Name: David Ziegler.
Hometown: Ziegler grew up in Pennsylvania. He moved to Bellingham to teach after earning a doctorate in political science and international relations from Harvard University.
Family: He lives with his wife, Rena, and their two dogs, Zucchero (Italian for "sugar") and Caramella (Italian for "candy"), in their home tucked off of Noon Road.
Their home was designed to make people feel like they're outside: large bay windows provide views of the garden where they grow many of their own vegetables, and even the bathroom has a view of a small patch of nature (fenced for privacy).
Technology philosophy: Ziegler prefers to use technology based on how useful it is for him. He and his wife don't own a television or smartphones, and he still drives a 1991 Honda. But Ziegler uses his MacBook Air laptop on a regular basis, and has an HD video camera for making movies.
"Don't do it just because everyone else is doing it," Ziegler says. "If something is useful for us, we use it."
Not long after receiving his Ph.D., Ziegler started teaching political science at then-Western Washington State College. He was one of the first professors in the department to get a hard drive computer, because it seemed useful to him.
Mixes old and new: Ziegler maintains a bonsai garden, practicing the more than 1,000-year-old technique of growing miniature trees. Rather than separate an ancient practice from new technology, Ziegler mixes the two when helpful; he set alarms on his computer calendar to remind himself to repot certain trees two to three years from now.
Ziegler also enjoys etching, a centuries-old practice in which artists cut an image into metal or other materials using acids and sharp tools.
"David is such an interesting combination of techie, and this guy who uses the same techniques as Rembrandt," Rena says.
Technology and friends: After retiring in 2002, Ziegler, along with continuing his other hobbies, decided to take up Italian. Initially, he wanted to learn the language before taking a trip to Italy, but he decided to keep it up after the vacation.
In addition to meeting with a tutor in Bellingham, Ziegler wanted to speak Italian on a regular basis, so he used several websites to find Italians interested in practicing their English. He regularly used MyLanguageExchange.com to find people from Italy to email, call or Skype.
Ziegler has made several Italian friends that way and maintains weekly Skype and telephone dates with them. Although he prefers to speak with people his own age, he also has communicated with younger people.
Video production: One of Ziegler's recent projects is producing a video about Bellingham and Whatcom County to entice his Italian friends to visit. The project began as a birthday present for a young woman Ziegler met through LiveMocha.com, a language learning social networking site.
He and his wife both wound up forming a strong connection with the woman, Rosaria, a 29-year-old international relations student in southern Italy who has rarely travelled far from her village.
"By that age I had travelled around the world by myself," Ziegler says. "I had hitchhiked around Europe and I had been behind the Iron Curtain when there still was an Iron Curtain."
Seeking visitors: The couple met Rosaria in person in Italy in 2011, and hope to convince her to visit the Northwest.
"I was never particularly interested in video cameras until this purpose," Ziegler says. "Now I have a purpose, so I got this HD camera with a really great microphone."
He used the camera to capture picturesque sunsets and scenes of life around Bellingham and the couple's home. He edited the footage on his computer using iMovie to add music and voiceovers and sent it to Rosaria late this summer.
"Then I thought, 'Well I made this, I might was well change it, take out the parts specifically about Rosaria, and put in parts for everybody else,'" Ziegler says.
He's now sending copies to his other Italian language partners to show them what life is like in Whatcom County and, he hopes, influence their travel plans.
Samantha Wohlfeil is a freelance writer in Bellingham.
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