the big show wasn't in St. Peters, it was under it. I read about a very exclusive tour beneath the current church, where the actual tomb of St. Peter has been excavated.  The web site for the Vatican said to send a request for the tour months in advance, then pray that you are one of the chosen few.

I shot off an email two days out, told them I'm a prof who needs to see St. Peter's bones, and got a reply affirming a Saturday morning tour.  God spiffed old master man again.

After my visit to the basilica, prayer time in the chapel, then obligatory coffee and ice cream, I…

Predestination and the Italian revelation

One essential element of travel abroad is opening of the mind to new ways of doing life, alternative cultures, and an overall expansion of the human experience.

I do an ample amount of pondering and mediation while wandering the globe.  From these disciplines come new perspectives and revelations on how I choose to walk this earth.  It may seem rather introspective, but I do try to better myself by becoming closer to God.  I have found that my Lord speaks the most when I am operating outside my normal cocoon.

This blog post may seem too esoteric or religious.  One blog reader recently commented "this blog sucks."  It may to him/her, but in the end it is my blog and this is my digital soapbox.

My thought on the day regards predestination, that is, those individuals who are predetermined to follow God, and those who are not.  I don't claim to fully understand this precept of Christianity, but I have come to acknowledge that some folks live really well independent of God. …

Strange sites in Florence

Some images from our wanderings in Florence will forever remain burned in the back of my brain...such as this character we found wandering along the "beach" on the River Arno.  We're not sure but it seems he's moving towards a replica Burning Man artifact.

We're locked and loaded to roll to Rome tomorrow morning.  I plan to get up at 5 am in order to get one last run in Cascine Park prior to our departure at 8 am.

It's all good but time to go.  Three weeks in Florence done and gone.  To that end:

Yada - the safety of Florence.  Despite a rather large city, the streets are safe at any hour.

Nada - competitive walking.  Narrow sidewalks and throngs of tourists make navigating a pain in the hind quarters.  After three weeks, one major theme differentiates us (seasoned tourists) from them (new incoming visitors):  We know exactly where we are going...and you have no idea of where you are.  I want to walk; you want to stop and stare.  In the meantime the sidewalk …

Italian (dis) the labels!

Old master man needed to keep the toiletry supply well stocked while in Florence, so I made good use of the 99 cent store for my goods.  One common use product is face and hand soap, so I grabbed what of course looked to be the proper container in the bathroom section.

I've had great use from this high value product for over two weeks.  Then I took a closer look at the label and "igiene intima" took me to a completely different place.  My hand soap was actually a female private parts cleanser!

Being an American abroad does offer its challenges.  I'm compiling a "Yada/Nada" list for sometime soon.  I want to capture my likes and dislikes from this trip.  Here's an example:

Yada:  Delicious 5 Euro ($7.50) pizzas, made hot and fresh in wood-heated ovens.

Nada: Incessant smoking by Italians.  I have been blasted by second hand fumes every moment of every day. It's in the culture but in my plans for a healthy lifestyle.

Running in Parco Cascine

It was time to stop the insanity and get my life back on track.  I have lived with reckless abandon the past two weeks, taking a reprieve from exercise and gorging myself was pasta, pizza, and 3-4 servings a day of gelato.

Master man doesn't know moderation.  I'm full on or full off. It's a gluttonous ingestion of bad foods or a full on training plan with carrots and celery.

So to a more sane end, I have resumed my running and clean diet.  Went to the grocery store yesterday to get a load of fruit - a bee shot out of the apple pile and stung me on the hand.

Completed both am and pm runs on Sunday, and another this morning, through Cascine Park, north of the River Arno on the far west side of town.  This park runs about 2 kilometers in length and offers gentle, shaded running paths.  It's impossible to get lost as the park runs along the river; once you recalibrate there, one can always jog back to Florence. 

Check out the tranquil painting by Nikolay Gay, which featur…

American professor in Rome

Since this is an "off weekend" for the University of Florida in Italy trip, we ventured out for a turn-and-burn trip to Roma for the day.

This city offers history, culture, and more people than I care to see in any one place.  The line to get into St. Peter's was almost six blocks long.  We did battle the masses to see the coliseum. It's in one way a travesty, to consider the murder and death that took place in this location.  We learned that for some theatrical events, the Romans would dip Christians in oil, put them on poles and burn them to light the stage for the performance.

But from out of the historical ugliness of Rome comes a great civilization that created majestic infrastructure and art.  Trevi fountain (completed in 1762) is an amazing compilation of sculpture that attracted thousands on this day.  We pitched a few coins over our shoulder into the water - can't tell you what I wished for!

Our entire U of FL crew is headed back to Roma next week.  I pl…

U of FL in Italy: Exanding the academic mind

We're have one great time teaching and traveling in Italy.  It's fun to be part of the the Italy study abroad program as a PhD "alumni" and be back on the crew for another journey with the University of Florida.

This is my fourth installment on the Journalism & Mass Communication world tour. One element that impresses me time and again is the attitude of program management to ensure safety for all students.  Protocols and control systems are always in place, so that each student can be assured that there's a plan if they need assistance or help.

