Monday, August 22, 2011

In Rome, History Is Everywhere

Piazzo della Republica

One of the wonders of Rome is surely that ancient, modern and the millenia-in-between are mashed together cheek by jowl. Even within one building eras overlap.

The Piazzo della Republica shown here is a case in point. The Baths of Diocletian  (300 AD) overlook a modern traffic circle that surrounds the Fountain of the Naiads (1870) with frolicking nymphs (installed 1901-11). The water for the fountain is piped in through the Acqua Marcia, an aqueduct built by the ancient Romans in 144 BC. 

The Fountain of the Naiads, Piazzo della Republica

Inside the Baths of Diocletian, the central hall was converted into a church. The work was based on a design by Michelangelo, who died before it was finished in 1566. His work was later modified by Vanvitelli and that is what we see today.

The large central hall of the Baths of Diocletian, now Santa Maria degli Angeli church  

Even old trees are venerated in Rome. In a cloister behind the Baths of Diocletian, which was also designed by Michelangelo, this centuries old cypress shades a fountain that was built in 1695.

In Rome, even old trees are venerated

Friday, August 19, 2011

Rome: The Eternal & Sustainable City

A residential neighborhood in Rome

Travelers and tourists have gushed about Rome for centuries. Now they can add a new virtue to its list of "most-es". It is one of the world's most sustainable cities as well as one of its most beautiful.

Rome carries this distinction because the building height is capped at 78-1/2 feet, which works out to be 6 stories, the optimal number of floors from a density and energy use perspective, said Mathis Wackernagel, president of the Global Footprint Network ( and a co-creator of the Ecological Footprint, a metric for measuring the impact of humanity on the earth's resources.

Multi-story buildings, including apartments, use resources more efficiently and occupy far less land that single family houses, but above 6 stories, electric elevators, which consume far more energy than the slow-pokey hydraulic models, are required and energy- consuming pumps are needed to get water to the upper floors, Wackernagel said.

Other cities which merit the sustainable moniker because six-story buildings predominate are Paris, Amsterdam, The Hague and Antwerp, Wackernagel noted.
Roman residential neighborhood near the Vatican

Commercial-residential area near Rome's main train station

Note: My observations were made on a trip to Europe in June and July and posted after my return to the US.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cell Phone Use in the Car Can Be Bad for Your Love Life

Using a cell phone while driving is a poor idea. Not only do you endanger yourself, the other occupants of your car and the other drivers on the road. This can also bring down the curtain on a relationship that's already in trouble, suggests University of Minnesota professor of family social science Paul Rosenblatt,  in an article published in Family Science Review and noted in UMN's University News Service ( .

A conversation minus the visual cues -- gestures, facial expressions and posture -- combined with poor reception and pregnant pauses (the person on the other end doesn't know that you are silent because you're trying to avoid a pot hole) can lead to serious misunderstandings. If the relationship is already tenuous, Rosenblatt suggests, this  could be the last straw.

By the same token, if you've just starting dating someone and don't know each other well, a garbled call could end something that seemed promising.