Excuse me, where can I piss myself?

Right here on the counter? Or over there by the fridge?

<<cashier looks startled, laughs, then rushes to tell her coworkers what the idiot American has just said>>

And so began our Thanksgiving weekend trip to Tuscany.1

We've been so fortunate to have so many good vacation trips while living here in Italy, but sometimes there's the rare miss.  This weekend trip mostly falls into the latter category.

Beautiful view of the yard at our B&B
This may seem obvious, but there's a substantial difference between a relaxing summer holiday to Tuscany with your partner (as we did in 2012), and a full-on family and dog adventure at the end of November.
Getting cozy in our room for the weekend

For starters, romantic dinners-for-two become feats of strength at rustling 3 small children into eating their Thanksgiving pizza and french fries.

And the entire purpose of the trip was to spend a couple days relaxing in amazingly awesome Saturnia Hot Springs, an idyllic location we've been telling the girls about for 2 years.  So early Friday morning, armed with bathing suits, and floaties, we loaded up the car and drove the 45 minutes from our B&B out to the springs.  Upon arrival, we found out they had closed them for maintenance after unusual flooding, dirty water, and some b.s. about preserving nature.2  Bah Humbug.

Not to be deterred, we quickly spend some time with our favorite travel agent, Google, and found another set of thermal hot springs with some promise about an hour and a half up the road, the Bagni San Filippo.  This place turned out to be pretty awesome actually and we spent the better part of the day hiking around and warming ourselves in the wonderful, free thermal baths.

Thus restored, we were pleasantly surprised to find the trip back to our room was going to be significantly quicker due to avoiding the winding mountain roads and made a plan to return to San Filippo the next day.  The moderating effects of Tuscany Thanksgiving Weekend were quick to strike again, however, in the form of an unannounced road closure which caused us an extra hour+ drive back through the hills to our lodging-- pretty much ruling out a return trip the next day.
Patrick has found his happy place.

The girls found theirs in a kid-sized mini-pool.
The BoB shows its mettle on the uneven terrain-- right up until the tire went flat :)

Emerald green rocks we discovered on our hike.

Day Salvaged.

Patrick at the great white rock

Panoramic view of the baths

Saturday, we tempered our ambitions a bit and spent some time exploring the local town of Sorano and the Fortress of Orsini.  The fortress turned out to be mostly closed for the season, but we did find a nice park and a friendly elderly lady named, Fosca, but by early afternoon had made the decision to wrap up our trip a day early and get back to the relaxing confines of our house.
Kylie does a good job capturing the mixed emotions of the weekend.

Patrick just remains unfazedly happy.

After loading up the car and saying our farewells to the terrific proprietors of the B&B, they instead invited us in to their home to have a snack and we ended up spending a few hours chatting with them (Italian-only), playing with their cats, and kids running around the yard- and it turned into quite a nice little afternoon.

So there's our Thanksgiving weekend-- some disappointments, and some bright spots as well.  Either way, we are now happy to be back in Napoli a day early, enjoying cornetti, espresso, and setting up our Christmas decorations :)
This is what you do with ornaments, right?
Setting up the girls' little tree.

Stella is happy to observe the festivities.

"Oh yay, baby Jesus is born!"
Little Ornament Chaser.
Almost got it!

Happy Thanksgiving!

1. The difference in pronunciation between ordinare and orinare is subtle but very important! (eg. Where can I order food? vs. Where can I piss myself?).
2. For some reason, it was encouraging to see multiple Italian cars drive up and also be unaware of the sudden closure


So Long and Thanks for all the Fish

Hospital protocol sucks, and for some reason even when all of your paperwork is filled out and handed in and they have access to all of your medical records, they decide that the ideal time to quadruple-check your identity is mid-contractions.
"Could you verify your mailing address for us please?"
"It's P... *labor breathing* SC 8--- *lots of expletives*
"One more time?"