I'm learning each day from this wonderful group of professionals.  Whether it's teaching skills I can take back to Appalachian State (thanks Norm for your excellent insight into ethics) or the overall character building that occurs among this group, I'm thankful to be included.

We had an A+ experience in Cinque Terre today, headed to Roma tomorrow.  Can't get much better than this.

Wild animal attacks American professor in Italy

Yes, I had to write a headline that would hit the search engines...wouldn't you, if an ass bit your ass while on vacation in Italy?

Here's master man making a bad decision.  I was prompted to make a photo next to a seemingly docile donkey while on a wonderful wine country tour.  All looks good until you transition to frame #2...where that nasty little creature laid its chompers into my left hip!

Everyone involved seemed to think this was a funny event.  Ha ha ha.  If you're chuckling at this outcome, maybe you should consider inserting yourself into this life threatening scenario.  Never trust farm animals in Italy!

Check out the new masthead photo above.  This dude has been at the winery we visited since 1951 (I truly believe this is Salvador Dali in hiding). When the place was sold about 20 years ago, he asked if he would be allowed to marry; the Catholic church was the winery's former owner and his contract said no wife!  The story ends well.  The new owners said go…

Italian runner connection in Florence

Last night was a magic evening in the life of master man. As part of my travels in Florence, I made contact with the a legendary Italian runner and president of the local running club.  Alessandro invited me to his home for a wonderful meal and social time.

If there is a master competitor model we should all aspire to, Alessandro is the one.  He has been running for over 40 years (started at 14) and has posted marathon times in the 2:30 range.  He and his wife Sabrina, along with their son Claudio, are active in the running community. Both Sabrina and Alessandro ran the New York City Marathon in 1993.

Alessandro has recently completed a book on the running history of Italy.  The first printing was 800 copies and he recently went back on press for another 800.  I was informed that running took hold in the early 70's when Italians came upon more discretionary income and free time.

Back to important matters...the meal.  We started with pasta in home made tomato sauce, moved to two won…

Pierce Brosnan in Sorrento

Our Italian/academic crew had a fine dinner this past Saturday evening; we enjoyed the on-the-water views offered at Delfino's in Sorrento.

Just as our meal was being served, former "007" actor Pierce Brosnan made his way past us and transitioned quickly down the path.  It's clear he doesn't like gawkers and discouraged any interaction with us or other bystanders.  I was shocked he didn't want to stop and interact with master competitor, but that said I was pretty busy pushing pasta into my pie hole and didn't have a lot of time to chat.

Did a bit of research and learned that Brosnan was in town for the making of a new movie "All You Need is Love."  It's described as a "funny comedy centered on the adventures of a Danish family."

There's much to be said for being a world traveler.

Paying for the pottie in Italy

No, that isn't a look of dedication en route from Sorrento to the island of Capri.

Rather, it's the marked expression of a man who has to hold his water based on lack of bathroom accommodations.

Public potties are few and far between.  While in the US of A, we are prompted to hydrate frequently and void whenever necessary.  Without easy access to the pause that refreshes, I have existed in a state of dehydration.  It's easier to run dry than to exist in a terrible state of having to go...without an option to do so.

I'm getting into that Flomax stage of life where one needs to drain rather soon after drinking.  So it's become the norm to search for any and all options.  That leads me to the .5 Euro (75 cent) pay potties.  Sometimes pay = clean and that's not a bad value, but in other cases pay can mean a nasty portapottie just off the trail near Mount Vesuvius.

When a pee costs 75 cents, it can be designated a hobby.  I made sure to extract an extra measure of j…

Burn calories like Thor

Don't know if you're ready to embrace the new epic Thor film, but irrespective of your interest in the plot, master competitor readers may be attracted to the workout plan of new action star Chris Hemsworth.
This actor/athlete had to beef up big time to play the muscular super hero.  I read an interesting piece in Men's Health on how his workout plan came together.  Check out this formula for calorie calculation:
Target weight x (hours of workouts/week + 10) = target food calories per day.
Based on my dream weight of 155 x (12 hours of workouts + 10) = 3410 calories a day
Sounds like a ton to me, that would make me a fatty fat man.  Of course, my metabolism is slow and low, not that of a young man like Hemsworth - his furnace burns with a bigger flame.
The Thor plan might be just more media fodder, but on the other hand it's enlightening to keep abreast of the lastest concepts in fitness.
We made the trip on a super train from Florence to times cooking along at 1…

On the way to Pompeii

We're catching the train out of Florence this morning, for a long weekend excursion to the south of Italy.  We'll have fun in the sun, city tours, and a guided exploration of the ancient ruins of Pompeii.

This mysterious location holds special interest to old master man.  I was able to attend a summer school for "gifted children" sometime around 6th grade and the class project was Pompeii.  Amazing to consider that a civilization was covered in lava and ash and ended up frozen in time.

That's the depth of this trip.  Many layers of life and culture, from alternative geographic locations.  Have to appreciate this opportunity.

I also want to apologize for hijacking this blog and turning it into a travel site.  Truth is, I haven't been running and am eating gelato 2-3 times a day.  Master competitor is getting thick.