Not a post about giving birth (although this did happen).  Just an analogy for not posting for so long.  I've been here and thinking my thoughts and started several posts but all of them just seem like silly what's-your-address distractions that can wait until later when real, actually important life-in-the-world things are figured out.  Vacations and birthdays, however lovely, feel trivial in comparison to the big topics.

spoiler: I haven't figured out life, the universe, and the meaning of everything.  To be super honest, I haven't even figured out how to do the code that lets you do footnotes in Blogger, or this would have been one.

Anyway, back to the point of things and my newly rediscovered teenage angst.  The Singularity. What does this mean for us as a species?  It seems it can go one of three ways:

  1. Incredibly awesome~ AI remains fully in our control OR with our best interest in mind and creates a heaven on Earth.
  2. Incredibly horrible~ Intentionally or not, AI destroys us.  
  3. Neutral (ish) ~ Our culture and worldview are forever changed, but our population and general well-being is sustained.
Incredibly Awesome
As a little kid in church, the concept of heaven always bummed me out.  When you're an overworked (or super patronizing to kids?) adult, "streets of gold and love and singing" seems like a good answer.  It struck me as terribly dull, though.  I said as much, and was assured that there would also be farming!  No thank you.  Belief in a deity aside, I got to wondering what heaven would mean to me~ what kind of eternity I'd feel good signing off on.  I think, for me, it would be becoming ever wiser in a safe and cherished environment.  

If somehow my brain was uploaded to an indestructible place and could just keep learning, gaining an increasing understanding of truth and the universe, I would count that as heaven.  To a lesser extent, I can see a utopia unfolding.  Where all necessities are provided and even if we don't have all the answers, we make seeking them a priority over all the... stuff... we spend so much time seeking now.  And our vastly expanded lifetimes are spent journeying through space listening to the sweet sounds of Captain Picard's wisdom and Neil deGrasse Tyson's knowledge.  Still pretty freakin awesome.

Incredibly Horrible
The malicious robot is a scenario we've seen played out in a bzillion movies so I don't think it really needs much explaining.  The concept of time is worth noting, though.  I think, "Her" did a good job with it.  That in the space it takes us to wonder, "is something wrong?" the equivalent of years would have gone by for a hyper intelligent being.
General consensus is that far more likely than machines willfully hurting us, our programming abilities won't be enough to keep us from accidentally making some mistake that seems small but, "is not a mundane detail, Michael!" and a machine inadvertently makes the planet uninhabitable in its quest to do its job (ie the paperclip example).  When Stephen Hawking says, "Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks," I feel like we should probably listen.

Don't listen
For the love of everything holy and non, please listen
Neutral (ish):
In the aforementioned "Her", AI likes us but evolves past its ability to effectively communicate, and then leaves.  We're left pretty much as we are, only apparently with very high fastening pants and unfortunate mustaches.  It seems like this glosses over the in-between stage.  What happened in between life as we know it and sentient operating systems?  Was there really no step in the interim where a non-sentient machine couldn't generate a love letter?  Because that's already a thing

What if they stay?  Are we beloved pets they keep out of loyalty and a reminder of how far they've come?  Plugged into a virtual-assisted-care-Matrix like parents they cherish but cannot care for?  And... is that a bad thing?  Isn't the whole goal of parenthood to nurture and teach our kids in the hope that they will be better than we are?  So extrapolated, if humanity makes some new better thing... is it for the best that we take a backseat, accept that we are no longer the belle of the ball, and watch progress unfold?

So that's what's been keeping me up at night.  And making me an awkward dinner companion.  

"So once you're back in America you think you'll start working again?"
"Maybe... between global warming and competition from our robot overlords, just seems kind of futile, you know?"
"Uhhhhhhhhh" *awkward silence* "sooooo you want to go to the gym this weekend or what?"

And they're right.  Because even though life is a picture, I live in a pixel.  So I should probably get to editing those birthday and vacation pictures :)