The tenor in the window

We have been having interesting interactions between students and the Firenzians. One of our innovative, aspiring media students came upon a chef/tenor opera singer while visiting near their apartment.  They invited this vocalist to come by and offer just a small taste of his musical prowess.

Check out the video above, it's a segment produced by Steve Johnson.  Excellent work and quite amazing.

Guarda Firenze 10K

More happy times for master man.  Ran the Guarda Firenze 10K this morning, set in the heart of the historic center of Florence.

The event is organized by the Florence Marathon, in collaboration with the Department of Sport and Education. We busted out of the Piazza (plaza)  San Giovanni, with a route that passed famous city landmarks including the Ponte Vecchio, Piazzale Michelangelo and Piazza della Signoria.

I went out slow off the back.  This was a massive crowd and I didn't see any reason to push my way into the fracas.  It was a shuffle/walk event until around 3K, when master competitor needed to go to work. I felt like a butcher in a meat shop - time to cleave some beef!

Rock and roll in Italy

Here's master man sitting in the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS) office in Florence, knocking out an impromptu jam session.

Please note blur of fingering hand as I blaze the lead solo.

This photo was posted on Facebook by my two able bodied traveling compatriots - Andy and Jason.  Jason is a PhD student at U of FL who calls Mississippi home; he's a talented blues-based player who does studio sessions while matriculating.

So that's how we (rock and) roll.  Music and international travel.  It's the good life.

Running on the River Arno

Been scoping out the running scene in Florence.  I have a ten minute jog from the Duomo south to the River Arno; from there one can venture east on the north side of the river, meandering along dirt and gravel paths.

Runners can cross the Arno via bridges at several points, then run west along the south side of the river back to Firenze.

I put in 90 minutes this morning at a slow pace.  Allowed myself to get lost on the way out, which isn't a scary thing to do in this city.  With a  map in hand it's almost impossible to lose one's bearings for long.

One of the greatest treasures of my life is the opportunity to run in every city where I roam.  There is no better way to integrate into the culture and geography of a community.  Running is the purest form of tourism.

Some other thoughts:
Run early.  This city runs on pm time, with dinner for most locals at 8 - 10 pm.  The mornings are slow to start.  It's now almost 10 am on Saturday and few have come to life.  Once the c…

Florence by Bike

Did a quick web search and came upon one of the top (and only) retail bike shops in Florence - Florence by Bike.  It's a jam packed store with more inventory that most of us have every seen in one place (check out retail shop in top photo and rental/warehouse location in bottom photo).

Web site is

Service personnel are friendly and encourage browsing...that is, if you can fit between the aisles to shop!  I didn't recognize some of the brand names, so was doing component comparisons in an attempt to understand the magnitude of the equipment.

Today, I shot the gap between the 99 cent store and 5000 Euro bicycles.  Have to love the diversity in merchandise.

We're hoping to put together a bike excursion with students, so hopefully there will be another report soon.

Bottom line, if you're traveling to Florence, make Florence by Bike a must-see destination.

Buon Giorno!

Rainbow over Rome

God was putting his thumbprint on our journey in Italy.  We came out of a short rainstorm leaving Rome and here's what we encountered.

Looks like we're passing under the gateway into a land of fun and games.  I like to take the glass is half full approach to these long term outings.  This is my fourth trip as a U of FL program supervisor; I have learned there will be highs and lows and probably a few crisis moments along the way.  But bottom line, it's about the students.  This is their time in life. I want to be part of making sure they extract 100% value out of this wonderful and precious experience.

Master Competitor in Florence, Italy

 It took a mere 36 hours to get to the wonderful, historical Florence, Italy:
Drive from Boone for Greensboro 2:30 am MondayFlight from Greensboro, NC to Miami6 hour layover9 hour flight to Paris7 hour layover2 hour flight to Rome4 hour bus ride to Florence
All that said, we're here intimate group of 94 U of FL students and our support group of 9 instructors and assistants.
I'll be out on my first run today, securing the master man run loop.  Friday I hook up with the local run club and Sunday I'm in for the local 10K.
Gotta love this life.  A world perspective makes things deeper and more meaningful.
Stay tuned for endurance sport updates from the land of pizza and pasta.

Mountain bike pacing: Is there room for all of us?

Since I'll be away from my NC playground for over six weeks, I opted to ride my beloved Kerr Scott Dam mountain bike trails after church today...sort of a going away present to myself.

I changed up the course, took the Overmountain Trail to the Shiner's Gap loop, rode it, then doubled back across the dam and rode the Dark Mountain Trail.  About 2.5 hours of all around good fun...accept for one rough encounter when returning on Overmountain.

Was climbing a slight hill when I almost got steamrolled by a high speed pace line.  Lead dude looked like Sammy Hagar (I just listened to Hagar's new autobiography on audiobook; he was the owner of one of the original mega mountain bike retailers in northern California...maybe it was Sammy).

These guys could barely scrub off enough speed to avoid a pile up.  I veered off into the brush and they raced past, some with sheepish looks on their faces; it can't feel good to run an old timer off his line.

I took it slow and easy after the…